The First Sign of Summer




To view the original art, please travel to The First Sign of Summer

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

I’m of mixed mind about the recent surge in gas prices.  Part of me realizes that pocketbook pain is the only thing that will get many Americans to reassess our gas-guzzling lifestyle.  Cutting back on fossil fuels would be good news, both for the environment and our national security.  But, on the other hand, our economy has been fueled by cheap gas prices for decades, and I fear it is an already-strapped working class that will disproportionately bear this pain.  My latest toon, “Hitting the Road (Summer 2008)” [Archive No. 0820], tries to capture the current mood.

Till next week,

Andrew

toon@offthewahl.com

The Cost of War; The Meaning of Memorial Day



Veterans Suicide – an Epidemic – Part I

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

On Memorial Day, Americans honor the fallen.  Soldiers whose faces will never appear before us again are remembered for their service.  Only the few, friends and family, will recall the life of those young men and women who passed from this world into another.  In a country grateful for the protection troops provide, people will shop on this holy day.  A President will place a wreath on the grave of an unknown soldier.  Beautiful speeches will be made in the spirit of homage.  Americans will bow their heads in respect.  Reverence will be offered, and statistics that document the effects of war will not be shared.  Yet, the numbers cry out for attention, just as the pained servicemen and women do.

  • The suicide rate of veterans is at least three times the national suicide rate.  In 2005, the suicide rate for veterans 18- to 24-years-old was three to four times higher than non-veterans.
  • About 126 veterans per week commit suicide.
  • About 154,000 veterans nationwide are homeless on any given night.  One-fourth of the homeless population is veterans.
  • There are more homeless Vietnam veterans than the number of soldiers who were killed during that war.
  • It takes at least 5.5 years, on average, to resolve a benefit claim with the Veteran’s Administration.
  • More than 600,000 unresolved claims are backlogged with the Veteran’s Administration.
  • Approximately 18.5 percent of service members who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq currently have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression.
  • 19.5 percent of these veterans report experiencing traumatic brain injury.
  • Roughly half of those who need treatment seek it, but only slightly more than half of those who receive treatment receive at least minimally adequate care, according to an April 2008 Rand Report.

The research reveals a sorrowful reality.  In an affluent nation, too many veterans suffer from more than a physical wound.  Yet, citizens act as though they do not care.  Undeniably, the American people offer words of support.  However, these statements are empty.  Expressions of sensitivity do not heal physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual lesions.  Congressional Bills may provide some solace, that is if they ever pass.  Fearful Americans accept what politicians proclaim, a preference to protect and defend a nation adrift.

The White House and the Pentagon said they feared that the bill would encourage men and women to leave the armed forces and enroll in college with federal aid, at a time when the military already has difficulty retaining troops to fight abroad.

Conservation of the Corps, an accretion in the Armed Forces, this is America’s mission.  The United States must be prepared to defend its shores.  The conventional wisdom reminds us, war will always be with us..  Conflict will continue to exist in perpetuity.

Therefore, greenbacks must be devoted to defense.  A soldier’s depression or injuries cannot be considered a priority.  Servicemen and women are trained to “suck it up,” as are the American people.

The public is convinced there is no need to ponder the benefits of peace, for in their minds tranquility will never come .  Nor do we reflect on the personal  or financial costs of war.  Millions spent need not make sense.  Military might is marvelous.  Memorials are evidence that we are proud.

Many are intent; America must win the fight.  Mavericks, such as former prisoner of war and Presidential aspirant John McCain remind us.  We must remain stalwart.  Victory is at hand.  

The battle against a perceived human enemy takes precedence for a pompous public.  In the United States.  the struggle for sanity amongst those who served, while lost, is of little significance to the individuals safe in their cocooned world of wonderment.  Few Americans can count the cents spent on treatment for the troops who return to the homeland with  Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or traumatic brain injury.  In April 2008, the Rand Corporation, presented the research in a report.

The Rand study estimates the societal costs of PTSD and major depression for two years after deployment range from about $6,000 to more than $25,000 per case.  Depending whether the economic cost of suicide is included, the RAND study estimates the total society costs of the conditions for two years range from $4 billion to $6.2 billion.

The RAND study also estimates that about 320,000 service members may have experienced a traumatic brain injury during deployment – the term used to describe a range of injuries from mild concussions to severe penetrating head wounds.  Just 43 percent reported ever being evaluated by a physician for that injury.

While most civilian traumatic brain injuries are mild and do not lead to long-term impairments, the extent of impairments that service members experience and whether they require treatment is largely unknown, researchers said.  In the absence of a medical examination and prognosis, however, service members may believe that their post-deployment difficulties are due to head injuries even when they are not.

One-year estimates of the societal cost associated with treated cases of mild traumatic brain injury range up to $32,000 per case, while estimates for treated moderate to severe cases range from $268,000 to more than $408,000.  Estimates of the total one-year societal cost of the roughly 2,700 cases of traumatic brain injury identified to date range from $591 million to $910 million.

 

Yet, a month after these revelations were released, few Americans mourn the toll war takes on the living.  Instead, citizens “celebrate” Memorial Day.  Members of Congress muse, and mull over how to best serve those who serve us.  Yet, nothing truly changes.  Time marches on as do the memories that haunt those who were in Iraq and Afghanistan.  No one notices, or at least those in power do not rush to alter reality.  Presidential candidates posit in remembrance,

Memorial Day Draws Two Messages on Iraq

By Jeff Zeleny and Michael Falcone

The New York Times

May 26, 2008

Las Cruces, N.M. – Senator John McCain stood before hundreds of flag-waving veterans and their families on Monday and vowed not to waver in his support of the Iraq war.  “Even,” he said, “if I must stand athwart popular opinion.”

Senator Barack Obama addressed a separate audience of veterans and received vigorous applause when he declared, “As many of you know, my intention is to bring this war in Iraq to a close and to start bringing home our troops in an orderly fashion.”

If Labor Day is the traditional opener to the fall presidential race, this Memorial Day offered at least a preview into the summertime duel between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama . . . .

As Mr. McCain spoke about the costs and sacrifices of the Iraq war at the Veterans Memorial in Albuquerque, Mr. Obama praised the patriotism of America’s soldiers before taking voters’ questions – and hearing their frustrations about Iraq and a host of other concerns  . . .

Will the Iraq war and the nation’s security once again be the chief concern to voters in the general election?  In a 20-minute speech, with the flags of all branches of the armed forces at his back, Mr. McCain made 14 references to Iraq.  Later, he invited Mr. Obama to join him on a tour of Iraq.  (Mr. Obama did not immediately say whether he would accept.)

“As long as there is a reasonable prospect for succeeding in this war,” Mr. McCain said, “then we must not choose to lose it.”

Or will economic anxieties at home and a fierce disapproval over the direction of the country be of higher concern to voters?  

If the past and the present predict the future, money will matter.  Most of the dollars doled out will go to protect and defend, not to save soldiers from the sanctity (insanity) of war.

The public barely ponders the seriousness of what combat causes or effects, that is, unless the conflict pinches the pocketbook.  Even then, on this solemn occasion, as on most others, the discussion is purely political.  People feel powerless.  Perchance that is why Americans avoid the conversation; how might we serve those who serve us.

Wars kill warriors, frequently from the inside out.  The few people who care for the troops, provide for those who sacrificed their lives and lived, those who feel the pain of loved ones lost to depression and injury, listen to the rhetoric and ponder.  If we are to truly memorialize the fallen, why not venerate veterans who suffer emotionally, just as we do the soldiers who were physically destroyed in battle.

Might we learn what history attempts to teach us.  Combat cannot create peace of mind; nor does warfare yield to global harmony.  The physical, emotional, and spiritual cost of conflict is too great.  If we are to authentically pay tribute to out troops, let us no longer engage violently.  Let us discuss the actual tax of war.  Might we show our soldiers the highest regard and adequately care for all those maimed and mutilated.  Perchance, it is time to redefine the mission and what it means to offer a memorial.

Cut Funds for Combat.  Costs are Too High . . .



David L. Giaimo 24

David L. Giaimo 24. © copyright 2008 CappyBoy

In Florida, Forging a New Future for America



Forging a New Future for America

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

In Florida, it happened again, and then again, just as it did throughout the nation.  At two Barack Obama assemblies, a seasoned voter saw what she never imagined.  Betsy L. Angert marveled.  People in support of Senator Obama do not come to see the Presidential hopeful.  In small assemblages, or en masse those present at Obama election events enter with a deep desire to be part of a something bigger than themselves.  Common working folks and professional persons come to serve, not to be served.

At each jamboree Miss Angert attended, she observed people were extremely patient and polite.  No one pushed or shoved in a horde of hundreds, or in a throng of near twenty thousand.  Conversations were not casual.  Nor was interest in the event pedestrian.  The people and the discussions were profound.  A man in a dark blue suit stood sweltering in the sun.  He, just as Betsy, arrived early on Friday.  Each hoped to have a close encounter with the candidate, although neither expected to.  The two understood that they were in Sunrise to be with others who were as they were, concerned citizens.

John expressed excitement for an endeavor that captured much attention.  He, along with others in the area, had advanced an award winning film, Sugar Babies.  Human Rights was the issue of import for all those involved in the production, John among them.  As he and Betsy stood in line he spoke of how another President, a Democrat, who presided more than decade ago, ignored what occurred in the Caribbean.  When the former leader of this country learned of how children were mistreated in the Dominican Republic, he did nothing to help.  

The previous Chief Executive acted in accordance with the wishes of sugar company tycoons.  Tearfully, the man who now awaited an Obama arrival in Florida choked as he contemplated the plight of the babies who toiled so that Americans might have sweet sustenance on their tables.

John was not the only person in the crowd with purpose.  Each individual had a story as Betsy quickly discovered.  She chatted with a retired television network executive and his daughter who were nearby.  Apparently, Samantha turned eighteen that day.  This would be the first time in her life the young adult could legally vote.  Sammy was enthusiastic; however, faint.  The ninety plus degree heat had taken a toll.  John offered his suit jacket  as an sunshade.  The two were covered in sweat, as were all those who waited patiently.

Perspiration was barely visible on the face of a baby who slept in his mother’s arms.  A young boy looked cool; however, his expression affirmed the temperature was high.  The lad’s father covered his son’s head with his hands.  The heat was oppressive.  Still, the sense of hope and purpose freed the crowd.

In front, of  Betsy and her newfound friends another group stood in wait.  One of the woman in the cluster of three women and a gentleman, had to kneel.  She was close to exhaustion.  The High School teacher thought she might collapse.  The sun scorched her physical spirit; yet, her emotional sensibility remained untouched.  Each in this group had skipped school.  None were students.  This flock of a feather were Educators.  

A middle aged Mom would be at the Bank Atlantic Center before Barack Obama took the stage.  This frail female had fallen ill with cancer.  Her regular treatment occurred at 2:00 on that very Friday afternoon.  Certainly, she would be too sick to see or hear Barack Obama.  Besides, it would be late by the time she finished with the physician.  The cancer victim’s daughter drove her to the doctor’s as she always has.  Mom was never strong enough to manage once she received the “cure.”  However, this time was different, just as the Obama campaign is for many Americans.

Mother and child exited the medical center and the woman who had just undergone chemotherapy said, “I need to go to the Barack Obama rally.”  The younger lady thought to object, and did question her unwell parent.  Yet, Mom was relentless.  She spoke of how important it was for her to support an agenda of hope and change while she still could.  Dutifully, the daughter traveled to the arena.

The parking lot was full.  The overflow was in a shopping center a decent distance away.  Medicated Mom insisted they park, and hastily walk to the Bank Atlantic Center.  The two were gratified; they made it!  Each insists; this was a sign.  The Senator from Illinois is destined to be President of the United States.  

Betsy wonders if the many elderly and disabled she saw in wheelchairs feels as this family does.  

Might some be longtime supporters as the thirty-two year old wife Betsy met the night before?  This graduate of Harvard law School saw Barack Obama on countless occasions.  The now accomplished attorney heard the candidate speak often at their shared alma mater.  The then Senator often addressed an audience of avid listeners at the University.  He discussed the importance of community service, just as he did this Memorial Day weekend at Wesleyan University.

Possibly, people are as an older white woman Miss Angert met at an earlier gathering is.  A spry little lady became interested in the Obama campaign, for she saw the candidate had vision.  Just as Barack Obama’s Mom actively encouraged her son to seek wisdom, perhaps more so than most parents do, Helen did the same with her children, and now her grandchildren.  In Barack Obama, this retired Social Worker, who is very interested in community, parental involvement, and education, sees more than a politician.  Helen watches Barack the man with his family.  She is impressed.

Perchance, there are countless in a crowd of close to twenty thousand who feel as Jayne Chapman does.  Jayne expresses, “For me, [the interest in Barack Obama and the inspirational message] takes me back to being 22 in 1968.”  Ms Chapman recalls “(T)hat June night, when Bobby said it is was on to the rest of the Primaries . .  and then it happened.”  As she relates, Jayne sorrowfully sighs, “I still remember the way he looked that day and the way he pushed the hair out of his face.  I didn’t vote that year or in the next Presidential contest either.  I was disheartened and really was down on my government and felt disconnected.”

Ms Chapman, a Boca Raton resident offers, “When I heard Obama give his 2004 convention speech  . . . my heart actually jumped.  When he said “There are no blue states or red states.  There is the United States of America!”  I gave a little gasp . . . When he said “”we worship an awesome God in the blue states and yes we have some gay friends in the red states” Jayne Chapman felt an authentic connection.  Jayne reflects, “I turned to my husband and said, ‘Who is this guy?  He’s astonishing!’  She muses, “I waited to hear anything else from this man.”

Years passed before Ms Chapman heard more.  The now committed South Florida organizer for the Barack Obama campaign ponders and proclaims, “I saw him on the Oprah show.  She [Oprah] was half teasing him and half annoyed that he wouldn’t accept her offer to use her private jet but was flying commercial to DC and back.  Imagine!”  Jayne smiles.  She recalls, “He said that if he did that he would lose touch with his constituents.  My heart jumped!  The day he announced I knew I would do whatever I could to help him.  I thought it was probably not going to happen but I was in it 100%,” Jayne asserts.

Ms Chapman continues.  She speaks of her decision to travel to the campaign through cyberspace.  On her home computer, Jayne typed in BarackObama.com.  “I put in my zip code [so that I might] join a group.  There were none close by.”  As she recalls a moment of stress Jayne Chapman says, “I knew Nothing about running a group like this, but I decided then and there that I was too impatient to wait for someone to start one  . . . [I] started my own group.  It has been a roller coaster ride. We’ve been up and down – discouraged and thrilled.”

Yet, for Jayne Chapman, the trek was worth the sweat and tears.  This week Jayne had an opportunity to witness the fruits of her labor.  “When I watched him enter the Bank Atlantic Center to the screams and shouts from almost 20,000 people the other day it was surreal.  The first time I saw him was over a year ago, there were just several hundred of us there.  I was amazed then.  Now I know it is most likely going to happen that on January 20,2009 Barack Obama will be sworn in to become the next President of the United States.”  A prideful and appreciative Jayne Chapman sighs as she states, “What a journey.”

Indeed it has been, for Jayne, for Barack and for Bob George.  He has seen the evolution here in The Everglade State and shares why for him, this election is as no other.  Mister George ruminates, “For me this campaign means the opportunity to take back our government for the people.”  Bob offers his personal travel; “For a long time I felt nobody was listening.  Now I realize I was not speaking loud enough, often enough to have my voice heard.”

Mister George reveals two and one half years ago, “I became active in a local peace movement and a group that is working actively to impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney.  Even though I thought it a long shot, I believed something needed to be done to create a different reality.”  Bob felt it was vital to speak, to act, to lobby, and to demonstrate for peace, justice, and impeachment.

He supported another Presidential candidate early in the election cycle.  “At the same time, I felt a resonance within the Obama movement.”  Over time, Bob perceived Barack Obama believed “in the power of ordinary citizens.”  As an advocate for democracy Mister George believes in the refrain Barack offers; “it is our election, our government, our world to guide.”  This is a message the activist “honors and respects.”  Bob explains,  “For me the words of this election are “If it is to be it is up to me!!!!”

A man permanently employed as an usher at the Bank Atlantic Center, in Sunrise, observed that perhaps that statement defines all Obama supporters.  After the rally ended, the attendant told Miss Angert, he never saw such a clean group.  The staffer confided; in all his years of employ at the arena, this was the first time he saw people use receptacles for trash.  It was obvious to the jobholder; Barack Obama is not as a rock star.  Nor were those at the rally fans who lived in a fantasy world.  These people obviously cared about the community, the Center, (and cleanliness.)  

The older man who worked at the Center for many years, smiled.  He observed, principled people remained true to expressed values.  The attendees demonstrated a genuine concern for conservation and community.

Another worker mentioned what he thought a wondrous moment.  Treacherous thunderstorms rolled in while tens of thousands waited in line.  The doors to the amphitheater had just opened moments before the deluge.  Few had passed through the metal detectors.  Those who were protected by a canopy immediately passed their umbrellas back to the people who were exposed to the elements.  People worked as one.  No one selfishly clung to property.  One individual was not considered more prized than another.  Well, that is with the exception of infants and toddlers.  Everyone worked to ensure that the little ones stayed warm, dry, and safe from the storm.

Perchance, that is the purpose of this campaign.  Barack Obama has helped to build coalitions rather than destroy the fragile bonds that sustain a society.  

Betsy, an experienced elector who has participated in many a political campaign since her teens, senses this campaign, this candidate is different.  It is not only the more than 3.5 million new voters, who have joined in a movement towards democracy that astounds Miss Angert, it is the bank teller who learned of the rally, and expressed her glee.  

The tollbooth worker Betsy met on the way to the Bank Atlantic Center encourages her to believe that this time, change is possible.  When Miss Angert shared with the man who collects fees on the highway where she was off to, this average American asked for details.  The laborer thought, maybe, he too could be a part of the political process.  After all, he was scheduled to leave his post before the event began.  The eyes of a “commoner” sparkled with delight at the prospect of what might be.

The nascent reality expressed by the man, who after an elegant Obama affair revealed his newfound truth had a profound effect on Betsy.  Miss Angert watched as this well-connected chap waited for the valet to return his vehicle to him.  Once the luxurious, late model automobile arrived in front of the hotel where hundreds still patiently lingered, the well-dressed gent pointed to his “Obama ’08” bumper sticker and declared, “For the last sixteen years I was unwilling to place a placard on my car.  Now . . . look!”  The crowd applauded.

In Florida, in May 2008, and perhaps nationally,  something is happening.  People are changing.  Hope is in the air, and a veteran voter wonders; are miracles possible, probable?  Can the dream be achieved?  Betsy reflects and considers . . .

“The ninety and nine are with dreams, content but the hope of the world made new, is the hundredth man who is grimly bent on making those dreams come true”

~ Edgar Allan Poe

References to Reach for Democracy . . .

June is Busting Out All Over





Clinton Invokes RFK Assassination

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Months ago, it was Springtime.  The Primary Election season was about to come to a close.  In March, talk turned to the month that begins summer.  Senator Clinton was elated, as were we all.  At the time, it seemed soon June would be busting out all over.  The Senator from New York believed she had a chance to secure the Democratic nomination.  The former First Lady spoke of how wondrous the sixth month of the year might be.  When asked of her plans for the rest of the year, Hillary Clinton rejoiced.  She recounted; June 1992 was a euphoric time for the Clinton family.  Perchance, in 2008, she said, the same thirty days might again bring reason for euphoria.  The Senator expressed, the unexpected might occur, just as it did in 1968, when . . . the disturbing, distressing, disquieting, the dire, calamitous catastrophe crippled American citizenry.

Yes, in March, animals still hibernated and perhaps, the American people were a bit sleepy from their long winter nap.  The electorate was focused on Spring fever.  Any reason for jubilance brought joy to those who participated in the political process.  In the third month of the year, not only was nature anxious to awaken from a sleepy season, the people in the United States were eager to be reborn.  

The last seven years were too long.  The storms and strife were too severe.  In America, it was time to turn the page.  The pain inflicted by the Bush Administration was too great.  The people craved peace and prosperity.  They were willing to fight for what they thought best.  Some remembered the 1990s fondly.  Perchance, we could go back to better times.  Certainly, now it seemed anything would be possible.  Women had achieved a victory.  So too had working class, “whites.”  Finally, Clinton and her constituency thought this was true.  The former First Lady, Hillary Clinton had just realized a triumph in the Ohio and Texas primaries.  

Prepared for what many had long said would be a much-deserved coronation, Senator Clinton was elated.  Against all odds, or perhaps, as predicted the elected official from New York proved there was no reason for her to suspend her journey to the White House.  Indeed, she often spoke of how excited she was as she contemplated the time when the moving van would pull up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and she would again hold the keys to the Oval Office.  Hillary Clinton said she was “ready to clean house” at the most prestigious abode in the land.  That was Spring.  That is the time of the year when many think to tidy up.

Yet, while the two wins were glorious, many thought these were not enough.  Journalist believed there were problems for the presumed nominee.  Barack Obama had much support, possibly more than the magnificent Senator from New York.  Thus, in an interview with Time Magazine the Presidential aspirant was asked and answer . . .

One group that probably ultimately wouldn’t want it to go on too long is the Democratic Party itself.  Can you envision a point at which – if the race stays this close – and with the difficulties that everyone has analyzed in accumulating enough delegates to get any distance ahead where party elders would step in and say “Senators Clinton and Obama, this is now hurting the party and whoever will be the nominee in the fall.  We need to figure this out.”

No, I really can’t. I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn’t wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June, also in California. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual. We will see how it unfolds as we go forward over the next three to four months.

At first blush, people may agree.  Americans may hastily remark, “Tis true. Senator Clinton is correct.”  However, in actually, only a portion of hr statement is valid.   Memories fade quickly.  People recall what they think wise to believe.   Might Bosnia and sniper fire come to mind?  It seemed the esteemed First Lady described a desperate circumstance more than once, although she knew the reverie was not real, or possibly, she forgot.

Then, again, just as now, Americans allowed for the misstatement.  Months elapsed before any one questioned what was said.  Endless excuses could account for what occurred then.  It was cold outside; brains were frozen.  Americans were caught up in the moment.  The candidate mesmerized the masses.  The media did not bother to investigate for they too rejoiced at the idea that a woman might become President, or perhaps, memoirs are meant to be mythical in scope.

Possibly, that is why citizens in the United States accepted an impressive chronicle of thirty-five years of service to the country, eight of which were in the White House.  Few would wish to admit to what was revealed when that recollection proved to be less than what had been presented.

The documents offer no support for her claims, made during the presidential campaign, that she helped to negotiate the Irish peace accords or facilitated the flow of refugees in the Balkans. Neither is there evidence in them to back up her claim that she helped pass the Family and Medical Leave Act, the first legislation Mr. Clinton signed as president. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, sailed through Congress and landed on Mr. Clinton’s desk 10 days after he was inaugurated. Indeed, on the day Mr. Clinton signed the bill into law, Feb. 5, 1993, there is no indication on that day’s calendar that she attended.

The documents offer no insight into her role in appointments to key administration posts or in courting donors for her or her husband’s political campaigns.

And they do not add to an understanding of how she coped with revelations in 1998 of her husband’s sexual betrayal with a young White House worker, or provide a paper trail of the discussions that led to her declaring her candidacy for the Senate in 1999.

The dry records carry all the emotional punch of a factory worker’s time card, showing where she was for much of her eight years in the White House but telling nothing about what she was saying, thinking or doing.

Could it be that reveries do not expose as persons would wish to believe.  Hence, people choose to forget.   More than a decade has past and that may have an effect on reminiscences.  Documentation shows President Bill Clinton was the Party choice long before June.  In April 1992, while there were lingering questions as to his character, contrary to what Senator Clinton thrice stated recently, her  husband was able to cinch the nomination before the last primary.  Confident words came from then “Progressive” leaders.

Ronald H. Brown, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said tonight, “I cannot imagine a set of circumstances that would keep Bill Clinton from having a majority of the delegates by the end of the primary season, based on his performance today.” Mr. Brown added that he had long hoped for an early nominee “so we can focus our time and attention on George Bush.”

Ah, perhaps Senator Clinton asks America to forget.  Hillary Rodham may revel rather than muse, “memories are short.”  Anecdotes, ancient accounts make clear, even when Bill Clinton sought the Democratic nomination, the Party hoped for time to concentrate and converge.  Yet, if Senator Clinton were to admit this, June would be her bust.  The Presidential hopeful may state . . .

At Sunshine Foods here, Mrs. Clinton said the following:

“Earlier today I was discussing the Democratic primary history and in the course of that discussion mentioned the campaigns that both my husband and Senator Kennedy waged in California in June, in 1992 and 1968. And I was referencing those to make the point that we have had nomination primary contests that go into June. That’s a historic fact.

“The Kennedy’s have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy. And I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever. My view is that we have to look to the past and to our leaders who have inspired us and give us a lot to live up to. I am honored to hold Senator Kennedy’s seat in the United States Senate, from the state of New York, and have the highest regard for the entire Kennedy family. Thank you.”

While the Senator may offer her gratitude for the sympathy she endeared to evoke the former First Lady does not apologize for the use of a statement once, twice, or perhaps three times.  Forgetfulness reigns, for in March there was no causal relationship.  The latest assertion only applies to what today, most appreciate may be callous.  Where were Americans in the Spring?

Perchance, Senator Clinton, then and now has no empathy for what is, and what was.  Nonetheless, few citizens can forget what this present election brings out, bigotry.  Rampant racism in the age of enlightenment has a hold on this country.  Intolerance has benefited the Clinton campaign and at times, almost crushed Barack Obama’s and the nations dream.  What Americans would wish to forget is how divided our homeland is, and how this effects the security of a candidate. Barack Obama may not mention the possibility of political bloodshed as Senator Clinton did; however . . .

Mr. Obama learned about Mrs. Clinton’s remarks as he rode in his motorcade from Miami to Sunrise, Fla., on Friday. He and his aides discussed the matter, but decided he would not address the comment when he arrived at an afternoon rally.

Instead, to an audience of 16,000 people who filled the Bank Atlantic Center arena, Mr. Obama praised the candidacy of Mrs. Clinton and assured Democrats that their party would be united after the long primary campaign ended.

Privately, aides to Mr. Obama were furious at the remark, particularly because his safety is a particularly sensitive issue. He was the first presidential candidate to receive Secret Service protection more than a year ago because of specific threats, none of which were disclosed.

In an interview earlier this year, Mr. Obama said he was aware of the threats, but felt safe because of the Secret Service protection, which he pointed out was given to presidential candidates because of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

“It’s not something that I’m spending time thinking about day-to-day,” Mr. Obama told The New York Times in February. “I made a decision to get into this race. I think anybody who decides to run for president recognizes that there are some risks involved, just like there are risks in anything.”

Barack Obama is likely not as sleepy as the electorate can be.  The Presidential hopeful may not be captivated by the Clinton charisma.  Nor does he probably forget as easily as the rest of population does when Senator Clinton slips.  Barack Obama was not cocooned in the winter or spring.  He was aware; and chose to forgive what is challenging to forget.



Olbermann – Special Comment on Clinton Using RFK Killing

Reveries, References . . .

Government ignores veteran and soldier suicides

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published Friday, December 28, 2007

While prosecuting its war on the Iraqi people I had been in Iraq for about two months when my brigade suffered its first fatality. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. Nobody wanted to believe that it had happened. The deployment was supposed to be quick and easy; we were supposed to be greeted with flowers and return home within a few months. ??As the sounds from the memorial service echoed in our barracks, there was silence-only the recorded sounds of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” Nobody wanted to talk about the realization that we may never return home. Nobody wanted to talk about the situation we had gotten into; the number of Iraqi people who were dying because of the invasion. Most of all, nobody wanted to talk about the soldier who had died.

The bullet that killed him came from his own rifle, but nobody wanted to talk about that either. Everyone wanted to believe the official story, that it was an accidental discharge. To consider anything else meant accepting that surviving the war was more than just surviving combat. Making it home alive does not necessarily mean making it home safe.

According to the Pentagon, at least 152 soldiers have committed suicide while serving overseas in the phony “war on terror.” It can be safely assumed that this number is much higher, as the military brass would rather explain a suicide as a “tragic accident” rather than a result of combat stress. ??In fact, the Army maintains to this day that it has not yet found a link between combat stress and suicide. The Army’s Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, has asserted: “We have not made a connection between the stress on the force and some massive or even significant increase in suicides.” ??This position ignores the truth about serving an imperialist army in an imperialist war. ??It was exposed by a recent CBS News study on suicide levels among veterans. The study showed that veterans commit suicide at twice the rate of civilians. The suicide rate among people in the United States as a whole is 8.9 per 100,000 people. The level among veterans is at least 18.7 per 100,000 people.

Veterans of the imperialist “war on terror” experience a higher rate of suicide with at least 22.9 suicides per 100,000 people.

The Veterans Administration does not keep a record of veteran suicides. It actively avoids these terrible statistics. Countless cases have come to light about soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being denied treatment, being diagnosed as having a “pre-existing” condition and being accused of lying to escape military service. ??The military brass has stooped so low as to blame suicides on “Dear John” letters, poor upbringing by parents, and “underdeveloped life coping skills.” ??False excuses like these allow the Pentagon to absolve itself of all responsibility. The military is able to circumvent paying disability benefits. It also permits the warmongers to distort the situation in Iraq to serve their own interests. The Pentagon only cares about advancing its military goals. It cares nothing about the soldiers it uses to spread imperialism.

It cares nothing about the Iraqi people, over a million of whom have been killed in this criminal war and occupation.

A criminal war

I have experienced first hand the bureaucracy of the VA system. I have walked into the mental health office and been pointed in a hundred different directions, told to come back another time, and told to drive over an hour to another VA office. After several months of frustration, I ended up with a bag full of pills. This was the treatment I was offered.

Private Jonathan Schulze also received the run around from the VA. An Iraq war veteran suffering PTSD, he tried to check himself in to a VA psychiatric unit in Minnesota. With the aid of his parents, he explained to his counselor that he was suicidal and insisted on being admitted. Instead, he was placed on a long waiting list. The following day, his parents called the VA and pleaded for their son’s admission. They received no cooperation. Four days later, haunted by memories of war, Jonathan Schulze went into his basement, tied an extension cord around his neck, and hanged himself.

Private Jason Scheuerman could not wait until he returned home from Iraq to seek treatment for PTSD. He informed his fellow soldiers and commanding officers that he was suicidal. He was experiencing some of the most extreme symptoms of PTSD, including hallucinations. When he finally received a mental health evaluation, the psychiatrist concluded that he did not meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. The psychiatrist also informed his leaders that he was “claiming mental illness in order to manipulate his command.” ??Not only was Scheuerman denied treatment and forced to remain on combat duty, but he also was punished by his superiors for seeking mental help and threatened with jail time. Shortly thereafter, there was a letter posted on Scheuerman’s barracks closet. Inside the closet, his lifeless body was discovered. “Maybe finally I can get rid of these demons, maybe finally I can get some peace,” he wrote.

The U.S. government will not adequately care for the soldiers it sends to do its biding. It will use them as cannon fodder, then leave them to die alone in a basement or in a dark closet. ??With the recent data displaying a suicide epidemic, the VA has vowed to improve its psychiatric treatment. This is nothing but empty promises. Soldiers will continue to kill and be killed in an unjust war on the Iraqi people. If they return, many will be plagued by trauma. ??But soldiers have the power to break this cycle. If soldiers want to fight a just battle, one that will serve their interests and not the interests of the ruling class, they can join the fight against the system that profits from human suffering. ??Not one more Iraqi should have to die. Not one more Iraqi family should have to leave their homes to flee the imperialist occupation of their country.

Not one more U.S. soldier should fight and die in Iraq. And not one more will have to if they refuse to fight in this criminal war.  

The Most Important Issue? Really?




To view the original art, please travel to The Most Important Issue? Really?

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

And the fate of our nation hangs on . . . a lapel pin?

Sigh.

Check out my latest, “Obama’s Latest Supporter”  [Archive Nos. 0819b and 0819a].

Back in seven,

Andrew

Universal Pain; Effect of Economic and Emotional Depression

EEdprssn

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Teresa Madison forlorn and torn by life’s dilemmas contemplates a reality she never considered before.  Death by one’s own hand may be the latest and greatest in preventative medicine.  Suicide can be a cure for what ails a person, or at least many have come to believe this is so.  In her age group, more people deliberately take their lives.  Only months ago, Ms Madison perused an article that appeared in The New York Times; Midlife Suicide Rises, Puzzling Researchers. Teresa was not perplexed.  Ms Madison knows to her core society is consumed with ills.  Physical, mental, emotional, financial woes, and a sense of finality overwhelm individuals in the United States.  Teresa feels heaviness in her heart when she opens her mailbox and sees the bills.  Her empty pocketbook cannot ease her pain.  Nor does it alleviate the aches her family feels.

Ms Madison hears people speak of hope for the future.  Countless say change is on the horizon.  Yet, in this election year, this workingwoman does believe the solutions offered are realistic.  She listens to the rhetoric and recognizes the aspirants do not feel the common peoples’ pain.

Each of the candidates speaks of the current financial crisis and foreclosures.  Health Care is also an issue.  The Democratic Presidential hopefuls promise Universal Health Care.  Yet, none of the possible nominees propose a Single Payer not for Profit  plan.  Each candidate expects Americans to pay for the insurance they desperately need.  The cost of coverage may be reduced; nonetheless, citizens will be required to pay for the policies.  A Choice Plan may claim to make Health Insurance more accessible; however, those who work and struggle to meet medical expenses understand this strategy will not serve them well.  A Plan for a “Healthy America,” provides little comfort for those who are not fit and already feel the pain of being a bit too affluent to qualify for assistance.  “Potabilty” while a wondrous concept is not practical for a person who is uninsured, underinsured, or who can barely benefit from policies that exist.

Perhaps, Americans will not need adequate coverage in the future.  If the country continues to experience an economic downturn, people may just choose to end it all.  Some may sing the song, “Suicide is painless,” as they pull the trigger, pop the pills, or inhale toxic fumes.

Historically, research shows, rates of depression and suicide tend to climb during times of economic tumult.

In an article published in 2005 by Cambridge University Press, researchers compared suicide data in Australia from January 1968 through August 2002 with economic problems such as unemployment and mortgage interest rates.  The study found that economic trends are closely associated with suicide risk, with men showing a heightened risk of suicide in the face of economic adversity.

“For some people, suicide is the rational option when they see no future,” says Ken Siegel, a psychologist in Beverly Hills.  “One’s house is very much a projection of one’s self.  To have a home taken away is tantamount to having part of yourself taken away.  There is embarrassment.  For many, it’s overwhelmingly unconquerable.”

In the most severe cases . . . authorities have linked suicides with the financial stress of foreclosures . . .

“Suicides are very much tied to the economy,” says Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of The Stress Institute in Atlanta.  “It’s a public-health issue.”

Teresa works as a Realtor; she has for more than three decades.  Ms Madison is well aware of how the housing market affects families.  She read the report, Foreclosures Take an Emotional Toll on Homeowners,  and  thought  how true the words were.  Teresa Madison saw the housing bubble as it floated through the hills of Southern California.  At the time, admittedly, she too was overcome with joy as the ethereal enthusiasm drifted through the air.  Only a few short years ago, Teresa was as most in the Golden State were, elated as the equity in homes rose.  For Ms Madison, the higher prices meant greater income, certain security, and a sense of stability, or at least that was her hope.  When the housing bubble burst so too did Teresa’s.  Now, as Teresa Madison skims through the pages of classified advertisements in search of another job, she sees the headlines Foreclosures skyrocket 65% in April, and she thinks of   how this will  further her  dilemma.  How will she  be  able  to  pay  her  medical bills.

Although vibrant, Teresa Madison is aware of the fact that a serious illness could devastate, even destroy her.  The middle age white woman, while successful in her work was never able to save as she had thought she might.  Teresa was not a compulsive shopper as her dear friend Silvia is.  Strapped with debt, Silvia slit her throat and every other part of her body.  Depression or the drugs her physician prescribed almost did Silva in.  While others may think Teresa has reason to resort to drastic measure, Ms Madison never would.  Her faith in the Lord and her love for her family sustains her.  

Teresa has two children that need her.  Her daughters are adults now, and one would presume they could take care of themselves.  However, Tammy needs more than merely emotional support.  She needs someone to take her from doctor’s appointment to surgeries.  Trips to the drug store are numerous and while Tammy drives, she is not always able to get into her automobile and travel from home to the pharmacy.  Movement is not easy, although Teresa daughter tries.  Mostly, Miss Madison cries out in pain.  Much of her distress is caused by guilt.  The rest is all too real.

Tammy had tumors as a child; one was in her brain.  Her thyroid was also a concern.  Ultimately, the gland was totally removed.  The younger woman is affected by other illnesses.  None are observable in a casual exchange.  However, health issues are omnipresent in the younger woman’s day.  Nights are not better.  Indeed, as the sky grows dark, so too does Tammy’s demeanor.

The medication necessary for survival slowly took Tammy’s life.  The girl, now near forty still breathes, and mentally, she is extremely active.  However, with each twinge Tammy twists and turns.  Her every moment is as torture.

As a lass, Tammy was told the drugs she needed would add pounds to her posterior.  Her legs and arms would swell.  The small frame she once had would be forced to carry quite a load.  She did not imagine what would actually occur.  

Serious weight gain placed pressure on Tammy’s spine.  Today, the vertebrae break easily and often.  Stress fractures fill the severely ill woman’s medical files.

Excessive amounts of cortisol have helped Tammy to exist.  Yet, the side effects have lessened her quality of life.  Her teeth deteriorated.  Recently, they were all pulled.  Dentures are in Tammy’s near future.  Before her fortieth birth date, she will be fitted with porcelain plates.  Might Tammy or her Mom find a better policy to cover the burgeoning costs?  Is this family underinsured?  Perhaps, but most, if not all insurers consider preexisting conditions.  Pre, post, present . . .

Tammy circumstances have been a constant in Teresa’s life.  She works and worries how will she continue too pay the price.  Hospital invoices pour in, just as they did when times were good.  Even when Ms Madison’s earnings were greater, she was never able to afford a home.  She helped others buy beautiful abodes and sell these stately properties.  Still Teresa could never save enough to secure a down payment.  Frugal as she is financial stability has escaped Teresa Madison.

Since the subprime mortgage meltdown altered her ability to make money, Teresa has fallen behind in her rent.  A landlord who loved her, and whose house Teresa and Tammy had lived in for more than a decade finally insisted the Madison’s must move.  Teresa was grateful; the owner of the property considered all the upgrades Teresa had done and subtracted the cost from the amount owed.

Ms Madison with all her connections was temporarily able to secure another rental apartment; however, the stairs were a problem.  Tammy could not climb these.  A third residence was found.  Still the two women once more were evicted.  No matter how much money Teresa brought in, it never seemed enough.  She was able to stay in a neighborhood that suffered little from the foreclosure catastrophe.  However, Tammy’s circumstances and hence the cost worsened.

Days ago, as Teresa pondered what would she do next she read the account . . .

On a brisk day last fall in Prineville, Ore., Raymond and Deanna Donaca faced the unthinkable: They were losing their home to foreclosure and had days to move out.

For more than two decades, the couple had lived in their three-level house, where the elms outside blazed with yellow shades of fall and their four golden retrievers slept in the yard. The town had always been home, with a lazy river and rolling hills dotted by gnarled juniper trees.

Yet just before lunch on Oct. 23, the Donacas closed all their home’s doors except the one to the garage and left their 1981 Cadillac Eldorado running. Toxic fumes filled the home. When sheriff’s deputies arrived at about 1 p.m., they found the body of Raymond, 71, on the second floor along with three dead dogs. The body of Deanna, 69, was in an upstairs bedroom, close to another dead retriever.

“It is believed that the Donacas committed suicide after attempts to save their home following a foreclosure notice left them believing they had few options,” the Crook County Sheriff’s Office said in a report.

Teresa Madison reflects on the reality and realizes she cannot cry.  She has shed too many a tear.  Ms Madison is left to ask, how much more can any of us endure.  Foreclosures and health care concerns are only a fraction of what consumes Americans.  Teresa understands her story will not make the nightly news.  Few will ever meet Tammy.  Neither woman can afford to attend fundraisers.  Nor do lobbyists represent Teresa or Tammy.  If either of the Madison women had time or energy to travel to a free rally or a town hall forum the chances that they would be seen or heard are slim.

Teresa and Tammy have heard many platitudes from Pharmaceutical companies, private insurers, and even from politicians.  Each has received pounds of boilerplate letters.  These communiqués explain why Tammy must wait, or why a request for care is denied.  Doctors who have attended to Tammy for decades cannot hasten the process.  Nor are these proficient physicians powerful enough to alter a reality that enslaves them as well.  When talking with many trained professionals in the field of medicine, Teresa hears of their frustration.  

Those who believe in the Hippocratic Oath cannot avoid doing harm, no matter how hard they try to heal the ill and injured that enter their offices.  Current policies preclude a physician from offering authentic and adequate preventative care.  It is just too costly is the conclusion of many.  Others note an investment in prevention ultimately will curtail the initial disbursement.  Moreover, imagine the savings if the sick did not need to continually spend billions of dollars on drugs, diagnosis, and driving from doctor to doctor.  Oh, how Tammy and Teresa would be blissful if they were not led by symptoms and side effects.   The quality of life might have been different if much had been done differently and early on.  At least thoughts of how death might relieve fiscal and physical trauma would have been diminished.

Doctors may not openly speak of how they too suffer when a patient passes or is parallelized by pain,  However, quietly, on occasion, a practitioner may mention how he or she is hurt by the current structure.  Had Tammy been more than a patient, in pain, and only assigned minutes to consult with a specialist, she may have seen the literature.  In 2003, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a Proposal of the Physicians’ Working Group for Single-Payer National Health Insurance,  which advocates that American policymakers adopt a truly Universal and not for profit plan.

Some say a Single Payer Not For Profit Health Care system will cause delays, and lessen the quality of treatment.  The Madison’s muse how might that be possible.  Each day they wait and wonder, when will the doctor see them.  How many more months will slip away before a surgeon is given permission to perform a necessary operation.

As Teresa and Tammy Madison watch the election coverage, they think of there own.  They too are exposed to much scrutiny.  The Madison must also address the issues.  These two ordinary citizens understand every person has his or her tales to tell.  As Teresa and Tammy sit by the television far from the crowds and the candidates, they ask, ‘Will those who aspire to live in the White House ever address what affects the average American?’

Teresa, who has long trusted in the Lord, continues to “hope” that he will be the agent of “change.”  Daughter Tammy, who has also been a person of faith, at times, fears her conviction wanes.  Suicide may not be painless; nonetheless, she trusts she can endure whatever anguish death may bring.  She has withstood life, a broken health care system and an economic structure that causes much distress.  Tammy frequently thinks “yes, she can” live or die.

Scars, Sores, Suicide, and Sources . . .

Ted Kennedy; The Man, The Mission, Make a Difference

TdKnndy

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

I met Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy many years ago.  He was shorter and stouter than I expected.  However, he was no less wondrous than I imagined.  Indeed, he was more than I might have considered possible.  After, our encounter I followed the man and the mission more closely.  My interest was perhaps a bit above casual.  I was intrigued by what I had observed.  This man was more than a politician, or an individual, who as many know, is part of a dynasty.  Edward Kennedy exudes warmth and empathy.  Perchance he is an enigma.  For Ted Kennedy personifies care.

Politically, Senator Edward Kennedy is famous for his endeavors to secure quality Health Care for all.  Now, the statesman, is enveloped in a system that, for decades, he struggled to improve.  

This weekend, America learned that Ted Kennedy was taken to the hospital.  Countless feared the situation, was critical.  However, ‘Teddy’ remained charming and engaged.  Family and friends had hope.

Then, moments ago, the news came.  Senator Kennedy Has Malignant Brain Tumor.  When I first heard of his seizure, I was stunned.  My heart sank.  As I listen to recent reports, once more, my mind is consumed with the man and the missions that characterize the senior Senator from Massachusetts’s life.  His achievements echo throughout the Senate chambers and in many a heart.

Kennedy also takes pains to do the little things that can make a difference, said University of Massachusetts President William Bulger, a former president of the Massachusetts Senate . . . He said Kennedy’s legacy will be his commitment to upholding the tenets put forth by the country’s founding fathers.

Bulger said when Benjamin Franklin was asked what the U.S. Constitution would do for citizens, he responded, “We gave you a republic.”  Bulger said Kennedy has helped preserve that republic.

. . .  Kennedy continues to push for prescription drug coverage through Medicare, universal health care, and a Patients Bill of Rights to help citizens navigate through the red tape of insurance companies.

Earlier this year, (2002) Kennedy called for a delay in the implementation of a future tax cut for the wealthiest Americans that would save $350 billion to help pay for some of those priorities and Social Security . . .

Kennedy made his maiden speech on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . . Since then, he has continued to fight for racial and gender equity, improved voting access for citizens and rights for immigrants and refugees.  He pushed for the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed the use of literacy tests and other devices that kept African Americans out of the voting booth.

In later years, he worked for the Cuban refugees, pushed limits in wiretapping and eavesdropping, and lowered the voting age to 18.  He also introduced the first Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and was one of the principal sponsors of the law that created the King holiday . . .

Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said  . . . minorities have had no better friend in Congress than Kennedy.  Whether it’s access to health care, protecting affirmative action, or guaranteeing equal education, Williams said Kennedy is his go-to guy.  He described Kennedy as the “civil rights voice box” in the Senate.

“Every piece of civil rights legislation impacting this nation has Ted Kennedy’s fingerprints on it,” Williams said.

Kennedy’s efforts on civil rights don’t end with minorities.

Kennedy has also led the way on issues that impact women: equal pay, abortion rights, and family leave.  This year, Kennedy has been leading the fight on a national level for insurance companies to cover contraceptives, said Melissa Walsh, co-president of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Walsh said Kennedy has a long-standing record of supporting women’s issues . . .

What’s unique about Kennedy, Walsh said, is his sincere interest in the issues and a desire to know how government programs are helping or harming citizens . . .

Not only has Kennedy championed the rights of minorities and women, he has consistently fought for children, seniors, the disabled and the poor . . .

Instead of simply funding programs to help the needy, Kennedy has pushed legislation that seeks to solve those social problems so future generations can advance  . . .

Peter Cullinane, former executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, said despite Kennedy’s wealth and background, he is one of the few politicians who really understands the issues facing families.

“He focuses on the income gap,” Cullinane said.  “I’ve heard him say, ‘When the economy is wrong, nothing else is right.’  He used to talk about that a lot and tie it to issues around how we serve the working poor and homeless.”  To help the disadvantaged, Kennedy has supported food stamps, the Women, Infants and Children program, fuel assistance, the school breakfast program, the Adequate Nutrition Act, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Children’s Health Act.

The children’s insurance program, passed in 1997, supported state efforts to provide health insurance to uninsured children in low-income families.  As of last December, about 49,000 Massachusetts children were receiving health coverage through the program . . .

Kennedy was also responsible for the creation of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Morrow said.

Ted Kennedy is a man of the people.  The sincere Senator with a genuine smile does not simply create policy, he connects to the common people.  The brother of a past President has made a difference that goes beyond political postures.  What Ted Kennedy does on any given day cannot be defined in official documents.  Only spirits offer meaning to what is characteristic of this exceptional man.

At noon Tuesday, Kennedy left Capitol Hill for a weekly ritual he has pursued for five years.

An aide drove him to the Brent Elementary School six blocks away, where Kennedy read to 11-year-old Jasmine Harrison for an hour.

Along with a few other senators and House members, Kennedy is a volunteer in a mentoring program for elementary-age students.

He and Jasmine sat in a corner in the library, with six other adult volunteers and their charges scattered around the room.

Together they read from author Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Swiftly Tilting Planet.”

Kennedy doesn’t like to miss the reading sessions, said aide Stephanie Cutter, 33, a Raynham native and former Clinton staffer who began working for Kennedy last summer.

“Unless it’s a vote,” she said.  “He hates to miss votes.”

Program coordinator Shirley Farrow thinks Kennedy has made a difference in Jasmine’s life.

“She’s much more confident,” Farrow says.  “He makes sure she writes down words and looks them up in the dictionary.”

Kennedy plans to speak at the school’s graduation this spring, when Jasmine finishes the sixth grade.  This will be their last year together.

“We had a lot of words today,” Jasmine said after the session, “and there were some words we didn’t find in the dictionary that the author must have made up.”

She was aware of the senator’s approaching birthday, and had created a birthday card for him with markers and yellow construction paper.

“Happy birthday Ted!,” Jasmine wrote.  “I’m really glad that you were able to celebrate another year of life.  I hope your birthday is wonderful and may all your wishes come true!  God bless you and your family and again Happy Birthday!”  Returning to the Capitol, Kennedy met with officials from Great Britain and Northern Ireland for a closed-door discussion of the prospects for peace.

Another briefing with staffers followed before the hearing on refugees.

Senator Kennedy does it all, with a depth and desire to contribute to the greater community that is his homeland.  Ted Kennedy resides in a world that most believe cannot exist.  For the Senator, there are no borders.  Love looms large.  Millions might muse as I do toady.  Ted Kennedy touches us all tenderly.  Some sense what Ted Kennedy has done.  Many benefit from his endeavors.  Few know to identify the programs that have a profound effect on their lives with Senator Edward Kennedy.

That matters not to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy.  This man is happy to move mountains quietly, without much fanfare.  For Ted Kennedy the politics of humanity is his priority.  People are the pearls.  The Senator sees himself as one, a part of the whole.  

Let us hope that the Senator will survive as he has, and that the diagnosis of the doctors will be as erroneous as earlier predictions.  When Ted Kennedy was younger many thought, he would never achieve as he has.  Yet, this gentle giant exceeded expectations.  May we all pray for the man who served us each and every day.

May the powers-that-be, those whose authority surpasses that of any Administration, be with you and yours Senator Edward [(Ted) Kennedy.

US Policy; Attack Adversaries. Appease Americans. No Diplomacy



Don’t Bomb Iran

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Days ago, United States Commander-In-Chief, George W. Bush reminded us of the need to remain vigilant.  He admonished anyone who might think to talk with those who politically, philosophically, or perhaps physically have the potential to oppose “us.”  The President of the world’s superpower ‘wisely’ proclaimed “”Some seem to believe we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.”  America’s leader addressed Israeli lawmakers and said, “We have heard this foolish delusion before.  As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’  We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”  As a protective parent might  alert an easily frighten child, the Mister Bush forewarns his citizens.  “Do not speak to strangers.”  

US policy under Bush is to attack or alienate.  The Administration insists we will not appease or engage in diplomacy with what we identify as rogue nations.   Persons classified as terrorists are to be threatened, and possibly killed.  The President of the United States wishes to ensure he protects the public.  Punitive measures multiply in a nation once defined as democratic.

Citizens in a country founded on the principles of equalitarianism no longer practice as they preach.  Americans or the Administration  ignore what is too often real; statistically, evidence shows those we know may be more dangerous.  Close associates can harm “us.”  Those we have yet to encounter in our daily lives are not scary; they are unfamiliar.  Hence, frequently, much to our own chagrin, people follow the lead of penal persons, just as we have in the United States.  Today, American citizens are easily appeased, and willing to attack.  We are willing to alienate our allies and all others.  We spread democracy only to destroy the tenet.

People whose names, faces, customs, cultures, and skin color differs from “ours” are classified as aliens.  Those who we do not speak with are considered adversaries, for “we” have not taken the time to become acquainted.  “We” assume the people who are foreign to “us” are antagonistic.  Americans, seem willing to dismiss the accepted wisdom; friendships are formed.  Foes are those we do not know, and thus, fear.

That said, the defensive stance adopted by the paternalistic President presumes that “we” just as little children, are less learned.  Therefore, we will give all our toys to another tot, or to the big-bad-boogie-man, he vehemently told “us” not to play with.  The word “appeasement,” as referenced in Mister Bush’s speech does not speak to diplomacy, a skillful communication between countries; it connotes the giving of gifts.

Britain and France pursued a policy of appeasement in the hope that Hitler would not drag Europe into another world war.  Appeasement expressed the widespread British desire to heal the wounds of World War I and to correct what many British officials regarded as the injustices of the Versailles Treaty.

Guilt motivates many a parent who realizes, in the past, they were overly punitive.  A child, who chose actions that were combative and cruel may not learn to be kind, if a guardian slams and damns the young person, and then confines the lad or lass to a barren room.  An adolescent starved for love, stripped of all possessions, severely reprimanded, and forced to submit reparations will not thrive.  When a tot or a teen is stripped of a sense of self, as well as deprived of any dignity survival is a struggle.  It is no wonder, upon reflection, the parents or persons in power were remorseful.  The Versailles Treaty denied the German people all that made life whole.

This treaty held Germany solemnly responsible for WWI. Germany was forced to pay reparations totaling 132,000,000,000 in gold marks, they lost 1/8 of its land, all of its colonies, all overseas financial assets, a new map of Europe was carved out of Germany, and the German military was basically non-existent.  To the German people they were being ruthlessly punished for a war not only were not responsible for but had to fight.  The main terms of the

Versailles Treaty were:

(1) the surrender of all German colonies as League of Nations mandates

(2) the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France

(3) cession of Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium, Memel to Lithuania, the Hultschin district to Czechoslovakia, Poznania, parts of East Prussia and Upper Silesia to Poland

(4) Danzig to become a free city

(5) plebiscites to be held in northern Schleswig to settle the Danish-German frontier

(6) occupation and special status for the Saar under French control

(7) demilitarization and a fifteen-year occupation of the Rhineland

(8)  German reparations of £6,600 million

(9) a ban on the union of Germany and Austria

(10) an acceptance of Germany’s guilt in causing the war

(11) provision for the trial of the former Kaiser and other war leaders

(12) limitation of Germany’s army to 100,000 men with no conscription, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no poison-gas supplies, no aircraft, and no airships

(13) the limitation of the German Navy to vessels under 100,000 tons, with no submarines

Germany signed the Versailles Treaty under protest.  The USA Congress refused to ratify the treaty.  Many people in France and Britain were angry that there was no trial of the Kaiser or the other war leaders.

The treaty devastated Germany politically and economically.  Because of the treaty, many Germans were desperate to find a new leader to get them out of the Great Depression, which they blamed on the extravagant reparations they had to pay to the Allies.

A chastised child ultimately will not sacrifice their soul.  They will rebel and revolt, as Germany did.  Perhaps, Neville Chamberlain and those who chose “appeasement” overreacted as parents, or as people often do.  Too often, an abusive authority figure will engage in one extreme behavior or another.  Penalties and presents do help a youngster to learn.  Neither deed will deliver a child from “evil.”  Calm, careful conversations help create a union between mother, father, and child.  When Moms, Dads, or government officials love the other and self enough to empathetically listen reverent relationships grow.  The same is true when we speak of nations.  Negotiations are necessary if peace is to become a possibility.  We do not war with those who work well with “us.”  Composure cultivated in conversations evokes cooperation.

Notwithstanding, the veracity that talk can educate and place a distressed child at ease, country or diplomat, Americans are asked to avoid discussion with those our “leaders” deemed dictators or terrorists.  “We,” the people are expected to forget, as George W. Bush expressed not too long ago.  On February 13, 2006, just over two years earlier, Commander-In-Chief Bush avowed his desire to resolve disagreements with Iran in an irenic manner.  The President of the United States proclaimed the potential nuclear crisis need not be a cause for confrontation.  After talks in Washington with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the decisive Mister Bush said the allied leaders agreed; the issue must be solved “diplomatically by working together.”  However, as is evident, for persons who dominate, the definitions for “diplomacy” and “peaceful” are fluid, as is the description of democracy.  Merriam-Webster offers  . . .

de·moc·ra·cy

1 a: government by the people; especially:  rule of the majority

b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

2: a political unit that has a democratic government

3. capitalized: the principles and policies of the Democratic Party in the United States (from emancipation Republicanism to New Deal Democracy– C. M. Roberts)

4. the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority

5. the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

What may be thought odd is, in a nation founded on the principles of social equality, there are elite ‘leaders.’  These elected officials believe they must assure the common folk, it is best not to speak with our “enemies.”  In the United States, in practice, it seems democracy is a disciplinary dictum.  The President envisions himself as a penal parent might.

Might we also muse of the contradiction?  In a country of equals the race, religion, or social rank of an individual might reduce the presumed significance of a fellow citizen.  Here in America, too often one neighbor is the nemesis of another.  How could that be?  We might ponder another paradox.  If every individual is worthy, one of no more value than any other, why are there privileged people who have power over the populace?  We may know not why; nonetheless, we are aware those in authority tell average Americans, ‘Diplomacy would be pernicious.’  The incongruity of the situation does not escape observant historians.

Academics who study the democratic system note Americans have less social equality than we like to think we do.  Citizens of this country are as those in a family where retaliatory parents rule.  The word “family” connotes a connection.  Yet, when guardians are not caregivers and are instead castigators.  “family’ is but the facade.

Yet, just as in a dysfunctional home where the relatives wish to believe all is well, in this “progressive” nation, we may wish to believe the system works.  Americans firmly assert the present is far better than the past was, and the future will bring greater improvements.  We reassure ourselves with charts and graphs.  We watch market reports and read research that validates what we wish to hold as truth.

Admittedly, the average American accepts that in this affluent and democratic nation problems persist.  Income inequity has always been a constant; it remains pervasive in the States.  Here, in the richest country in the world, in a nation where people are taught to believe everyone is equal, opportunities are not.  Most dismiss the imbalance as temporary.  Certainly, the prospect for change is plausible.  Shortcomings are the effect of economic growth.  Corrections will come, sooner or later.  Perhaps tomorrow will bring a better day.  Of course, it will.  Americans know how to grow an economy.  With expansion, earnings increase.  People prosper, equally.

Most of “us” believe that democracy has survived each trial and tribulation, and a government of the people, as we presume ours to be, will continue to thrive.  Yet; perchance, we have been persuaded to have faith as we do.  Democracy is best.  Nothing functions better.

This is a powerful assumption.  It may be tested by reflecting upon the fact that, despite American progress, the society has been forced to endure sundry movements of protest.  In our effort to address the inconvenient topic of protest, our need to be intellectually consistent — while thinking within the framework of continuous progress — has produced a number of explanations about the nature of dissent in America.  Closely followed, these arguments are not really explanations at all, but rather the assertion of more presumptions that have the effect of defending the basic intuition about progress itself.  The most common of these explanations rests upon what is perceived to be a temporary malfunction of the economic order: people protest when “times are hard.”  When times stop being “hard,” people stop protesting and things return to “normal” — that is to say, progress is resumed.

Unfortunately, history does not support the notion that mass protest movements develop because of hard times.  Depressed economies or exploitive arrangements of power and privilege may produce lean years or even lean lifetimes for millions of people, but the historical evidence is conclusive that they do not produce mass political insurgency.  The simple fact of the matter is that, in ways that affect mind and body, times have been “hard” for most humans throughout human history and for most of that period people have not been in rebellion.  Indeed, traditionalists in a number of societies have often pointed in glee to this passivity, choosing to call it “apathy” and citing it as a justification for maintaining things as they are.

This apparent absence of popular vigor is traceable, however, not to apathy but to the very raw materials of history — that complex of rules, manners, power relationships, and memories that collectively comprise what is called culture.  “The masses” do not rebel in instinctive response to hard times and exploitation because they have been culturally organized by their societies not to rebel.  They have, instead, been instructed in deference.  Needless to say, this is the kind of social circumstance that is not readily apparent to the millions who live within it.

The lack of visible mass political activity on the part of modern industrial populations is a function of how these societies have been shaped by the various economic or political elites who fashioned them.  In fundamental ways, this shaping process (which is now quite mature in America) bears directly not only upon our ability to grasp the meaning of American Populism, but our ability to understand protest generally and, most important of all, on our ability to comprehend the prerequisites for democracy itself.

Perhaps, the words of Professor Lawrence Goodwyn help to explain why Americans believe people elsewhere are complacent.  In the United States, the public presumes people abroad will not create change on their own.  They must be taught to do as the American Administration thinks wise.  This assessment of what occurs within our homeland may expose why “we” believe democracy can be forcibly imposed on other nations.  The theory Goodwyn offers helps illustrate why in a “democratic” nation the deciders dictate policy for one and for all planet wide.  However, the hypothesis may not be accurate.

In other territories, protest may not have been trained out of the populace.  Perchance, residents in other regions were not appeased with material goods meant to buy love and obedience?  We cannot be certain for there is so little that Americans are allowed to know of the persons our power elite wish to remain estranged from “us.”

Nonetheless, it seems apparent from accounts, in other parts of the globe, dissent is not defined as terrorism.  Discontent is not considered destructive.  The voice of the people is not pernicious.  Possibly, in some places governments are not as powerful as prohibitive parents might be.  Oh, those who reign may try to exert absolute rule; however, the people are less easily “appeased” or patronized.

Many a Persian person may describe a situation different from Americans trust to be true in the Middle East.  Numerous would share, in Iran, were it not for America’s invasive input the inhabitants may have eliminated what the United States considers evil.  Indeed, Iranians were working to end the reign of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  However, American intervened, and all changed, for the worse.

The follies of Bush’s Iran policy

By Shirin Ebadi and Muhammad Sahimi

International Herald Tribune

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The confrontation between Iran and the West has developed a new dimension over the detention of several Iranian scholars, journalists and political activists who have been living in the West for years and have recently traveled to their homeland.

What is the root cause of these events?  Part of it is the deep unpopularity of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Internal opposition to his government is becoming increasingly louder as Iranians are recognizing the danger in his foreign policy and his failure to improve the economy.

In December, university students forced him to stop his speech by shouting “death to the dictator.”  Iran’s Parliament has severely criticized him.  In recent municipal elections, candidates backed by Ahmadinejad received only 4 percent of the vote.

The conservatives who rule Iran are also badly fractured.  The radical faction led by Ahmadinejad is bitterly opposed to the more moderate, pragmatic faction led by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who advocates accommodation with the West.

The recent arrests should be seen partly as a reaction to these events.  Unable to address Iran’s mountain of social, economical and political problems, the hard-liners are trying to create a new crisis with the West in order to distract attention from their problems.

Possibly, this scenario demonstrates that American Administrators have much in common with those they emphasize are part of an “axis of evil.”  The need to divert attention dominates policy among world leaders.  A desire to subvert the masses moves many decision-makers, just as it drives many a punitory parent.  When authority figures wish to govern, not of, by or for the people but for the love of power, they subtly and successfully suppress the sensible among us.  

Engineer, and Author David Brin may have said it best, “It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible.  The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.”  Control is a costly endeavor.  Perhaps, the price is too high for the average reasonable American, or possibly those who no longer view protest as wise, do not realize the expense is not only imprudent, it is counterproductive and detrimental to our own “Homeland Security.”

Some of the $75 million has been devoted to the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, as well as to VOA satellite TV, which are beaming Persian programs into Iran.  Other portions have been given secretly to exiled Iranian groups, political figures, and nongovernmental organizations to establish contacts with Iranian opposition groups.

But Iranian reformists believe that democracy can’t be imported.  It must be indigenous.  They believe that the best Washington can do for democracy in Iran is to leave them alone.  The fact is, no truly nationalist and democratic group will accept such funds.

According to the Algiers Accord that the United States signed with Iran in 1981 to end the hostage crisis, noninterference in Iran’s domestic affairs is one of Washington’s legal obligations . . .

Thus, Washington’s policy of “helping” the cause of democracy in Iran has backfired.  It has made it more difficult for the more moderate factions within Iran’s power hierarchy to argue for an accommodation with the West . . .

The Bush administration should put an end to its misguided policy and immediately declare which organizations and public figures have received funds from the $75 million.  This will make it clear that the scholars, journalists and other figures who travel to Iran have nothing to do with Bush’s policy on Iran.

We can hope that one day soon, Americans will find the courage to clarify what is more insidious.  The principles that currently guide American democracy are not egalitarian.  In this nation, appeasement and punishment dominate the dictums.  The Administration, the elites, the influential do not speak for the people; nor do they engage in diplomatic relations that might bring persons of the world together as one.  

If the United States government continues to aggressively assault our “enemies’ as an abusive parent might if they perceive the “stranger” as a threat, then we can expect to be attacked.  Should the powers-that-be in the States invoke embargos, again the risk is, this reactive behavior will incite attack.  “Appeasement” will not bring bliss.  Gifts given to lessen the weight of guilt will not gratify or garner good graces.  We cannot buy love; nor can we grow fondness when engaged in a feud.

Thus far, “we” the people have seen what occurs when “our’ government does not act in best interests of the people here or abroad.  The Iranians who seek to enrich society are correct.  A democratic system cannot be instigated from the outside.  Fairness grows from within.  Equanimity must evolve naturally if it is to be real, effective, and everlasting.  

Might Americans work to cultivate the principles we espouse and yet have never established before we attempt to shift the paradigm elsewhere.  Let us find a way to make democracy doable here at home.  Perchance, diplomacy will build a bridge.  If only Americans talked among themselves and to each other.  We must speak to “strangers.”  Perhaps we will discover similarities.  “We” the people cannot allow ourselves to be treated as children.  We must acknowledge the people who claim to protect us are our abusers.  The power-elite have the authority “we,” the little people give them.  America, it is time to stand up.  Let us not fear the foreigner.  With eyes wide open, let us consider those that cause us great harm live in our house.

Democracy Described and Defined . . .

Black History: The Ku Klux Klan

© copyright 2008 Storm Bear.  Town Called Dobson


To view the original, travel to a Town Called Dobson.  Black History: U.S. Colored Troops

Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is the name of several past and present secret organizations in the United States, mostly in the South, that are best known for advocating white supremacy and acting as vigilantes while hidden behind conic masks and white robes. The first KKK arose in the turmoil after the Civil War. It used terrorism, violence, and lynching to intimidate and oppress African Americans.

The first Klan was founded in 1866 by veterans of the Confederate Army. Its purpose was to restore white supremacy in the aftermath of the American Civil War. The Klan resisted Reconstruction by intimidating “carpetbaggers,” “scalawags” and freedmen. The KKK quickly adopted violent methods. The increase in murders finally resulted in a backlash among Southern elites who viewed the Klan’s excesses as an excuse for federal troops to continue occupation. The organization declined from 1868 to 1870 and was destroyed by President Ulysses S. Grant’s prosecution and enforcement under the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

In 1915, the second Klan was founded. It grew rapidly in another period of postwar social tensions. After WWI, many Americans coped with booming growth rates in major cities, where numerous waves of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and the Great Migration of Southern blacks and whites were being absorbed. After WWI, labor tensions rose as veterans tried to reenter the work force. In reaction to these new groups of immigrants and migrants, the second KKK preached racism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Communism, nativism, and anti-Semitism. Some local groups took part in lynchings, attacks on private houses and public property, and other violent activities. Members used ceremonial cross burning to intimidate victims and demonstrate its power. Murders and violence by the Klan were most numerous in the South, which had a tradition of lawlessness.

The film The Birth of a Nation and the sensationalized newspaper coverage of the trial, conviction and lynching of Leo Frank of Georgia sparked the Klan’s revival. The second Klan was a formal fraternal organization, with a national and state structure. At its peak in the mid-1920s, the organization included about 15% of the nation’s eligible population, approximately 4-5 million men. The Klan’s popularity fell rapidly during the Great Depression, and membership fell further during World War II.

The name Ku Klux Klan has since been used by many independent groups opposing the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, they often acted with impunity by alliances with Southern police departments, as during the reign of Bull Connor in Birmingham, Alabama; or governor’s offices, as with George Wallace of Alabama. Several members of KKK-affiliated groups were convicted of manslaughter and murder in the deaths of civil rights workers and children in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama, the assassination of NAACP organizer Medgar Evers, and the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. Today, researchers estimate there may be more than 150 Klan chapters with 5,000-8,000 members nationwide. The U.S. government classifies them as hate groups, with operations in separated small local units. The modern KKK has been repudiated by all mainstream media, political and religious leaders.

As W.E.B. DuBois noted, “It is always difficult to stop war, and doubly difficult to stop civil war…In the case of civil war, where the contending parties must rest face to face after peace, there can be no quick and perfect peace.” As reported by Mississippi Governor Sharkey in 1866, disorder, lack of control and lawlessness were widespread; in some states armed bands of Confederate soldiers roamed at will. Southerners seemed to take out on blacks all their wrath at the Federal government. They casually attacked and killed blacks whose bodies were left on the roads.

The original Ku Klux Klan was created in the aftermath of the American Civil War by six educated, middle-class Confederate veterans on December 24, 1865. from Pulaski, Tennessee. They made up the name by combining the Greek “kyklos” (??????,circle) with “clan” It was one among a number of secret, oath-bound organizations, including the Southern Cross in New Orleans (1865), and the Knights of the White Camellia.

In an 1867 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Klan members gathered to try to create a hierarchical organization with local chapters reporting eventually up to national headquarters. As most of them were veterans, they were used to such organization. Former Confederate Brigadier General George Gordon put the proposals together in what was called the “Prescript.” The Prescript suggested elements of white supremacy belief. For instance, an applicant should be asked if he was in favor of “a white man’s government,” “the reenfranchisement and emancipation of the white men of the South, and the restitution of the Southern people to all their rights.” Despite Gordon’s work, local Klan units never accepted the Prescript and continued to operate autonomously. There were never hierarchical levels or state headquarters.

Gordon supposedly told former slave trader and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, Tennessee, about the Klan. Forrest allegedly responded, “That’s a good thing; that’s a damn good thing. We can use that to keep the niggers in their place.” A few weeks later, Forrest was selected as Imperial Wizard, the Klan’s national leader, though he always denied leadership.

In effect, the Klan defended the interest of the planter class and Democratic Party by working to curb the education, economic advancement, voting rights, and right to keep and bear arms of blacks. The Ku Klux Klan soon spread into nearly every southern state, launching a “reign of terror” against Republican leaders both black and white. Those political leaders assassinated during the campaign included Arkansas Congressman James M. Hinds, three members of the South Carolina legislature, and several men who served in constitutional conventions.”

In an 1868 newspaper interview, Forrest stated the Klan’s primary opposition was to the Loyal Leagues, Republican state governments, people like Tennessee governor Brownlow and other carpetbaggers and scalawags. He claimed that many southerners believed blacks were voting for the Republican Party because they were being hoodwinked by the Loyal Leagues. One Alabama newspaper editor declared “The League is nothing more than a nigger Ku Klux Klan.” At the local level, however, old feuds and grudges were the cause of numerous attacks, and Klan members worked for their own dominance in the disrupted postwar society.

Klan members adopted masks and robes that hid their identities and added to the drama of their night rides, their chosen time for attacks. Many of them operated in small towns and rural areas where people otherwise knew each other’s faces. “The kind of thing that men are afraid or ashamed to do openly, and by day, they accomplish secretly, masked, and at night.” With this method both the high and the low could be attacked. Some blacks believed Ku Klux Klan nightriders were the ghosts of dead Confederates.

The Klan raided black members of the Loyal Leagues and intimidated southern Republicans and Freedmen’s Bureau workers. Agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau reported weekly assaults and murders of blacks. “Armed guerilla warfare killed thousands of Negroes; political riots were staged; their causes or occasions were always obscure, their results always certain: ten to one hundred times as many Negroes were killed as whites.” Masked men shot into houses and burned them, sometimes with the occupants still inside. They drove successful black farmers off their land. General Canby reported that in North and South Carolina, in 18 months ending in June 1867, there were 197 murders and 548 cases of aggravated assault.

Klan violence worked to suppress black voting. As examples, over 2,000 persons were killed, wounded and otherwise injured in Louisiana within a few weeks prior to the Presidential election of November 1868. Although St. Landry Parish had a registered Republican majority of 1,071, after the murders, no Republicans voted in the fall elections. White Democrats cast the full vote of the parish for Grant’s opponent. The KKK killed and wounded more than 200 black Republicans, hunting and chasing them through the woods. Thirteen captives were taken from jail and shot; a half-buried pile of 25 bodies was found in the woods. The KKK made people vote Democratic and gave them certificates of the fact.

In the April 1868 Georgia gubernatorial election, Columbia County cast 1,222 votes for Republican Rufus Bullock. By the November presidential election, however, Klan intimidation led to suppression of the Republican vote and only one person voted for Ulysses S. Grant.

Klansmen killed more than 150 African Americans in a county in Florida, and hundreds more in other counties. Freedmen’s Bureau records provided a detailed recounting of beatings and murders of freedmen and their white allies by Klansmen.

By 1868, two years after the Klan’s creation, its activity was beginning to decrease. Members were hiding behind Klan masks and robes as a way to avoid prosecution for free-lance violence. Many influential southern Democrats feared that Klan lawlessness provided an excuse for the federal government to retain its power over the South, and they began to turn against it. There were outlandish claims made, such as Georgian B.H. Hill stating “that some of these outrages were actually perpetrated by the political friends of the parties slain.”

Although Forrest boasted the Klan was a nationwide organization of 550,000 men and he could muster 40,000 Klansmen with five days’ notice, as a secret or “invisible” group, it had no membership rosters, no chapters, no local officers, making it difficult for observers to judge its membership. It had created a sensation by the dramatic nature of its masked forays and many murders.

One Klan official complained his, “so-called ‘Chief’-ship was purely nominal, I having not the least authority over the reckless young country boys who were most active in ‘night-riding,’ whipping, etc., all of which was outside of the intent and constitution of the Klan…”

A federal grand jury in 1869 determined the Klan was a “terrorist organization.” It issued hundreds of indictments for crimes of violence and terrorism. Klan members were prosecuted, and many fled jurisdiction, particularly in South Carolina. Many people not formally inducted into the Klan had used the Klan’s uniform for anonymity, to hide their identities when carrying out acts of violence. Forrest ordered the Klan to disband in 1869, stating it was “being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace.” Historian Stanley Horn writes “generally speaking, the Klan’s end was more in the form of spotty, slow, and gradual disintegration than a formal and decisive disbandment.” A reporter in Georgia wrote in January 1870, “A true statement of the case is not that the Ku Klux are an organized band of licensed criminals, but that men who commit crimes call themselves Ku Klux.”

While people used the Klan as a mask for nonpolitical crimes, state and local governments seldom acted against them. African Americans were kept off juries. In lynching cases, all-white juries almost never indicted Klan members. When there was a rare indictment, juries were unlikely to vote for conviction. In part, jury members feared reprisals from local Klansmen.

Others may have agreed with lynching as a way of keeping dominance over black men. In many states, officials were reluctant to use black militia against the Klan from fear that race tensions would be raised. When Republican Governor of North Carolina William Woods Holden called out the militia against the Klan in 1870, it added to his unpopularity. Combined with violence and fraud at the polls, in the election, the Republicans lost their majority in the state legislature. Disaffection with Holden’s actions led to white Democratic legislators’ impeaching Holden and removing him from office, but their reasons were numerous.

Union Army veterans in mountainous Blount County, Alabama, organized ‘the anti-Ku Klux.’ They put an end to violence by threatening Klansmen with reprisals unless they stopped whipping Unionists and burning black churches and schools. Armed blacks formed their own defense in Bennettsville, South Carolina and patrolled the streets to protect their homes.

National sentiment gathered to crack down on the Klan, even though some Democrats at the national level questioned whether the Klan existed or was a creation of nervous Southern Republican governors. Many southern states began to pass anti-Klan legislation.

In January 1871, Pennsylvania Republican Senator John Scott convened a Congressional committee which took testimony from 52 witnesses about Klan atrocities. They accumulated 12 volumes of horrifying testimony. In February, former Union General and Congressman Benjamin Franklin Butler of Massachusetts introduced the Ku Klux Klan Act. This added to the enmity southern white Democrats bore toward him. While the bill was being considered, further violence in the South swung support for its passage. The Governor of South Carolina appealed for federal troops to assist his keeping control. A riot and massacre in a Meridian, Mississippi, courthouse were reported, from which a black state representative escaped only by taking to the woods.

n 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant signed Butler’s legislation. The Ku Klux Klan Act was used by the Federal government together with the 1870 Force Act to enforce the civil rights provisions for individuals under the constitution. Under the Klan Act, Federal troops were used for enforcement, and Klansmen were prosecuted in Federal court. More African Americans served on juries in Federal court than were selected for local or state juries, so had a chance to participate in the process. In the crackdown, hundreds of Klan members were fined or imprisoned. In South Carolina, habeas corpus was suspended in nine counties. The Klan was destroyed in South Carolina and decimated throughout the rest of the South, where it had already been in decline. Attorney General Amos Tappan Ackerman led the prosecutions. “By 1872, the Klan as an organization was broken.” In some areas, other local paramilitary organizations such as the White League, Red Shirts, saber clubs, and rifle clubs continued intimidation and murder of black voters. Although destroyed, the Klan achieved many of its goals, such as suppressing suffrage for Southern blacks and driving a wedge between poor whites and blacks.

Despite suppression of the Klan, violence continued against African Americans as whites struggled for power. On Easter Sunday 1873, black citizens fought a mixed political and racial battle against white militia in Colfax, Louisiana. The ostensible cause was an election contested at both the state and local levels. Each man elected sheriff claimed the local office. When black Republicans gathered at the courthouse, white militia collected to force them to leave. Estimates of African Americans killed overnight and into the next day were 105 to 280. Some bodies were hidden in the woods or thrown in the river; others buried before state and Federal troops arrived. African-American legislator John G. Lewis remarked, “They attempted (armed self-defense) in Colfax. The result was that on Easter Sunday of 1873, when the sun went down that night, it went down on the corpses of two hundred and eighty negroes.” The Colfax Massacre had the highest fatalities of any incident of racial violence during Reconstruction.

Shortly after, in United States v. Cruikshank (1875), the Supreme Court ruled that the few convictions achieved after the Colfax Massacre were faulty. It ruled that the Force Act of 1870 did not give the Federal government power to regulate private actions, but only those by state governments. The result was that as the century went on, African Americans were at the mercy of hostile state governments to intervene against private violence and paramilitary groups.

In 1882, long after the Klan was destroyed, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Harris that the Klan Act was partially unconstitutional. It ruled that Congress’s power under the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend to regulate against private conspiracies.

As 20th century Supreme Court rulings extended Federal enforcement of citizens’ civil rights, the Force Act and the Klan Act were used by 20th c. Federal prosecutors as the basis for investigation and indictments in the 1964 murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner; and the 1965 murder of Viola Liuzzo. They were also the basis of prosecution in 1991 in Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic.

The nadir of American race relations is often placed from the end of reconstruction to the 1910s, especially in the South. Once white Democrats regained political power in state legislatures in the 1870s, they passed bills directed at restricting voter registration by blacks and poor whites. Continued low cotton prices, agricultural depression and labor shortages in the South contributed to social tensions. According to Tuskegee Institute, the 1890s was also the peak decade for lynchings, with most of them directed against African Americans in the South. The lynchings were a byproduct of political tensions as white Democrats tried to strip blacks from voter rolls and suppress voting. Some of the violence was directed at trying to break up interracial coalitions that came to power in state legislatures in 1894, with alliances of Populist and Republican parties. In 1896 the Democrats used fraud, violence and intimidation to suppress voting by poor classes, and regained power.

From 1890 to 1908, ten of eleven southern states ratified new constitutions or amendments that completed disfranchisement of most African Americans and many poor whites. The constitutions had provisions making voter registration more complicated: such as poll taxes, residency requirements, recordkeeping and literacy tests, which were often subjectively applied. In addition, in voting sometimes multiple ballot boxes were used. The result was that blacks and poor whites in most southern states were deprived of suffrage, representation at any level of government, local elected offices, and the right to serve on juries (usually restricted to voters). In most of the South, sweeping disfranchisement and white one-party government lasted until African Americans’ leadership and activism in the Civil Rights Movement gained passage of Federal civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965.

Beginning in 1910 and going through 1940, tens of thousands of African Americans decided to leave the South and its violence and segregation, in a movement known as the Great Migration. They went to northern and Midwestern cities for jobs, better education for their children, a chance to vote, and the hopes of living with less violence. Northern industry recruited black workers because of a shortage of labor for expanding industries: for instance, the Pennsylvania Railroad hired 12,000 men, all but 2,000 of them from Florida and Georgia

Special Request to Town Called Dobson Fans: The San Francisco Chronicle is pondering the addition of new cartoons for their paper – a process that seems to be initiated by Darren Bell, creator of Candorville (one of my daily reads – highly recommended). You can read the Chronicle article here and please add your thoughts to the comments if you wish. If anything, put in a good word for Darren and Candorville.

I am submitting Town Called Dobson to the paper for their consideration. They seem to have given great weight to receiving 200 messages considering Candorville. I am asking TCD fans to try to surpass that amount. (I get more than that many hate mails a day, surely fans can do better?)

This is not a race between Darren and I, it is a hope that more progressive strips can be represented in the printed press of America.

So if you read the San Francisco Chronicle or live in the Bay Area (Google Analytics tell me there are a lot of you), please send your kind comments (or naked, straining outrage) to David Wiegand at his published addresses below. If you are a subscriber, cut out your mailing label and staple it to a TCD strip and include it in your letter.

candorcomment@sfchronicle.com

or

David Wiegand

Executive Datebook Editor

The San Francisco Chronicle

901 Mission St.

San Francisco, CA 94103

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