NEW YORK — November 11, 2012. In last two years New York City has experienced two hurricanes and two Autumn blizzards — perhaps it’s time we changed the hurricane naming conventions?
Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy — these names sound so benign and quaint. Given that global warming has impacted the frequency and severity of major storms — assuming that the “Myth of Global Warming” hypothesis advanced by creationists doesn’t fly any longer with reasonable people — perhaps its time we gave recognition to those responsible. Submitted for your consideration, some possible names for future storms: Hurricane BP, Hurricane Chevron, Hurricane Exxon, Hurricane Shell. This naming convention could be augmented to include individuals who merit recognition: Hurricane Adelson, Hurricane Cheney, and even Hurricane Koch – which could be singular or plural. With the number of storms increasing we may soon reach Hurricane W — and beyond.
Eleven years ago I was at work when a secretary told me that a plane had hit the Trade Center. And then a second plane hit. I went outside and the sky was a surreal blue — except for that part of it that was filled with smoke. I had no idea at the time that the tragedy would become the foundation for a twisted ideology of hate that is most firmly entrenched in individuals who have no connection with NYC — or reality. My theory is that the further away from the event or situation the true believer is, the more entrenched their ideology becomes. It’s always easier to believe in sweeping generalizations and stereotypes when you’re dealing with abstractions.
Adding insult to grievous injury — 9/11 was used by politicians who exploited the victims (and the emerging ideology) for their own purposes. Some of their number used the event in a manner not unlike how the Reichstag fire was used in the last days of the Weimar Republic: as a pretext for curtailment of civil liberties and the launching of aggressive wars. So as I remember the victims of 9/11, including the legion of heroic first responders from Staten Island — my home — I also remember the victims of the Reichstag fire. There were eventually millions of the latter. Their voices should serve as a warning.
Thomas Altfather Good
New York City
September 11, 2012
Are the Republicans “legitimate”?
On this Tuesday in late August, on the eve of Labor Day, the Republican brain trust is preparing to offer up solutions to the country’s woes.
The venue, of course, is the Republican National Convention. And the brain trust in question is a gaggle of GOP leaders and deep thinkers. The fact that these visionaries planned a national convention in coastal Florida at the height of hurricane season — on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina no less — inspires confidence in their steadfast resolve, if not their knowledge of meteorology or history.
Doubtless the Republicans will address the issues of global warming, endless war(s), foreclosures, homelessness, and of course, unemployment and what none dare call Depression. Doubtless they will, with great passion, urge the country to endorse the very same policies that created these ills, policies now recast as cures: deregulation, tax breaks for the rich, new and improved wars (perhaps Iran?), and of course, “pro-life” legislation (albeit with a disclaimer: their legislation protects the sanctity of life from conception until birth — after that all bets are off). Some Republicans are so “pro-life” they believe that even women who are raped should not have access to abortion. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri has argued that, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
On the eve of this momentous event, one question, above all others, occupies this observer’s mind:
I find myself wondering if what the Republicans are doing to the country qualifies as “legitimate rape” — I’d hate to think they are illegitimate.
A Holiday Wish For Peace — and Justice — from Polyp.org.uk
Used with permission – all rights reserved.
NEW YORK — Christmas Day, 2011. Here is a wish for the ever elusive Peace On Earth from your friends at NLN — and a gift from our friend Paul at Polyp.org.uk. Paul does terrific cartoons that he shares with non-profits and progressives.
On behalf of all the photogs, cartoonists, and journalists who have donated their labor to NLN over the past eight years — thank you, our readers, for supporting us. And happy holidays.
Thomas Altfather Good, Editor.
The usual suspect
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)
Which politician, once sued for sexual harassment, went on to disparage New York’s UFT and its members: public school teachers? Teaching is a profession with a high percentage of women employees: both rank-and-file and administrators. Is misogyny a factor in Mike Bloomberg’s political decisions? It seems a fair question to ask.
Who pressured city councils members to overturn term limits without a public referendum? Who set a record for spending on a re-election bid only to barely beat out an opponent with minimal financial resources? Having laid out $90 million, Mike Bloomberg, who outspent Bill Thompson 14 to 1, won the 2009 election by only 5 percentage points. Reporters interviewed voters after the election and many New Yorkers expressed their displeasure with the overturning of term limits — after two earlier referenda had affirmed the public’s desire to keep term limits in place.
Which politician pooh-poohed complaints about conditions of confinement at Pier 57 – a former bus depot used to imprison 1800 protesters arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention?
In response to press reports of mistreatment of prisoners, Mike Bloomberg said, “It’s not supposed to be Club Med,” when describing the temporary detention center. The grease droppings and other toxic chemicals caused a number of problems for the Mayor who eventually laid down carpeting — and then called the press in to see how nice the carpeted facility really was. Some years later the City paid out millions to litigants who had been imprisoned at “Gitmo on the Hudson.”
What former Wall Street investment banker saw his net worth more than triple while serving as mayor? Mike Bloomberg earns a dollar a year as Mayor. According to Forbes Magazine Bloomberg’s net worth increased from $4 to $18 billion during his three-term tenure as mayor. While homelessness and poverty are on the rise, the mayor is apparently prospering. In 2008, city council member Charles Barron said, “Mr. Mayor give us one of your billions.”
Who predicted riots on September 16, 2011? Mike Bloomberg. Shortly thereafter the NYPD used pepper-spray on unarmed, nonviolent protesters from the OWS movement — two women who were already in police custody and offering no resistance. And a few days later, the NYPD arrested 700 protesters for walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Were the police trying to incite violence? If so, to their credit, the protesters didn’t bite.
Who told the NYPD to block journalists from observing a police action, an action in which a city council member was arrested and taken away bleeding from a gash on his temple? Mike Bloomberg has taken full responsibility for the police action at Zuccotti Park — the action that ousted protesters so the Department of Sanitation could “power wash” the park.
Power wash indeed.
Is it time for a recall election? In the absence of term limits it might be the only sanity check on the mayor.
Thursday is scheduled to be a “Day Of Action” for the Occupy Wall Street movement. It seems likely that Bloomberg chose to attack the encampment early Tuesday morning as an attempt to disrupt or otherwise influence this event.
Consequently many activists now see Thursday as an opportunity for labor and community groups to articulate how they regard the “power-washing” of Zuccotti Park, the attack on city council member Rodriguez, the arrest of half a dozen journalists — and the exclusion of many more — who were attempting to document the police raid.
New York Press Club letter to Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly:
Dear Mr. Mayor and Police Commissioner Kelly:
On Tuesday morning, November 15th, as police officers acted to remove Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, several reporters protested that they were the victims of harassment and that their rights under the First Amendment were violated.
A few were arrested or detained.
The actions of some police officers were not consistent with the long-established relationship between the NYPD and the press.
The brash manner in which officers ordered reporters off the streets and then made them back off until the actions of the police were almost invisible is outrageous.
We want the department to investigate the incidents involved in this crackdown on Zuccotti Park and we want assurances it won’t happen again.
The question of the assault on Rodriguez — who was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest — will be resolved in court. The arrest of journalists engaging in First Amendment-protected activity is being addressed by advocacy groups — including The New York Press Club, the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981), and the National Press Photographers Association. The police raid on the right to assemble and the power washing of freedom of speech will be addressed in the streets of New York tomorrow.
National Press Photographers Association statement on the OWS raid:
The National Press Photographers Association today strongly condemned the actions taken by the New York City Police Department in their apparent targeting of journalists for detention and arrest during last night’s clearing of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators from Zuccotti Park.
“This action is just another in the growing list of incidents across the country where visual journalists have been harassed, interfered with and arrested as they attempt to cover maters of public concern,” NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher said today.
According to news reports, at least six journalists were arrested or detained while covering the protests in New York City. According to the Associated Press, journalists have also been detained or arrested while covering protests in Chapel Hill, NC, Nashville, TN, Milwaukee, WI, and Richmond, VA.
NPPA demands that all charges against these journalists be dropped and that police officials instruct their officers to exercise common sense and restraint when dealing with journalists who are doing nothing more than gathering the news so as to better inform the public.
In many of these situations, those arrested were displaying press credentials or clearly carrying professional equipment so as to be easily identified by any reasonable person as a member of the press.
“It is extremely disturbing that photographers who put themselves in harm’s way while covering the news should be the targets of harassment and arrest by police for no other reason than the exercise of their First Amendment rights,” Osterreicher said.
Claims by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that journalists were being kept away from the activity for their own safety “are disingenuous at best and at worst, a thinly veiled attempt at prior restraint of the news media,” said NPPA president Sean D. Elliot.
Unfortunately these incidents are occurring with increased frequency throughout the country. In many cases, such as the recent arrests of two photojournalists in Milwaukee, NPPA has been actively involved in seeking that charges be dropped and that the police implement better policies and guidelines to avoid further incidents such as these.
Democracy For New York City, MoveOn.org, and many other community-based organizations are joining labor unions on Thursday for a large protest that will originate in Foley Square, a short distance from Zuccotti Park. Meeting up at 5 p.m., the protesters will march over the Brooklyn Bridge at 6 p.m., in support of OWS.
Democracy For NYC issued the following statement as part of their call to action:
After the blatant assault on free speech and free assembly in the early morning hours of November 15, when hundreds of police directed by Mayor Bloomberg brutally cleared Liberty Square confiscating and destroying belongings and displacing its residents, we are more motivated than ever to get out in support of Occupy Wall Street and the 99%.
NLN is a supporter of the National Writers Union of which this reporter is a member.
Today, National Writers Union (UAW) president Larry Goldbetter said:
NWU will join more than 10,000 union members, youth, the unemployed and other 99%-percenters, for a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Look for the big blue UAW wheels and the National Writers Union banner. After the forced eviction from Liberty Plaza early Monday morning by over 200 riot cops, people are more determined to have their voices heard. We condemn the actions of Mayor Bloomberg, speaking as one voice with UAW President Bob King and Region 9A Director Julie Kushner. We are especially concerned over the arrest of six journalists trying to cover the midnight raid, and the fact that for a good part of Monday the police and the City enforced a news blackout on events, not honoring reporters’ press passes. Join us tomorrow in Foley Square at 5p.m.
NEW YORK — October 15, 2011. When you combine the energy and attitude of youth with the experience and resources of organized labor you get a Movement — and Occupy Wall Street is such an entity, a people-powered phenomenon that is on the move.
The Occupy Wall Street protest is a pastiche of protesters and police — including reprehensible acts of brutality. It is a sea of faces, human faces. Beyond the wide angle stippling that is the impressionistic view of Occupy Wall Street conveyed by the corporate media, beyond the “organizers” that the media (and the police) desperately seek, are the people powering the Movement — and those opposing them.
On Saturday a people-powered procession, over a thousand strong, moved out of Zuccotti Park and visited several Chase Manhattan Bank locations before venturing on to Washington Square — and later, Times Square. It was an energetic, fearless, heroic, jubilant and unified march — flanked by the now infamous scooter cops. Solidarity and diversity as reality — a crowd that refused to be cowed or controlled by any purveyors of gratuitous violence. It was an array of activists — young and old, student and worker. And the focus, the Cause, was crystal clear — the march was part of a “global day of action” that produced protests in London, Tokyo, Sydney, Toronto, and many other locales.
To the protesters Chase Manhattan is a symbol of the problem confronting working people everywhere – predatory and duplicitous banks. Chase took bailout funds, fired workers, and gave its executives bonuses. SEIU has a page detailing the bailout bonus scenario — the numbers defy belief. Here are just a few: Federal taxpayer bailout received: $94.7 billion, profits for 1998-2008: $97.6 billion, change in bank account fees (2003-08): up 249.5 percent, Chase bank teller wages: $22,006 annually, and CEO Jamie Dimon’s paycheck: $19.7 million (893 times median teller wage).
“Which is the greater crime — to rob a bank or to own one,” playwright Bertolt Brecht famously asked.
The protesters know.
And so does the mayor.
While Bloomberg tells the press that he supports the protesters’ First Amendment rights, his police harass them at every turn: pepper-spraying defenseless women already in police custody, beating journalists — including Fox News — and driving into, and in one case over, protesters with scooters.
The cop from the First Precinct who drove his scooter into Ari Douglas, a National Lawyers Guild legal observer, is only the most egregious example of this brutal approach to policing protesters — it has been in place at least as far back as the 2004 Republican National Convention. In fact, The NYPD’s pepper-spraying inspector known as “Tony Baloney” has litigation pending — he is accused of civil rights violations that occurred around the time of the RNC.
How has it come to pass that driving a motor vehicle into nonviolent protesters is an acceptable tactic for crowd control?
Does the First Precinct, infamous for the use of scooters as a weapon, and Anthony “Tony Baloney” Bologna’s former command, serve a special purpose for the NYPD and the mayor?
Although the public statements of NYPD spokesman Paul Brown are often unintentionally humorous, albeit in a perverse way, it is a simple matter to discern when he is massaging the truth. As the old joke about politicians goes, whenever the man opens his mouth we can be assured it is to utter something that appears patently absurd.
One thing is clear: Mike Bloomberg is not a man of the people. The billionaire mayor is on the record as not wanting to “scare” the rich by taxing them. After all, he’d have to pay some taxes himself.
Prior to the Occupy Wall Street protest becoming a truly historic event, Bloomberg predicted riots — a self fulfilling prophecy? Who has declared class war on whom? And who is rioting?
And when citizen journalists — those who escape the mace, the truncheon and the flexcuffs — document misconduct by police, commissioner Ray Kelly is quick to offer some implausible mystification slash justification. This is not a new phenomenon, the NYPD too often serves the same purpose the Pinkertons once provided. It is a stain on the honor of those cops who try to do a good job.
Kelly often talks about the need to enforce the law when explaining away some act of brutality. One has to wonder when he plans to start.
What are Bloomberg and Kelly really afraid of?
One protester expressed it very well. As she marched along West Broadway, heading towards Washington Square, she carred a sign that said simply, “You have a right to be happy.”
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It was a radical idea when first formulated — it still is.
“America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath — America will be,” said the poet Langston Hughes.
All of the pepper-spray, the false arrests — from University Place to Times Square — the acts of brutality, the lacking response of Internal Affairs, the mystification and doublespeak offered by the Mayor, cannot derail the one thing driving the Movement.
NEW YORK — September 21, 2011. Today is the International Day of Peace.
The state of Georgia has opted to observe this day by killing a man in its custody.
Troy Anthony Davis is an African-American man who was convicted of killing a white police officer 19 years ago based on the testimony of nine witnesses, seven of whom have recanted. There is no other evidence in this case. Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. tonight, September 21, 2011.
Over 660,000 people signed a petition calling for clemency in the Davis case, including, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop of Atlanta Wilton Gregory, William Sessions (former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation), President Jimmy Carter, representatives for the European Parliament, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Yesterday, the clemency request was denied by the Georgia Parole Board.
The New York Times is reporting that, “This is the fourth time Mr. Davis has faced the death penalty. The state parole board granted him a stay in 2007 as he was preparing for his final hours, saying the execution should not proceed unless its members ‘are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.’ The board has since added three new members.”
The three new members, like their predecessors, were appointed by Republican Governor Nathan Deal.
During his tenure as a Republican congressman, Deal:
• Voted NO on enforcing laws against anti-gay hate crimes.
• Voted NO on expanding services for offendors’ re-entry into society.
• Voted NO on funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons.
• Voted NO on maintaining right of habeas corpus in Death Penalty Appeals.
• Voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder.
• Vote on a bill to make it harder for prisoners who have been given the death penalty in state courts to appeal the decision on constitutional grounds in the federal courts.
• Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment.
The decision by the state of Georgia to execute a man whose trial embodies reasonable doubt is disturbing.
Whether the decision is motivated by the personal views of those responsible, by some obscure legal reasoning, or from a desire to pander to biases held by segments of the population it is nonetheless reminiscient of the Jim Crow period of Georgia’s history.
My neighbor, a middleaged white woman, solidly middle class and non-political, commented to me in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Just look how far we’ve come.”
With seven of nine witnesses recanting and no other evidence; a former President (himself a former governor of Georgia), a former FBI director and the Pope petitioning for basic human decency — one would think that the responsible parties might pause to reflect on the character of what they have set in motion.
Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed today, the International Day of Peace, at 7 p.m.
Author Shirley Jackson once described a fictional public stoning taking place in a modern setting — townspeople turning on another who was randomly selected via a lottery. With relief and perhaps blood lust, the crowd stoned this person to death as she begged for mercy.
Just look how far we’ve come.
The NY Times reported that Governor Deal recently added three new members to the Parole Board.
None dare call it packing the board.
The irrefutable argument against the death penalty is that if the verdict is wrong, if it is overturned, there is no way to reverse an execution. Saying, “I’m sorry, we’re all human, we made a mistake,” just doesn’t right the wrong. Convictions are overturned on a regular basis: police and district attorneys have an unfortunate tendency to withhold evidence, new evidence comes to light, DNA testing clears a suspect, aging or dying criminals confess to a crime another was convicted of, etc. An imprisoned man can be set free and his name cleared. Restitution can be attempted. What can be done for the innocent victim of a wrongful execution?
The New York Times is calling the impending Troy Davis execution “a grievous wrong.”
None dare call it racism.
When a sociopath kills it is called murder. When the state does it, it is called justice.
Given the all too human propensity for error it seems clear that the death penalty is ill-advised. Nathan Deal is an unrelenting advocate of the death penalty.
When the state executes an innocent person, based on the ideology, political aspirations, or simple ignorance of its governor, is that an act of murder?
When an elected official executes more than one innocent person does that make him or her a serial killer?
Obama — and his father figure? — mourn bin Laden
Cartoon by Carlos Latuff
OBAMA’S TRUMP CARD?
It recently appeared that American politics had hit an all-time low when a sitting president turned over his birth certificate to a real estate speculator with a poorly thought out combover. But then this president, a Nobel laureate, dispatched a team of assassins who killed an unarmed suspect (who was under indictment in Manhattan at the time of his execution) and dumped the body. Said president later declined to release evidence related to the execution. A constitutional scholar, the president in question is charged with defending The Document. But his continuation of Bush anti-terrorism policies, including torture, and his extrajudicial execution of a war criminal — coupled with his refusal to turn over evidence in the bin Laden affair — are troubling. In addition, Obama’s recent pronouncement that Army specialist Bradley Manning is guilty of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks — a pronouncement made before any trial — further bolsters the concerns of some observers that the chief executive officer of the United States sees himself as above the law. The hit on bin Laden boosted approval ratings for Obama at the start of his re-election campaign but will this assassination prove to be his Trump Card? Can the president circumvent the rule of law with impunity?
VICTORY LAP DOG?
Obama is never going to win over his histrionic critics in the Tea Party. His domestic policies initiatives haven’t produced much besides a boondoggle for health insurance companies. So one can hardly be surprised that Obama would retreat into militarism, that he would become a war president. Elected to produce change, elected as a peace candidate — who can’t seem to find his way out of Iraq, escalated the conflict in Afghanistan and bombed Libya — Obama is now being hailed by many for his “masterstroke” in killing bin Laden. But not all observers are offering praise. Some are demanding proof that Obama’s version of what happened in the bin Laden affair is accurate. While the United Nations human rights investigators are asking for operational details to determine if bin Laden was a victim of a cold-blooded execution, a number of persons and organizations are demanding to see the photographs of bin Laden’s corpse. Right wing attorneys and groups have argued that the photographs, paid for with tax dollars, are public records. One right wing firm, Judicial Watch, has filed a FOIA request in an attempt to obtain the documents.
And it isn’t only the Tea Party and the far Right declining to celebrate Obama and his success. The man who might be described as Obama’s father figure, at least in terms of policy — former president George W. Bush — declined to appear at Ground Zero with Obama. Several news services have reported that Bush felt he didn’t get enough credit and Obama’s appearance at the former Trade Center was a “victory lap.”
Obama’s bin Laden operation is surrounded by controversy and raises a number of questions. Here are this reporter’s Top Ten:
1. Was this an “extrajudicial execution” — as described by former NLG president Marjorie Cohn (in a piece she wrote for Portside).
and as a bonus question:
11. Why was the codename “Geronimo” chosen when it must have been known this would offend Native Americans?
THE FOG OF WAR REPORTING
The White House initially said that bin Laden was armed and that he used his wife as a “human shield.” These claims were later dropped. Obama said bin Laden was killed “after a firefight” – Attorney General Eric Holder later said that bin Laden made no attempt to surrender and noted that bin Laden was an “enemy commander in the field” killed lawfully by soldiers on a “kill or capture” mission. United Nations human rights investigators are asking for full disclosure of operational details: “In respect of the recent use of deadly force against Osama bin Laden, the United States of America should disclose the supporting facts to allow an assessment in terms of international human rights law standards,” they said.
The Obama Administration and the Pentagon reported that bin Laden received a burial at sea with full observance of Islamic tradition. Several prominent Islamic clerics and Muslim scholars have objected to the “burial at sea” noting that an unmarked grave would have served the same purpose as dumping the body in the ocean after placing it inside a weighted bag – in terms of preventing the creation of a terrorist shrine. In Islam, burial at sea is permitted if an adherent dies while onboard a ship or in other exceptional circumstances. The Obama administration has indicated that no country would accept bin Laden’s remains. Perhaps. But there is yet another issue surrounding dumping the body in the ocean. For if it is true that dead men tell no tales – then missing bodies are particularly discreet.
The code name for the death or capture of bin Laden was “Geronimo.” Several Native American groups have cried foul – some because Geronimo was an Apache who resisted U.S. imperialism and others because the term used in this context perpetuates negative stereotypes of Native Americans as an Enemy.
“It is not the fault of a social leadership if a social regression takes place. But this social leadership consolidates regression if it: (1) tries to pass off the regression as progress, (2) proclaims itself to be the savior of the world, and (3) shoots those who remind it of its duties.” — Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism
While a variety of public figures are questioning the legality of the execution and some are demanding to see the photographs of bin Laden’s body, Senator Charles Schumer and other Democrats have implied that “rational people” must accept Obama’s version of how the hit went down — on faith. Schumer implied that anyone who doesn’t accept the official version is a “conspiracy theorist” or a “crazy.”
Disinclination to accept the official version, in lieu of any evidence, may make one a “conspiracy theorist” but it doesn’t make one irrational, a “crazy” as Schumer put it. A variety of conspiracy theories surrounding the execution of bin Laden will doubtless emerge and most will be fanciful, many will simply be wrong. But that doesn’t establish that people expressing concern and demanding to see evidence are irrational. If the President of the United States can be induced by a real estate speculator to turn over his ID, perhaps that president could understand why skeptics, critics and concerned citizens would want him to turn over all evidence pertaining to the bin Laden execution to the people he was elected to serve. But Obama is declining to turn over photos of the execution, saying that the photographs might inflame some people in the Middle East. Invading Arab countries, occupying their lands, killing civilians by “friendly fire,” and bombing Libya are not inflammatory acts? On what continuum does the documentary evidence of an act carry more emotional impact than the act itself?
Obama is a controversial and complicated, sometime contradictory, figure. He enjoys competitive sport. He’s a smoker. He’s a legal scholar. He’s a commander-in-chief who commented on a case currently before a military tribunal. He ran as a peace candidate. He escalated and initiated military interventions — without a declaration of war. He villified Bush in the election campaign but continued the Bush policies of torture, indefinite detention and targeted killing. And in a strange bit of synchronicity, Obama bombed Libya on the anniversary of the start of the Iraq War and then sent a hit team to Pakistan on the anniversary of Bush’s Mission Accomplished speech – is this meaningful? Perhaps not, but Freudians must be having a field day – the “accidental” anniversary dates coupled with the militaristic, authoritarian president (whose stepfather was very harsh and punitive) in search of a father figure, a president who arguably infanitilizes his subjects (by withholding gruesome photographs) is a treasure trove for psychologists seeking to understand historical motivations. The political bottom line: Obama turned over a birth certificate to an individual with no legal standing — publishing the birth certificate on the White House website, no less. But he refuses to turn over evidence to the American people after ordering a hit team to conduct a summary execution of a terrorist who has influenced U.S. domestic and foreign policy in a way few individuals ever have.
The Osama execution was a major triumph for Obama but will this assassination be enough to secure a second term? For the moment it is a trump card – a card he played shortly after launching his re-election campaign. Many on the Left have argued that the demise of bin Laden has provided Obama with a rationale for finally pulling out of Afghanistan. Will he use it? If so the execution may ultimately be about more than vengeance or October Surprises. But as yet there is no word from the White House about ending the decade-long military intervention in Afghanistan. Also troubling is the fact that many in Pakistan are upset that the U.S. violated their national sovereignty. In the U.S. a number of politicians have questioned why Pakistan did not know that bin Laden had all but appeared in the local phone book. In short, there are many ways Obama can come out a loser in this affair, despite his present standing in the polls.
Comment from The Guardian
NLN researcher Tom Miles spotted an interesting comment on the Guardian’s website. In response to an article about the execution of bin Laden and Obama’s refusal to provide any proof that substantiates the official version, one reader challenged the “take it on faith” argument when he wrote:
“I killed Bigfoot and I identified him with DNA. Then I threw his body in the ocean.”
Given the air of mystery surrounding the assassination and the many questions raised, it would be nice to have something tangible, something in the way of evidence. And so one has to wonder how Obama would respond if Donald Trump were to request the bin Laden photos. And while he’s got the President’s ear, perhaps Trump could ask him to bring the troops home.
The Bipartisan President
(Image © Next Left Notes)
“Bipartisanship in foreign policy overrides competitive group interests under the threat of international communism, and spreads to domestic policy, where the programs of the big parties become ever more undistinguishable, even in the degree of hypocrisy and in the odor of the cliches.”
As surely as Sarah Palin is a feminist who lives in a post-racial society; as surely as it is a giant step forward that gay men and women can fight in foreign wars on behalf of their corporate sponsors; it is clear that Julian Assange is the cause of all of our foreign policy disasters.
As surely as casting ex-cons in carefully choreographed “plots” is stopping home-grown terrorism; as surely as the Justice Department is defending free speech with warrantless wiretaps; it is certain that we are effectively combating terrorism abroad with assassinations, kidnapping and torture.
As surely as the Republicans started two wars to spread peace and freedom; as surely as they deregulated Wall Street to help the economy; as surely as they gave everyone a mortgage to increase home ownership, as surely as they bailed out the banks to help the people on Main Street; it is clear they are fiscal conservatives — they are steadfast in their refusal to waste any money on health care.
As surely as tax cuts for the rich is the best way to reduce the deficit; as surely as the unemployed are just slackers and welfare cheats; “bipartisanism” isn’t just naivete or spineless appeasement.
It’s a fiction.
|“It’s sick, the price of medicine
Stand up, we’ll put you on your feet again
Open up your eyes
Just to check that you’re asleep again
President Gas is President Gas again
He comes in from the Left sometimes
He comes in from the Right
It’s so heavily advertised that he wants you and I
It’s a real cowboy set, electric company
Every day is happy days
It’s hell without the sin, but
Don’t cry, don’t do anything
No lies, back in the government
No tears, party time is here again
President Gas is up for president.”
– Richard Butler, John Ashton, Tim Butler and Vince Ely
(President Gas, from Forever Now)
TAG, I’m It – Self Portrait, 2010
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)
May 28, 2010 began innocently enough — but by mid-morning I found a woman I hadn’t seen in over 50 years.
“The Conversation” took place early in the day. It was a Friday that seemed ordinary enough. But it would turn out to be truly remarkable.
“Hello, can I speak to Sandra?”
“This is Sandra…”
“Hi, my name is Thomas Good and I have reason to believe that I might be your son.”
I am a Leo, born in mid-August. But my mother says that I have a new birthday, that I was reborn on the day she and I were re-united after a 50 year separation: May 28th. So, like George Washington, I celebrate two birthdays. We are party animals, George and me.
Whenever I think about how it felt to find my mother — and to discover my family history — I am astounded.
The phone call, “The Conversation,” happened after a long search.
When I was very young, my adoptive mother told me that I was adopted and that my birth name was “Altfather.” She told me that my family came from the German part of Pennsylvania and that my mother was an artist. I studied art and German as a kid in an attempt to embrace my roots. Years later I went to the “Heimat” (homeland) for the first time. It was 1996 and I was in Rotterdam on business. Seizing the opportunity, I jumped on a train to Düsseldorf. As the sun rose I traveled from Appledorn to Emmerich, crossing the Dutch frontier. At the border the Dutch train crew departed and their German colleagues came on board. The rising sun illuminated the steel rails and I exhaled slowly. It was almost impossible to believe that I had finally arrived in the ancestral homeland. Everywhere I went in Düsseldorf, I met people who were very excited that a son of Germany had returned home. “Inspiring” would be an understatement. And so, in 2000, I took my wife and young son to München. I was visiting a colleague and took the opportunity to show my family a little bit of Germany. After landing at the airport we went through customs. Stamping my passport, the German border guard looked up when I said, “Schönes Tag.” For whatever reason he got very excited and came out of his booth to shake my hand. I have no explanation and no words. Another ethereal experience. Another one of Andre Breton’s “surreal Moments.” Life should be about joy, it should be celebrated. I don’t know that official’s name but I am grateful. Whatever else we are, we are both somebody’s son.
A few years later I discovered that, although they had sealed birth records in 1964, the great state of Ohio allowed people born prior to 1964 (or after 1996) to access their original birth certificates (http://www.odh.ohio.gov/vitalstatistics/legalinfo/adoption.aspx). On my 51st birthday I mailed in my application and the filing fee, expecting little – I already possessed the documents my adoptive mother had given me before she died. A month later my original birth certificate arrived. I felt like a kid getting a decoder ring. On it was my birth mother’s name. And her home town in Pennsylvania: Berlin. Two valuable clues. I searched via google for Altfathers from Pennsylvania — as I had already done many times. But this time I zeroed in on Berlin. I would repeat this search innumerable times in the coming weeks. Not much came up. But everything changed on May 28.
On a quiet Friday, sitting at my desk sipping some coffee and preparing to get to work, I googled one more time, expecting nothing from the familiar exercise. And then I got a lead. A break.
I never met Bill Altfather – he died in 1998. But a woman in South Carolina had posted his obituary on a genealogy website. The obit listed the surviving relatives. My mouth fell open when I discovered that one of the survivors was a woman whose maiden name was very familiar. It also gave her married name. That was the missing piece that tied things together neatly. And from there I found a viable phone number.
I “met” my mother in July of 2010 — we had met once before — when my family and I journeyed to her home. I can’t help but cry as I type. The first look, the first hug. Beyond words. Imagine what it means to be a complete human being and you’ll have an idea of what it feels like.
Unfortunately there is a political reality that many adoptees encounter when researching their past. Far too many states block adoptee access to what are known as “Original Birth Certificates” — or “OBCs” in the adoptee rights movement. There is no national standard and “States Rights” means that, in many states, adoptees have no rights to access their own birth certificates. Imagine your doctor saying, “Is there a history of diabetes in your family?” and you have to reply that you have no way of knowing. Imagine you spend your entire life not knowing the circumstances around your adoption. Imagine you can’t recall what your mother looks like? Imagine an impersonal response from a state official.
What is to be gained from blocking access to OBCs? Statistics show that birth mothers overwhelmingly embrace their long lost offspring when reunion occurs. And adoptees like yours truly don’t feel any need to turn their backs on those who raised them. Family is not an either/or scenario. The bottom line: adoptees are not the property of the State. We have rights and it is time that they be respected. Adult adoptees are as capable of making their own decisions as any other citizen is. There isn’t any rational reason adult adoptees should be second class citizens.
Sadly, New York State lags behind Ohio in respecting the civil rights of the adoptee. Sealed adoption records leave individuals searching for birth parents with only one recourse: a state-run adoption “registry” that can help facilitate a reunion. But there are no guarantees as one woman’s story reveals. According to the Utica Observer Dispatch, Kelly Wittman Clausen, a 37-year-old adult adoptee, has been on the registry since she was 21 — and has yet to find her mother.
Except for an accident of birth, I would not have found my mother. By sheer luck, being born in Ohio rather than New York — or Pennsylvania — I had access to my original birth certificate. My mother cried when I called her. And when I apologized she said, “These are not tears of sadness.”
When I visited my mother in July I spoke to her about an idea I had. I had decided that, on the occasion of my 52nd birthday, I would rectify what I had come to regard as an error. Mom smiled and said, “So you’ll be ‘TAG’.”
When I was barely two months old I had been given a middle name by my adoptive family — the surname of a distant relative whom I had never met. As my adoptive parents were both dead by the time I found my birth mother I made a unilateral decision. With the assistance of my friend and occasional attorney, an amazing National Lawyers Guild member named Gideon, I petitioned the State of New York for a name change. I filled out several forms, got my wife’s permission in writing, got everything notarized and filed my papers at the civil court. When it came down, I took the judge’s decision to the local newspaper for publication. The technicalities completed, I procured new ID. Once the process was finalized — it took about two months — I was a hybrid. My first and last where the names I had been given upon adoption. And sandwiched in between was what I jokingly referred to as my “maiden name.”
The change is no small matter.
With the exception of my middle name, I kept my adopted name(s). I am grateful to my adoptive family and the name they provided was, by and large, a good fit. But with the new middle name I feel complete, whole — part of an extended family.
I had no control over decisions made at the time of my birth and so it is gratifying that I will die as what I am – an Altfather, as well as a Good. It is my decision and one I am very comfortable with. I like to tell people “TAG, I’m it.”
I believe that every adoptee has the right to know their past, to find their birth parents and reunite – if the adoptee and the parents wish to do so. It is the right of any human being to possess their history, to define themselves, to make their own decisions.
The process is hard enough without the state interfering — I was scared shitless at several points along the way. I felt some guilt. I felt some frustration, some remorse. But throughout, I felt joy. Everyone should have the opportunity to discover who they are and where they came from. Our past is our property.
I am proud to be reborn as my mother’s son. TAG, I’m it.
Happy New Year to all of the adoptees and ALL of their parents.
Thomas Altfather Good,
New York City
December 31, 2010
“All of my days, all of my life, standing by you — all of my days, all of my life, I will find you.” — Cyndi Lauper, “Echo”
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