Flawless is coming soon...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You Can Make the World a Better Place - Part II

If I surveyed 1,000 people and asked them to name the five most pressing issues in our society, there would probably be one topic on most people’s short list – our country’s spiraling energy costs, including the high price of gasoline. To be fair, there are other issues that require our urgent, national attention – the mortgage crises; the credit crunch; losing factory jobs to oversees’ manufacturers; children’s lack of respect for authority; etc. However, most American’s are similarly affected by high energy costs, while we can debate the extent of other national problems.

If a special interest group planned a rally on Capitol Hill to push for legislation that limited credit card companies from arbitrarily raising customer interest rates, chances are there would not be bus loads of people from around the country making the trek to wave their protest placards. Likewise, if the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, aka ACORN, planned a gathering in Washington to urge our lawmakers to develop meaningful legislation to assist homeowners facing foreclosure, the event probably wouldn’t cause any traffic delays in Washington, D.C. And despite the fact that gasoline prices are climbing into nose-bleed territory, consumer advocate Ralph Nadar probably couldn’t organize a demonstration on the National Mall that would be mistaken in size for the Million Man March or the 1963 March on Washington.

The lack of participation in bringing about social change is not because Americans view these and other issues as unimportant. In fact, most would probably agree that these issues are central to the preservation of the ‘unalienable Rights’ guaranteed us by the founding document of this country – the Declaration of Independence. Since the 1970s there has been an erosion of our national inclination to dissent, and this, I propose, is the main reason why the majority of Americans will not engage in the struggle for social change. Sure, we’ll protest at the water cooler on the job, or in the carpool ride to work, or across the fence while chatting with a neighbor, but we’re woefully absent when the rallying cry is made to collectively express our discontent with the way things are.

Has America crossed the Rubicon into an era where our democracy is in peril, because we lack the social motivation to collectively demand change? Change does not always profit the beneficiary, as we are now experiencing at the pump. In the year 2000 crude oil was selling for $11 per barrel and the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline was a little more than one dollar. Now, in less than two presidential administrations, crude oil is selling for almost $140 per barrel and a gallon of regular gasoline is selling for more than four dollars, with some places in the country selling gas for more than five dollars per gallon.

I recently met a Christian who attends one of the mega-churches in the Washington metropolitan area. She advised me that the Church cost more than $60 million to build, and as soon as the congregation moved in, there was a steep decline in contributions. In response, I shared with her that at the end of the Clinton administration, I was paying about $35 to fill up my truck with premium grade gasoline. Now, it is costing me more than $85 to fill up today. That’s $50 that use to be discretionary that is now being siphoned into the gas tank. If I fill up eight or nine times in one month, simple mathematics reveals that I’m paying nearly $500 extra per month for fuel expense. That is the dilemma that all Americans are facing and for some, it is the difference between getting back and forth to work and giving a charitable donation to one’s Church. I hesitate saying it, but I think the Church is going to find itself on the losing end of this proposition every time.

What factors are driving these outrageous costs?! We can debate whether it’s market forces, or the greedy manipulation of the commodities market, or some other nefarious activity that has brought many households to the brink of bankruptcy, but one thing is certain, at the expense of the working class, the oil companies are posting inhumane profits. Buoyed by soaring oil prices, Exxon Mobil posted $40 billion in profits in 2007. These earnings are so enormous, one could not count them in a lifetime without the aid of a computer.

A number of Congressmen have suggested that they are willing to enact legislation that would reduce the price of gasoline. However, oil company executives and those lobbying on their behalf are outraged that Congress will consider tampering with what they say are market forces. Speculative oil trades are being blamed by some lawmakers for the irrational increase that we’ve seen in the price of a barrel of oil. Although executives from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, two of Wall Street’s largest investment banks, argue just the opposite; that speculative oil trades have no impact on the price of oil. In fact, they countered that it builds a certain efficiency in the international market.

Since the testimony of these Wall Street executives is being met with skepticism from me and many in Congress, I make the following suggestion to help Americans get to the root of our outrageous energy costs. However, first allow me to provide some background relative to how we may have arrived at a $40 billion profit for Exxon Mobil: One of the first major efforts that President Bush pursued after he entered the White House in 2001 was to authorize the National Energy Policy Development Task Force, commonly referred to as the Cheney Energy Task Force, since Vice President, Dick Cheney was appointed as the chairman. According to the President, the composition of the task force was limited to government officials; however, reports later leaked that the task force met early and often with oil executives, including then Enron President Kenneth Lay and a number of lobbyists.

After the task force completed its work, it refused to make its findings public, claiming ‘Executive Privileged.’ This appears to be in violation of the Federal Advisory Commission Act (FACA), which mandates that certain documents, task force members, meetings, and decision-making activities be open to the public. Judicial Watch, a government watchdog agency and the General Accountability Office filed suit to force the administration to release the task force report. However, to this day, the Bush Administration has yet to release the report.

I’m sure that this comedy (or is it a tragedy) is not lost on anyone, but allow me to identify the players: We have a president who has a long, albeit limited, history of making profitable oil deals; we have a vice president who once led Halliburton, one of the largest energy companies in the country; we have energy executives and lobbyists advising the White House on its energy policy; we have an administration which refuses to release the task force report; and seven years later gasoline prices are out of control.

Does anyone else see anything wrong with that picture?

As I sit back in my Lazy Boy solving the problems of the world, I’ll suggest a possible remedy here: I recommend that Barack Obama challenge John McCain to join him in a bi-partisan effort to urge the Bush Administration to release the findings of the Cheney Energy Task Force. Obama should make that demand part of his stump speech, so that everywhere he goes, the citizens of our great nation will see his campaign theme in action – “Change you can believe in,” as well as his mantra of not being beholden to the special interests. He has a golden opportunity to distinguish himself from his opponents by standing up to the administration and its big oil chaperon.

And if you would like to be heard on this issue as well, I encourage you to email Senators Obama and McCain demanding that they press the Bush Administration to exhibit more transparency to the American public by releasing the task force's report. Senator Obama can be reached by clicking here and Senator McCain can be reached by clicking here. Remember, one snow flake will melt on the shoulder of a passerby, but if enough of them fall, they can paralyze a city. Let your voice be heard.

...to be continued

Copy sent to Senators Obama and McCain

Friday, June 13, 2008

You Can Make the World a Better Place - Part I

It is easy to be a critic; especially a Monday morning critic. I often find myself offering unsolicited advice to the President of the United States and other public officials; superstar athletes and Hall of Fame coaches, Fortune 500 business leaders; and pastors of mega-churches. However, although most of us critics believe that our advice is sacred, it rarely reaches the ears of the intended beneficiary, because we do not take the extra steps to be heard. However, true change agents will be constructively critical, plus they will work tirelessly to alter the way things are. In some instances all it may take is a telephone call, a letter, an email or a visit to someone’s office to effect change in a situation.

A few years ago I walked into my local grocery store and was greeted with a large placard that read, “We prosecute shoplifters to the fullest extent of the law.” Immediately it struck me that this sign was more of an insult to the working class community of Prince George’s County than a warning to would-be thieves. I mean, what shoplifter doesn’t know that he/she will be prosecuted for theft? Consequently, I demanded to speak with the store manager to express my displeasure at being accosted by such a warning. She apologized, removed the sign and I have not seen it since. I’m certain that I was not the only customer who took offense at the sign; however, it was evident to me that no one took the extra five minutes that it took me to request that the manager remove it.

Being proactive in our criticisms would help make our world a better place to live. I recently discovered that the Civil Air Patrol program at my son’s middle school had become a casualty of the budget ax. Yes, I could have murmured and complained about the school system removing one of the most discipline building and leadership inspiring programs in its curriculum; not to mention that this is a military style program and we are at war. However, I spent 30 minutes constructing a letter of complaint to the superintendent of Prince George’s County Schools and requested that he reconsider his decision to remove the program. I have yet to hear back from him, but I am hopeful that my voice along with protests from other parents will cause the school system to reverse itself.

I am not sure why our country has lost the 1960s zeal of dissent: During that period there was a robust Civil Rights movement; anti-war movement; female rights movement; environmental movement and a host of other organized efforts to alter the social landscape. However, our national lack of motivation to protest the high energy costs and gas prices; high food prices; the lack of candor in government seems to belie everything that the decade of the 1960s stood for.

When I last checked, the power to govern the nation still resided in the American people and was authorized/guaranteed by the Constitution. However, it seems as if we have surrendered our civic obligation to a handful of elected officials who have gambled our future away working on someone else’s behalf. I do not mean to undermine the dedication and loyalty of some of our congressional representatives, but it is clear to me that there is a cabal of men who sit in the seats of power who do not have the working class’s best interest at heart. If they did, do you really believe that our future would have been mortgaged by an additional $3 trillion during the past 7 years? Or do you believe that we would be fighting a war in Iraq under false pretenses? Or do you believe that we would be paying a price for gasoline that is approaching $5 per gallon? Or do you believe that Congress would still be passing legislation that continues to give handouts to those who don’t need them?

To give some perspective to our current political climate, in June of 2007 the richest man in the world, according to this year’s Forbes 400, Warren Buffet, blasted the tax system that he says taxed his $46 million salary at 17.7 percent, while his secretary’s $60,000 salary was taxed at 30 percent. Or to go one step further, the country had a $6 trillion debt when George W. Bush took office, and when he leaves that debt will have ballooned to $9 trillion. If someone were to physically count those additional dollars at the rate of one bill per second, take a guess how long it would take to count it (answer at the end of the article). Notwithstanding whether it would take10 years or 1,000 years to count the additional debt, America as a nation did not accumulate $3 trillion in debt until 1990. Consequently, what it took the country 214 years to accrue; the current administration matched it in less than eight years.

Now that’s a masterpiece of reckless spending!

In closing, I’d like to challenge everyone who reads this article to take a stand. Whatever it is in your personal world that you believe needs changing, make yourself the change agent – make a telephone call, send an email, write a letter, visit your congressman or organize a group to work on changing. Whatever problems lie within your control to change, make the effort to change them, and if everyone made one small change in our world, it would make it a better place to live.

…to be continued

How long would it take to count three trillion $1 bills at one per second?
Answer: Approximately 96,000 years
Formula - Take 3 trillion and divide by 60 seconds, then divide by 60 minutes, then divide by 24 hours, then divide by 365 days.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

An Open Letter to Reverend Jeremiah Wright

This is a copy of the letter that I recently sent Pastor Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Senator Barack Obama, after he defended his sermons on C-Span During the week of April 27, 2008.

May 6, 2008

Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
Senior Pastor
Trinity United Church of Christ
400 West 95th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60628

Dear Reverend Wright,

Until the controversy erupted over the stinging words that were directed towards the United States in a number of your sermons, it appeared as if Barack Obama was sailing towards victory in his effort to become the Democratic candidate for president. However, since the media frenzy over the sermons, Senator Obama has been defending himself and his longtime relationship with you and the Trinity United Church of Christ. When he delivered his rebuttal to your remarks in his speech on March 18th in Philadelphia, I was disappointed to see him distance himself from your words. In fact, I criticized Obama on my blogsite - http://thepeoplespulse.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html - because I believed that a speech in support of your controversial remarks was easy for a black man to give.

When one considers slavery; the Dred Scott decision at the U.S. Supreme Court; the Tuskegee Study of untreated syphilis; the FBI’s counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) aimed at suppressing political dissent within the black community; and thousands of other illegal/unethical acts perpetrated by Federal, state and local governments against people of color over the last hundred years, it is not unreasonable for many blacks in America to have a healthy dose of suspicion against its government. Consequently, it is not a far fetched notion within the black community when the Jeremiah Wrights of this country suggest that the U.S. Government created the AIDS virus as a means of racial genocide.

In fact, if all other things were equal and you were a Holocaust survivor hurling damnations at Germany, your diatribe would have found global support. However, this is not Germany, and you do not appear to be Jewish; consequently, your actions make me and many others wonder about your motivation for the timing of your defense. Certainly you had to be aware that your performance at the Press Club last week could fatally injure Senator Obama’s slim chance of becoming president, while the late Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson could go on a tirade blaming feminists, gays, abortionists, pagans and the ACLU for 9/11 without any blowback to our current President, even though both of them supported his presidential runs and campaigned vehemently on his behalf. This is the double-standard that blacks have had to endure since the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

I watched your speech before the Detroit NAACP and the National Press Club and found them to be articulate and very informative. I particularly enjoyed the distinction you drew between “being different and being deficient.” However, with all due respect, I was stunned by the contrast between the speeches/sermons and the performance that you gave during the Q&A period at the Press Club. The former seemed to be a cogent response to your critics, while the latter appeared theatrical and at times mean spirited, like when you ridiculed the moderator when she queried you regarding Senator Obama’s church attendance.

I am certain that you have had sufficient time to digest all of the media analyses regarding your sermons and subsequent defense; therefore, I will not waste your time offering one of my own. However, I must say that I was disappointed to witness the blow you made to your former member's presidential aspirations. I say this as a voter who is as disenchanted about politics as you are. In fact, I did not vote for Senator Obama in the primaries and neither will I vote for him in the general election should he become the Democratic candidate. I have voted for myself as a write-in candidate since Ronald Reagan’s second term, because quite simply, I believe that the office of the President of the United States is much bigger than the candidate and his/her promises. Consequently, the President is beholden to the Pantheon of the political, industrial and economic gods; who get the first slices from the pie, and if there are any crumbs left, they trickle down to the masses. And unfortunately, lately there’s been none left after Lockheed Martin, Exxon/Mobile, Wall Street and the likes.

If you recall, former President Bill Clinton ran on the same theme as Senator Obama – Change – during his 1992 presidential campaign, and it doesn’t take a political scholar to see how he betrayed his three biggest constituents: blacks, labor and gays. But I guess in hindsight there was change, and it affected the working class adversely. Will President Obama – I say tongue and cheek – have a similar legacy after all of the promises are made and he settles into the reality of the Oval Office? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, in a global world where China and Middle Eastern Sheiks are demonstrating their political and economic power by purchasing large segments of the United States, the American working class is no longer a priority for the President.

I ran into the congressional representative from my voting district in the grocery store a few days after he was soundly defeated in the Maryland Democratic primary this year. I approached him to bid him God’s speed in all future endeavors, and I initiated the conversation by saying, “Politics is a hazardous sport.” He agreed; we chatted for a few minutes; I thanked him for his service to the community, and we parted our separate ways. In some respect, I believe that the same words I spoke to Representative Albert Wynn are appropriate as I end my letter to you – ‘Politics is a hazardous sport…’ but I should also add, ‘…but when religion is added, it becomes a blood-sport and potentially lethal.’

I'm sure that you are a busy man; however, should you have a time windfall to respond to my letter, I would welcome it.

God Bless You,

David R. Tolson, Sr.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What’s With the Grounding of the Planes?

I love living in a modern society! I love the convenience of hitting a thermostat and hearing my oil fired furnace roar to life. My parents grew up in homes, not unlike many Americans in rural stretches of this country, where the thermostat was in the wood pile. While it would have taken my ancestors six months to travel from Maryland to California, my wife and I did it in about eight hours after a layover in Denver. And most urbanites have the convenience of a 24-hour retailer that would welcome them at 2:30 a.m. for the purchase of a painkiller to help ease the throbbing of a toothache.

This is truly a remarkable society that we live in; however, the downside to a modern society is that when things go bad, they can go really bad: if a nuclear power plant had a meltdown, the radiation exposure could kill everyone within a 5-mile radius; alcohol and automobiles kill nearly 20,000 people a year and injure many more than that; a bridge that is not inspected regularly could collapse without warning; bacteria in a city’s water system could cause an epidemic; and an airplane cruising at 29,000 feet is susceptible to a wind sheer that can knock it right out of the sky.

I think most people are willing to live with the unseen risks of a modern society. However, very few of us are the type of thrill seekers that would go about our daily activities in the face of danger. Sure, many thrill seekers will bungee jump, sky dive or raft the white water rapids, but how many would book travel on an airline if they knew that that airline had been threatened with a terrorist attack? Certainly if the price is right, there is always someone who is foolish enough or desperate enough to take that risk, which brings me to something that has recently been of concern to me – American Airlines’ cancellation of thousands of flights over the last week.

We have been told that Federal Aviation Administration inspectors raised concerns about the wiring harnesses in the wheel wells of the Boeing MD-80. I sure pray that that is all it is; however, why would American basically ground its fleet of MD-80s when, if this is a problem, it has been a problem since the planes were delivered. These fuel efficient, twin-engine jets were certified for service by the FAA in August 1980; therefore, why almost 30 years later is there a concern that had not been noticed prior? I certainly am not qualified to make a decision to ground a fleet of airlines over safety concerns. However, it would seem to me that a reasonable inspection period, let’s say 90 days, would have been appropriate in this instance, considering that fact that some of these airplanes are nearly 30 years old.

Usually if there is a safety concern over a product, the manufacturer is brought into the process of eliminating the hazard. However, I have not seen where Boeing has explained why the harness system was installed the way that it was, neither has the manufacturer offered an explanation that would verify the integrity of the product, in this instance, the commercial airliner. Also, what is adding to this mystery is that some of the planes have been inspected more than once. If American has competent machinists inspecting the wiring harness, why would it have to reinspect some planes?

The logical questions that I have posed, along with the airlines’ urgency to demonstrate its prompt attention to an FAA “concern” that appears to be 30 years late, seems to suggest something more ominous than simply a faulty wiring harness. I would not be surprised if the United States intelligence community or the diplomatic back-channels have uncovered a terrorist plot to blow up commercial airliners while in flight; specifically MD-80s. Consequently, what has been advertised as safety inspections could in fact be heightened anxiety that one or more MD-80s has a bomb installed in it. If so, and I hope that I am wrong on this suspicion, then that would explain American’s willingness to abruptly cancel thousands of flights, leaving tens of thousands of their customers stranded at airports across the country.

On a deeper level, have Americans convinced themselves that Al Qaeda, or another terrorist organization will remain dormant while the U.S. Military hunts its leaders, including Osama bin Laden? Depending on which report you believe, between 60,000 and 110,000 Iraqis have been killed during the current conflict. These are men, women and children; Iraqi citizens who have been caught in the crosshairs of a war between the U.S. and the insurgents. I believe in modern military vernacular this is called collateral damage. It is extremely unfortunate that it is happening, but do we honestly believe that the terrorist will not strike back for this and for other reasons?

If there has been a terrorist threat against our commercial airlines, and again I hope that I am wrong, it would make sense that the administration would want to keep this information above top-secret. And the current explanation for grounding the MD-80s would certainly prevent a public panic and a subsequent refusal to fly. With the current housing market, credit crunch and high gasoline prices, our economy could nosedive, no pun intended, into a depression if the public stopped flying for fear of another terrorist attack.

If we rewind to September 11, 2001, we will note that the terrorists attacked two airlines that, metaphorically speaking, represent the U.S. – American and United, so in a possible follow-up attack, has Al Qaeda set its sites on American Airlines again? For the third time, I hope (and pray) not.

In closing, I would like to urge those who may read this article to use some caution during this period if flying is a logical choice for you, because as the late Kurt Cobain has been quoted as saying, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they are not after you.”

Friday, April 4, 2008

Did the Military Assassinate Dr. King? Part II

I remember my mother running through the house forty years ago this day, struck with the most emotion that I had ever seen in a person, weeping over the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In one of the great speeches of American history, Robert Kennedy summed up Dr. King's life in two sentences as he addressed a mostly black crowd in Indianapolis – “Dr. Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort.” Forty years later, Dr. King, ironically, would not recognize the world that we live in. His dream, which seemed so distant during the Civil Rights’ struggles of the 1960s, has not quite become a reality; however, it would be dishonest to suggest that America has not made long strides in the direction of fulfilling one of the great ideals of the 20th Century: the dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed; holding a self-evident truth that all men are created equal…the dream that black children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content
of their character.

Despite the enormous progress in American race relations, the dream of a color blind society has yet to be achieved. We keep hearing, of Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy, that he may be the country’s first “black” President. In a truly color blind society, Barack’s ethnicity is irrelevant. The media didn’t call President Bush the 43rd white President of America. The attention that has been given to Obama’s skin color demonstrates how much work is necessary to achieve Dr. King’s dream.

The 40-years between Dr. King’s death and Obama’s presidential bid is heroic in one respect; that the descendant of a slave can have a serious prospect of holding the highest public servant position in the country. However, it is tragic in another respect; that the U.S. Government saw Dr. King as a national security threat. At a minimum, one could argue that America helped preserve the climate of hate that caused Dr. King’s death, and at worst, one can argue that she created it. Whether one agrees that America has a level of culpability in his death, one thing is certain, military presence in Memphis on April 4, 1968 is very, very troublesome.

The military spying on an American citizen seems like a paradox of sorts since any concern that Dr. King would fuel social unrest would appear to fall under the responsibility of the FBI. Part of the FBI's mission is to provide leadership and law enforcement assistance to federal, state and local agencies; and to perform these responsibilities in a manner that is responsive to the needs of the public and is faithful to the Constitution of the United States. Any concern that Dr. King’s involvement in peaceful, social protests would lead to social unrest would clearly fall under the purview of the FBI and state and local police agencies. Therefore, I am deeply troubled that the military took the lead to spy on Dr. King instead of the FBI, who had monitored his every move since the Birmingham Bus Boycott.

Given the social climate of the 1960s, it is in fact not much of a stretch for people to believe that the military was responsible for Dr. King’s death. What is curious, however, is that James Earl Ray was charged and later convicted of his death; however, the King family later granted him a clemency of sorts, by publicly acknowledging that they did not believe he killed their father/husband. This is dramatic, since Coretta Scott King and her children would have been more closely connected emotionally to Dr. King’s death. Consequently, for them to publicly declare Ray’s innocence, it would suggest that they strongly believed that he was not responsible for his assassination.

Ray claims to have confessed to the murder of Dr. King to prevent the possibility of a capital case, leading to conviction and a possible death sentence. He later recanted his confession and spent the remainder of his life trying to obtain a trial in order to prove his innocence. Twenty years after his verdict, a friend of Dr. King, Dr. William Pepper, began an intense research effort to help secure a trial for Ray in order to clear his name. In the process, Pepper discovered evidence that led to a wrongful death civil suit by the King family in 1999. The centerpiece of the civil suit was a bar owner named Loyd Jowers, who claims to have disposed of the murder weapon at the request of a local mob figure.

Pepper called dozens of witnesses and according to Publishers Weekly, they contributed to a forceful, detailed case that accused the FBI, the CIA, the U.S. military, the Memphis police, and local and national organized crime leaders. And after only an hour of deliberation, the jury found for the King family. In order to suppress any claims that they were in it for the money, the family only sought $100 in the suit. They wanted the facts of the case to receive wide circulation. However, in what should have been one of the biggest news stories of the decade, it barely made it beyond one news cycle. Determined to enlighten the public on the facts of his research and subsequent trial, Pepper wrote An Act of State, The Execution of Martin Luther King, a comprehensive examination into the assassination of Dr. King.

As we remember the death of a great American patriot, there are still many unanswered questions, like –

· Why were Floyd E. Newman and Norvell E. Wallace, black firefighters who worked at Fire Station 2, directly across the street from the Lorraine Hotel, telephoned at home on the night of April 3, 1968 and advised that they had been temporarily transferred to fire stations far removed from the Lorraine Hotel?

· If James Earl Ray was the lone assassin, then who placed sophisticated listening devices on Dr. King’s telephone and television in his room at the Lorraine Hotel?

· What was the United States Army doing in Memphis on April 4, 1968?

· Why did Walter Fauntroy, who chaired the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) that investigated Dr. King’s death, believe that Ray did not kill Dr. King, but that there was a larger conspiracy that “possibly involved federal law enforcement agencies?”

· What about reports that the FBI sent a swat team to Tennessee’s Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary to shoot Ray after an escape to prevent his testimony at the HSCA hearings?

· Why did Carthel Weeden, captain of Fire Station 2 take two U.S. Army officers to the roof of the fire station on the morning of April 4, 1968, which gave them a perfect line of sight to Dr. King’s balcony doorway?

· Why did the Army’s 111th Military Intelligence Group keep Dr. King under 24 hour surveillance during 1968?

· Why did the owner of Jim’s Grill (the back door of which opened into the dense bushes across from the Lorraine Motel), Loyd Jowers, tell Sam Donaldson on Prime Time Live in 1993 that he had been asked to help murder Dr. King and was told that there would be a decoy (Ray) in the plot if it was not true?

· Is it true that Merrell McCullough, an undercover Memphis Police Department officer, who later began working with the CIA, infiltrated a Memphis community organizing group, the Invaders, which was working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference? (Note: McCullough can be seen holding Dr. King’s head in the famous photograph of him lying on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel.)

(To keep the above bullet points from reading like a trial transcript, I simply offered a summary; however Probe Magazine published an expose of the King Family’s wrongful death suit against Loyd Jowers, which brought to light a number of questionable events that I have identified. Also, the King Center has published an online transcript of the court proceedings.)

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a constant reminder that we live in a very cruel world, where ambitions, aspirations and dreams can come in for a crash landing in an instant. The power of Dr. King’s life, however, demonstrated that his was sprinkled with God’s grace, which caused it to be immortalized in the lives of, not just his family, but all men and women of good will. The world was truly a better place with him in it, and ironically, because of his life, the world became an even better place when he left it – what a great epitaph to have engraved on ones gravestone; however, that choice is yours.

As I leave this series on Dr. King’s assassination, I wish to offer a tribute to his legacy by quoting one of my favorite passages from his many speeches – “An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity. Every person must decide, at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgement. Life=s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’@

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Did the Military Assassinate Dr. King? Part I

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I will examine his death in a two part series and layout what I believe to be some disturbing questions that still deserve answers.

Before I am charged with being unpatriotic or anti-American, I better swiftly say that there is no hard evidence to prove military involvement in the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, the evidence that is available does provide a scary connection between his death and our Government. According to The Commercial Appeal, a conservative newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, the U.S. Government had spied on the King family for 30 years and they were in Memphis on the day of Dr. King’s assassination. As his popularity grew and he began to speak out against the Vietnam War, enlisting the support of many anti-war advocates, the military increasingly viewed him as a threat to national security.*

Dr. King was in Memphis in early April preparing to lead a demonstration in support of striking sanitation workers. A few weeks later, he was planning to bring his Poor People’s Campaign to Washington, D.C. to demand that less attention be given to the war in Vietnam and that the government provide more resources for the poor.

An April 4, 1968, Dr. King was slain by an assassin’s bullet.

For those who understood the climate that led to Dr. King’s assassination, it would be impossible to disregard his evolution as a human rights leader. Dr. King was thrust into the national spotlight with his courageous leadership of the Birmingham Bus Boycott in 1955 and 1956, which led to the Supreme Court’s decision prohibiting segregation on city buses. This was the prelude to a short, but very influential career as a social leader. The turning point in Dr. King’s career came on April 4, 1967.

I’m not quite certain if I should categorize this turning point as coincidence, ironic or tragic. However, this date should be regarded as the moment in his ministry that he challenged an even greater evil than racism: In New York City’s Riverside Church, Dr. King preached a sermon that is affectionately known as Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence, where he delivers a blistering attack against the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, while America’s poor languished in poverty. In Beyond Vietnam, Dr. King uses very harsh language against his country that would be considered anti-American or even subversive, if someone with his celebrity status gave it today in light of Iraq.

I call it Dr. King’s turning point, because essentially he called it his turning point. During his experience in the ghettos of the North, he claims to have grown to a deeper level of awareness regarding his calling as a minister. This experience motivated his active participation in the anti-war effort. He shared his insight into the evolution of his ministry on April 4th, 1967 in New York, which coincidentally (or is it ironically, or tragically?) is exactly one year to the date of his assassination – April 4, 1968:

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the [ghettoes] of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent [emphasis mine].

Dr. King called for the “radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam,” and he began to embark upon a course where some white people, who opposed his civil rights stance, along with those who didn’t, embraced his anti-war sentiment. This anti-war theme brought blacks and whites together to form a common bond of major public dissent. This concerned the war planners, because a successful military campaign in a democracy hinges on public support, and Dr. King’s presence in the anti-war movement began to contribute to the erosion of such support.

By most post-war accounts, Vietnam was a failed foreign policy that was aggressively pursued under the Johnson and Nixon Administrations. In fact, Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense from 1961 through 1968, offers an unabashed apology for his involvement in Vietnam in his book, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. I believe that this is one of the most significant books written in the United States in the last 25 years, because it is so rare for a public official at McNamara’s level to give this type of extraordinarily candid view of his errors in judgement over a failed policy.

History vindicated Dr. King over his anti-war stance; however, his position fueled an anti-King reaction within the military and Federal government. Of course, it is legend the stories of illegal spying by the FBI on the Civil Rights Movement, but what is not so widely known is that the military illegally spied on Dr. King as well. In fact, according to The Commercial Appeal, “[the] U.S. Army spies shadowed Dr. [King] the day he died in Memphis. They watched him closely through most of the 1960s, but stepped up their observation of him in early 1968 because of fears that his planned ‘Poor People’s Campaign’ on Washington would lead to widespread violence.”

...to be continued

* (The following link will take you to a search page at The Commercial Appeal regarding its investigation on Dr. King's Assassination.) http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=CA&p_theme=ca&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_text_search-0=army%20AND%20secretly%20AND%20watched%20AND%20King&s_dispstring=army%20secretly%20watched%20King%20AND%20date(1993)&p_field_date-0=YMD_date&p_params_date-0=date:B,E&p_text_date-0=1993&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:A&xcal_useweights=no.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Barack Obama's Pastor

I initially chose to remain silent over the controversy surrounding the sermons preached by Barack Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. However, after thoughtful consideration and after seeing the unfair way that this has played out in the media, I feel compelled to address the subject. For those who have not heard his comments, I direct you to a two-minute clip that has been showing on You-Tube (click here). In it, he claims that the cycle of drug addiction and incarceration in the black community has been made fertile by the U.S. Government, and because of this, God will not bless America, but God will damn America:

“The government gives them the drugs; builds bigger prisons; passes a three strike law; then wants us to sing God bless America. No. No. No. Not God bless America; God damn America. It’s in the Bible for killing innocent people, God damn America for treating her citizens less than human [comments by Reverend Jeremiah Wright].”

We can argue the merits of Wright’s remarks; however, it only takes a casual look at history to see the long, harsh list of egregious acts that America has fostered upon its non-white citizens and people of color around the world. I will not bore you by recounting dozens of instances of injury that has been sustained by people of color at the hands of white people. However, I will name just a few to demonstrate that the "so-called" rants of men like Pastor Jeremiah Wright are not really that far fetched: Slavery; the Dred Scott decision at the U.S. Supreme Court; the Tuskegee Study, the Scottsboro boys, COINTELPRO; the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which annihilated hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens; and Jena Six.

These examples, with the exception of the nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities and Jena Six, are epic in regards to their impact on blacks and demonstrate the total disregard that America has had for its people of color. I mention Jena Six to demonstrate that Jim Crow is still alive and well in America. I also reference the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to show that the United States is committed to its own preservation even at the expense of more than a quarter-million innocent lives.

The public reactions to Wright’s sermons show the deep racial divide that still exists in America: While many blacks can relate to most of what Wright has said, many whites are shocked that black people can demonstrate this type of “anti-American” sentiment. Although I am convinced that the timing of the media blitz regarding Wright was politically calculated to weaken Obama during his campaign for president, it graphically demonstrates the need to have a serious, national discussion on race relations. It reminds me of the racial divide during the trial of OJ Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman: while 90 percent of blacks believed that OJ was innocent, 90 percent of whites thought he was guilty.

One hundred years later, the words of W.E.B Du Bois still rings true that race would be an enduring problem for America – “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line…”

Notwithstanding the appalling treatment that blacks have suffered at the hands of white people, it would be difficult to quantify how that treatment has impacted the black community to this day. However, it is safe to say that the Wrights of the world are speaking out of their own experience, the experience of their predecessors, and the experience of their ancestors. Consequently, I was troubled to see Obama repudiate Rev. Wright's comments, because it demonstrated his lack of courage to face an issue that is inherent to the Black Church and family.

Andrew Hacker’s Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile and Unequal, asserts that all white people sometime in their lives go through what Psychology 101 calls “denial.” They seek to convince themselves and others that they are innocent of any blame for creating and perpetuating the misfortunes of the black community:

At one time or another, all of us have refused to admit certain truths about ourselves. By engaging in what Psychology 101 calls “denial,” we seek to convince others – and ourselves – of our innocence of blame. All white Americans regardless of their political persuasions, are well aware of how black people have suffered due to the inequalities imposed upon them by white America. As has been emphasized, whites differ in how they handle that knowledge. Yet white people who disavow responsibility deny an everyday reality: that to be black is to be consigned to the margins of American life. It is because of this that no white American, including those who insist that opportunities exist for persons of every race, would change places with even the most successful black American. All white Americans realize that their skin comprises an inestimable asset. It opens doors and facilitates freedom of movement. It serves as a shield from insult and harassment. Indeed having been born white can be taken as a sign: your preferment is both ordained and deserved. Its value persists not because a white appearance automatically brings success and status, since there are no such guarantees. What it does ensure is that you will not be regarded as black, a security which is worth so much that no one who has it has ever given it away. This helps explain why white conservatives so vehemently oppose programs like affirmative action. They simply do not want to admit to themselves that the value imputed to being white has injured people who are black (Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile and Unequal, page 60).

Not only are white people aware of the historical perspective of Wright’s scathing words, but so is Obama. However, this subject is taboo, because few white people want to address the harm that they or their ancestors have inflicted on blacks and other non-white people, and the effect that those injuries still have on people of color today, and it is obvious that Obama doesn’t want to make those historical wounds part of his national platform.

Okay, okay…I can feel some of you saying that he is doing what is necessary to become the president, and that includes maintaining an arms length relationship with his own ethnic community. Perhaps, but preserving the courage of one’s conviction speaks to leadership and integrity, and if Obama is unwilling to defend what he knows to be an authentic grievance by blacks, one must consider, what other compromises he is willing to make to become president or how far will he bend to satisfy a certain constituency after becoming president. If Obama is the uniter that he claims to be, then the repudiation of Wright was a poor way of demonstrating it. It ‘kinda’ reminds me of a previous candidate for president that told us he was a uniter.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Western Christendom v. Islam? Part III

This is the final article of a three part series that is examining the theories of Samuel P. Huntington’s two most recent books - The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and its sequel Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity

Samuel P. Huntington’s Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity picks up where the final chapter of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order ends. This sequel describes Western Civilization as a society on the threshold of implosion due to the self inflicted wound of multiculturalism and Hispanic bilingualism. He maintains that if America is to survive as the pioneer of human achievement, then it must revive the ideal of its American identity and core culture, and foster this identity/culture on the new wave of immigrants that is flooding the country’s borders. He paints an ominous portrait for the future of this country if this does not happen.

I attended Huntington’s book signing in the Washington area after the publication of Who Are We, and I challenged him on something very disturbing that he wrote in the book. He predicted the response of Americans to the prospect of losing its current national identity, which he defines as a European cultural heritage and by extension, a Western heritage. This heritage, he cautions, should motivate the United States to strengthen its cultural impersonation of Europe instead of divorcing it through a melting pot of international assimilation.

After Huntington discussed his book, and during the question and answer period I expressed my alarm and concern that every book that he has written seems to portray people of color as the villain in society whose freedoms should be curtailed or eliminated altogether. In Who Are We, he gives his analysis and prediction of four possible outcomes regarding the loss of America’s national identity. I read to him and the audience the outcome that he seems to suggest in the book is the most likely to occur:

[T]he various forces challenging the core American culture and Creed could generate a move by native white Americans to revive the discarded and discredited racial and ethnic concepts of American identity and to create an America that would exclude, expel, or suppress people of other racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. Historical and contemporary experience suggest that this is a highly probably reaction from a once dominant ethnic-racial group that feels threatened by the rise of other groups. It could produce a racially intolerant country with high levels of intergroup conflict (Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2004, p. 20 – emphasis mine).

I asked Huntington, after reading the above passage, if he actually believed that native, white Americans would revive old forms of racism and embark upon a new social structure that would “exclude, expel or suppress people of other racial, ethnic and cultural groups? He claimed that he really did not hold much faith in that outcome. His response is a vivid example of hypocrisy and a dramatic demonstration of how simple it is to perjure oneself when your back is against the wall. Huntington had no clue as to my motivation for extracting one of the more controversial components of his book; consequently, his response appeared to be more of an effort to divert attention away from this ugly passage.

If David Duke or some other avowed racist said the things that Samuel P. Huntington promotes, he would be castigated and his views discredited. However, Huntington has been able to peddle his less than favorable view of people of color since the 1950s, and he does it without the notoriety and scrutiny that they merit. As controversial as his books are, they are rarely discussed within the black community. This is significant, because Huntington is not a right wing zealot, spewing a message of hate from the margins of society. He is a respected Harvard professor whose views on race have been cleverly insulated within a social theory of European excellence, and this theory has currency within the conservative, white community.

One of the oldest forms of politics known to humans is “scapegoat” politics. It is the classical effort to gain the support of one group of people by demonstrating to them that their social ills are the result of another group of people. This propaganda usually fuels aggression towards the “scapegoat.” Adolf Hitler did a masterful job in Germany, with his brand of scapegoating, which lead to the Holocaust. The South African government practiced this social system during its Apartheid regimes and Communist countries thrive on “scapegoat” politics.

Propaganda is a particularly useful tool for scapegoating during times of social stress. Of course, Hitler seized the opportunity to turn the Jews into the German scapegoat by claiming that the Jewish bankers were the cause of the hyper inflation that placed the country on the threshold of financial ruins. He also declared that the high “German” unemployment rate was because the Jews were holding the best jobs. This Third Reich propaganda implied that if the Germans could remove the Jews, then that would solve the financial and employment crises. Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor on January 30, 1933 and before the end of the decade, his propaganda machine convinced the German population to participate in the annihilation of 6 million Jews.

America is now showing classical signs of a society prime to begin its own version of scapegoating: financial instability; high unemployment in entire segments of the workforce; and the degradation of the state of mind of the nation’s youth. In fact, I suggest to you that the scapegoating has already begun. Not only does Huntington’s books play the blame game for what he sees as the erosion of European values in America, but Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of the Washington Times, has written The West’s Last Chance, Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations, Alvin Schmidt, professor of sociology at Southern Wesleyan University, has written The Menace of Multiculturalism, and conservative commentator, Patrick Buchanan has written The Death of the West, How Dying Populations and Immigration Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization, to name a few books that seem to blame people of color for the ills of Western society.

In the famous words of Rodney King – “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Well, there is a cadre of influential thinkers who cannot imagine that “we all just get along.” In reality, America has never been able to “just get along.” If race wasn’t the demarcation, then it was age. When it wasn’t age, then it became class; and when class warfare ended, it became race again. Huntington’s message resonates deep into the fabric of American culture and if he had his way, he would “create an America that would exclude, expel, or suppress people of other racial, ethnic, and cultural groups,” in order to rescue the country from the “patriotic treason” of other ethnic groups.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Western Christendom v. Islam? Part II

On September 10, 2001, I met a federal official at L’Enfant Plaza, who worked for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The security was so tight, it took about 30 minutes before I was permitted to see the official. I commented to him how strict security was at the facility, and he advised that the government didn’t want to take any chances on a terrorist attack. I said, “No terrorist organization would have the guts to strike in the heart of the nation’s capital.” Well…that wasn’t the first time I’ve had been proven wrong in an assessment on a particular subject.

A little less than 24 hours after my meeting with this federal official, Samuel P. Huntington’s phone began to ring off the hook, because his bestselling book, The Clash of Civilizations predicted the inevitability of September 11th. He predicted that new patterns of conflict would emerge in the post-Cold War era, and they would be battles over the survival of civilization and not over ideological disagreements that plunged many nations into protracted wars during the 20th Century.

If the thesis of Huntington’s book is correct, then 21st Century conflicts are simply a continuation of wars that have destroyed many civilizations; some as influential in their time as America is today. Carroll Quigley, in his book Tragedy and Hope, offers an explanation into the life cycle of civilizations. According to his analysis, civilizations go through a process of evolution from its birth, which is followed by a period of vigorous expansion, at the expense of its neighbors and possibly other civilizations. Once the civilization is recognized as such, it becomes stabilized and eventually stagnant. This period of stagnation is often accompanied by a Golden Age of peace and prosperity, where internal crises arise, and the question of the civilization’s ability to defend itself from outside forces come to bear.

If new ideas – modes of thought and action – become incompatible with its founding principles, the civilization will grow steadily weaker through internal conflicts until it is submerged by outside enemies and eventually disappears. These are not hypothetical notions, but time honored observations into the life and death of a society. Quigley traced the lifecycle of sixteen civilizations dating back to 6000 B.C., and he demonstrated that Europeans, bearing various names, including Western Civilization, have destroyed twelve possibly fourteen civilizations. This is so significant, I feel compelled to repeat it: Quigley traced the lifecycle of sixteen civilizations dating back to 6000 B.C., and he demonstrated that Europeans, bearing various names, including Western Civilization, have destroyed twelve possibly fourteen civilizations since the time of the Greeks in the 4th Century B.C.

Quigley goes further to say, “When we consider the untold numbers of other societies, simpler than civilizations, which Western Civilization has destroyed or is now destroying, societies such as the Hottentots, the Iroquois, the Tasmanians, the Navahoes, the Caribs, and countless others, the full frightening power of Western Civilization becomes obvious (Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1966, pp. 7-8).”

In Tragedy and Hope, Quigley discloses an Anglo-American conspiracy for World Empire. He doesn’t place a value judgement on it as being right or wrong, but he makes it clear that its role is so important that it should be acknowledged:

“There does exist and has existed for a generation, an international Anglophile network which operates, to some extent, in a way the radical right believes the Communist act. In fact, this network, which we may identify as the Round Table Groups, has no aversion to cooperating with the Communists, or any other group, and frequently does so. I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960’s to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments...[I]n general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known (ibid, p. 950).”

Quigley seems to encourage this furtive expansion of Western Civilization; however, he would rather see it be more open. Huntington, on the other hand seems to be concerned that this expansion will not occur if the United States continues to divorce itself from European culture with multiculturalism and multilingualism. Consequently, Who Are We is the roadmap to reclaiming America’s Anglo-European culture.

If Quigley in the 1960s and Huntington more recently realized the stakes that are at risk for Western Civilization, then there is no reason for me to doubt that many of our political, social and corporate leaders, along with Islamic scholars and political leaders see the same thing – the destiny of human civilization. According to Quigley, each time the Western world went through a stage of expansion, it caused the death of someone’s way of life.

Now this brings me to the question that has been debated since the destruction of the World Trade Towers – Is the current War on Terror a conflict of civilizations between Western Christendom and Islamic Civilization or is it simply America’s response to September 11th? When you consider that people who have identified themselves as “Christian” have been fighting Muslims since the Crusades, and if you consider that the Western world has intervened in Middle Eastern affairs in ways that have harmed Muslims since the turn of the 20th Century, this conflict certainly looks like a continuation of war between the West and Islam.

President Bush denied that the wars in the Middle East are conflicts of civilization, but he also denied that they were not about oil either. He’s probably right about the issue of oil, but I believe that he is twisting the facts to reject the idea that the war is a conflict between Western Christendom and Islam. He claims that we are defending our right to be a free nation: Do you remember the “They hate our freedoms” comment? If you buy that explanation, however, I humbly suggest that the standard of proof will be on you.

The war planners on both sides know the motivation for war, and although the Saudis, Jordan and other U.S. allies in the Middle East are continuing their public show of support for this war, they understand that this war could determine the fate of Islam. Although the war is not about oil, oil continues to be the commodity that runs the world; literally, so the unsavory relationship between the U.S. and its Middle East allies will only be as strong as the flow of oil to the West.

The United States knows a thing or two about strange bedfellows. It was allied with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s when he was engaged in war against Iran; however, as soon as that war was over, he became a villain. And the irony is not lost on anyone who studies Middle Eastern politics: America scripted Saddam’s overthrow and execution and did it under false pretenses. This country’s relationships with non-Western nations are purely for American self-interest, and once that self interest has been satisfied, the relationship will be severed. Self interest was why the U.S. sent the CIA to Afghanistan to train Osama bin Laden during the conflict between al Qaeda and the Soviet Union. However, after that war ceased, America rejected its ties with him as well and years later, bin Laden finds himself at war with his former lover.

Last week it was reported that after a meeting in Vienna, OPEC refused to boost production, although President Bush suggested that it would be a mistake if it allowed the U.S. economy to slow down as a result of higher energy costs. OPEC President told reporters that there was sufficient supply of oil, so there was no need to increase production. He went on further to say that world markets were reacting to “the mismanagement of the U.S. economy.” However, one must consider if this OPEC decision is the economic equivalent of launching a Tomahawk Cruise Missile at the United States. If anyone understands what’s at stake in the current volatile situation in the Middle East, the OPEC nations do.

…to be continued

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Western Christendom v. Islam? Part I

I believe that you can tell a lot about a person by the books they read, the movies they watch and the music they listen to. That is why if I am engaged in conversation with someone who I recently met, within 15 minutes I will know these things about them. In the interest of full disclosure, you can find these things out about me by clicking on the “View my complete profile” under the “About Me” section to the right.

Books, movies and music can inspire people to act in ways that they ordinarily would not. This does not necessarily mean that these actions will be constructive, because they too often are destruction. Take a rap artist who inspires young people to spew hate out of their mouths by mimicking the lyrics of a popular song that debase women. Conversely, look at the patriotic songs that had Americans swelling with pride as they were repeated after September 11th. Or in an extreme 20th century example, how did Germans, who were otherwise at the pinnacle of Western culture and understood that murder, theft and adultery were actions of the depraved, come to believe that it was permissible to commit genocide?

I recall as a junior high school student when Roots was shown for the first time. It instilled a sense of black pride in me and most of my friends who attended the majority white Lord Baltimore Junior High in Fort Washington, Maryland. However, just like the rude youngsters who impersonate the latest hatemonger lyrics from a rap star, we were headed down a similar path to destruction. Me and about 10 friends were going to show white people that we were no longer going to be abused, so we challenged the white guys to a fight after lunch under the stairwell next to the metal shop class.

Expecting a dozen or so white guys, there were at least 100 of them; some not quite sure why they were there. Now five minutes before the black guys arrived, we had conjured notions of victory over what turned out to be more than half of the 8th grade, male population at Lord Baltimore. Of course, after seeing 100 or more white guys, discretion became the better part of valor; consequently, at the first opening, we bolted.

The point that I make in all of these examples is that social influences shape our thinking and motivate our actions to a large degree; notwithstanding that in some cases, like the Holocaust, people’s actions are influenced by propaganda, whether it be in the form of a book, a speech or a pamphlet. In fact, the most influential instrument throughout history has been a book – the Bible (the Old and New Testaments). It has contoured the mode of thought and actions of generations back to the BC period of the Pharaohs, and to this day, the Gospel message is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that is beamed non-stop around the globe through satellite television.

Unfortunately and ironically, the Gospel has not always been used as a tool of virtue. History is littered with examples of evil men using this book to peddle wicked schemes: The Holocaust, slavery and the Inquisition are examples of how the Bible has been used as a propaganda weapon.

There are numerous books that have helped chart the course of American history. Of course, the Bible and the United States Constitution have had the greatest impact. However, when one considers influential books in American history they must consider Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations; Henry David Thoreau’s work on Civil Disobedience; Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom; Albert Einstein’s Relativity; Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species; Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; and Sigmund Freud’s The Ego and The Id to name a few. I believe 25 years from now The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and its sequel Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity by Samuel P Huntington will be considered two of the most influential books of the last past half century.

The Clash of Civilizations was initially published as a magazine article in Foreign Affairs in the summer of 1993. According to the editors of this distinguished journal, this article generated more discussion than any other article ever published. Three years later the article evolved into the book that cast a mark of distinction on Huntington as the most quoted authority on the events surrounding September 11th. In the post-Cold War world, he predicted, conflicts will no longer run along ideological – political, economic – fault lines, but along cultural – religious, language, ancestry, and customs – fault lines. Conflicts along these fault lines will create a clash of civilizations. This clash, in some instances, will be the result of long standing grievances that Muslim countries have with the Western world.

Many third world nations have developed the type of revenue, mostly through oil and manufacturing that is allowing them to purchase sophisticated military weapons. Although these same countries are not prepared to face any Western nation in a conflict, they are less likely to be intimidated by them. Huntington warned America of the potential for conflict with Islamic nations who believe that many of their difficulties are the result of American intervention into their domestic affairs. According to Huntington, these nations have a special incentive to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the means to deliver them, because it will give them a shortcut to becoming a regional, military power and it will give them the means to deter intervention into their region and country by the United States. It is believed by many scholars if Saddam had waited to invade Kuwait until after he developed a WMD program, America would not have interfered with his incursion.

After September 11th The Clash of Civilizations became a best seller and Huntington emerged as one of the most insightful scholars in the country.

…to be continued

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Threat to America's National Security

I had not seen a movie at the theaters for 13 years until I broke my drought with JFK in 1991. JFK was Oliver Stone’s re-enactment of what some say is the greatest conspiracy of the 20th Century – the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. This is one of those movies that you don’t want to see if you have faith in the purity of human government. Granted, the movie is a cinematic version of the events immediately preceding Kennedy’s death and a determined prosecutor’s effort to prove that his assassination reached into the highest levels of the American Government. However, Stone brings to bear enough information to make most reasonable people take a pause and consider, whether for a fleeting moment, the possibility of an American coup d’├ętat of the 35th President of the United States.

An American coup d’├ętat? Whether it is true or false, it is a heavy indictment to suggest that the United States military was behind the assassination of its own commander and chief.

This article is not about the JFK assassination or JFK, the movie; however, I want to use a discussion between Kevin Costner and Donald Sutherland as my spring board to talk about a gap in our national security: New Orleans district attorney, Jim Garrison, played by Costner, is approached by X, a former military officer, played by Sutherland to help him solve the mystery of the Kennedy assassination. He informs him that Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263, which basically would have ended America’s involvement in Vietnam. However in less than two months Kennedy was dead and President Johnson signed NSAM 273, which effectively reversed NSAM 263. These top secret memorandums are pointed to by conspiracy theorists as evidence of a grand scheme to remove a sitting president.

Perhaps, but Sutherland also tells Garrison something that most American citizens either take for granted or have never considered – “The organizing principle of any society, Mr. Garrison……is for war. The authority of a state over its people resides in its war powers.” Now this social theory could certainly be debated; however, one thing is for sure – any society that does not develop a national defense or has gaps in its national defense stands in peril of destruction from outside forces with sufficient strength to destroy their way of life. It has happened throughout history and will continue to happen as long as men with insatiable appetites for power have an influence in society.

This brings me to my related point: The United States is investing $100 billion in the space station, and within two and a half years we will no longer have a spacecraft to transport astronauts and supplies to and from the station. As a result of safety concerns and the 2003 destruction of space shuttle Columbia, NASA plans to retire the remaining three shuttles by September 2010. Consequently, the American space program will have to rely on Russia and the technology of other countries to reach the station until a shuttle replacement is available; projected to be sometime in 2015.

NASA administrator Michael Griffin regrets that his agency is in this dilemma and has said, “we will be largely dependent on Russia and that is a terrible place for the United States to be. I am worried, and many others are concerned.” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.), chairman of the subcommittee that oversees NASA, seems to be more troubled about America’s dependency on Russia – “This is a very serious betrayal of American interests. This will be the first time since Sputnik when the United States will not have a significant space superiority. I remain dumbfounded that we’ve allowed this serious threat to our national security to develop [emphasis mine].”

The space station, it must be understood, is first and foremost a national security post. Whatever other purposes it will serve, its primary objective will be a military outpost for the United States to develop and maintain military supremacy of outer space. And the notion that this country will have to depend on Russia for transportation puts us in a position of weakness where we must rely on the goodwill of the gangsters in Moscow. This is like a chess game where you see your vulnerability and your opponent sees it as well and will make every effort to exploit it.

What will the shakedown be in this instance? Will it be a doubling or tripling or even a quadrupling of the transportation fees? Or God forbid will it be the financial extortion plus political quid pro quo for transportation in exchange for American complicity in a Russian scheme? Who knows what it will be, but certainly the Russians understand their advantage for that five year period, and I have no doubt that they will take advantage of it.

Isn’t it ironic that President Bush campaigned on his national security experience and his ability to protect America from imminent dangers during his 2004 re-election campaign, but has permitted this threat to our national sovereignty? This is a serious lapse in executive responsibility, and for a country that has been at war since 2001, it could be argued that it is an impeachable offense. When Americans line up at the polls to elect a President, they cast their vote for the candidate who personifies courage, leadership, foresight and although he does not have to be the valedictorian of his graduating class, he must have a certain level of intelligence. And this failure of foresight certainly forces Americans to question whether they elected the most qualified candidate to lead and protect this great nation.

We live in a very complex world today, and the President of the United States sits in an office that imposes an unfair standard of responsibility on him (or her). As parents, as spouses, as employers, as pastors, etc., we are always faced with generally giving allowances for human frailty, because no one is perfect. However, the President has to deal with some of the world’s most complicated situations and he has to always respond correctly and efficiently, with no allowance for his own imperfection. And if not, he is excoriated severely by the press, the public, the opposing political party and sometimes by members of his own party.

The reason the President is held to such a high standard is because one error in judgement could bring the end of this society; or as we witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of an entire American city. This is the dilemma that the President must face on an almost daily basis. During the Bush administration, we have witnessed some of the most colossal blunders ever from an American President: the poor planning for Hurricane Katrina; the Iraq War, which will cost America thousands of young lives and more than $1 trillion; the reckless spending binge that has increased the federal debt by nearly $4 trillion; the illegal, domestic spying; the multiple violations of the Geneva Convention; this nation’s fall, in the eyes of many world leaders, as a spectacle of unprecedented mismanagement; and now the national security gap.

Regardless of whether the organizing principle of any nation is its war powers, as X told Garrison in JFK the movie, America has a flank that will be defenseless to a formidable foe like Russia or China, or an oil-rich, Arab coalition that is able to ally itself with either of these communist superpowers.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.