Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year

Here in New York we have less than five hours left before 2003 is history. I hereby give you both an amusing and serious look at ringing in 2004. You may have to register to see the articles, but registration is free.

Stay safe and healthy.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Preacher Bashing on Christmas Day

Who would diss a reverend on Christmas? The Freedom Rider would, if the reverend in question is Henry Lyons. Check out my Black Commentator column.

Speaking of BC, I hope you read "White Terror." If you are a regular reader of this column you know that white supremacists armed with cyanide bombs, among other weapons, were arrested in Texas way back in May. You probably haven't seen any mention of it in the mainstream, read corporate, media. But don't worry. You have Black Commentator.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Track Santa Claus

How could I have forgotten. In case you want to know where Santa is, check here. Merry Christmas, peace on earth and good will to all.
Lee Boyd Malvo

I am glad that common sense prevailed and a Virginia jury spared the life of Lee Boyd Malvo. I wrote about the case in my Black Commentator column.
Anthrax Vaccine

It is too late to save the lives of two young soldiers, Rachael Lucy and Zeferino Colunga, but a federal judge has ruled that the government can no longer force soldiers to take the anthrax vaccine. Read more about the Lucey and Colunga tragedies. Too add insult to injury to a grieving family, Colunga's father was deported back to Mexico after his son died.

The anthrax vaccines may be responsible for the conditions that cause Gulf War Syndrome, yet the military insisted that all soldiers going to Iraq take them. Of course, with no WMDs found, the risk to soldiers lives was unnecessary. Now perhaps there will be some justice from an administration that claims to support the troops. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Republican Hypocrisy

Christmas Comes to Iraq

I love the Onion. Read here and you will see why.

Saddam's Capture, Conspiracy Theory #2

A British newspaper is reporting that Saddam Hussein was in Kurdish hands before being captured by U.S. troops. In a December 15th post I asked why a member of Congress claimed to know that a capture was imminent more than two weeks before it took place. The Bush administration is going to leave more conspiracy theories in its wake than any other. The JFK assassination is nothing compared to the unsolved mysteries we now have on our hands.

The chair of the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks, former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, said that 9/11 "didn't have to happen" and asked why certain officials who should have lost their jobs did not. Of course he has back tracked and watered down his remarks. I guess he got a talking to from Karl Rove.

Once again Americans are forced to rely on European news agencies to find out what is happening in the world. Wll the New York Times and Washington Post report on this new Saddam capture story? Don't bet on it.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Shame of the Thurmond Family

"For the first time in my life, I felt shame."
Mary T. Thompkins Freeman, niece of Strom Thurmond

Strom Thurmond's family feel awkward and embarassed. Essie Mae Washington-Williams give us the money quote, "Well that's just too bad." I'm with you Essie Mae. If Ms. Washington-Williams can endure a life of shame then the rest of the family can deal with Jay Leno's jokes.

None of the people quoted in the article express shame for the right reason. Nieces and nephews proclaimed their relationship with Strom Thurmond when his own daughter could not. To add insult to injury they question her motives. That really is too bad.

More Freedom Rider

See my column in Black Commentator. I tackle the thorny issue of the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby on members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Be Careful What You Ask For

For months we have been told that capturing Saddam would solve all of our problems in Iraq. But of course our ignorance and/or dismissal of Iraqi culture has once again undermined our own efforts.

Seeing Saddam humiliated via tongue depressor has caused deep ambivalence among Iraqis, even for those who hated him. Some refuse to believe he has been caught. The capture has caused tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and culminated in violence. Read about it here.

This student chant was heard in the city of Mosul.

Ba`thiyyah, Ba`thiyyah
Wa la naqbal al-`ar

Baathists, Baathists,
and we do not accept humiliation!

Na`m, na`m
li'l-Qa'id Saddam

Yes, yes, to the Leader Saddam!

Ma natanazzal `an ithnayn:
al-`Iraq wa Saddam Husayn

We will not back down from two things:
Iraq and Saddam Hussein!

Bush, Bush, isma` zayn
kullna n'hibb Saddam Husayn

Bush, Bush, listen well:
We all love Saddam Hussein!

Namut, numut
wa yahya al-watan
Fa'l-tasqut Amirika

We'll die, we'll die,
but the Nation will live!
And America will fall!

Majlis al-Hukm, Ya Jaban
Ya `Amil al-Amrikan!

Governing Council, you cowards!
Agents of the Americans!

A Close Shave for Saddam

Queer eye for a straight guy.

A Raisin in the Sun, Starring P. Diddy

I am happy to hear that Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking play, A Raisin in the Sun, will be revived on Broadway. I am not happy that P. Diddy will be the star.

Diddy will sell tickets certainly. It is too bad that a rap mogul has to be the star in order to insure commercial success. I guess those black actors spending a fortune to attend Yale or Julliard need to save their money and get recording contracts instead.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Pain of Essie Mae Washington-Williams

Essie Mae Washington Williams, who this week acknowledged being Strom Thurmond's daughter, grew up without either of her parents. She was raised by an aunt and had little contact with her mother. Her mother introduced her to Thurmond when she was a teenager but neglected to tell her before hand that he was white. As she put it, "Then obviously I knew."

The Washington-Williams story is the story of black America in microcosm. The right of white men to sexually subjugate black women began in slavery and continued until very recently. We will never know the nature of the relationship between Thurmond and Mrs. Washington Williams mother. Apparently her mother was above the age of consent in South Carolina but I really don't care. Could a young black girl in South Carolina in the 1920s stop the advances of a white man? No. Many black women ended up on greyhound buses and trains headed north because that was the only escape from the Strom Thurmonds of the world. My maternal grandparents left Alabama for Ohio and never looked back. My mother says that they were never nostalgic for the south and never wanted to return, not even to visit. The terrors inflicted by Strom Thurmond and his ilk sent millions of people across the Mason-Dixon line, many like my grandparents never returned.

I don't know why Essie Mae Washington Williams didn't come forward sooner. His financial support of her was probably predicated on her continued silence. I respect her reasons for keeping quiet but I do wish this news had been revealed when Thurmond was still alive.
Paul Laurence Dunbar and the Wright Brothers

As you celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight, and I know you will, don't forget to make note of their connection to poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar was a class mate of Orville Wright at Dayton, Ohio's Central High School. Dunbar was the only black student in the class.

The Wrights owned a printing press and bicycle shop. Orville helped Dunbar publish the Dayton Tattler, the town's first paper devoted to its black community. Unfortunately it only lasted three issues. The Wrights also built a bike for Dunbar. You can see it if you visit Dunbar's home in Dayton.

How does the Freedom Rider possess such great knowledge? Dayton, Ohio is my father's home town. (Are you happy Dad?) If you happen to visit that fair city I recommend a visit to Dunbar's home. You will be smarter for having done so.

As an aside, Dunbar's mother outlived him by many years. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 33. Mrs. Dunbar attended my family's church, Weyman AME. My grandmother still remembers her and told me that she attended her funeral.

Now my whole family is happy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Show Biz Parents

It is bad news if your own parents won't defend you unless they get cash. Michael Jackson's mom and dad, Joe Jackson and Katherine Jackson, were paid for a recent interview.

Michael Jackson's parents have a lot to answer for. Like others before them they lived off their children and in the process ruined their lives. If I raised a child who mutilated his face and proclaimed his love for sleeping with kids I wouldn't give interviews at all.

I don't know if Michael is guilty of these current charges or not, but Joe and Katherine Jackson are guilty of lousy parenting. Dad was abusive and Mom was the enabler. When asked if he beat Michael his father replied that he never used a stick, he used a belt. Hence, no beating took place. I have some sympathy for Michael, he got stuck with a jackass of a father. If Michael goes to jail Mom and Dad should be put in the cell next to his. The same goes for the idiots who allowed Michael access to their kids.

You need a license to drive a car but not to have kids. If we had licensing for parents the Jackson family should have theirs revoked.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Conspiracy Theory #1

Did we know where Saddam was hiding before he was taken into custody on Saturday, December 13th? Did we have him in custody before December 13th? On December 1st, Illinois Republican Congressman Ray LaHood declared that Saddam's capture was imminent. Was LaHood blowing smoke or did he really know something?

I say this is the first theory because I know there are more to follow.

Who Will Try Saddam?

Iran wants to take part in any trial of Saddam Hussein. Saddam invaded Iran and caused over one million casualties. The Iranians want to know who provided Iraq with the chemical weapons that caused so many deaths in their country. Look out Rummy.

Blood is Thicker than Water

We should keep in mind that some Germans backed Hitler until the very end. If we remember that we won't be surprised that there are Iraqis holding pro-Saddam demonstrations. The evil tyrant is still the home town boy who made good. Some demonstrators are still pledging their lives to Saddam. Somehow I don't think that the shooting will stop because we have Saddam.

Be careful what you ask for. You may get it.

Corrected December 14th Post

Haste makes waste. Yesterday I said that Donald Rumsfeld attacked Iran with chemical weapons. He did not. Saddam Hussein did, albeit with Rumsfeld's blessing. Anyway, that and other corrections have been made. I didn't want to be the last kid on my block to comment on the capture, but I should have slowed down just a bit.
Strom Thurmond's Black Daughter

Strom Thurmond's family has avoided a PR disaster by acknowledging what everyone has known for a long time. Essie Mae Williams Washington is his daughter. I hope she goes through with her press conference scheduled for Wednesday, December 17th. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Iraqi Fashion Victim Has Bad Hair Day

A guy who has a different wardrobe every day of the week ends up living in a hole with rodents.

How the mighty have fallen.

But seriously folks, Saddam's capture is indeed big news. He should be put on trial for crimes against humanity committed both in Iraq and in other nations. Juan Cole gives a great summary of the atrocities committed by Hussein. He also points out that we should be careful what we ask for. Iraqis may become emboldened to do things we don't want, like demand a Shiite government. We did say we wanted them to have the government of their choosing. Now we will find out if Bush and company mean what they say.

Remember, when Hussein was committing some of those evil acts he was the friend of the United States. During the Reagan/Bush administration Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons against Iran. He wasn't planning to use them, thinking about using them, or developing a plan to use them. He used them. He killed thousands of people with the blessings of the then U.S. envoy, Donald Rumsfeld. This photo is for those with selective amnesia.

Will Rumsfeld be a co-defendant when Hussein is tried? Ironically, the 20th anniversary of Rummy's visit with Saddam is approaching. On December 19th and 20th of 1983 Rumsfeld made it clear that an enemy of Iran was a friend of the U.S. Several months later Hussein used chemical weapons against Iranians.

By the way, when Hussein gassed the Kurds in 1988, he did so by using helicopters purchased from the U.S. The Senate passed legislation to prevent further arms sales to Iraq. The Reagan White House killed the measure.

So much bad karma, so little time.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Fit to Print at Last

Just when I began to believe that printing the New York Times was tantamount to thrill killing of innocent trees, they finally came through. On December 4th I complained that the maninstream print media ignored the story of right wing extremists found with a cache of chemical weapons. But today's paper has an op-ed piece about the Texas case. Thank God for small favors.

One of the suspects in this case is a member of the New Jersey Militia. New Jersey? I think of Idaho when the subject of militias come up. Now we have a new reason for jokes about the Garden State.
The Freedom Rider on the Police Killing of Nathaniel Jones

You can read my weekly Black Commentator column here. Nathaniel Jones is now resting in peace, but his death is part of an all too familiar pattern where black people are concerned. Police across the country have a difficult time arresting black people without killing them. Jones is the latest statistic.
Strom Thurmond's Black Daughter

At last the truth is out. For decades it has been rumored that the late Senator Strom Thurmond had a daughter with a black woman. That woman, Essie Mae Washington Williams, is now 78 years of age and in an interview with the Washington Post confirmed that Strom Thurmond was in fact her father.

I used to laugh when I read articles about Thurmond stating that he didn't father children until his 60s. Actually, he didn't father any children with a white woman until he was in his 60s. I am glad that the story is being told, too bad it didn't happen when he was alive.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Michael Jackson Causes Car Accident!

The Freedom Rider has been telling her loyal readers that it is very dangerous to spend too much time thinking about celebrities. But even I didn't think that talking about Michael Jackson could cause a car accident.

A Long Island woman, Cheryl Picker, pulled on to a highway shoulder to call a talk radio show. I am a bit sympathetic only because she wanted to tell the hosts of the program that they spent too much time talking about Jacko. I agree with her but she ended up making her point in a way that she could not possibly have intended.

While parked on the highway shoulder another car rear ended hers and flipped it over. Fortunately Ms. Picker was wearing a seat belt and was not seriously hurt. However, given that as she put it, "The back of the car was in the front of the car," she was very lucky indeed. Of course Ms. Picker's misadventure was recorded for the entertainment of other listeners and the rest of us as well.

Let this be a lesson to you all. Paying too much attention to media drivel may be hazardous to your health.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Gore Endorses Dean and the Kerry Implosion Continues

Gore gets it. He learned the hard way that the inside the Beltway pundits can't be satisfied. They must be taken on and sometimes completely ignored. Already they are targeting Dean but Dean isn't having it. Check out this exchange with CNN's Judy Woodruff about Dean's change in denomination.

WOODRUFF: Was it just over a bike path that you left the Episcopal Church?

DEAN: Yes, as a matter of fact it was. I was fighting to have public access to the waterfront, and we were fighting very hard in the citizens group to allow the public to use it. And this particular diocese decided to join a property rights suit to close it down. I didn't think that was very public spirited.

One thing I feel about religion, you have to be very careful not to be a hypocrite if you're a religious person. It is really tough to preach one thing and do something else. And I don't think you can do that.

WOODRUFF: And you don't believe, Governor, the Republicans are going to have a field day with comments like these?

DEAN: The Republicans always have a field day with things like this. That's the reason Democrats lose, is because they're so afraid of the Republicans having a field day with comments like this or like that, that they never make any comments.

I don't know if Dean will beat Bush, but he certainly knows the right way to go about it. I don't think he will be another McGovern. Dean isn't as liberal as the pundits make him out to be and he is making an effort to expand votes beyond Gore's blue states. He is not only acting like his nomination is inevitable but he is acting like he is already president.

Dean will be the nominee. As I have said before, the other candidates who are in Congress blew it when they voted in support of war in Iraq. I am sorry they didn't have more courage because I would be happier if there were a real fight for the nomination instead of a blow out before any votes have been cast. Speaking of which, it really is time for Kerry to hang it up. As I said back on November 2nd he is only embarrassing himself.

Kerry's latest shot in the foot comes from a Rolling Stone interview. There isn't much he can say to justify supporting the war, but this now famous quote is just pathetic. "Did I expect George Bush to fuck it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did."

Pardon me Senator, but millions of people around the world knew this misadventure was just that. Without benefit of intelligence briefings I knew the reasons given for going to war were a lie and that the results would be catastrophic for the U.S. and to the world. Plenty of us knew that Bush would f_ _k it up and we didn't have to curse to make our points. Then again we weren't desperate to stay in a presidential race we should have won handily. Kerry looked less foolish shooting birds and riding motorcycles with Jay Leno.

I Miss Papi

I miss George H. W. Bush. Just think of it. He got Arab countries to help beat Saddam in the first Gulf War and he got Europe and Japan to pay for the effort. Pretty neat wasn't it? There was no request for $87 billion from the tax payers when dad was running things.

I am joking of course. You have to be pretty bad to make me nostalgic for the guy who waged war to get Manuel Noriega. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Daddy Bush got Arab support because he wasn't afraid to stand up to the Israelis. Here is an excerpt from Juan Cole's site.

The Bush senior administration had a big fight with then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in winter of 1991 because it would not share the "Identify Friend or Foe" codes in use over Iraq with the Israelis. Without broadcasting the right IFF codes, Israeli fighter planes that had tried to strike Iraq would have risked being misidentified as Iraqi hostiles and shot down by the US or other United Nations forces. Shamir was livid, but Bush senior refused to relent.

Why did the senior Bush behave this way? Because he wanted Egypt, Syria and other Arab states to continue to support the Gulf War. They were upset with Saddam because he had invaded Kuwait, a fellow Arab League member, and they were willing to join the US in a war to get the Iraqis back out of Kuwait. But they would not have been willing to fight another Arab country as direct allies of Israel, and if they had done so, they would have been so delegitimized at home that they might well have face revolutions. Bush senior knew this.

W. doesn't have his father's experience with the world, and is, frankly, an ignoramus. If he is letting the US effort in Iraq be tarred with the brush of Israeli occupation, he is actually acting as the world's most prominent recruiting agent for al-Qaeda in the Muslim world. Because that is al-Qaeda's message to angry young Muslim men who feel humiliated by US power and by Israeli brutality in the West Bank and Gaza. Al-Qaeda says, the Americans are not in Iraq to bring democracy. They are bringing Israeli hegemony to the Middle East.

Do you want more bad news? Israeli assassination teams are training U.S. soldiers. That's right. The actions that have made Israel a target of suicide bombers are being brought to Iraq. What's next, bulldozing homes, and arresting the family members of wanted Baathists? How forgetful of me. We are already doing that. Now we know why.
Civil Disobedience

The time has come for federal judges to go to jail. They should do so willingly if that is what we need to fight the latest right wing outrage. The far right wing in this country count on the fact that very few Americans have the inclination or the ability to pay attention to details. The media usually help by ignoring the news we need to know but occasionally even the New York Times does its job and gives us the news that is fit to print.

You probably have not heard of the Feeney Amendment. It allows Congress to have access to all of the supporting documents from federal sentencing decisions. As I recall from my school days in the last Ice Age, we have a separation of powers in this country. The legislative branch can't tell the judicial how to do their jobs. Our conservative friends are at it again. They change the rules as they go along.

By the way, the Feeney Amendment was sneaked into the Amber Alert bill. How did we get the Amber Alert bill? Once we were terrified about child abductions it was easy. You now see why I caution against being influenced by the latest media effort to scare us. The truly scary people always use these things to screw the rest of us later on.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Poster Art of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

One of the most important issues in American politics is sadly one of the least discussed. Check out an online exhibition of Israeli and Palestinian poster art.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Child Snatchings! Shark Attacks! Influenza Pandemic!

The media is at it again. Of course they could give us useful information but noooooo. Celebrities are out this week but death and fear are in. The press aren't satisfied unless we are distracted by nonsense or in a state of fear.

Yes, the makers of flu vaccine have run out of this season's supply but your doctor probably has some on hand. But Freedom Rider, you ask, isn't the flu more dangerous this year? I'm glad you brought that up. In fact the flu is dangerous every single year. An average of 36,000 Americans die from influenza every year. Most of those who die are the elderly or others with serious health problems.

I get flu shots every fall because I have asthma. My suggestion for chicken littles across the land is this. Talk to your doctor. Ask if you are among those who need the vaccine.Follow his or her advice and then relax. When you finish relaxing send an email to the media outlets who told you the sky was falling. Ask them why they love to send you into a state of terror. If you get an answer let me know.

By the way, colds and flu are passed hand to mouth. So don't panic. Just wash your hands a lot.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

Not with gum, but with Black Commentator. You get a double dose of the Freedom Rider and a great web site too.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

American Terrorists

The New York Times and the rest of the allegedly liberal media missed this story. White supremacists armed with 500,000 rounds of ammo, 100 bombs plus components, machine guns, chemical agents and a sodium cyanide gas bomb were seized by federal agents last May in Texas. I guess this news isn't fit to print. I had not seen this story reported until this week. Read about it here.
A Lynching in Minnesotata

One of many reasons I can't stomach Clarence Thomas is that he trivialized the word lynching. During his confirmation hearing he whined and complained about a "high tech lynching." From that day to this every black person with a gripe has complained about being lynched.

In Duluth, Minnesota in 1920 three young black men accused of assaulting a white woman were dragged from jail and hung from a lamp post. A crowd of 10,000 watched. That is a lynching, not Michael Jackson being arrested, not black conservative judges being denied confirmation. Now as they say, everyone has gotten in on the act. White conservatives are now calling their black colleagues lynching victims.

I wish Americans did want to talk about lynchings. A monument to the Duluth, Minnesota lynching victims has recently been erected and everyone is not happy about it. In the Times article I linked to above, one citizen opines that, ". . . those men wouldn't have been killed if they hadn't done nothing, would they?"

From the end of the Civil War until the 1950s the lynching of more than 3,400 black men, women and children were documented. Victims who were hanged were the luckiest. Some were mutilated, burned alive and castrated. Lynchings were announced in the newspaper and drew thousands of onlookers.

The shame of lynching still haunts this nation. I am often amused when Americans criticize Germans for not acknowledging the Jewish holocaust or the Japanese who won't apologize for the rape of Nanking, China. Americans are no better at owning up to the many wrongs committed in this country.

How many of us are really ready to talk about lynching? White people are in denial or ashamed, black people often find the subject too painful or ignore it out of fear. If we talk about lynching we have to talk about how white supremacy still oppresses us. We have to talk about living with the anger that arises when we acknowledge our past.

I for one am more than ready to talk about lynching and the other chapters in the often sordid history of America. But if all we want to do is engender sympathy or score political points we need to come up with a different word.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Et tu Julian Bond?

I have a friend who is always in a snit because black ministers have been ordained, pun intended, by the media as the most important and prominent of those constituting black leadership. When Jesse Jackson first ran for president she would fume, "What about Julian Bond? Why doesn't someone like him run?" I agreed with her that Bond has one of the most dynamic, charismatic and articulate personas of all those given the title Civil Rights Leader. Needless to say I am writing this post because I have a few questions for Bond, the president of the University of Virginia and God only knows whom else.

Bond is a history professor at the University of Virginia. According to this account from UVA, several staff members were discussing the names of sports teams. One participant in the conversation used the Washington Redskins as an example of a team with an offensive name. The individual added that the word redskin is as offensive as the word nigger. Assuming this account is correct I see no reason for anyone to be upset. Julian Bond received an email from another black faculty member about the incident and suggested that the misspeaker in question be fired or at least be heavily sensitized. The president agreed that the word is insulting and recommended that the offender get a very strong talking to.

I hate to use the term political correctness. Whatever meaning it ever had has been discredited by conservatives who pine for the good old days when they could be as hateful as they liked without fear of reprimand. But this incident gives credence to some complaints about the era of correctness. I don't know what Bond was told or how the administration at UVA initially responded, but a person of Bond's experience should have had the facts on hand before making any comments. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. I assume he was told a different version of events.

But suppose he was given the official UVA account? I don't even want to think about that possibility. I now know why we are stuck with the hated term "N word." I always wondered why people wouldn't say nigger, even if they were quoting someone else or acknowledging the term's offensiveness. Poor white America. They just can't win.

Because I am doing so well as a prognosticator, see yesterday's post, I will go out on a limb with another prediction. Julian Bond has a long and illustrious careeer but is largely self-educated. He is a poet and author but he dropped out of Morehouse College to pursue his passion as an activist in the movement. Bond should get a lot of credit for life experience, but I am certain that before the week is out the right wing will ask why he is a history professor at all and use the mantra of political correctness to discredit him. That will be very sad indeed. Julian Bond and many others like him have quite a lot to offer the world of academia. UVA students could do worse than be taught by him.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery

The New York Times has finally caught up with the Freedom Rider. On November 14th I said that the electoral college map favors Bush. Population shifts in America continue to favor the south and the west, you know, the red states. If he only wins the states he won in 2000 he will receive seven additional electoral votes. Yikes.

Just remember that the Freedom Rider scooped the Times.

Monday, December 01, 2003

World AIDS Day

Today is World's AIDS Day. What does that mean anyway? Apparently it means that we need to send celebrities to South Africa. Beyonce, of the brigade of one-named R&B singers, visited Nelson Mandela's old cell on Robben Island, had lots of pictures taken and sang and danced her little heart out. She also gave sage advice. "There is nothing sexier than being confident and taking care of yourself. Protect yourself." Oprah was there too. We can't discuss a life and death issue for millions of people around the world unless Oprah is around and promoting her book club. Cry the Beloved Country, written 50 years ago, is the latest entry. I really should stop complaining that Oprah picked a well known but dated book for millions of her fans to read. Something post apartheid might have been nice, but after East of Eden all complaints should cease.

Whoever had the idea of using Mandela's prison ID number to market this event was a genius. It is a ploy that silences all but the most cynical, people like yours truly. I know I am a tough grader. Some say I am overly critical. I plead guilty. We first had celebrity self love charity events nearly 20 years ago to fight hunger. Wouldn't you know it, Bob Geldof of Live Aid has popped up again. I am not opposed to using celebrities to bring attention to important issues. But it is important to remember this World AIDS Day that our attention must be directed toward interests whose actions are responsible for the deaths of millions of AIDS sufferers. If we successfully fight those interests we won't need free concerts in South Africa to bring attention to AIDS because AIDS will be irrelevant.

One of those interests is the American pharmaceutical industry. American drug companies could end the majority of AIDS deaths tomorrow. But of course the same people who want to punish Canada for selling drugs more cheaply aren't going to give up profits to help sick, impoverished people around the world. The drug companies and their biggest ally, the U.S. government, are deliberately withholding cheap, life saving, generic AIDS medication from poor countries. A free concert is OK, admirable even, but if it isn't getting AIDS medicine to the poor, it is ultimately unimportant.

The other enemy interest in this fight is religious fundamentalism. The Catholic Church has said that condoms cause AIDS. You read correctly. The Catholic Church, which sways the thoughts and attitudes of millions of people around the world, is advising against condom use. Now that I think about it I should lay off Beyonce. At least she has common sense about condoms.

I know I have brought a skunk to the party. I am not against concerts and candle light vigils. It is important to do what we can to feel empowered and involved. But somewhere along the line we have to talk about what really counts. Celebrity charity concerts are 20 years old, but so is the discovery of the HIV virus. We know how to prevent AIDS, we know how to treat its victims. The only thing lacking is the willingness to confront powerful interests such as the United States government, drug companies and retrograde religious leadership. That will be a lot more difficult than having a concert.

Happy World AIDS Day.

"Why did they shoot a kindergarten with tank shells?�

Why indeed. News reports say that U.S. troops killed 54 Iraqi fighters who ambushed them in the town of Samarra. The residents of that town say that at most 8 fighters were killed. The remaining casualties were all civilians, some of whom took up arms after U.S. troops fired indiscriminately. The money quote, "They claim we are terrorists. So OK, we are terrorists. . ." Read it here.

Wife Swapping FDNY Style

After 9/11 firefighters were all but deified. I suspect that it was mostly the result of yuppie guilt. Too many Americans ignore or feel superior to blue collar workers. I recall one smarty pants New Yorker saying of firefighters, "I thought they just sat around with dalmatians all day." This gentleman and many like him realized that in fact their lives could be saved by people they thought little about. Some of the firefighters in the World Trade Center walked as far as the 80th floor before the buildings collapsed. Even though they were doing their jobs they still deserve our thanks. If the job paid six figures I still wouldn't do it. I shouldn't shrink from thanking those who do.

Of course, because Americans attack every issue with religious zeal that realization wasn't good enough. Firefighters were heroes, saints, angels. No amount of worship was sufficient. Well, it seems some of them are flesh and blood after all. According to the New York Post some of the surviving firefighters got a little too close to 9/11 widows and their children. Some have left their own wives and children to hold hands with the damsels in distress. Oops.

Apparently the same thing happened in Oklahoma City after the American led terror attack. The practice of sending married men to take care for lonely widows should go on the "don't" list after the next terror attack. Yes, I said next. We clearly aren't prepared and even more people around the world hate us. In all probability it will happen again. Hopefully we will have prevented the scourge of firefighting swingers.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

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Hail Britannia

Power and its trappings bring temptation. Wouldn't it be tempting to go to Buckingham Palace and receive the Order of the British Empire from the Queen? Well at least one person is able to say thanks but no thanks. In the British newspaper the Guardian, writer Benjamin Zephaniah says hell no I won't go.
Bush in Iraq

I had a great Thanksgiving with my family. After dinner, dessert and football I turned on the news. If I had known Bush pulled off another propaganda stunt I would have eaten more pie and skipped the news. Here is the real story.

Thursday, November 27, 2003


Double your pleasure this Thanksgiving, read the Freedom Rider in Black Commentator. I hope you also take the opportunity to read all of Black Commentator. I don't know of any other website that has been villified by right wing Senator Orrin Hatch. As far as I am concerned that is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Paris Hilton Sex Tape!

Spam in much discussed but merely an annoyance. Our cowardly Congress can't stop war or the privatization of Medicare but by golly they will stamp out spam if it is the last thing they do!

Frankly, if they can keep Paris Hilton Sex Tape ads out of my email box I will applaud their efforts. Recently I have received a minimum of 10 spam messages every day exhorting me to see the Paris Hilton Sex Tape. I fear for a society that exalts Paris Hilton. In listing signs of the end time the bible should have added pointless celebrity to plagues, pestilence, famine and rumors of war. (Matthew 24:6-7) Apparently even the apostles could not foresee Paris Hilton and her ilk.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Klan vs. Klan

Bodies with gaping wounds, some bayoneted through the eyes, some with skulls beaten through, others with hideous wounds as if their bowels had been ripped open with bowie-knives, plainly told that but little quarter was shown to our troops. Strewn from the fort to the river bank, in the ravines and hollows, behind logs and under the brush where they had crept for protection from the assassins who pursued them, we found bodies bayoneted, beaten, and shot to death, showing how cold-blooded and persistent was the slaughter of our unfortunate troops.
Witness to Fort Pillow Massacre

How should one react upon learning that one Klansman accidentally shot another during a bizarre initiation ritual complete with nooses, paint ball and real bullets? I for one just laughed out loud.

The Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee by Nathan Bedford Forest. Forest made a fortune selling slaves and became a general for the Confederacy. He massacred white and black Union soldiers after they surrendered at Fort Pillow, which was located near Jackson, Tennessee. White soldiers were murdered, but black soldiers, particularly those with the rank of sergeant, were singled out for butchery. They were nailed to logs and burned alive. It is indeed ironic that this Klan shooting incident also occurred in Tennessee.

The Confederacy considered captured black soldiers to be fugitive slaves who had no rights traditionally accorded to prisoners. Union leaders such as Secretary of War Stanton and Secretary of State Seward wanted to execute an equal number of Confederate POWs but Lincoln denied the request. The Confederate refusal to treat black and white POWs alike resulted in the end of prisoner exchanges, which resulted in conditions at prisons such as Andersonville.

I never wanted to belong to any group that required initiation. I shake my head when I read that someone forced to chug too much beer died in an attempt to join omega kappa phoolish. Who wants to belong to the Klan, an organization filled with racist losers. A racist and loser of course.

We do need to be reminded that everyone did not accept the changes brought about by the civil rights movement. There are many racist losers in our society. Most of them are harmless, but lest we forget, Timothy McVeigh also joined the Klan. In 1995 168 Americans found out the hard way that this man may have been a loser, but he was far from harmless.

Read more about Fort Pillow here.
Good Riddance

Bush doesn't know or doesn't care that the British hate him, so it won't bother him that his visit wrecked the Queen's garden.

All the News Fit to Print

The U.S. Army has backtracked on its original assertion that 2 soldiers were mutilated after being shot in Iraq. Those of us silly enough to quote the Army must retract our statements (November 23rd post). Of course, we are now left to wonder which version of the story is true.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Whither Iraq

We will lose in Iraq. We have begun the destruction of a nation that was not a danger to us, all so that we can get their oil, let Israel have its way in that region and have a base for American troops. By the way, if you were in any way hopeful about the supposed turning over of Iraq to the Iraqis by June, you have been snookered. We will have at least 100,000 troops there until 2006 at least, even if they have their throats slit.
More Freedom Rider

How could I forget to give myself a plug? You get more where this came from right here.

Mujahadeen are the Good Guys

I am old enough to remember when the Mujahadeen were the good guys. They fought the evil Soviets in Afghanistan. You don't have to tell your age, but perhaps this will jog your memory.

Asia Times Online Cartoon - By Gavin Coates.gif

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Tony Blair is a Liar

Perhaps it is true that all politicians are ethically challenged or maybe my mom was right about the negative effects of hanging out with the wrong crowd. Either way it is clear that Tony Blair has as big a problem telling the truth as his pal George W. Bush. Blair was briefly hospitalized in October with an irregular heart beat and denied that he had any such condition in the past. When Bill Clinton mentioned that Blair had in fact discussed it previously, Downing Street called Clinton a liar.

Among the other embarassments that took place during the recent Bush visit to England was the revelation that a reporter had gotten a job as a servant in Buckingham Palace. Among other things, he reported that Blair has suffered from this condition in the past. Birds of a feather do flock together.

If Laura Bush Doesn't See You, Are You Still There

Asked whether she had been put off by large-scale protests against the visit and anti-American sentiment in Britain, Mrs Bush said she had seen many more pro-US demonstrators.

"I don't actually think the protests are near as large as everyone was predicting before we got here," she said, as a crowd estimated by police to be between 100,000 and 110,000 strong marched in protest.

"We've seen plenty of American flags. We've seen plenty of people who were waving to us, many, many more people, in fact than we've seen protestors."

War on Terror

The killing and capturing of Al Qaeda leaders is failing, they said, to keep pace with the number of angry young Muslim men and women willing to participate in suicide attacks.

One is tempted to reply "Duh" to remarks such as that gem from today's New York Times. It seems the world has an over supply of angry Muslims. Who would have thunk it?

The administration's Orwellian double speak has gone into over drive. Again they are claiming that terror attacks are proof of success. It is difficult to fight such brilliant cynicism. No matter what happens we are winning the war on terror, even if one previously peaceful city has suffered four car bombings in a little over a week.

The latest Goebbels special involves demonizing anyone who criticizes Bush as being insufficiently committed to fighting terrorism. How will the Democrats respond? If past efforts are any indication, the answer is that their response will be so lame as to be non-existent.

JFK Assassination

On Thursday night I watched a History Channel documentary about the assassination. Their story was that Oswald did it because he was lonely and crazy and Ruby killed Oswald because he was lonely and crazy. We should stop worrying our pretty little heads about assassination theories.

Spare me the soothing lies and the effort to deify Kennedy. Kennedy was crooked. His father used mob connections to get him elected and then his brother turned on gangsters and sent them to jail. Why was Kennedy using his girlfriend to communicate with mafioso Sam Giancana? The President of the U.S. should not have anything to say to a mobster. Well, if you are trying to kill Castro I guess you do need to keep in touch. JFK lived by the sword and then he died by it. You can't bite the hand that feeds you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

AARP Sells Out to the Republicans

As I said in my previous post, watch the Medicare Prescription Bill and not news of an arrest warrant for Michael Jackson or the upcoming marriage of Bennifer or the upcoming divorce of Halle Berry or the latest photos of Brad and Jen or the latest from the Kobe Bryant trial or the latest from the Laci Peterson killer husband trial.

The current CEO of the AARP, William Novelli, is a big fan of Newt Gingrich. Yes, that Newt Gingrich. He loves Newt so much that he wrote the preface of a Gingrich tome on health care. Don't fall for the AARP seal of approval on the Medicare bill. Here is a good rule of thumb, you should run very far and very fast from anything or anyone the Republicans like.

And don't forget, celeb news is the tool of the right wing. It is the bread and circuses of the modern era.
Bush Blackmail of Tony Blair?

I always liked Tony Blair so I was at first confused and later disgusted by his sucking up to George W. Bush. Why does he do it? Thank goodness we have Greg Palast to explain it all for us. Here is a quote from a February 2003 Buzzflash interview with Palast.

The answer is Irwin Stelzer. He is the guy who is a good friend of George Bush from the Hudson Institute, and the most powerful lobbyist in Britain representing British-American interests and, by the way, chief lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch. As soon as Bush seized the White House, Stelzer walked into Blair's office and said ‘we noticed that you were supporting Mr. Gore during the Presidential election' - even though clearly that didn't carry many states. Blair's effective endorsement of Al Gore did not go unnoticed. And there was a price to be paid. Blair was given a list of the things that would befall Britain from military subsidies and equipment, to a reduction of value in the dollar versus the pound, which would destroy England's exportability.

The interview was conducted before the Iraq War began but I think it still holds up. It also explains why Blair is giving Bush the red carpet treatment and why Blair orchestrated an interview for Bush in one of Murdoch's tabloids, The Sun. The Sun is known for topless photos of nubile young women, not hard hitting news. But if Murdoch calls the tune everyone dances.

Michael Jackson, Propaganda Tool

Like recordings from Osama and Saddam, Michael Jackson has a knack for being thrown into the fray when more important things are going on in the world. Earlier this year Jackson was in the news for baby dangling, denying more than one surgery on his nose, and giving ill-advised interviews. Well he's baaack.

Yesterday Jackson was served with a search warrant of his Neverland Ranch. Voila! Everything else disappeared from the news as if by magic. Against my better judgment I turned on the Today Show this morning and was confronted by the usual suspects of non-news stories. The Jackson saga was numero uno, complete with the "Jackson family attorney" and the ever present Gloria Allred.

The media and others among the powers that be love to keep us distracted. I think a little paranoia is always helpful when someone unimportant (Jackson, Laci Peterson's husband, J. Lo) is in the news. What are they trying to keep from us when these silly stories are always reported first? Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they are not out to get you.

I think the Medicare Prescription Coverage bill bears watching. Don't be fooled by the AARP seal of approval. This bill would give Republicans something they have dreamed about for years, the privatization of an entitlement program. So give more attention to your boring Congressman than to Wacko Jacko.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Support the Troops

I always felt that the call to "support the troops" was bogus. Last week the organizers of a Veterans Day parade in Tallahassee, Florida proved me right. Vietnam Veterans opposed to the Iraq War were thrown off of the parade route. The right don't care about the troops. They care about control and conformity. They want everyone to either march in lock step, in this case literally, or shut up.

A Trip to the Boondocks

When we last we visited our young friends in the Boondocks they were attempting to assist Condi Rice with her love life (October 15th post). This week they may have found a suitor.
Praise the Lord

The religious left, it does exist, may finally be getting its act together. A new organization, the Clergy Leadership Network, will officially announce its formation on Friday. I hope they are ready to take it to the religious right who have announced an effort to protect public displays of the Ten Commandments. The public needs to hear from Christians opposed to these acts that infringe on religious freedoms. Will this group point out that displaying the Ten Commandments in a court room actually trivializes religious faith? The right wing have a running start. It is time to catch up.

No, You Can't Kill People During Your Visit

Today President Bush visits London. Hardly newsworthy but he will be the first U.S. president to make a state visit to the the U.K. That is correct, he will be the very first. Of all our presidents, how does he get to be the first accorded a state visit? I'll let the increasingly foolish Tony Blair explain that one.

The highlight of the trip appears to be the demands the Secret Service is making on British security agencies. One request was turned down however. It seems our guys wanted permission: A. to shoot people and B. to have immunity from prosecution for said shootings. Perhaps it is best not to visit a country if you think you will have to shoot people upon arriving.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Murder Inc.

What happens to people who are taught to kill? Once the switch is flipped, can it be turned off? Timothy McVeigh and John Muhammad had a hard time turning themselves off after they had been taugh to kill. So have many others.

The latest tragedy occured in Georgia, when soldiers recently returned from Iraq got into an argument after being ejected from a strip club. One was killed and his body burned by his "friends" in an effort to conceal it.

I came across this site today. I am glad that someone is thinking about this issue. Is Rumsfeld thinking about it? I doubt it. Conservatives are peddling anew the Saddam equals Osama line and the administration now says we will turn Iraq over to the Iraqis by June. A few weeks ago anyone who advocated turning over power so quickly was called a treasonous Dixie Chick.

Of course, we won't really be leaving. Lest we forget, this war was fought to give America a military presence in the region. We don't plan to go anywhere. The Iraqis will still be mad and will continue to shoot down American helicopters. By the way, more Americans have been killed in seven months in Iraq than were killed in the first two years of the Vietnam War.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Bush is the Front Runner

Read it and weep. Zev Chafets is a New York Daily News columnist whose opinions are rarely in sync with my own. But his column this week was sadly right on point.

"It's the electoral college stupid." That must become the mantra of the democratic party in 2004. Unfortunately the electoral map doesn't look good for us. The red states have gained electoral votes, and the blue states have lost. The exception is California and the republicans made a move with Schwarzenegger that helps Bush's chances there.

I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who remembers the debacle of November 2000. That was a civics lesson we should never forget. Democratic commentators either have amnesia or a bad case of denial. No one emphasizes the electoral college edge that Bush has. Polls showing Bush vulnerability don't mean much. Lest we forget, the popular vote doesn't count.

Bush can be defeated but the democratic nominee will be the underdog and we must never lose sight of that fact.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

"The Americans Have to Die"

For months we were told that hatred of Saddam would equal love for the U.S. As the commercial says, "Not exactly."

Many Iraqis hate us. They hate us because we have humiliated them or because they are pious Muslims and don't want to be ruled by infidels.
More Freedom Rider

You Read It Here First

Regular readers of Freedom Riders know that in a November 2nd post I declared that John Kerry's presidential bid is toast. His bread is burned because he voted in favor of the war in Iraq.

Well, well, well. Bigger names than mine have jumped onto the Freedom Rider's bandwagon. The Boston Globe and syndicated columnist Cynthia Tucker have proven that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. They have figured out what the Freedom Rider has been saying for a long time.

Voting against war in Iraq was not a liability. It was imperative for anyone who wanted to reach democrat voters sick of their leaders complacency and acquiescence to the Bush regime. Poor Kerry has now put on casual work day clothes and ridden a motorcycle onto the set of the Jay Leno Show. I think he was better off shooting pheasants in Iowa.
Truth at Last

I could not believe my eyes. A major American newspaper, the Washington Post, actually published an op-ed about the one-sided pro-Israeli bias in American politics.

The authors, Cornel West and Michael Lerner, dispassionately make the case that the democratic party in particular, is too beholden financially to pro-Israeli interests. The smack down of Howard Dean, who merely said we should be "even handed" in the Middle East was apparently the last straw for the authors as it was for many others. Let's hope this is the beginning of a real debate about American policy regarding Israel.


Despite Rumsfeld's recent denial (see yesterday's post) I recall being told that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms. It was never true and the situation will only get worse when Arabs see photos of U.S. soldiers tying up Iraqi women and children.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

They ARE on Drugs

More than once I have asked myself if the Bushies are on drugs. It all began when they said that an Arab Muslim nation would want to be controlled by infidels. They certainly got that wrong.

They they tell me that Saddam and Osama are practically the same guy. They they denied saying it. Then they tell me that Iraqis will greet us with open arms. Then they deny saying it. They they said Saddam had WMDs. Then they denied that too. I began to wonder if they were on drugs or if they thought the rest of us were.

Well the mystery is solved. Colin Powell has opened up like an addict at an NA meeting. In an interview with a Saudi newspaper he admits to taking the sleep aide Ambien, which can be addictive. In the name of journalistic integrity I have to point out that several years ago I took Ambien. My doctor told me about the drug's habit forming potential when he prescribed it but would not give me a refill. I resolved whatever was bugging me at the time and got my z's without the help of any more pills, but back to Powell. I wonder if his doctor is as cautious as mine.

Powell does say he only uses them if he is changing time zones. That doesn't explain why he lied at the United Nations back in February. There is no time zone change between Washington and New York. So unfortunately he is claiming to have been clean and sober when he gave that speech that will live in infamy (October 15th posts).

Powell also said that "everyone" uses Ambien. Who is everyone? Is it Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice or all of the above? Frankly I hope they are all on drugs. It makes everything more logical and explains that pretzel incident too.

Jessica Lynch Topless

It seems that Jessica Lynch was incredibly friendly with her fellow soldiers. So friendly in fact that she felt comfortable being topless and posing for photos while in that state. Who else but Larry Flynt would have the pics.

I really am tired of ordinary people being turned into heroes because they accidentally find themselves in trouble. Enough already. By the way, this story first popped up several months ago in British newspapers. I wonder if it was mentioned in the televised biopic the other night? I wonder if it was mentioned in the current Time cover story? I haven't checked but my guess is that it doesn't come up at all.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Lori Piestewa, Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch

Is it worse to sensationalize a soldier who is famous for being in a car accident in Iraq or a child kidnapped by a perverted religious fanatic? Tonight anyone who really cares about the answer will have to watch one and channel surf to the other. You can watch the Jessica Lynch story or the Elizabeth Smart story. At least Lynch chose to exploit her own story. Elizabeth Smart was done in by her own parents.

Let's rehash the history of Jessica Lynch. At first we were told that she had been shot and stabbed in a ferocious gun battle with Iraqi troops. Then we were told she was injured when her vehicle crashed and never fired her weapon. Shoshana Johnson and Lori Piestewa did in fact engage in battle. Both were shot. Piestewa, the mother of two preschool children, was killed. Johnson was captured by the Iraqis. Johnson was discharged from the army with a disability payment of $500 per month. Lynch is gettting $1,500.

Then we were told that commandos stormed the hospital where she was being held. Then we were told that no storming was necessary. The Iraqis just let them inside.

Last week we were told that a medical examination of Lynch showed evidence of anal rape. Now we are told by Iraqi doctors who cared for her that the rape story isn't true. What does Lynch say? Only that she has no memory of being raped. I wonder why someone who has no memory of her ordeal is getting a $1 million book deal.

When the rape story first surfaced I was skeptical. Not necessarily because I believed that the incident hadn't taken place but that the timing of the story was suspicious. You have to give it to the Bushies. They have a knack for propaganda. As soon as things go badly in Iraq they produce torture tapes, news of mass graves or rapes of blonde damsels in distress.

Jessica Lynch notwithstanding, it must be pointed out that the situation in Iraq grows worse by the day. Another helicopter was shot down and six were killed. The army retaliated by dropping 500-pound bombs in Tikrit. I wonder how many civilians were hit by them.

But don't worry your pretty little heads about it. The U.S. military says it has the upper hand. I don't know about anyone else but I don't feel any better when I hear rosy scenarios from this government. Do you remember words like "cake walk?" The cons, neo and otherwise, told us we would drop a few bombs and waltz into Baghdad with cheering throngs in our wake.

But I digress with war news. Let's get back to Jessica Lynch. It is true that if she were a man her story would not be in the news at all. If she weren't white she wouldn't be in the news. But white and blonde and cute was too much to be ignored. Did I mention that Elizabeth Smart is also white and blonde? So watch Jessica or Elizabeth and let me know your verdict. I will not be watching either one.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Haiti and the Louisiana Purchase

Today the U.S. Mint announced the creation of a new nickel to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. The announcement made me wonder if Americans are aware of the role that the Haitian revolution played in the transaction that doubled the size of the United States. This site is for kids, but it works for adults just as well. The loss of Haiti deprived Napoleon of the port of entry he planned to use for his American empire. It also deprived him of cash and forced him to take the money and run.

It is important to remember that the Louisiana Purchase encompassed not just Louisiana, but parts or all of present day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, an area of more than 800,000 square miles. Of course, if the land hadn't been purchased we would have found a way to go to war and take it from France, but it wasn't theirs to claim either. They stole it from the Indians before we had the chance to do it.

It is ironic that the Louisiana Purchase came about because of a slave revolt. In the end it hastened American expansionism which always meant the conquest of Indian lands and the further spread of slavery. Haiti's role in the history of the United States is one of many things I was never taught in school or college either for that matter.

It is too bad that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and company weren't taught the history of Iraq. They would have known that it was created by Winston Churchill and others who redrew the map of the Middle East after World War I. Can you imagine?

"Um Winston, do you think it's a problem putting the Sunnis in power when most of the people are Shiites?"

"No, don't worry about it. Put the lines there anyway."

I don't know if the conversation went like that but you get the idea. Ignorance of history has caused and will continue to cause great damage to our country.

Then again, they probably do know the history of Iraq. It just didn't matter to them.

Thou Shalt Think for Thyself, Part II

In an October 13th post I noted an increase in the levels of ignorance, intolerance and just plain stupidity among the faithful. Well, the situation appears to be getting worse. Christians are helping atheists make their case that religion is the opiate of the masses. In Passaic, New Jersey crowds are visiting a vacant lot because they claim to see the Virgin Mary in a tree stump. (You may have to register, but you can read the story for free.) I recently joked that I could start my own religion and have members within one week. If people think they see the Virgin on a piece of wood I am probably right. If I weren't afraid to mock the Lord I would do it just to prove a point.

As a Protestant I don't fully understand the veneration of the Virgin, but I do know that the way to go about is to attend mass, not hang around a tree stump in a parking lot. The Catholic church is apparently no longer in the business of declaring that the Virgin was seen as in Lourdes and Fatima. Americans declare for themselves that they saw the Virgin only to be told by a Diocese that it isn't true. Protestants can't laugh too much. We recently experienced worship of a piece of stone in Alabama because the Ten Commandments were written on it. I guess the worshippers forgot that idolatry is seriously frowned upon in the bible.

As I said before, I don't know why people think they have to suspend common sense and the thought processes they use every day when religion enters the picture. Unfortunately, religious belief is still inspired by fear at this late date in history. We hedge our bets when it comes to religion. We don't really see the Virgin in a tree stump but what the heck. If we say we do we are covered. We know that forwarding an email promising blessings is really cheapening religious belief, but suppose it works. Better not chance it. Send it anyway.

If we call ourselves believers we should remember that God knows all about us and is still merciful. We don't have to be perfect. He loves us in spite of our foibles. If you don't go to heaven it won't be because you deleted a chain email or admitted you didn't see the Virgin in Passaic. Jesus brought us Good News, not delusion in vacant lots.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Talk to CBS

Do you want to register your disgust with CBS? I don't know how much good it will do, but sign the online petition here. It might make you feel better.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

CBS Pulls the Plug

Why did CBS pull the plug on the Reagan bio-pic? Because they don't want to antagonize Republican politicians. Federal Communication Commision rules regulating the networks are about to change. If the Republicans smile on CBS and their cohorts they will be able to own more stations in one market than they are currently permitted. By the way, if the networks get their way more and more of the media will be in fewer and fewer hands. Wonderful.

Linda Tripp

Why did John Ashcroft's Justice Department settle Linda Tripp's lawsuit and give her nearly $600K? To make Clinton look bad my dears. Tripp lied on a Defense Department security clearance form and didn't report being arrested for theft. She claims the Clinton administration gave this information to the media. Actually it was her own stepmother who told a reporter. Read the real story here. Read lazy reporting from CNN here. They didn't even bother to fact check.

Both stories prove that the media is anything but liberal.
Klansman with a Conscience

"The Klan is needed today as never before."
Senator Robert Byrd in 1946

"I should rather die a thousand times and see old glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again than see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen of the wilds."
Senator Robert Byrd, late 1940s, on the impendind desegregation of the U.S. military

"There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word."
Senator Robert Byrd in 2001

"Indeed, we may have sparked a new international arms race as countries move ahead to develop WMD as a last ditch attempt to ward off a possible preemptive strike from a newly belligerent U.S. which claims the right to hit where it wants. In fact, there is little to constrain this President. Congress, in what will go down in history as its most unfortunate act, handed away its power to declare war for the foreseeable future and empowered this President to wage war at will."
Senator Robert Byrd in 2003

Yesterday the Senate voted to approve President Bush's request for $87 billion in aid for the Iraq war effort. In true cowardly fashion only six Senators were present and the vote was by voice only. There will be no record of how Senators voted.

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia has been the most eloquent voice in American politics against the war in Iraq. His voice was the only one to shout "Nay" when the vote was taken. He is also the only member of the Senate, as far as we know, who once belonged to the KKK. He calls his Klan membership a "youthful mistake" although he was a less than youthful 29 when he uttered the 1946 quote. Byrd filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act for 14 hours straight. He voted against the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court.

Where were the liberals on the Iraq debate? My Senators, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, are allegedly liberal. Both voted in favor of the war with Iraq. The most they can do now is talk about the President's bad planning and say that we must support the troops and we can't cut and run and we must stand firm and the terrorists can't win and blah, blah, and blah.

Robert Byrd is no smarter than Clinton or Schumer. They knew what he knew, that this war was a sham perpetrated on the American people. But they supported it anyway because they were afraid. They were afraid to be called soft on terror. They and other democrats were afraid to face the public after an American military victory. They were afraid to to say that the President and his staff were all liars.

They knew that Iraq would erupt in righteous anger over American occupation. They knew that jihadists from around the world would converge on Iraq to kill American soldiers. They knew that the embargo of the last ten years had rendered Saddam Hussein's weapons capability useless and that he was no danger to us. But they still voted yes.

The democratic party is a sham. The most outspoken voice against the madness of militarism is an 86 year-old Dixiecrat racist. Ivy League educated liberals stick their fingers into the wind to decide how to cast their votes. Their cynicism is going to destroy our nation. I have always felt that war in Iraq would damage our country terribly. It may spark a wider war, or terror attacks beyond the scale of 9/11. Byrd said the following in a speech on May 21st.

Truth has a way of asserting itself despite all attempts to obscure it. Distortion only serves to derail it for a time. No matter to what lengths we humans may go to obfuscate facts or delude our fellows, truth has a way of squeezing out through the cracks, eventually.

But the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter. The danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized.

If the democrats continue to cower in fear when they should stand in fight then Byrd will be proven correct. The damage to our nation will be dreadful before anything is done to stop the mad men and women who have put us in this awful situation.

Debtors Prison

The term debtors prison conjures up images of Charles Dickens' novels set in Victorian England. Apparently debtors prison is alive and well in America for those uninsured who can't pay their hospital bills. The Wall Street Journal, a notoriously left wing publication, tells the story of hospitals, including Yale University, that have debtors arrested if they don't show up for court hearings. The process is known as "Body Attachment." The term sounds like either a medical procedure or the title of a bad horror movie.

It is appalling to me that hospitals of all places can be so callous. If they are concerned about the uninsured why don't they lobby for change in our health care system instead of rounding up people who are sick and poor. Unfortunately, the failure of health care reform in the Clinton administration has frightened every other presidential hopeful from taking on the issue.

The lack of compassion in American society is growing and becoming uglier by the day. I would hope that legislators in the states where this practice takes place would pass regulations making body attachment illegal. But I won't hold my breath. The hospitals lobbyists will appear at state capitals as if by magic, and not to discuss reform. Those of us who have health insurance can only pray we don't lose it and those without can only pray they don't get sick. We certainly can't depend on our political leaders for help.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Israeli Knowledge of Terror Attacks before 9/11?

Did the Israeli government have advance knowledge of the terror attacks that took place on September 11, 2001? I first became aware of the story of Israelis posing as art students at U.S. government facilities. If I were selling art it wouldn't be at a DEA office. Even FOX news reported this story, but later backed down.

This story from a Scottish newspaper asks this question. Did Israel know about the terror attacks and do nothing to stop them? Were they so eager to have the U.S. do their bidding in the Middle East that they allowed 3,000 Americans to die? What does our government know about this? Was the Bush administration really surprised on 9/11?

None of these articles conclusively provide answers, but they provide us with a lot of important questions. September 11th will unfortunately be like the assassination of JFK. We will never know the truth. We have a craven press and Congress who will never ask how Israeli "students" who followed Mohammed Atta later ended up in New Jersey filming the burning towers. They will never ask why Bin Laden's relatives were escorted out of the country without being interrogated. Before we call Bush the villain we should ask why Tom Daschle caved on the President's request not to investigate 9/11.

It is a shame that Imiri Baraka didn't write a poem about this but instead wrote about an internet based urban legend that Israelis and other Jews were warned not to go to the World Trade Center. If he was going to be villified it should have been over a legitimate news story.

The kid glove treatment of the Israeli government by American politicians and media spells doom for both countries. Israel is poised to build a wall separating Palestinians from Israel, from their families, from their lands and from employment. There are also plans to make Palestinians carry ID a la passes in South Africa under apartheid. Unfortunately no one dares speak. The lack of criticism of Israel only emboldens American hawks who have a kindred spirit in Ariel Sharon, who continues to stick his fingers in America's eye without so much as a peep out of the Congress or the media.

Both the U.S. and Israeli are now ruled by their worst elements and supported by fundamentalists. Is it any wonder that Tom DeLay and other right wing Christians are strong supporters of the Israeli government? Both believe in control and aggression masked as righteousness. The truly righteous in both nations must speak out against them.

Both Israel and the U.S. endanger the entire world with their arrogance and aggression. Senator Trent Lott said of Iraq, "Honestly, it's a little bit tougher than I thought it was going to be. If we have to we should just mow the whole place down, see what happens." How telling. We stupidly think that we can invade and occupy a country under the guise of liberating it from a tyrant (although when Saddam Hussein was our tyrant we didn't care), insult the people who live there because we know jack about their culture, and then express surprise when some of them want to kill us because they don't like being occupied.

The attack on the Army helicopter that killed 16 Americans will not be the last. We can't open Baghdad's airport because there are thousands of missing shoulder fired missiles. Lovely. Yesterday's New York Times asked the question, "Who Botched the Occupation?" The author makes good points but never acknowledges that the effort was doomed from the start.

It is truly terrifying that we are ruled by a clique so drunk with power that they thought this ill fated venture was going to work. Did they really believe that Shiites oppressed by Saddam Hussein would gain freedom but want to be ruled by infidels? Did they know that the holy places of the Shiite faith are in Iraq? If they knew did they understand the significance of that fact? Probably not. You can't be empathetic and imperialistic. The two just don't go together.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Note to the AP


To: Associated Press
From: Freedom Rider
Subject: Bush Delusions of Grandeur

I know that George W. Bush thinks he is called directly by the Almighty. However, the rest of us don't have to agree with him. It is especially important that a news organization not agree with him. It was bad enough when you portrayed him as an angel, but now you have portrayed him as God. Please cease and desist from portraying him as an angel, God, or as anything else which gives the impression that he is a sacred being.

Thank you.

Frequent readers will remember my October 13th post regarding an AP photo showing Bush as an angel. So much for the liberal media.

John Kerry Implodes

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry should put himself out of his misery and end his campaign for president. In yesterday's New York Times we see Kerry manage to both contradict himself and look foolish in an ill advised photo-op, all in a losing effort to sink Howard Dean, the Democratic front runner.

It wasn't too long ago that Kerry was the front runner, at least the right wing thought he was. Rush Limbaugh took to making fun of his looks and calling him "Lurch." One Republican said that he looked, "French." Mon Dieu! But Kerry snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by voting in favor of the resolution allowing Bush to go to war against Iraq. He has tried to get out of it by saying he only wanted to threaten Saddam Hussein but it just doesn't wash. The resolution gave the President the authority to strike Iraq militarily and not tell Congress so much as the time of the day for an additional 48 hours. Kerry knows this of course, but he blew his chances for the nomination with that one vote.

Kerry is Exhibit A in demonstrating the political dangers of listening to the conventional wisdom. In the case of Iraq the conventional wisdom said that Bush was popular, so popular that anyone who confronted him was dead meat before he even got started. It said that we were going to beat Saddam Hussein and that any politician with common sense didn't want to explain a vote against the war after American troops marched triumphantly into Baghdad. The candidates who voted in support of the war, Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, and Lieberman can only sit back and watch Howard Dean run away with the nomination because they voted to back the President on Iraq. Despite his supposed anti-war credentials Wesley Clark initially supported the Bush effort as well.

Actually the collective bad decision making goes back to November 2000. After Bush was selected the victor by the Supreme Court we were told by the press and punditry that most people didn't care and had in fact "gotten over it." I never got over the theft of democracy and I knew I was not alone. Millions of Americans are still angry about the selection of George W. Bush and more than anything else want a democratic candidate who is unafraid to take Bush on.

Unfortunately none of the remaining anti-war candidates, Kucinich, Sharpton, and Moseley-Braun has a serious chance of getting the nomination. Although I have to point out that Moseley-Braun has replaced her previous lame debate statement, "I come from a law enforcement background," with " We can't just cut and run," in discussing the ludicrous and grotesque request for $87 billion in tax payer money to bail out the Bush failure.

Kerry has now resorted to shooting pheasants in Iowa. His point, if indeed he has one, is to prove that he is not anti-gun owner. At the same time he chides for Dean for seeming to side with the NRA on the issue of regulation of hand guns. How important is the issue of gun control in determining the nominee and winner next November? It isn't important at all, so Kerry's emphasis only emphasizes his desperation.

John Kerry doesn't look quite as silly as Dukakis in a tank, but he comes close. The issue for Democrats desperate to defeat is Bush is very simple. The nominee has to be someone who was willing to speak out against the Iraq war, the act which most embodied all that is wrong with the Bush administration. It saddens me that Kerry and most of other democratic candidates were so craven, cynical or both that they missed an opportunity to lead the nation away from the lure of militarism.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The Horrors of Slavery

"Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world."

Southern Slavery, As It Was

I read an article in the October 28th New York Times that literally kept me from falling asleep. You may have to register to read the article, but it is free.

The article tells the story of Dr. J. Marion Sims, called the father of gynecology. In the 1840s he developed a surgical treatment for vaginal fistulas, which formed because of prolonged labor. Dr. Sims developed his treatment by operating on slave women, without anesthesia. One woman endured the procedure 30 times, without the anesthesia which had then become available.

In his October 28th post, David Neiwert writes in his blog Orcinus about white supremacist efforts to sugar coat slavery and in one case to threaten the life of black Mississippian who plans to establish a museum dedicated to the history of slavey.

I am long overdue in giving David kudos for Orcinus. Before Freedom Rider existed I would email him in response to his posts about fascism. He printed some of my first efforts and in the process encouraged me to keep writing. You can give him partial thanks or blame for Freedom Rider. David performs a great service by writing about white supremacist groups operating throughout the country, a much neglected subject. I also have to thank him for helping me write about Dr. Sims. I didn't know how to channel the pain reading about him caused me.

Do yourself a favor and check out all the links that David gives in his article. By the way, according to the Times there is a monument to Dr. Sims in Central Park. I certainly hope that it will come down.
I am a little tardy in thanking Yesterday they provided a link to my October 23rd post on Orrin Hatch's antics in the Senate Judiciary Committee. I had also neglected to provide a link to that great site. Better late than never.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Presidential Prayer Team

In yesterday's post I should have explained more fully why I think the Presidential Prayer Team is fascist. In their FAQs they claim that their goal is to pray for leaders of future administrations as well as for Bush. Sounds good, but I see no prayer requests for Al Sharpton, Howard Dean or John Kerry. The only requests are for Bush cabinet members.

There is also a profile of Lt. Gen. William Boykin. Boykin has been in the news for saying that God put Bush in the White House and that his God is bigger than Allah. I guess size does matter. The Prayer Team thinks Boykin is OK.

Let's see. We have a group that requests prayers for one political party and not the other, and extols the virtues of political leaders who insult millions of people around the world. It gets better.

Their Adopt Our Troops Campaign asks us to pray for the President and "his troops." I didn't know that the U.S. military belongs to George W. Bush. They are my troops just as much as they are the President's. This is a democracy, at least for now. But it still gets better.

The goals of Adopt Our Troops are to insure that every member of the armed services is prayed for and to "...counteract the negative aspects of anti-war protests and anti-American sentiment."

I know that calling a group fascist is a serious charge to make, but if that group uses a religious pretext to favor one political party over another, claims that troops in a democratic nation belong to the leader of the spiritually favored party and feels it necessary to elicit prayers to counteract the exercise of our free speech rights then I have to say that the shoe fits and the Presidential Prayer Team should wear it.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Slacker Weekend

Scary and Funny

Being a web surfer can be a curse. Sometimes you discover things you would rather not have known about. The Presidential Prayer Team is one such item. Be sure to stay on the site long enough to see your 2003 President Prayer Team Christmans Ornament pop up ad. I suppose that means there are ornaments for other years as well. On my October 7th post "Pray for Rush and Bush" and on October 9th "Nitwits?" I discussed this very frightening move towards fascism. Worshiping a political leader is fascist. Period.

I now feel obligated to give my readers a cheap laugh. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Orrin Hatch, Stunt Man

Despicable! Americans dying in Iraq five months after the mission was supposedly accomplished? Outrageous! Workers loosing their livelihoods because their jobs have been sent to India? Offensive! Disparities in drug sentencing that give Limbaugh rehab for using and distributing but 65-year old Tommy Chong jail time and a fine for selling bongs? The hyperbole is not directed at any of these situations, but at a political cartoon.

During yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Senator Orrin Hatch used theatrics to throw Democrats off stride during Janice Rogers Brown's confirmation hearing by using a cartoon from Read Black Commentator's article on the hearing fireworks and on Judge Brown's scary background. If you have a media player you can see the two and a half hour hearing on C-Span. The anti-cartoon demagoguery starts almost at the very beginning of the hearing.

Just to set the record straight, 165 Bush judicial nominees have been confirmed, only three did not make it to a vote on the Senate floor. Two percent of Bush nominees have been rejected. How many Clinton nominees were never voted upon? A total of 63, 20% of his nominations were left without resolution.

Hatch and other conservatives accused Democrats of being anti-Hispanic when they rejected Miguel Estrada. They called their colleagues anti-Catholic when William Pryor was not confirmed (see my September 24th post). This time around anyone who questions Judge Rogers Brown will be labeled a racist discriminating against a conservative because she is black. Hatch and friends displayed the cartoon prominently during the hearing and watched gleefully as democratic senators out did one other in coming up with adjectives to decry the evils of a political cartoon.

Conservatives are terribly thin skinned. They can't take the Boondocks, Black Commentator, or made for tv movies about their idol Ronald Reagan. Now they are once again claiming persecution because a judge rated as less than qualified is nominated as a lifetime appointee to the federal judiciary. God forbid anyone question them.

As usual this is the real issue with the right wing. The rest of us are supposed to be quiet and let them have their way with us, sort of like the women groped by Governor-elect Schwarzenegger. In the case of judicial appointments Bush and company prove their strategic mettle by choosing nominees they know will not be confirmed. They then use the rejection as a means of attacking democrats and making it appear that the right are being treated unfairly.

When will Democrats wake up and smell the coffee? When Bush is inaugurated again in January 2005? I don't even know if that will do it. Is their a Democrat who will take Hatch on the next time he uses a political cartoon, or race baiting, or faith baiting to smear Democrats? Will the Democrats ever create vacancies on the federal bench the way Republicans did when Clinton was President?

We know the answers to these questions. I am still trying to figure out if democratic acquiescence is a matter of stupidity, expediency, or fear. Are we like the deer caught in headlights who sees the oncoming car but freezes in its tracks? Well, we aren't deer. We are human beings with the capacity to think and hopefully learn from our experiences. Our experiences on the senator Judiciary Committee should teach us to give no quarter to Orrin Hatch the next time he tries to pull another political stunt.