Sunday, October 30, 2011

From Michael Moore's Website

October 27th, 2011 7:46 AM
Life Among the 1%
By Michael Moore


Twenty-two years ago this coming Tuesday, I stood with a group of factory workers, students and the unemployed in the middle of the downtown of my birthplace, Flint, Michigan, to announce that the Hollywood studio, Warner Bros., had purchased the world rights to distribute my first movie, 'Roger & Me.' A reporter asked me, "How much did you sell it for?"

"Three million dollars!" I proudly exclaimed. A cheer went up from the union guys surrounding me. It was absolutely unheard of for one of us in the working class of Flint (or anywhere) to receive such a sum of money unless one of us had either robbed a bank or, by luck, won the Michigan lottery. On that sunny November day in 1989, it was like I had won the lottery -- and the people I had lived and struggled with in Michigan were thrilled with my success. It was like, one of us had made it, one of us finally had good fortune smile upon us. The day was filled with high-fives and "Way-ta-go Mike!"s. When you are from the working class you root for each other, and when one of you does well, the others are beaming with pride -- not just for that one person's success, but for the fact that the team had somehow won, beating the system that was brutal and unforgiving and which ran a game that was rigged against us. We knew the rules, and those rules said that we factory town rats do not get to make movies or be on TV talk shows or have our voice heard on any national stage. We were to shut up, keep our heads down, and get back to work. If by some miracle one of us escaped and commandeered a mass audience and some loot to boot -- well, holy mother of God, watch out! A bully pulpit and enough cash to raise a ruckus -- that was an incendiary combination, and it only spelled trouble for those at the top.

Until that point I had been barely getting by on unemployment, collecting $98 a week. Welfare. The dole. My car had died back in April so I had gone seven months with no vehicle. Friends would take me out to dinner, always coming up with an excuse to celebrate or commemorate something and then picking up the check so I would not have to feel the shame of not being able to afford it.

And now, all of a sudden, I had three million bucks! What would I do with it? There were men in suits making many suggestions to me, and I could see how those without a strong moral sense of social responsibility could be easily lead down the "ME" path and quickly forget about the "WE."

So I made some easy decisions back in 1989:

1. I would first pay all my taxes. I told the guy who did my 1040 not to declare any deductions other than the mortgage and to pay the full federal, state and city tax rate. I proudly contributed nearly 1 million dollars for the privilege of being a citizen of this great country.

2. Of the remaining $2 million, I decided to divide it up the way I once heard the folksinger/activist Harry Chapin tell me how he lived: "One for me, one for the other guy." So I took half the money -- $1 million -- and established a foundation to give it all away.

3. The remaining million went like this: I paid off all my debts, paid off the debts of some friends and family members, bought my parents a new refrigerator, set up college funds for our nieces and nephews, helped rebuild a black church that had been burned down in Flint, gave out a thousand turkeys at Thanksgiving, bought filmmaking equipment to send to the Vietnamese (my own personal reparations for a country we had ravaged), annually bought 10,000 toys to give to Toys for Tots at Christmas, got myself a new American-made Honda, and took out a mortgage on an apartment above a Baby Gap in New York City.

4. What remained went into a simple, low-interest savings account. I made the decision that I would never buy a share of stock (I didn't understand the casino known as the New York Stock Exchange and I did not believe in investing in a system I did not agree with).

5. Finally, I believed the concept of making money off your money had created a greedy, lazy class who didn't produce any product, just misery and fear among the populace. They invented ways to buy out companies and then shut them down. They dreamed up schemes to play with people's pension funds as if it were their own money. They demanded companies keep posting record profits (which was accomplished by firing thousands and eliminating health benefits for those who remained). I made the decision that if I was going to earn a living, it would be done from my own sweat and ideas and creativity. I would produce something tangible, something others could own or be entertained by or learn from. My work would create employment for others, good employment with middle class wages and full health benefits.

I went on to make more movies, produce TV series and write books. I never started a project with the thought, "I wonder how much money I can make at this?" And by never letting money be the motivating force for anything, I simply did exactly what I wanted to do. That attitude kept the work honest and unflinching -- and that, in turn I believe, resulted in millions of people buying tickets to these films, tuning in to my TV shows, and buying my books.

Which is exactly what has driven the Right crazy when it comes to me. How did someone from the left get such a wide mainstream audience?! This just isn't supposed to happen (Noam Chomsky, sadly, will not be booked on The View today, and Howard Zinn, shockingly, didn't make the New York Times bestseller list until after he died). That's how the media machine is rigged -- you are not supposed to hear from those who would completely change the system to something much better. Only wimpy liberals who urge caution and compromise and mild reforms get to have their say on the op-ed pages or Sunday morning chat shows.

Somehow, I found a crack through the wall and made it through. I feel very blessed that I have this life -- and I take none of it for granted. I believe in the lessons I was taught back in Catholic school -- that if you end up doing well, you have an even greater responsibility to those who don't fare the same. "The last shall be first and the first shall be last." Kinda commie, I know, but the idea was that the human family was supposed to divide up the earth's riches in a fair manner so that all of God's children would have a life with less suffering.

I do very well -- and for a documentary filmmaker, I do extremely well. That, too, drives conservatives bonkers. "You're rich because of capitalism!" they scream at me. Um, no. Didn't you take Econ 101? Capitalism is a system, a pyramid scheme of sorts, that exploits the vast majority so that the few at the top can enrich themselves more. I make my money the old school, honest way by making things. Some years I earn a boatload of cash. Other years, like last year, I don't have a job (no movie, no book) and so I make a lot less. "How can you claim to be for the poor when you are the opposite of poor?!" It's like asking: "You've never had sex with another man -- how can you be for gay marriage?!" I guess the same way that an all-male Congress voted to give women the vote, or scores of white people marched with Martin Luther Ling, Jr. (I can hear these righties yelling back through history: "Hey! You're not black! You're not being lynched! Why are you with the blacks?!"). It is precisely this disconnect that prevents Republicans from understanding why anyone would give of their time or money to help out those less fortunate. It is simply something their brain cannot process. "Kanye West makes millions! What's he doing at Occupy Wall Street?!" Exactly -- he's down there demanding that his taxes be raised. That, to a right-winger, is the definition of insanity. To everyone else, we are grateful that people like him stand up, even if and especially because it is against his own personal financial interest. It is specifically what that Bible those conservatives wave around demands of those who are well off.

Back on that November day in 1989 when I sold my first film, a good friend of mine said this to me: "They have made a huge mistake giving someone like you a big check. This will make you a very dangerous man. And it proves that old saying right: 'The capitalist will sell you the rope to hang himself with if he thinks he can make a buck off it.'"


Michael Moore

P.S. I will go to Oakland tomorrow afternoon to stand with Occupy Oakland against the out-of-control police.

From CNN.COM (Marx)

Who was Karl Marx?

By Mary Gabriel, Special to CNN
updated 10:42 AM EST, Sat October 29, 2011

Editor's note: Mary Gabriel is author of "Love and Capital, Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution" (Little, Brown and Company), a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award.

(CNN) -- There are few philosophers whose very name provokes more violent responses than Karl Marx.

His stern face, framed by a mass of gray hair, symbolizes for many Americans the costly battles of the 20th century: battles against communism, socialism, and authoritarianism fought in defense of democracy and free-market capitalism. As successive generations of Americans waged those fights, the philosophical disputes at the core of the conflicts embedded themselves into the American soul. So much so that when the "evil empire," whose seeds sprouted from Marx's doctrine, died as a result of the revolutions of 1989, the ideological battle did not.

Though the Soviet Union is but a memory, and that other communist behemoth -- China -- has mutated into a capitalist autocracy, the specter of Marx himself remains as potent as ever in 21st century U.S. political discourse. Since 2008 especially, with the fall of financial markets and the rise of Barack Obama, the charge "Marxist" has been hurled like toxic sludge against politicians seen as ready to redistribute wealth (to the advantage of most Americans), expand social safety nets, or ensure that all children receive a good education. Critics say these steps are merely the first along a slippery slope that inevitably ends in outright state control. Amid these warnings, the communist horrors of the 20th century float like dark apparitions, reminding us of the bad old days.

But I wonder how many of those who invoke the name of Marx in order to stifle political debate actually believe their own propaganda. Or are they conjuring up a convenient bogeyman at a time of great uncertainty. Do they raise Marx's image in order to deflect attention from slightly warmer bodies (Marx has been dead for 128 years)in positions of political or economic power who are actually more pernicious? I also wonder whether those who use Marx's name, and those who tremble at the thought of him, actually know much about the man. Are they reacting to Karl Marx or those things done in his name? I believe it is the latter. I also believe it is time to understand Marx so that we are no longer made to fear him.

When I began working on a biography of Marx's family in 2003, I was well acquainted with his theories. I knew, as most do, the history of the governments formed to reflect the state he had supposedly envisioned. I knew of the atrocities committed by those said to be his followers. I had not, however, been properly introduced to the man himself. What I discovered was not what I expected.

Karl Marx was a middle-class philosopher, economist, and journalist (whose main employer was a New York newspaper). He was also flawed in the extreme. He drank excessively, behaved shamefully in his home life, and worked obsessionally, though he produced little that earned him money or recognition during his lifetime. These flaws, however, made him more interesting because, despite being in a state of near constant personal crisis, he was able to accomplish what he set out to do -- he changed the world.

Marx began his opposition activities as a youth in Prussia against an absolute monarch who could not see, or perhaps chose not to see, that society was changing. The industrial revolution was spreading eastward and Prussian businessmen were eager to expand with it. But the old system of government would not allow for such progress. The king would not allow the democratic reforms that were the handmaidens of the new industrial order.

This was Marx's first battle, to expose the contradictions between the centuries-old monarchical system and the world as it existed in the first half of the 19th century. According to Marx, it was only natural that as the means of production changed -- in this case a move from an agricultural base to an industrial one -- society would be altered. And if, as he believed, a government's sole function was to serve the people, then government must also change. Marx saw this social evolution as inevitable. It only became revolution when the kings and their minions refused to reform.

By the 1850s, the industrialists had gained political power after revolts across Europe in 1848 caused kings to view proto-capitalists as allies against radicalized lower classes. The wheels of industry were humming, as were the halls of finance, where a new breed of speculator was born, addicted to risk in his quest for ever greater profit.

Marx quickly recognized that capitalism would institutionalize social and economic instability. The system's inherent hunger for new markets, new consumers, new and cheaper methods of production in order to increase the flow of capital would result in a destructive system of boom and bust. After each cataclysm, he predicted, the number of capitalists at the top of the pyramid would be smaller, while the base of disaffected workers grew. Gradually even the middle class would be included.

Marx believed that industrial capitalism had also created a new system of repression and exploitation. Politically and socially men were no more equal under this new order than they had been under a monarchy. Rights belonged to those with money and property; those with only a strong back or skilled hands could not even vote. Financially, those filling the ranks of the industrial workforce were arguably worse off.

There was evidence aplenty to support Marx's assessment. He lived in London, the richest city in the world. And yet as great as was its wealth, much greater was its poverty. In Marx's neighborhood, some people rented a space in a bed and called it comfort. Others paid for a few inches on a stairwell and called it home. Marx summed up the situation saying, "There must be something rotten in the very core of a social system which increases its wealth without diminishing its misery."

This is the field where Marx's ideas grew. He famously spent year after year in the British Museum Reading Room, trying to understand this new system, predict its course, and, finally, offer an alternative. Throughout the 16 years before he produced his greatest literary work Das Kapital, Marx's family lived in near continual destitution. Their sole consolation was that they believed Marx's work was noble and important, and that their suffering was small compared with the majority of people who sacrificed their lives so someone else could live in luxury.

Das Kapital and Marx's other political-economic writings were only one aspect of his work. He was also an organizer and educator. Through various small groups, he tried to teach workers, who had neither formal education nor viewed themselves as a political force. The courses included language, literature and history, but mostly politics and economics. Marx was convinced that the only way to successfully change society was to educate the population so that it could eventually lead itself.

In 1864, the most important of his many organizational endeavors was born, the International Working Men's Association. Its goal was to connect workers and trade unions throughout Europe and America to protect their rights in the face of an increasingly powerful capitalist system, whose tentacles had spread beyond individual nations and were encircling the globe. Marx recognized the working man's greatest power was his number.

Marx died in 1883, before his books gained a wide readership and before the workers he had been fighting for took their places in government as representatives of labor and socialist political parties. It had taken decades of struggle -- largely nonviolent -- for this to occur. But Marx knew the path to progress would be slow, and that ultimately the best way to re-balance society was through the ballot box. He also believed, however, that the working man had the right to revolt if those in power tried to deny him such political expression -- free speech, free assembly, freedom of the press -- and the vote.

Marx's actual vision for a government of the future was vague, which no doubt is why it has produced so many variants. But he believed ultimately mankind would naturally evolve out of capitalism and socialism, and embrace a communist society in which government was no longer necessary at all. It is a utopian dream that has occurred nowhere -- least of all in the countries most associated with his name.

Today, many people know Marx only through the crimes of the former communist countries. But Marx's ideas also helped give birth to mainstream political parties in Western Europe -- Britain's Labour Party, Spain's Socialist Party, France's Socialist Party, and Germany's Social Democratic Party. And yet, for some reason in America, these parties are generally not considered part of Marx's legacy.

In the United States, we have been taught to fear Marx for so long that we have forgotten those parts of his philosophy that have become integral to our own lives -- from free education to the right to bear arms. In fact, the era in modern American history that was most "Marxist" was the 1950s, when union membership was high, personal wealth spread more equitably, and the gap between the rich and poor relatively slim.

I came away from my Marx project believing that rather than demonizing Marx, it is better to understand him. If his name is used in political discourse, it should be done in the manner of other great thinkers: as a source of ideas. Whether or not we agree with him, there are lessons to be learned from Marx. To believe otherwise is to ignore a man and a period of history that are crucial to understanding our own.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Flatwoods Phantom

Years ago, back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I use to stay up with my mother late into the night and listen to WOR out of New York City and Long John Nebel's provocative and freewheeling radio talk show. The various and sundry characters (personalities, novelists, and numerous ‘crackpots’) he interviewed over the years made for a very entertaining and enlightening show.

One of the many and frequent paranormal topics he explored was Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). Though he was obviously intrigued by certain UFO reports and sightings, he called himself a “non-believer” – a curious skeptic. He was not someone who suffered fools willingly. His questions were always piercing and to the point, revealing fallacies of logic and inconsistencies.

I remember the night that Long John and his guests discussed (argued about) a close encounter of the third kind – 'The Flatwoods Phantom’. As some of you may know, on the evening of September 12, 1952, three young boys, ages 13, 12, and 10, witnessed a bright object streak cross the West Virginia sky.

The boys immediately ran to the home of Kathleen May (the mother of two of the boys) and told her that they had seen a UFO crash land on a hillside on a nearby farm. Soon there after, Mrs. May accompanied by the three boys, along with several other children and a 17-year-old West Virginia National Guardsman, Eugene (‘Gene’) Lemon, and his dog hiked over to the farm to see if they could locate what the boys had seen.

Later they would report that after nearing the crest of a hill Gene’s dog ran ahead into the night. Suddenly, they heard barking. Moments later the dog returned with its tail between its legs.

When they reached the top of the hill they saw what they described as a “large pulsating ball of fire". They also reported smelling a pungent odor that made their eyes and noses burn.

They then observed beneath an old oak tree two small lights to the left of the ball of fire. Directing his flashlight towards them, Lemon exposed the phantom. According to their account, the creature released a shrill hissing sound and then glided towards them.

At that point the group turned and fled in fear.

When Mrs. May returned home she contacted the local Sheriff, Robert Carr, and a local newspaperman, A. L. Stewart. Before returning to the site that night with the Sheriff, Mr. Stewart interviewed a number of the eyewitnesses.

He later reported that when he and the Sheriff arrived at the site they experienced, "a sickening, burnt, metallic odor still prevailing". Though Sheriff Carr and his deputy thoroughly searched the area, they reported finding no trace of the mysterious creature or the unidentified flying object.

Many years later, UFO investigators learned that on the night of the Flatwoods sighting, September 12, 1952, a meteor had been observed over the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The meteor smashed into the side of a hill near Elk River, West Virginia, roughly 10 miles southwest of the Flatwoods sighting. The pulsating red light seen by the group, was most likely one of several flashing red aircraft navigation beacons that were visible from the area of the sighting. As for the mysterious creature, investigators believe that it was most likely a barn owl.

Every year around the 12th of September there is a three day festival in Flatwoods, West Virginia, to celebrate what they called the “Green Monster”.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

From Robert Reich. Org

The Rise of the Regressive Right and the Reawakening of America

Sunday, October 16, 2011

by Robert Reich

A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward.

We are going to battle once again.

Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity, and tolerance. Progressives assume we’re all in it together: We all benefit from public investments in schools and health care and infrastructure. And we all do better with strong safety nets, reasonable constraints on Wall Street and big business, and a truly progressive tax system. Progressives worry when the rich and privileged become powerful enough to undermine democracy.

Regressives take the opposite positions.

Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and the other tribunes of today’s Republican right aren’t really conservatives. Their goal isn’t to conserve what we have. It’s to take us backwards.

They’d like to return to the 1920s — before Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, the minimum wage, Medicare and Medicaid, worker safety laws, the Environmental Protection Act, the Glass-Steagall Act, the Securities and Exchange Act, and the Voting Rights Act.

In the 1920s Wall Street was unfettered, the rich grew far richer and everyone else went deep into debt, and the nation closed its doors to immigrants.

Rather than conserve the economy, these regressives want to resurrect the classical economics of the 1920s — the view that economic downturns are best addressed by doing nothing until the “rot” is purged out of the system (as Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, so decorously put it).

In truth, if they had their way we’d be back in the late nineteenth century — before the federal income tax, antitrust laws, the pure food and drug act, and the Federal Reserve. A time when robber barons — railroad, financial, and oil titans — ran the country. A time of wrenching squalor for the many and mind-numbing wealth for the few.

Listen carefully to today’s Republican right and you hear the same Social Darwinism Americans were fed more than a century ago to justify the brazen inequality of the Gilded Age: Survival of the fittest. Don’t help the poor or unemployed or anyone who’s fallen on bad times, they say, because this only encourages laziness. America will be strong only if we reward the rich and punish the needy.

The regressive right has slowly consolidated power over the last three decades as income and wealth have concentrated at the top. In the late 1970s the richest 1 percent of Americans received 9 percent of total income and held 18 percent of the nation’s wealth; by 2007, they had more than 23 percent of total income and 35 percent of America’s wealth. CEOs of the 1970s were paid 40 times the average worker’s wage; now CEOs receive 300 times the typical workers’ wage.

This concentration of income and wealth has generated the political heft to deregulate Wall Street and halve top tax rates. It has bankrolled the so-called Tea Party movement, and captured the House of Representatives and many state governments. Through a sequence of presidential appointments it has also overtaken the Supreme Court.

Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Roberts (and, all too often, Kennedy) claim they’re conservative jurists. But they’re judicial activists bent on overturning seventy-five years of jurisprudence by resurrecting states’ rights, treating the 2nd Amendment as if America still relied on local militias, narrowing the Commerce Clause, and calling money speech and corporations people.

Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern. Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward. Sometimes it takes an economic shock like the bursting of a giant speculative bubble; sometimes we just reach a tipping point where the frustrations of average Americans turn into action.

Look at the Progressive reforms between 1900 and 1916; the New Deal of the 1930s; the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s; the widening opportunities for women, minorities, people with disabilities, and gays; and the environmental reforms of the 1970s.

In each of these eras, regressive forces reignited the progressive ideals on which America is built. The result was fundamental reform.

Perhaps this is what’s beginning to happen again across America.

From TED

Bunker Roy: Learning from a barefoot movement

Monday, October 17, 2011


Jack Benny with Johnnie Ray

This is the third clip of an old Jack Benny Show in 1953. It is about Jack's reluctance to pay Johnnie Ray the price Ray's manager set for his appearance on Jack's show. In the opening monologue which is not on this clip, Jack discusses his long ago football days.  In the clip preceding this one there are some hilarious scenes about Rochester's day off. The final clip features Danny Thomas, Benny and Ray doing a bit together to the end the show. I remember watching this (possibly live) in 1953 on my family's first television set that my Dad purchased that same year when we lived in Norris, Tennessee.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chapter Three of My Memoir

If you have not read chapter one or two click here.


The war ended three months before my first birthday. Though everyone was being told that Oak Ridge had helped to accomplish perhaps the most important scientific missions in the history of the world, I was too young to be influenced by such propaganda. Besides, the ‘Monkey’ was busy exploring the world from a new perspective and pace – no longer crawling I was running everywhere.

Swollen with pride, adults too were standing more erect. They had saved a million lives, they were told, and helped launch the Atomic Age that would one day provide an unlimited supply of energy. Within two decades homes, factories and automobiles would be powered by nuclear energy. Ships would sail the seven seas fueled by a nuclear capsule no larger than a chunk of coal. Even cancer would be cured.

They could not know what we know now: that hardly any of those claims would be realized. Instead, hundreds of billions of dollars would be spent for a nuclear arsenal large enough to destroy the world, the safe disposal of nuclear waste would remain unsolved, and the majority of us would believe nuclear power to be an unsafe alternative to our energy needs.

The jubilation did not last long. Once the horrific details of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were exposed in newspapers and Fox Movietone newsreels, the celebration and pride plummeted. With the nuclear genie out of the bottle the future looked ominous.


In 1942 the city plan, designed by the architectural and engineering firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, provided for a population of only 13,000 residents. Within a year, estimates for residential housing had increased to 45,000, escalating to 65,000 by the spring of 1945. Later that fall, the population would peaked at 75,000.

In September 1945 single- and multiple-family units, including apartments, housed nearly 29,000 residents. Dormitories held another 14,000 single men and women. The remaining population of over 32,000 lived in barracks, trailers, hutments and old farmhouses. Tens of thousands commuted from surrounding communities.

Beside housing units, drug and grocery stores, barbershops, schools, theaters and a hospital had to be designed and built, including water plants, a water distribution system, sanitary plants, sewer lines and an electrical scheme. Though the normal working schedule consisted of two 10-hour shifts per day, road grading and other construction projects took place 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The scope and speed at which the construction was done challenges the imagination.

When John Merrill took charge of designing Oak Ridge, he wanted to make it easy for the city's new residents to find each other. The plan called for the city to be built on the south-facing slop of Black Oak Ridge, between Tennessee Avenue running east to west along the valley and Outer Drive along the ridge top. Beginning at the eastern end of the reservation, running from the valley to the ridge, avenues were given names of states, progressing alphabetically to the west, e.g., Arkansas, California, Delaware, etc.

The roads, circles and lanes extending off these avenues were given names starting with the first letter of the avenue. Roads and circles were usually through streets, while lanes were dead ends. All were constructed to follow the natural contours of the land, preserving the ecological beauty of the area.

The city was divided into three distinct neighborhoods: Elm Grove, Cedar Hill and Pine Valley. Each area had a shopping center and an elementary school within walking distance. There were five single-family home designs, ranked according to size from ‘A’ to ‘F’. Most of them were two- and three-bedroom cemesto homes made of fiberboard coated with a mixture of cement and asbestos. The majority were built on spacious wooded lots. They all had hardwood floors, fireplaces and porches, furnished with coal-fired furnaces and new electrical appliances. They were assigned according to family size and a person's importance to the project’s mission – primarily for VIPs (scientists, engineers, Army officers, doctors and those in executive/management positions).

As the population grew, small prefabricated flattop houses began to arrive on trucks from outside the gates. They had new electrical appliances, beds, coal-burning stoves, built-in bookcases and cabinets.

Electricity, water, trash pickup and coal delivery were free, as well as bus transportation throughout the reservation. During the war most streets remained dirt (mud) and gravel. There were over 150 miles of wooden boardwalks.

Though living conditions were confined, overcrowded and uncomfortable, for ‘Negro’ residents they were worst. Consistent with discriminatory practices and customs, schools and housing for Blacks were rudimentary and segregated. Blacks were assigned the worst jobs and had to ride in the back of buses. The Army’s mission was to complete the project as soon as possible, not to encourage or advance social change.

Even after President Truman order the desegregation of the Armed Forces on July 26, 1946, the federal reservation remained segregated. Blacks could only live south of what is now Tuskegee Drive, known as Gamble Valley. Housing remained inadequate. Black workers and their families predominately lived in un-insulated, one-room ‘hutments’.

Black elementary school children could only attend the all-Black Scarboro Elementary School. Black high school students were bussed 50 miles round-trip to the segregated Austin High School in Knoxville.

When the war was over and the Army had left, there were attempts by the Oak Ridge city council in the early 1950s to desegregate the public schools. However, it was not until the fall of 1955 (a year after the 1954 landmark decision by the U. S. Supreme Court, declaring “separate but unequal” public schools unconstitutional) that Oak Ridge High School was finally integrated. To its credit, the city was the first in the South to integrate its public school system and did so with little resistance.

The war’s end led to a mass exodus. In three months the population of Oak Ridge dropped from 75,000 to less than 60,000. By June 1946 the population had plunged to 34,000, turning the once over crowded city into a more relaxed and settled community.

As Oak Ridge began to transition from a temporary military town to a permanent municipality, residents began to demand more authority over their lives. They wanted to be treated as citizens rather than subservient government employees. After years of working six, even seven days a week, living in cramped uncomfortable accommodations, they felt they deserved better working and living conditions.

Workers immediately began to petition for union representation. Though the military was far from enthusiastic about the postwar unionization of the Clinton Engineering Works (CEW), by the spring of 1946 it was resigned to the inevitability.

Once the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was officially notified by the War Department that the CEW complex could be unionized, six national unions – one independent, two affiliated with the CIO and three with the AFL – sought recognition from the NLRB. The union my father belonged to, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Works (IBEW), was under the umbrella of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

Though workers had a long list of grievances and demands, ranging from raises to compensate for wartime inflation to health and safety issues, the real struggle that summer was over which labor federation would ultimately represent them.

In the end, the 1946 NLRB elections in Oak Ridge did not lead to the promised sweeping changes at the CEW plants that workers desired. Instead, the AFL and CIO victories were merely the beginning of a long, often frustrating process of bargaining between the unions and contractors over workers compensation, seniority and working conditions.

In January 1946, while waiting for a house to become available, we moved from Happy Valley to a trailer camp within the city limits of Oak Ridge. It was located on Alpaca Way, south of the Oak Ridge Turnpike and east of Gamble Valley Road.

Directly behind our trailer was a small recreational area. There were metal swings, monkey bars, seesaws, and a huge slid. Even now, after all these years, the memories of that playground for my sister who was eight at the time remain vividly nostalgic. There, in eyesight of our trailer, she was able to exercise her independent spirit and innate athleticism.

Just north of the trailer camp and the Oak Ridge Turnpike was the Oak Ridge municipal swimming pool. A year earlier the Army Corp of Engineers had lined the old Robertsville Cross Springs Lake with concrete, converting it into one of the largest spring-fed swimming pools in the nation. Inspired by the large outdoor pool, my sister over a period of days painstaking excavated near our trailer her own ‘swimming pool’. To this day she has fawn memories of playing with me in that rather large self-made mud puddle.

The grammar school my sister attended was in walking distance. Regrettably, her only recollection of the school is somewhat traumatic. One day, her second grade teacher asked to talk with her after school. Leading my sister to the girl’s restroom, the teacher asked if she knew who had written “Alice” on the wall? My sister vehemently denied knowing anything about it. Despite her protests, her teacher told her that she would need to return the next day with something to scrub-off her name.

When my sister got back to our trailer that afternoon, she told our mother, indignantly, that her teacher had unfairly accused her of writing her name on the restroom wall. Mom listened carefully, observing Alice’s demeanor, and then told her that she would return to school with her the next day and talk with her teacher. She assured Alice that she would not have to make amends for something she had not done.

Immediately, my sister broke down and began to cry, admitting that she had indeed written her name on the wall. Mom’s ploy had worked and a lesson had been learned without a confrontation – a successful strategy that both our parents would use throughout our childhood.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From The Tennessean (Minda Lazarov)

Minda Lazarov

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Minda Lazarov, age 56, born in Memphis, TN, died in her home in Nashville on October 6, 2011. She is survived by husband, Barry Sulkin; daughter, Shea Sulkin; mother, Matilda Lazarov; sister, Reva Stern. She was preceded in death by her father, Israel Lazarov. Minda devoted her life to helping people raise healthy children through her work as a nutritionist and as a children's health advocate for the state of TN, UNICEF and Vanderbilt. She cared deeply about Tennessee's natural resources and led land preservation efforts in the Scottsboro/Bells Bend area. She radiated power and peace. Her graceful spirit will live on in the many lives she touched. Services were held at Congregation Micah this past Monday 3:30 p.m. October 10th. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to: Beaman Park To Bells Bend Conservation Corridor, 5268 Old Hickory Blvd. 37218, or St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

From Jeff

The Last Sing-Along

by Jeff Shannon

It was anything but an ordinary Saturday night. My father had been in the I.C.U. at Saint Thomas Hospital for the better part of three weeks, and had been intubated and sedated for much of that time. He had suffered his second heart attack in thirteen years and had a ninety percent blockage to one of the arteries that fed blood to his heart.

Bypass surgery might have been an option if not for other health factors. Dad was sixty- nine years of age, and had lived with a slowly degenerative form of muscular dystrophy for most of his adult life. In its earliest stages his disease had caused muscles to atrophy in his legs and shoulders. Over time it robbed him of his ability to walk and exercise, which led to a host of other health issues. By the time of this heart attack it had affected his abdominal muscles and his diaphragm. Surgery was out of the question. To say the future was uncertain was an under-statement.

It was April of 2003, and the news networks were filled with non-stop coverage of the War in Iraq. In the days prior to this particular Saturday, Dad’s condition had stabilized enough for him to be moved into a private room, and to have the breathing tube removed. There was still a revolving door of doctors and nurses coming back and forth, but he was relieved to feel less like he was on display. He was even more relieved to be able to speak again instead of having to write messages to us on a tablet. There was a strange contrast between the war playing out on television and the fight Dad was waging for his life.

That Saturday evening found Mom resting at home, exhausted from days of coming back and forth to the hospital. I was tired from having worked the night before, but was determined to go to the hospital and keep a musical promise I had made earlier in the week.

When I exited the elevator on Dad’s floor, I had my black song notebook in one hand, and a gig bag in the other that contained my Samick acoustic guitar. This guitar was plain looking and rather small – more like the size of an antique parlor guitar, only without the antique value. I had purchased it as an inexpensive writing guitar that would be portable, yet expendable if lost or stolen.

Dad’s hospital room was typical: Upon entering there was a bathroom and a short hall that opened into the main room. The bed was on the left side, with a TV mounted high on the opposite wall, and a myriad of family pictures taped to the empty space below. My uncle Dee was already there visiting when I arrived, seated in a chair on the other side of Dad’s bed near the window. Dad was still hooked up to an array of equipment measuring heart rate, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure. The data gathered was conveniently displayed on a monitor by the bed. This device occasionally made a beeping sound to remind us of its presence, just in case we were able to forget that we were in a hospital, and why.

I sat in a chair on the near side of the bed, in order to better see both Dad and Dee. After we visited for a bit I tuned up my little guitar and began to play. We stumbled fearlessly through a variety of songs. I performed several of my originals, then Dad and Dee joined in singing others: “My Girl,” “All I Have to Do is Dream,” “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” as well as “Yesterday,” which was one of Dad’s favorites. After the stress of the previous few weeks it was a pleasant reprieve, and just for a moment we were family members enjoying singing together, instead of family members singing together for the last time.

By Tuesday, April 15th, the doctors felt that Dad’s condition had stabilized enough for him to be discharged. Both my mother and I were concerned that he wasn’t being sent to a rehabilitation facility to recuperate further. Dad was just happy to be going home. It was late in the afternoon before the paperwork was in order for us to leave. I spent that Tuesday evening at the pharmacy getting the truckload of prescriptions that he would need at the house. I dropped off the medications and said goodnight before dragging myself back to my apartment. It had been a long day and I was exhausted.

I was awakened by my wife at ten after six the next morning. Mom was on the phone – Dad was gone.

We honored Dad’s wishes and allowed his remains to be used for research. We would have to wait two years before his ashes were returned to us. During that time I struggled with how to process my grief.

Sixteen months passed before I was able to write about the loss. When the words finally came, I was sitting on my back deck playing the same inexpensive guitar I had played at the hospital. The song I wrote was entitled, “Distant Shore,” and I credit that writing experience with helping me come to terms with Dad’s death. In April of 2005, I used the same guitar when I performed that song at his funeral. I still have that little guitar, and its value to me cannot be measured.

Monday, October 10, 2011

From Jack (Job Creators)


by Jack Reeves

Mom and pop businesses, including major corporations, are not job creators. It could be called a myth: an unproved or false collective belief used to justify a social interest. Befitting today, the popular pontification is a scam for political purposes.

Imagine that you own a business, say, a souvenir shop. It could just as well be Sears or Home Depot.

All businesses in capitalist societies create income by offering goods or services. The number of employees (jobs) directly corresponds to sales. Sales depends on demand; demand depends on customer need and sufficient income, and the willingness to expend it, to purchase goods or services.

Consequently, businesses--regardless of their capital--do not "create jobs" unless there is demand for their offerings.

Conclusion: Consumers do.

The cynical, politically motivate deception of job-creators being businesses is not only a lie but a "damn lie" (Mark Twain).

Consumers are the job creators. Think about it, please.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thanks Bob

A store front in Berlin in 3D

JUST CLICK ON THE PICTUREthis is pretty amazing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

From Jack (Class Warfare)


by Jack Reeves

To denigrate legislation requiring the wealthy to pay more taxes, "class warfare" is the watchword. This political strategy is itself "class warfare," or classism, the belief that people from certain social or economic classes are superior to others. Such, though, characterizes our history.

The Constitution permitted only real estate-owning white males to vote--about 15 percent of us when George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock distinguished the wealthy list.

Compare: When my mother was born 125 years later, her mother could not vote--females being inferior. It took years of confrontation to change.

Gender since aside, wealth, race and power, i.e., classism, rule. Wall Street is salient. We the people, the remaining 99%, are submissively ruled.

Fifty percent of the US Congress are millionaires--many worth hundreds of millions. Sen. McConnell's wealth at least $20 million, Rep. Cantor's $7 million.

Politicians and pundits, playing the "class warfare" card to defend that "the rich are different" (F. Scott Fitzgerald), continue our history of ignored and/or denied classism.

Examples: In 1880, Florida was the first state to pass a poll-tax law--10 years after the 15th Amendment granted former slaves the vote. Ten Southern states followed. Racism, classism.

Today, nationwide legislation to restrict voting in the name of preventing fraud--with Florida much in the fore--continues the pattern. Those affected are least able to comply, thereby advantaging the superior classes.

Class warfare is as American as apple pie. A new revolution is overdue.

From Hulu (Why Richard Dawkins Does Not Debate Creationists)

Betty White

Remembering Steve Jobs

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

From Salon (Voting Machines)

2012 Elections

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011 7:01 AM CDT

Diebold voting machines can be hacked by remote control


Exclusive: A laboratory shows how an e-voting machine used by a third of all voters can be easily manipulated

It could be one of the most disturbing e-voting machine hacks to date.

Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The experts say the newly developed hack could change voting results while leaving absolutely no trace of the manipulation behind.

“We believe these man-in-the-middle attacks are potentially possible on a wide variety of electronic voting machines,” said Roger Johnston, leader of the assessment team “We think we can do similar things on pretty much every electronic voting machine.”

The Argonne Lab, run by the Department of Energy, has the mission of conducting scientific research to meet national needs. The Diebold Accuvote voting system used in the study was loaned to the lab’s scientists by, of which the Brad Blog is a co-founder.

Velvet Revolution received the machine from a former Diebold contractor

Previous lab demonstrations of e-voting system hacks, such as Princeton’s demonstration of a viral cyber attack on a Diebold touch-screen system — as I wrote for Salon back in 2006 — relied on cyber attacks to change the results of elections. Such attacks, according to the team at Argonne, require more coding skills and knowledge of the voting system software than is needed for the attack on the Diebold system.

Indeed, the Argonne team’s attack required no modification, reprogramming, or even knowledge, of the voting machine’s proprietary source code. It was carried out by inserting a piece of inexpensive “alien electronics” into the machine.

The Argonne team’s demonstration of the attack on a Diebold Accuvote machine is seen in a short new video shared exclusively with the Brad Blog [posted below]. The team successfully demonstrated a similar attack on a touch-screen system made by Sequoia Voting Systems in 2009.

The new findings of the Vulnerability Assessment Team echo long-ignored concerns about e-voting vulnerabilities issued by other computer scientists and security experts, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (an arm of the Department of Homeland Security), and even a long-ignored presentation by a CIA official given to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

“This is a national security issue,” says Johnston. “It should really be handled by the Department of Homeland Security.”

To read entire article click here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Remembering Paul

Precious Memories

As I travel down life's pathway,
Know not what the years may hold.
As I ponder, hopes grow fonder,
Precious memories flood my soul

Precious father, loving mother,
Glide across the lonely years.
And old home scenes of my childhood
In fond memory appears.

Precious memories, how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious sacred scenes unfold.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chapter Two of My Memoir

When completed my entire memoir may be read here: From a Narrow Ridge
Happy Valley

After being discharged from Oak Ridge hospital, following my birth, mother and I returned home to our trailer. It was located near the east end of the K-25 construction camp, dubbed ‘Happy Valley’ by the workers and families living there. The camp was south of and across Gallaher Ferry Road from the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant, eleven miles west of Oak Ridge.

Life at the camp was fairly primitive when the first 450 hutments were built for construction workers in the fall of 1943. The square residences were 16 x 16 feet, un-insulated plywood structures with no plumbing, heated by pot-bellied stoves.

A year later when I was born the camp had become a sizeable provisional satellite city with a population larger than Clinton, Tennessee, Anderson County’s seat of government. Along with the original hutments housing 2500 construction workers, there were 900 families living in trailers, eight huge barracks accommodating both men and women in separate wings, 12 large dormitories for 1200 men and 100 ‘victory homes’.  In all, nearly 15,000 people lived in Happy Valley.

This hastily established community had a large cafeteria, several recreation halls, a movie theater, barbershop, bathhouses and even a bowling alley. In addition, there was a dispensary, a drug store, a service station and a bank. Across the road there was a Town Hall with a Post Office, Laundromat and icehouse. Several hundred yards east stood the old Wheat School that served as the education center for the children living in the camp and as a training facility for incoming Carbide supervisors.

It was there I spent the first year and half of my life. The impressions of that time are vague. I was told I was a very active and agile child even before I began walking at nine months – although not as precocious, spirited and strong-willed as my sister who began walking at six months.

The defining tale about me from that period is how I came to be called ‘Monkey.’ My seven-and-half-year-old sister, Alice, was instructed by my parents to keep an eye on me while they visited with friends in a neighboring trailer.

Positioned so that my parents could easily see us, I was put in my playpen outside our trailer. It was not long, though, before some other children distracted my sister. Seizing the moment, I used the monkey-bar hanging from my playpen to swing out of my enclosure.

When my sister returned, I was nowhere to be seen. Frantically, she began calling my name. Hearing her cries, my parents came running. The search began.

Believing that I could not have gone far since I had not, as yet, started walking, the range of their search was limited. That was a mistake. When they finally found me, six trailers away, I was still crawling.

For over a year my father had supervised the splicing and laying of miles of underground cable throughout the massive K-25 complex. The pace of the work was unrelenting, 24 hours a day, seven days a week; the complexity and scope, unimaginable.

When completed in 1945 in just 270 days without blueprints, the gigantic U-shape structure, consisting of 50 huge connected, four-story buildings, measured a half-mile long by a 1000 feet wide. At the time, it was the largest building under one roof on the face of the earth, covering 44 square acres.

The separation process used at the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant was based on Graham’s Law, where by, molecules of a lighter isotope pass through a porous barrier more readily than the molecules of a heavier one. The process required a massive facility to house the myriad cascades, pumps and membranes to separate the lighter u-235 from the heavier u-238. The plant also consumed enormous amounts of electricity, while producing only minute amounts of weapons-grade material. To accommodate the electrical needs of the gaseous diffusion plant the largest steam plant in the world was designed and built next door, with a 238,000-kilowatt capacity.

The residents of Happy Valley were constantly reminded that the facilities being built across the road was crucial to ending the war and “bringing the boys home.” No one, however, except a few in top-level positions, really knew what the mission entailed. Most of the workers at K-25 knew little to nothing of or about any of the other enrichment facilities.

Security throughout the Oak Ridge reservation was extremely tight. Workers were forbidden to talk to anyone about their jobs, even their spouse. Periodically, polygraphs were given to those in sensitive positions. Although no one knew at the time, everyone was under the watchful eye of military intelligence and government informants. There were agents everywhere watching and listening, posing as coworkers, bus drivers, shopkeepers and teachers.

There were large billboards with the Three Wise Monkeys reminding workers and residents:
What you see here
What you do here
What you hear here
When you leave here
Let it stay here
Those living in surrounding communities had no idea what was going on behind the barbwire fence and security gates. They saw trains hauling in hundreds of boxcars loaded with ore and other raw materials, yet never saw anything leave the compound.

The Manhattan Project was so secret that when FDR died on April 12, 1945, his Vice President, Harry Truman, had no knowledge of the project. It was nearly two weeks after Truman took office that he was informed of the project and its mission.

The first covert deliveries of weapons-grade uranium, u-235, left Oak Ridge for Los Alamos in the winter of 1945. The radioactive material was delivered in specially made briefcases hand-cuffed to couriers. Though the quantities of the shipments were measured in grams, by July of 1945 Los Alamos had received 30 pounds of the enriched uranium. At last, it was time for the bomb makers to test their design theories.

On July 16, 1945 the first nuclear weapons test, nicknamed ‘The Gadget’, lit up the morning sky in a remote area of central New Mexico above the Jornada del Muerto Desert. As the fireball shot upwards at 360 feet per second, the characteristic mushroom cloud blossomed at 30,000 feet. All that remained of the soil at the blast site were shards of green radioactive glass created by the heat of the explosion. The Atomic Age was born.

Eight days later, on July 24, 1945, in Potsdam, Germany, the United States and Great Britain demanded that Japan unconditionally surrender.

Four days later, Japan refused.

On August 6, 1945, President Harry S Truman made a radio announcement that the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, equivalent to 20,000 ton of TNT. During his address, Truman revealed that the atomic bomb was developed at several sites in the United States, including the secret city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near Knoxville.

As soon as Truman finished his address, the sounds of car horns and fire hall sirens began to wail. People spilled into the streets, dancing with one another, forming long snake lines. They were, at last, free to talk without fear of jeopardizing their unknown mission. The secret had been exposed – to them, as well as the entire world.

In a special edition that evening, the headline in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, read “ATOMIC SUPER BOMB, MADE AT OAK RIDGE, STRIKES JAPAN.” The account gave workers at Oak Ridge their first official description of the top-secret project on which they had all been working.

In his address, Truman described the development of the atomic bomb as “the greatest achievement of organized science in history” and that it should give the Japanese the necessary impetus to surrender unconditionally to Allied forces, warning that if they refused, “they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

The code name for the bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 bomber, was “Little Boy”. Even though the simple gun-type nuclear bomb had never been tested, the eventual death toll was estimated to be nearly 150,000 people. The bomb’s explosive energy and massive shockwave flattened the entire city, igniting a raging firestorm and bathing every living thing within miles in deadly radiation. Sad but true, the weapons-grade uranium-235, used to make the bomb was partially processed across the road from my family’s trailer home in Happy Valley.

Despite the carnage and Truman’s warning, Japan still refused to surrender.

On August 9, 1945, ‘Fat Man’, code name for the third man-made nuclear device, a plutonium implosion-type atomic bomb much like the ‘Gadget’, was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan. Fortunately, because of poor visibility due to cloud cover, the bomb missed its intended target, diminishing the damage and death toll. Nevertheless, 39,000 innocent people were killed, instantaneously. Thousands more died later from blast injuries and radiation illness.

On August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered. At Last, World War II was over.

While the citizens of Oak Ridge and the rest of the world celebrated, the ‘Monkey’ stood erect and began to walk.