Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another Example of Shoddy Journalism

by Dee Newman

This past Sunday morning, Bob Schieffer, the host of CBS’s Face the Nation, offered us one of his concise commentaries. His remarks were not only an explicit presentation of shoddy journalism – completely contrary to the expected standards of his profession, they were a deliberate attempt to transfer Israel’s moral culpability to the victims of their brutality – the innocent Palestinian civilians.

The following is his complete commentary:
Trying to understand the news of this terrible summer, it is hard to come away with any feeling but that we are in the midst of a world gone mad.

On one side of the world, an ego-driven Russian leader seems to yearn for the time of the czars, when rulers started wars on a whim or a perceived insult -- and if people died, so be it.

In the Middle East, the Palestinian people find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that has embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause -- a strategy that might actually be working, at least in some quarters.

Last week, I found a quote of many years ago by Golda Meir, one of Israel's early leaders, which might have been said yesterday.

"We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children," she said. "But we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."

In a world gone mad, what is to be learned? Perhaps we should start by remembering what historian Will Durant once said:

"Barbarism, like the jungle, does not die out, but only retreats behind the barriers that civilization has thrown up against it, and waits there always to reclaim that to which civilization has temporarily laid claim."
Blaming Israel’s massacre of innocent Palestinian children in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip on all Palestinians may be idiotic and journalistic malfeasances, but accusing Palestinians of deliberately “forcing” Israel to kill their children in order to gain sympathy for their cause is down–right vile. Suggesting that Palestinians do not love their children like other people do, and therefore, undeserving of our compassion and empathy, is not just xenophobic, it is a despicable act and use of his power.

As an anchor of a major network news program, Mr. Schieffer’s attempt to dehumanize the entire Palestinian people with his unwarranted comments and baseless allegations is totally unacceptable.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Weekend in Chattanooga (Photos)

by Dee Newman

This past weekend I went to Chattanooga with some close friends – Jill and Don Cobb and Stephanie (Stevi) Potts. Stevi’s son, John, after graduating from UT Chattanooga this past Spring, decided to stay and live in the area.

John is an avid bicycler and works at Velo Coffee Roasters on East Main Street, a locally-owned and operated micro-roaster. “Velo” is French for “bicycle”, the principal method by which Velo delivers their hand-roasted beans. Andrew Gage, the founder, believes that all businesses should operate with as low of an impact on the environment as possible.

Velo specializes in small-batch, specialty roasts, distributing their coffee to their neighbors on bikes daily. They also support and sell their products at a number of Chattanooga’s farmers markets, and at local businesses that share their commitment to the future.

Velo is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to acquired funds to purchase a new roaster. If you would like to contribute click here.

Early Saturday morning we road our bikes over to Velo for a coffee-cupping.

We stayed two nights just north on Main Street at The Crash Pad, a communal, LEED-certified Platinum hostel. The walls of the Crash Pad are made of a sandwich of precast-concrete and four inches of insulating foam. A great deal of the wood and bricks from the old duplexes that were torn down to make room for the hostel were reclaimed to make the indoor benches, bunks and shelving.

The hostel’s roof is green with a solar installation and a stormwater collection system. Greywater from bathroom sinks is filtered and reused to fill toilet tanks for flushing. Electrical costs are reduced with LED lighting.

The hostel is owned by Dan Rose and Max Proppel. They came to Chattanooga about ten years ago after graduating from Skidmore College in upstate New York. They didn't move to Chattanooga with a plan to start a business. Avid rock climbers, they came to the area for the outdoor recreation.

They soon recognized, though, that the city needed “a community hub for adventurous travelers” and decided to open “an uncommon hostel in the heart of downtown, combining the affordability and camaraderie of a traditional hostel with the charm and cleanliness of a boutique hotel.”

Last May (2013) Dan and Max open next-door The Flying Squirrel bar. Meant to be more of a revenue producer, the bar also helps to promote and publicize the hostel. And, vice versa.

Friday night, after checking-in, the four of us drove over to North Chattanooga, across the river, to eat at Sluggo’s Vegetarian CafĂ©. As always, the food was delicious.

Though it rained off-and-on all day Saturday, we decided to ride our bikes over to the bluff and then along the Tennessee River up to the dam and back, stopping at The Pickle Barrel Bar and Grill to have a beer. (I had grapefruit juice.)

Later, after a hot, refreshing shower, Don prepared a wonderful vegan meal, which we shared with several other folks staying at the hostel, including Bethyn, our beautiful hostel-hostess.

 Around 11:00 PM the four of us gather around the fire-pit in the outdoor pavilion to recall the day’s adventure. It wasn’t long though before Jill and Stevi decided to call it quits and go to bed. Within 15 minutes a young couple from Bloomington, IL, staying at the hostel joined Don and I around the fire. Soon, two more couples came over from The Flying Squirrel and asked if they could join us. For the next hour or so we sat around the fire telling tales.

The story the two couples from The Flying Squirrel shared with us was quite remarkable. A year and half ago, the estranged father of one of the young men died. Though the young man never knew his biological father, he did know his name.

At the time the 34-year-old young man was out of work after seriously injuring his right Achilles tendon. One day while reading the local obituaries online, he saw the name of his biological father. Listed among the surviving relatives was the name of a daughter. With loads of time on his hands, he decided to try and contact her. His first attempt received no response. So, he tried again. But, this time he sent a copy of his birth certificate, explaining that she may be his half-sister.

They soon met and were instantly surprised to find that they had much in common, including both physical appearance and interests. Ironically, they grew up no more than 10 to 15 miles from one another.

They are both married. His sister and her husband have two children – a boy and a girl. The couples have become extremely close and often socialize and travel together.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Racism Definitely Plays a Role in Obama Opposition

by Morris Dees (Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center)

Right-wing pundits are jumping all over Attorney General Eric Holder for daring to suggest on Sunday that “racial animus” plays a role in the “level of vehemence” that’s been directed at President Obama. They’re denouncing him for “playing the race card” and “stoking racial divisions.”

Who do they think they’re fooling?

The rhetoric is what’s hateful. Calling people out for it is not.

The racism Holder described has been obvious since the 2008 campaign, when Obama was portrayed as someone who was not a “real American” – a Muslim, a Kenyan, a communist, even a terrorist sympathizer.

Since then, an entire movement has been built around the thoroughly discredited notion that the president’s birth certificate is a fake. And that’s just the beginning.

Newt Gingrich has called Obama the “food stamp president” and referred to his “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.”

Rush Limbaugh has said Obama – and Oprah Winfrey, too, by the way – have reached the pinnacle of their professions only because they’re black. He added this week that “so-called conservative media types” praised Holder’s nomination only because he’s black.

Glenn Beck has said the president, whose mother was white, has a “deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture.”

Conservative hero and former rock star Ted Nugent, who was invited to campaign with the GOP nominee for Texas governor, called the president a “subhuman mongrel.”

A Confederate flag was waved in front of the White House during last year’s “Million Vet March.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina screamed  “You lie!” during the president’s address to Congress in September 2009. When has that happened to a president before?

All manner of overtly racist posters have been seen at Tea Party rallies, including one depicting the president as a “witch doctor.” 

We’ve repeatedly seen stories about conservative politicians sharing racist jokes about Obama.

And, we’ve seen an explosive growth of radical-right groups, including armed militias, since Obama was elected, and repeated threats that violence is needed to “take our country back” from the “tyranny” of Obama. This is part of a backlash to the growing diversity in our country, as symbolized by the presence of a black man in the White House.

I grew up in rural Alabama during the Jim Crow years and lived through the civil rights movement, when white supremacists did everything they could, including committing violent atrocities, to turn back the tide of progress. And I’ve stared across the courtroom at some of America’s most vicious hatemongers – men like neo-Nazi Glenn Frazier Cross, who recently killed three people and once targeted me. I know racism when I see it.

No one, of course, is suggesting that merely disagreeing with Obama is evidence of racism. That’s clearly not true.

But we have a political party and a right-wing media machine that pander incessantly to the racist reactionaries in our society, often through code words. It’s been going on since Nixon implemented his “Southern strategy” of appealing to white resentment in the wake of the civil rights movement.

I wish it weren’t so. But it is simply undeniable. We should call it what it is.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Israel’s Occupation of Palestine

by Dee Newman 

Israel’s occupation of Palestine began 47 years ago. To this day Israel continues to illegally confiscate Palestinian water and land, demolishing Palestinians’ homes with impunity, while populating Palestine with Israeli citizens.

Over the last eight years the Israeli government has maintained a policy of collectively punishing 1.75 million Palestinians through its blockade of the Gaza Strip. An incredible 70 per cent of the population in Gaza are dependent on international aid for survival and 90 per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption.

Israel’s so-called justifiable retaliations for acts of violence by Palestinians have never been proportional. For example, during Operation Cast Lead (known in the Arab World as the Gaza Massacre), the three-week armed conflict (December 28, 2008 to January 18, 2009) between the Israeli Army and Palestinian militants, over 1,400 Palestinians were killed, while only 13 Israeli citizens died (4 of them by friendly fire).

Israel executes its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory with exemption from punishment, refusing to accept the world community’s call to respect international law. Israel’s criminal acts deprive Palestinians of hope and make a mockery of any attempt of revived peace negotiations.

I oppose any military tactic that targets innocent civilians – be it suicide bombings or the raining of phosphorus bombs over Gaza from Israeli fighter planes on civilian-occupied apartment buildings, Mosques and hospitals. Launching limited ranged rockets into Israel by Hamas is no more offensive than firing tank shells down a crowded city street in Gaza by the Israeli army. They are both brutal and repulsive acts of terrorism.

If we truly wish to stop Israeli and Palestinian attacks on innocent civilians, we must look at and address the source of the violence, instead of arguing about whether one act of violence is worse than the other.

If we are intellectually honest, we must recognize that the violence comes from a long history of mid-eastern tribalism, from irrational religious and ethnic bigotry, alienating and separating human beings from one another through ignorance and fear.

Israelis will never feel safe until they are willing to start treating their Palestinian neighbors with respect and human decency, until they are willing to end the military occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, including the construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, seizure and destruction of Palestinian land and homes, and the restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement within the Occupied Territories.

Violence does not inhibit violence; it encourages it. As long as the Occupation continues and the Palestinian people are denied their fundamental human rights of freedom and self-determination, there will be those who will use violence to fight the cruelty, brutality and violence of the Occupation. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Occupiers to withdraw their violence first. Morally, might never makes right.

Back in January of 2009 I wrote the following political verse:

Two Wrongs Don't Make Anything Right
By Dee Newman

All nations have the right to protect
Their people, but not the right to use
Their superior power, unchecked,
Claiming “self-defense” as an excuse.
Though the rockets launched by Hamas on
Israel are deplorable acts
Of armed, unwarranted aggression,
Their limited range, scale and impacts,
Do not justify the uncalled-for,
Disproportionate attacks within
Gaza by Israeli forces on more
Than 1.5 million innocent men,
Women, and children, hopelessly caught
In a captive state of persecution
Within a brutal, endless onslaught
Of ancient tribal retribution.
Though some extreme factions of Islam
Remain firm and determine to take
Back their land and wipe Israel from
The face of the earth that does not make
Israel’s criminal acts of war
Any less severe and egregious.
Nor, does it make them any more
Morally acceptable or just.
Two wrongs never make anything right.
They just prolong and expand the fight.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Remembering Paul

Paul Cobb would have been 27 today. He is deeply missed by all who knew and loved  him. All of us at the Mountain House are thinking of his wonderful parents, Jill and Don and his awesome, older brother, Adrian. We love you.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

From Morris Dees

July 2, 2014
Dear Dee,
I can vividly remember the moment, 50 years ago today, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. 
His speech that day was a call to action at a time when our nation was deeply divided – and his words resonate even today.
I urge every public official, every religious leader, every business and professional man, every workingman, every housewife – I urge every American – to join in this effort to bring justice and hope to all our people – and to bring peace to our land,” Johnson said. 
On this day, let us remember that the march for justice is not over. 
Our nation is again deeply divided. And there are many who continue to suffer because of deeply embedded bigotry and hate. 
In our work, we see discrimination every day.
We see it in schools that are starved of the resources they need to educate impoverished children.
We see it in laws designed to chill minority voting. 
We see ongoing discrimination against LGBT people, immigrants, women, children with disabilities, and others.
And we’re seeing a disturbing backlash to our nation’s changing demographics. It’s evident not only in the extreme elements of the Tea Party but in the dramatic rise of hate groups and antigovernment militias that have surged since President Obama – our first African-American president – was elected.
Seven years after it was enacted, we formed the Southern Poverty Law Center to pursue cases that would translate the spirit and intent of the Civil Rights Act into action, to ensure its promise of equality becomes a reality for all.
Since that time, we’ve won many landmark cases, including those that helped dismantle Jim Crow segregation. But, as I look around today, I’m alarmed to see the many ways our country is backtracking. 
On this special day, let’s honor the many people whose courage and sacrifice made the Civil Rights Act possible. But let’s also recommit ourselves to the challenges of today – and tomorrow
We’re in another time of testing. We must pull together to continue the march for justice in the face of those who want to turn back the clock. We must all do our part to “bring justice and hope to all our people.” 
Thank you for all you do. Together, we can make a difference.
Morris Dees

Morris Dees
Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center