Saturday, June 03, 2006
The following interview comes from InfoShop News. It's interesting.
Interview with Samir Adil of the Iraqi Freedom Congress
Samir Adil is president of the Iraqi Freedom Congress (IFC), a new initiative to build a democratic, secular and progressive alternative to both the US occupation and political Islam in Iraq. Adil, who fled Iraq in 1995 after being tortured in Saddam's prisons, returned after the US invasion to help build a secular resistance movement. He recently traveled to the US in a tour of several cities organized by the American Friends Service Committee, in which he met with numerous anti-war organizations and attended the Labor Notes Conference in Detroit.
INTERVIEW: SAMIR ADIL
President of the Iraqi Freedom Congress
by Bill Weinberg
World War 4 Report
Samir Adil is president of the Iraqi Freedom Congress (IFC), a new initiative to build a democratic, secular and progressive alternative to both the US occupation and political Islam in Iraq. Adil, who fled Iraq in 1995 after being tortured in Saddam's prisons, returned after the US invasion to help build a secular resistance movement. He recently traveled to the US in a tour of several cities organized by the American Friends Service Committee, in which he met with numerous anti-war organizations and attended the Labor Notes Conference in Detroit. On the night of May 9, after a presentation at the Paulist Center in Boston, Samir Adil spoke by telephone with WW4 REPORT editor Bill Weinberg over the airwaves of New York's WBAI Radio.
BW: Samir, what kind of reception have you been getting on your tour?
SA: Well, I came to United States because, as you know, the one picture that's left in the media, the corporate media, is just the fighting—the American occupation and the political Islamist groups or the nationalist groups. But the other perspective in Iraq—I mean the secular movement—nobody mentions it. Nobody mentions the workers' movement, the student movement, the women's movement. All of them now joined under one umbrella called the Iraqi Freedom Congress, the IFC, which I am a representative of. But the people [in the US] haven't any information about this secular movement.
There is one slogan raised by the anti-war movement: end the occupation. But what is the future of Iraq after the occupation? What do we want? There is a no answer of this question. So this is a great chance to attend presentations and speeches in different cities in the United States.
I met really great people and they told me, "We didn't know about anything about a secular movement in Iraq." Not just the secular movement in Iraq society but in all the Middle East, too. And I told them, your enemy and our enemy is one, the anti-human enemy: This is what happened on September 11 in New York and Washington, and the same is happening today in Iraq. Innocent people in Washington and New York paid the price, and other innocent people are paying the price now in Iraq. The enemy is the American administration's policies and the political Islamism policy, and we have to work together to build this front from Washington to Baghdad to end all of these inhuman policies. We believe without this international movement, especially in the United States, we can't defeat these inhuman policies and establish a secular and non-nationalist government.
BW: Well, what makes this position problematic for a lot of people in the United States I think, is the perception—which of course both Bush and the jihadists have done their best to cultivate--that they oppose each other, and that you have to be on one side or the other. Whereas you take a position that rejects both of them as representing an "inhuman" policy, as you put it.
SA: Well, unfortunately, the anti-war movement just focuses on the crimes of the occupation. Iraqi society has been suffering from the occupation and from the crimes of the political Islamists and nationalist groups, but the anti-war movement has just one slogan: end the occupation. But today when I am talking about our perspective, our alternative, we get a positive response from the people. I think most of the people in the United States [until now] didn't face the question about Iraq after the occupation, because the American administration has a campaign of propaganda. They say, "Our forces must stay in Iraq to prevent sectarian war, and there is no alternative for the Iraqi society."
This is a kind of hypocrisy, because everybody knows the occupation's policy created this sectarian war, created the situation. They created it by imposing ethnic and nationalist divisions on Iraqi society. And when the people in the United States get the word that there is a secular movement for a democratic society in Iraq, that can rebuild civil society, can bring stability and security and build a brighter future for Iraqi people, build a secular government like in the West—then the American people can join us in this human movement. And we can defeat these policies.
BW: Well, you blame the Bush administration for bringing about the situation of ethnic and sectarian conflict. But I would imagine that even the most hubristic of the neo-cons who literally wanted to divide Iraq up and to Balkanize it into separate mini-states—I would say that the situation is out of their hands at this point, and what's happening in Iraq now is beyond even what they wanted.
SA: Well, after three years of occupation, we have five million Iraqi people below the poverty level. That is the last report from the United Nations and human rights organizations...
BW: As opposed to how many before the occupation?
SA: Before, we had the sanctions, but the figure did not exceed two million people. Now after three years of occupation, it has increased to five million people. After three years of occupation, now the young people, between 20 to 25, are going to sell their kidney for between 900 to 1,200 US dollars.
BW: Sell their…?
SA: Sell their kidney.
BW: Sell their organs.
SA: Yes, sell their organs. After three years of occupation, if you visit Baghdad, or any city in Iraq, you see a mountain of garbage. Three years of occupation and there is no electricity in many districts in Baghdad, and summer is coming, and the temperature is going up to 50 or 55 Celsius,. After three years of occupation, the number of women selling their bodies to feed their children is increasing day by day. And after the three years of occupation, the Iraqi people are starting to say, "We don't want freedom, we don't want prosperity, even if we have to live by bread and water—but we want security. We want our lives, to survive."
Iraqi society is like a jungle. I swear to you, the Amazon jungle is better than Iraqi society. You can kill anyone, in the front of the police, for 100 US dollars. In just one day in the Ashab area, they killed 14 men, just because their name is Omar, which is a Sunni name. Those people didn't do anything, just their name was Omar. In Basra, in two days they killed 76 men, women and children, just because they are Sunni. In another part, they kill anyone named Haider or Ali, which are Shi'a names. This is the situation in Iraq. The forces of the interior ministry—they're attacking places like al-Adamiyya, which they describe as a Sunni area, right in front of American forces... And the people in al-Adamiyya are arming in self-defense and fighting with the police. This is the situation, this is the reality in Iraq.
BW: Where is this taking place?
SA: Al-Adamiyya. An area in the middle of Baghdad. Just two or three days ago, armed groups attacked the hospitals in Baghdad and Basra, killed all of the doctors and the nurses and all of the sick people. This is the situation in Iraq. And now on American [TV] stations they are saying "We must stay in Iraq to prevent sectarian war..." Two years ago, this sectarian war had already started! But they didn't mention it. Two years ago, they established the organization "To Kill Kurdish People." That is the name of an organization, announced in a public statement—To Kill Kurdish People! And hundreds of people have been killed because they are speaking the Kurdish language, not Arabic language...
One year ago, the Zarqawi organization began putting up checkpoints on the road north from Baghdad, just 100 kilometers, and they stop the car and ask for the ID. If the ID is Sunni, they can go ahead—if the ID is Shi'a, they cut off his head and throw the body [by the roadside]. And this checkpoint was there for many months, not far from an American base, just a few kilometers--but because those groups didn't attack Americans, the Americans didn't get involved in this situation. This is happening every day, and day-by-day it is going worse and worse and worse.
And everybody know this situation was created by the occupation. Before the war, when they held the London confidence, the American and the British governments brought all of the ethnic and sectarian parties and charted the new division of Iraq's society—you are a representative of the Shi'a, you are a representative of the Sunni, you are a representative of the Kurdish. And after the occupation they established an ethnic-based government council, and gave legitimacy to this division by the new constitution. Before the last election, we asked that people don't participate, because this election would only deepen the ethnic conflict; they only take your fingerprints to give legitimacy to all of the crimes committed by the occupation, and to the division, the nationalist conflict. And five months after the election, you can see, there is no government. Before there was no government, too—just in the Green Zone. But now we have a jungle society, and the people are organizing for self-defense, because nobody takes care about them. Every day in Baghdad people are killed because of their ethnic identity, killed by suicide bombings, and all the neighborhoods and workplaces and marketplaces are turned into a battlefield. This is the situation in Iraq. And more than one million have escaped from Iraq to Iran, to Syria, to Turkey, looking for security.
BW: Refugees, you mean? Really, a million?
SA: Yeah, one million, perhaps more. There are 250,000 just in Syria.
BW: Well, there's very little awareness of this. They're not, presumably, in camps like traditional refugees as we think of them, so they're sort of invisible...
BW: Are you able to travel freely around Iraq?
SA: No, no, I always have a bodyguard with me, and it is not easy. Because I have criticized the political Islamists, the nationalists and their crimes. There is a fatwa from the Sadrist group, for more than one year now, to assassinate me. The leaders of our organization always travel with bodyguards, and the reason is our agenda and our slogan and our perspective.
BW: Tell us about the activities of the Iraqi Freedom Congress and some of the member organizations.
SA: Especially last month, after February 22--I think everybody heard about the explosion of the Shi'a holy places--after that date, all of the leaders of the parties that are pro-America escaped from the cities and went to the Green Zone. Only the leaders of our organization, the IFC, have stayed in the cities to mobilize people. We issued a statement that met with a wide response: "No Sunni, no Shi'a, we believe in human identity." Ordinary people distributed hundreds of thousands of copies in the streets.
And in many places, we work to prevent ethnic cleansing. We are working in areas like Husseinia in Baghdad, holding meetings where the people announced, under the IFC banner—"Everybody can live in this area, nobody has the right to ask you if you are Sunni or Shi'a or Kurdish, or Christian or Muslim. Everybody can believe anything they want, this is a personal thing, and anybody can believe any religion, or be atheist." We are also working in Kirkuk and Basra and Nasiriyah. We are starting to establish a presence in Karbala and Najaf, the holy places of the Shi'a. We are working with doctors to establish volunteer clinics in these areas. Because the aim of the IFC is to rebuild civil society. We are organizing people to collect the garbage, all the civil services...
In Basra we just held a meeting with the union leaders. As you know, 40 percent of the leadership of the IFC are union leaders. Maybe you read my open letter to the oil union leaders who joined IFC last month. You can go to our website and see my open letter, sending my congratulations to them because they joined IFC...
BW: Which union is this?
SA: The oil workers union in the south of Iraq. This will bring our movement many steps forward. Because we are the civil resistance, and we are preparing a general strike in the oil sector to confront the occupation policy, and halt this ethnic cleansing in the different cities of Iraq.
BW: So you're doing both community work, attempting to establish these secular autonomous zones in the cities, and also working with organized labor, particularly in the oil industry. And then student groups are also involved, I believe...
SA: Yeah. Just last year, there was a student uprising against the Sadrists and all of the Islamist groups at Basra University. And now the students' organization grows more strong day by day. At Baghdad University and other universities many students are joining the IFC—individually or through their student union. We believe students and the youth can be a big force against the occupation and against the sectarian war.
BW: Well I'm sure that you saw today's news. Quite ironically, they did manage to form a government, they agreed on a new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and I suppose they wanted to put a very optimistic spin on it—and that same day there was a horrific suicide bombing in Tal Afar in the north, 17 civilians blown up at a marketplace. So the IFC is taking a position of not collaborating with the actual government in Iraq. What exactly are your reasons for this position of non-collaboration?
SA: There is no difference between al-Maliki or al-Jaafari. Al-Maliki was the vice deputy of [outgoing prime minister Ibrahim] al-Jaafari, and led efforts to eliminate Sunnis. You can't imagine anything is going to change. The same characters—[President Jalal] Talabani, the representative of the Kurdish nationalist party, or [Vice President Tareq] al-Hashemi representing the Sunnis. As long as the government is an ethnic and nationalist government, every part of this government will be looking for its interest, not the people's interest. I can give you one example. You know, last year at the funeral of King Fahd there was a big argument between al-Jaafari and Talabani and [then-Vice President Ghazi] al-Yawar on who was to go to Saudi Arabia and represent Iraq. And in the end, nobody could accept the other and there were three separate delegations...
There will be no security, no stability, without ending the occupation, and without establishing a secular government, a non-nationalist government...
BW: Maliki was involved in paramilitary activities, you say?
SA: Yeah, yeah, he led a committee to eliminate the Sunni people from the society, especially those who supported the Saddam regime.
BW: But his Dawa party is portrayed as a more moderate Shi'ite element, compared to the Sadr and Badr militias...
SA: Yes, al-Maliki and al-Jafari are from the Dawa. But they gave the Ministry of Interior to the Badr group.
BW: That's right...
SA: So Dawa created this ethnic cleansing in the different cities in Iraq.
BW: But this extremely sinister-sounding committee to eliminate the Sunnis was linked to the Dawa party, or...
SA: Yeah, the Dawa party. It is an official committee.
BW: I would imagine it would have to be clandestine. So you're saying all the Shi'ite parties were complicit in the attacks on Sunnis...
BW: Maybe you could tell us a little bit about yourself, Samir. What's your personal story?
SA: I was born in Baghdad in 1964. After I graduated from the university I began working underground to oppose the Saddam regime. I was captured in 1992. I was in the prison for six months, and after an international campaign to release me, I stayed in Iraq for one more year. I didn't want to leave Iraq. But Saddam's regime asked me many times to work with them, and I refused, and I knew they were planning to capture me again. It was then that I escaped from Iraq.
BW: What activities resulted in your being imprisoned?
SA: We established a Marxist organization and we were working underground with the workers at that time, planning for the workers to get their own union. But Saddam's government, through informants, captured us and six months we stayed in the jail. And because I was one of the founders of the organization, I was for 25 days under torture.
BW: My goodness. What was the name of the organization?
SA: In English, it would be the League for the Liberation of the Working Class.
BW: That was one of the precursor groups to the Worker-Communist Party?
SA: Yes. The Worker-Communist Party would be established July 21, 1993.
BW: So you were trying to organize an independent labor movement.
BW: And for this you were arrested and tortured?
SA: Yes. You know, in Iraq at that time, anybody who worked outside the Ba'ath party—this meant you are against the party, and this was illegal. But our friends in the Canadian Labor Congress sent off a letter to Saddam asking that he release us—me and six others I was arrested with. After that campaign, they released us—but then every week I had to go to the main intelligence office in Baghdad. They asked me to work with them, I refused many times, and when I felt they were planning to capture me again, I escaped to the north of Iraq, outside of the control of the government.
BW: The Kurdish zone.
SA: Yeah. I stayed three years and then I escaped by an illegal way to Turkey. And I stayed in Turkey for two years, and then with the help of the UNHCR I left to Canada. I arrived in Canada on July 5, 1995.
BW: So, when you were in prison—did you even come before a judge? Were you ever formally charged with a crime?
SA: No, I was held without charge.
BW: So it was extra-judicial, so to speak. And for three weeks you were under torture and very harsh conditions.
SA: Yeah, for 25 days I was under the torture. I still have a problem with my left side, and with my hearing…
BW: You first got into contact with the Worker-Communist Party when you arrived in the Kurdish zone, in the north?
SA: Yeah, in the Kurdish zone.
BW: Can you tell us something about the Worker-Communist Party and what it believes?
SA: There are two communist parties in Iraq. One is the Communist Party of Iraq, which was with the Soviet Union, and is now part of the American process in Iraq and part of the government. But the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq is different from this kind of communism. The Worker-Communist Party of Iraq has criticized the Soviet Union, China, Albania, Cuba; they said that the Soviet Union and China are not socialism, it's a capitalist state. And the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq was positioned against the sanctions, against the wars—the Second Gulf War  and Third Gulf War . And we are now positioned against the American-led process in Iraq and the occupation and political Islam. And the Iraqi Freedom Congress is a project of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq to save Iraq society from this abyss.
BW: What's exactly the relationship between the Iraqi Freedom Congress and Worker-Communist Party of Iraq?
SA: As I said, Iraqi Freedom Congress began as a project of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq. But now, after one year of this project, the Worker-Communist Party is just a member, like any party or organization. And our manifesto calls for every organization and every party to be a member of IFC if their manifesto does not have a contradiction with the Freedom Congress. For example, no Islamist party could be a member of the Iraqi Freedom Congress, because we have in our manifesto full equality between men and women. This is a contradiction with all of the agendas of the Islamist parties. After one year, there are many members, some more nationalist, some more Islamic. And Worker-Communist Party of Iraq has a right to build its faction and work to bring the policy of the IFC to the left. And the nationalist faction can work to push the policy of the IFC to the right. Yes, I am a member of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, but as leader of the Iraqi Freedom Congress, my duty is now to make a balance between right and the left in IFC.
BW: What groups would constitute the right of the IFC?
SA: If you look at the leadership of the Iraqi Freedom Congress, there are many people who are Muslims, who believe in Islam and pray, but also believe in the agenda of the IFC to establish a secular government. We also we have a Christian; and we have Communists and atheists. But all of the leadership believe in human identity, non-religious government, non-nationalist government, one Iraqi society with one identity—human identity.
BW: So the leadership is not entirely constituted by followers of the Worker-Communist Party, then?
SA: No, no. The Worker-Communist Party has a minority in the leadership, not a majority. The majority are independent people.
BW: And you returned to Iraq from Canada, to organize the IFC.
SA: Yes, in December 2005.
BW: Bringing the conversation back to where we began it: You say there's a reluctance among activists in the United States to address the question of what happens after the occupation—that we see our responsibility ends with merely calling for bringing the troops home. And I think part of the reason for that is that Bush used this propaganda that we're going to "liberate Iraq," it was "Operation Iraqi Freedom." So I think there is some legitimate wariness on the part of anti-war activists to the notion that it's any of our business to "liberate" Iraq. And there's a failure to draw a distinction between intervention to "liberate Iraq" (quote-unquote) and solidarity—trying to actually provide some human solidarity to the forces in Iraq that are trying to liberate their own country. You follow me? So this raises the question of what's the best way to pose the issue so that people understand...
SA: Well, today I had an interview with the Boston Globe newspaper and they asked me the same question: if American forces go out, won't there be chaos in Iraq? I said, "It is not chaos now?" It is chaos now. When you can be killed for 100 US dollars, this is not chaos? When people are killed just because of their [religious or ethnic] identity, this is not chaos? This is US propaganda. They ask me again, "You are against the political Islamist groups? If American forces were out of Iraq, then political Islam will get power." I said, "Who brought political Islam in Iraq? Not the American forces, not the American occupation? Who put political Islam in power, who gave legitimacy to the Islamic constitution, who brought this order in which women and Sunni and Christians are second-class citizens?" If you go to the south of Iraq, controlled by the Shi'a militia, if you go to a government building in Basra, you see a big picture of Khamenei, the cleric of Iran. Music prohibited. Alcohol prohibited. Men and women doctors separated in the hospital. Jeans prohibited in Najaf. And if you go to the west of Iraq, the areas controlled by the Sunni militia, chewing gum prohibited...
BW: Chewing gum?
SA: Yeah, chewing gum prohibited.
BW: Why chewing gum?
SA: I don't know why chewing gum prohibited, this is the rule of the Taliban, al-Zarqawi—the Sunnisit group. And also, imposing the cover, the hejab, on women. And men must wear their beard a certain way. I don't know if you remember my beard, but I have a short Western-style beard...
BW: You have sort of a goatee, as I recall it.
SA: Yes, and if they catch you shaving like that they will shave you with a stone and cut your head! This is going on every day in Ramadi. And they say if Americans go out, then political Islam gets power! Political Islam has power now! And the American administration has brought all these armed gangs to our society! If the American occupation leaves, first thing, we end the justification of the political Islamist groups to attack innocent people. When we end the occupation, they cannot justify their crimes. We can face all of these gangs. There is another perspective, another movement, that can rebuild society, that can establish security and stability, can establish a secular government. After 10 days in the United States, I believe if we show the American people this perspective, this alternative, we can stand together against the American administration and the propaganda of George Bush.
BW: Well, one response which I frequently get when I tell people about the existence of a civil resistance in Iraq, is: "Well, it's a very nice idea, they're very idealistic, but they're doomed. And they have no chance to bring about any kind of change for the better because the ethnic and religious extremists are the people who have the power and have the guns."
SA: Well, first thing. Till now, you know, the history of Iraqi society is a civilized one. And all of the crimes are happening by the sectarian parties, not by the ordinary people, and there is a very strong resistance against the ethnic conflict. But this is not a guarantee. I must tell you frankly, if a movement like IFC is not involved in this situation, Iraqi society could fall into a sectarian war and be like Kosovo and Rwanda and Lebanon. And we are facing a financial problem. All of the sectarian groups are supported by Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. But our movement doesn't get any support—only from the international human movement, from the anti-war movement.
You ask me, how to face the ethnic cleansing without the gun? I would like to tell you, every single house in Iraq has three guns and four guns. But if IFC were to mobilize these people to use their guns, [it will be] to prevent sectarian war, not to go to kill his neighbor because he is Shi'a or Sunna. We can defeat this ethnic cleansing. And now we have experience, organizing in many areas in Iraq, especially Baghdad and Kirkuk. We can organize and educate and mobilize people to never use those guns against their neighbor, never use them to kill innocent people because of their identity, only use them for self-defense. This is what we are doing in Iraq now.
BW: You acknowledge that there is at least a possibility that if the US leaves, things could continue to get worse?
SA: You know, if the American forces stay in Iraq, the situation is only going worse and worse...
BW: Right. I'm not making an argument for the US forces staying, but I think it's important to recognize that at this point the situation is so bad, it could continue to deteriorate regardless of whether the US stays or the US goes. And I think activists in the United States—speaking as one—need to realize that our government's actions created this ghastly situation and therefore our responsibilities to the Iraqi people do not end when the US occupation troops leave.
SA: This is I want to tell you. This is what pushed me to come to the United States. Our movement can prevent the sectarian war, can end the catastrophic situation, but we need support from the United States people; we need support from the West—all of the movements, the human movements, progressive movements in the world. We can do this; this is our job. We have a clear agenda, we have a clear program, and the people join us day-by-day, thousands of people. But we don't have financial support, unfortunately, and we don't have the moral support, unfortunately, from progressives outside Iraq. Nobody has heard until now that there is a secular movement in Iraq, a libertarian movement in Iraq. We want to tell the people of the United States there are people in Iraq thinking like them, thinking of a better life, thinking to build a democratic society, to give a human identity to this society. And they can trust this movement, we can do it if the occupation leaves of Iraq. Because, I say again, without the occupation, these sectarian gangs couldn't continue their behavior. Because their justification would be gone.
BW: I understand it's your special dream to establish a satellite television station, which would be a voice for secular progressive forces not only in Iraq but throughout the region.
BW: And our friends in the Movement for Democratic Socialism in Japan have already started to raise money for this project.
SA: As you know—you participated in the international conference in solidarity with the IFC in Tokyo on January 28 to 29--a resolution was passed there to support this project, and our Japanese friends are working hard to achieve this. And I think we are going to open our satellite TV maybe in July or August...
BW: That soon? Of this year? Why, that's a month and a half away!
SA: We got a very positive response from them and they told me just two days ago they want me to visit them in Japan after I finish my tour of the United States to have a meeting and arrange everything. We believe our movement is about to advance many steps forward. Because just as the people of the United States are victims of the media, victims of Fox News, so people in the Middle East are victims of al-Jazeera. But if we get this Iraqi Freedom Congress satellite TV, we can mobilize people. People in Iraq are waiting to hear another voice, a new voice, a human voice. Unfortunately, we have 12 satellite TV stations in Iraq, and they are all nationalist and ethnic TV, every day educating the people how to hate your neighbors because they are Sunni or Shi'a; how to hate your sister because she's woman; how to educate your children to become suicide bombers. This is Iraqi satellite TV. If we get on satellite TV, there will a big change in our movement and our society.
BW: Samir Adil of the Iraqi Freedom Congress, I hope that the rest of your tour in the United States is very productive, and best of luck back in Iraq. And please, do stay in touch with us.
SA: Thank you very much.
Transcription by Melissa Jameson
Friday, June 02, 2006
This morning nurses at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey had to walk past the entrance because they were not allowed in to work.
At 7:00 this morning Englewood officials locked out the nurses after not reaching a contractual agreement. A ten day cooling off period which the nurses accepted was rejected by hospital officials. The hospital says that it will use replacements to help the patients.
Hundreds of nurses bagan rallying outside Englewood Hospital and Medical Center after the morning shift was turned away at 7 a.m.
Carrying signs and banners, the nurses walked down Grand Avenue in Englewood. As they marched, motorists passing by honked in support.
They intended to meet with the chairman of the board, Andrew Durkin, but he wasn’t there. They left him a note with a list of demands regarding retirement benefits, working conditions and protecting nurses’ rights to unionize.
The 660 nurses at Englewood have negotiated the past several weeks for a new three-year contract to replace their two-year contract that expired at midnight Thursday.
Some of the outstanding isses as described by the nurses include:
1) Protection of our bargaining unit (Kentucky River) – the Future of Our Union:
Management has dug in their heels – they want to preserve their right to destroy our Union as soon as the law allows – they have made it clear that they are prepared to argue that all of us are “supervisors” – whether we are Care Managers, Charge Nurses or simply by participation in committees and councils.
** Three of the other hospitals have already agreed to protective language, most of the others are negotiating language –EHMC IS THE MOST OBSTINATE!
2) Continuing Education – While Edna Cadmus preaches aspirations of professional and educational excellence, she continues to refuse to negotiate guarantees of CE time – because it is a “cost factor.”
3) Less pay for more work time – they tried to paint the issue of eliminating our paid meal period as a quality of care issue – that we should give up a substantial amount of pay – to solve their problem, yet they have rejected everyone of our quality of care proposals as a “cost factor” (even though these would have minimal impact on the MC’s budget).
Other outstanding issues include:
· Wages (they moved from 1% to 2% -- still no increase for the most senior RNs)
· Professional Issues: chart review, peer review, councils
· Flexible Shifts
The following comes from WCBS in New York City.
Nurses Locked Out At Englewood Hospital
TRENTON: Englewood Hospital and Medical Center locked out its 660 unionized registered nurses after contract talks broke down Friday morning.
Replacement nurses were brought in while members of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, who reported to work at 7 a.m., gathered on the sidewalk.
New Jersey's biggest nurses' union -- at the urging of several politicians -- had offered Thursday to postpone a planned strike, but the hospital's president and chief executive officer, Douglas Duchak, rejected the 10-day cooling-off period proposed by the politicians.
In a statement, the hospital said it had implored the union to withdraw its strike notice before May 30 to give both sides time to negotiate without incurring financial obligations for replacement nurses. "Regrettably, the union rejected the medical center's request," the statement said.
Union spokeswoman Jeanne Otersen said talks broke off between 2:30 and 3 a.m. and no new sessions had been scheduled.
HPAE president Ann Twomey said the union decided to put off a strike "to protect patient care and to allow for negotiations under less-heated conditions."
"Our decision was based on the needs of our patients, while management's decision was driven by money," Twomey said in a statement. "Management told us they had already paid out $750,000 to a strike-breaking nursing agency."
Englewood was among nine New Jersey hospitals where nurses voted in mid-May to authorize strikes if contracts were not settled by June 1. Strikes have been averted at the others because they either reached a tentative agreement or extended the strike deadline due to progress in negotiations.
The breakdown came after state and federal elected officials, including Sen. Robert Menendez and the heads of the state Senate and Assembly health committees, distributed a letter saying they would offer their services to help the two sides avoid disrupting hospital services.
Key issues at all nine hospitals include retirement benefits, working conditions and protecting nurses' rights to unionize.
Tentative agreements, which must be ratified by union members, have been reached at Pascack Valley Hospital, Bayonne Medical Center, Virtua Memorial Hospital of Mount Holly, Christ Hospital in Jersey City, Cooper University Hospital in Camden and Southern Ocean County Hospital in Manahawkin. Negotiations were continuing at Palisades Medical Center and Meadowlands Hospital, the union said.
The following was written by Bill Berkowitz, our old pal, out in the Bay Area. It appears at the web site of Working For Change.
The Lou Dobbs fear factor
Bill Berkowitz - WorkingForChange
06.01.06 - On the May 23rd edition of Lou Dobbs' nightly CNN program "Lou Dobbs Tonight," the generally affable talk-show host, who has become the network's go-to-guy on immigration issues, repeated a racist conspiracy theory and ran a graphic provided by the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens to illustrate his point.
For quite some time, Dobbs has made immigration issues an integral -- some might say dominant -- part of his nightly program.
During a piece about "illegal immigrants" in Utah, reporter Casey Wian said, "Utah is also part of the territory some militant Latino activists refer to as Aztlan, the portion of the southwest United States they claim rightfully belongs to Mexico." At that point, the network ran a map of the United States with the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas browned out and labeled AZTLAN.
"For more than two years... Dobbs has served up a populist approach to immigration on... segments of his newscast entitled 'Broken Borders,'" the Southern Poverty Law Center's Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok reported in the Winter 2005 issue of the Intelligence Report. Dobbs, "has relentlessly covered the issue, although hardly from a traditional news perspective -- Dobbs favors clamping down on illegal immigration, and his 'reporting' never fails to make that clear. He has covered the same issues, and the same anti-immigration leaders, time after time after time."
Over the past several months -- perhaps in response to the massive pro-immigrant demonstrations held in dozens of cities across the country -- Dobbs seems to have gotten more emotional and has repeatedly crossed the line between fair-minded debate and outright fear-mongering.
In a recent press release, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a longtime media watchdog group, pointed out that anti-immigrant fervor was being stirred up on a regular basis by Dobbs on his nightly program. FAIR pointed out that "Dobbs' tone on immigration is consistently alarmist; he warns his viewers of Mexican immigrants who see themselves as an 'army of invaders' intent upon re-annexing parts of the Southwestern U.S. to Mexico, announces that 'illegal alien smugglers and drug traffickers are on the verge of ruining some of our national treasures,' and declares that 'the invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans' through 'deadly imports' of diseases like leprosy and malaria."
In addition to hosting his own program, Dobbs has appeared on other CNN programs. And he co-hosted, along with the network's lead anchor, Wolf Blitzer, the coverage of President Bush's prime time speech on immigration a few weeks back.
"Dobbs has run countless upbeat reports on the 'citizen border patrols' that have sprung up around the country" since the Minuteman Project's April 2005 "paramilitary effort to seal the Arizona border," Beirich and Potok pointed out.
In addition, during the run-up to the Minuteman's first campaign, Dobbs gave the organization "millions in free publicity, plugging it for weeks and turning over large segments of his air time to directly promoting the project," Marc Cooper, a contributing editor of The Nation told AlterNet.
And while Dobbs still has a fair number of guests opposing his position, "there's one thing Lou Dobbs won't do," Beirich and Potok pointed out; "No matter what others report about the movement, Dobbs has failed to present mounting and persistent evidence of anti-Hispanic racism in anti-immigration groups and citizen border patrols.
"It's not that Dobbs hasn't allowed a pro-immigration activist or two to complain about efforts like the Minuteman Project ('vigilantes,' according to President Bush), or even that he has made racist statements on his show. What the anchorman has done is repeatedly decline to present the evidence that links these groups to racism, calling the very idea 'mind-boggling.' On his July 29 show, he called the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which he said he liked in other ways, 'despicable' and 'reprehensible' for saying otherwise."
The Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) Intelligence Report catalogued a number of occasions when Dobbs overlooked controversial statements, inflammatory websites and white-supremacist connections of some of his anti-immigration guests:
Glenn Spencer, the head of the anti-immigration American Patrol, has been interviewed at least twice on the program. His website contains "anti-Mexican vitriol" and he "pushes the idea that the Mexican government is involved in a secret plot to take over the Southwest." Both the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League lists Spencer's organization as a "hate group." Spencer has spoken at events sponsored by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and American Renaissance, a group that contends that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. Spencer has also predicted that "thousands will die" in a supposedly forthcoming Mexican invasion.
Virginia Abernathy served as the head of the national advisory board to Protect Arizona Now, the anti-immigration organization that sponsored Arizona's anti-immigration referendum. Dobbs, who repeatedly reported on the measure, never mentioned that Abernathy "was a long-time white supremacist... and an editorial adviser to the racist Council of Conservative Citizens.
Last year, during a segment on the Minuteman Project, Joe McCutchen, "who heads up an anti-immigration group called Protect Arkansas Now, [and] had written a... series of anti-Semitic letters to the editor and given a speech to the Council of Conservative Citizens" was quoted. Dobbs, who described the Minuteman Project as "a terrific group of concerned, caring Americans," made no mention of McCutchen's connections to white supremacist groups.
On Oct. 4, Dobbs hosted Paul Streitz, a co-founder of Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control, on his program. "Streitz denounced Mayor John DeStefano Jr. for "turning New Haven into a banana republic" by favoring identification cards for undocumented workers. Two days later, newspapers revealed that two of the group's other founders had just quit, saying Streitz had led it in a racially charged direction. Dobbs has never reported this."
Barbara Coe, leader of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, was quoted on a show last March bitterly attacking Home Depot for "betray[ing] Americans," mainly due to the fact that "Hispanic day laborers often gather in front of the store looking for work." Dobbs never reported that her group is listed as a "hate group" by the SPLC, "or the fact that she routinely refers to Mexicans as 'savages.'"
It isn't everyday that the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) is cited as a source by CNN, or any other credible news outlet. It was surprising that Dobbs would truck out a CCC-sourced graphic to illustrate the Aztlan conspiracy theory.
The CCC, which had its fifteen minutes a few years back when it was revealed that Senator Trent Lott (R-MISS) had a long-term relationship with the group, prefers to keep a relatively low profile.
The organization was founded in the mid-1990s as an outgrowth of the Citizens Councils of America -- groups formed in the mid-1950s as part of a white segregationist response to federally mandated integration of public facilities.
Leonard Zeskind, an author who has researched white supremacist groups for more than a quarter of a century, told the Kansas City Star that the CCC had "a several-year track record of successfully marrying the white supremacist fringe types with local and state Republican politicians and thereby having an influence in the mainstream discourse."
Zeskind pointed out that the CCC is kind of a "bridge group," connecting openly racist right-wing groups to pragmatic politics. Though there may be no evidence suggesting the CCC holds the violent views or intentions of racist groups such as the neo-Nazi Aryan Nation, its perspectives on race are much the same, Zeskind told the newspaper.
Dobbs is "revered in anti-immigration quarters and on the far right generally," Beirich and Potok reported. He won the 2004 Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration, given by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that "claims to be a 'nonpartisan research institute,' but in fact is a thinly disguised anti-immigration organization."
On May 25, the St. Louis CCC Blog posted a shout out to Dobbs -- discovered by The Huffington Post's Alex Koppelman -- with a headline saying: "Welcome Lou Dobbs" and text reading "I knew you were one of us all along. Also, thanks for the proper citation, on CNN, no less."
The CCC will be holding its annual conference on June 16 and 17 at the Holiday Inn in Clarksville, Indiana Holiday Inn, a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky. There's no word whether Dobbs was invited to speak at the event.
(c) 2006 Working Assets Online. All rights reserved
Thursday, June 01, 2006
For the third time in the last five years, Industriales were crowned champions of the National Baseball Series, and on this occasion it took place far from their home ground: a 4-1 victory at the Guillermón Moncada stadium against the team from Santiago de Cuba, that combined a tremendous performance from right-handed pitcher Frank Montieth and a decisive home run by first baseman Alexander Mayeta.
The following comes from PERIÓDICO 26 (Cuba). It is late, but that is just the way it will have to be.
Industriales Wins Cuba’s Baseball Championship
Deciding homerun by Alexander Mayeta. Frank Montieh wins pitching duel with Ormari Romero.
SANTIAGO DE CUBA.— With a 4-1 win over Santiago de Cuba on Tuesday night Havana’s Industriales won the Cuban baseball championship series for the third time in the last five years.
Industriales combined a timely two-run homer by Alexander Mayeta in the top of the sixth to break a 1-1 tie, with a complete game 8-hit, six strikeout performance from Frank Montieth, to win the best-of-seven series 4-2.
At one point in the playoff finals Santiago was ahead two games to one but Industriales won the final three matches.
The game started after 9 p.m. and it was past midnight when Reutilio Hurtado rolled to short for the final out. The entire Industriales bench immediately spilled off onto the field to celebrate the victory, won against a tough team that never gave up in its effort to even the series.
The game had two heroes. One was the young pitcher Frank Montieth, who confirmed his status as one of the leagues best starters and best pitchers against Santiago, boasting a 9-3 lifetime record against the defending champions.
Montieth combined an excellent curve ball with an 88-91 MPH fastball and was able to get out of dangerous moments, like in the second inning when he struck out Luis Navas and Hector Olivera with the bases loaded.
The other hero was Alexander Mayeta, cleanup hitter and the teams leading RBI man. The first baseman drove in the team’s first run in the opening inning with a sacrifice fly and then in the sixth blasted a two-run homer off a breaking ball from Ormari Romero with Yasser Gomez on first.
“I wasn’t trying for the long ball, I just wanted to put the ball in play,” said Mayeta after the game adding, “I enjoyed this one like no other.” The infielder was selected the Cuban baseball playoffs Most Valuable Player.
It was a surprise to the fans to see veteran Ormari Romero on the mound for Santiago. But before the game, Coach Jose Luis Aleman assured me, “He feels fine and wants to pitch this important game.”
And he didn’t pitch badly, locked in a 1-1 game with Montieth into the sixth, until Mayeta hit his blast. In all, Romero threw 73 pitches of which 49 were strikes and 24 balls. Pitching at an average speed of 85 MPH, he used more fastballs than sliders. The praiseworthy performance was characteristic of the hard fought season for Santiago.
Shortly after the game ended, both teams greeted each other on the field. The trophy was handed to Industriales’ manager Rey Vicente Anglada by Misael Enamorado, member of the Communist Party Political Bureau and the first secretary of the Party in Santiago.
A speech by Canada's Immigration Minister Monte Solberg was abruptly cancelled Wednesday when a group of hecklers besieged him in an Ottawa church.
About a dozen protesters began shouting as Solberg took the podium during the annual meeting of Citizens for Public Justice, a group that lobbies on behalf of refugees.
The demonstrators, who called for an immediate moratorium on all deportations, surrounded Solberg at the podium, and then blocked his exit from the front door of the Christ Church Cathedral on Sparks Street.
With police help the Minister managed to make it to his car which was also blocked for a bit by those nasty protesters.
The following news and information comes from the blog Delete The Border.
Canadian Immigration Minister flees as speech is disrupted by immigrant rights protesters
May 31, 2006, OTTAWA -- Canadian Immigration Minister Monte Solberg fled the Christ Church Anglican Cathederal just seconds after beginning a scheduled speech this evening. He left abruptly after being directly confronted about his government's policy on deportations, and lack of action on regularization, by immigrant rights protesters from Ottawa and Montreal.
Monte Solberg was due to address the Annual Meeting of Citizens for Public Justice on the theme of "Welcome the Stranger: Becoming Neighbours". At least a dozen members of Solidarity Across Borders and No One Is Illegal-Montreal came to Ottawa to attend the speech, and were joined by immigrant rights allies in Ottawa.
Solberg began his speech alluding to the evening theme when a member of Solidarity Across Borders stood up to denounce his hypocrisy. Others present began speaking about neighbors and friends who had been deported, despite pleas made directly to Solberg and his government colleagues.
The policies of the Conservative government -- who support the "Safe Third Country Agreement", oppose an appeals division at the Immigration and Refugee Board, have increased spending on police and border enforcement, and have refused to consider a regularization program for non-status migrants -- was also highlighted during the heckling. Several protesters referred to the arrest of children in Toronto-area schools by deportation agents of the Canadian Border Services Agency (the responsibility of Public Security Minister Stockwell Day, a colleague of Minister Solberg).
As some demonstrators spoke out, others passed out a flyer prepared for the occasion entitled "Why we are protesting!" to the assembled audience, many of whom were upset that Solberg's speech had been effectively disrupted. The flyer included facts about Monte Solberg, Immigration Canada and the Conservative government. Banners that had been used during the recent Status for All National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights were also displayed throughout the intervention.
Solberg immediately left the venue, searching for his limousine. The entire way he was surrounded by protesters, who vented on Solberg for recent deportations, as well as to press for an immediate moratorium on all deportations.
Throughout the barrage by demonstrators, Solberg remained silent, except for one comment: "The police will take care of this."
Solberg was able to enter his limo, but it was blocked for at least 15 minutes before the arrival of Ottawa-area police. One of the many slogans, in English and French, by the protesters was: "Immigrant rights under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back!"
The police presence didn't stop the protest, as unprepared police officers arrested a few demonstrators who were promptly un-arrested. Eventually, more police came and cleared a path for Solberg's limo to depart the scene
--> Photos from today's disruption are linked at: http://gallery.cmaq.net/solbergottawa
--> The flyer passed out during the disruption ? "Why we're
protesting" -- is linked at: http://solidarityacrossborders.org/en/node/188
--> A Photo Essay about the May 27 STATUS FOR ALL National Day of
Action for Immigrant Rights is linked at: http://gallery.cmaq.net/may27montreal
--> The text of the flyer passed out in Montreal on May 27 is linked at: http://solidarityacrossborders.org/en/node/166
SOLIDARITY ACROSS BORDERS: email@example.com
NO ONE IS ILLEGAL-MONTREAL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Violence continues between various Palestinian factions in the occupied territories and Gaza. The fighting between Hamas and Fatah has gone on ever since Hamas won parliamentary elections. The factional fighting does no one any good. The following is a press release from the International Solidarity Movement.
Large Scale Unity Demonstration in Bil’in on Friday
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On Friday, the villagers of Bil’in, joined by international and Israeli supporters will hold a demonstration in which they will call for enhanced unity and internal dialogue amongst the Palestinian parties.
They will use the occasion of the commemoration of the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967 act as a call for Palestinians to be united against the common enemy – the occupation. A large banner has been erected in Ramallah, calling for large-scale participation, and it is anticipated that it will be a particularly large demonstration this week.
Politicians have been invited from both the Israeli Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council.
For more information call:
Abdullah Abu-Rahme: 0547 258 210
ISM Media Office: 02 297 1824
The first known shooting of public protestors since the June 1989 massacre of democracy advocates in Tiananmen Square took place last December in Dongzhou village.
Chinese authorities have admitted that three people were killed when security forces fired at villagers protesting inadequate compensation for land expropriated for a power plant.
The Dongzhou killings took place after a large crowd gathered to protest the arrest of villagers involved in the power plant negotiations.
In Dongzhou, the first official response was to claim that the shootings occurred only after well-organized villagers initiated the violence. Chinese authorities called the incident "a serious violation of the law." Witnesses said up to 20 people died in Dongzhou, while officials put the death toll in single figures. Local residents said that security forces had opened fire without warning and that the paramilitary People's Armed Police (PAP) was seen in the vicinity. Only then did the government begin to backpedal.
In a rare move, an unnamed officer who was identified by the Guangdong provincial government as the commanding officer at the scene was arrested. The government said that he was a police commander, detained for mishandling the incident that caused "mistaken deaths and accidental injuries," and that his "wrong actions" were to blame for the killings.
The following is a press release from Human Rights Watch.
China: Dongzhou Killings Must Be Investigated
Protestors Sentenced, but No Accounting of Official Role
(New York, June 1, 2006) – China is attempting to lay to rest without investigation the most serious governmental assault on public protesters since the Tiananmen massacre, Human Rights Watch said today. In the absence of public disclosure about the role of officials in the deaths of at least three protestors in Dongzhou in December 2005, the sentencing of villagers involved in the protests undermines confidence in the impartiality of the Chinese legal system.
China’s leaders continue to trumpet their commitment to the ‘rule of law,’ but it’s hard to see this as anything but a political decision. When protestors are held incommunicado and convicted in a closed trial but officials get a slap on the wrist, there is hardly a pretense of legality.
Thirteen Chinese villagers were sentenced on May 24 to prison for up to seven years for illegal assembly, disturbing social order, and illegal possession of explosives after taking part in protests in December 2005. At that time, the Chinese government acknowledged that, “policemen … accidentally killed and injured protestors,” and in May it issued “serious warnings” to some officials. But there have been no public reports of a transparent investigation into the incident itself, the role of officials, or the actual death toll, or whether steps are being taken to prevent a similar use of deadly force in the future. The government simply claims that “the relevant people … have already been gravely disciplined.”
“China’s leaders continue to trumpet their commitment to the ‘rule of law,’ but it’s hard to see this as anything but a political decision,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “When protestors are held incommunicado and convicted in a closed trial but officials get a slap on the wrist, there is hardly a pretense of legality.”
On December 6, 2005, Chinese security forces fired at villagers who were protesting insufficient compensation for land taken for power plant construction in Dongzhou, Guangdong province. It was the most serious shooting of public protestors since the June 1989 massacre of democracy advocates in Tiananmen Square.
Human Rights Watch said the Chinese government should publicly identify the officials reprimanded so far and explain their actions. It should also allow for an independent investigation into the incidents.
“The events in Dongzhou merit serious public scrutiny,” said Adams. “Anything less than that looks more like a cover-up than a search for truth and justice.”
The Chinese authorities admitted in December that three people were killed when security forces fired at the villagers. At the time of the protests, villagers speaking by telephone with foreign journalists put the toll much higher. The killings took place after a large crowd gathered to protest the arrest of villagers involved in negotiations about adequate compensation for the land taken. Dongzhou was sealed off, with roadblocks set up to keep journalists out.
The first official response was to claim that the shootings occurred only after well-organized villagers initiated the violence. Chinese authorities called the incident “a serious violation of the law.” However, local residents also told foreign journalists that security forces had opened fire without warning and that the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) was seen in the vicinity. Only then did the government begin to backpedal.
In a rare move, an unnamed officer who was identified by the Guangdong provincial government as the commanding officer at the scene was arrested, according to official news accounts. The government said at the time that he was a police commander, detained for mishandling the incident that caused “mistaken deaths and accidental injuries,” and that his “wrong actions” were to blame for the killings.
On December 15, 2005, Human Rights Watch called for Chinese authorities to “reach out and collaborate with independent experts” to ensure a “credible and transparent” investigation. More than 50 Chinese intellectuals made the same demand. Instead, the cases of 13 villagers who were sentenced were heard over a mere three days. It is unclear whether they were tried individually or collectively.
“If the government doesn’t act quickly, the United Nations should be invited in to conduct a fact-finding mission,” said Adams. “The people of Dongzhou, as well as other Chinese citizens, have the right to know what happened and who was responsible.”
The two commentaries below are from my old friend Lance in New Orleans.
However, before you get there I wanted to let you know that the Common Ground Collective is looking for volunteers in a wide range of areas this summer in New Orleans? To view them and to register go to the link below http://www.commongroundrelief.org/node/144
Common Ground is a community-initiated volunteer organization offering assistance, mutual aid and support. The work gives hope to communities by working with them, providing for their immediate needs and emphasizing people working together to rebuild their lives in sustainable ways.
Thoughts on June 3rd as the Turning Point for New Orleans' Displaced Poor
This Saturday, June 3rd, will mark an historic turning point for New Orleans' displaced African American community. In the nine months since the impoverished black community was forced out of their homes by flood waters, there has not been a single disruptive civil disobedience protest organized and led by the victims of the policies designed to prevent their return. On June 3rd a coalition of public housing residents plan to defy the law and take back their homes at select housing development sites, most of which have been shackled and left to deteriorate by the local Housing Authority.
The absence of disruptive protest in the past, of course, is in large part is a consequence of the continued displacement of the black community hundreds of miles from home. But in the past few months, thousands of poor blacks have returned to the New Orleans area, despite the shortage of housing, by doubling up with relatives in the city or neighboring communities or squatting in abandoned housing. Now with the school term ending in Texas, we can expect a huge wave of migration back to the city throughout the summer.
The elite group that engineered the plan to prevent the poor from returning will now make rest of the community pay the price for not preparing for the return of the poor. Until now, all the policies and actions intended to discourage poor blacks from returning have been implemented with out fear of social disruption or civil disturbances; there was no price to pay for moral indifference to the suffering of others. Those days are gone. We can only expect the frequency and intensity of protest to increase in the coming months, around not only the issues of and public and affordable housing, but also around employment and education.
In 1963 the civic, business, and political leadership of Birmingham, Alabama plunged the city into months of chaotic and disruptive protest by remaining intransigent to the just demands of the civil rights protestors who sought to desegregate the city. Today New Orleans faces a similar choice of paths and the response to the first rumblings of protest will determine the fate of the city for years to come.
Mending The Breach in Race Relations in New Orleans
Guest Column by Lance Hill
June 1, 2006
One of the tragedies of the evacuation during Katrina was the way it destroyed all sense of mutual obligation and left the New Orleans community atomized and competing for what little high ground and resources remained. The underlying message of the evacuation order was to save yourself and leave the fate of others to professional “first responders”--who turned out neither responsive nor even the first to offer aid. With most of the media attention focused on repairing the breached levees in the face of the new hurricane season, we need to give equal attention to how we can mend the growing breach in race relations reflected in the dynamics of the recent Mayoral election.
The flood waters had not even receded last fall before a host of prophets proclaimed that the flood was a sign of God’s wrathful judgment for past wickedness. No one paid much mind to the Jeremiahs at the time, but perhaps they were on to something but simply got it backwards. Could it have been that the great deluge was not the Judgment but rather the Divine Test of character that precedes the Judgment? If our character as a nation is being tested, then it must certainly be our obedience to the commandment to “love thy neighbor” that is in question.
The problem is how we have defined “neighbor” or, in its modern form, “community.” All the myriad city and neighborhood planning commissions that convened in New Orleans after Katrina had one thing in common: they defined community as only the fortunate few who had made it back to the city. Suddenly nearly 350,000 people, 80% of whom were African American, ceased to be neighbors. The displaced and their needs became invisible in the planning process. It was as if the ship had gone down and those who escaped by life boat never bothered to return to search for survivors.
Those who remained in the city have reassured themselves that the displaced poor were better off elsewhere. But as time passed it became clear that New Orleans did not solve the problem of poverty--we merely exported it. In recent months reports paint an alarming picture of tens of thousands of poor African Americans on the precipice of a human disaster. Unemployment for displaced people jumped 54% in the month of March alone, leaving more than one-third of them jobless. Lacking jobs, tens of thousands of evacuees lost their private health insurance. Depression and other mental disorders are skyrocketing and 20% of displaced children are not even enrolled in school.
The poor who have returned to the city after FEMA booted them out of temporary housing have not fared any better. They find themselves homeless and forced to take shelter in moldy gutted houses. Their jobs have been taken by low-wage itinerant laborers, their schools closed, and their only public hospital shuttered.
Concealed within these numbers are the most defenseless victims of Katrina; the 40,000 black children under age five who never asked to be born below sea level. Psychologists tell us the two things children fear most are darkness and water, the very nightmare they endured at the risk of lasting emotional damage. One day during the rescue phase I found myself sitting on a guardrail watching hundreds of helicopters drop off people stranded in the flood zones. I sat next to a boy staring silently at the helicopters. The busses behind us were departing for the shelters, so I asked him what he was waiting for? “My sister,” he said softly, looking straight ahead. I don’t know if he ever found his sister, but I do know that no child should have to bear that memory by himself.
And that’s the problem. The forced evacuation not only destroyed our sense of community obligation across racial lines, it also destroyed the informal safety net of extended family and friends that sustained the poor in hard times in New Orleans. A recent report described a New Orleans grandmother in Mississippi who was caring for seven displaced school-aged grandchildren. None was in school. Why? The grandmother was battling leukemia and diabetes. Were she back in New Orleans living in the most wretched public housing project, her grandchildren would be in school. She would be able to rely on relatives, friends, neighbors, and even the children’s teachers to provide solace and support.
The solution to the breach in race elations begins with redefining the meaning of community. Community is not geography; it is the communal spirit of a people who have a shared history. The New Orleans community must be defined as everyone who lived in the city before Katrina. Communities, like families, take responsibility for their members, even when they leave home.
Second, we must treat the recovery as a test of our nation’s character--our commitment to the principles of justice, equality, and compassion for the downtrodden. Only the federal government has the wherewithal to rebuild the human infrastructure of the city and region. It is imperative that we provide government services to rebuild the informal safety net and lives of displaced people. We need to guarantee Katrina’s victims the right to safe homes, job training, employment opportunities, educational support for children, and free medical and mental health services. It will cost money. Somehow we find a way to fund a military budget that costs $1 billion a day. We will find the money if we can only find our conscience.
I don’t know if Katrina was a divine test, judgment, or simply a Hurricane. Regardless of your faith, or lack of it, if we fail our nation’s principles we may suffer a judgment far worse than plagues, floods, or famine: We will have to live with ourselves the rest of our lives.
Lance Hill is Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University and author of Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement. He remained in New Orleans during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He can be contacted at email@example.com
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Oglala Sioux Tribal President Cecelia Fire Thunder has been suspended by the Oglala tribal council which also officially banned all abortions on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Fire Thunder's expansive exercise of tribal sovereignty in response to the South Dakota abortion ban had generated a storm of controversy.
Meanwhile, the battle over South Dakota’s controversial near-total ban on abortion is now a full-fledged political campaign after the announcement Tuesday that abortion-rights forces had gathered enough petition signatures to refer the issue to a public vote.
The following is from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
Tribal council outlaws abortion President suspended for alleged donations
The Oglala Sioux tribal council banned all abortions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and suspended President Cecelia Fire Thunder on Tuesday, charging that she solicited donations on behalf of the tribe for a proposed abortion clinic without the council's approval.
"It was unauthorized political activity," said Will Peters, a tribal council representative from the Pine Ridge district. "It's just a matter of failing to communicate not only with the governing body but with the people that she was elected to serve."
Peters made a motion to suspend Fire Thunder indefinitely, and when that failed, voted to suspend her for 20 days until an impeachment hearing could take place. That motion passed.
"This whole thing was an ambush," Fire Thunder said, adding that she never solicited donations and never was asked whether she had actually accepted any money.
Peters said any money donated to the tribe for the clinic would be returned.
Fire Thunder said the idea never was to open a clinic that performs abortions - she never used the word "abortion," she said - but rather to open a women's health facility that would provide family planning information and emergency and traditional contraceptives.
"Women need services. Women need support. Right now on the Pine Ridge reservation, there's very little support for women who have been raped," Fire Thunder said.
"If that's the way it was presented to people in the first place, I think she would have been OK," Peters said. "Her stand, by what we read and what we hear from all accounts, was to support abortion. I've never seen such a turn-around."
Some in the tribe were outraged when Fire Thunder, responding to Gov. Mike Rounds' signature on a bill that would ban most abortions in South Dakota, said she would work to open a Planned Parenthood clinic on the reservation, beyond the reach of state law. Many believe abortion to be against Lakota values.
Planned Parenthood issued a press release thanking Fire Thunder, but said it had no plans to open a clinic in Pine Ridge or anywhere else in South Dakota.
Today, the tribe banned abortions on the reservation.
"I do not feel comfortable telling a woman what she can or can't do with her body," Peters said. "Yet at the same time, I share the cultural viewpoint that life is sacred."
But the clinic, which will be called Sacred Choices, already has a group of women who have agreed to form a board of directors.
Betty Bull Bear, one of the women on the board, said the group would meet tonight for the first time to sign articles of incorporation.
She said Sacred Choices would be a wellness center, and the board would wait to see what happens with a statewide abortion ban referendum and any subsequent legal challenges before deciding whether to attempt to provide any abortion services.
Either way, Sacred Choices will be in Kyle, Bull Bear said.
"This is where Cecelia is from," she said. "It was her idea." But, she added, Fire Thunder is not involved now that the board has been formed.
"We have a lot of support, nationwide and, literally, globally," Bull Bear said, though she estimated support among tribal members was evenly divided.
Fire Thunder, in Iowa for an annual test of the cochlear implants that restored her hearing four years ago, said the people who brought the complaint were the same people who have been opposing her presidency since she was elected in November 2004.
"It got crazy," Fire Thunder said. "On Friday they were passing around a flyer that said 'Wilma Mankiller - Cecelia Babykiller.' "
Mankiller was the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation; Fire Thunder is the first female president of the Oglala Sioux.
Fire Thunder also was suspended last October when the tribal council accepted a complaint brought by William Birdnecklace Tate, who alleged she had improperly secured a $38 million loan from the Shakopee, a Minnesota tribe. What was supposed to be a 20-day suspension lasted more than two months when Fire Thunder's hearing was delayed repeatedly by holidays and booked gymnasiums. The council eventually voted not to impeach her.
Peters was one of the few strong supporters on the council during Fire Thunder's previous troubles.
But "she is a hard gal to look after," Peters said. "I just believe that she has fallen out of touch with the people she was elected to represent."
High School students in Chile have been demonstrating for weeks demanding education reform. Yesterday, they took it all up a notch with 600,000 taking to the streets.
The students began with modest demands such as reduced fares on public transportation and the elimination of a $38 fee for an exit exam that lets them apply for college. They demanded that three hours recently added to the school day be dedicated to sports, the arts or other activities.
The movement spread from Santiago to the provinces, and the demands expanded to include deep reforms of the country's education law - against the ‘Ley organica constitucional e Enseñanza’ (LOCE) issued by former dictator Augusto Pinochet in March 1990, a day before leaving power. Students say LOCE favors private school at the expense of public schools, which are run by the municipalities, increasing the gap between rich and poor in access to education.
The following is from the Santiago Times (anything but a leftist rag).
CHILE ROCKED BY LARGEST STUDENT DEMONSTRATION IN RECENT HISTORY
600,000 Protestors Urge Major Reform of Public School System
In the largest education-related demonstration in Chile in the past 40 years, an estimated 600,000 protestors took to the streets Tuesday to voice their complaints about the nation’s “unfair” and lackluster public education system. Much of the organizing of the protest was carried out over the Internet or by cell phone, organizational tools unavailable to previous generations of students.
Students at Chile’s public schools - where half the nation’s students are currently enrolled - score much lower on nationwide college entrance examinations than do students at private high schools.
Teacher salaries and prestige are low at public schools, and infrastructure oftentimes decrepit or lacking. Most parents with good incomes place their children in private high schools in an effort to secure the best possible education. They believe education at the nation’s public schools limits their children’s future options.
The demonstration was sparked by public school student demands for greater access to low cost transportation and free college entrance examinations. But when government officials failed to show great concern, the issue quickly took hold across the nation and drew greater and greater public support.
Perhaps spurring the student unrest are the well-publicized windfall profits the government now enjoys as a result of sky-high copper prices. The state-owned Codelco mining company will earn the State US$11 billion in 2006 – money President Bachelet said would mostly be invested abroad in order to keep the US$ dollar from further strengthening the Chilean peso and thus reducing Chilean fruit and wine exports (ST, May 22).
Tuesday’s demonstration also drew strong support from students in private high schools, university students, parents, teachers and union groups.
Tuesday’s manifestly peaceful student protesters were joined by uncontrollable street elements – bands of marauding youths not dressed in high school uniforms – who took advantage of the situation to vandalize stores and provoke the police. Police responded with water canons and tear gas to disperse protestors in some areas, especially in central Santiago where many protestors were heading toward the Ministry of Education.
By 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, police had arrested more than 300 people in the greater Santiago area.
Many of the protesting high school students remained in their high schools – either “on strike” (not attending classes) or engaged in “tomas” (taking over the school premises).
On Monday, student leaders said they hoped for the participation of more than 300,000 students in Tuesday’s protests, about 200,000 in the Santiago area and 120,000 in other parts of the country. Their goals appeared to have been exceeded.
Further south, in Concepción, 4,000 students gathered in the local Plaza de Armas in solidarity with the call for a nationwide strike. Students in Temuco, Valparaiso and Punta Arenas also participated in the strike.
In Santiago about 100 private high schools shut down to join the strike as well. Private school student leaders said they wanted to create a united student front. Also supporting the nation strike were members of the teachers’ union (Colegio de Profesores) and organized labor (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, or CUT).
In addition, the student federations of the Universidad Católica, the Universidad de Chile, the Universidad de Santiago and the Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana demonstrated their support. About 100 university students marched to the Ministry of Education.
However, many university federations held a day for discussion and reflection about education issues on their own campuses instead of marching.
Tuesday morning President Michelle Bachelet convened a meeting with her cabinet to discuss the government’s response to the student strikers. Education Minister Martín Zilic met with students at the Biblioteca Nacional around 2 p.m. Zilic was harshly criticized by students for failing to attend a meeting scheduled Monday (ST, May 30)
Interior Minister Andrés Zaldívar met with senators Tuesday afternoon to discuss congressional support for reforming the Ley Orgánica Constitucional de Enseñanza (LOCE). The LOCE was one of the final laws passed during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and went into effect just days before the Concertación government took power in 1990.
It made official the decentralization of most of the nation’s primary and secondary educational institutions, turning over a large part of public education at this level to the municipalities. It also permitted the beginning of partially state-financed private schools—“subvencionado” schools, in many ways comparable to charter schools in the U.S.—and private universities.
Former President Ricardo Lagos commented that efforts to reform the LOCE in the early 1990s, when he was Education Minister, failed because of the opposition of right wing political parties.
There are three problems with the LOCE as regards public schooling, said Loreto Engaña of the Interdisciplinary Investigation in Education Program (PIIE).
First, it introduced free market concepts—including profit-making—into the nation’s education system, and did little to improve the quality of the nation’s education. Second, it resulted in schools receiving government state subsidies without their having strong curriculum requirements and quality control.
‘’This is the only country in the world … that permits a profit from public funds with no greater control or accountability than the results of the SIMCE (national achievement test),’’ Engaña said. According to many education officials, there are insufficient ways for the government to punish bad schools.
Third, says Egaña, LOCE allows the subvencionardo high schools to “select” their students, which in practice leads to discrimination against students who, for whatever reason, cannot enter a better high school. Students who have learning disabilities or who are very poor end up in the worst schools because they will require the most resources to teach.
In response to the nationwide strike, ex-Minister of Education Sergio Bitar said that the coordination and maturity of the students is more advanced now than in previous years and ´´thus the response that should be in the society and the government should be more advanced and more complete as well.’’
The Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace on May 25th released the following statement explaining their actions to put themselves into the gears of the war machine.
"On Monday, May 22, the US Army began a massive transport of Stryker vehicles and other war equipment to the Port of Olympia for shipment to Iraq, in advance of the re-deployment to Iraq of the Styker 3rd Brigade.
We have opposed militarization of our port for two years by direct appeal to the Port Commission and City Council; by writing articles, Op-Eds and letters to the editor; and by holding educational forums, vigils and marches. Our elected officials are not listening.
"The weapons shipments, and the use of our public property to prolong and supply the war in Iraq have made us complicit in crimes against humanity. We refuse to be complicit any longer. We will continue to utilize every available instrument of democracy, including direct action and disruption when necessary."
It calls to mind another statement. This one by by the late Berkeley radical Mario Savio made during the Free Speech actions of 1964 that were aimed against the University of California's repressive administrative dictates against student and staff political activity:
"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies on the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
Now, there are many folks around the world that have felt that the operation of the machine has been odious for a long time, and there's more of us joining every day, but there are very few examples of anyone putting their bodies on any gear. I suggest that is why we find ourselves in the state we are in today. Too many of us have given up on stopping the machine from working at all. If there was ever a better time to awake from our slumber, that time is now. The litany of death, repression, and exploitation of every form imaginable has grown too long. As others have started to hint at, the time for mere protest is over."
The following is from the Olympian.
Port protests escalate
22 arrests made in demonstrations against military cargo ship
OLYMPIA - Twenty-two people were arrested Tuesday in one of the most volatile confrontations yet between anti-war activists and police officers guarding a military cargo ship docked at the Port of Olympia.
The confrontations resulted in the most arrests in a single day since the demonstrations began a week ago against the Iraq-bound military shipments leaving from the port. Police used pepper spray several times on the 100 or so activists and advanced into the crowd later in the evening, trying to disperse it.
Olympia City Councilman TJ Johnson was among those shoved by state troopers trying to clear the area. In response, he stood face-to-face in front of the advancing officers until they fired several pepper-spray pellets to clear the area.
All of those arrested were taken to the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of criminal trespassing. No one was seriously injured, Thurston County sheriff's Capt. Brad Watkins said.
Most of the arrests were made shortly after the protest started about 5 p.m. at the main entry gate on Marine Drive. Activists tore down the chain-link gate and closed in, squaring off with a line of sheriff's deputies in riot gear and helmets with face shields.
Activists then began lying on the ground and linking arms on the Port of Olympia side of the entrance.
One by one, deputies dragged them off and handcuffed them as activists yelled: "Let them go, let them go."
Early on, the first bursts of pepper spray were directed at one protester resisting arrest, Watkins said. But several people were affected. They ran back behind the front line and lay on the ground while friends flushed out their eyes with water.
The protests started last week when Army Stryker vehicles and equipment bound for Iraq started funneling through downtown streets to be unloaded at the port. Sixteen protesters were arrested last week for blocking traffic and disobeying police commands.
The demonstratons started anew late Monday when the United States Naval Ship Pomeroy pulled into port to pick up the cargo, and the protests continued Tuesday. Activists argue that the Iraq war is illegal and that by aiding the military, the Port of Olympia is complicit in an immoral war.
"It's my first time being down here, and it's for a good cause. It's an issue that needs to be taken care of," said Tom Hargreaves, a 19-year-old tool salesman from Tumwater who said his father is in the National Guard.
The demonstration cooled down at times, including one 30-minute span when several people gathered around Professor Steve Niva of The Evergreen State College as he led a teach-in about where Strykers were being deployed in Iraq.
Officers from Olympia, Tumwater and the State Patrol were called in to back up deputies, who were flanked by private security guards and U.S. Coast Guard security. About 50 officers were on hand and, at one lull in the protest, almost matched up with activists one-to-one.
About 8 p.m., the sheriff's office started ordering the crowd to disperse and warned that officers would arrest stragglers and use pepper spray. The crowd barely budged when a phalanx of deputies, police officers and state troopers emerged from behind the gate.
Gene Otto and his wife, Judi Mendoza, who own Otto's and the San Francisco Street Bakery, saw the gathering as they drove by and stopped to see what was happening. They had been there for 30 minutes, standing along the sidelines, when state troopers converged and shoved them hard with batons. Neither was demonstrating or standing in the officers' way, although they said they supported the cause.
"I was pretty surprised to be shoved with a baton. That's the first time that's happened to me," Otto said.
"There was no reason that this had to escalate," he said.
The air stank from chemicals and the onions and vinegar that protesters used to counteract the pepper spray's effects. Several protesters hacked incessantly while others vomited in the street. Port officials blocked the hole in the fence with a large cargo container.
Councilman Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Laura Ware also were in attendance. After seeing Otto and his wife get pushed, Johnson jumped into the fray, standing directly in front of the officers to protest their advance. By then, the demonstration was losing its focus. As many people were taunting officers as were shouting anti-war slogans.
Johnson said things escalated in part because local activists aren't as familiar with deputies as they are with Olympia police officers, and vice versa. He also said he thinks deputies have been needlessly more aggressive, a tactic he disagrees with and one that he complained about to county commissioners, he said.
He also said there was "plenty of blame to go around" for what happened Tuesday, but he understands protesters' frustrations.
"They're thinking of everything they can to stop this war, and it still continues, even through our downtown," he said.
He later negotiated an agreement with police and protesters that allowed them to continue from a certain distance away in exchange for officers' backtracking behind the fence.
Many activists still were stinging from Monday night, where sheriff's deputies, who are under contract to provide riot control at the Port of Olympia, doused them with pepper spray as they shook the perimeter fence. Many protesters and observers, including Johnson, said protesters were not given ample warning that officers planned to spray them with the eye- and throat-irritating chemical.
Sheriff's officials, however, said they warned activists several times through a megaphone.
"They can't say they were never warned," Watkins said.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
With the World Cup to be held in Germany just a few weeks away, stories about neo-Nazi violence in Germany are suddenly everywhere.
And there is ample reason for concern.
On Monday, new figures showing a rise in fascist violence in 2005 poured fuel on the fire. The report's findings coincide with a debate about remarks last week by a former government spokesman who advised dark-skinned visitors to Germany to avoid eastern parts of the country such as Brandenburg, the state that surrounds Berlin.
The intelligence report showed that the number of racially motivated acts of far-right violence rose by 23 percent to 958 last year while the number of racist extremists deemed willing to engage in violence rose by 400 to 10,400.
Of the acts of violence in 2005, 816 involved bodily harm, up from 640 in 2004. The number of attempted killings fell to two from six. Arson attacks, too, fell to 14 from 37.
The total number of politically motivated right-wing racist crimes, though, rose 27 percent to 15,361, most of which related to far-right propaganda such as displaying the Nazi swastika, which is against the law in Germany.
The following article is from Spiegel (Germany).
The Friendly Neo-Nazis
The right-wing violence may make the headlines, but Germany's neo-Nazis also have an elaborate infrastructure and a carefully crafted public relations strategy. Extremist populism seems to be working.
Most of the world knows it as Ascension Day -- the Thursday six weeks after Easter celebrating the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven. Much of Germany, though, has developed a unique -- and for foreigners, a decidedly odd -- way of celebrating the day. Called "father's day," the holiday has become an excuse for men across Germany to drink themselves into a semi-stupor.
This year was no different -- and in the Eastern German town of Weimar, two men from Mozambique, aged 45 and 46, and one from Cuba decided to give the German tradition a try. They had a few guests over, the barbeque was fired up and they were having a good time.
But the experiment with German culture didn't last long. At 8 p.m., the backyard grill gathering was stormed by a group of 15 young Germans who attacked the party-goers at random. The Cuban fell to the ground with a broken nose and serious contusions. The 46-year-old man from Mozambique suffered a concussion, hematomas and abrasions. His 45-year-old friend got away with a bruised face. Eight drunken rowdies aged between 19 and 29 were arrested -- all of them known to be xenophobic and some of them possessing a criminal record, according to the authorities.
It wasn't the only assault on Ascension Day this year. At a flea market in Wismar -- likewise in Eastern Germany -- a 36-year-old Indian was beaten by neo-Nazis and kicked while he lay on the ground. His attackers yelled Sieg Heil! and "Germany for Germans!" as they beat him. In Berlin, a Turkish man was beaten up. In Lübeck, skinheads attacked a garden party.
Out of control right wingers
Right-wing radicals in Germany seem out of control -- as if electrified by the recent heated debate in the country over travel warnings for foreigners and so-called "no go" areas for those with darker skin color. The debate was sparked by former government spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye two weeks ago when he warned dark-skinned tourists against visiting "small and medium-sized" towns in the state of Brandenburg and elsewhere. Such tourists, he warned, would "possibly not leave these areas alive." In mid-April, an Ethiopian-German named Ermyas M. was beaten into a coma in Potsdam. Earlier this month, skinheads in Berlin attacked the German-Kurdish politician Giyasettin Sayan with a bottle.
The result has been massive public attention, front-page headlines and numerous talk shows -- all of which have merely served to strengthen the right-wing thinking of many eastern Germans. Reacting to warnings about dangerous neighborhoods, stickers reading "No-Go Area" are now for sale on the Internet -- meant to keep mono-chromatic German neighborhoods free of foreigners.
It's not hard to find the footmen to carry out this mission. In entire neighborhoods of Berlin and in a number of regions in the states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, right-wingers -- particularly the right-wing political party National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) -- have been able to develop a stable infrastructure of support. In doing so, they have filled a vacuum left by mainstream political parties and churches, both of which have been slow to reach out to former East Germans, according to political scientist Dierk Bostel. Evangelical bishop Wolfgang Huber's plea to pay more attention to young people and "not surrendering a single one of them" sounds more like a cry of desperation than a plan.
The truth is that the pleas are coming too late. The NPD has long since filled in the gaps left behind by the collapse of communist East Germany with its strict structures and regimented daily life. The nationalist party has quietly but consistently made itself indispensable to reunification's victims -- to welfare recipients and even to the frustrated middle class. Neighborhood groups, cultural clubs and information centers have been set up -- and are used to inject constant doses of right-wing propaganda into the minds of the populace.
"Wolf in sheep's clothing"
"People in East Germany had a deal with the state," says Bostel. "The state makes sure I'm doing alright, and I play by the rules." With reunification, this deal came to an end. "That was the end of their love for democracy," Bostel claims.
Right-wing functionaries artfully exploited the emotional coolness of the state. In 2000, the NPD opened its national headquarters in the eastern Berlin neighborhood of Treptow-Köpenick. During the last general election, the party received fully 11.4 percent of the votes in the district. It's a neighborhood where a not inconsiderable number of residents spend their days in corner bars, railing against the state and against foreigners. Those who still belonged to the violent parts of the right-wing scene during the turbulent 1990s have now become decent citizens. But as Berlin's chief of police Michael Knape complains, "they're still right-wingers at heart." And the NPD helps out wherever it can in Treptow-Köpenick. The nationalists are becoming more and more aggressive in their attempts to recruit teenagers. They accompany them to party seminars after school, accompany them to the unemployment office or play soccer with them. There are even plans for providing groceries to those in need.
Their physical appearance is part of the larger deception. After all, what mother would entrust her child to a skinhead sports coach? Instead of leather jackets and combat boots, right-wing recruiters now wear suits or sportswear. "The wolf is presenting itself in sheep's clothing," says Bostel.
To nurture growth, a strict division of labor is observed in the right-wing camp. NPD activists know that those responsible for the rough work are best left in the grassroots organizations known as Kameradschaften and Freie Kräfte. The activists don't get their own hands dirty; sympathy is their tool for winning over new followers.
In Lübtheen, a town in the Mecklenburg region, the Nazis are terribly nice as well. Whoever meets Udo Pastörs -- the top NPD candidate in regional elections to be held in September -- in his jewellery store has a hard time imagining the man, who is in his mid-50s, in the presence of the bull-necked rowdies that are commonly associated with his party.
He offers competent advice to a customer who is looking for a ring and accompanies the lady to the door after he has sold the ring to her. Pastörs is a gentleman, no doubt about it.
He wears an old Omega watch on his wrist. "It's an automatic watch," he points out, "a special model designed for the military." The sales room in the brick-lined building is dapper too -- light timber floor boards, wooden beams under the ceiling and an open workshop for watch repairs and goldsmith work. Only a red card on a sideboard gives a clue as to the shopkeeper's worldview: "The Indians couldn't stop the immigrants. Now they live in reservations. If you want to save your children from this fate, defend yourself."
Pastörs wants to defend himself. According to him, Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington's controversial theory of a "clash of civilizations" is a truism. After all, "the peoples of the world are always struggling," and he wants to participate in that struggle. Still he says he's no friend of those who "throw bottles or beat people up."
He campaigns "against the New-York-ization of Germany," and against the "decadence of Germany's political class." Instead, he portrays himself as a man of the people and offers his would-be constituents help in their daily lives.
The watchmaker, who claims to have earned his money in the international gold and diamond trade, and for whom his shop is only a kind of hobby, has breakfast with craftsmen in the town's German House and chats with women at the market café. They're happy when "Udo" comes by to ask about their husbands and send his compliments to them.
He doesn't talk about the NPD on those occasions; after all, everyone knows which party their friendly neighbor works for. Concrete political issues are also the focus at Pastörs's regular meetings with the middle-class in the district town of Ludwigslust. The economy is high on the list -- with a particular focus on owner's equity share, which is often under 15 percent, Pastörs claims.
Taking the bait
"Completely enslaved to interest," is how Pastörs characterizes such business owners. Those of them who run into problems can meet with the NPD's two lawyers, who help them to "at least save their private assets" in the case of insolvency. Pastörs claims to already have won over a general contractor for his party in this way. Ute Lindenau, the Social Democratic (SPD) mayor of Lübtheen, isn't surprised that even "upstanding citizens in town" say that "he's not completely off base." She says it was a nightmare-come-true when a painter associated with Pastörs offered to renovate the rooms of a day-care center for free. "If I accept the offer," Lindenau says, "that will be publicity for the NPD, but if I don't they'll say I'm allowing everything to fall apart." Her solution is to help paint the center herself with the help of some of the parents.
The friendly right-wingers are active on many fronts. The wife of the NPD's district leader Andreas Theissen is a member of the local Parent Teacher Association, and Pastörs is the co-initiator of a grassroots campaign against a coal mining project planned for the region.
Whereas the SPD and the Christian Democrat (CDU) representatives in the district assembly were undecided, the two NPD members openly took a stand for the popular "No to Brown Coal" campaign. In other districts nearby, where the NPD received between 6 and 20 percent of the vote, Pastörs and party are upping their aid to those in need -- sometimes referred to as the "soup kitchen strategy."
There are other programs too. Children's festivals and grass roots initiatives are used to campaign for the "de-foreigner-ization" of Germany. Folk dancing, hiking excursions and summer camps are also on the menu.
Claus Guggenberger, spokesman for the Berlin branch of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, calls these kinds of activities the "ABC's of right-wing extremism." The NPD's efforts started paying off a long time ago. In 2005, the party's membership roles grew from 700 members to 6,000 members within just 12 months. "The bait" the party dangles in front of society, says Guggenberger, "simply works really well."
By Dominik Cziesche, Gunther Latsch, Conny Neumann, Irina Repke and Steffen Winter