Sunday, October 28, 2007

State Dept. Institutes "The Draft" in Iraq

My uncle, a retired diplomat, sends a link to this report: "Uncle Sam drafts diplomats for embassy in Iraq".

The US embassy in Baghdad is the nation's largest, and the State Department is having trouble staffing it. Of course, this human resource issue has nothing to do with the size of the work force or the lack of qualified personnel, and everything to do with the security situation in the war torn country.

So to rectify the problem, the State Department has announced that it will draft current employees, forcing them to serve in the Central Asian hellhole that the US has created. Anyone who refuses will face disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Incidentally, State has instituted this policy twice before. In 1969, an entire class of entry-level diplomats was forced to serve during another US imperial quagmire, this one in a country called Vietnam. The second was when the US was destabilizing the newly independent nations of West Africa during the 1970s and 80s.

This should remind us all of the sacrifices that US military personnel are suffering with multiple extended tours of duty in Iraq. But, at least our soldiers can shoot back if fired upon. Diplomats are not permitted to carry weapons. They can only travel around Iraq with heavily armed security teams manned by lawless mercenaries from companies like Blackwater USA.

Working in a duty station like Iraq is a diplomat's nightmare. Why would anyone in their right mind want to be in that situation? It will be interesting to see how many career diplomats will give up their pensions and their jobs because of this policy.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shea Howell: Open Letter to Rep. John Conyers

By Shea Howell
Special to The Michigan Ctiizen

I first met Congressmen John Conyers in the early 1970s at a convention of the National Committee to End Racism and Political Repression. Representative Conyers welcomed Angela Davis, recently acquitted of murder charges, to Detroit. He praised her courage and brilliance in the struggle for liberation.

Since that long ago day, I have always been proud to have John Conyers as my Congressman. I knew he could be counted on to be on the right side of any issue. Until now.

Last Saturday Representative Conyers decided to attend the Gathering for Justice, City of Hope event at Youthville. He walked into the room quietly just as a young local artist was announcing Change the Music: "an art festival and political forum for local organizers working to keep pressure on Congress to hold the Bush administration accountable for its crimes." As the young artist spoke passionately about the importance of pressuring Congressmen Conyers to impeach Bush, Conyers entered and took a seat directly across from him.

For a while Conyers didn't say anything, but after a painful comment by a young man who felt there was little in the city that made his life worthwhile, Conyers rose. At first he tried to talk only about change in the city, but as calls to "Impeach Bush" increased, Conyers said, "You want me to talk about impeachment? All right, I will." He then explained that he knew more about impeachment than anyone in Congress and, by implication, anyone in the room.

Conyers went on to explain that it was a simple matter of real politics. We don't have the votes, we can't win, so why try? Then he asked "Had we bothered to consider who would replace Bush if he were impeached? Did we really want Dick Cheney as president?" Finally, he said that he couldn't do everything. So the real choice was "Did we want to impeach Bush or did we want him to get a reparations bill through Congress?" With that he sat down and the meeting moved on, with continuing but scattered calls for impeachment.

It was very sad. Conyers, a man who for so many decades has voiced the popular will to make change possible, is now concerned only with winning. He has forgotten that impeachment is a constitutional obligation, designed to educate the public, the current president and all future presidents on the importance of the rule of law. He played one of the lowest tricks in politics, encouraging economic self-interest at the expense of the soul of the country.

Conyers knows better.

In August of 2004 he released a report called, The Constitution in Crisis. Some 350 pages in length and supported by more than 1,400 footnotes, it compiles the accumulated evidence at that point that the Bush Administration has "thumbed its nose at our nation's laws, and the Constitution itself. Approximately 26 laws and regulations may have been violated by this Administration's misconduct."

He concluded, "Our Constitution established a tri-partite system of government, with the notion that each branch of government would act as a check on the other two. Unfortunately, for the last six years, the Republicans in Congress have largely viewed themselves as defenders of the Bush Administration, instead of a vital check on overreaching by the Executive Branch. By doing so, I believe they have acted to the detriment of our Constitutional form of government."

Conyers seems to have forgotten that the point of political power is to use it. At one of the most critical moments in the history of our country, he is on the wrong side. Every one of us who cares about the future should let him know what we think.

Black Surburbia, Detroit-centrism and Consciousness

Once again, provocative and opinionated Detroit activist, Imhotep Bakara, begins an interesting debate. He forwarded this link to an article in the Detroit News called, "Many Metro blacks feel isolated in suburbs".
He prefaced the link with this message:
It's real interesting that the Det. News did this story. It's seems to me they are saying "our plan is working"! It seems to me that some Blk people love to be confused about their place in Amerikkka!

I only can say, this brother aint going across 8 mile!
If i got to leave, it's going to be to another "black city".
Since we moved to Michigan in 1999, my wife and I have lived in suburban Wayne County - Westland to be exact. A lower cost of living and a quieter neighborhood that is more similar to the area we left in Nashville brought us here instead of within the Detroit city limits.

I'm actually from a very small town in East Tennessee, so even Westland's population of 85,000 is a bit congested for my taste. I like living in the country personally, but enjoy the cultural richness that a big city offers.

That said, working class Westland is pretty devoid of culture, but is conveniently located halfway between Detroit and Ann Arbor. We have the ability to explore diverse communities and experiences throughout the state. The biggest problem is that because Southeastern Michigan has no effective public transit, we end up driving too much.

Would we rather live in a predominately Black neighborhood? Yes, if that neighborhood is quiet, safe and affordable. These factors of security and economics helped us choose our location more than any desire to live in a "diverse" community, though I happen to enjoy the diversity of the region. I like the Indian restaurants and Middle Eastern shops and African stores and living within walking distance of a mall.

Eight years later, our neighborhood in Westland is becoming younger and more Black. Detroiters have been exiting the city looking for better schools, safer streets and a lower cost of living. What isn't here is cultural infrastructure or community gathering places where Black folks can get together. So even though we have more Black neighbors, we still have to go to Detroit for our African cultural activities, we still drive all the way to the Eastside (Harper Woods) for great soul food with no pork, and our best friend in Westland is still a conservative white dude.

Westland may soon become a "Black city" like Southfield, but until more Black businesses begin to open and the community develops, it will remain culturally an "All-American City" (the city motto). Incidently, it's also the home of the American Nazi Party, which creates the potential for an entirely different set of probabilities as the town becomes more racially and culturally diverse. Ain't that "All-Amerikkkan"?


On another train of thought, a lot of Black Detroiters are very "Detroit-centric". It is unthinkable to many that a Black person could live outside the city limits. Some equate a non-Detroit address with some lack of Blackness or consciousness.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Again, we moved to Michigan from Tennessee. Our cost of living almost doubled even in Westland. A Detroit address would have caused even greater financial hardship because of high city taxes.

I consider myself more of a Detroiter than I do a "Westlander" because the politics and economy of Detroit have a more direct effect on my life. I work mostly in Detroit, I do 85% of my business in Detroit, and most of that is with Black businesses.

Black suburbanites are contributing to the revitalization of the city. As gentrification begins to take hold, Detroiters need to think of ways to attract suburban Blacks back to the city even as whites begin to return. This means truly acting as a majority. We have a Black mayor, Black city council, Black school board, Black police chief most of whom are more beholden to property rights and corporate money than they are to their people.

Why is gentrification finally going to take control in Detroit? Because outsiders see vacant lots, empty storefronts and foreclosed homes as opportunities. Many Black Detroiters see them as evidence of racism and the flight of capital from the city.

The racism is there, but so are the opportunities and the capital. A recent Michigan Citizen article shows that Detroiters spend $1 out of every $3 they make at retailers outside the city limits. Much of this $1.7 billion could be helping the city's business community to grow.

And racial stratification doesn't help. Ethnic Arabs and Chaldeans in Detroit own a great many of the gas stations and convenience stores in the city, but they have no problem selling to Black Detroiters.

Don't criticize them. Learn from them. Pool resources. Keep businesses in the family by teaching your children how to run those businesses. Don't dog a man who takes advantage of an opportunity that you ignored.

It's time to stop complaining about all of the problems that Detroit has had for more than 40 years. It's time to stop complaining about ineffective public officials who don't work for the people. Now is the time to seize the opportunities that are so plentiful within the city, and to promote positive leaders like Council member Joann Watson and the few others who are looking out for the interests of the people.

At a Detroit City of Hope Gathering for Justice that we attended a couple of weeks ago, a speaker reflected on an observation by Grace Lee Boggs that the Chinese symbol for "crisis" can mean both "danger" and "opportunity". It's time for Detroiters to seize that opportunity. If we don't, someone else will.