We are witnessing a very rare thing this week. The people of Egypt are rising up in a grassroots democratic revolution on the heels of a simliar revolution in Tunisia. Other democratic revolts are occuring all over the Middle East in conservative traditionalist largely Muslim countries that are just the kinds of places where western news media and a cavalcade of experts are fond of telling us such things can't possibly happen. Naturally, I disagree. In fact, I think such revolts are inevitable. Just take any population of rational human beings and allow a small oligarchy to sell off the products of their labor and the riches of their land to multinational corporations for a few decades - all the while staying in power by propping up a brutal dictatorial government with military support from imperial powers like the United States - and see how they react when pushed past the breaking point. In general, people in such situations react by doing just what the Egyptians are now doing. Getting out in the streets in huge numbers. And refusing to go home until their dictator abdicates, and their oligarchy accedes to a democratic government.
Solidarity with the Egyptian People
Justice for Chuck Turner
People that follow my editorials here on Open Media Boston will recall that there are times when I say that I've had a hard time writing about a particular issue. This is one of those times. Chuck Turner got sentenced to three years in prison this week by US District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock after being convicted of taking a $1,000 bribe in 2007 and ostensibly lying about it to federal agents who interrogated him about the incident in 2008. I'm really not sure how to respond to that. I mean to anyone that knows the former Boston city councilor, his community and his work, it's clear that this is a terrible verdict and a grave miscarriage of justice. The question is: what to write about it that will make matters better?
How You Can Support Chuck Turner
Supporters of Chuck Turner should head over to the Moakley US Courthouse on Tuesday at 2 p.m. for the former Boston City Councilor's sentencing hearing in front of US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock on charges of taking a $1,000 bribe in 2007. Turner's in a tough spot and needs all the moral support he can get. According to the local press, he is looking at doing 33-41 months in jail for a crime that I still don't think he committed - generally agreeing, as I do, with the analysis that Turner was entrapped (at significant expense) by the FBI at the behest of former US Attorney Michael Sullivan ... a Republican with an ax or three to grind. But, I've already spilled much digital ink on this topic in the past, and I don't think rehashing my views on the matter is going to change anything at this point. And there's no question that it's going to be tough going for Turner in front of Woodlock - with US Attorneys John T. McNeil and James P. Dowden pushing very publicly this week to make an example of him. The only thing that might ameliorate a bad situation for Turner at this late date would be for people to write letters in his support. The letters will be turned over to the presiding judge by Turner's attorney prior to his hearing.
Snow Week at OMB
Well, looks like Open Media Boston is taking one more week off. The event we were going to cover in our News section got snowed out by the blizzard that's just calming down as I write. And I'm finishing up my winter academic residency. So, as I mentioned last week, we're happy to publish some fresh op-eds ... and I'll also remind everyone that comments to any articles we've already got up are always welcome. Other than that, if you need some food for thought until we get some new content posted, I'd recommend reading up on the circumstances surrounding the recent Arizona shootings - and thinking about how we can grow the American left enough to make such excesses by the lunatic fringe of the right-wing less likely. Quite a nut (d'oh!) to crack, I know. But worth expending some collective brain power on nonetheless. Have a good week otherwise.
OMB Gone (Ice) Fishin' This Week
Just a note to say that Open Media Boston will more or less on vacation this week. I'm taking a couple of winter session courses, the rest of our staff is still in holiday mode, and it's a slow news week in our main labor and non-profit sector beats (the looming wave of anti-worker legislation and civil rights violations taken as an unfortunate given); so it seems like a good time for a break. Our viewers are welcome to submit opinion pieces and calendar items as usual - and of course discussion and debate in the comments area of any of our articles is always welcome. But don't be crestfallen. We'll be back next week with fresh news and views (although I'll still be finishing up my classes; so don't expect a full editorial from me until maybe the following week).
Happy New Year ... and Seriously, Give Generously to KidsArts!
In this wee holiday edition of Open Media Boston, you'll find a piece asking for donations to the innovative, Jamaica Plain based, grassroots, multicultural, arts education program for kids, KidsArts! (the exclamation point being quite sensibly built into their name). They need to raise $15,000 by Friday or they may not make it far into the new year. We've already been asking for money for ourselves all month (and in general). So we think it would be great if people check out the letter in our Opinion section explaining the KidsArts! situation, dig deep, and make a donation to help Boston kids get the kind of arts education that they are increasingly not getting in school thanks to years of budget cuts. Beyond that ask, Happy New Year from all of us here at OMB! We look forward to serving Boston and environs with progressive news and views in 2011. Have fun this weekend. And please, don't drink and drive or make anything other than merry.
The Problem with Toys for Tots
Every year, critics of the ever-growing list of US military adventures in the service of a foreign policy based largely upon the whims of the multinational corporations that own most of our politicians are faced with a thorny little question: Do we participate in Toys for Tots toy drives or not? This may seem like a no-brainer to many. After all, what's not to like about a program that gives out more toys to kids at Christmas than any other effort in history? Millions of toys worth billions of dollars have been distributed to kids whose parents can't afford to provide any since the organization's founding in 1947. Sounds great, right? Problem is that the program is run by the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation under the auspices of the US Marine Corps Reserve. The Toys for Tots website states "In 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official activity of the U. S. Marine Corps and an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve." Therefore it's not just a charity run by veterans one step removed from their original branch of the service. It's part of the service. So anyone that has even a passing understanding of the role of the military in the maintenance of America's global political and economic regime would have to come to the conclusion that it is pretty much impossible for critics of US foreign policy to support a domestic toy drive by a branch of the US military. For many reasons. But the main one in this case is that the military kills lots of kids in other countries every year; so it's hard to countenance helping them give toys to kids in this country.
12/17 Panel on the "Growing Menace of FBI Repression" Worth Checking Out
An especially interesting and timely panel discussion is being held this Friday at First Parish Church in Cambridge. Its title says it all ... "The Growing Menace of FBI Repression." I don't push events in my editorials very often, but I think people should take some time to check this one out if they're not too busy with the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holiday break (brief though it may be for most working people).
Four speakers - Stephanie Weiner, Chuck Turner, Nancy Murray, and Laila Murad - will discuss some recent incidents that should make anyone who believes in democracy and the right to political dissent shudder.
Bad Faith in the Boston City Council
A few days ago, I watched Chuck Turner get thrown off of the Boston City Council by a near-unanimous vote of his peers as I took photographs of the sad scene for Open Media Boston. The fact that he got shown the door that day surprised no one. One had only to look at the stony faces of most of the councilors as Turner made his final defiant speech to them to know that he was definitely going down. The feds were handing his political head to them on a silver platter. And there was no way they were going to pass up that opportunity. They had the eight votes they needed - even if the more progressive councilors didn't vote yes. And that was that.
Councilor Charles Yancey did a fine job trying to defend Turner on procedural grounds - convincingly demonstrating that the council had no authority to expel the democratically-elected Turner under the council rules. And pointing out that no councilor in the long and nasty history of the Boston City Council had ever been expelled in such a fashion before. Of course, virtually none of those other councilors were black - but we'll sidle past that ugly fact for the purposes of this editorial.
Open Media Boston Holiday Appeal: This Year You Can Donate or Co-operate ... or Both!
Wow, time sure does fly. This is Open Media Boston's third Holiday Appeal since we started publishing in March 2008. That means for the last two years and (just about) nine months we've been bringing you - our expanding core of regular viewers - news and views with a progressive editorial stance. And we've been consistently covering issues that affect working families in Boston and environs every week - week-in and week-out - on a shoestring budget. Issues like foreclosures, layoffs, police brutality, corporate malfeasance, military adventurism, environmental destruction and the ongoing tendency of government at all levels to ignore (or exacerbate) these and other looming crises. But we don't just focus on what's bad. We have made it our mission to focus on what working people do to fight back against the caprices of the rich and powerful. Improving their lives - and our society - in the bargain.
Please check out these other articles of interest ...
- The One Fund: Private Wealth and the Distortion of Public Policy
- After the Boston Marathon Tragedy, We Need Justice ... and Democracy
- Open Media Boston Turns Five, Contemplates Expansion After the Collapse of the Boston Phoenix
- Open Media Boston Seeks More Opinion Pieces from Local Progressives
- Feedback Requested: Should We Rename Open Media Boston?