Sunday, June 03, 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
Culture Shock Oman: Modesty in the L
Monday, May 21, 2012
NATO has no Place in Our World in this Century
The New Eco-Devastation in Rural America
The New Eco-Devastation in Rural America When workers drilling tunnels at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, began to die, Union Carbide had an answer. It hadn’t been taking adequate precautions against the inhalation of silica dust, a known danger to workers since the days of ancient Greece. Instead, in many cases, a company doctor would simply tell the families of the workers that they had died of “tunnelitis,” and a local undertaker would be paid $50 to dispose of each corpse. A few years later, in 1935, a congressional subcommittee discovered that approximately 700 workers had perished while drilling through Hawk’s Nest Mountain, many of them buried in unmarked graves at the side of the road just outside the tunnel. The subcommittee concluded that Union Carbide’s project had been accomplished through a “grave and inhuman disregard of all considerations for the health, lives and future of the employees." Despite the “Hawk’s Nest Incident” and thousands of Depression-era lawsuits against foundries, mines, and construction companies, silicosis never disappeared. In the decades since, as TomDispatch authors David Rosner and Jerry Markowitz have repeatedly demonstrated, industry worked tirelessly to label silicosis a “disease of the past,” even while ensuring that it would continue to be a disease of the present. By the late 1990s, the Columbia University researchers found that from New York to California, from Texas all the way back to West Virginia, millions of workers in foundries, shipyards, mines, and oil refineries, among other industries, were endangered by silica dust. Today, there’s a new silicosis scare on the horizon and a new eco-nightmare brewing in the far corners of rural America. Like the Hawk's Nest disaster it has flown under the radar -- until now. Once upon a time, mining companies tore open hills or bored through or chopped off mountain tops to get at vital resources inside. They were intent on creating quicker paths through nature’s obstacles, or (as at Gauley Bridge) diverting the flow of mighty rivers. Today, they’re doing it merely to find the raw materials -- so-called frac sand -- to use in an assault on land several states away. Multinational corporations are razing ancient hills of sandstone in the Midwest and shipping that silica off to other pastoral settings around the United States. There, America’s prehistoric patrimony is being used to devastating effect to fracture shale deposits deep within the earth -- they call it “hydraulic fracturing” -- and causing all manner of environmental havoc. Not everyone, however, is keen on this “sand rush” and coalitions of small-town farmers, environmentalists, and public health advocates are now beginning to stand firm against the big energy corporations running sand-mining operations in their communities. Ground zero in this frac-fight is the rural Wisconsin towns to which TomDispatch’s roving environmental reporter Ellen Cantarow traveled this spring to get the biggest domestic environmental story that nobody knows about. Walking the fields of family farms under siege and talking to the men and women resisting the corporations, Cantarow offers up a shocking report of vital interest. There’s a battle raging for America’s geological past and ecological future -- our fresh food and clean water supplies may hinge on who wins it. Nick Turse How Rural America Got Fracked The Environmental Nightmare You Know Nothing About By Ellen Cantarow If the world can be seen in a grain of sand, watch out. As Wisconsinites are learning, there’s money (and misery) in sand -- and if you’ve got the right kind, an oil company may soon be at your doorstep. Click here to read more of this dispatch.
Military Fights Global Warming
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
May 8 and May 9: Sort of Bookends in Our Lives
May 8 and May 9: Sort of Bookends in My (Our) Life By Kevin Stoda It had been said, “Explaining a metaphor to someone is like chewing someone else’s food for them”. Nonetheless, when I claim to see May 8th and May 9th as bookends of important events in my life and of important events in modern world history, I do have to take time to explain. By the way, May 9th is my birth day and May 8th is the birthday of my one and only child. History—in the broad, abstract meaning of the term, as well as in the sense of personal history—looms large in my life (and should loom large in all our lives as we are part of a humongous narration dating back to before the creation of the stars). I felt impelled at an early age to view history as important while at the same time I was living constantly under the shadow of post-WWII nuclear annihilation that always swung like a the universe’s largest dagger over my planet Earth, i.e. through the end of the Cold War. In short, the End of History that the planet Earth faced in those years when the West and the East were at each others throats colored most of my living years, i.e. as our humanity was expected to be destroyed at the hands of a global winter created by both my homeland, the USA, and the Soviet Union. I was born in 1962—the year of the infamous October Nuclear Showdown between the USA and the Soviet Union over the position of nuclear missiles in Cuba. As noted above, I was born on May 9, which was and remains the day when the Russians and many in Eastern Europe celebrate the end of the continents bloodiest conflict. MAY 8TH IN RECENT GLOBAL HISTORY In short, the West celebrated VE-Day or Victory in Europe Day on May 8 and saw the war end on the European continent as ending at midnight on May 8, 1945 (Berlin Time), but since then the East has always celebrated it as occurring a day later—as the Moscow time zone is several hours ahead of Berlin’s. Hence, technically, the war against the Soviet Motherland had ended a day later in the East than in the West. Such is the relativity of history. Like two ying and yang bedfellows—or bookends--, a divided continent could not agree on the exact date for celebrating or recognizing the end of a catastrophe that had led to the death of 50 million peoples or more. It has now been well over half a century since the clocks in war-torn Europe ticked down for Victory in Europe Day (VE-Day). That was May 8th 1945. I should also note that Harry S. Truman, the then serving 33rd President of the United States (1945-1953), was born near Lamar, Missouri in Jasper County (only a few miles from where my own mother lives) on May 8, 1884. On his birthday in 1945, President Truman announced in a radio address that World War II had ended in Europe. Marshal Wilhelm Keitel surrendered to Marshal Zhukov. Germany surrendered and Victory in Europe was achieved by the allies. The May-8th-born Truman would permit the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan three months later. http://www.history.com/topics/bombing-of-hiroshima-and-nagasaki/videos#manhattan-project Those events would discolor the end-of-war celebrations for the next decades as a Cold-War Curtain of Distrust divided not only Europe—but the World for the next four and a half decades. Albert Einstein rightly complained that nuclear weapons—which should have ended all wars but failed to, in fact bring any lasting peace to our planet. Einstein stated, “The release of atom power has chan¬ged everything except our way of thinking…the solu¬tion to this pro¬blem lies in the heart of man¬kind.” Soon the nuclear arms race was on and people were having nightmares of global annihilation. This fear-fascination would create endless-war mobilization for my homeland and its people—the USA. For example, by May 8, 1950, the US Government had become officially convinced that neither national independence nor democratic evolution existed in any area dominated by Soviet imperialism. They considered the situation to be such as to warrant sending “economic aid and military equipment to the Associated State of Indochina and to France in order to assist them in restoring stability and permitting these states to pursue their peaceful and democratic development.” This decision and a series of decisions there-after would lead to what Americans came to know in the 1960s as the Vietnam War. By the way, on May 8, 1967, Boxer Muhammad Ali (b.1942) was indicted for refusing induction in US Army. He (and thousands of other Americans) refused to fight in the Vietnam War out of conscience. I should also add that on May 8, 1952, allied fighter-bombers staged the largest raid of the war on North Korea.) Then six years later, on May 8, 1958, Vice President Richard Nixon of the USA was shoved, stoned, booed and spat upon by anti-American protesters in Lima, Peru. This latter event demonstrated that American politics in the Cold War had lost the hearts and minds of many in the world—kind of like in our present decade—by using the CIA and other forces to overthrow elected leaders and manipulate other country’s politics around the world in the name of fighting an Endless War on Communism. Incidentally, twelve years later, on May 8, 1970, massive anti-war protests again took place across the United States and around the world—i.e. in the wake of the shooting of a number of unarmed protesting students at Kent State university a few days earlier. MAY 9TH and 1962 The ending of WWII in Europe on May 8th and 9th 1945 meant that Germany (and Europe) had been spared the dropping of Atomic bombs that were soon destined for Japan. In the states where I was to grow up (Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois) , the message was made clear. Winston S. Churchill arrived at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, 1946. There he stated, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Triest in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe.” In reply, the Missourian, President Harry S. Truman, responded in 1947, “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.” This Truman Doctrine would be expanded endlessly over the next half century—leading to entangling alliances and wars in almost every corner of the globe. One piece of good news for the word was the rise of rock n roll in the 1950s and other cultural revolutions in the 1960s. Later, on May 9, 1960, the world saw another earth-changing event. That was the day that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve the pill Enovid as being safe for birth control use. The pill was made by G.D. Searle and Company of Chicago. “The Pill” created not only a sexual revolution across the globe but also changed the destiny’s of men, women and children alike forever. One woman has noted, “[B]esides the technology [of the Pill], it is[was] also a conceptual leap larger than the fall of communism, larger than the advances in communication that we hold so vital. Women were hitherto enslaved by biology; and suddenly we weren't.” Luckily, despite the presence in the USA of “the Pill”, I was born on May 9, 1962-- two years later—about 60 miles from Chicago and the location of the already famous and wealthy G.D. Searle company. 1962 was a turning point year for the world, too. “ The Cold War continued to worsen when the Russians placed Ballistic Missiles on Cuban land just 90 miles away from the coast of Florida in and JFK called the bluff by threatening war unless they were removed which they were but for a short time the world was on the brink of nuclear war and self destruction. The president then set a goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade and became more involved in politics in Southeast Asia by training South Vietnamese pilots.” http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1962.html 1962 became the first year that both the Soviet Union and the United States decided that M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) or brinkmanship was not necessarily the best strategy for the Cold War Arch Enemies in either the short or the long-term. May 8 and May 9 of 1945 had seen an end to war in western and central Europe, but the USSR and the USA would continually bring the shadow of nuclear holocaust back to that continent—while sharing the possibility of global destruction to others over the next thirty years. http://www.history.com/topics/bombing-of-hiroshima-and-nagasaki/videos#atoll-atomic-test-explosion In many ways, the Cold War and the on-and-off nuclear arms race is simple to comprehend for the children of 2012. Th pre-1990 period in modern history saw the rise of a “Balance of Terror”—with nuclear weapons and destruction as the promised future for several generations. Things were so bad for me mentally as a child of the 1960s that I really thought or felt that with the simultaneous existence of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the interracial war at my home-front and the post-colonial wars everywhere, I really thought by my 3rd and 4th grade school years that the planet was in the midst of WWIII. Growing up, many adults had to explain to me that WWIII did not, in fact, already exist. Finally, in the early 1970s the USA bailed out of Vietnam and several African wars while signing détente with the Soviet Union. This provided my generation and I a breather before the massive Carter-Reagan-Brezhnev Arms build-ups of the late 1970s and early 1980s reversed the positive trends of my early teenage years. By 1983, I would join the Menschenkette and anti-Missile marches in Germany. My friends would march in massive demonstrations in New York and elsewhere. Similar to the ill-fated antiwar marches and protesters of 2003 in the run-up to George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion, many generations of peace-seekers were ignored by the politicians in early and mid-1980s in Europe and Latin America. The USA became once again the supreme global arms merchant and went after the heartland of the Soviet Union by gambling on its ability to outspend the Communists and bleed them to death in Afghanistan. Finally, people power began to win out in the late 1980s as many of the East European anti-nuke activists aligned themselves with democratic forces and toppled regimes across the region. Only starting in early 1990 could I—for the first time in my life—look forward to a future that would not be overshadowed full-time by nuclear winter. Interestingly, despite the rise of terrorism and the growing militarization of my homeland, the USA, I can look forward to a long future, which I am again celebrating this May 9, 2012 (for the 50th time). I was married four years ago and now have a daughter, who was born on May 8, 2010. I celebrate her birthday today with my lovely wife. My daughter and I are the bookends with my wife in the middle. We still have hope for the future—despite possible rise of nuclear attacks from Israel, Iran, Saudi, the USA or anywhere. I encourage you to get to know history and teach your children well the narration of their lives and how we—humanity—all fit into each others stories. NOTES Factoids are collected from this website for May 8 http://timelines.ws/days/05_08.HTML and May 9 http://timelines.ws/days/05_09.HTML More on history and fallout from the Atomic Bomb Decision is here: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/index.htm
Saturday, May 05, 2012
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT–CAN IT BE DONE WITH HIGH ABSENTEE RATES?
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Is it really important for university students to attend classes?
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
CONVERSATION ON AMERICAN POVERTY as 1 in every 2 AMERICANS are now Poor
This is the most important conversation, America. Get talking and get demanding and get marching.--KAS Part 2: Tavis Smiley & Cornel West on Growing Up Poor, Occupy Wall Street and Trayvon Martin Cas In part two of the DEMOCRACY NOW interview, Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West discuss growing up in working-class households. “I saw so much poverty growing up,” says Smiley, who lived with 13 family members in a three-bedroom trailer and learned that even when he was not optimistic, he could be hopeful. “Hope needs help,” Smiley notes. West recalls how he worked with the Black Panthers to organize a general strike while growing up in Sacramento, California, in order to push for African-American studies programs in local high schools. Looking at current events, Smiley and West cite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment that “war is the enemy of the poor” and compare the amount of money spent in Iraq and the 2012 presidential campaign to funding for programs that assist the one in two Americans who are now poor. They also discuss the Trayvon Martin case and react to Ted Nugent’s potentially threatening comments about President Obama at the recent National Rifle Association meeting. Click here to see Part 1 of this interview. AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, as we continue with our conversation with PBS broadcaster, NPR broadcaster, Tavis Smiley, and Princeton University professor and preacher, Cornel West. They have written their first book together, though they have written many books separately, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. You know, this is your first book together, and I was wondering if you could each talk about your own lives, because you talk about each other’s lives in the beginning of the book. But Tavis, talk about where you grew up and the circumstances, your family. TAVIS SMILEY: Let me just say, given that I regard Dr. West as the leading public intellectual in our nation, that I regard him as a Du Bois of our time. For all the good work we’ve done together for 25 years, nothing has delighted me more than to have my name on the cover of a book next to his name, because I so love and respect and revere Cornel West and his contributions to this great nation and the world, for that matter. So, to get a chance to sit and write a book with him, where we bring our shared experiences and individual experiences to bear on a topic like poverty, was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. And our upbringings are very different. We are brothers connected at the heart. We grew up in very different environments. He can speak about his own. But I grew up as one of 10 kids. I’m the eldest of 10 kids, grew up in a three-bedroom trailer, my seven brothers and me in one bedroom, my two sisters and my maternal grandmother, Big Mama, in the second bedroom, and my mother and father, Joyce and Emory Smiley, in the third bedroom—13 people in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom trailer. That’s how I was raised, in a trailer park with all white people. We were the only black family for miles around in this white trailer park. The good— AMY GOODMAN: Where? TAVIS SMILEY: In Indiana, North Central Indiana. The good news about that is I learned at an early age that we can get along, if I could take Rodney King’s question and answer it: yes, we can get along. America is a nation where black and white and red and brown and yellow can come together for the sake of making America a greater democracy. So I’ve always believed in the best of America. In that sense, I resonate with Martin’s dream, rooted in the American Dream. I resonate with Dr. King in that regard. On the other hand, though, I saw so much poverty growing up, because I lived that story growing up. And I’ve been fortunate, and I’ve been blessed. And the short answer is, I know that, even when we can’t be optimistic—and Doc makes this point all the time—even when we can’t be optimistic, we can always be hopeful. And I’m a witness, I’m an example, that you can build an entire life on hope. As I’ve gotten older, though, I realize, though, that hope needs help. And those of us who have the platform and have the opportunity to speak for those who don’t have a voice, Doc and I believe and argue in the book, that is, the telling of truth that allows suffering to speak, so that the suffering is never heard, much less addressed, if those of us who have platforms, like Democracy Now!, don’t raise our voices to speak out on their behalf. That’s why I celebrate what you do and celebrate the opportunity to do this book with Dr. West. JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Cornel West, the amazing thing about this is that poverty is no stranger to either of you. Talk about your upbringing. CORNEL WEST: Well, I didn’t grow up in the same kind of poverty this brother did, though. He was broke as the Ten Commandments financially. We had some flow of resources, you know what I mean? It was more working class, lower middle class. But most importantly, we were spiritually rich. We were morally rich. Irene and Clifton, my parents, my brother Cliff, my sisters Cynthia and Cheryl. I’m the father of Zeytun and Cliff and grandfather of Kalen. I’ve lived an extremely blessed life, even though I come out of that—both stable working class, lower middle class. When I met this brother, we decided—what, 25 years ago? AMY GOODMAN: You grew up in Sacramento. CORNEL WEST: Sacramento, California, yeah. It was 25 years ago, I say, “We are going to live and die to keep alive the legacy of Martin King and Fannie Lou and [inaudible]— AMY GOODMAN: You were fighting from when you were in school. You were what? President of your class, but fighting to include African-American studies? CORNEL WEST: Yeah, we had a general strike, absolutely. AMY GOODMAN: What year was it? CORNEL WEST: That was 1969. We shut the whole— AMY GOODMAN: And why did you strike? CORNEL WEST: —city down to make sure they had black studies in every high school, who wanted it. We weren’t authoritarian to coerce everybody, you know. But already, you know, we had been set on fire by not just Martin King, but I was working closely with the Black Panther Party, as a Christian, of course. We had wonderful tensions, but I was working the breakfast program, working with them every day trying to ensure they had black studies. And so, when Tavis and I come together, he’s from Kokomo, Indiana—Sacramento, California—boom! King legacy 2012, in our own feeble way. I mean, you know, we’re just doing what we could do before we die. JUAN GONZALEZ: And we’ve been covering extensively on Democracy Now!, when you talk about fighting for black studies in the schools, the battle in Arizona in Tucson over the state legislature passing a law— CORNEL WEST: Oh, yeah, absolutely. JUAN GONZALEZ: —that essentially bans Latino studies in the city of Tucson in the public schools there. CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. AMY GOODMAN: And the books that are the heart of the curriculum. CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, and they banned the books that are the curriculum. CORNEL WEST: But as you point out in your magisterial text, old brother, in some ways, that’s a compliment, because when the powers that be want to suppress the truth, we know truth crushed to earth shall rise again. The truth is dangerous. JUAN GONZALEZ: Right. CORNEL WEST: The truth is—pushes people against the wall. AMY GOODMAN: You both, in your book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto, refer to Dr. King. I wanted to play a clip of Dr. King. You talk about his campaign against poverty. This was the speech he gave not far from here, Riverside Church, April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans. That is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. King, April 4th, 1967. Tavis Smiley, it’s not the speech we usually hear when referring to Dr. King. TAVIS SMILEY: It is the most courageous speech that Martin King ever gave in his life. And for giving that speech, he was demonized. We talk about this in our work. King, in the last poll taken in his life about his acceptance in popularity in the country, 55 percent of black had turned against black people because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Seventy-two percent of Americans across the board had turned against Dr. King because of his opposition to the war. JUAN GONZALEZ: New York Times and the Washington Post editorialized against him. CORNEL WEST: Oh, man. TAVIS SMILEY: They killed him. CORNEL WEST: Basically him a communist, basically called him a communist. TAVIS SMILEY: They absolutely did. They did. That speech is, again, the most courageous speech he ever gave. And there’s one line in that speech—many lines, but one that always resonates with Dr. West and myself, and we talk about it in this book, we quote him in this text: “War is the enemy of the poor.” That’s Martin King. “War is the enemy of the poor.” And the two of you, given the fine work you do here on this Peace Report every day, you understand that. All the resources, the trillion-plus dollars we’ve spent in these military excursions—you can’t even call them “excursions” now, because we’re now—this is the longest war in the history of this country; it’s not an excursion anymore. CORNEL WEST: Invasion, occupation. TAVIS SMILEY: Exactly, without, obviously, an exit strategy. But think of all the money spent there that could have been spent on programs here for the poor, number one. Number two, now that we’re no longer in Iraq, as we once were, at least, how will that money be spent domestically that was being spent in Iraq? And since I’m talking about money, and we’re talking about this campaign for the White House, if Mitt Romney is going to raise, as the papers suggest, about $600 million this time around, Barack Obama last time raised $750 million and will raise more now that he’s an incumbent—I’m no math major—you put those two together, you’re talking a billion-plus dollars. Think of how much money—what that money could be used for vis-à-vis programs in this country. But there’s so much money in our politics, both parties beholden to big business and to corporate America, and that’s not even mentioning all the money now being activated by these super PACs. But just think about all that money to run a campaign for the White House and what that money could be used for. It’s sickening to me, quite frankly. JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the amazing thing to me also is, in the midst of this crisis, all of these governments, both the federal government and the state governments, talking about cutting back expenditures, all aiming at the pension funds, the pension funds of city workers, of teachers, of other folks, a way to actually accelerate the move toward poverty, not to pull it back. CORNEL WEST: That’s right, because then we’ve got to think we know that the austerity cuts just reinforce recession, reinforce depression, make it more difficult to generate demand on the part of working people, having resources to spend even. So this is even within the capitalist framework, it reinforces the race to the bottom, without any serious consideration of not just taxes on the wealthy, but attempts to restructure the economy in such a way that something called “public interest” has real small substance. AMY GOODMAN: And then, what about the crackdown on dissent in this country? CORNEL WEST: Oh, yes. AMY GOODMAN: I mean, we see the report just came out of UC Davis, the—very critical of the administration for the in-the-face pepper-spraying of these students who were protesting tuition hikes. CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. AMY GOODMAN: You see the encampments of Occupy wiped out around the country. You see police forces in this country—you talk about the war abroad and the billions that go into that—police forces in this country that are getting millions of dollars. They’ve got drones. They’ve got tanks. And then you— JUAN GONZALEZ: The surveillance of the Muslim community, right? By the New York Police Department. CORNEL WEST: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. AMY GOODMAN: That’s right, the Associated Press just winning the Pulitzer Prize for exposing the monitoring of the Muslim community. CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. You know, I’m very blessed to stand with Brother Christopher Hedges and Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg and others against the U.S. government in terms of this National Defense Authorization Act. We were just in court here, 500 Pearl Street, a few weeks ago, and we’ll come back. Meaning what? Section 1021, 1022: U.S. government has the right to detain persons without trial, without due process, without judicial process, if you are in some way associated with associate forces of terrorist groups or have some connection with terrorist groups. Which means, in the ’80s, I’m going straight to jail, because nobody is going to stop me from being in contact with Nelson Mandela, and he’s on the terrorist list for 20-some years. That’s sponsored by the U.S. government. So that is part of the criminalizing of dissent. And we always know, in the middle of these kinds of cultural and political and outright military wars, truth is always the first casualty. AMY GOODMAN: We have been covering a case that happened on November 19th. This whole country knows about Trayvon Martin, not because in Florida they decided to prosecute the shooter, George Zimmerman, but because, first, people rose up all over the country. TAVIS SMILEY: That’s right. CORNEL WEST: That’s right. AMY GOODMAN: And although the special prosecutor, when she said, you know, “This is not because of outcry; this is because we’ve looked at the facts” — that’s clearly the case, they looked at the facts, but what got it into the hands and the purview of a special prosecutor, what it takes in this country—Juan and I have been looking at this case of a man named Kenneth Chamberlain in White Plains, New York, not far from here, lived in a public housing project, 68 years old. He was a corrections guard, before that a Marine. He was also a heart patient, and he wore a medical alert pendant. He rolled over on it, apparently, or something triggered it at 5:00 in the morning on November 19th. It alerted the life alert company. They couldn’t reach him on the little box in the dining room that, you know, speaks to the person who’s in the room, so they called police, said, “Not a criminal issue. It’s a medical emergency. Get over there.” They got over there. They started slamming on the door, and then they really started slamming. Yes, Chamberlain got up. He said, “I’m OK. I’m OK.” Life alert company called the police, said, “Hey, cancel the call. He’s OK. We are talking to him.” He’s telling the police, “I’m OK. I’m OK.” He’s saying “Semper fi, Semper fi, I’m OK.” They take the door off its hinges. They take a taser gun, and you see the video of the taser gun that the DA now has, and it shows him in his boxer shorts, according to his lawyers and his son. And they tase him. But that was not enough. They then shot him dead, this heart patient. Within an hour, this happened. And this is a case that’s now before a grand jury in White Plains. It hasn’t got as much— JUAN GONZALEZ: It happened in November. AMY GOODMAN: Right, and it finally got to the grand jury many months later. It’s not clear what will happen. Juan, reporting for the New York Daily News, found the name of the police officer who shot him dead, Anthony Carelli. JUAN GONZALEZ: Who also happened to have already a federal case against him for beating up two Muslim brothers in another arrest case, and he’s about to go to trial on that case. CORNEL WEST: Wow. JUAN GONZALEZ: And meanwhile, he’s the one who shot— AMY GOODMAN: And this was very embarrassing to the police, when Juan found the name of the police officer, because it just so happens, on April 23rd, they have sued him. He was calling them “rag head.” We have pictures of their faces beaten. This is the same officer who shoots him dead. And you hear on the tape—by the way, LifeAid was recording everything in the room, because that’s what they do, because they’ve got a patient on their hands. JUAN GONZALEZ: But again, it was only the public uproar—once the family was able to see the tapes, the public uproar that developed afterwards, that even, you know, got to the point now where a grand jury is sitting hearing the evidence, but no guarantee of what’s going to happen. CORNEL WEST: But also, it’s the crucial role of the courageous investigation that the three of you represent. We’ve got three of the most progressive journalists willing to tell the truth, and then allows the information to come to light, then the public outrage. Then the status quo has to respond in some way. And you hope then that rule of law will not be arbitrary, but actually be fair. AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Trayvon Martin and what this case signifies? TAVIS SMILEY: The case you’re referencing now, though, let me just say that—and I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few months, of course—I’m always looking for that proverbial, you know, silver lining inside the dark cloud. And I hope that the Trayvon Martin case, the case that you’ve just referenced now, Occupy movement, reminds the American people that we do have agency, that we do have access and the opportunity to raise our voices, to exercise our right to vote, to take to the streets. And we’re in a moment, as Doc says all the time—and we, again, talk about this in the book—that this really is a moment of fightback. We are in a moment of fightback in this country. And that’s why we said earlier in this conversation that we are on the precipice of losing our democracy. When you start seeing people’s civil liberties sacrificed in the way they are, being sacrificed, to your point earlier, Amy, when you see this kind of dissent, when you see poverty run amok, and half of us are in or near poverty—this democracy is very fragile. It’s very fragile. Doc says all the time, we’ve grown older, and we have grown wiser, but we’ve not grown up, after all the years of being in this democracy. And so, I hope that this moment at least underscores and reminds us that we do have a role to play here, that we do have to raise our voices, again, that we do some agency here. My read of history suggests to me that there’s no empire in the history of the world that at some point did not falter or fail. And for whatever reason, call it American exceptionalism, we don’t even want to think about the fact that we, as a nation, as a democracy, could be right at the edge, could be on the precipice of something very dangerous. But all these examples that we’re talking about right now and the wonderful work that you do here on The War and Peace Report, on Democracy Now!, underscores that our democracy is very, very fragile. And the Trayvon Martin case is just another example. Twenty years after the Rodney King riots in L.A.—I live in L.A., as you know. We’re on that anniversary now. Twenty years ago, our city burned, because we couldn’t get justice with those officers in the Rodney King beating. And we learned from that, apparently. We learned nothing from O.J. And God knows what and if we’ll learn anything from Trayvon Martin. But this democracy is in trouble. And those of us of conscience have got to start—got to start speaking up. AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, Ted Nugent, Romney supporter, NRA activist—this weekend, the Secret Service is investigating him for making potentially threatening comments about President Obama at this recent NRA meeting. TED NUGENT: If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. You’re—why are you laughing? You think that’s funny? That’s not funny at all! I’m serious as a heart attack. Isn’t the enemy that ruined America, it’s good people who bent over and let the enemy in. If the coyotes in your living room [expletive] on your couch, it’s not the coyotes’ fault; it’s your fault for not shooting him. So, it’s an important time. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Am I—any questions? AMY GOODMAN: That is NRA activist, Mitt Romney supporter, Ted Nugent. Professor Cornel West? CORNEL WEST: Well, I mean, you know, he’s just—he’s a right-wing crusader, full of a lot of hate, full of a lot of venom, a lot of vitriol. I think even back to Trayvon Martin. We look at the parents, Sister Sybrina, Brother Tracy, dignity. In the face of hatred, love and justice. Nugent, full of a lot of hate. It’s cowardly. It’s spiritually immature. It’s morally backward. It reflects his own insecurity. And yet, that’s very much part what we’re up against. AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both very much for being with us. Professor Cornel West and Tavis Smiley— CORNEL WEST: Thank you. We salute both of you, salute both of you. AMY GOODMAN: —have written a book together for the first time, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Thanks so much. TAVIS SMILEY: Thank you. AMY GOODMAN: I know you are busily going on your tour, so thanks so much for stopping by. TAVIS SMILEY: Our pleasure. GUESTS Tavis Smiley, TV and radio broadcaster. He hosts the TV show Tavis Smiley on PBS and two radio shows, The Tavis Smiley Show and Smiley & West, which he hosts with Cornel West. Together they have written the new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Cornel West, professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University. He is author of numerous books and co-host of the radio show Smiley & West with Tavis Smiley. Together they have written the new book,The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.
The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. THIS DIRECTLY HAS HURT AMERICAN DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOMS, TOO!
Even though the presidential candidates are leaving poverty off the agenda in 2012, Americans cannot. This conversation (below) from Democracy Now is a must for you to peruse–and to be more informed as a REAL AMERICAN.–KAS Tavis Smiley & Cornel West on “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto” The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. We’re joined by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who continue their efforts to spark a national dialog on the poverty crisis with the new book, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.” Smiley, an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster, says President Obama has failed to properly tackle poverty. “There seems to be a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the poor just don’t matter. President Obama is a part of that,” Smiley says. “I take nothing away from his push on healthcare, but jobs for every American should have been primary issue, number one.” West, a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University, says that after the historic U.S. struggles against monarchy, slavery and institutionalized racism, “the issue today is oligarchy. Poverty is the new slavery. Oligarchs are the new kings. They’re the new heads of this structure of domination.” Click here to see part two of this interview. GUESTS: Tavis Smiley, TV and radio broadcaster. He hosts the TV show Tavis Smiley on PBS and two radio shows: The Tavis Smiley Show and Smiley & West, which he hosts with Cornel West. Together they have written the new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Cornel West, professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University. He is author of numerous books and co-host of the radio show, Smiley & West, with Tavis Smiley. Together they have written the new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to an issue seldom talked about on the presidential campaign trail by President Obama or any of his Republican rivals. The issue is poverty. A recent article in the Chicago Reader described poverty as “the forgotten issue in the presidential campaign.” Census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty or could be classified as low-income. Thirty-eight percent of African-American children and 35 percent of Latino children live in poverty. In February, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney openly declared he is, quote, “not concerned about the very poor.” AMY GOODMAN: We’re now joined by two guests, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who are attempting to start a national dialog on poverty. Last year they took part in a 10-state poverty tour, and they’ve just published a book on the issue called The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Cornel West is a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University, author of many books. Tavis Smiley is an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster. He hosts the PBS TV show Tavis Smiley and two radio shows, The Tavis Smiley Show and Smiley & West, which he hosts with Cornel West. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! CORNEL WEST: Thank you. A blessing to be here. TAVIS SMILEY: Delighted to be here. Thank you both for having us. AMY GOODMAN: Well, you are on a whirlwind tour. The title, Tavis, The Rich and the Rest of Us. TAVIS SMILEY: That’s what America looks like right about now. There is this gap between the haves and the have-nots, a growing gap, in fact. When 1 percent of the people control 42 percent—own and control 42 percent of the wealth, that’s a problem. When one out of two Americans is either in or near poverty—you take the perennially poor or the persistent poor, on top of them the new poor—we argue in this book the new poor are the former middle class—and the near poor, folk who are a paycheck away, that’s 150 million Americans wrestling with poverty. Mitt Romney, who Juan referenced earlier, wants to call this the “politics of envy.” But we think it’s about fundamental fairness, and that’s what we’re trying to talk about in the book. AMY GOODMAN: I mean, that’s an astounding figure. I just want to stop and not let it go by. TAVIS SMILEY: I say the same thing. AMY GOODMAN: One in two Americans? TAVIS SMILEY: Exactly. One out of two of us, 150 million people, is either in or near poverty. So, you’ve got half of your democracy fighting to get out or to stay out of poverty. And what we argue in this book is that poverty threatens our democracy and that poverty is a matter of national security, that poverty is no longer color-coded. Americans of all races, all colors, all creeds. As you mentioned, Amy, on our poverty tour last summer, 11 states, 18 cities, we saw all kinds of Americans wrestling with this issue. And finally, we saw on this tour poverty that was so extreme, Juan, that it’s clear to us that a slight uptick in our economy, the kind of which we’re experiencing now, a slight uptick, is not going to do much of anything to really alleviate or to address the kind of poverty that we saw. This poverty is not a character flaw anymore. It’s a societal crisis. JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Cornel West, it was half a century ago that President—another president, Lyndon Johnson, declared a war on poverty. And you, in the book, talk about how that war has progressed, supposedly, or has not progressed. CORNEL WEST: Well, we know, as a result of the social movements, led by Martin Luther King Jr., but connected Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan and others, that we went from nearly 24 percent of Americans living in poverty to 11 percent—Michael Harrington, Frances Fox Piven, others playing a crucial role. Social movements make a difference. But also, greed at the top has social consequences. This is issues of economic injustice, issues of class inequality, 1 percent of the population having 42 percent of the wealth. 2010, the top 1 percent got 93 percent of the income. And we’re not talking about wealth at this point. Income. Now that’s morally obscene. You have 22 percent of our children of all colors, each one precious, living in poverty. That’s an ethical abomination. AMY GOODMAN: Now, we’re not just going to talk about presidential politics; we also want to talk about Occupy. But on the campaign trail, I want to ask about presidential front-runner Mitt Romney. In February—well, at least front-runner for the Republicans. In February, he told CNN’s Soleded O’Brien he’s not concerned with the poorest Americans. MITT ROMNEY: I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: You just said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” because they have a safety net. And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say that sounds odd. Can you explain that? MITT ROMNEY: Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them. SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Got it. OK. MITT ROMNEY: The challenge right now—we will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and—and there’s no question, it’s not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor. But my campaign is focused on middle-income Americans. My campaign—I mean, you can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That’s not my focus. My focus is on middle-income Americans. AMY GOODMAN: All right, there you have it. That was Mitt Romney. Tavis Smiley? TAVIS SMILEY: It was—I recall seeing that when it aired. It was so hard to just intake that comment, because it shows a certain callousness, a cavalier attitude toward the poor. And we argue in this book that the poor in this country are not a priority, in part because of that kind of arrogance and the criminalization and the demonization of the poor. To just say that “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” just uttering that phrase, “I am not concerned about the very poor,” ought to arrest every single one of us, number one. Number two, he says, “if there is a social safety net.” Well, first of all, there ought to be. There ought to be no question of “if there is.” We ought to have a social safety net for those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in poverty. Nobody in this country wants to be poor. And for so many millions of Americans who now find themselves poor, it was not their choice. They didn’t choose to ship their job abroad. They didn’t choose to have their 401(k) raped and pillaged by their employers. They didn’t choose to have a catastrophic illness which bankrupt them. So, Americans are not poor, again, because of character flaws, so many of them. And thirdly and finally, when Mitt Romney suggested he’s concerned about the middle-income America, well, as we said a moment ago, the new poor are the former middle class. So when, in presidential politics, Amy, when Romney and Obama, presumably, will be on the campaign trail this summer talking about the economy and wanting to speak specifically to the angst of the middle class, they have to recalibrate that conversation, because if the new poor, again, are the former middle class, then who are you talking to? We cannot abide another campaign for the White House where the issue of poverty is not addressed, Juan. Very quickly, in the last race for the White House, between Obama and McCain, three presidential debates—we point this out in the text—three presidential debates, the word “poor” or “poverty” does not come up one time. Obama doesn’t utter it. McCain doesn’t reference it. The moderators don’t even ask about it. Fast-forward four years, half of us are in or near poverty. Our democracy is threatened as a result. We can’t have another campaign this year where poverty doesn’t get on the agenda. JUAN GONZALEZ: But interestingly, in the book you mention this Matt Taibbi article where he was—where he was attending a Tea Party gathering and where they were attacking government subsidies, and he noted how many of them had Medicare wheelchairs and how many of the Tea Party people were actually dependent on government but not even recognizing it. CORNEL WEST: That’s right. I mean, that’s what you get in right-wing populism, that on the one hand you have a certain suspicion of elites, but on the other hand, when those elites are still providing programs that support you, you embrace them. But I think there’s a sense in which the words of all of these politicians, of both parties, are superstructural and epiphenomenal. What I mean by that is, we’ve got to keep track of their policies, their deeds, their actions. There’s a sense in which he didn’t need to say that. All you need to do is look at his policies, and you see they have very little concern about poor people, you see. When Barack Obama engages in populist rhetoric — “I love poor people” — where is your policies? “I love investment bankers,” we see your policies. So it’s a real question here of looking at the base, the real, on-the-ground policies, deeds and actions. And that’s true with not just poor people here; look at the innocent civilians, with the drones dropping bombs now, expanded, don’t have to identify, CIA calling for that today. Very clear. “We fight for freedom. We’re concerned about innocent people.” No, you’re killing innocent people in the name of fighting terrorism. That’s a moral issue for somebody like me. TAVIS SMILEY: If I can add a— CORNEL WEST: That’s a— TAVIS SMILEY: If I can add—I’m sorry, if I can add right quick to that, when Doc says that both parties, quite frankly, have been bankrupt in this conversation, starting, first of all, with the language. Our language, our glossary of terminology around this conversation, is so bankrupt. What does it mean to be “working poor”? If you work, you ought not to be poor. Minimum wage? No, how about a living wage? What is a “jobless recovery”? It ain’t a recovery if it’s jobless to the average American. But to Doc’s point about the fact that, beyond the language, both parties have been ideologically lacking in terms of imagination and vision and creativity for putting poor people back to work, just yesterday, the House Republicans in the Agriculture Committee voted, as you know, to tighten restrictions even further on food stamps. Now we already know that there’s a dramatic increase in—Mr. Gingrich’s nasty, vitriolic comment notwithstanding, calling the President the “food stamp president,” we know that more Americans are applying for food stamps than ever before. Feeding America, who we work with, will tell you that more Americans are trying to find food. There is clearly a food insecurity problem, Juan, in this country. And at that very moment, here we now get this austerity conversation underway in Washington, and they start tightening the belt—not on defense, but on food stamps. There’s a problem with that. AMY GOODMAN: O’Reilly on Tuesday, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly—and I know you’ve been on his show—slammed President Obama’s policies on poverty. BILL O’REILLY: In a free society, people have a right to be a moron, and no government can stop irresponsible parenting. So, what is the solution? President Obama believes that the federal government should give money to the poor, hand it right to them, in a variety of ways. Problem with that is that many of the poor will use the money irresponsibly. The high rate of alcohol and drug addiction and other social problems assure a massive amount of waste in the entitlement arena. Americans are the most generous people on earth, but the truth is that income redistribution doesn’t work. For what this Feds spend now on entitlements, every single poor person in America could be handed almost $21,000 a year. AMY GOODMAN: That was Bill O’Reilly, Fox News. Professor Cornel West? CORNEL WEST: Well, we’ve got a section in this book where we talk about the myths and lies told about poor people in poverty. One is that poor people have character flaws and make bad decisions. I know a lot of oligarchs and plutocrats who have character flaws, make bad decisions, and still get bailed out, still have access to healthcare, still have socialism for them, as it were. So, Brother O’Reilly, he just falls right into the right-wing trap in that regard. And he talks about income redistribution. What we’ve seen is the most massive income distribution from poor and working people to the well-to-do. So he’s not against income distribution. It’s just when it’s top-down he’s against it. When it’s bottom-up, he’s all for it, in essence. In fact, he sees it as a natural process of the free market and so forth. So we have to shatter the myths that he’s putting forward. And Brother Tavis and I have been blessed to go at that dear brother directly, face to face and soul to soul. TAVIS SMILEY: On that very issue, as a matter of fact, and he keeps raising that issue about substance abuse. That’s an insult to everyday Americans who have been laid off, been downsized, have lost their homes, have lost their savings, are now just trying to hold on to their dignity. We believe, as Dr. King did, that there is dignity in labor, that there is dignity in working. These are Americans now just trying to hold onto their dignity. With all due respect to Mr. O’Reilly, for him to suggest once again, as he’s been doing consistently, that these are persons who are engaged in substance abuse, I mean, it’s just insulting. Most Americans who are poor right now are not poor because they’re drug users, because they’re alcoholics. They are poor because they don’t have jobs, because of these greedy corporations in the country who are making more money at home, sending more jobs abroad. I was so heartened to see this pushback the other day here in New York by these shareholders about these—about this CEO, CEO pay. AMY GOODMAN: Citigroup. TAVIS SMILEY: I think, to your point, Amy—yeah, Citigroup. To your point, Amy, I think that the Occupy movement is resonating. And this is another example. And I’m glad that the New York Times, at least in their coverage, highlighted and shouted out, as it were, Occupy for their message starting to take hold now, where shareholders and pension plans and other entities invested in these companies are saying, “Hey, enough is enough.” JUAN GONZALEZ: But the complicity, though, as you alluded to earlier, of so many of the commercial media reporters, in terms of not focusing or not raising the issue of the poverty divide in the country in these debates or in investigative articles that look at the various aspects of it, how does—Occupy Wall Street, you feel, has had a major impact on at least awakening the press, it seems to me, in terms of some of these issues? TAVIS SMILEY: I think so. I mean, there’s no doubt about the fact—and Doc and I discuss this all the time—that we are seeing at least more conversation about poverty than we have in a long time. But one of the reasons for that—we talk about in this book—one of the reasons for that, Juan, though, is because poverty, again, is no longer black and brown. There are so many of our fellow citizens who happen not to be black and brown who now find themselves poor, and so these voices are being raised. To your point about Occupy, you know, while it is a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic entity, the overwhelming number of persons who started this and who sustain this happen to be young white Americans. And so, now that we see, again, that poverty is engulfing millions of us, all of us, from California to the Carolinas—again, we saw this on our poverty tour—because so many Americans of all races are being impacted by this, now we see the media starting to take this conversation more seriously. The ultimate question is, can we move from conversation to action? And that’s why, in this book, we talk about a portrait of poverty, how we got here. We talk about the poverty of opportunity, but then, beyond that, a poverty of affirmation, a poverty of compassion, a poverty of truth, a poverty of vision, a poverty of imagination. We shatter these lies told about poverty and the poor. Then we close this book with the real manifesto, which is these 12 points that we think—12 issues that must be addressed immediately and seriously, if we’re going to reduce and eradicate poverty in this country. CORNEL WEST: I mean, to put it in the history of America, that we began after we mistreated our precious indigenous brothers and sisters, subordinated them, genocidal attack. But we had to deal with monarchy, British imperialism. Overthrew the monarchy. Next came slavery. Had to break the back of slavery. Jim Crow and James Crow, slavery by another name. Had to break the back of slavery. The issue today is oligarchy. Poverty is the new slavery. Oligarchs are the new kings. They’re the new heads of this structure of domination. And we’ve got to coalesce in our critique of oligarchs and oligarchy and plutocracy, without hating oligarchs and plutocrats. JUAN GONZALEZ: So what happened to the “audacity of hope”? CORNEL WEST: Of Barack Obama? JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. And— CORNEL WEST: Well, it’s a wonderful language. He got it from Jeremiah Wright, our dear brother Jeremiah Wright. Jeremiah Wright comes out of a black prophetic tradition that talks about hope, not cheap American optimism. So he borrows the language of Martin King, he borrows the language of Jeremiah Wright and a whole host of others, Fannie Lou Hamer and others—blood, sweat and tears, critiques of oligarchy and critiques of patriarchy and critiques of anti-Semitism, anti-Arab, anti-terror, anti-Latino racism and so forth. So we get these mainstream politicians, these neoliberals, who preserve oligarchic rule, use the language of progressives, and think that somehow they will not be disclosed for what they are: neoliberals still tied to the status quo. AMY GOODMAN: What about President Obama, Tavis Smiley, and where he has gone in this administration, and your criticism of him as he runs for re-election? TAVIS SMILEY: Well, the argument we advance in the book is not that he has done nothing. We don’t advance an argument that he has had a sort of antipathy toward the poor. We simply argue that he hasn’t done enough. And we suggested earlier in this conversation that there seems to be a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the poor just don’t matter. President Obama is a part of that. We argue in the book, and I think many Americans agree, that the first priority should have been jobs, jobs, jobs. I take nothing away from his push on healthcare, but jobs for every American should have been the primary issue, number one, particularly and especially if the Supreme Court ends up gutting this law by declaring unconstitutional the mandate. The mandate goes, the whole thing collapses, basically, and then we’re back to square one again. So all that time, all that energy and all that effort ends up being for naught. And Americans still, now, don’t have jobs and don’t have access to healthcare in the short run or the long run. And we know that healthcare bankrupts so many Americans trying to just stay alive. They end up with these catastrophic illnesses that end up costing them their homes, their savings and everything else. So we know the role that healthcare plays in this process. The bottom line is that he hasn’t done enough on the issue of poverty. Of that list of 12 things that we say has to be done to reduce and eradicate poverty, one of those things, Amy, one of the 12, is the calling of a White House conference on the eradication of poverty. This is not rocket science. In the vernacular of our conversation today, this really is low-hanging fruit. To your point, Juan, the last time we had a real conversation about poverty from the White House down was during the Johnson years. And there have been Republicans and Democrats, of course, who have occupied the Oval Office since then, but no real commitment to the poor. So what we’re calling for is the next president of these United States to do the same thing that Barack Obama did when he got elected the first time, Amy, when he, first and foremost, signed Lilly Ledbetter, as he should have, to protect women in the workplace. The next president, as his first official act, ought to be the signing of an executive order establishing and calling for a White House conference on the eradication of poverty. Bring all the experts together, and let us create a national plan that all of us are going to engage to reduce and eradicate poverty in this country over a time certain period, 10, 15, 25 years. Now, here’s the bottom line. These plans already exist. Jeffrey Sachs here at Columbia in New York has one. Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund, has one. Catholic Charities has one. Jim Wallis’s Sojourners has one. There are all kinds of institutions and think tanks who have created these plans to reduce poverty in this country, but nobody at the White House level, nobody at the federal government level, has said, “Let’s all get in a room and create a national plan that we’re going to rally around to reduce poverty in this country.” They’ve done it in other countries. Chile comes to mind. Between ’87 and 2009, they went from about 48 percent poverty to 11 percent poverty. And Doc makes the point, and we do in the book, that after the Johnson war on poverty, we reduced poverty in this country. Again, this is not a skill problem; it’s a will problem. We need a national plan to get serious about this issue. AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds. Cornel West, Occupy—I saw you down at Occupy Wall Street, and you traveled around the country. The significance of this movement? CORNEL WEST: Oh, it’s the historic movement, democratic awakening taking place among everyday people straightening their backs up. And it’s a beautiful thing to witness. And it is coming back stronger than ever. And I’m blessed to be there. I’ve got my cemetery clothes on and my jail clothes on and my street clothes on. Even as we write our books, and even as we listen to Richard Wolff talk about Democracy at Work, new important book, Paul Krugman, [End] This Depression Now, new important book, connection of mind, body and soul. AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us. We’re going to do part two, and we’re going to post it on our website at democracynow.org. Check it out. The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West.