Volume 21, Number 9
March to War
Death to Afghanistan
Dying to Live
Wreck and Ruin
Laurence h. Shoup
Global Food Crisis
Fannie & Freddie
There are no articles.
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As someone who has been actively critical (protesting, committing civil disobedience, producing alternative media) of the U.S. government's imperial foreign policy (among other things), watching the American media's spin at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Games was similar to being on one of those carnival rides that tilt and spin and go up and down really fast, causing post-ride regurgitation. This, regardless of the fact that I love sports and no matter how disgusting the ads and the politics, I'll watch them anyway.
Amid media chit-chat about how politics should be kept out of sports, what is really meant is that the wrong kind of politics should be kept out of sports. For instance, U.S. announcers can refer to China's human rights violations, which there are, of course (without too many specifics, lest people note that other nations are committing similar or worse violations). But when the Afghan contingent marches into the stadium, U.S. announcers cheerily refer to that country's recent "troubles."
Troubles? Cut to Bush in the special dignitaries' box, as announcers talk about his diplomatic skills. In subsequent interviews, according to NBC, "The president said he pressed Hu Jintao on a number of issues during his formal meeting with the Chinese president, including human rights and the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran." Hmm. Who better to criticize these things, but the ruler of a country with the biggest nuclear arsenal on the planet?
A Washington Post news and opinion article, "The Stakes at the Beijing Olympics," reports of Bush's criticizing China for jailing dissidents. China responded by telling the world to "butt out of its affairs." The article wonders at the fate of human freedom if that's the "extent of Bush's efforts to reign in China," then hopes he can "wring some good from these Games that the world allowed—with little protest—to take place in a ‘police state'."
So politics are clearly the name of the (Olympic) game as long as it's the right politics. The media cannot say something like, "The president of the U.S., an imperial, murdering, invading, civil rights destroying, violator of the Geneva Conventions and international law, was in Beijing to promote U.S. business interests." It's hard, then, to cut away to a commercial for Pepsi whose blue can is now red and whose slogan during the Olympics is "go Red for China." But maybe not. Who cares about the invading and murdering when "Pepsi can now advertise its product to an untouched market of more than 1 billion" (Dave Zirin, "Olympic Trials, the Nation, July 2008).
The U.S. media can devote lots of positive coverage to the anti-China torch demonstrations, but barely mention anti-Iraq war protests, which drew hundreds of thousands ("Carrying a Torch for Anti-China Protests" by Julie Hollar, Extra!, July/August 2008). However, when Russia sent troops to Georgia a week after the Opening Ceremony, Time Magazine (online) articles urged people to protest and praised Bush for promising to send troops (at this writing)—without mentioning that doing so would be sort of like Russia sending soldiers to Vermont, if it seceded.
In a Time article, "The Russian Empire Strikes Back," Robert Baer writes: "Russia's invasion of Georgia has less to do with South Ossetia than with a Russia that never reconciled itself to losing an empire—or to being treated like a second-rate power all these years. Russia's resentment has only grown as oil prices have risen, turning Russia, with the 5 million bbl. of oil it exports a day, into a first-world economic power. It was only a matter of time, then, before Russia taught the world a lesson." Invasion? Oil? Empire? Hmm. That sounds sooooo familiar.
Returning to the Opening Ceremony, U.S. TV announcers, anticipating the arrival of the Iraqi contingent in the stadium, wondered if the Chinese spectators would be less than welcoming. They didn't really give a reason for this, but they clearly meant Saddam and the WMDs and al Qaeda. A few days later the NYT ran an article titled "For Iraqi Rowers, Getting to Beijing Was a Victory in Itself." The author reports the "exciting story" of two Iraqi rowers who, against all odds, managed to get to the Olympics. They quote one of them saying, "We feel so great and so happy that we are here because...we want to show the good side of Iraq." The bad side turns out to be, according to the article, Saddam Hussein and internal civil strife, but no mention of a U.S. invasion, economic sanctions, etc. The article quotes a U.S. athlete saying, "‘I think it's fantastic to look at them and realize there's a universal quality in every Olympian and that's overcoming challenge...but some challenges are harder than others.'"
The carnival tilt-a-whirl continues. The U.S. media can remark on each country as their contingent enters the stadium and give us various human interest stories, sometimes pointing out repressive governments, as they did when North and South Korea marched separately. When Chile entered the arena, did they remind us of how the U.S. assassinated their democratically-elected leader? Did they mention the number of countries the U.S. has bombed, structurally adjusted, and on and on?
At one point, the U.S. TV commentator mentioned in passing that the all-male contingent entering the stadium was all-male because "they don't allow women to play sports." Say what? This is not a human rights violation because...? Shouldn't this be part of the Olympic Code that a country that denies participation to half the population should not be able to attend the Games?
Meanwhile, a smiling Bush meets with dignitaries, expresses concern and disapproval about Russia's actions in Georgia, the state of the environment in China, Chinese actions in Tibet, and then chats with Kobe Bryant and high-fives bikini-clad female volleyball players because he's just a good guy who loves sports.
Excuse me while I puke. Not political? Are they joking? The Olympics have always reflected dominant ideologies, values, and institutional arrangements, whether they are displays of war prowess, an expression of a patriarchal, classist, racist society, a vehicle for Nazi propaganda about the superiority of the "Aryan race," or a venue for Cold War rivalries, not to mention the corruption, commercialism, and politics behind choices of host cities. Plus, according to Rome 1960 author David Maraniss, a CIA recruiting vehicle—i.e., getting U.S. athletes to spy on Russian athletes who might defect, with much media fanfare, to the U.S.
Surely there will be one protest somewhere in Bush's vicinity, some brave athletes who will set the record, if not straight, at least suggest a different version of things or put things in perspective. Perhaps a nod to the fact that the first Olympics were nationalist celebrations of military (and male) prowess that excluded "foreigners, slaves, dishonored persons, and women."
Surely, someone, some group will stop this global carnival ride from spinning on this, the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, only the second games held in Latin America and only the second ever outside Europe, Australia, and the U.S.—a political statement in itself. Perhaps we can be inspired by a time in history when athletes, affected by what was going on in the rest of society, spoke up.
The 1968 games were preceded by the Tlateloco Massacre in which hundreds of students were killed by security forces ten days before the opening day. The students had demanded, among other things, repeal of Articles 145 and 145b of the Penal Code (which sanctioned imprisonment of anyone attending meetings of three or more people, deemed to threaten public order); abolition of the tactical police corps; and freedom for political prisoners.
The massacre began at sunset when police and military forces—equipped with armored cars and tanks—surrounded Tlateloco Square and began firing live rounds into the crowd, hitting not only the protestors, but also bystanders, including children. Mounds of bodies soon lay on the ground as the killing continued through the night.
In 2003 the role of the U.S. government in the massacre was made public when the National Security Archive at George Washington University published records from the CIA, the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, and the White House, revealing that "the Pentagon sent military radios, weapons, ammunition, and riot control training material to Mexico before and during the crisis," while "the CIA station in Mexico City produced almost daily reports concerning developments within the university community...from July to October."
After some discussion of cancelling, the Olympics opened as planned. On October 16, American Olympic athlete Tommie Smith won the 200 meter race in a then-world-record time of 19.83 seconds, with Australia's Peter Norman second, and American Juan Carlos in third. After the race was completed, the three went to collect their medals at the podium. Smith and Carlos received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride. Carlos wore beads which he described "were for those individuals that were lynched or killed.
All three athletes wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges. Sociologist Harry Edwards, founder of OPHR in 1967, had urged black athletes to boycott the games. OPHR had three central demands: 1. restore Muhammad Ali's title; 2. remove Avery Brundage as head of the United States Olympic Committee (a known white supremacist, Brundage allowed Adolf Hitler to host the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin); 3. dis-invite South Africa and Rhodesia to express solidarity with the Black freedom struggles in these two apartheid states.
Both Smith and Carlos intended on bringing black gloves to the event, but Carlos forgot his. Norman suggested Carlos wear Smith's left-handed glove, this being the reason he raised his left hand, thereby differing from the traditional right-handed Black power salute. During "The Star-Spangled Banner," Smith and Carlos salute with heads bowed, a gesture which became front page news around the world.
Then-IOC President Brundage banned Smith and Carlos from the Olympic Village. When the U.S. Olympic Committee refused, Brundage threatened to ban the entire track team. This threat led to the two athletes being expelled from the Games. (In 1997 Smith received the Sportsman of the Millennium award; Carlos worked, at one point, for the Olympic Organizing Committee for the Los Angeles games.)
In July, BBC Four broadcast a documentary, Black Power Salute, by Geoff Small, who noted in an article that the 2008 British Olympic team was asked to sign gag clauses restricting their right to make political statements. But they refused. Well, that's something. Perhaps, if these U.S. generated "troubles" persist, we will see protests at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver that are as creative and inspiring as Smith and Carlos's raised fists in 1968.
Lydia Sargent is a co-founder and staff member of Z, as well as a former high school athlete. She also has a Masters in sports from Boston University.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
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ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
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LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
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LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.