Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

(VIDEO) How Slaves Built the Capitol and the White House

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 21, 2009

Note from Allison: this is fascinating stuff. Click the image of the Capitol to purchase Holland’s wonderful book. 

Democracy Now

hollandbkYesterday, the first African American president in US history, Barack Obama, and wife Michelle and two daughters, Malia and Sasha, will be taking up residence in the White House, a house built by slaves. The Capitol, too, was built by slaves, as was the Supreme Court. Last night, I spoke with Associated Press reporter Jesse Holland. He is author of Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C. 



How I Felt Today

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 20, 2009

This is beautifully written, so I’m using it to vicariously express how I felt today.

Glenn Greenwald

us_presidential_inauguration_2005I can understand someone being moved by the events of today, even though pageantry, ceremony and ritual of this sort doesn’t move me personally (if anything, political spectacles of this magnitude, that are engineered with such massive and adept stagecraft, make me slightly uncomfortable, but I can definitely see how other reasonable people would find it uplifting).

Whatever one’s views are on what came before the Bush/Cheney darkness and whatever one’s guesses are about what is likely to come now, it’s simply the case that seeing that duo and all of their rotted appendages disappear is a positive event. Add to that the fact that the election of an African-American as President is something many (most) people thought they’d never see, and add on to that the throngs of millions of very engaged citizens who are genuinely convinced (rightly or wrongly) that something momentous and important is now going to happen, and it’s understandable that even people generally inured to these sorts of highly engineered events are swept up with the sentiments of the day.

It doesn’t mean people who were moved by today’s events will be permanently transfixed or, from now on, are renouncing their skepticism at the alter of Obama. It’s just that people in the desert dying of thirst will treat a sip of water as though it’s the greatest wine, and that’s what is happening today.

I wasn’t going to pretend to be swept up in the festivities today just to do it, but I also didn’t really have any desire to criticize or mock those who are, because I understand the reaction and think it’s reasonable. Ultimately, I think it’s more of a question of personal temperament than anything else that determines how one reacts to today, and — as Kitt says — it doesn’t mean that the joyousness will last beyond today or relieve Obama of the obligation to fulfill all those pretty words with actual deeds.

Wall Street Tops Obama Inaugural Donors

Posted in Barack Obama, Economy, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 20, 2009


wall-street-bullWASHINGTON (Reuters) – Wall Street may be bruised and battered, but it still donated more money than any other U.S. industry to President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural festivities on Tuesday, a study has found.

The Centre for Responsive Politics said executives of finance, insurance and real estate companies and their family members gave $7.1 million (4.8 million) to Obama’s inaugural committee.

Top donors from the world of high finance included George Soros, Ronald Perelman and David Shaw, the centre said.

Bankers and hedge fund managers will mingle with Hollywood stars and Silicon Valley high-technology titans at the swearing-in ceremony for the 44th president, the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and the balls and parties that follow.

Special access and tickets are reportedly available to those who contributed $50,000 to the inaugural committee or who helped “bundle” larger sums from multiple individual donors, the centre said.

The committee refused to accept money from corporations, registered lobbyists, unions or political action committees.

Entertainers such as Halle Berry, Samuel Jackson and Sharon Stone donated heavily, as did behind-the-camera moguls including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the centre said, citing data downloaded from the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s Web site.

“While Americans are hoping for real change in Washington, many deep-pocketed donors are hoping money still buys them access and influence,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the non-partisan money-in-politics watchdog group.

“If history is any guide, these wealthy individuals, as well as the corporations and industries they represent, may more than recoup their investment in Obama through presidential appointments, favourable legislation and government contracts,” Krumholz said.

People with Wall Street ties — 118 of them — gave $3.6 million; lawyers gave $2.5 million; and donors from the TV, movie and music businesses gave $1.7 million, the centre said.

The centre’s analysis of inauguration donors was posted on its Web site at

(VIDEO) HBO Doesn’t Air Robinson’s Prayer

Posted in Barack Obama, media, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 19, 2009

Update: the decision to nix Robinson seems to have been made by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and Robinson was “not a part of (HBO’s) show from the start.”  In a related note, some bloggers have mentioned that the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington was not identified on-air. However, none of the choirs that performed were named on air except the U.S. Naval Academy Glee Club, which was introduced by Tiger Woods.

Dallas Voice

generobinson-1In what some are characterizing as an intentional snub, HBO didn’t air openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson’s invocation yesterday prior to the the pre-inaugural “We Are One” concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Bloggers today are speculating that the move was intentional, because the network wanted to avoid controversy. They are also urging people to contact HBO and complain. If you’ll remember, the selection of Robinson to deliver the prayer was considered an olive branch to the LGBT community after President-elect Obama chose evangelical Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration itself. What do you think?

(The above video of Robinson’s prayer was provided via YouTube by Christianity Today. You can read a transcript of Robinson’s remarks on the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire’s Web site.)

UPDATE: To read HBO’s initial response, go here.


Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O
good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he
might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.



What Obama Can Learn from Lincoln’s Inaugural

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 18, 2009

John Stauffer

frederick_douglas1Over the past three years, Americans have witnessed Barack Obama’s affection for, and occasional obsession with, Abraham Lincoln. He launched his presidential campaign in Lincoln’s hometown, has made frequent pilgrimages to the Lincoln Memorial, and quotes or paraphrases Lincoln in most of his speeches. In selecting his Cabinet, he has relied heavily on the model of a “Team of Rivals,” the title of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bestselling book describing Lincoln’s supposed brilliance at managing his Cabinet. He even will take the oath of office on the same Bible Lincoln used.

Obama has been inspired by Lincoln’s graceful resolve in facing personal and political crises. And like his predecessor, Obama will take the reins of a deeply troubled America at a potentially transformative moment.

But before Obama delivers his Inaugural Address which will set an important tone for his administration — before he draws on Lincoln’s example one more time — he would do well to consider why so many Lincoln supporters lost faith in him after his Inaugural Address. Among these critics, none was as penetrating as Frederick Douglass.

In many respects, Obama is more Douglass’ descendent than Lincoln’s. Both men are children of one black and one white parent, both rose from the humblest origins to become world-famous before the age of forty, and both are among the greatest orators of their generation. And both men learned early on how to use words as powerful weapons.

As a former slave and radical abolitionist, Douglass never agreed with Lincoln’s conservative antislavery views. But he had been impressed with Lincoln’s firm stance against a belligerent South in his debates with Stephen Douglas. When Lincoln received the 1860 Republican nomination, Douglass joyously predicted that he would be elected president, since the Democratic Party had split along sectional lines. And on Election Day, Douglass was hopeful that Lincoln could bring the change the nation needed.

During the four months of transition (reduced to two months in 1933 with the Twentieth Amendment), seven states seceded and the Confederacy was formed. Throughout this crisis, Lincoln refused to endorse any compromise scheme that would violate his campaign promise to prohibit the spread of slavery. Douglass was much impressed, and said that “Honest Old Abe” was an accurate reflection of Lincoln’s words and actions.

But Douglass’ faith in Lincoln evaporated with the Inaugural Address. In fact he was so upset over Lincoln’s Address that he planned a trip to Haiti, with an eye toward emigrating there and encouraging other blacks to do the same.

Why? Because the speech was “little better than our worst fears,” Douglass complained. Instead of rebuking Southerners as traitors, Lincoln “courted their favor.” He vowed to uphold the draconian Fugitive Slave Act, which many Northerners considered unconstitutional. He promised to suppress slave insurrections. And he declared that he would never interfere with slavery in the states. Douglass was outraged and called Lincoln “an excellent slave hound.”

Even worse, the Inaugural was a “double-tongued” address, for it renounced Lincoln’s campaign promise of working toward the “ultimate extinction” of slavery, Douglass said.

Congress had just passed a new constitutional amendment in the hope of wooing Southerners back into the Union. Although it was never ratified, this “first” Thirteenth Amendment was the exact opposite of the actual one that abolished slavery (in 1865). It was an unamendable amendment guaranteeing slavery in the states forever. Lincoln affirmed it in his Inaugural, declaring: “I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

Lincoln’s inaugural destroyed Douglass’ hope for change. Only the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter a month later stopped Douglass from going to Haiti. With the war, he believed, the chance to destroy slavery had “come at last,” whether Lincoln embraced that goal or not.

Why did Lincoln defend slavery so vigorously in his Inaugural Address, thus alienating abolitionists and progressives in his party?

His goal was to reach beyond partisan wrangling and national divisions for common understanding. He wanted to appease slaveholders, prevent the upper slaveholding states from joining the Confederacy, and save the Union.

He also made the mistake of heeding the advice of his “team of rivals,” especially Secretary of State William Seward. His first draft of the Inaugural was far less conciliatory than the one he delivered. In it he opposed the new Thirteenth Amendment, saying he liked the Constitution as it was. He treated Southerners with a firm but understanding hand, and had he delivered this draft, Frederick Douglass (and many other supporters) would have been far more sympathetic to him and his dilemma.

It was Seward who told Lincoln to “strike out” the sentence that opposed the constitutional amendment protecting slavery. He also told Lincoln to soften the ending, and suggested a final paragraph. Lincoln followed this advice as well. He borrowed many of Seward’s words, but had a much better ear than Seward and created with his new ending an elegant plea for reunion. “We are not enemies, but friends,” he told Southerners. And he characterized North and South as being irrevocably united by “the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land.”

To Douglass, the “mystic chords of memory” ignored the cries of four million blacks in chains. The beauty of Lincoln’s language masked the brutality of his content.

Lincoln’s Inaugural Address should serve as a cautionary tale against heeding the advice of a “team of rivals.” Lincoln accomplished none of his objectives with it, and he alienated radicals and progressives throughout the North. Despite his efforts to placate the South, rebels interpreted the Inaugural as a declaration of war, and the upper slaveholding states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas soon seceded.

Obama’s attempt to replicate a Lincolnian “team of rivals” makes sense as way to employ bipartisan politics to accomplish his goals. But he also needs to understand that Lincoln’s management of his wartime Cabinet was far more a failure than success, especially when heeding members’ advice, as he did in his Inaugural Address.

Seward was not the only Cabinet member who misled him. Lincoln selected as cabinet members men with huge egos who couldn’t work together, and three of them resigned. Attorney General Edward Bates left in part because he felt marginalized, and he cited the administration’s “open contempt of Constitution and law” and “ignorance of policy and prudence.” Treasury Salmon Chase was continually disloyal and even tried to win the Republican nomination over Lincoln in 1864 before resigning. And Secretary of War Simon Cameron put personal interests ahead of his country, resigning in disgrace over charges of corruption.

Over time, Lincoln increasingly made his own decisions rather than rely on his Cabinet. This was especially true in his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

As a result, Frederick Douglass eventually forgave Lincoln for trying to appease the South while ignoring blacks—his natural allies because they were the Confederacy’s worst enemy.

Douglass met Lincoln three times in the White House, and the two men put aside their vast differences and came together as friends. Their friendship was chiefly utilitarian: Lincoln needed Douglass to help him destroy the Confederacy; and Douglass knew that Lincoln could help him end slavery. But by the end of the war, they also genuinely liked and admired each other.

While Douglass was ready to leave the country after Lincoln’s first Inaugural, he considered the Second Inaugural one of the great works of American literature. In this speech, Lincoln imagines a wrathful God wreaking vengeance against slaveholders. After the ceremony, Douglass attended the reception at the White House. Lincoln asked Douglass what he thought of his address, adding, “there is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours.”

“Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort,” Douglass said.

Their profound shift from enemies to friends stemmed in large part from Lincoln’s abandonment of his “team of rivals” model of leadership, coupled with his realization that he needed radicals and progressives–especially blacks–on his side.

Douglass’ response to Lincoln’s Inaugural Addresses thus offers a salutary lesson for Obama: as he tries to move beyond partisan politics, he needs to be careful not to alienate his natural allies and renounce his campaign promise to “bring the change our country needs.” 

John Stauffer is Chair of History of American Civilization at Harvard University and the author, most recently, of GIANTS: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (TWELVE).

A Modest Inauguration Proposal

Posted in Barack Obama, civil rights, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 12, 2009

Yolanda Pierce

12009Over the weekend I got news from a family member that she had lost her job of 12 years. I also heard from a former student who is dealing with bankruptcy and possible foreclosure on her home, due, in part, to her student loan debt. And finally, I met a terrific woman at yoga class who had signed up as a way to deal with the financial and emotional stress from being caught in the “sandwich generation,” as she is a caretaker for her small children and elderly father. All three of these stories remind me of the ways in which “ordinary” people are suffering these days. I only need to look at the brisk business our local food bank and crisis ministry center is doing to know that we are in a depression, with little light at the end of the tunnel.

So I’ve been unable to work up much excitement for the forthcoming inaugural festivities. On one hand, I understand the desire people have to be witnesses to the historical occasion of seeing Barack Obama become the 44th president of the United States. It is a moment that should be captured, documented, and recorded for all posterity. But I fear that the occasion has become an excuse for an endless stream of parties, which are starting as early as this week. So as the media turns its attention to the haute couture, gourmet cuisine, and glitterati, will it forget to discuss the very reasons that a majority of Americans voted for Obama in the first place?

African American churches from the New York City and Philly area are sending literally hundreds of buses to Washington, D.C. next week. Since these are my folks, I have appealed to the various pastors I know: would their members be willing to take the money they are spending for a seat on a bus (that will leave NYC or Philly and have to turn right back around) and donate that money to help a member of their congregation who can’t pay their heating bill? Or donate that money to the “Children’s Defense Fund” or “Save Dafur” or some other charity in Obama’s name? The answer has been a unanimous “no.” People feel the need to say “they were there” when history was made. And so thousands from this area, and millions in total, will descend on Washington, D.C. for a glimpse of the first black president.

The part of me that understands this desire competes with the part of me that hopes people will truly hear the message of the hour, the inaugural speech that Obama will give to usher in his presidency. Will we remember who attended Oprah’s inaugural bash or will we remember the words Obama will speak? Will our focus be on the fashions or will our focus be on the work that needs to be done? I would have been there to march on Washington, D.C. in 1963 (had I been born!) because that collective show of force across race, religion, creed, and culture, sent a message loudly and clearly that the case for civil rights was the case for human rights. But I will not be in Washington, D.C. in 2009, because that is not where the battle is. The battle is in the unrest in Gaza; the battle is in the economic crisis in Detroit; the battle is in the health care system; the battle is in the crumbling urban infrastructure. So on January 20, 2009, while D.C. may be at the center of our nation’s thoughts, it is not the only place that so strikingly merits our undivided attention.

But recognizing and respecting the historical importance of the moment, I have a modest proposal: let every young American who was planning to attend the inauguration donate their train/plane/bus ticket, and their hotel room to an older American who never thought he or she would live long enough to see an African American president. As we would do on the bus or the subway, let’s give up our seats to those who have earned the right to sit. Let an older generation take their proper place at the front of the line for this historical event. Because in my lifetime, which I pray is long and healthy, I expect to see not only another president of color, but the first woman president as well. Let the internet and media-savy generation watch in HDTV, with Dolby-enhanced surround sound. Let our grandmothers and our grandfathers, many of whom literally had to sit at the back of the bus, enjoy their moment at the front. They are the shoulders upon whom Obama stands.

Condom Burnings and Anti-Gay Witch Hunts: How Rick Warren Is Undermining AIDs Prevention in Africa

Posted in Barack Obama, civil rights, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 8, 2009

Max Blumenthal

ribs-warren-rickOnce hailed by Time magazine as “America’s Pastor,” California megachurch leader and best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren now finds himself on the defensive. President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of Warren to deliver the inaugural prayer has generated intense scrutiny of the pastor’s beliefs on social issues, from his vocal support for Proposition 8, a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California, to his comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia, incest and bestiality. Many of Obama’s supporters have demanded that he withdraw the invitation.

Warren’s defense against charges of intolerance ultimately depends upon his ace card: his heavily publicized crusade against AIDS in Africa. Obama senior adviser David Axelrod cited Warren’s work in Africa as one of “the things on which [Obama and Warren] agree” on the Dec. 28 episode of Meet the Press. Warren may be opposed to gay rights and abortion, the thinking goes, but he tells evangelicals it is their God-given duty to battle one of the greatest pandemics in history. What could be wrong with that?

But since the Warren inauguration controversy erupted, the nature of his work against AIDS in Africa has gone unexamined. Warren has not been particularly forthcoming to those who have attempted to look into it. His Web site contains scant information about the results of his program. However, an investigation into Warren’s involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education. More disturbingly, Warren’s allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent’s most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is “resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred.”

Warren’s man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempa enjoys close ties to his country’s first lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa’s stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.

Dr. Helen Epstein, a public health consultant who wrote the book, The Invisible Cure: Why We’re Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa, met Ssempa in 2005. Epstein told me the preacher seemed gripped by paranoia, warning her of a secret witches coven that met under Lake Victoria.

“Ssempa also spoke to me for a very long time about his fear of homosexual men and women,” Epstein said. “He seemed very personally terrified by their presence.”

When Warren unveiled his global AIDS initiative at a 2005 conference at his Saddleback Church, he cast Ssempa as his indispensable sidekick, assigning him to lead a breakout session on abstinence-only education as well as a seminar on AIDS prevention. Later, Ssempa delivered a keynote address, a speech so stirring it “had the audience on the edge of its seats,” according to Warren’s public relations agency. A year later, Ssempa returned to Saddleback Church to lead another seminar on AIDS. By this time, his bond with the Warrens had grown almost familial. “You are my brother, Martin, and I love you,” Rick Warren’s wife, Kay, said to Ssempa from the stage. Her voice trembled with emotion as she spoke, and tears ran down her cheeks.

Joining Ssempa at Warren’s church were two key Bush administration officials who controlled the purse strings of the president’s newly minted $15 billion anti-AIDS initiative in Africa, PEPFAR. Museveni also appeared through a videotaped address to tout the success of her country’s numerous church-based abstinence programs.

These Bush officials — Randall Tobias, the Department of State’s Global AIDS coordinator, and Claude Allen, the White House’s chief domestic policy adviser — are closely linked to the Christian Right. Tobias, the so-called global AIDS czar, declared in 2004 that condoms “really have not been very effective,” and crusaded against prostitution, until he resigned in 2007 when he was exposed as a regular client of the D.C. Madam’s escort service. Allen, once an aide to the late Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., resigned in 2006 after he was arrested for felony thefts from retail stores.

During the early 1990s, when many African leaders denied the AIDS epidemic’s existence, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni spoke openly about the importance of safe sex. With the help of local and international nongovernmental organizations, he implemented an ambitious program emphasizing abstinence, monogamous relationships and using condoms as the best ways to prevent the spread of AIDS. He called the program “ABC.” By 2003, Uganda’s AIDS rate plummeted 10 percent. The government’s free distribution of the “C” in ABC — condoms — proved central to the program’s success, according to Avert, an international AIDS charity.

On New Year’s Eve 1999, Janet Museveni, who had become born-again, convened a massive stadium revival in Kampala to dedicate her country to the “lordship” of Jesus Christ. As midnight approached, the first lady summoned a local pastor to the stage to anoint the nation. “We renounce idolatry, witchcraft and Satanism in our land!” he proclaimed.

Two years later, Janet Museveni flew to Washington at the height of a heated congressional debate over PEPFAR. She carried in her hand a prepared message to distribute to Republicans. Abstinence was the golden bullet in her country’s fight against AIDS, she assured conservative lawmakers, denying the empirically proven success of her husband’s condom-distribution program. Like magic, the Republican-dominated Congress authorized over $200 million for Uganda, but only for the exclusive promotion of abstinence education. Ssempa soon became the “special representative of the first lady’s Task Force on AIDS in Uganda,” receiving $40,000 from the PEPFAR pot.

Emboldened by U.S. support, Ssempa took his anti-condom crusade to Makerere University in Kampala, where senior residents of a men’s dormitory promoted safe sex by greeting incoming freshmen with a giant effigy wearing a condom. According to Epstein, one day after she visited the school, Ssempa stormed onto campus, tore the condom from the effigy, grabbed a box of free condoms and set them ablaze. “I burn these condoms in the name of Jesus!” Ssempa shouted as he prayed over the burning box.

“It was a very controversial time,” Epstein told me. “After the Bush administration authorized PEPFAR, a number of the local evangelical preachers began to get excited about this and get involved in AIDS very rapidly. To try to prove his credentials, Ssempa became increasingly active and vociferous in his antipathy towards condoms.”

By 2005, billboards promoting condom use disappeared from the streets of Kampala, replaced by billboards promoting virginity. “Until recently, all HIV-related billboards were about condoms. Those of us calling for abstinence and faithfulness need billboards, too,” Ssempa told the BBC at the time. A 2005 report by Human Rights Watchdocumented educational material in Uganda’s secondary schools falsely claiming condoms had microscopic pores that could be penetrated by the AIDS virus and noted the sudden nationwide shortage of condoms due to new restrictions imposed on condom imports.

AIDS activists arrived at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006 with disturbing news from Uganda. Due, at least in part, to the chronic condom shortage, HIV infections were on the rise again. The disease rate had spiked to 6.5 percent among rural men and 8.8 percent among women — a rise of nearly two points in the case of women. “The ‘C’ part [of ABC] is now mainly silent,” said Ugandan AIDS activist Beatrice Ware. As a result, she said, “the success story is unraveling.”

Troubled by what he was witnessing in Africa, the late Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., led the new Democratic-controlled Congress to reform PEPFAR during a reauthorization process in February 2008. Lantos insisted that Congress lift the abstinence-only earmark imposed by Republicans in 2002 and begin to fund family-planning elements like free condom distribution. His maneuver infuriated Warren, who immediately boarded a plane for Washington to join Christian Right leaders, including born-again former Watergate felon Chuck Colson, for an emergency press conference on the Capitol lawn. In his speech, Warren claimed that Lantos’ bill would spawn an increase in the sex trafficking of young women. The bill died and PEPFAR was reauthorized in its flawed form. (Days later, Lantos died of cancer after serving for 27 years in Congress.)

With safe sex advocates on the run, Warren and Ssempa trained their sights on another social evil. In August 2007, Ssempa led hundreds of his followers through the streets of Kampala to demand that the government mete out harsh punishments against gays. “Arrest all homos,” read placards. And: “A man cannot marry a man.” Ssempa continued his crusade online, publishing the names of Ugandan gay rights activists on a Web site he created, along with photos and home addresses. “Homosexual promoters,” he called them, suggesting they intended to seduce Uganda’s children into their lifestyle. Soon afterward, two of President Museveni’s top officials demanded the arrest of the gay activists named by Ssempa. Terrified, the activists immediately into hiding.

Warren, in his effort to dispel criticism, has denied harboring homophobic sentiments. “I could give you a hundred gay friends,” hetold MSNBC’s Ann Curry on Dec. 18. “I have always treated them with respect. When they come and want to talk to me, I talk to them.”

But when Uganda’s Anglican bishops threatened to bolt from the Church of England because of its tolerant stance towards homosexuals, Warren parachuted into Kampala to confer international legitimacy on their protest.

“The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda on the boycott,” Warren proclaimed in March 2008. Declaring homosexuality an unnatural way of life, Warren flatly stated, “We shall not tolerate this aspect [homosexuality in the church] at all.”

Days later, Warren emerged so enthusiastic after a meeting with first lady Museveni, he announced a plan to make Uganda a “Purpose Driven Nation.”

“The future of Christianity is not Europe or North America, but Africa, Asia and Latin America,” he told a cheering throng at Makerere University. Then, Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi rose and predicted, “Someday, we will have a purpose-driven continent!”

Max Blumenthal is a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at The Nation Institute in Washington.

Military Mobilizes Troops for Inauguration

Posted in Barack Obama, police state by allisonkilkenny on December 20, 2008


policestate1The US military plans to mobilize thousands of troops to protect Washington against potential terrorist attack during the inauguration of president-elect Barack Obama, a senior US military commander said Wednesday.

They will fly combat air patrols and man air defenses, organize large scale medical support, and help local law enforcement provide security in the capital, said General Gene Renuart, head of the US Northern Command. “[It’s] not because we see a specific threat, but because for an event this visible, this important and this historic, we ought to be prepared to respond if something does happen,” he told reporters.

Renuart said some 7,500 active duty troops and 4,000 national guard troops will take part in the operations in support of the inauguration of the 44th US president on January 20.

* * * * *

Gen. Genuart has pledged “to address congressional concerns” about NorthCom’s
“new homeland emergency response task force,” which, he says, “is not meant to authorize the federal government to enforce martial law”:

Northcom Chief Vows to Address Worries About New Homeland Unit 17 Dec 2008 A senior military official pledged Wednesday to address congressional concerns about a new homeland emergency response task force that is designed to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear attack. Air Force Gen. Victor E Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command (Northcom), also told reporters that the new force, which will eventually total 20,000 personnel, will not require new funding right now and is not meant to authorize the federal government to enforce martial law. The new task force has come under fire from groups… Critics also say the move could violate the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which aims to prohibit the federal government from using the armed forces in a domestic law enforcement capacity without congressional approval.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, there have been reports for months, in local media outlets coast to coast, of
heavy preparations by police departments and local sheriffs, all newly fitted out with
riot gear provided by the Bush regime. Also nationwide, police have been abusing citizens
–white as well as black and brown–with what is certainly a new ferociy,
the incidents either reported casually or not at all. It’s as if they’ve been encouraged to
do anything they want to nearly anyone.

What’s clearly going on here is a grand revival of the bad old days of the Sixties/Seventies,
when local cops and federal agencies teamed up to surveil and harass politically suspicious
groups (almost all of them left-wing). Now, however, that authoritarian partnership
appears to have a more ambitious purpose, since the economy is melting down, and
those (still) at the helm in Washington are explicit fascists.

In that context, check out this new piece from the Phoenix Business Journal, reporting
on the US Army War College’s new report on dealing militarily with “civil unrest”–
and the response thereto by the Phoenix Police Department.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 11:36am MST | Modified: Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 12:05pm
Ariz. police say they are prepared as War College warns military must prep for unrest; IMF warns of economic riots

Phoenix Business Journal – by Mike Sunnucks

A new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks.
“Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” said the War College report.

The study says economic collapse, terrorism and loss of legal order are among possible domestic shocks that might require military action within the U.S.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned Wednesday of economy-related riots and unrest in various global markets if the financial crisis is not addressed and lower-income households are hurt by credit constraints and rising unemployment.
U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted.

State and local police in Arizona say they have broad plans to deal with social unrest, including trouble resulting from economic distress. The security and police agencies declined to give specifics, but said they would employ existing and generalized emergency responses to civil unrest that arises for any reason.

“The Phoenix Police Department is not expecting any civil unrest at this time, but we always train to prepare for any civil unrest issue. We have a Tactical Response Unit that trains continually and has deployed on many occasions for any potential civil unrest issue,” said Phoenix Police spokesman Andy Hill.

“We have well established plans in place for such civil unrest,” said Scottsdale Police spokesman Mark Clark.
Clark, Hill and other local police officials said the region did plenty of planning and emergency management training for the Super Bowl in February in Glendale.

“We’re prepared,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Deputy Chief Dave Trombi citing his office’s past dealings with immigration marches and major events.

Super Bowl security efforts included personnel and resources from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. military’s Northern Command, which coordinated with Arizona officials. The Northern Command was created after 9/11 to have troops and Defense Department resources ready to respond to security problems, terrorism and natural disasters.

Northern Command spokesman Michael Kucharek and Arizona Army National Guard Major. Paul Aguirre said they are not aware of any new planning for domestic situations related to the economy.

Nick Dranias, director of constitutional government at the libertarian Goldwater Institute, said a declaration of marital law would be an extraordinary event and give military control over civilian authorities and institutions. Dranias said the Posse Comitatus Act restricts the U.S. military’s role in domestic law enforcement. But he points to a 1994 U.S. Defense Department Directive (DODD 3025) he says allows military commanders to take emergency actions in domestic situations to save lives, prevent suffering or mitigate great property damage.

Dranias said such an emergency declaration could worsen the economic situation and doubts extreme measures will been taken. “I don’t think it’s likely. But it’s not impossible,” he said.

The economy is in recession. Consumer spending is down, foreclosures are up and a host of businesses are laying off workers and struggling with tight credit and the troubled housing and financial markets. The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank and U.S. Treasury Department have pumped more than $8.5 trillion into the economy via equity purchases of bank stocks, liquidity infusions, Wall Street and bank bailouts and taxpayer rebates. U.S. automakers are seeking more than $14 billion in federal loans with fears they could fall into bankruptcy without a bailout. The U.S. housing and subprime lending-induced recession also has hit economies in Europe, Japan and China.

Gov. Janet Napolitano’s office declined comment on emergency planning and possible civil unrest. Napolitano is president-elect Barack Obama’s pick for secretary of Homeland Security, an agency that oversees airport security, disaster response, border security, customs and anti-terrorism efforts.

As governor, Napolitano sent National Guard troops to Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in 2003 in response to terrorism threats.

Glendale Police spokesman Jim Toomey said the West Valley suburb developed new emergency plans with the approach of Y2K computer changeovers leading up to the year 2000 and police have updated those plans several times including after 9/11. Toomey said strategies to deal with public unrest usually involve deploying personnel and equipment to deal with specific incidents while still providing usual services.

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