The Weekly Notebook – On Dr Martin Luther King

Once reviled Dr Martin Luther King is rebirthed as all-American hero

If you thought we had problems choosing how and when to celebrate Australia Day, spare a thought for Americans who have just been marking Rev Martin Luther King Day.

About 15% took part – mainly Democrat politicians, black civil rightists and leftists – while for the other 85% it was business as usual. The overwhelming majority ignored it because they had other things on their minds. And who could blame them?

Dr King’s memorial day was held this year on the 90th anniversary of his birth in Atlanta, the string-‘em-up and burn-‘em-down city in the southern State of Georgia.

When I was growing up in the 1960s King was listed by FBI director J Edgar Hoover as America’s “Public Enemy No 1”. Hoover and President Richard Nixon shared phone calls and notes about King describing as “an agent of Moscow”, “a Communist dupe” and a “dangerous nigger agitator”.

J Edgar Hoover, right, with President Nixon

Before the Nobel Prize winner’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, the FBI sent him a letter telling him there was “only one thing left” for his “filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self”. King regarded it as an encouragement to commit suicide.

After winning the distinguished prize, the Cincinnati Inquirer fumed: “The unctuous Rev Martin Luther King has been something of a hindrance to the civil rights movement since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He has unfurled his banner as a fifth columnist,” i.e. he opposed sending conscripted young men to Vietnam to kill people fighting for their independence.

Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, gave the best answer to the “fifth columnist” slur, saying: “My conscience won’t met me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me a nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t let no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. Shoot them for what? How can I shoot poor people? Just take me to jail.”

The heavyweight boxing champion made the statement in 1967 in an anti-war march from Brooklyn to the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan on the occasion of Dr King’s speech to the General Assembly.

Muhammad Ali with Dr King, 1967

At the time, US politicians, editors and columnists were calling for King to be arrested, charged with treason and locked up.

The press claimed that public opinion was anti-King. A Harris Poll taken in 1968 showed that 75% of Americans disapproved of Dr King and 60% of black Americans thought he was “irrelevant”. The polling was a disgraceful piece of propaganda orchestrated by Washington’s wire-pullers from the “Deep State”.

How things have changed. These days US Presidents and Senators fight their way to the front of Martin Luther King memorials while The New York Times and The Washington Post – both viciously critical of Dr King during his civil rights and anti-war crusades – are now hailing him as the personification of American freedom and democracy.

The most sickening reversal comes from the National Rifle Association, the lobby organisation which promotes America’s love of guns, the very guns used to kill African-Americans (like Dr King).

The NRA tweeted that King held a gun licence (yes, he was ordered by his family, followers and security detail to carry a licensed gun in order to protect himself from would-be assassins from the Ku Klux Klan who had put a price on his head. The story goes that King’s weapon remained unloaded). The association’s statement said it was proud to honour his “incredible career fighting for civil rights”. Anyone got a sick bag?

Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone columnist, wrote: “After King’s famous ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech decrying our foreign occupation, The Washington Post ripped him for turning his back on the Johnson presidency in an editorial called ‘Tragedy’.” The paper concluded that many “who listened to King with respect will never again afford him the same confidence”.

Taibbi accused the “national political establishment” of treating Dr King during his lifetime like an “egomaniacal ignoramus with suspiciously foreign inclinations” (i.e. communism).

He concluded: “Were he alive today, who knows? The papers and the networks might love him. But the lesson of his life seems more that conventional wisdom is almost blind to moral greatness in real time.”

Washington v Venezuela

In its death throes as a super power, the United States has decided to impose a New World Order.

President Donald Trump, National Security Adviser John Bolton or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have given themselves the power to decide if a foreign government is acceptable to America or not.

Venezuelans rally against American attacks on the Maduro government

Currently they are focused on declaring that the tiny Latin American country of Venezuela is a clear and present danger to the world’s wealthiest nation. The aim is to overthrow the elected President Nicolas Maduro and put an American stooge, Washington DC- educated Juan Guaido, in his place.

This week Trump sent a message to Guaido calling him “President” and re-assuring him of America’s ongoing support. It was very noticeable that Democratic politicians, who are rightly concerned about the human rights of refugees crossing over the border into America, remained silent about the rights of Venezuelans facing the CIA-promoted overthrow of their elected government and president.

America’s New World Order has been trialled by previous administrations, Republican and Democrat, in Yugoslavia, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria and they recently poured millions of dollars into Brazil to secure the presidency of screaming reactionary Jair Bolsonaro, a US-trained army officer.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Now that Washington has deemed Maduro’s left-wing government is “unacceptable”, Venezuela’s citizens face a torrid future.

First, they will be subjected to a propaganda war which depicts the country as a “basket case” and its leaders as “corrupt” and “agents” of Cuba, Russia, China, Iran and anyone else in the CIA’s current “axis of evil”.

Second, US aid will be halted and Washington will persuade other Western supporters to stop their aid too.

Third, trade sanctions will be imposed by Washington with the eager help of American allies wishing to suck-up to Washington. The American-controlled World Trade Organisation, World Bank and IMF will do their bit.

Fourth, diplomatic relations will be ended and US diplomats withdrawn. Other obedient Western embassies will follow. The idea is to freeze the country out in the cold.

Fifth, choose an heir-apparent and swear him (or her) in as the country’s “saviour”. Recognise the new (unelected) president and his stooge government.

Sixth, give the “saviour” a manifesto to dismantle all public ownership and hand over state enterprises to private ownership. Introduce private health and private education and make the country a “paradise” for private exploitation and low taxation.

All of the above are in motion in Venezuela where Washington is spending billions of dollars financing the right-wing Popular Will party and trying to unseat President Maduro. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has recognised Guaido’s illegitimate regime. No surprises there!

Trump and Pompeo: imperialist aggressors

Facing unrelenting political, diplomatic and economic warfare from America, Venezuela is hurtling towards civil war.

America’s previous adherence to the Monroe Doctrine looks mild by comparison. In his State of the Union message in 1823 President James Monroe told European powers they did not belong in The Americas and that the US would treat any European interference in South America as a hostile act.

If the Europeans interfered in “any independent state in North or South America” this would be regarded as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States”, the doctrine stated.

President Monroe’s arrogance pales into insignificance when compared to the New World Order doctrine of Messrs Trump, Bolton and Pompeo.

Even if you are opposed to President Maduro and the policies of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela, can anyone seriously support his undemocratic and illegal overthrow by imperialist gangsters in Washington?

Real estate greed

Hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C Griffin has paid a record price for a penthouse in Manhattan – US$238 million. It is the most expensive residential purchase in US history.

Kenneth C Griffin, hedge fund manager

Griffin, with a net worth of $10 billion, is founder and CEO of bottom-feeding hedge fund Citadel. He lives in Chicago but also owns a $122 million mansion in London and a $60 million penthouse in Miami. His latest Manhattan acquisition is located in a 79-storey building where the developer evicted dozens of tenants from their rent-controlled apartments.

Writer Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, said: “The plutocrats continue brazenly flaunting the excesses that have enraged much of humanity. They’re displaying very little awareness of the moment that we are in.”

The US Congress, Republicans and Democrats, last year passed a Federal Budge providing billions of dollars in tax breaks to America’s richest 1%. At the same time, cuts in Federal spending delivered major hurt to America’s poorest whose welfare services were slashed.

Kiwi scandal stays home

New Zealanders are currently absorbed by spine-tingling revelations about “Big Brother” surveillance.

For reasons that escape me, the story is not being covered by the Australian media. Let’s investigate why not.

Following a wide-ranging investigation by the State Services Commission it has been revealed that New Zealanders are being spied upon by Government agencies and outsourced agencies.

The information is being collated and sold to other agencies, at home and abroad. Some of the information is ending up in foreign spy agencies so that they have profiles of millions of unsuspecting Kiwis. New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has been helping private surveillance contractors to gain access to the profiles.

The NZ bloggers’ network, No Right Turn, furiously argued that “this is basically a case of cosy corruption, mates helping mates, and at the heart of an agency (the SIS) we trust to be above such things”.

SIS director general Rebecca Ketteridge has attempted to head off criticism by establishing an internal review but this has failed to attract NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: inquiry

Labor’s Ms Ardern has called a government inquiry while her supporters want the probe open to the public and press.

Environmentalist Frances Mountier who has personal experience of hostile activities by NZ’s spy agencies said “the whole point” of the spy contractors was to “undermine political protest, to disrupt community organisations, to dampen the effectiveness of democratic change, to control the media narrative and to make people who are using their freedom of speech speechless”.

Does anyone doubt that the same tactics are used against community activists, environmentalists and peace protestors in Australia?

It’s not reported here because it would disturb voters and end their indifference. Best to say nothing. Just ignore it. Don’t rock the boat.

Letter of the Week

“I strongly recommend that the ACT government consider using a new slogan proclaiming ‘Canberra: the Drone Capital’.

“The aerial drones have their pluses and minuses, depending partly on one’s point of view … Canberra could be considered to have more than its fair share of human drones, for example some of our politicians.

“Some fly in to drone on about the needs of our nation without actually providing realistic solutions. Then there are those home-grown politicians who drone on about local politics, often supporting counter-intuitive local policies and priorities.

“I rest my case for putting the new slogan before the world, perhaps with an initial emphasis on number plates.”

  • Neville Exon, ACT, Canberra Times, 29 January 2019

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Prime Minister Gorton: political assassination

The political assassination of Prime Minister John Gorton is one of the great untold stories of Australian politics. Gorton was evicted from the Prime Ministership by MPs and grandees from his own party, the Liberal Party of Australia, in the first-ever Canberra coup.

The full story of Gorton’s overthrow in 1971 is the result of 10 years of research, interviews and foot-slogging investigation in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.

The lessons for today’s broken political system are critically relevant. This is a story from yesterday, told today, for tomorrow.

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One comment

  1. Martin Luther King used to talk on the phone to friends about his worry about being murdered and eventually he was. Now he is a national hero with a National Day named after him. How times change.

    The Americans are obviously after Venezualas oil. But I have reservations about Maduro. “For many academics on the left, broadly supportive of Chavismo’s aims, this democratic slide has been a cause for much heartache and soul-searching.But as ever where Venezuela is concerned, there is also conflict. The leadership of the Latin American Studies Association issued a statement calling on the government to respect the 1999 constitution, only to receive a reply from dozens of its 12,000 members rejecting their framing of the issue. For some, Chávez’s project has failed, while for others Venezuela’s problems are “not the result of too much socialism, but too little”. Some argue that “the international left does not even need to take a position” on the validity of the constitutional assembly as it is an internal matter, while others see it as “the single biggest miscalculation of Maduro’s presidency”. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/02/left-learn-maduros-failures-in-venezuela-bolivarian-revolution-chavismo

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