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"Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss'd to me

I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door."

Hundreds of Oregon Corporations Escape the Minimum Tax


Half of the US Is Broke


The myth of the Christian country


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR, 2nd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1937


Middle East friendship chart


Corporations enriching shareholders


Facts not fiction on universal gun background checks



"Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere"

Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The GOP - Not One of US.

Wall Street, our new criminal class...       

   Business in the USA is sitting on $2 trillion dollars refusing to invest their own funds in expanding and hiring workers.  

   When one adds to this the reserves that banks, equity firms and hedge funds have - the picture is clear - "capitalism in the USA is on strike." 

   The engine of our economy - the spirit of entrepreneurship is not in evidence today.  So much for business being dynamic and risk taking. 

   They hire K- Street lobbyists and their ilk at the state level because they are averse to risk taking - pleading for tax breaks, tax credits and endless loopholes. 

   The "business of business" in America today is not about job creation, it's about wealth hoarding and redistribution from the middle class to the top 1%. 

   So for those who claim government doesn't create jobs, my response is that business doesn't either until given "corporate welfare" by government.  The fact is that the private and public sector are highly integrated, something the anti-tax, anti-government Tea Party types don't understand. 

   Job creation requires public/private partnerships but the benefits of such collaboration should go to the 99% not just the 1%.  





  • A Middle East View      

Rami G. Khouri

  • RealClearPolitics:


  • Jim Hightower:

  • Robert Reich:

Robert Reich

  • Thomas Friedman: 

Friedman Column

  • Nicholas Kristof: 

Kristof Column

Oregon's Motto: 

She flies with her own wings! 

Hard Times in Oregon: 


The Oregon story - the rich get richer, the poor and middle class lose ground.  Check this front page Oregonian article out. 

Oregon wage gap widens

Homelessness in Oregon - a call to action

Chuck Currie The crisis of homelessness


      Oregon's coming 34th out of 41 states in the Obama "Race to the Top" illustrates the failure of leadership from Governor Kitzhaber and his predecessors as they have built an educational bridge to nowhere called high stakes testing.

   Instead of being in a race to the top we seem to be dumpster diving to the bottom despite doing education reform since 1991.  Insanity is termed doing the same thing over and over again.  When can we put a fork in this stupidity? 

   To confuse matters more the Oregonian's editorial board has pontificated that this was a lost opportunity to get federal funding for innovation.  How firing principals and teachers equals innovation is a mystery to me.   

   The way to reform schools is to reduce class sizes, to encourage teacher collaboration and to support their continued education.  High stakes testing and performance based assessment of teachers are NOT the answer!    

   If you want students to succeed you first have to resolve the issues they confront before they come to school.  Children who face poverty, hunger, homelessness, health care issues and family instability require wrap around services for them and their families, 24/7.   

   Every child needs a safe home of their own and parents who know how to be good parents.   

There is only one way to address this impending crisis.  Schools must have a stable source of funding. Until that happens - we will limp from crisis to crisis.   




    Why does the richest nation in the world have the moral blight of homeless people?

Invisible People


    Connecting the dots between homelessness & hunger in Oregon and Washington County: 


•    The faces of the homeless are families with children, single men and women, vets, and many who are impaired. It is estimated that in Washington County up to 56% of homelessness occurs to families.


•    Hunger is highest among single mother households (10%) and poor families (15%) as well as renters, unemployed workers and minority households. 

     In Washington County, Oregon's "economic engine," the divide between the affluent and the working poor continues.  We have a 19,000 unit gap in affordable low income rental housing.  County political and business leaders are indifferent to this crisis...   
















































RAD Lines

See my FACEBOOK @ Russ


  • He lost by 2.9 million votes...

  • He's a con artist...

  • He's a pathological liar... 

  • He's a failed business man...

  • He's a fascist... 


Trump & The Mob


Trump's role models are Vladmir Putin and Benito Mussolini.  He has contempt for our checks and balances system.  He wants to "rule" not govern like a strong man, a despot.  He will shredd the Constitution anytime he feels the urge to do so and like all despots he only listens to his inner circle.  And he is paranoid and narcissistic. 


Hundreds of Oregon Corporations Escape the Minimum Tax


Half of the US Is Broke


The myth of the Christian country


Housing Needs in Oregon 




"There are men who believe that democracy... is limited or measured by a kind of mystical and artificial fate [and that] tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future..." 

FDR, 3rd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1940

  • "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws." - Mayer Amschel Rothschild

  • Miguel de Cervantes, from The Duke - "I accuse you of being an idealist, a bad poet and an honest man."  Cervantes' response - "Guilty as charged, I have never had the courage to believe in nothing."   from Man of La Mancha  

Professor Kingfield, from the Paper Chase

   "I'm not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you." 

- George Bernard Shaw



From the Left Wing:

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman - The New York Times

Democracy Now

The Daily Kos

Blue Oregon


"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." 

- Emilie Buchwald 


    "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." 

- Justice John Paul Stevens, Bush v. Gore, 2001

    The state of our union - check out the map, it's a reality check for those who can't figure out why people are so ticked off... 



"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war"

- John Adams

"Loyalty to country always.  Loyalty to government when it deserves it."  

- Mark Twain  

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  

- George Santayana 

"The love of one's country is a natural thing.  But why should love stop at the border?" 

- Pablo Casals

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." 

- William Butler Yeats  


"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' 

But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?"  

- George Bernard Shaw, "Back to Methuselah" (1921) 

"...the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society...  The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government..."  

- James Madison, Federalist Papers #11 

"Why … should we have government? Why not each individual take to himself the whole fruit of his labor, without having any of it taxed away?”   

The legitimate object of government, is to do for the people whatever they need to have done, but which they can not do, at all, or can not do, so well, for themselves – in their separate and individual capacities … There are many such things … roads, bridges and the like; providing for the helpless young and afflicted; common schools … the criminal and civil [justice] departments."    

- Abraham Lincoln 

Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society  

- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 

"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates, but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole..." 

- Edmund Burke  

“It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever hath been done before may legally be done again, and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice and the general reason of mankind.  These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities, to justify the most iniquitous opinions.”  

- Jonathan Swift 

A RAD rhetorical question - Were Madison & Marx "Marxists"?  


"History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments."   

- James Madison



















































Toggle to Graphic display. Hold for 2 seconds to lock graphic mode

Sawmill investment has turned into dust


There’s nothing to show for the $7 million in taxpayer nancing spent on sawmill

Hillary Borrud and Gordon R. Friedman

The Oregonian/OregonLive

When state and federal officials approved $8 million in taxpayer financing for a Southern Oregon sawmill project, they did so on the premise the investment would bring back jobs. But officials green-lighted the project despite warning signs the plan to retool the mothballed mill was likely doomed to fail.

Sure enough, even with the expensive taxpayer- provided upgrades, the reopened Rough & Ready mill operated for less than 20 months before shutting down for good. Its equipment has been auctioned off, the land sold and the promised jobs only briefly delivered.

The failed project was overseen by Portland environmental nonprofit Ecotrust.

Taxpayers ultimately poured more than $12 million into the small-scale family- owned mill. On the day the land was sold, only $5 million of it remained.

The other $7 million had been spent for naught. Cave Junction residents like Matthew Davis, who worked on the millroom floor as did his father and three brothers, have a hard time accepting that work is gone forever.

“It was a game changer,” Davis said of the mill’s closing. “The mill was a really good income. One of the best-paying jobs around.”

After the mill closed, Davis went back to school and landed a better, higher-paying job as a diesel engine mechanic. But it requires a 1 15-mile d aily c ommute to a nd from Medford.

Government officials who hand out the type of tax credits that Rough & Ready received don’t check a project’s financial viability or budget details first. And that is by design. Lawmakers who created the so-called “new market” credits directed regulators to defer to private sector investors.

Officials at Business Oregon, the state economic development agency, approved Ecotrust’s tax credit application for the mill project despite red flags. Among them: a simplistic hand-written budget, ineligible costs that could have been detected up front and a recent failure by the mill’s operators to keep it open despite substantial public investments.


Millions of taxpayer dollars were invested in getting the Rough & Ready sawmill up and running again. It operated for less than 20 months before closing for good. Jamie Francis, file



Then-Gov. John Kitzhaber supported retooling the mill in sleepy Cave Junction, surrounded by national forests just north of the California border. He liked the idea of putting laid-off mill employees back to work.

The sawmill’s owners, Jennifer and Link Phillippi, wanted as much taxpayer help as possible to buy up-to-date equipment and restart the mill. The size of a tax credit for pumping up a rural business like theirs depends on the total cost of the improvements. Ecotrust decided to include in its tax credit application a $4 million expense to buy the decades-old mill and the land on which it sits. What should have been obvious: The company in charge of the sawmill already owned the mill and the land, so buying them wasn’t a genuine arms-length cost and shouldn’t have counted.

But officials at the state and federal agencies that grant new market credits say digging deep into the workings of individual proposals isn’t their role.

On the federal level, the Department of Treasury scrutinizes the private entities that it authorizes to award multiple tax credits to a spectrum of projects. Ecotrust is one of those. Treasury officials check the performance of each entity’s portfolio before granting it a new round of credits to give out.

Under Oregon law, Business Oregon leaders said, they were required to leave it to Ecotrust and the Phillippis to judge if the deal would save the mill. Ecotrust was paid $520,000 for arranging the deal.

When Oregon lawmakers created the state version of new market tax credits in 2011, they instructed Business Oregon to award the credits as long as certain federal requirements were met, no matter how dubious a project may appear. In a low-income community? Arranged by a federally approved entity? Backed with all the investment dollars required? Ecotrust’s Rough & Ready proposal checked all those boxes, so the taxpayer spigot was turned on.

Business Oregon reviewers didn’t spot warning signs because they aren’t allowed to dig deeper than face value, agency spokesman Nathan Buehler said.

The reopening drew high public praise from Oregon officials. “Credit goes to Governor Kitzhaber and to Ecotrust for their efforts on this project and on behalf of the Josephine County economy,” said Sen. Ron Wyden. Rep. Greg Walden hailed the project as “good news for working families in southern Oregon.” Kitzhaber promised to help the mill project “in any way I can.”

Lawmakers ended the state version of the new market tax credit program in 2016. Congress, however, has repeatedly extended its new market incentive program, allowing project backers to receive $21 billion in tax credits since 2000.

Beginning in November 2017, The Oregonian/ OregonLive sought public records about Ecotrust’s Rough & Ready deal. It reviewed tax credit applications, emails and documents given to the state by a concerned Ecotrust insider.

Those records trace the complex financial web that ultimately provided $8 million in federal and $4 million in state taxpayer resources.

Following reporters’ inquiry, Business Oregon notified Ecotrust in February of its plans to claw back more than $1 million of the taxpayer incentives due to misspending. Ecotrust has the option to avoid repayment if by May 3 it spends $2.9 million on other allowable projects in rural Oregon. The nonprofit has indicated it will try to do that.


Ecotrust was founded nearly three decades ago to nurture eco-friendly businesses and show companies that they can build wealth while also doing good. Founder Spencer Beebe is pictured on the nonprofit’s website wearing a white hat, an appropriate symbol of its ethos. “Spencer has always creatively leveraged capital to scale a new economy — finding ways to let mission drive money,” the website says.

One way it has paid for that work: winning $114 million in federal and state tax credits. The public-facing nonprofit also sits atop a less-publicized constellation of for-profit subsidiaries that exist to make money. Those for-profit companies own stakes in a handful of other tax credit projects, eco-centric businesses and the ultra-green Ecotrust headquarters in the Pearl District.

Ecotrust next plans to use a new helping of federal tax credits, intended to encourage investment in low-income areas, to build a new hub in southeast Portland’s rapidly redeveloping industrial area.

Ecotrust officials are accustomed to rubbing shoulders with influential people in Oregon. The city of Portland rented space in its headquarters building. In 2014, Kitzhaber urged that the group be awarded the tax credits — and even tossed in a $1 million largely forgivable loan from a pot of taxpayer money under his control.

The former governor, who is working to regain career credibility after an influence- peddling scandal led him to resign, is now getting help from Ecotrust. It has inked a four-month contract with him to work on an opaque economic development and natural resource management project called Salmon Nation. Ecotrust would say only that the group is paying him “his standard hourly consulting fee.”


To qualify for the maximum amount of state tax credits, Ecotrust needed to show that upgrading the Rough & Ready sawmill so it could reopen would cost at least $8 million. Ecotrust’s application to Business Oregon showed half that cost would be to acquire land and construct a building — even though the same three-page application showed the mill was a lready s ituated on a 300-acre site with an existing 35,000-square-foot sawmill.

Acquiring land and buildings from Rough & Ready’s owners only to give them to an entity 99 percent owned by those same people is not an upgrade eligible for a state taxpayer subsidy, Nia Ray, director of Oregon’s Department of Revenue, informed Ecotrust. Tax credits should never have been awarded for that purpose, she said.

Yet Business Oregon signed off on the subsidies. Buehler, the spokesman, said Ecotrust’s application didn’t provide enough detail for officials to spot that problem.

Adam L ane, E cotrust’s chief f inancial officer, defended the companies’ handling of tax credits.

The incentives are restricted to helping businesses in census tracts with low median incomes and are intended for projects that wouldn’t be able to secure private financing without taxpayer subsidies. Most have gone to urban projects, but Ecotrust’s credits were designated for rural communities.

“One of the key elements of the new markets program, both state and federal, is they are supposed to go to try to fund projects that will create economic and — the way Ecotrust does it — environmental benefits in these rural companies, these needy Census tracts,” Lane said. “It is supposed to go to try to fund things that would not otherwise be fundable.”

Still, Lane was asking hard questions of other key decision-makers at Ecotrust as little as seven days before the tax credit deal closed.

Bettina von Hagen, chief executive of Ecotrust Forest Management, Ecotrust’s forprofit forest management subsidiary, wrote in an internal analysis of the Rough & Ready deal that log supply wouldn’t be a problem because the mill had “resolved supply issues” and could easily secure logs from its previous suppliers.

That raised questions for Lane. He wrote in the margins of von Hagen’s memo, “I think more needs to be said about this given that it was the main reason the mill was closed before. What has changed?”

Lane had other questions, too: Did Ecotrust have proof that a log shortage really forced the mill to close in 2013? Why wouldn’t a commercial lender pony up money for the project? Had von Hagen verified that a log shortage wouldn’t “kill the company” again after reopening?

“Rigorous analysis (i.e. ‘hard questions’) is the expectation we would hold in any project we undertake,” Carolyn Hollard, Ecotrust’s vice president for communications, wrote in an email. “We do not move forward with any transaction until we complete our diligence and questions are answered.”

Ecotrust said when it put the deal together that the public’s investment would create much-needed jobs in unemployment-racked Cave Junction.

“This project will bring back 70 jobs in an economically depressed region of the state with unhealthy forests,” Ecotrust said on its application. “Working people are productive, pay taxes and are not a drain on the state resources. … Rural Oregon communities need a sustainable economic engine to support the quality of life we all desire.”

Davis, the laid-off mill worker, said his younger brother, Chuck, and a neighbor went back to work when the retooled mill started sawing logs again. But, Davis noted, “It didn’t last very long.” For Chuck — who joined the Marines right after the mill closed again — the mill’s second shuttering brought grief. “He was so upset,” said Davis’ wife, Lynne.

Out of Ecotrust’s 25 new market tax credit deals, Lane said only two have run into problems like Rough & Ready’s. Still, he said “this is heartbreaking for us because when we put this deal together we were incredibly excited about the job creation, not only at Rough & Ready but the surrounding landowners.”

As for the state’s contention Ecotrust got the subsidies improperly by counting ineligible expenses, Lane said, “We are not saying that is correct.” However, Lane said Ecotrust agrees with the state that “this is a good solution” to spend any money left to purchase timberland for the Phillippis to manage.

“We’re working w ith t he Phillippis, o r monitoring them, because they’re the ones that sort of have to drive it,” Lane said.

In l ight o f t he p roblems t hat a rose, Ecotrust will repay $250,000 — half of the fees it earned for handling the tax credits — and use it to purchase timberland in low-income tracts, Lane said.

Ecotrust is not ruling out future tax credit deals involving lumber mills, Lane said. “Ecotrust has a strong forestry team. We know a lot about it.”


Rough & Ready had been sawing logs continuously since 1922 and was the last working mill in Josephine County when it closed in February 2013. Its holdings spanned two mills located side by side. One was a 1940sera mill and had recently been upgraded with $2.5 million of taxpayer help to more efficiently saw large diameter logs. The second mill, added in the 1970s, was capable of sawing small logs but had been dormant since 2002 because it wasn’t capable of turning a profit.

The Phillippis closed the large log mill in 2013, citing a shortage of logs from federal lands. The infusion of taxpayer financing in 2014 was to retool the small-log mill and put it back in business after 12 years.

They were bullish about the chances of success.

“Demand is good right now,” Link Phillippi said at the time. “Our markets are good. Our customers are begging for wood.”

Critical to any mill’s success is its ability to acquire raw logs.

Both Lane and Jennifer Phillippi said they had reason to believe Rough & Ready

“This project will bring back 70 jobs in an economically region of the state with unhealthy forests.”

Ecotrust, in its application for tax credits for the Rough & Ready sawmill

After the fact, Oregon regulators called foul on Ecotrust’s plan to accept millions in taxpayer subsidies spend $5 million of that money to acquire the mill from the owners and in essence give it right back




"What’s driving populism? It isn’t the economy, stupid. Countries around the world have been gripped by an incoherent, rage-fuelled nihilism that rejects elites on the left and the right. It's not income inequality, but a fear of immigrants undermining culture and a way of life..."

Read the article below sent to me by my Canadian Connection an ex-Pat American who's glad to have left the USA in '66...

What’s driving populism? It isn’t
the economy, stupid

My own take is that the anti-immigrant prejudice has deep roots in most countries including the USA. The presence of "the Other" always precipitates a political backlash be it here or abroad. Most wars are fought around this issue.

But it would be a mistake to dismiss "class envy" in this analysis. Immigrants have always served as a scapegoat in the socio-economic pecking order for the groups just above them. When the Irish immigrated to New England signs went up "Irish not welcome" and so it goes today.

It's just the groups which are different. One time outsiders are now insiders who resent the threat (however imaginary) from recent arrivals. Clearly the bleeding of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria into Europe has fueled this paranoia as has the movement to El Norte from S. America into the US.

In the Middle East the added fuel to this anti-immigrant firestorm is the unintended consequences of European colonialism which the US has inherited from the Brits, the French et al. Can Russia be next?

Populism has always embraced legitimate economic grievances with an added element of ill founded ethnic, racial and/or religious xenophobia. It's the way to avoid the real issue - "economic inequality." This keeps the attention away from the real problem - the 1% and Wall Street.

"Divide and rule"...

Keep in mind people emigrate to escape political, ethnic, racial or religious persecution in their native land. They also seek the hope of economic security (jobs) by doing jobs the locals consider beneath their dignity to do. As did the Irish and Chinese in building the transcontinental RR system.

When we travel to Seattle at the hotel we stay at in Renton the women who change the beds are primarily of South Asian descent. They aren't taking jobs away from native born Americans they are doing domestic work which Americans won't do.

On the flip side, there are currently 60 thousand high paying jobs in Oregon which can't be filled by Oregonians - many in the hi-tech sector. When I visited Intel several years ago at the evening shift change the workforce was a blend of local and immigrant workers from all over the world.

Check out who cooks the food in our local restaurants in the Portland area - mostly Hispanic cooks. After Katrina many Latinos came north to rebuild New Orleans. In Texas the Vietnamese population is prominent in the fishing industry. Without such workers our economy would collapse.

To cast out The Dreamers is the essence of economic stupidity and immoral. They did nothing wrong. They are our future. We are betraying the American Dream.  

At the end of the day, anti-immigrant animus is about "the economy stupid" - the unreasoning fear that "they" will take our jobs, our neighborhoods...    This has always been the fear of "the other". 

I vividly recall going to the local Moose Lodge with a high school best friend's father.  He was a talented photographer and a part-time mill worker.  I was stunned when he said "the Blacks are coming" to take our jobs.  This is Roseburg, Oregon @ 1961 - where the closest African-Americans were in Portland's Albina neighborhood 170 miles away - not an easy commutte to Roseburg lumber mills! 

When we returned to his home that evening he took out his favorite record by Nat King Cole - saying "I love that man."  I was stunned again.  The combo of unreasoning fear and prejudice can lead to such moments of cognitive dissonance.  This man was not evil but in an unguarded moment let his guard down to show me his fears born of economic insecurity and paranoia.    

So it is the economy stupid - the one people think isn't working for them!  That's the fear Trump stoked and rode into the Oval Office - not unlike others before him Huey Long, George Wallace et al.  





The latest school massacre?

The Florida shooter went through a background check but Florida has no waiting period unlike Oregon. One wonders about the robustness of the Sunshine State's (ironic - eh?) background check regime given the mental health history the fellow had and that he had been in therapy. A case of one hand not knowing what the other is up to?

But there is a more fundamental problem: the sheer number of guns in the USA is 'the' problem. And given our frontier mentality and the power of the gun lobby - aka gun manufacturers and the NRA banning assault weapons won't be easy - even though a majority of Americans have consistently favored such a ban.

What can/must be done:

Personally I'd like to confiscate every damn assault weapon (rifle or hand gun) owned by civilians in the USA @ 40 million of them out of 270 million guns owned by Americans.  But recognizing that will never happen - here are some practical ideas about getting a grip on a major public health crisis in the USA:

1) Make personal ownership and use of assault weapons illegal;
2) Create gun buyback programs at the local, state and/or federal level;
3) Expand background checks and wait times for purchase of guns;
4) End the privacy rules governing patient rights if and when they may pose a public health risk;
5) Close the gaps in our mental health system that allow people to slip between the cracks;
6) Don't turn schools into prisons but make them safer by reasonable security measures like we have in our airports;
7) But realize even if we make school buildings safer (inside) - as in Las Vegas - this won't stop a killer from shooting at people in public venues;
8) Impose a code of conduct on film makers and social media producers which requires them to stop glorifying violence which has no socially redeeming value;
9) Last but not least make gun manufacturers and sellers liable for civil suits when their products are used in the commission of such heinous mass shootings;

Will any of this happen - probably not - Why?

Because "electeds" are in the hip pocket of big money aka the gun lobby that finances their campaigns. Don't expect profiles in courage from that quarter - so be prepared for more Valentine's Day massacres down the road. It's the price of living in the "land of the free and the home of the brave" a nation where 30% of the people who own guns control the outcome!

Then again, we are a nation ruled by a minority who put the 'illegitimate' one in the Oval Office.


The answer to this rhetorical question hinges on what part of the economy you belong to...   For more go to my FB page 2nd from the top article @





     PBS aired a documentary film earlier this week - "I'm not your Negro" produced by Haitian born Raoul Peck which showcases James Baldwin's compelling reflections on Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers.  Baldwin concludes the film with this searing comment: 

     “What white people have to do is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I'm not a nigger,” he said. “I'm a man, but if you think I'm a nigger, it means you need it… If I'm not a nigger and you invented him -- you, the white people, invented him -- then you've got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that, whether or not it's able to ask that question.”

     In a time in American history when the Trump administration and his minions seem intent on erasing any vestige of Martin Luther King's vision of America as a land of promise and diversity free of racial rancor, Baldwin's words seem very contemporary and chilling.  

     It caused me to reflect on this subject...  

     The first "niggers" in America were Native Americans. Then came indentured servants from Europe to be followed by a lucrative Triangular Traffic in Black slavery, the most enduring stain in American history.

     But this is not the end of the story. When the Irish fled the Potato Famine they were treated like "niggers" in places like Boston. When the Italians came to New York they were called "dagos", "wops" and treated like "niggers" in the North. Jews and Poles were to follow in this echo chamber of prejudice. Then the Chinese came to the gold fields of California and they were treated like "niggers" - even killed in Eastern Oregon while their labor built the western link of the transcontinental railroad - Irish labor built the eastern link.

     In the '20s the Alien and Sedition Act was used to crush organized labor split along racial lines. This would be followed in WW II by Japanese-Americans living in the West Coast being relocated to internment camps. In the '50s McCarthyism saw a "commie" under every bed (an ironic metaphor). When Gunner Joe turned his rhetoric on his fellow senators, enough was enough even for IKE. Now Muslims, Latinos, Haitians and Puerto Ricans are the new "niggers" in the Trump era.

     Let's also keep in mind women in the "good old days" were chattel of their husbands and/or fathers. Given the "Me too" movement we have a echo out of what we thought was the past.So much for women's lib? 

     It would be disingenuous to ignore that sexism in the workplace inhabited by highly educated women isn't the same for working class minority women who are often undocumented workers employed our corporate towers at night.  Frontline did a good job of documenting this on Tuesday night's edition. 

     Toward the end of their lives both Malcolm X and Martin were converging - Malcolm having returned from Mecca and seeing our "race" problem in a more nuanced view and Martin having seen White racism in the North, especially in Chicago - they both realized while skin color was the most distinguishable line in America aka the "color" line beneath that line was also "class".

     An aside:  Truth be told there is even a "color" line in the Black community dividing those with lighter skin from those with darker complexions. How many African-American actors almost seem "white" or only marginally Black on our TV and movie screens? 

      In the Post WWII era the great American middle class was born. But with the hollowing out of America's industrial heart land in a global economy - many working class Americans are now on the edge "nigger" status and they resent it - often misplacing the blame for their plight on immigrants and racial minorities in the US. But then again - there has always been the so-called "white trash," "Red necks" - for whom the enduring face of "nigger" is in fact an African-American.

     And any African-American knows that however well educated or hard working the color of their skin becomes a "scarlet letter" as Black Lives Matter reminds us. In America we are all equal but some are more equal than others and it helps those just above the bottom to have a group one can hate or fear. And Trump legitimizes such hate and fear almost daily.

    Whites can blend in regardless of their ethnic heritage - they can't be easily profiled by cops, landlords or developers.  Such is not the case if one is non-White and especially if one is Black.  Being "watched" comes with the territory in a nation which has a very peculiar historic fixation on "race." 

     Baldwin raises "the" enduring question why do people need their "nigger"?

     Could it be that the American Dream of upward economic mobility is a fraud? That capitalism screws everyone but a few lucky ones? Could it be that at the heart of racism, sexism and xenophobia is income inequality?

      But as long as the media has us fixated on "color" - we never get to the real heart of darkness, the intersection of race, gender and class. And this is where the deaths of Malcolm and Martin were so tragic - they both had turned the corner and were converging on the real problem in America - socio-economic inequality aka "class" the unmentionable word in American politics.

      That's why Martin was in Memphis helping garbage workers get a better wage and why his next idea was a Poor Peoples March on DC. Tragically he was taken from us by an assassin's bullet before that March took place in a nation then convulsed by the long hot summers of '67 and '68 and the Vietnam War.

     But looking at the picture above - of an increasingly racially diverse society the absurdity of racial profiling and our fixation with race becomes obvious. Admittedly as one who crossed the color line in 1966 to marry my Japanese-American wife born in America - we were unique at the time - though illegal given the laws against inter-racial marriage in the South.  But that day has long passed.

     As some have said Trump is the "first White president."  But he heads a nation that is a quilt of diversity, a blend of pluralism and of diverse peoples from all over the globe.  Can he erase that?  Not really no matter how many people he deports or tries to keep from coming to America. The American Dream is more powerful than Trump.  

     As my own family illustrates - we're already here!  One daughter-in-law is from India, the other from Vietnam, the former a resident alien, the other an American citizen.  My two sons of a mixed racial heritage are native sons.  My grand daughter who has South Asian, Japenses, Italian, German and a tiny bit of English blood in her DNA is a native born Oregonian. 

   So put that in your racist pipe Donald and choke on it.