Dread Scott Adams Shoots Himself.

(A 4chan image of a hateful, White Supremacist version of Scott Adams’ “Dilbert.”)

Dread Scott Adams

Took a gun,

To give his career a shot,

Plus forty-one.

And when Dread Scott

Felt Dilbert wasn’t red, white and true–

He gave his creation,


“White Power,” said he,

“Give me a Q.”

That’s too Queer!

Will 4chan Nazis do?

Always separate, NEVER Equal,

Dread Scott said.

Mixing colors?

“You outta your head?”

“Right, so right,”

Elon Musk cheered.

“I know Apartheid

And you’ve got it here!”

“Black people are a hate group,”

Dread Scott Adams said,

Forgetting who kept whom in chains,

And whipped and hung them dead.

But he’d been fact-phobic before,

This cartoon of a troll;

Like when he questioned if 6 million,

Was the true Holocaust death toll.

A hypnotist by hobby,

A COVID cure-kook by dark;

Dread Scott Adams made millions off

His culture war of snark.

“It’s OK to be hateful,”

Dread Scott Adams said, certain he was right.

“And, I’m Trumpy-enough to believe,

“It’s OK to be brain-dead blight.”

So, Dread Scott Adams ran away,

From cities much too dark,

To “get the hell away from Blacks,”

And, sharpen his biased bark.

He found a pleasant little town,

A thousand miles from home,

Where Blacks were no where to be found,

And Whites were free to roam.

Yet, Dread Scott Adams

Could not flee the demons in his mind,

To kill them he entranced himself,

And made his vision, blind.

When Harry Met Jimmy…

((President Jimmy Carter convenes the opening meeting of the first Presidential Commission on Hunger in 1978. Harry Chapin, who persuaded Carter to create the first—and only—Hunger Commission of it’s kind in US History, is the bushy haired guy pictured in the top right of the photo. Bess Myerson, former NYC Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, who never attended another meeting, is seated in the white jacket, in the center of the photo.)

As former President Jimmy Carter has been quietly been teaching all of us a daily  lesson on the dignity of dying after living a deeply purposeful and humanitarian life, many of us have been reexamining our own lives.

I was never a Carter fan.  I thought he was too conservative; too much of an incrementalist; not the kind of tough, crusading advocate for justice, human rights and the law that many of us Democratic activists craved, following the terrible and corrupt times of Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew and Watergate.   Foreshadowing Elizabeth Warren by some 40 years, we wanted fundamental change. 

Post-presidency, Carter would grow into a towering international human rights leader, and as a Jew uncomfortable with Israel’s lurch into right-wing fundamentalism, I applauded his early and courageous conclusion that the Israeli government’s deprivation of equal rights for Arab-born Israelis and Palestinians, amounted to Apartheid. Other Jews condemned Carter for his candor.

But, back in 1974, Democrats, across the country swept into near veto-proof power in Congress in the mid-term elections, adding 49 new seats in the House, giving them a commanding 291-seat majority; in the Senate, Democrats picked up 4 seats, producing a filibuster-proof majority of 61.  With the rise of progressivism in Congress , we did not want a milquetoast candidate for President in 1976, even if the candidate were a Washington outsider with a winning smile who promised he’d never lie to us.

Many of us in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party wanted a tough champion like Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma, or Rep. Mo Udall from Arizona to lead the Democratic National ticket in 1976.   We wanted a presidential candidate who would represent the growing sense of urgency among our rank-and-file to bring about sweeping change.  To us, Jimmy Carter was just far too cautious.

We weren’t alone.  Even singer/songwriter Harry Chapin, who persuaded Jimmy Carter to create the nation’s first and only Hunger Commission and served on that unique Commission from 1978-1980, had his doubts.   Chapin was a delegate to the 1976 Democratic National Convention for the fiery liberal and environmental advocate Rep. Mo Udall, who advocated breaking up Big Oil and enacting National Health Insurance. Udall finished second to Jimmy Carter in six presidential primaries.

Just this week, I uncovered notes from an interview I did five years ago with a leading social activist of our time Bill Ayers, a former Catholic priest in the great social justice tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and the Berrigans.  Ayers, a NYC-area radio DJ and an authentic “radical priest”, co-founded World Hunger Year (WHY) with Harry Chapin in 1975.   It was the team of Bill Ayres, Harry and Sandy Chapin and former Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, which brought the idea of creating the very first US Hunger Commission to newly-elected President Carter.

Harry Chapin’s family—with ancestors like his grandfather Kenneth Burke, the literary giant and semanticist, and his great-aunt Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Workers movement, was far more radical on social issues than many fans of his music, and more of an ardent advocate for change than Jimmy Carter.  He was determined to “do something” with his life, and eager to use his celebrity to alleviate hunger and suffering.

In an April, 2018, interview with Bill Ayres, Harry’s hunger-fighting partner told me that:
            “ What he didn’t like about Carter for one thing, was that he stacked the Pres. Hunger Commission with a whole bunch of people who were not the people who were going to solve hunger.  But, the people that were on from the Congress were people we knew—Leahy, being the primary one, Rick Nolan (from Minnesota), the other Dem; Ben Gilman, the Republican, and Bob Dole.  Dole grew up in Kansas during the Great Depression, when farmers were losing their farms.  We (WHY Hunger) honored him and Senator George McGovern one night.  He told me that “my Republican friends have never forgiven me for allowing food stamps to be free.”

Among the Commission members for whom Chapin had little patience was it’s Chair, former Xerox Corporation Chairman Sol Linowitz who, Harry believed, was watering down this historic Hunger Commission’s final report and only paying “lip service” to the underlying causes of hunger.  Chapin and two other progressive members of the Commission—Senator Leahy and Rep. Nolan—were frequent dissenters on key sections of the Presidential Hunger Commission Report.

In one notable dissent of the report, published 43 years ago next month, Harry and his two colleagues protested:
            “The most glaring issue not addressed is the most important—the interrelationships between our economic and governmental policies and hunger…”
                                    “ The magnitude and entrenched nature of the hunger problem demand that an intensified program of action be undertaken now, not tomorrow, or 5 years from now.  Only through expeditious action emanating from the highest levels of policymaking can we hope to map out an integrated program identifying the near-term, intermediate and long-range components of a comprehensive strategy to alleviate hunger…Poverty, not hunger, constitutes the central strand in the web of underdevelopment.”

Many of the Commission’s corporate members were not willing to push the envelope that far, nor did they share Harry’s single-mindedness of purpose for immediate action.

  Bill Ayres described it this way:
  “Harry never missed a meeting. (Despite a crushing performance schedule).  I went to some of meetings with him.  I listened.  A whole bunch of people that Carter had chosen.  Some good, some not so good.  Bess Myerson never came. Congressional guys were good.”

By the summer of 1980, after the final Hunger Commission report was published and put on a shelf, and Jimmy Carter’s attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran failed, Chapin began to get disillusioned.  He saw Reagan as an uncaring & opportunistic charlatan, and Carter as a decent and well-meaning human being, but an ineffective public official.  Harry was passionate about federal action on poverty as essential to tackling world hunger, and became frustrated by the lack of urgency coming from others.

Bill Ayres summed it up well: 
             “Yes.  And part of that was– let’s go to Washington and shake the tree!  So the presidential hunger commission was a real breakthrough.  Nobody had done that before.   Again, that was Sandy’s idea.  And it was a Presidential Commission on WORLD Hunger, so it was not Domestic Hunger so much.  The Commission’s work went from1978-1980, when they finished their work and put out a document.  The document didn’t go anyplace because Reagan got elected.
“  Harry and I watched the 1980 election results together and we cried, and I said, “Shit.  3 years down the drain.”  But he didn’t see it that way.  He said, “Nope.  We got to get back again and fight the bastards some more!” He wasn’t giving up.”

Harry Chapin never did give up; nor did Bill Ayres, the Chapin family, WHY Hunger, or any of the Harry Chapin Food Banks around the country.  Some 45 years after the creation of the only Presidential Hunger Commission in US history, and nearly five decades after the creation of WHY Hunger, the work of fighting hunger, poverty and powerlessness envisioned by Harry and Sandy Chapin and Bill Ayres continues, assisting thousands of families struggling to survive, and increasing food security for millions more.  

Carter and Chapin came from dramatically different families, cultures and backgrounds, with sharply different personalities and approaches to social and political change.  Yet, their lives’ work and legacies are linked:  through the Chapins’ reducing food insecurity and empowering the hungry, and, through Jimmy Carter’s “Habitat for Humanity,” provided housing security for many of this country’s most vulnerable. 

Harry and Jimmy: a powerful, and unlikely, ticket for long-term, structural change.

Frederick Douglass & The “Black Step-Children” of Abe Lincoln.

Yes, Abe Lincoln freed the slaves. 

But, as un-whitewashed history teaches us, not without giving far more progressive abolitionists, and Black folks, lots of aggravation and agita.

If you’re tired of Lincoln’s legend being sanitized, or the story of Black Americans being bleached by the College Board, it’s time to turn to the brilliant 1619 Project:  A New Origin Story  created by Nikole Hannah Jones for the New York Times  & Random House (copyright 2021, New York Times Publishing Company), and the insightful and contemporaneous writings of Frederick Douglass, a powerful voice for equality who knew Lincoln well.

Douglass, a former slave, ardent abolitionist, great orator, and one of the most consequential writers, thinkers and leaders in American History—wrote three separate autobiographies from 1845 through 1892.  He is the Douglass whose name should be immediately paired with Lincoln’s, rather than that of US Senator Stephen Douglas, who debated Lincoln about slavery, beat him for the Illinois Senate seat in 1858, and tried to broker a wishy-washy State sovereignty deal on slavery to avert Civil War.

In the 1619 Projectthe Lincoln/Frederick Douglass story is meticulously told.  I have excerpted some key portions of that story here:

“In our national story, we crown Lincoln the Great Emancipator, the president who ended slavery, demolished the racist South, and ushered in the free nation our founders set forth. 

But this narrative, like so many others, requires more nuance.  Frederick Douglass would never forget that the president initially suggested that the only solution, after abolishing enslavement that had lasted for centuries, was for Black Americans to leave the country they helped to build.”

Yes, you read that correctly.  Abe Lincoln, considered by many to be the greatest of all American presidents, first favored the deportation of all Black Americans.  It was a position he had favored for years.

 More than a decade after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, Douglass was asked to eulogize the assassinated President. 

“ The abolitionist (Frederick Douglass), whose mother had been sold away from him when he was a young child, had met Lincoln a few times during his presidency and had repeatedly prodded Lincoln in his writings and speeches to emancipate the enslaved.”

“At first, Douglass praised Lincoln as “a great public man whose example is likely to be commended for honor and imitation long after his departure to the solemn shades, the silent continents of eternity.”

But, as Jones writes in 1619 Project, Douglass was determined to make clear that he hadn’t simply come to praise Lincoln and “promote the narrative of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator who set his people free.”

Frederick Douglass:  “Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man, or our model…He was preeminently the white man’s president, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men.  He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of white people in this country.  YOU are the children of Abraham Lincoln.  We are, at best, only his step-children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity.”

Douglass was not just referring to Lincoln’s longstanding advocacy of Colonization—relocating American Blacks to either the West Indies or to Africa.  He was directly referencing the North’s necessity of freeing the slaves in order to defeat the Confederacy and preserve the union. Whether by design or default, freeing the slaves had become an essential military tactic for the North to win the War.   Following the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, thousands of freed black, enslaved persons left Southern plantations, and reinforced battered Union troops.  

Historian Bruce Levine, in his book The Fall of the House of Dixie:  The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South (Random House, NY, 2013)drove home the crucial role newly freed slaves had in the Union’s victory over the South:

            “By early 1864, the steady erosion of slavery throughout the loyal border states was as difficult to miss as it was in Union-occupied portions of the confederacy…By mid-September 1864, the Union had enlisted 14,000 Black soldiers (from border states, with another six thousand expected by the end of October…General Lorenzo Thomas praised the new Black regiments as filling up with “the very best class of men.”

What became clearer each succeeding day, was that while Lincoln “freed the slaves,” the newly freed Black men, fighting alongside Union Troops, were critically important in the Union’s victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War.  Once freed, former enslaved people fought fiercely to preserve—and extend—their liberty.  There was no going back.

In his eulogy, “Douglass launched into a breathtaking litany of Lincoln’s shortcomings, referring in part to their White House meeting with Black leaders in August 1862, just a little over four months before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued: 

         “Our faith in him was often taxed and strained to the uttermost…when he strangely told us that we were the cause of the war; when he still more strangely told us that we were to leave the land in which we were born.” 

However, as Jones writes in The 1619 Project,  “though the Union was worth more to Lincoln than enslaved people’s freedoms, Douglass said: ‘under his wise and beneficent rule we saw ourselves gradually lifted from the depths of slavery to the heights of liberty and manhood.”

Douglass understood that Lincoln’s ideas about Black people changed during the course of the War.  The president had been deeply moved by the valor of the Black men who’d help save the Union, and had been influenced by Black men such as Douglass, whom he held in high esteem.  Though the first version of his Emancipation Proclamation advocated Colonization (resettlements of the Black population), by the end of the Civil War, Lincoln had abandoned these efforts and advocated for the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery.  In his final speech before his assassination, Lincoln expressed an openness to enfranchising a limited number of Black men—particularly educated men and those who’d fought in the War.”

Historian Christopher James Bonner, author of Remaking the Republic:  Black Politics and the Creation of American Citizenship, offered his perspective to The 1619 Project:

“ That last speech calling for partial inclusion of Black Americans, that’s an evolution, and among the many tragedies of Lincoln’s death is that he did change so much in such a short period of time,” Bonner said.  “Still, the final stage of Lincoln is still a person who only believes in partial Black inclusion and who is only advocating for certain Black people on certain terms.  It’s valid to expect that he would have continued to evolve, but what we do know is that in the unfortunately short period of his presidency, Lincoln wasn’t an advocate for full equality.”

Formerly enslaved Black Americans were not interested in any half-way solutions.  Jones writes in The 1619 Project, that when the Civil War ended “suddenly freeing four million Black Americans, few were interested in leaving the country.

“Instead, most would have fervently supported the sentiment of a resolution against Black colonization put forward at a convention of Black leaders in New York, some decades before:

 “This is our home, and this our country.  Beneath its sod lie the bones of our fathers…Here we were born, and here we will die.”