Political Matters
Political Matters: Sports and degradation
Saturday, October 11 2014
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgSports and degradation

I’m happy to report that school board officials in Coachella Valley, California, decided to change the name and mascot of the high school sports teams. Al-Jazeera America reported in September that the “Coachella Valley High School Arabs will now be known as the Mighty Arabs … They also agreed to change CVHS' Arab mascot to look less barbaric and more distinguished.”

The old evil-looking “Mighty Arabs” logo image and mascot – apparently based on stories from “One Thousand and One Nights,” also known as “Arabian Nights” – have been recast, after complaints from Arab-American individuals and organizations.

Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the old mascot is “basically an angry ‘Arab’ head – hooknose, long beard, headscarf and all.’”

Over many years, officials in charge of prep and college sports across this country have responded to complaints about ethnic and racial stereotyping and made changes to respect diversity. They’ve done the decent and right thing; but this has not been the case in pro sports. An egregious case of racial insensitivity is the National Football League, which also has been coming under attack for its tolerance of players who beat their wives and children.


Political Matters: Washington's 'R' word
Monday, September 08 2014
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgThe rhetoric is escalating in the run-up to the Minnesota-Washington NFL game. A new stadium is under construction downtown on the site of the former Metrodome, so the Vikes are playing their games at TCF Bank Stadium (“the Bank”) on the University of Minnesota campus.

As the Washington Post reported in early August, the Bank complex features a Tribal Nations Plaza, which honors “the 11 Native American tribes in Minnesota. It was built with a $10 million donation from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community — the largest private gift ever to Gophers athletics.” Last month, tribal officials released a statement expressing opposition to the Redskins’ name “and other sports-related logos, mascots and names which degrade a race of people,” according to the newspaper. The Shakopee band and other Minnesota Indian bands are working with the university to prepare “appropriate responses” to the NFL game and “minimize the damage that could be done by invoking the [“R”] name in a place that respects and honors the Minnesota Native American community.”

American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Clyde Bellecourt has threatened to organize mass civil disobedience to stop the Nov. 2 game, if Washington comes here with the Redskins name and logo. Bellecourt, who is the director of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, also has threatened to sue the University of Minnesota if the Washington franchise doesn’t tone it down. The coalition organized a large march to the Metrodome last November, when Washington visited Minneapolis for a nationally-broadcast Thursday Night Football game.

Political Matters: PolyMet and the race for auditor
Thursday, August 07 2014
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgEnd of an era

In a recent email from Alfred Walking Bull, The Circle’s editor, I was reminded that this edition of the newspaper would include Jim Northrup’s valedictory column. He’s leaving these pages after 25 years of enlightening and entertaining us with “Fond du Lac Follies.” So, we’ll have to look for his next book or elsewhere to learn about his travels, his family in Sawyer and his chronicles of the Ojibwe lifeway: ricing, sugar bush and the language camp keeping alive Ojibwemowin.

I and many others will miss Jim’s writing in The Circle. But it was a good long run. Mazal tov! (as we say).

PolyMet and the race for auditor

The controversy over copper-nickel mining has entered a Minnesota electoral contest – the race for state auditor, of all things. The incumbent, Rebecca Otto, is being challenged by Matt Entenza, who registered at the last minute to run in the DFL primary. Previously, in 2010, Entenza placed third in the DFL primary for governor, with 18 percent of the vote.

Political Matters: The Iran Connection
Monday, July 07 2014
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgIn my column last month, I wrote about a multinational corporation, Glencore Xstrata, which has compiled a remarkable history of environmental pollution, labor and human rights abuses and corruption of elected officials. As it happens, Glencore is the major investor in Canadian-based PolyMet Mining Corp., which is seeking government approval for its NorthMet copper-nickel-precious metals mine near Babbit, in northeastern Minnesota.

As I have noted in columns over the past several years, the proposed mine and mill are within the 1854 Treaty Ceded Territory. The Ojibwe bands in the region – Fond du Lac, Bois Forte and Grand Portage – are participating in the environmental review process. The bands are concerned that toxic mine wastes could migrate into lakes, rivers and groundwater and destroy wild rice beds, etc.

This is not wild speculation: hard rock mining across the West has been a catalog of environmental disasters. The National Wildlife Federation says: “The mining industry is the single largest source of toxic waste and one of the most environmentally destructive industries in the country. Today’s massive mining operations involve blasting, excavating, and crushing many thousands of acres of land and treating the ore with huge quantities of toxic chemicals such as cyanide and sulfuric acid. The mines that produce our gold, silver, copper, and uranium are notorious for polluting adjacent streams, lakes, and groundwater with toxic by-products.”

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