Successful Mass Protest During Repression

United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP

Directed by Jim Hubbard (2012)

Film Review

This documentary traces the history of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), one of the few successful mass protest organizations during the repressive Reagan era. Between 1981, when the AIDS epidemic was first recognized, and 1987, 40,000 Americans died of AIDS. During this time Reagan refused to utter the word AIDS, much less advocate for research, prevention and treatment. Prior to 1987, 80% of patients diagnosed with AIDS would be dead in two years.

ACT-UP first formed in New York City in 1987, the same year the first anti-AIDS drug AZT became available. By 1996, the year the life-saving Triple Cocktail* became available, they had 147 chapters across the US.

The film mainly focuses on the New York City chapter, and their Monday night meetings attended by hundreds of activists. Most former ACT-UP members believe the secret of their success decentralized (non-hierarchical) organizing. This fostered the burgeoning of dozens of affinity groups based on the needs of specific AIDS patients (women, minorities, low income).

The ACT-UP Women’s Caucus was one of the more important affinity groups, as the CDC was stubbornly resistant to the reality that AIDS was the number one killer of American women. Because the disease presents differently in women (eg with a a high incidence of cervical cancer), the initial CDC diagnostic criteria made it impossible for female AIDS patients to qualify for Social Security Disability or Medicaid. This not only left them penniless and homeless as the disease progressed but denied them access to America’s for-profit health system

In 1987, ACT-UP held their first protest at the Burroughs-Wellcome Tuckahoe (New York) research facility to protest the prohibitive prize of AZT ($10,000 per year).

Over the years, the organization held a number of creative protest actions, most involving civil disobedience:

1988 – Unfurled banners on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to protest AZT’s  high cost.

1988 – Made the front page news for “taking over” the FDA to demand more rapid approval of drugs for AIDS treatment.

1989 – Joined with other social justice groups for a City Hall protest against Mayor Ed Kochs failure to fully fund low income housing and hospitals (many AIDS patients were dying in hospital corridors.

1989 – Joined with Women’s Health Network for a 7,000+ protest at St Patrick’s Cathedral (with hundred protestors “dying in” inside the sanctuary) to protest the Catholic Church opposition to safe sex, condoms, and abortion.

1990-94 – Commenced four-year campaign to pressure CDC to include women with AIDS in their diagnostic criteria to include women with AIDS.

1990 – Protest to force National Institutes of Health (NIH) to include patients in designing clinical trails

1991 – Camera bombed Dan Rather’s CBS network news yelling “Fight AIDS not Arabs) the day the US declared war on Iraq (picked up by all major US news outlets).

1995 – Blocked Midtown Tunnel to protest city/state service cuts

 

 

 

 

The Bush Crime Family

family of secrets

Family of Secrets

by Russ Baker

Bloomsbury Press (2009)

Book Review

Family of Secrets is about the Bush family and the Shadow Government responsible for all major domestic and foreign policy decisions over the last sixty years. For evidence, Baker relies partly on declassified documents and partly on face-to-face interviews of corporate executives, low level politicians and retired intelligence officers who have worked closely with the Bush family.

Two-thirds of the book is about George Herbert Walker Bush and CIA ties that date back to 1948 when he left Yale and went to work for Dresser Industries. Baker lays out strong evidence that Dresser and Zapata Petroleum, the oil services company Bush senior started in 1953, served the primary purpose of front companies for global industrial espionage and CIA intelligence gathering.

In this way Bush senior replicated the role his father Prescott Bush played in the World War II spy service Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Prescott was a friend and colleague of founding CIA Director Allen Dulles at the Wall Street law firm Brown Brothers Harriman. Brown Brothers Harriman bought Dresser in 1928.

According to Baker, Bush senior played a pivotal role in helping Dulles create “off- the-shelf” CIA operations – disguised as front companies – to circumvent federal legislation that prohibited the CIA from spying domestically.

For me, the high points of this book include the background Baker provides on Lee Harvey Oswald’s career as a covert CIA operative, the on-off relationship between Bush senior and Oswald’s Dallas control George de Mohrenschildt and the crucial role Bush senior played in setting up Nixon as the fall guy in the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

Baker, in essence, corroborates earlier research by Mae Brussell that the Watergate scandal was a CIA coup to remove Nixon from office.

A third of the book covers the hidden history of George W Bush, including his early alcohol and cocaine abuse, the abortion he organized for one his girlfriends, his purported Christian conversion and his AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard unit – a notorious scandal that would cost CBS anchor Dan Rather his job.

George W’s brothers Neil, Marvin and Jeb receive only brief mention related to their illegal diversion of savings and loan funds, leaving taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars when the savings and loan associations went bust in the late eighties and had to be bailed out.

Baker maintains a nonprofit investigative news service at http://whowhatwhy.org/

Below is a 2009 Ron Reagan radio interview with Russ Baker about Family of Secrets that someone tweeted me:

Russ Baker interview