Social Activism

Grant Smith retires from CAC, talks about past, present and future

July 15, 2011

Editor's note: Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) Executive Director Grant Smith resigned on June 17 and sat down at his home just south of Broad Ripple in Indianapolis with Bloomington Alternative editor Steven Higgs for a conversation about a variety of topics. Smith started at CAC as a part-time canvasser in 1982. What follows are edited, extended excerpts from their 70-minute discussion.

A version of this story appears in the July 14 issue of NUVO in Indianapolis.

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Higgs: Do I recall Chris (former CAC executive director Williams) hired you because you wore a suit and tie to the interview?

Smith: No, it was because I didn't. I was in the interview wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. Another guy was in a three-piece suit. Chris was talking to him and not to me. That was in February 1982. CAC was originally the Citizens Energy Coalition and formed in '74. The name was changed to CAC in about '76. The canvass operation began in '79.

Peace and justice summit focuses on grass roots organizing

April 1, 2011

This year’s Midwest Peace and Justice Summit, the seventh annual, bristled with ideas for social justice activists. It took place March 26 on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis and was sponsored by the IUPUI chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.

The all-day, free summit began with a plenary session on grassroots organizing: from the Middle East to the Midwest, by two state activists, Omar Atia, president of Bridge, and Allison Luthe, community activist with Central Indiana Jobs with Justice, with Carl Davidson, a long-time activist and writer from western Pennsylvania, moderating.


February 15, 2011

The U.S. military, especially the CIA, is relying increasingly on unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones,” to conduct both surveillance and bombing in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Indiana is home to multiple sites of manufacturing, testing and support of drones and drone technology. Purdue University is involved, as are several Indiana companies.

In Bloomington at 7 p.m. on March 2, Quigley will outline those Indiana connections and the legal and moral concerns over aerial robotic attacks. He will also discuss the growing resistance to drone warfare. The talk will take place in room 1B of the public library, and its title is, “Indiana Drones: Robotic Warfare in the Heartland.”

February 13, 2011

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Lord Acton, the 19th century British historian. This statement describes best dictatorships where power is lodged in the hands of one person, usually a deified Pharaoh. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is one.

When Mubarak assumed power in 1981 after the assassination of Anwar El Sadat, he was particularly keen to announce that he hated corruption, loathed despotism and encouraged hard work. Good start, it really sounded promising. However, after 30 years in office, before his resignation on Feb. 11, the man’s family’s fortune is estimated as potentially $70 billion. He was willingly surrounded by a handful of the most corrupt businesspersons in the country, if not in the world; tipped off by the most-hated, steel industry monopolizer, cold-blooded vote-rigger Ahmed Ezz; and was shelled by an evilly sophisticated, brutally repressive, extremely unpopular police force.


February 5, 2011

The “green scare” is in full swing, with COINTELPRO-style targeting of environmental and animal rights activists. The green scare, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, is “the repression of environmental activists by designating them as terrorists.”

The challenge for activists is to peacefully protest and avoid criminalization of their dissent. Nowhere is that situation more evident than in the case of two I-69 protestors, Hugh Farrell and Gina “Tiga” Wertz. After a nonviolent protest Wertz was charged with intimidation, a class A misdemeanor, two counts; conversion (unauthorized use of someone else's property), a class A misdemeanor, two counts; and corrupt business influence (racketeering), a class C felony. Her bond was set at $10,000.

January 29, 2011

Bloomington activist Paul Smith has discovered a heretofore unrecognized talent as a lyricist and has begun penning verse for the Bloomington-based songstresses the Raging Grannies. Here is the first. - sh

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Tax cuts for the rich

Sung to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic"

Obama's seen the glory of the tax cuts for the rich;
He got them through the congress without a single hitch;
Higher taxes for the poor will leave them clean without a stitch;
It's tax cuts for the rich!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Tax cuts for the rich will screw ya!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Wall Street is marching on.


December 13, 2010

I remember my first ride on a new four-lane highway through the Kentucky countryside, and what a fine road it was: smooth, wide and uncrowded. We just floated along in our Chevrolet -- Mother, Daddy, my little brother and me, back home from Nigeria where roads were usually unpaved laterite, and we bounced through clouds of dust, moving over now and then to let herds of long-horned cows pass. It was 1956, and America was zooming full-bore into what looked like a bright future of suburban homes with two-car garages.

I think of that now as state surveyors move into Monroe County to chart the route of an interstate highway -- maybe the last interstate highway that will be built in the United States, if it is built at all, a question I hope still hangs in the air. As our town tries to dig its way out of the mess that 20th-century America has made of itself, we can hardly imagine that what we need now at the dawn of the post-oil age is a highway.


November 8, 2010

Wendell Berry will be in Bloomington Nov. 9-11 to read from his work and participate in a discussion with Wes Jackson and Scott Russell Sanders as part of the Patten Lecture series. Berry spoke with Thomas P. Healy from his northern Kentucky farm prior to the November elections.

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TPH: You're going to be giving the Patten Lecture in Bloomington, and I wanted to see if you'd given any thought to what you'd be discussing in that lecture.

WB: To tell you the truth, I haven't. There are a number of possibilities, I'm not going to write a lecture, I've already told them that, and I may be reading a piece of fiction. I just don't know.

Who's really to blame for the Gulf?

June 13, 2010

For we radical environmentalists, whose warnings and arguments have been ignored, maligned and ridiculed since the Reagan Revolution dawned three decades ago, the Gulf of Oil disaster evokes a wicked brew of emotions and attitudes.

On the one hand, we feel the pain and horror of the unfolding environmental disaster as acutely as those who occupy the bioregion. We radicals have spent our entire lives fighting to protect the wildlife and natural features of the Gulf and every other coast, shoreline, riverbed or stream bank, wherever they've been threatened, which is everywhere. Despite the ennui that comes from witnessing first-hand decades of unrelenting ecological degradation, we still feel the pinch every time a special place is lost.

We can't help but revel in the never-ending spew of vitriol and venom aimed at BP, one of the planet's most contemptible corporate polluters. We delight in watching the arrogance and hypocrisy of the drill-baby-drills and political pimps -- like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu from Louisiana, John Cornin from Texas and Lamar Alexander from Tennessee -- exposed with such laser-clear light.


May 30, 2010

The WellPoint Inc. annual meeting on May 18 in Indianapolis was contentious and dramatic. The first story out was about the collapse of Board member William "Bucky" Bush, followed later by CEO Angela Braly's sudden adjournment of the meeting, while a line of concerned shareholders waited to have their questions answered.

That story went 'round the world, picked up by even the Singapore Straits Times, given legs by the irony of Mr. Bush getting assistance from the very doctor who had been regaling the board minutes before. That physician, of course, was me.

This was the fourth annual meeting of WellPoint that I have attended in my role as "a cheery thorn in [their] side," as the Indianapolis Business Journal called me in a May 29 article, "ER doc is affable WellPoint activist."

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