I think I’ll write a little bit about this photo. You see, I’m standing just to the right of the field of vision – politely nudged aside by the news photographer who wanted to get a good close-up of Dr. King speaking in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Black Chicago. Out in front of the Robert Taylor Projects.
Looking around for a photo and a news piece to reflect upon on this holiday, I bumped into this news photo from the summer of 1965 in Chicago. I spent that summer as a community activist working with other like-minded folks from the then fairly-new W.E.B.DuBois Clubs. Radicals, communist and non-communist, religious and atheist, all colors and creeds; but, convinced that it would take more than band-aids to patch up the effect of centuries of racism in America.
I met some wonderful people that summer. Not the least of whom was Dr. King. Though he wasn’t the biggest influence on my feelings, understanding of what the movement needed to do, where to go next. Most influential was Ismael Flory, founder of the African American Heritage Association, editor and stalwart in his dedication to producing an encyclopedia of African American studies. Ish could turn traffic directions into a discussion of history, turn lunch into the science of gastronomy – could make you laugh or cry over silly humanity.
I opened for Dr. King, that day in Chicago’s South Side. Back in the day, there wasn’t anyplace I sang and performed that didn’t have at least a core of the call for change in it. Newspaper articles and historic documents say this was the first time that Dr. King was booed by a Black audience. It was much, much less than that.
There were two truly tiny efforts birthing in Chicago at that time joining the early call for Black Power within the civil rights movement – and ready to exit the larger effort at the drop of a dollar bill. That day the noisiest boos came from members of the Blackstone Rangers already devolving into hustlers taking money from the Feds and using the funds to build one of the largest drug gangs in Chicago. The other silliest group was comprised of one well-known young Black man – an early advocate of separatist activism – who trotted out a line of a half-dozen or so schoolchildren, none over 6 or 7 years old, who carried anti-King signs. Dr. King chided him for his opportunism and guile.
For me, the day is remembered as the first time I met Martin Luther King, Jr.. I remember the summer sun and heat. I remember one Black teenager who liked one particular song I wrote – something I rarely did. I never wanted to be a songwriter. It was one more step away from America’s bigoted history. One more step towards a future still unrealized; but – believe me – better than it ever was.
I wrote this a few years ago. Worth reposting.
Inequality has been rising in most countries around the world, but it has played out in different ways across countries and regions. The United States, it is increasingly recognized, has the sad distinction of being the most unequal advanced country, though the income gap has also widened to a lesser extent, in Britain, Japan, Canada and Germany. Of course, the situation is even worse in Russia, and some developing countries in Latin America and Africa. But this is a club of which we should not be proud to be a member…
Singapore has had the distinction of having prioritized social and economic equity while achieving very high rates of growth over the past 30 years — an example par excellence that inequality is not just a matter of social justice but of economic performance. Societies with fewer economic disparities perform better — not just for those at the bottom or the middle, but over all.
It’s hard to believe how far this city-state has come in the half-century since it attained independence from Britain, in 1963…Around the time of independence, a quarter of Singapore’s work force was unemployed or underemployed. Its per-capita income (adjusted for inflation) was less than a tenth of what it is today…
There are at least four distinctive aspects of the Singaporean model, and they are more applicable to the United States than a skeptical American observer might imagine.
First, individuals were compelled to take responsibility for their own needs. For example, through the required savings in their provident fund, around 90 percent of Singaporeans became homeowners, compared to about 65 percent in the United States since the housing bubble burst in 2007.
Second, Singaporean leaders realized they had to break the pernicious, self-sustaining cycle of inequality that has characterized so much of the West. Government programs were universal but progressive: while everyone contributed, those who were well off contributed more to help those at the bottom, to make sure that everyone could live a decent life, as defined by what Singaporean society, at each stage of its development, could afford. Not only did those at the top pay their share of the public investments, they were asked to contribute even more to helping the neediest.
Third, the government intervened in the distribution of pretax income — to help those at the bottom, rather than, as in the United States, those at the top. It weighed in, gently, on the bargaining between workers and firms, tilting the balance toward the group with less economic power — in sharp contrast to the United States, where the rules of the game have shifted power away from labor and toward capital, especially during the past three decades.
Fourth, Singapore realized that the key to future success was heavy investment in education — and more recently, scientific research — and that national advancement would mean that all citizens — not just the children of the rich — would need access to the best education for which they were qualified…
Singapore’s success is reflected in other indicators, as well. Life expectancy is 82 years, compared with 78 in the United States. Student scores on math, science and reading tests are among the highest in the world — well above the average for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the world’s club of rich nations, and well ahead of the United States…
Joe Stiglitz comes to conclusions I would expect from someone well versed in the history of political economy. Democracy is more than periodic votes for a limited number of candidates. Democracy must include an economic component, a righting of past wrongs.
That last sentence includes two qualities our nation still denies. The racism central to our Civil War is still denied by most of the population. Economic democracy hasn’t been a programmatic part of the two parties we’re allowed since before World War 2.
The turnout in Paul Ryan’s Milwaukee – for President Obama
In a post-election interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, said “the president should get credit for achieving record-breaking turnout numbers from urban areas for the most part, and that did win the election for him.” Ryan’s critics noted that President Barack Obama also fared well in states like Iowa, where the urban vote is relatively small. Some even suggested that Ryan’s remarks were a kind of racial code, in which “urban areas” served as a stand-in for black and Latino voters. Yet Ryan’s observation speaks to a deeper truth that should trouble Republicans.
Although rural regions dominate the map of the contiguous United States, an overwhelming majority of Americans live in urban and suburban areas. Democrats have long dominated dense urban cores. But Democrats increasingly dominate dense inner suburbs—as opposed to sprawling outer suburbs, where Republicans still hold their own—as well, and the share of the population concentrated in dense suburban counties is steadily increasing. This is true not only among Latino, black, and Asian voters living in these communities, but of white voters as well…
Rather than fixate on ethnicity, conservatives would do well to think more about urbanity. What is it about life in America’s densest, most productive, and most economically stratified metropolitan areas that persuades voters to back Democrats? When this phenomenon was limited to the populous coastal metropolitan areas, it could reasonably be explained away as a product of regional political polarization. But the leftward trend in urban areas is chipping away at the GOP’s advantage in the South and the Mountain West as well.
The winds of change
Compulsory military service may be suspended in order to help the Ministry of Defence find the 2.7 billion kroner of cuts it has promised to make.
The news comes ahead of the start of negotiations today between the government and the parties that voted in favour of the last defence budget that expires in two years time.
Compulsory military service is written into the Danish constitution, making it difficult to abolish. That is why the government has instead proposed to suspend the tradition…
Reports suggest that the preliminary negotiations seem to have found about two billion kroner of cuts, while suspending military service is hoped to save an additional 500 million kroner a year.
Almost all 18-year-old Danish men – and a small number of women – serve at least four months of military service once they complete upper secondary school.
The tradition started in the middle of the 19th century and is now considered a rite of passage for most men while also providing the Danish military with a large recruitment ground for its professional army.
As a result, right-wing parties the Konservative (K) and Dansk Folkeparti (DF) are against suspending it.
DF’s defence spokesperson, Maria Krarup…and K’s defence spokesperson, Lene Espersen…said blah, blah, blah!
Opposition party Liberal Alliance (LA) is for getting rid of it though.
“National service belongs to the past,” LA’s defence spokesperson Villum Christensen told Ritzau. “It’s a very expensive way to educate soldiers. We would rather have a professional army.”
Overdue. Of course, even having such a discussion is beyond the comprehension of the slurry of Cold Warriors and spineless hacks we have in Congress.
Americans are divided as to whether a third major party is needed in U.S. politics today, after having given majority support to the concept in 2011 and 2010. Americans’ views today are remarkably similar to what they were in September 2008, before that year’s presidential election…
Support for a third party has varied substantially since Gallup first asked this question in 2003. It was highest in 2007 and 2010, at 58%. In between those peaks, however, support dropped to less than the majority level two months before the 2008 election, as it has in the current survey, conducted Sept. 6-9 — two months before this year’s election. Thus, it may be that in election years — particularly shortly after the parties’ conventions, as was the case for the 2008 and the 2012 surveys — Americans look more favorably upon the two dominant political parties.
As would be expected, Americans who have the weakest ties to either of the two major parties — independents — are consistently more likely to favor having a third party. The current 58% support level among independents, however, is the second lowest on record.
Republicans’ and Democrats’ support for a third party has fluctuated over the past nine years, but the two groups now have similar views, as they did a year ago. Now, 40% of Democrats support the concept of a third party, compared with 36% of Republicans…
The biggest problem – perfectly consistent with American politics – is that 3rd Party campaigns may represent a portion of grassroots identity; but, they pretty much always start at the top. It was essentially true of the Progressive Party and more recently, the Greens. It was even more so the case with Ross Perot and George Wallace.
Between impatience and self-importance, the idea of building in the style of the civil rights movement seems to require more patience than the not-so-oppressed minority of political independents can muster. In the United States that is.
The 2012 election campaign season is still young; the battle will grow only more bruising. And voters will become increasingly turned off. But, in America, we get only two choices, and often are left voting for what we believe to be the lesser of two evils.
Friends in Europe and elsewhere often lament their own forms of government which foster countless parties and voices, and create much noise and chaos. Ironically, in America, which we like to argue is the greatest democracy in the world, we are limited to just two choices: a Republican or a Democrat.
And voters are tiring of it. Some 40 per cent of Americans today identify themselves as political Independents – a record. Just 29 per cent say they’re Democrats, down seven points from 2008, while the proportion saying they’re Republicans has fallen to 27 per cent…
The middle, which rejects both parties, is growing but the question is, what to do about it?
The nature of power is to hang on to it all costs. And that’s what Republican and Democrat parties have done. The maze of rules and cost of getting on to the ballot in 50 different states is daunting to any potential third-party candidate for president – by design…
A bold and innovative group, calling themselves Americans Elect, had a big idea: make it possible for anyone with basic qualifications to run for president by overcoming the hurdle of ballot access…
But a funny thing happened on the way to the circus. The deadline for candidates to qualify came up last week, but nobody much showed up. A former congressman and Louisiana governor, Buddy Roemer, led the list of declared candidates but failed to attract the 10,000 online votes required to meet the basic threshold.
So, if everyone is so fed up with the two-party system what went wrong with this bold experiment? Some argue that it would have had a better chance in a contest without an incumbent president, as that means one side is too locked in. The technology that made it secure also made it difficult to vote. And perhaps too much personal information was demanded when people registered to join in…
Yet Americans Elect has at least sown the seeds of possibility. And if America endures four more years of what we’ve been seeing lately from our two parties, and things continue getting uglier between Obama and Romney campaigns, someone may have an even better idea. It’s America after all. You’d think we could come up with something new, every couple of hundred years.
I lived through the campaigns immediately after World War 2 to ensure the wondrous 2-party system be enshrined as the best in the world. The possibility of nationwide 3rd Party tickets was in the front of every political machine’s eyeballs. The panic, perjury and patriotic balderdash of the Cold War and McCarthyism put an end to it all.
Not that the propaganda has ever ceased. It gets trotted out as part of every war to save democracy. From the Civil Rights Movement through opposition to Bush’s War in Iraq we are always told that our only savior is the other guys. Whether we’re trying to affirm civil rights for all Americans – or protect racism with the Southern Strategy.
The clowns in charge of agitprop never stray from Sophistry 101 = the answer lies between the two extremes. Which is meaningless when you only have one extreme. And even with two even divisions, reality may only lie with one analysis.
So far, most everyone tries to start from the top down — and fails. So far, Americans say they’re independent – and vote for one of the TweedleDeeDum parties or no one at all.
The winners: Mark Critz and Matt Cartwright
The defeat of two conservative House Democrats by more liberal opponents in Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary illustrates the strong hold the new health care law still has over committed Democratic voters and foreshadows an even more polarized Congress next year in the aftermath of the latest round of redistricting.
Representatives Jason Altmire and Tim Holden both lost in primaries to opponents who joined together with activist groups to pummel the veteran lawmakers over the opposition to the new health care law and climate change legislation — positions they had used to their advantage in the past to show their independence from President Obama and the Democratic Party.
“A lot of us thought of his record as his strength,” said Hugh M. Reiley, the chairman of the Schuylkill County Democratic Party, referring to Mr. Holden. “He was not falling prey to all that party bickering. He was able to reach across the aisle…”
He was able to kiss corporate butts and survive by claiming independence – from providing any leadership or courage.
Mr. Altmire, who lost to a fellow incumbent, Representative Mark Critz, after they were thrown into a new district together, was able to ride his health care opposition to re-election in 2010. That position did not sell as well in the new, more Democratic district in western Pennsylvania.
In eastern Pennsylvania, state Republicans stuffed the Democratic cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre into Mr. Holden’s formerly conservative-leaning seat. The result: A 10-term congressman and founding member of the centrist Blue Dog coalition was trounced by a newcomer, Matt Cartwright, a Scranton lawyer who ran hard against Mr. Holden’s
moderate chickenshit voting record…
The parties have become more polarized in recent decades, several academic studies have found. The demise of the conservative “Dixiecrats” in the 1960s and ’70s made the Democratic Party more liberal, and Republicans have moved even further to the right than Democrats have moved to the left, the studies show. Elections like Tuesday’s suggest Democrats may be taking the Republicans’ cue, driven by the same activist forces that pushed them rightward…
That’s right. Progressive forces grew in opposition to the deliberate choice of racism as a mandate for the Republican Party.
With the defeat of Mr. Altmire and Mr. Holden, a Blue Dog coalition of conservative Democrats that peaked in 2010 at 54 dipped prospectively to 23. To advocates for Mr. Critz and Mr. Cartwright, the election showed that Democratic voters are in a fighting mood, and that progressive views are again at the leading edge of the party…
A political moment characterized by polarization from the Right is exactly the appropriate time for those of Center-Left disposition to move further Left. Only cowards and genetic fence-sitters will plead for the “sanity” of reinforcing a middle ground stance.
What better opportunity to move the political will of a nation than when reactionaries expose themselves publicly – stepping out from the shadow of the lies and breast-beating they hide behind for most of their careers?
What better opportunity to shove a few more cowards, mewling pimps for accommodation – out into the cold. We needn’t worry about their employment. Their corporate handlers will find work for them.
Sigmar Gabriel, Social Democrats + Joachim Gauck + Angela Merkel, Christian Democrats
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
Germany’s government and the two major opposition parties have said they will jointly nominate Joachim Gauck, a human rights activist originally from East Germany, to be the country’s next president.
Angela Merkel said her coalition government, and the centre-left opposition had rallied behind Gauck, 72, who was initially proposed by the opposition Social Democrats and Greens.
He is not a member of a political party.
“What moves me the most, is that a man who was still born during the gloomy, dark war, who grew up and lived 50 years in a dictatorship … is now called to become the head of state,” Gauck said. “This is of course a very special day in my life.”
Christian Wulff, 52, resigned as president on Friday after two months of allegations about receiving loans on favourable terms and hotel stays from friends when he was state governor of Lower Saxony. He was Merkel’s candidate when elected less than two years ago…
When Wulff resigned, Merkel immediately said she would work with the Social Democrats and Greens to find a consensus candidate to succeed him…
The chancellor said that clergymen such as Gauck – a former Lutheran priest – were at the forefront of the protests that eventually brought down the east German regime.
Claudia Roth, the Greens’ leader, said “Gauck will restore the respect for the office, will restore dignity,” to the presidency, which had become tainted by Wulff’s actions.
Isn’t it interesting how a nation which parallels so many of our circumstances in the United States figures out how to take different directions, grow and even prosper in hard times.
Now, a discredited politicians leaves office. The leftwing opposition proposes a replacement. The conservative government accepts he would be the best solution for country – and that’s what counts.
Anyone even imagine this happening in the United States with the clown show we have in Congress?
Pau Babeu at his coming out press conference
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
A local sheriff resigned as a co-chair of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s campaign in Arizona on Saturday after he was accused of threatening a former male lover with deportation to Mexico if he talked about their relationship.
In an embarrassing incident for Romney’s struggling campaign, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu denied that he or his lawyer made the deportation threat but stepped down from helping the former Massachusetts governor in the border state.
Babeu acknowledged at a press conference on Saturday that he is gay and that he had a personal relationship with the man making the allegations, whom he identified only as “Jose…”
The Phoenix New Times alternative newspaper reported on Friday that Babeu’s lawyer had asked Jose to sign a legal agreement that would require him to keep quiet about his involvement with the sheriff. According to the newspaper, the lawyer also warned Jose that any talk about their relationship could imperil his immigration status.
“All of these allegations that were in one of these newspapers were absolutely false, except for the issue that referred to me as being gay, and that is the truth. I am gay,” Babeu said at the news conference.
Babeu first came to statewide prominence in 2010 when he appeared in a campaign ad for U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee two years earlier, calling for tough immigration measures.
The sheriff, who is a tough law-and-order advocate, was considered a rising star in state Republican politics and a strong candidate to win the Republican nomination for a congressional seat in Arizona this year.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” — might be the first response among the religious who wander through here. It worked for Woody Guthrie as well.
There are differences from one civil rights struggle to another. When I walked away from White America in 1955 to spend my spiritual, social and political career grounded in Black America and the fight for civil rights, the essential divisions in the struggle couldn’t be more clear. Black folks weren’t especially likely to be disguised as white. Politics, rarely, yes; but, the bigotry and discrimination in everything from employment to schooling to where you could live were easy to define for the miserable bastards in charge.
Not quite as much for Hispanics; but, close enough. You aren’t going to disguise the fact that you’re a woman except in movie scripts. But if you’re gay – passing is easy as pie. Just don’t tell anyone and don’t get caught acting like yourself. So, gay folks who happen to be politically or socially conservative don’t need to invent Black Power which becomes Green Power – needn’t invent the Hispanic Leadership Fund which becomes Green Power – needn’t invent the Eagle Forum which becomes Green Power – they can keep their mouths shut about Log Cabin Republicans and just make noises like Republicans.
When push comes to shove, however, and reality becomes the truth, you’re subject to the same discrimination and bigotry as your peers already living out of the closet. They have the benefit of defending who they naturally are, the ease of only telling the truth instead of remembering last week’s lie about where you were and with whom.
So, Paul Babeu – I wish you well in your new life in the open. Please reflect on your former buddies, political supporters, allies in fighting for the sort of society you thought worthwhile. A lot of them are going to be the first to turn their backs on you.
The Canadian government has been accused of “muzzling” its scientists. Speakers at a major science meeting being held in Canada said communication of vital research on health and environment issues is being suppressed…
Prof Thomas Pedersen, a senior scientist at the University of Victoria, said he believed there was a political motive in some cases.
“The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won’t be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship,” he said. “I suspect the federal government would prefer that its scientists don’t discuss research that points out just how serious the climate change challenge is…”
The allegation of “muzzling” came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.
The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.