A powerful image of Michelle Obama and George W. Bush

Click to enlargeAP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

A striking image from this weekend offers some symbolic hope for Americans troubled by the country’s stark division along ethnic, political, economic, and gender lines.

At the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday, photographers including Pulitzer-winner David Hume Kennerly captured a warm embrace between first lady Michelle Obama and former president George W. Bush, who first signed the bill to build the museum in 2003.

The photo clearly resonates with a country grappling with its own history of racism and slavery, one that quite literally built the White House we know today. And as the US anticipates a combative first presidential debate…it’s all the more striking to see leaders reaching across the proverbial aisle in a moment of genuine warmth.

Say, Amen.

After that there are two divergent currents I wish to address. First, the predictable backlash from the overtly racist chunk of America. Pretty good size as we all know. Tweet comments everywhere these photos have appeared automagically fire up the alt/right/racist nutballs. No rational reason to repeat their commentary.

I was surprised – and shouldn’t have been – at the response from sectarian portions of the Left. Including lots of folks who I know would be standing side-by-side with the exploited and oppressed of this nation at any point of confrontation.

I am guilty as any of my comrades, peers in the class struggle, of treating our enemies as cardboard cutouts. Easy to forget that individuals who live and die in service to exploitation and profiteering are individuals, capable of the range of humane feelings about the lives of others that we on the Left sometimes think we own. Not so, my sisters and brothers.

Those feelings are enough to change an individual’s course in life. Witness Ted Olson, a conservative lawyer, represented George W in beating back appeals of the 2000 election — and later led the fight to overturn California’s Prop 8 ban on gay marriage. And even if they don’t change their ways – they are part of the lives of those we battle every waking day.

Perhaps, someday, we’d see George W publicly recant the official Republican line on the lies used to invade Iraq, condemn the scumbags [yes] like Dick Cheney who deserves most of the credit for misleading a whole nation as much as he misled his boss in the Oval Office. Perhaps not.

The photo comes from an important day in American history. Recognize it with as much emotion and feeling as George W Bush and Michelle Obama.

Another stodgy conservative newspaper just endorsed Hillary Clinton — their first Dem since Woodrow Wilson in 1916

The last Democrat endorsed by the Cincinnati ENQUIRER

❝ The last time the Cincinnati Enquirer endorsed a Democrat for president, the paper picked Woodrow Wilson as its choice in the 1916 presidential election. It’s been a long time.

Now Donald Trump has broken the streak. The Enquirer is joining other very conservative editorial pages in endorsing Hillary Clinton, calling Trump “a clear and present danger to our country.”

❝ While other typically conservative editorial boards have made clear that they’re holding their noses in endorsing Clinton as the only realistic alternative to Trump, the Enquirer’s endorsement is slightly more positive, describing her as a clearheaded pragmatist who can build coalitions and govern effectively. The board’s views on Trump are scathing:

Trump brands himself as an outsider untainted by special interests, but we see a man utterly corrupted by self-interest. His narcissistic bid for the presidency is more about making himself great than America. Trump tears our country and many of its people down with his words so that he can build himself up. What else are we left to believe about a man who tells the American public that he alone can fix what ails us?

❝ Even more surprising than the Enquirer breaking its streak, though, is that it actually might make a difference. Research has found that when newspapers break with tradition, readers take it seriously. And unlike the other two solidly Republican newspapers that have refused to endorse Trump so far — the Dallas Morning News and the New Hampshire Union Leader — the Enquirer is in a swing state.

❝ …Unusual endorsements like this might matter precisely because it’s not what readers expected to hear. Newspaper endorsements change the most minds when they break with the usual pattern to endorse a candidate of the other party.

So far, not a single major daily newspaper has endorsed Trump – and that’s especially important in conservative bailiwicks. Newspapers have a tough enough time staying alive in the age of digital media. Conservative newspapers stay alive only because of support from conservative readers.

That means my average peer – some old fart in East Overshoe, Ohio – still cares enough for old media and old-fashioned means of acquiring news to read and relate to a conservative newspaper like the Enquirer. He or she is also more likely to regard that editorial opinion as something of value.

The banned speech by William Shakespeare on behalf of refugee rights

The Book of Sir Thomas More, Act 2, Scene 4

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.


International Day of Peace — 2016

Nations were destined to be co-operating parts in one grand whole. . . . Peace hath her victories much more renowned than those of war: the heroes of the past have been those who most successfully injured or slew; the heroes of the future are to be those who most wisely benefit or save their fellow-men.

Andrew Carnegie, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, October 17, 1905

In 1981, the United Nations designated September 21 as the International Day of Peace to bring awareness to peace efforts around the world. Carnegie Corporation of New York continues to pursue our founder’s vision to advance peace and understanding, and therefore to mark this day, we sought out the perspectives of several leaders in the field…how can we advance peace?

Please read the article. Reflect upon the mission on a day when, frankly, gazing around this nation, this world, the task seems more difficult than ever.

Thanks, Ian Bremmer

California Governor signs historic legislation granting expanded overtime pay to farmworkers

Arturo Rodriguez, Anthony Rendon, Lorena GonzalezRich Pedroncelli/AP

❝ With little fanfare, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed historic legislation that would expand overtime pay for California farmworkers.

❝ Assembly Bill 1066, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena S. Gonzalez (D-San Diego), calls for a phase-in of new overtime rules over four years beginning in 2019.

It would lower the current 10-hour-day threshold for overtime by half an hour each year until it reaches the standard eight-hour day by 2022. It also would phase in a 40-hour standard workweek for the first time. The governor would be able to suspend any part of the process for a year depending on economic conditions.

❝ The decision followed intense showdowns on the floor of the state Assembly, where a similar proposal died in June a few votes short of the majority it needed to pass.

“We are letting the signature speak for itself,” said a spokesperson for Brown.

❝ The United Farm Workers of America, which sponsored the bill, says it addresses an injustice first inflicted on farmworkers nearly eight decades ago.

Overdue. Way overdue.

Photography and our Civil War

Click to enlargeGettysburg

❝ While photographs of earlier conflicts do exist, the American Civil War is considered the first major conflict to be extensively photographed. Not only did intrepid photographers venture onto the fields of battle, but those very images were then widely displayed and sold in ever larger quantities nationwide.

Photographers such as Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan found enthusiastic audiences for their images as America’s interests were piqued by the shockingly realistic medium. For the first time in history, citizens on the home front could view the actual carnage of far away battlefields. Civil War photographs stripped away much of the Victorian-era romance around warfare.

❝ Photography during the Civil War, especially for those who ventured out to the battlefields with their cameras, was a difficult and time consuming process. Photographers had to carry all of their heavy equipment, including their darkroom, by wagon. They also had to be prepared to process cumbersome light-sensitive images in cramped wagons.

Today pictures are taken and stored digitally, but in 1861, the newest technology was wet-plate photography, a process in which an image is captured on chemically coated pieces of plate glass. This was a complicated process done exclusively by photographic professionals…

❝ While photography of the 1860’s would seem primitive by the technological standards of today, many of the famous Civil War photographers of the day were producing sophisticated three-dimensional images or “stereo views.” These stereo view images proved to be extremely popular among Americans and a highly effective medium for displaying life-like images…

With these advancements in photographic technology, the Civil War became a true watershed moment in the history of photography. The iconic photos of the American Civil War would not only directly affect how the war was viewed from the home front, but it would also inspire future combat photographers who would take their cameras to the trenches of Flanders, the black sands of Iwo Jima, the steaming jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of Afghanistan.

RTFA for techniques and technology. Photography brought a new dimension to recording history. hopefully, it continues to bring new dimensions into understanding politics and war.

Facebook censored the historic “Napalm girl” photo — why is anyone surprised?

Click to enlargeAP Photo/Nick Ut

❝ If you were to pick a handful of images that changed how people think about war, Nick Ut’s most famous photograph would surely be among them. The image of 9-year-old Kim Phuc running from napalm — her skin burning, her clothes burned away — defined the horrors of the Vietnam War.

❝ Norwegian author Tom Egeland had the lasting power of Ut’s work in mind when he shared the photo to Facebook weeks ago. But when Facebook’s moderators saw the Pulitzer Prize-winning image, they saw not its documentary significance or its impact on the world, but a violation of the site’s nudity policy.

Facebook’s moderators removed the photograph from Egeland’s page, along with its accompanying text. His account was suspended for 24 hours after he shared an interview with Phuc criticizing Facebook’s decision to censor this image, he said. But that was just the beginning of the incredible outrage at Facebook that has swept across Norway in recent days, becoming the subject of an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg from Norway’s largest newspaper, and rising all the way up to the country’s prime minister.

❝ After initially defending its decision to remove the photograph, Facebook decided to “reinstate” the image on Friday afternoon, according to a written statement from a Facebook spokeswoman. “We recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time,” the statement reads. “Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal.”…

Corporate hogwash.

❝ While Zuckerberg recently said that Facebook is “a tech company, not a media company,” this incident highlights just how much control the platform can wield over what media its users do (and don’t) see.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor of Aftenposten — Norway’s largest paper — called Zuckerberg the “world’s most powerful editor” in an open letter to Zuckerberg protesting Facebook’s censorship of the photo, which was published on Friday morning.

“I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly,” he wrote.

❝ The outrage in Norway escalated when Prime Minister Erna Solberg posted the image to her own Facebook page on Friday, after the publication of Aftenposten’s letter. “Facebook gets it wrong when they censor such pictures. It limits the freedom of speech,” she wrote in an accompanying statement that was translated by Reuters. “I say yes to healthy, open and free debate — online and wherever else we go. But I say no to this form of censorship.”

Solberg’s post, along with the statement, then disappeared. A spokesman for the prime minister’s office confirmed that she “did not remove it” herself from her own page — instead, Facebook deleted it.

❝ She later reposted the image — censoring Phuc’s entire body with a large black box — and called on Facebook to reconsider its policies. She paired the censored version of Ut’s work with several other censored versions of iconic photos, writing, “What Facebook does by removing images of this kind, good as the intentions may be, is to edit our common history.”

❝ Aftenposten ran its direct address letter to Zuckerberg on the front page of its paper. “I am writing this letter to inform you that I shall not comply with your requirement to remove a documentary photography from the Vietnam war made by Nick Ut. Not today, and not in the future,” Hansen, the paper’s editor, wrote.

“The media have a responsibility to consider publication in every single case. This may be a heavy responsibility. Each editor must weigh the pros and cons,” Hansen wrote. “This right and duty, which all editors in the world have, should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in your office in California.”

After more bullshit, Facebook finally relented.

RTFA and you’ll bump into all the rationales Facebook editors offered up to excuse and continue their censorship. Eventually, you can read their attempt to excuse their actions. It reads like a press release from any government, any corporate behemoth, trying to excuse a self-serving attempt to control access to history, to politics, to the freedom of individuals to decide what they wish to see and read.

That’s what it comes down to.

Don’t kid yourself about geeks being liberal or tech entrepreneurs automatically having the best interests of the world at heart. The breed has no corner on the market for kindness, care or concern – for either individual rights or the end of the world. Dollar$ govern the system. Don’t count on Harvard dropouts to be less likely to harbor bigotry and reactionary foolishness than any less-educated populist idjit.

Of course that includes the head of Facebook, the corporation. Ultimately, Mark Zuckerberg sets the standards of the company he started.

Cartoon: Yup, all our presidents should jog

Yup, I remember the arguments about health and fitness conservatives added to all the other reasons they hated FDR. Not as severe as their hatred of him for selling out their class.

Then, they worked just as hard after his death to pass that wonderful reform called “term limits” – which is about as undemocratic as any law the American people have been sold.

In other words, if you’re still popular with the majority of voters after two terms in office, we don’t dare let you run again. Don’t let us have a chance to re-elect you, again – as we did FDR.

A principled decision by the US government offers Native Americans an opportunity for justice

Lucas Reynolds

❝ Shortly after federal Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers issued a joint statement that, in effect, temporarily halts all construction bordering Lake Oahe on the Missouri.

❝ The tribe had sought an injunction to stop the routing of the Dakota Access oil pipeline underneath the Missouri River, the source of the reservation’s drinking water, on the grounds that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had failed to conduct a proper environmental and cultural impact study. While acknowledging that damage had been done to an area sacred to the tribe, Boasberg said that the tribe had not made its case for an injunction…

❝ Shortly after Judge Boasberg’s decision, the three government agencies stepped in, suggesting that a change in process may be in order when it comes to how the courts and federal law view Indian land.

“We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act,” the joint announcement stated. “However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.”

❝ The agencies called for “serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.” The statement announced “formal, government-to-government consultations” this fall that would examine what the federal government can do “to ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights,” and whether new legislation was needed to meet the goal of meaningful consultation

“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws,” the statement said. “Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time…”

❝ Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II expressed elation and gratitude.

“Our hearts are full. This an historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and for tribes across the nation,” Archambault said in a statement. “Today, three federal agencies announced the significant decision to respect tribal sovereignty and stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Army Corps land…”

“Our voices have been heard,” said Archambault. “The Obama administration has asked tribes to the table to make sure that we have meaningful consultation on infrastructure projects. Native peoples have suffered generations of broken promises and today the federal government said that national reform is needed to better ensure that tribes have a voice on infrastructure projects like this pipeline…”

Please RTFA. Judge Boasberg’s decision is worth reflection. Even though I believe like too many in the American legal profession he forgets to consider the spirit of laws intended to protect people and their property at a higher priority than corporate wealth and profit.

The full statement from David Archambault 11, Standing Rock Chairman is inclusive and reflects his thanks to all across this nation who support his tribe, Native Americans, and the broader fight against rich and powerful interests.

President Obama’s decision should be recognized as an act of courage. Albeit not one taken frequently enough against the most reactionary elements in American society. I only hope it succeeds in reversing the decades of repression against those fighting for equal rights and authority in this nation – and Native American people in particular.