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Mon Dec 23, 2013 at 09:56 AM PST

On Lynching

by litho

In the wee hours of the morning of March 9, 1892, the three owners of the People’s Grocery Store, a market catering to the black community of Memphis, TN, were removed by a mob from the city’s jail, carried to a field outside of town, and “shot to pieces” by the mob.  The three men, Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Wil Stewart, were members of Memphis’s vibrant black bourgeoisie, and their store unfortunately happened to compete with a white owned business across the street.  Their white competitor had invaded the People’s Grocery Store’s property with a white gang a few days earlier and the owners had defended their business with guns.  Three white men were wounded, and the black business owners were caught up in the police raids that swept through the city’s black community.

The murders of Moss, McDowell, and Stewart inspired one of their friends, muckraking journalist and editor Ida B. Wells, to expose the lynching of African Americans in the Jim Crow South, which reportedly reached nearly 5,000 deaths between 1882 and 1950. On May 21, 1892, Wells published in Free Speech, the Memphis paper she owned and edited, an editorial documenting the eight lynchings that had occurred since her previous issue.  Join me below the fold for a quote from that editorial, and a broader historical discussion of lynching in America.

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Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 06:41 AM PST

Obama earns his Nobel

by litho

TPM prints the AP wire report on the backstory to last night's nuclear deal with Iran.  Secret talks with Iran have been ongoing for at least a year, long before the more moderate Rouhani administration was elected last summer.  Also, the key player promoting the talks, in the AP version of events, was President Obama himself, following the initiative laid out in his initial inaugural address nearly six years ago now.

The AP defines the stakes of the deal here:

The diplomatic gamble with Iran, if the interim agreement holds up and leads to a final pact preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, could avert years of threats of U.S. or Israeli military intervention. It could also prove a turning point in decades of hostility between Washington and Tehran -- and become a crowning foreign policy achievement of Obama's presidency.

But if the deal collapses, or if Iran covertly races ahead with development of a nuclear weapon, Obama will face the consequences of failure, both at home and abroad. His gamble opens him to criticism that he has left Israel vulnerable to a country bent on its destruction and that he has made a deal with a state sponsor of terrorism.

Given the timeline of secret Iranian-US negotiations and the closeness of the Assad regime in Syria to its Iranian allies, one also needs to wonder if the budding Washington-Tehran axis might not have played a role in Syria's sudden and momentous decision to abandon its chemical weapons program.  Obama skeptics abound, but with the progress in Syria and the promise of the Iranian nuclear deal the Middle East is being reshaped before our eyes.  And at the same time, Obama and Kerry are pressing Israel, hard, to finally strike peace with the Palestinians.

Follow me over the Persian fleur de lis for the details on how the deal was struck

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Via TPM, the half-term former governor of Alaska had a little shall we say difficulty expressing her future health care plans on NBC's Today show this morning:

The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health-care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there's more competition, there's less tort reform threat, there's less trajectory of the cost increases, and those plans have been proposed over and over again.
If anybody has a clue what that means, could you fill me in through comments?  Cause I'm scratching my head here...
Discuss

Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:28 AM PDT

Tuff to the White House?

by litho

According to video of a CNN interview posted at TPM, President Obama is considering inviting Georgia schoolhouse shooting hero Antoinette Tuff to the White House.  In the interview, the president said:

She was remarkable. I talked to her today, because when I heard the 911 call and ,you know, read the sequence of events, I thought here is somebody who is not just courage and not just cool under pressure, but also had enough heart that somehow that she could convince somebody that was really troubled that she cared about him. And I told her, I said that not only did she Michelle and me proud but she probably saved a lot of lives, including the life of the potential perpetrator.
This is a good moment to flog kossack 8ackgr0und N0I5e's little noticed diary today urging folks to sign the petition to award Tuff the Presidential Citizen's Medal.  Go rec his diary, and then sign the petition.  Tuff is as heroic as they get.
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So the Virginia gubernatorial election features the criminally insane batshit crazy Ken Cuccinelli, he who would seek to outlaw oral and anal sex between consenting adults, versus the extremely ethically challenged DLCer Terry McAuliffe.

Defeating Cuccinelli has to be high, if not at the top, on the list of progressive priorities for this election cycle, but the question always has been whether McAuliffe -- who has lost Democratic gubernatorial primaries in VA in the past -- has the juice to do it.  With today's news, as reported on TPM, that question has suddenly become a great deal more salient:

The Securities and Exchange Commission has been investigating an electric car company co-founded by Democratic Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe, the Washington Post reported Friday.

The SEC subpoenaed documents from the car company, GreenTech Automotive, as well as bank records from a sister company called Gulf Coast Funds Management, according to the Post. Gulf Coast is run by Anthony Rodham, the brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The article goes on to note that the matter under investigation is whether GreenTech "guaranteed" returns to investors, which is prohibited under securities laws, and also whether the company may have abused provisions in immigration law granting special visas to investors of particularly large sums of money in job-creating American industries.

McAuliffe, who was chair of the company when the irregularities would have occurred, denies any knowledge of the SEC investigation, but the company confirms that it has received and is complying with SEC subpoenas.

Sleazy, oily, ambitious, and incompetent.  Give me more reasons to hate you Terry McAuliffe.  Lose this election and your name will be written in the annals of hell!

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Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 09:36 AM PDT

Bolivia: More than a punchline

by litho

I've only been to Bolivia once and didn't spend much time there -- only about a week or so -- and my memories of the highlands, unfortunately, are not pleasant.  I had come down with traveler's diarrhea just about the time I entered the country and though I was already acclimated to high altitudes after spending a couple of weeks in and around Cuzco (3000 meters above sea level) the bump up to La Paz's nearly 4000 meters altitude was rough on my weakened physical condition.  The fact I smoked around a pack of cigarettes a day didn't help me much, nor did negotiating the steep hills around the city of La Paz.  After a few days surviving on hard-boiled eggs and coca tea, I moved on to Potosí, located on a high desert at the base of the Cerro Rico (more on that later).  And a few days after that, I moved on, crossing the border into Argentina for a whirlwind visit.

I also can't claim to be much of an expert on the country, beyond the general knowledge a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American history would be expected to acquire.  My master's advisor was something of an expert, and his book on Bolivia's 1952 revolution is one of the few I've read devoted solely to the country's history.

Nevertheless, I would venture to guess my scant experience with Bolivia represents volumes more than most of the kossacks who have mocked the country and its president since Evo Morales's plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Vienna the other day.  Below the fold I'll share some of the things I know.

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Thu May 23, 2013 at 04:28 PM PDT

Is this man a Christian?

by litho

Wade Goodwyn reported on Morning Edition today about the debate brewing in Moore, Oklahoma over whether the town should mandate storm shelters in the aftermath of this week's deadly tornado.  Mayor Glen Lewis has proposed the City Council pass such an ordinance.  City Manager Steve Eddy, however, isn't convinced.  He told Goodwyn:

Obviously, the council will decide that. We've had this discussion after every tornado that comes along, and haven't done it yet. We're a pretty independent lot around here in terms of telling me what I have to do and what I don't have to do. Homebuilders - we have lots and lots of homes built here. Homebuilders are influential....

Lives, you can't count the cost or the value of lives, but you can count the cost of construction. It adds a significant amount of cost to construction. The taxpayers would have to determine whether they're going to pay that or not.

Now, me, I'm not a Christian myself.  But once or twice I've come across the Sermon on the Mount, and I just happened to take a quick glance at it just now.  It has the Son of God saying this:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also....

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

So, I repeat, is Moore, Oklahoma City Manager a Christian?  Because his words, in all honesty to me, look more like he's serving money and his bible says you can't do that and serve God at the same time...
Discuss

Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:19 PM PDT

Lynch sleaze continues

by litho

My favorite Congressman, turncoat Stephen Lynch -- the so-called "progressive" who voted against including the public option in the ACA before voting against the entire ACA because... wait for it... it didn't include the public option -- continues his sleaze campaign for John Kerry's senate seat.  A couple of days ago an ostensibly independent group calling itself "the ninety-nine percent" issued a robo-call on behalf of Lynch that politicized the Boston Marathon bombing.  Blue Mass Group cited a voter who had previously leaned towards Lynch and was now planning to vote for Markey out of disgust at the tactic.

The online news site masslive.com reports the ninety-nine percent is an independent expenditure organization registered with the FEC by an ironworkers union based in Washington.  Lynch himself is the former president of an ironworkers union.  His campaign claims the group is completely independent of him, and he called on them to stop the robo-calls.

But they're back at it today.  Their new call doesn't reference the bombings, but instead uses scare tactics, claiming that "some Democrats" in Congress are backing a Republican plan to cut the Social Security benefits that Democrats had worked hard so to create in the past.  Only Lynch, the call suggests, would fight to defend Social Security if he is elected to the Senate.

It's sleaze, pure and simple.  Exactly what you'd expect from a man with a lying track record like Lynch's.

Primary is Tuesday.  Last chance to put the turncoat down. Send Ed Markey to the Senate.  GOTV!  Sign up to help him here.

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I was out canvassing the other day for Ed Markey.  It was the first time I'd had the opportunity to do it, partly because I had some trouble establishing contact with the campaign and then when I did make contact my first canvass shifts were cancelled in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.  But I finally made it out on Sunday for a three-hour shift in a predominantly Jewish suburb south of Boston.  They gave me 37 doors to knock, and I hit them all.

The Markey campaign people are good.  The campaign manager is Carl Nilsson, who came over from the Obama campaign, and there are several veterans of the Warren campaign as well.  I don't know what algorithm they're using to pre-id the doors to knock, but whatever it is it really works.  Almost all the people I talked to were ones or twos, that is they were either strong Markey or lean Markey.  I had one person refuse to talk to me, and another one -- with an Irish name -- who bashfully indicated that she wasn't going to support Markey.  While she didn't come right out and say she'd be voting for Lynch, she didn't exactly make it a secret either.

And then there was this one guy.  Actually, this one guy and his wife.  They lived in a decaying split level home on a somewhat rundown block.  The husband answered the door:

"Markey?  Isn't he a Democrat?" (The guy's a registered Democrat, though he apparently doesn't know it.)

His wife piped in, "Yes, but he went to AIPAC.  The other guy didn't."

"Well, I can't support him.  Look, he'll get in there and back the president's program."

What's wrong with that, I asked him.  "Are you kidding?  The deficit, taking away our Second Amendment rights, health care...," he ran off a long list of typical rightwing complaints about Obama.

But he inherited the economic crisis from Bush, I tried to say.  Before I could finish the thought, the man interrupted me, said he had nothing to talk about, and walked over to the dining room table clearly visible from the front door and sat down.  If I weren't an idiot, I would have said good-bye to the wife at that point and gone on my way.  But I'm an idiot, and you can find my conversation with her on the flip...

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Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 08:55 AM PDT

Riverbend is back!

by litho

Via a friend on facebook, I see that our old friend, the Iraqi anti-war blogger Riverbend, has broken her long silence.  In the early days of the Iraq war, she provided a literate and articulate inside view of the horrendous destruction our country had wreaked upon hers, and her updates were eagerly awaited by those of us who knew the Iraq war was a world-historical mistake and were desperate for news of how the Iraqi people would respond.  Her chronicles of the descent into brutal sectarian violence, and the disappearance of the urbane, multicultural society in which she had lived, were must reading.

She eventually fled into Syrian exile, and now has been forced to flee Syria as well.

A taste of her most recent post:

We learned that justice does not prevail in this day and age. Innocent people are persecuted and executed daily. Some of them in courts, some of them in streets, and some of them in the private torture chambers.

We are learning that corruption is the way to go. You want a passport issued? Pay someone. You want a document ratified? Pay someone. You want someone dead? Pay someone.

We learned that it’s not that difficult to make billions disappear.

We are learning that those amenities we took for granted before 2003, you know- the luxuries – electricity, clean water from faucets, walkable streets, safe schools – those are for deserving populations. Those are for people who don’t allow occupiers into their country.

Discuss

On the bittersweet occasion of the assumption of the new Pope, the first Jesuit and the first Latin American, a cleric with a truly humble lifestyle, and a man who at best failed to stand against the bloody dictators of his country and at worst actively collaborated with them, I am reminded of this great song by the Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés:

Yo pisaré las calles nuevamente

Lyrics and translation on the flip...

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Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 08:50 AM PDT

False equivalency takes another hit

by litho

In its lead article today, in what promises to be the first of a series, the Boston Globe calls out GOP obstructionism in the Senate, with particular emphasis on the broken judicial nomination process.  Focusing in particular on the DC Court of Appeals, reporter Matt Viser points to a series of recent decisions by that court that have both broken precedent and restricted President Obama's ability to implement the laws and carry out his agenda.  Viser insists the problem goes beyond partisan infighting and leads to very real negative consequences for the country:

The partisan gridlock in Washington — largely fueled by the determination of Republican legislators to block Obama’s agenda by any means — manifests itself in almost everything Washington tries to do these days. It is most visible in the ongoing budget stalement and the drama that nearly took the nation right over the so-called fiscal cliff, but the impact on the federal court system, while less obvious to the public, is no less damaging.
In a long piece (the .pdf of the article runs 14 pages), Viser seeks to analyze both the depth of the current problem (a 10% vacancy rate in the federal courts), the current obstacles which contribute to making the problem worse, and the historical antecedents which got us to this point.  Some highlights on the flip.
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