I haven’t written much about Ferguson since my last post, mostly because I can’t believe that in 2014 we’re reliving the 1960s.
But, this is something I haven’t done in the string of nights of unrest. I haven’t once turned on our vaunted mainstream media. No CNN, no MSNBC, heavens no Fox News. I’ve relied solely on Twitter to get information.
“But LL,” someone will say, “Twitter? People writing from their parents’ basements?”
True story: Every once in a while, I’ll break out into “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. And invariably, it’s Paul Robeson who tries to come out. He doesn’t, but once you hear him singing that song, no other voice can fill it in your head.
For our night owl chat, some of the inestimable Paul Robeson.
There are times I read or hear about a case. Someone who, for example, rapes and murders a child. And my gut reaction is to say, “Kill him”. He doesn’t merely deserve to be removed from society, but to be denied of life for his abomination. It is a gut reaction, a cry of the heart, a revulsion at a crime so heinous that it defies understanding. And as humans, often what we don’t understand must be excised, like a cancer. I know if someone murdered a person I loved, my thirst for vengeance would be nigh unquenchable, sated only by the ending of his or her own life.
In Iran a few weeks ago, a young life was about to be extinguished in punishment for murder. The noose was around his neck. He was begging and pleading for his life. Then, the mother of the boy he killed ascended to the hangman’s platform. She slapped the convicted’s face. And then she told the executioner to remove the noose.
This happened in what many Americans consider to be a barbaric, retrograde state, a terrorist state, opposed to all we hold dear. A mother climbed onto the platform where her son’s murderer was about to be executed, and forgave him. No more blood would be spilled. The cycle would end then and there.
Yesterday, an execution in Oklahoma was botched due to an incorrect mixing of the lethal cocktail. This was an execution pushed for by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. She suspended the second—SECOND—execution scheduled for that day “pending further review”.
But we have much to learn from that courageous Iranian mother.
Julia Edwards: U.S. Justice Department To Collect, Study Arrest Data For Racial Bias
The U.S. Justice Department on Monday said it will begin collecting data on stops, searches and arrests made in five U.S. cities to weed out possible racial biases within the criminal justice system. Later this year, a $4.75 million federal grant will be awarded to recipients who compete for the funds to work with their local law enforcement to analyze arrest data and find ways to reduce any biases they find, particularly toward young minority men.
Black men were six times more likely, and Latino men were 2.5 times more likely, to be imprisoned than white men in 2012, according to Justice Department data. Attorney General Eric Holder said the data collection effort is in response to President Barack Obama’s call for better relations between law enforcement and young men of color following the “not guilty” verdict in the shooting death of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
The birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1986. Its celebration was resisted by many states, for reasons too obvious to delineate here. By the year 2000, all states of the Union officially celebrated Dr. King’s birthday.
The fact that it took 14 years for a handful of recalcitrant states to celebrate the holiday is very telling. Dr. King, like Nelson Mandela, has had myth and legend encased on his memory, both in his life and after his death. And these myths tend to obscure the real man, the man of flesh and bone, the man with passion and thought.
We all remember and revere his stance for peace. But we cannot forget that he wielded peace like a weapon. His peace wasn’t a comfortable peace. To quote from another time, he wasn’t asking “Can’t we all just get along”.
He stood against a racial apartheid as pernicious as that which exiled South Africa from the community of nations. He stood against establishment assumptions of American empire and American militarism. He stood against the received wisdom of American capitalism.
He is too often seen now as an anodyne figure, someone who spoke to the better angels of our nature, someone who can be embraced by both left and right. (Well, some of the right. Some of them are beyond redemption.)
Peace was his tactic, and his belief. But it served something which was radical. Although he and Malcolm X spoke in different metaphors, they had much of the same view of the corrupted American experiment. It was an experiment which, at its inception, relegated slaves and the freed children of slaves to oppression and denigration. It was an experiment which depended upon keeping down the working class. It was an experiment which thrived by pitting natural allies against each other, based on culture, religion, race. It was an experiment which arrogated to itself the rights of empire as natural, exporting its system as a panacea for what ailed the world, blind to its own glaring failings.
Today, tomorrow and Monday: The President has no public events scheduled.
Tuesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House. In the evening, he will depart Washington, DC en route Stockholm, Sweden.
Wednesday: The President will arrive in Stockholm. While there, he will hold a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with Prime Minister Reinfeldt. He will then participate in an event honoring Raoul Wallenberg at the Great Synagogue in Stockholm and tour an expo featuring clean energy innovations at the Royal Institute of Technology. In the evening, he will take part in a dinner with Nordic Leaders.
Thursday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with the King and Queen of Sweden. He will then depart Stockholm en route Saint Petersburg, Russia where he will attend the G-20 Summit.
Friday: Attends the G-20 Summit. Returns to Washington, DC on Friday evening.
Vice President Biden listens as President Obama speaks to members of the media about Syria during a meeting with Baltic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 30
…. The map, from Columbia University’s really exceptional Gulf/2000 Project, shows the different ethnic and linguistic groups of the Levant, the part of the Middle East that’s dominated by Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Each color represents a different group. As you can see, there are a lot of groups swirled together. There are enclaves, and there is overlap.
Ethnic and linguistic breakdowns are just one part of Syria’s complexity, of course. But they are a really important part. The country’s largest group is shown in yellow, signifying ethnic Arabs who follow Sunni Islam, the largest sect of Islam. Shades of brown indicate ethnic Kurds, long oppressed in Syria, who have taken up arms against the regime. There are also Druze, a religious sect, Arab Christians, ethnic Armenians and others.
The United States and allies are preparing for a possibly imminent series of limited military strikes against Syria, the first direct U.S. intervention in the two-year civil war, in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians.
If you found the above sentence kind of confusing, or aren’t exactly sure why Syria is fighting a civil war, or even where Syria is located, then this is the article for you. What’s happening in Syria is really important, but it can also be confusing and difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it.
Here, then, are the most basic answers to your most basic questions.
This week more than ever has reminded me of how lucky and blessed we are to have chosen Obama. His deliberation in the face of a howling chorus is a far contrast to any other President in my lifetime. And in far contrast to the other alternatives. Those emoprogs and those having Iraq flashbacks and comparing him to Bush need to remember that unlike Bush, Obama makes his own decisions based on logic, truth, and in his own time. He doesn’t lie, he doesn’t chestbeat, he doesn’t rush in without planning. He doesn’t need to cement a place in history: just being the first African-American President has secured that. Obama is the man that Shrub could never be, the President he couldn’t even try to be. That very maturity drives both right and left crazy, for we haven’t had a President like him, really, ever. Think about it: a President who isn’t driven by his insecurities like Nixon or Carter, who doesn’t buy into ideological crap like Reagan or Daddy Bush, or sometimes the captive of his appetites like Clinton, or lazy like Bush. There are no hooks on him to make him do something he doesn’t want to do.
Sometimes I think many on the left have issues with power and the responsibility it brings. Having been the subjects of the abuse of power has allowed a certain “righteousness” without responsibility. It’s easy to think all uses of American military or financial power are corrupt without nuance. As long as daddy “conservatives” ran the place, there was no need to think about the deep decisions regarding America’s place in the world. Instead one could choose to “drop out” or talk “third party” or be haplessly pacifist in the face of an armed world. And one could have a progressive fiefdom of adoring followers without the need to reach out to others or be civilly engaged.
Syria is a tough cookie, no matter how you slice it. Assad is just like his father, a brutal bastard who has shown he would kill everyone he can to keep a power that was never granted to him either by election or a legitimate monarchy. And while many of the rebels just want Assad gone and a chance to take their lives in their own hands, some of the assistants just want another theocracy like Iran, which is simply tyranny by another name. But chemical weapons are the cruelest of all weapons. Even after the dead are buried, the soil is heavily contaminated, killing people long after the war is over. So Obama has a hard decision to make, but he’s up to the task and I trust him based on experience to make the right one or at least the best one he can make. If he goes for it, he has a plan to get things done. If he pulls away from the brink, he’ll have something to show for it.
Obama was right about Iraq, right about Afghanistan, right about Libya, right about Bin Laden. What was the media right about? Romney’s win?
Spandan C (The People’s View): The US Intelligence Assessment on Syria and the Next Steps in the National Debate
…. This president and his administration has done everything possible up to this point to avoid getting involved in Syria militarily, against the drum beats of the war mongers. Even now, he has shown considerable restraint. But it is important to remember that Barack Obama was not elected on the promise of complete and total pacifism; he was elected on the promise of careful consideration, judgment and letting the facts speak for themselves.
Whatever the president does, I am sure his critics will be many and the criticisms will be far and wide. As has been noted, he has no good options here. But as we debate this going forward, I want us to understand the complexity of the issue, drop the righteousness (either side – no one should take the idea of dropping bombs lightly just as no one should make light of the massacre from the chemical weapons), and do something the pundits won’t do – let’s keep it on the facts, not the conjectures and the rhetoric.
Washington Post: Ginsburg will be first justice to officiate at same-sex wedding
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first Supreme Court member to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony Saturday when she officiates at the Washington wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.
The gala wedding of Kaiser and economist John Roberts at the performing arts center brings together the nation’s highest court and the capital’s high society and will mark a new milepost in the recognition of same-sex unions.
…. During a recent interview, Ginsburg seemed excited about being the first member of the court to conduct such a ceremony and said it was only a logical next step.
“I think it will be one more statement that people who love each other and want to live together should be able to enjoy the blessings and the strife in the marriage relationship,” Ginsburg said.
Dallas News: Wendy Davis raises $470,000 from outside Texas following her nationally viewed filibuster
In the six weeks following her headline-grabbing filibuster, Wendy Davis raised $1.2 million — nearly 40 percent of it from outside Texas. Davis drew national attention following the filibuster against an abortion-restriction bill that helped shut down the Texas Senate and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call lawmakers back into another special session. In the wake of Davis’ new-found fame, Davis has been urged by some Democrats to run for governor next year. She says she will announce her political plans — whether to run for reelection as a senator from Fort Worth or as a Democrat for governor — in a few weeks.
Powerful words from Sybrina Fulton: “No prom for Trayvon. No high school graduation for Trayvon. No college for Trayvon. No grandkids coming from Trayvon. All because of a law; a law that has prevented the person who shot and killed my son to be held accountable and to pay for this awful crime.”
Washington Post: Maryland issues insurance rates that are among lowest in U.S.
Maryland insurance officials approved final rates Friday for health plans to be sold in the online marketplace for individuals beginning Oct. 1. The rates offered by nine carriers are among the lowest of the 12 states that have proposed or approved rates for comparison and among the lowest in the D.C. area, according to an analysis by Maryland officials who will be operating the state’s marketplace.
“I didn’t want to be right,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says about her prediction that striking a key prong of the Voting Rights Act will lead to a wave of minority voter suppression, “but sadly I am.” In an interview with the Associated Press’ Mark Sherman, Ginsburg reiterated one of the core points of her dissent from the five Republican justices’ voting rights decision — “The notion that because the Voting Rights Act had been so tremendously effective we had to stop it didn’t make any sense to me,” Ginsburg said. “And one really could have predicted what was going to happen” once the law was struck down.
“A Black person has “no rights which a white man is bound to respect.” ~ Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in 1857
In his impromptu remarks this afternoon in the White House Press Room, President Obama asked a most salient question: “If Trayvon Martin had been of age and armed would he have been justified in standing his ground on that sidewalk?” Of course that hypothetical question is premised on Trayvon having the right to carry a weapon as an adult. But Sybrina Fulton yesterday put her finger on the more immediate concern. To her the jury did not consider Trayvon as their own Child. In other words, Empathy Deficit. But there is a reason for that. American culture has NEVER had a place for children of color in its construction of childhood.
Pres Obama’s Remarks on Trayvon Martin – 07-19-2013
Six days since the phrase “Not Guilty” was curtly announced at the George Zimmerman trial about the killing of Trayvon Martin, a lot has been written from various perspectives endorsing, questioning, or parsing the verdict. A wave of activism has also sprung up in its wake demanding revisions to Stand Your Ground laws in states like Florida, while campaigns such as the NAACP’s #HesNotaSuspect seek to validate the human worth of black male children.
However at the crux of the court case, a key element never came up: What were Trayvon’s RIGHTS as a CHILD in the encounter with George Zimmerman that fateful night? What provisions do Stand Your Ground laws have to protect children in any encounter with an adult? What is a child supposed to do when confronted by an armed assailant/stalker/intruder/stranger?
Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin Interview with Al Sharpton