Thursday Reads: Civil Rights Struggle, Syria Intervention, NYPD Spying, Boston Bombing, and “League of Denial”

Withers_07

Good Morning!!

I’ve got so much news for you this morning, I don’t know if I’ll have room in a reasonable-length post, so I’ll get right to it. I’ll begin with some stories on yesterday’s 50th anniversary of the March On Washington.

PBS had an amazing interview with Rep John Lewis in which he recounted his memories of that day in 1963 and the speech he gave as a youthful leader in the Civil Rights Movement: ‘I Felt That We Had to Be Tough': John Lewis Remembers the March on Washington. I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s a brief excerpt:

REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-Ga.: On that day, I was blessed.

I felt like I had been tracked down by some force or some spirit. I will never forget when A. Philip Randolph said, “I now present to you young John Lewis, the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.”

And I went to the podium. I looked to my right. I saw many, many young people, staffers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, volunteers. Then I looked to my left. I saw all these young people up in the trees, trying to get a better view of the podium.

Then I looked straight ahead. And I saw so many people with their feet in the water trying to cool off. And then I said to myself, this is it, and I went for it.

On meeting with President Kennedy before the March, and how the podium and the crowd came to be so diverse:

He [JFK] didn’t like the idea of a March on Washington.

When we met with him, A. Philip Randolph spoke up in his baritone voice we met with the president. And he said, “Mr. President, the black masses are restless. And we are going to march on Washington.”

And you could tell by the movement of President Kennedy — he started moving and twisting in his chair. And he said, in effect, that if you bring all these people to Washington, won’t it be violence and chaos and disorder?

Mr. Randolph responded and said, “Mr. President, there’s been orderly, peaceful, nonviolent protests.”

And President Kennedy said, in so many words, I think we are going to have problems. So we left that meeting with President Kennedy. We came out on the lawn at the White House and spoke to the media and said, we had a meaningful and productive meeting with the president of the United States. And we told him we’re going to March on Washington.

And a few days later, July 2, 1963, the six of us met in New York City at the old Roosevelt Hotel. And in that meeting, we made a decision to invite four major white religious and labor leaders to join us in issuing the call for the March on Washington.

American folk singer and activist Pete Seeger (left) adopted and helped popularize "We Shall Overcome" by teaching the song at rallies and protests. Here he sings with activists in Greenwood, Miss., in 1963. (NPR)

American folk singer and activist Pete Seeger (left) adopted and helped popularize “We Shall Overcome” by teaching the song at rallies and protests. Here he sings with activists in Greenwood, Miss., in 1963. (NPR)

NPR had a wonderful story yesterday about the history of the Civil Rights Movement’s signature song: The Inspiring Force Of ‘We Shall Overcome’.

It is not a marching song. It is not necessarily defiant. It is a promise: “We shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe.”

It has been a civil rights song for 50 years now, heard not just in the U.S. but in North Korea, in Beirut, in Tiananmen Square, in South Africa’s Soweto Township. But “We Shall Overcome” began as a folk song, a work song. Slaves in the fields would sing, ‘I’ll be all right someday.’ It became known in the churches. A Methodist minister, Charles Albert Tindley, published a version in 1901: “I’ll Overcome Someday.”

The first political use came in 1945 in Charleston, S.C. There was a strike against the American Tobacco Co. The workers wanted a raise; they were making 45 cents an hour. They marched and sang together on the picket line, “We will overcome, and we will win our rights someday.”

There’s much more about how the song was passed from group to group and changed over time. Please give it a listen–it’s only about 8 minutes long, but really fascinating.

Not a single Republican appeared at yesterday’s commemoration of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush couldn’t come because of health issues, but John Boehner and Eric Cantor are presumably in good health, but they refused offers to make speeches at the event, according to Roll Call.

That wasn’t a wise choice, said Julian Bond, a renowned civil rights activist, in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon.

“What’s really telling, I think, is the podium behind me, just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there,” Bond told news anchor Alex Wagner. “They asked senior President Bush to come, he was ill. They asked junior Bush, he said he had to stay with his father.

“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” Bond continued, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way.” [....]

Cantor’s decision to turn down the invitation to speak is especially striking given his stated commitment to passing a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act in the 113th Congress, and the many opportunities he has taken over the past several weeks to publicly reflect on the experience of traveling with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to Selma, Ala.

Sadly, Dr. King’s dream of peace has not made much progress in the past 50 years. And now the U.S. and its allies are considering another military intervention–in Syria.

Fortunately, the UK is now hesitating. NYT: Britain to Wait on Weapons Report Ahead of Syria Strikes.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, who runs a coalition government, is facing political difficulties from legislators mindful of the experience in Iraq, when assurances from Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction proved inaccurate and a false pretext for war.

Mr. Cameron bowed on Wednesday to pressure from the opposition Labour Party and to some within his own coalition who want to allow United Nations weapons inspectors a chance to report their findings and for the United Nations Security Council to make one more effort to give a more solid legal backing to military action against Damascus.

At BBC News, Nick Robinson explains why Cameron “buckled.”

If you think that NSA domestic spying is invasive, you should take a look at what the NYPD has been up to since 9/11. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of the AP have a new book out called Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America. There’s an excerpt at New York Magazine: The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities. It’s long, but a very important story. Please give it a read if you can.

Yesterday Apuzzo and Goldman published a related shocking story at AP: NYPD designates mosques as terrorism organizations.

The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.

Tsarnaev
Boston Magazine has published more photos from “Behind the Scenes of The Hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.”  Above is a photo of Tsarnaev exiting the boat in which he hid for hours as law enforcement searched all over Watertown for him. See more photos at the link.

In more hopeful news, one long-hospitalized survivor of the bombings was given the go-ahead to return home to California yesterday: Boston Marathon bomb survivor John Odom set to return home to Torrance (Daily Breeze News).

Nearly five months after a bomb almost took his life at the Boston Marathon, John Odom of Torrance was cleared by doctors on Wednesday to finally come home.

Odom’s wife, Karen, who has never left her husband’s side, has been chronicling her husband’s long recovery on Facebook, called it a “monumental” day.

“It’s official, John is released to go home!!!” she posted on the John Odom Support Page. “Although his recovery is nowhere near complete, there is no medical or physical reason he can’t fly home and continue his recovery in California. We are hoping to be home the end of next week, a few days shy of 5 months since we left on that now famous 4 day trip.”

“Famous” is one way to put it. The couple could have never imagined the journey they’ve been on since April 15.

Read the rest of this moving story at the link.

On October 8th and 15th, NPR’s Frontline plans to show League of Denial,a two-part two-part investigation examining whether — as thousands of former players allege — the NFL has covered up the risks of football on the brain.” The documentary has so far been produced in partnership with ESPN, but last week the sports channel backed out of the collaboration presumably because of pressure from the NFL. From The New Republic: ESPN Quit Its Concussions Investigation With ‘Frontline’ Under Curious Circumstances.

“Frontline,” the prestigious, multiple-Emmy-winning investigative news show produced by Boston’s PBS member station, announced late Thursday afternoon that a 15-month-old partnership with ESPN in which they published a series of pieces exploring how the National Football League has (and has not) accounted for the relationship between playing football, head trauma, and brain damage, had come to an end. Dating back to last November, “Frontline” had run articles on its site featuring the work of Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, ESPN staffers (and brothers) even as these articles appeared at espn.com and as the brothers did segments for ESPN’s award-winning investigative series “Outside the Lines.” The end result—in addition to abook that the brothers are publishing in October—was to be a “Frontline” documentary, League of Denial (also the book’s title).

According to “Frontline,” the documentary will premiere this season on October 8 and 15, but, “from now on, at ESPN’s request, we will no longer use their logos and collaboration credit on these sites and on our upcoming film.” Executive producer David Fanning and deputy executive producer Raney Aronson expressed their “regret” and credited ESPN with “a productive partnership.” They added, “The film is still being edited and has not been seen by ESPN news executives, although we were on schedule to share it with them for their editorial input.”

Aronson told me late Thursday that ESPN contacted “Frontline” last Friday to request that it remove ESPN’s logo from its website, citing the technicality that it was a “trademark issue.” It wasn’t until Monday, after the latest collaboration was published on “Frontline”’s website and aired on “OTL,” that ESPN also requested that language describing collaboration not be used, and that it became clear the collaboration itself was coming to an end.

The circumstances are indeed mysterious. Perhaps it was over-cautiousness on ESPN’s part or perhaps indirect pressure from the League. If you’re interested in this important story, go read Marc Tracy’s piece at TNR.

A couple more useful links on this story:

PBS: Questions Over NFL Doctor Cloud League’s Concussion Case

Bill Littlefield at NPR’s Only a Game: ESPN And Frontline Part Ways Over ‘League Of Denial’

The authors of the book League of Denial will continue their involvement with the Frontline presentation.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll end there, and add a few more links in the comments. Now what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the thread below.

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19 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Civil Rights Struggle, Syria Intervention, NYPD Spying, Boston Bombing, and “League of Denial””

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Boston Globe: Predator drone now part of Calif. wildfire battle

    As crews advanced against a giant wildfire around Yosemite National Park, fire commanders said they would maintain use of a Predator drone to give them early views of any new flare-ups across in the remote and rugged landscape.

    The Rim Fire expanded to 301 square miles, but crews had a productive day Wednesday and containment increased to 30 percent. Cooler temperatures and lighter winds aided the firefighters.

    Increasingly confident fire officials said they expect to fully surround the blaze in three weeks, although it will burn for much longer than that.

    ‘‘We continue to get line around this fire,’’ California fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. ‘‘It’s not nearly as active as it was last week.’’

    The California National Guard drone deployed Wednesday was being remotely piloted hundreds of miles away, allowing ground commanders to keep an eye out for new fires they otherwise wouldn’t have immediately seen.

    Unbelievable how huge this fire is!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Raw Story: Hold onto your wallet — contrived ‘Fiscal Cliff 2.0′ is coming soon

    House Majority Leader John Boehner, (R-OH), promises a “whale of a fight” over the debt limit, now to be wrapped up in the budget fight. While the Republican establishment appears to have backed away from activists’ surreal demand that Democrats kill off Obamacare in order to raise the debt limit, they will ask for other concessions. And Obama has consistently said that he’d entertain some “Grand Bargain,” which might include cuts to Social Security benefits. At the very least, Boehner is going to demand another round of deep spending cuts at a time when those resulting from previous budget battles are already holding back the economy. Economist Dean Baker notes that “government spending as a share of GDP is lower in 2013 than it was in every year of the Reagan presidency except 1988,” and estimates that the sequester and other “austerity” measures enacted in the past 3 years have translated into five million fewer American jobs.

    These debt limit “shenanigans” aren’t very democratic, and Boehner admitted as much, telling the Idaho Statesman, “It may be unfair but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices.” In other words, he’s going to hold the global economy hostage for policies his conservative allies couldn’t achieve through the electoral process.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    DOD release: US transfers two Gitmo detainees to Algeria.

    The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Government of Algeria.

    As directed by the President’s Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of this case. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were approved for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the task force. In accordance with Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, the administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer these individuals.

    The United States is grateful to the Government of Algeria for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Algeria to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.

    Today, 164 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    U.S. fast-food workers plan nationwide strikes over wages

    (Reuters) – Fast-food workers across the United States are expected to stage their largest strike to date on Thursday in an almost year-long campaign to raise wages in the service sector.

    Employees of McDonald’s Corp, Wendy’s Restaurants LLC, Burger King Worldwide Inc and others have pledged to walk off their jobs in 50 cities from Boston, Mass, to Alameda, Calif., organizers say. They are expected to be joined by retail employees at stores owned by Macy’s Inc, Sears Holdings Corp and Dollar Tree Inc in some cities.

    The strike follows a similar protest last November, when some 200 workers walked off their fast-food jobs in New York City. Groups in Chicago, Kansas City, Detroit and other cities followed their lead in April and July.

    The workers want to form unions and bargain higher wages with their employers without facing retaliation from franchisees or their parent companies. They are demanding $15 an hour, up from $7.25, which is the current federal minimum wage.

  5. mablue2 says:

    Moanin’ BB!

    There’s high drama in the world of finance, exactly where I currently am:

    Zurich Insurance Chairman Ackermann Quits After CFO Death
    Apparently it was suicide. I actually worked with the guy until a week ago. We’re not really hearing much from the upper management, just stuff we’ve already read from the paper.

    Here a nice OpEd from one of my favorite economists:

    How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics

    • bostonboomer says:

      Hey, MA Blue! Thanks for the links. I hadn’t seen either of them. I love the one by Stiglitz.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Stiglitz:

        I had the good fortune to be in the crowd in Washington when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his thrilling “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963. I was 20 years old, and had just finished college. It was just a couple of weeks before I began my graduate studies in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology….

        Listening to Dr. King speak evoked many emotions for me. Young and sheltered though I was, I was part of a generation that saw the inequities that had been inherited from the past, and was committed to correcting these wrongs. Born during World War II, I came of age as quiet but unmistakable changes were washing over American society.

        As president of the student council at Amherst College, I had led a group of classmates down South to help push for racial integration. We couldn’t understand the violence of those who wanted to preserve the old system of segregation. When we visited an all-black college, we felt intensely the disparity in educational opportunities that had been given to the students there, especially when compared with those that we had received in our privileged, cloistered college. It was an unlevel playing field, and it was fundamentally unfair. It was a travesty of the idea of the American dream that we had grown up with and believed in.

        It was because I hoped that something could be done about these and the other problems I had seen so vividly growing up in Gary, Ind. — poverty, episodic and persistent unemployment, unending discrimination against African-Americans — that I decided to become an economist, veering away from my earlier intention to go into theoretical physics. I soon discovered I had joined a strange tribe. While there were a few scholars (including several of my teachers) who cared deeply about the issues that had led me to the field, most were unconcerned about inequality; the dominant school worshiped at the feet of (a misunderstood) Adam Smith, at the miracle of the efficiency of the market economy. I thought that if this was the best of all possible worlds, I wanted to construct and live in another world.

        Wow!

  6. janicen says:

    I’m really looking forward to the Frontline documentary about the NFL. My FIL is showing signs of dementia even though he never played in the NFL. He played football in college and therefore for much of his childhood in order to get to that level. It’s important to remember that this not only affects NFL players but all of the players who never got that far or made it to that level.

    It seems obvious to me that the NFL pressured ESPN to back away from the project. Actually I’m really surprised ESPN got involved in the first place.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It’s also a very serious problem in hockey, not surprisingly. That’s just beginning to get more attention.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Montana teacher gets 30 days in rape of student, 14, who later kills herself

    The sentence was a travesty, the mother, Auliea Hanlon, told CNN on Wednesday night, two days after the sentencing.

    “I was horrified. Horrified,” she said. “He broke the law, he confessed, and he got to walk away.”

    Hanlon said she was particularly upset that Baugh, said her daughter “seemed older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher.

    • RalphB says:

      Jeez. Lock that judge up for a few years!

    • The judge proved he is not fit for the bench with the verbal attacks on a minor who is deceased. He basically said she asked for it, and that the 50 year-old pedophile was the one in need of protection. Shameful that we have judges like Bough serving in such high level positions.

      • cygnus says:

        The whole thing is completely unfathomable. Never mind that as a teacher, it is *extra* verboten to engage a student in any sort of sexual way, whether “of age” “consensual” or what have you. The onus is entirely on the professional educator, always.

        The judge is insane and totally outside the law, and the limits of his duties–which do not include armchair forensic psychology. I don’t care if the girl was doing the miley-cyrus-blurred-lines dance–the teacher held the responsibility, as an adult, and as a HIGH SCHOOL teacher, to control his actions. Any sane judge would acknowledge this.

        Since when is having sex with a child not a crime because the child “seems” older to the perpetrator who cannot control himself?!

        wtf.

      • Fannie says:

        I just signed a petition today, hoping they will kick him to the curb.

  8. bostonboomer says:
  9. RalphB says:

    TPM: Wendy Davis Postpones Announcing Whether She’ll Run For Governor

    Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) said Wednesday that she’d be postponing the announcement of her decision whether to run for governor while she cares for her sick father, even as Texas Democrats have begun searching for a potential running mate.

    “I had hoped to make public my decision about that next week, but with everything that’s going on with my dad, I won’t be doing that,” Davis told the Texas Tribune. “It’s likely it will be late September before I do.”

    According to the Dallas Morning News, some business leaders and state Democrats have already approached at least five politicians, including state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D) of San Antonio, about joining a Democratic ticket should Davis decide to run.

    “I’m not ruling it out, but right now I’m holding off on considering it until Wendy decides what she’s going to do,” Van de Putte, a potential lieutenant governor pick, told the newspaper.

    These two women running as a ticket would be really cool.

  10. Fannie says:

    The British voted not to go along with USA on Syria…………