Thursday Reads: Civil Rights Struggle, Syria Intervention, NYPD Spying, Boston Bombing, and “League of Denial”Posted: August 29, 2013
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.
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.
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:
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.
Good Sunday Morning…
The past few days have been a mixed blessing. Our internet has been very fickle, the tech says it is something to do with parcels of packets. What ever that means…the connection gets so slow, and it is sporadic. And the “high tech” guys aren’t too good at getting back to us and letting us know the status of our repair ticket.
Personally, I think they aren’t going to do a thing. We have some new high-speed thing, your stimulus dollars at work, that they are working on now here in Banjoville. Maybe that is why it is so messed up now.
Anyway, due to this slow internet my post will be on the thin side. (As far as links are concerned.)
As I was saying, not being online has been a treat. I know that all that will end on Monday, when the GOP get back to their ridiculous assaults on women’s rights. It is also the day when the newsy people will be discussing Puerto Rico and Missouri’s primary/caucus results. It seems like every time there are primary votes being cast in this race, it is always make or break for the candidates. I am so sick of hearing Wolf Blitzer’s voice drone on about this is the night folks…we got your results here…the stakes are high…and then it turns out, meh.
Yesterday, I saw a new baby calf take some of his first steps in the pasture that is next door to our house. It was so wonderful to see that new little guy, so happy to be out in the grass. Falling over and trembling when he did get to standing. The other calves, a bit older, would come by and frolic around the baby. Not for long though, cause Mama was very protective…she would knock the rowdy bunch out-of-the-way of her little prince. It certainly was more relaxing and enjoyable to watch those beautiful livestock (they are top-notch Black Angus, breeding stock) than it is to read about Georgia GOP idiots refer to women as cattle and chickens and goats.
Another thing I did this weekend, was to pop in some of my Ken Burns’s The Civil War DVDs in and watch a bit of that amazing program. I could listen to Shelby Foote talk and talk. It made me think about some things…when this series came out in the 80′s, there was a lot of shows during that time about the history of the Civil War. Denzel Washington and Mathew Broderick did a film about the black soldiers who fought for the North. Oprah had her Beloved…there was that epic produced by Ted Turner about Gettysburg…and I do believe even a movie with Patrick Swayze. It sort of spilled into the early nighties as well, remember the TV mini-series Queen?
But it wasn’t just those hoop-skirt, Gray and Blue cultural media and films that trended at that time, there were also a lot of films about the Civil Rights era too. Love Field, Michelle Pfeiffer traveling cross-country with a black man to attend Kennedy’s funeral…Films about Malcom X, and Jim Crow and the tensions of race relations in the south like Driving Miss Daisy and The Color Purple and Mississippi Burning, such a good movie…my point with all this wandering is that during those times, there was an awareness.
Maybe it is because of my interest in history, but it seemed like people where more knowledgeable about things. Now you take a trip to Kennesaw Battlefield or Chickamauga and people are playing football and Frisbee in fields where so many lost their lives.
And yet, here we are…twenty-five years later, and what are the big social issues we are up against? Women’s Rights, Birth Control, Reproductive Healthcare etc. are being aggressively attacked by men (and several women mind you) who believe that any progress we have made in regards to women’s rights is the cause of satan himself. Yes, the devil has made women into sluts and whores and welfare queens…
These same hateful people believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs were on the ark and that global warming is from the book of Genesis. These are the idiots who pass laws that force creationism on public school students, take funding away from programs that care for women’s health and prevent life threatening illness. They talk of homosexuals as dogs and beast…they slap a Jesus here and a Satan there and sound so righteous about how close they are to the Lord…and the importance of the sanctity of marriage, while at the same time they are on their third marriage…or pay prostitutes to dress them up in diapers.
None of this rant is really anything new…but what makes me mad is that these assholes also don’t see what they are doing is discrimination. Plain and true.
Perhaps we need a cultural trend about the women’s rights movement…and the Suffragettes, and the women who endured hell to get us those few rights we see ticking away at the hands of Christian extremist.
Since I do not have access to the internet…and have linked to items I have saved away, I want to end this post with an email that our reader Connie sent to Boston Boomer earlier this week. She forwarded it to a few of the Front Pagers and I think you will appreciate it. I’ve copied the e-mail into this post along with photos.
A TRUE STORY EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW
This is the story of our mothers and grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.
Remember it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.
The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House carrying signs asking for the vote.
And by the end of the night they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing, went on a rampage against the thirty-three women wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.”
They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head, and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed, and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis had suffered a heart attack and was dead. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.
Thus unfolded the “night of terror” on November 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered the guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.
HBO’s movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels’ is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that we could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have our say.
(Conferring over ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at National Woman’s Party headquarters, Jackson Place, Washington , D.C.)
Watching the movie, it is jarring to see Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy. The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’
Read again what these women went through for us! We can’t let their suffering be for nothing. Women must vote!
So I will end it with that…if my internet is working up to speed, I will try to post some news links in the comments. If not..can you help me out? What are you reading about and what is going on in the world today?
I know this was discussed on the morning post, but I thought I’d write a little more about Obama’s speech to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Saturday. If it hadn’t been for the ending, it would have been a good speech. The CBC members probably would have been OK with it, even though Obama isn’t really “attacking the cycle of poverty” and making it easier for kids to go to college, and all the other claims he made. He managed to make it sound like he’s done a lot for the economy when he’s really just tinkered with things around the edges. So why did Obama have to patronize his black audience like this?
So I don’t know about you, CBC, but the future rewards those who press on. (Applause.) With patient and firm determination, I am going to press on for jobs. (Applause.) I’m going to press on for equality. (Applause.) I’m going to press on for the sake of our children. (Applause.) I’m going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I am going to press on. (Applause.)
I expect all of you to march with me and press on. (Applause.) Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. (Applause.) Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC. (Applause.)
WTF?! How tone deaf is that? I think it’s incredibly insulting. In the previous paragraphs, Obama was talking about how hard people in the audience had fought for advancement for African Americans:
Throughout our history, change has often come slowly. Progress often takes time. We take a step forward, sometimes we take two steps back. Sometimes we get two steps forward and one step back. But it’s never a straight line. It’s never easy. And I never promised easy. Easy has never been promised to us. But we’ve had faith. We have had faith. We’ve had that good kind of crazy that says, you can’t stop marching. (Applause.)
Even when folks are hitting you over the head, you can’t stop marching. Even when they’re turning the hoses on you, you can’t stop. (Applause.) Even when somebody fires you for speaking out, you can’t stop. (Applause.) Even when it looks like there’s no way, you find a way — you can’t stop. (Applause.) Through the mud and the muck and the driving rain, we don’t stop. Because we know the rightness of our cause — widening the circle of opportunity, standing up for everybody’s opportunities, increasing each other’s prosperity. We know our cause is just. It’s a righteous cause.
So in the face of troopers and teargas, folks stood unafraid. Led somebody like John Lewis to wake up after getting beaten within an inch of his life on Sunday — he wakes up on Monday: We’re going to go march. (Applause.)
Dr. King once said: “Before we reach the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. We must still face prodigious hilltops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance. But with patient and firm determination we will press on.” (Applause.)
But then Obama follows this with the “bedroom slippers” and “complaining” and “crying” accusations. This kind of thing gives me the sense that Obama is clueless when it comes to the black experience in America. It honestly makes me wonder if he unconsciously looks down on ordinary African Americans.
Of course Obama didn’t have the same experiences as many of the people he was talking to on Saturday. He attended only private schools and didn’t experience the kind of discrimination that most of them did. But he has read about the the Civil Rights era and he often speaks about it. Presumably, he has talked directly to some poor African Americans while campaigning. Why would he expect these people to like the tone of those final paragraphs in his speech?
Well there have been some negative reactions. As she has a couple of times recently, Maxine Waters took the lead.
“I don’t know who he was talking to, because we’re certainly not complaining,” said Waters, who has been critical of Obama in the past. “We are working. We support him and we are protecting that base because we want people to be enthusiastic about him when that election rolls around.” ….
Waters said she found some of the language Obama used “not appropriate” and said it “surprised me a little bit.”
“I found that language a bit curious because the president spoke to the Hispanic Caucus and certainly they are pushing him on immigration and despite the fact that he’s appointed [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, he has an office for excellence in Hispanic education right in the White House, they’re still pushing him and he certainly didn’t tell them to stop complaining,” she said.
“And he never would say that to the gay and lesbian community who really pushed him on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Or even in a speech to AIPAC, he would never say to the Jewish community ‘stop complaining’ about Israel.”
…other members of the CBC, including its chairman, Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D), have had different reactions to the speech, which they defended as a rallying call to African American voters, whose large turnout in 2008 helped fuel Obama’s election, and whose 2012 turnout could be pivotal to the president’s reelection effort.
“The Congressional Black Caucus supports the president; we intend to be as strongly pushing his reelection as anybody in the country,” Cleaver said Monday morning on MSNBC.
“I was like most of the crowd there — incredibly enthusiastic by the fighting spirit the president was showing. I think the president is right-on-message,” Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards (D), another CBC member, said in a separate appearance on MSNBC. “I think it’s incredibly clear, the difference, like night and day, between Republicans, who want to give special breaks to the wealthiest in this country, and the president of the United States. And it’s important that we reelect him because we have to really get this country back…the president was on that message, and we’re going to be on that message, too, for 2012.”
Frankly, I’m also offended by the way the President takes on the tone of a preacher when he speaks to black audiences. But since I’m not black, I can’t speak to whether the audiences find it patronizing. To me it seems condescending.
There have been other times when I thought Obama was incredibly tone deaf when talking to African Americans; for example, the time he lectured Black fathers who don’t support their children.
Saying that too many black fathers are “missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Obama said these men “have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
Speaking at Chicago’s Apostolic Church of God, with his wife and two daughters in the audience, Obama said that more police on the street and job training programs are essential for a safe and sound society, “But we also need families to raise our children.”
The phenomenon of absentee fathers and single mothers certainly isn’t limited to African American families. Plenty of white men are deadbeat dads and worse.
I guess I just have a problem with stereotyping in general, and I’m particularly turned off by people in power who speak condescendingly to the rest of us. Again, I can’t speak for the CBC members, but I have to wonder if a lot of them didn’t feel like Maxine Waters did and feel a little bit resentful.