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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 129

[ 0 ] August 19, 2017 |

This is the grave of Shirley Chisholm.

Born in 1924 in Brooklyn, Chisholm, then known as Shirley St. Hill, was the daughter of Caribbean immigrants and grew up poor. In 1929, she and her sisters were sent to Barbados to live with their grandmother because their parents could not afford their upkeep. She returned in 1934 with an accent that made her almost impossible to understand for a long time and which she kept for the rest of her amazing life. She always considered herself Barbadian-American and revered the much better education she received on the island than she would have received in Brooklyn. Her talents recognized early, she went to one of the best high schools in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946. She married Conrad Chisholm, a Jamaican immigrant, in 1949. Unlike many women of her time, that was not the end of her education and she received an MA in elementary education from Columbia’s teachers’ college in 1952.

Over the next dozen years, Chisholm worked in education as the director of child care centers in New York. During this time, she became known as an expert on early education and grew in stature within the New York political establishment and a force to be reckoned with. She ran for State Assembly in 1964 and won, serving from 1965 until 1968. In Albany, she continued working on early childhood issues and also sponsored a bill extending unemployment benefits to domestic workers.

In 1968, Chisholm won election to Congress after a court-mandated reapportionment to create a black-majority district in Brooklyn. She was expected to lose in the general to CORE leader James Farmer, who was running as the Liberal Party candidate with Republican support, but her grassroots politics and legendary “Unbought and Unbossed” slogan put her over the top with ease. This made her the first black woman elected to Congress. She was dissed immediately, when she was assigned to the House Agricultural Committee, an assignment that had no relevance to her constituents. But she took advantage of the situation and became a major advocate for expanding the food stamp program and using agricultural surpluses to feed the poor. She also played a key role in creating WIC and thus assured that mothers and babies would have nutritious food. After she provided key support to Hale Boggs in his bid to become House Majority Leader, Boggs repaid her by placing her on the Education and Labor Committee, where she wanted to be. She fought hard for government-funded childcare and introduced the House bill, along with Bella Abzug. The less robust Senate bill shepherded by Walter Mondale became the final bill and still would have created a huge new social benefit, but it was vetoed by Richard Nixon, the Last True Liberal President Unlike That Neoliberal Sellout Barack Obama. If only we could relive those days!

Chisholm decided to run for president in 1972. In we are honest with ourselves, this was never a serious campaign in terms of having a shot to win the nomination. She only raised $300,000 for the whole effort and had no organization. But she wanted to make several points. She wanted to be both the first African-American to contest a major party’s nomination, but also the first woman. She believed she faced at least as much discrimination in politics because of her gender as her race. She received very little support for her presidential run from black male politicians and she believed this was because they were scared of her challenging their patriarchy. She skipped several primaries and never performed better than 4th place, in California. She did receive quite a few votes at the convention because Hubert Humphrey released his black delegates to her after it was clear George McGovern would win the nomination. But her run was inspiring to many women, African-Americans, and left-liberals and she has taken on an influence as a hero on the left to the present.

One of her first moves after the 1972 primary run was to reach out to George Wallace, of all people. He later helped her round up votes from southern congressmen for her bill to expand the minimum wage to domestic workers. She became increasingly frustrated with the decline of liberalism under Carter and then Reagan, even as she pushed for a wide swath of new liberal legislation that would particularly help inner city residents. Although by now a respected veteran of the House in the leadership as a Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus, Chisholm announced that she would not run for reelection in 1982, a decision influenced by the failing health of her second husband, a Buffalo liquor store owner. She taught at Mount Holyoke for a few years. Bill Clinton nominated her as ambassador to Jamaica, but she had to turn this down due to her own health. She retired to Florida, where she died in 2005 after suffering a series of strokes.

…Meant to include a couple of videos of Chisholm.

Here is her address declaring her presidential bid.

Here she is reflecting on the oppression she faced as the first black female member of Congress.

Finally, here’s a long address she gave at UCLA in May 1972.

Shirley Chisholm is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York.


“This is so incredibly intellectually dishonest that I yearn for the craven cynicism of Mitch McConnell”

[ 0 ] August 19, 2017 |

On Ben Sasse’s inexplicably (or, perhaps, all-too-explicably) latest fake-moderate viral Facebook thing, just read Paul Musgrave’s thread. I can’t top it.



How Bannon Mattered

[ 0 ] August 18, 2017 |

“Brilliant! Its lack of evidence makes it all the more compelling, and some of the mistakes were corrected in a Kindle edition!” —Doug Henwood

To state the obvious, here was never any chance than Bannon was going to get Republicans to raise taxes on the rich or pass a real infrastructure bill (as opposed to a bill of tax breaks labelled “infrastructure.”) But that doesn’t mean he’s irrelevant to Trump’s raise. As Chait says, his crucial role was helping to create a media environment in which Hillary Clinton was portrayed as the corrupt and dishonest candidate in a race in which her opponent shattered any previous standard of corruption and dishonesty:

As Green explains, Bannon came out of a wing of the conservative movement that was professionally dedicated to discrediting Bill and Hillary Clinton. The anti-Clinton industry had existed since the early 1990s as both a partisan messaging tool and a reliable source of income. Bannon’s key insight was that the anti-Clinton campaign of the 1990s failed. The conservative media ecosystem recirculated lurid fantasies that the Clintons were murderers, connected to a drug cartel, and so on. They whipped their base into a failed crusade for impeachment while destroying their credibility with the mainstream media.

Rather than dismiss the mainstream media as hopelessly biased, as most conservatives did, Bannon grasped both its importance and potential utility. He believed sufficiently credible research could be injected into news organs that potential Clinton voters would read. He helped fund and direct research, such as “Clinton Cash,” which depicted Hillary Clinton as greedy and criminal.

Bannon’s work in the anti-Clinton complex turned out to shape the battlefield for the campaign in precisely the way he predicted. The news media relentlessly cast the Democratic front-runner as secretive and corrupt, to the point where she was almost no longer the front-runner at all. Her favorable ratings were bound to fall when she returned from a non-political role as secretary of State to candidate taking live bullets. But the scope of the fall was shocking…

The unconscionable decision of the New York Times to partner with Breitbart to publish anti-Clinton propaganda was the beginning of the endless pursuit of inane snipe hunts that would ultimately put Trump into the White House.  And the alt-right faction of the FBI was apparently a big fan of Clinton Cash, too. Bannon’s legacy will not be changing the direction of the Republican Party. Rather, his legacy will be playing a major role in electing Trump, which allowed for the advancement of orthodox Republican priorities like the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, the gutting of the EPA, etc. (And as I said about Assange, Bannon’s cleverness as a propagandist hardly lets the journalists who eagerly went along off the hook. They made choices.)

Pass the Popcorn!

[ 0 ] August 18, 2017 |

You know what would be really sad? If Breitbart started supporting third party candidates against Republicans they don’t like. Oh, please don’t do that said every Democrat ever!

I wonder if a Breitbart war against Trump would significantly reduce his base support? I also wonder how the fascist in the Oval Office would react to this.

Abannondoned! I’ll believe it when I see it. Update + 1

[ 0 ] August 18, 2017 |

Free to a good home: Man-sized carbuncle that thinks whites are superior to everyone else, despite the evidence presented by its mirror and the people around it. Not recommended for homes with children, pets, adults or anyone who doesn’t want a white supremacist auto-fellating itself on the living room couch.

President Trump has told senior aides that he has decided to remove Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist who helped Mr. Trump win the 2016 election, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion.

The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon.

With some sort of trebuchet, would be my recommendation.

The two administration officials cautioned that Mr. Trump is known to be averse to confrontation within his inner circle, and could decide to keep on Mr. Bannon for some time.

You’re fired! See you on Monday.

A person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but it was delayed in the wake of the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

Napoleorange needed him to write his pro-supremacy rants.

Even if he does go, I expect he’ll continue to piss out on behalf of tRump. One way to tell will be the response at Blightshart. Unfortunately this will mean reading Blightshart.


He’s gone. Thanks to commentarian Monty for the alert.

The Blight of Sharts is going with He wasn’t pushed, he jumped! Much angst in the comments.

What happening is even ?

Bannon Out

[ 0 ] August 18, 2017 |

Reports say.

As with many Trump hangers-on, it’s not clear if this means something, or is just a formality — a lot of these guys check out but can never leave.  Either way, Trump will remain a white supremacist who will advance the Republican economic and regulatory agenda.

Showing His Assange

[ 0 ] August 18, 2017 |

Above: Donald J. Trump (l.), Julian Assange (r.)

To follow-up on Paul’s note yesterday that WikiLeaks withheld Russian intel, this New Yorker profile of Assange is worth reading, and is all the more devastating for being written by someone who admire(d?) him. I found this amusing:

At the start of this year, as the allegations grew that Assange had facilitated an act of Russian information warfare, his closest friends strove to offer a protective circle of support. “This wholesale campaign to portray Julian as a supporter of Trump has done a great deal of damage,” Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, told me.

This “portrayal” is so damaging…because it’s indisputably accurate. Even in real time it was obvious — the piecemeal release of information at strategic points during the campaign, and the way it was framed when released, made it blindingly obvious. The best you can do is to say he was more anti-Clinton than pro-Trump, but…in a zero-sum contest it’s a distinction wholly without a difference. This describes many Trump voters, and their votes have exactly the same effect as votes from his fans.

None of this lets the media off the hook — given both the privacy interests at stake and the obvious agenda WikiLeaks had, the leaks should have been treated with skepticism, but were often treated with pretty much the opposite of that. Because of whatever combination of the Clinton Rules, the assumption that Clinton would win, and a desire by some sources to keep re-litigating the primaries, the WikiLeaks spin on innocuous material was often advanced uncritically. This doesn’t make its agenda any less obvious.

And he doesn’t really deny it, and is also really clear that he doesn’t think women and their perfidy belong in positions of power:

The day that the arrest warrant was announced, Assange sent me a message with a smiley-face emoticon. “I’m in my element,” he told me. “Battles with governments come easy. Battles with treacherous women are another matter.” It was our first conversation about the investigation in Sweden, and I asked him what the case was about. “It perplexed me to begin with,” he said. “I understand where they’re at now, though.” He spoke of Sweden’s “very, very poor judicial system,” weakened by external political meddling, careerism, and a culture of “crazed radical feminist ideology.


In his view, Clinton was corrupt, pathetically driven by personal ambition, a neoliberal interventionist destined to take the United States into war—the epitome of a political establishment that deserved to be permanently ousted. In February, 2016, he wrote a rare editorial on the WikiLeaks Web site declaring Clinton unfit for office. The piece cited video footage, from 2011, which showed Clinton learning that Muammar Qaddafi had been killed. “We came! We saw! He died!” she declared, laughing—a reaction that prompted Assange to write, “Hillary’s problem is not just that she’s a war hawk. She’s a war hawk with bad judgment who gets an unseemly emotional rush out of killing people. She shouldn’t be let near a gun shop, let alone an army. And she certainly should not become president of the United States.” Only Assange knows whether sexism informed his dislike of her. But he often speaks with disdain about feminism generally, and in unguarded moments he is liable to comment on essential distinctions between the sexes. In 2010, when Julia Gillard became Australia’s Prime Minister, he told me scornfully that the incumbent, Kevin Rudd, “just got rolled . . . by a woman.”


In a later conversation, I urged him to articulate a coherent view of Trump, but the prospect seemed to pain him. “It’s hard to sum up in the current climate of polarization,” he told me. It seemed his main concern was that by criticizing Trump he would somehow appear to validate the previous norms of American politics. “Governments are evil,” he told me. “The last government was evil. This government is evil. Does the Trump Administration appear to have a potential to be uniquely bad? Maybe. But in many other respects it’s the same problem that existed under Obama. The difference is that now everyone is talking about it. What is associated with this Administration is a certain aggressive rhetoric, which can make the problem worse if people accept it; on the other hand, it also makes everyone pay attention to problems that have been there for a long time.” He told me that, whatever Trump’s flaws, his Administration had the capacity to challenge entrenched power in Washington, and to disrupt the structure of American power overseas. “I will give you a list of counterintuitive structural positives,” he told me. Several days later, he presented a set of ideas that could be distilled into one: “A complaint from civil libertarians and constitutional scholars is that the power of the Presidency is too strong. O.K., it has been reduced now.”

The contradictions are heightening nicely!

Anyway, there’s no mystery here. Assange supported Trump because he’s a libertarian who wanted Trump to win. The end.


[ 0 ] August 18, 2017 |

I was going to make a joke about Trump being rambling and incoherent during his impromptu press conference where he tried to  bothsides literal nazism, but honestly he was more lucid and coherent than he normally is. So now we know what animates him, what he feels passionate about. Turns out it it’s white supremacy! But while the whole thing was a buffet of insanity my favorite part was when he complained about antifa not having permits. Yes, if we’re fighting nazis let’s make sure we have the proper forms in order!

Anyway, let’s check in what The Federalist has to say about–…..Oh.

Don’t…Blue Lives…Matter anymore? *sad face emoji*

Trump Spoke the Truth about “Both Sides” and the Media Lost Its Mind

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Hall

[ 0 ] August 18, 2017 |

But leave your guns at home. – The ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took a new stance on firearms Thursday, announcing a change in policy that it would not represent hate groups who demonstrate with firearms.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero told the Wall Street Journal that the group would have stricter screenings and take legal requests from white supremacist groups on a case-by-case basis.

“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Romero told the Journal. “If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else.”

I’m sure Jay Sekulow’s law firm – The American Center for initials that look a bit like the ACLU would love to help them out.

While I agree with the ACLU’s decision, I can’t see how they’ll implement such a policy. If a bunch of thugs are willing to commit acts of violence to get their way, they’re not going to stick at a lie to the ACLU. And in open carry states they can claim the guys who showed up toting heavy weaponry aren’t with them. But perhaps the existence of a gun-unfriendly policy will be enough to repel them.

Flashback Friday: The Enduring Legacy Of “Strange Fruit”

[ 0 ] August 18, 2017 |

A song made by a Jewish man and a black woman about Southern violence still resonates.


The events in Charlottesville last weekend has stuck in my mind in a way that few other incidents during this tumultuous administration have. I come from a southern family, though I was not born nor raised in “The South”. My father’s side of the family left The South for opportunities in Florida and maintained a disgust for the racial politics they witnessed there. We knew that we had Confederate ancestors, but it was a novelty not a celebration. The “heritage” our former neighbors claimed meant very little to us. I can’t speak for everyone who shares my surname from The South, but I’ve got no ties to those statues racists pretend is meant to honor me. Take them down, if for no other reason that it would be kind to our black neighbors and that’s the real Southern heritage right there. Replace it with a monument to sweet tea.

Given that bit of biography, I felt it important to delve into the history of a classic American song this week that exposed the horrors associated with the Confederacy. “Strange Fruit” was originally written by Abel Meeropol, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants to New York, in 1936 under the name Lewis Allan. Jews had also been the victims of lynchings by racist mobs in America and Meeropol had been particularly horrified by a photo of a lynching he had seen when he wrote the poem. It was not uncommon to find such photos as souvenirs of “justice delivered”. A website for the book “Without Sanctuary” has more educational details on the prevalence of such photos.

Meeropol had started to put his words to music when he brought it to a 23 year old Billie Holiday, a rising star. Documentarian Dorian Lynskey describes how Holiday and her band set up the performance of the song at a Harlem club:

Josephson, a natural showman, knew there was no point slipping Strange Fruit into the body of the set and pretending it was just another song. He drew up some rules: first, Holiday would close all three of her nightly sets with it; second, the waiters would halt all service beforehand; third, the whole room would be in darkness but for a sharp, bright spotlight on Holiday’s face; fourth, there would be no encore. “People had to remember Strange Fruit, get their insides burned by it,” he explained.

It was not, by any stretch, a song for every occasion. It infected the air in the room, cut conversation stone dead, left drinks untouched, cigarettes unlit. Customers either clapped till their hands were sore, or walked out in disgust.

Columbia Records refused to let Holiday record it for the masses so it went to Commodore. The song had a massive impact and it was Holiday’s particular performance of it that moved people so much. In 1999, Time magazine listed it among the greatest 100 songs of the century.

Since then, a number of black and white artists have sung the song, each making a unique statement about the racism in their present context. For this round up, I’m only going to feature those notable performances done by black women.

Nina Simone (1965)

This might perhaps be the most iconic cover of the song, given the enormity of Nina Simone’s presence and legacy in the Civil Rights movement. It was even sampled by Kanye West for his song  2013 “Blood On The Leaves”.

Diana Ross (1972)

Diana Ross played Billie Holiday in the film based on her biography, Lady Sings The Blues. In the movie, Billie comes across a mourning procession of what is implied is a lynching victim and the song begins. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Original Song and Score.

Jill Scott (2015)

This version was sung as part of the “Shining A Light Concert: A Concert for Progress On Race Relations in America” following the murder of nine people at a historically black church in South Carolina by a white supremacist.


Other versions include Jeff Buckley in 1993,  India.Arie in 2003, John Legend in 2010, Annie Lennox in 2014. NPR also has a recording where the song is mixed with the Confederate anthem Dixie by Rene Marie. YouTube has a number of videos where the song is set to a montage of historical lynching images, which you may peruse at your own risk.


Which version touches you the most?

USS Fitzgerald

[ 0 ] August 17, 2017 |
170617-N-XN177-155 damaged Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) in June 2017.JPG

USS Fitzgerald after collision. By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart, Public Domain.

The Navy has released a report on the events leading to and immediately following the collision between the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and merchant vessel ACX Crystal.  Well worth your time, especially if you did not find the depiction of sinking in Dunkirk sufficiently harrowing (see especially points 28 and 29).

But hey, how’s infrastructure week going?

[ 0 ] August 17, 2017 |

Time for another solo on le trombone du tristesse.

President Donald Trump has scrapped plans for an infrastructure advisory council after two similar panels dissolved this week amid backlash to Trump from corporate America.

“The President’s Advisory Council on Infrastructure, which was still being formed, will not move forward,” a White House official told CNBC.

Trump signed an executive order to start setting up the council last month. A nonprofit had sued the Trump administration over the council, saying the president tried to set it up without the require public disclosures, according to The New York Times.

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