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Brexiting on Tuesday Morning: the Future of the Empire, and Fresh Numbers

[ 33 ] June 21, 2016 |

NI

A couple days ago an American friend posted this to an email list we’re on (original purpose: beer geekery) and requested some commentary. I had read it that morning, so I sent the list some assessment. (For the record, this request for commentary was made not only to the beer list’s resident political scientist, but also our resident Scot who has lived in Manchester the past 25-odd years).

The basic thrust of this Guardian piece is that the core of Brexit support is English nationalism.  Not British nationalism, not UK-ish nationalism, but specifically English nationalism. And it rings true based on what I’ve seen, discussions I’ve had, and the rather impressive immutability of the Brexit support. It’s emotional, not rational:

When you strip away the rhetoric, Brexit is an English nationalist movement. If the Leave side wins the referendum, it will almost certainly be without a majority in either Scotland or Northern Ireland and perhaps without winning Wales either. The passion that animates it is English self-assertion. And the inexorable logic of Brexit is the logic of English nationalism: the birth of a new nation state bounded by the Channel and the Tweed.

The advent of devolution to Scotland and (to a lesser extent) Wales inflamed a segment of the English populace, then there’s the difficult-to-measure sovereignty-sapping forces of globalisation that are perceived to be screwing everybody. Here, the EU represents a very tangible, mis-understood (on the left and right) symbol of globalisation. It’s an easy target. And as I said in that Foreign Entanglements thing Farley and I recorded on Thursday, the EU referendum gives those on the right and left the ability to snub the elite, consequences be damned.

That said, what are the ramifications? Given current polling, it’s probable that should Brexit win, it will only win in England. Remain will win overwhelmingly in Scotland, comfortably in Northern Ireland, and a bit narrower in Wales. Thus, the basic ingredients for a typically British constitutional crisis are available in the kitchen. This is especially true given that the enabling legislation for the Scottish Parliament (Scotland Act 1998) requires Scottish law to be consistent with EU law.

It’s also possible that there’s a second referendum in the wake of a settlement, for the UK to accept it. Remember, the current parliament is heavily pro-remain. It’s not fanciful to imagine a well crafted sleight of hand where said parliament puts a settlement that is not favorable to the UK to another referendum vote. Indeed, if Cameron somehow hangs on as PM following a Brexit result (and it’s a huge if), I see this as a probable outcome.  Also possible, considering how the Tories have gone through self-immolation, Cameron immediately stands down, and there’s a snap election following a Brexit vote. Given current polling, the Tories win, with perhaps a reduced majority. Or, less likely, some form of a Labour or a Lab-SNP coalition assumes power. If the latter, it’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where there’s a second referendum.

What must be understood about the mythical British constitution is that the people are not sovereign as in the US. Parliament is sovereign. Parliament would be within its constitutional rights to flat out ignore the results of the referendum. Technically, these are merely advisory in the British system. It would be politically problematic, but not beyond the possible.

It’s common to suggest that Scotland will hold a second independence referendum with alacrity. A second Scottish referendum is possible to probable in the wake of a Brexit vote, but it won’t be immediate. It will take up to two years to negotiate Article 50 (which is the legal mechanism within EU treaties for any member leaving). Unlike 2014, commodity prices (i.e. oil and gas) have cratered, so the logic of Scotland going it alone outside the UK has less economic attraction (if it ever really did). Furthermore, a freshly-independent Scotland would face the same problems vis-a-vis the EU as it would have done in 2014: it would have to apply for accession as with any other state. Granted, given EU law is already woven into the fabric of Scottish law, accession would be easier and quicker than, say, Albania or Turkey (ironic considering one of the many outright lies of the Brexit campaign is that Turkish membership, and millions of Turkish immigrants, are right around the corner should we stay in the EU, and there’s nothing the UK can do about it!!!)  All said, Scottish independence is possible, but it won’t happen quickly.

A big, key question only slightly touched on in this piece is the Irish border and the future of the Good Friday agreement. Britain and Ireland have long had open borders. Since 1923, that border has been part of the “common travel area”. Of course, during the troubles, there were military checkpoints, and until the early 1990s random customs checks did happen, but right now, in crossing the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, you’d likely never even notice. This is true for any port of departure / port of entry combination between the Republic and the UK: I once flew from Dublin to Plymouth (back when Plymouth had this thing modern civilizations call airports) and there were no border controls. It was as easy as flying from Seattle to Portland. In some ways, easier.

Here’s the rub. Neither Ireland nor the UK are in the Schengen free-travel zone, but they have their own free-travel area. As a significant component of support for Brexit is controlling immigration, something will have to be done about that. On the British side of things, a post-Brexit Britain would want to ensure than anybody getting into Ireland isn’t likewise capable of wandering into Britain. While free movement of labor will cease once leaving the EU (unless the UK wants to stay in the free trade area, at which it would have to accept free movement, but then that undermines the entire argument for leaving in the first place) a key plank of the leave campaign has been all about border control. There would be a controlled border in Ireland. But it might not even be up to the British: the European Union would likely ensure that border is effectively a proper border: passports, customs, etc. That’s going to significantly fuck with the economy of Northern Ireland.

But not enough for Northern Ireland to leave the union and unify with the Republic or (shudder) go it alone. Those who support both the DUP and UUP would be (possibly violently) opposed to leaving the UK, and there’s not enough public support for unification at present. While leaving the EU and the introduction of a controlled border will likely inflame nationalist and especially republican sentiment in Northern Ireland, and lead to calls for a unification referendum, written into the Good Friday Agreement is the constitutional requirement that any unification vote is limited to the electors of Northern Ireland.  NI will stick with (a possibly rump) United Kingdom.

Wales? Even though they beat the crap out of Russia last night in Euro 2016, Wales hasn’t ever really been an independent state. I would be astonished, even if the UK votes Brexit yet Wales (as is probable) votes remain, that Wales would want independence. Plaid Cymru might gain in support.  However, unlike in Scotland, legal, political, educational (et al.) frameworks are largely the same between England and Wales. Scotland has its own legal system, its own laws, its own education system (strange fact: university education in Scotland is four years, not three like in England and Wales. It’s also free for the Scots, whereas here it’s £9000 per year), and a much stronger parliament than the little Welsh Assembly. Scotland was allowed to retain all that it developed with the Act of Union 1707. Wales never really had the chance to develop an indigenous legal or political structure that would be recognisable as such to a post Westphalian observer.

But, they beat the crap out of Russia, while England couldn’t nick a goal against Slovakia.

Current Polling

I’ve downgraded the threat level on the referendum from freaking out last Thursday to cautiously pessimistic. Three new polls were released overnight (although one is based on fieldwork dating back to 16 May, so ignore). While mixed depending on how one interprets them, they both suggest that the shift to remain over the past week has consolidated into “bloody close”.

Number Cruncher Politics (whom I followed last year in the run-in to the general, and should have listened to) were on either BBC R4 or WS last night as I was falling asleep, and forecast the same 52-48 remain vote that I was spouting until about ten days ago. You can see their assessment and unpick their methodology here. Their “nowcast” is 51-49, forecast 52-48.

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MaxSpeak, You Listen!

[ 30 ] June 21, 2016 |

Last fall, OG economics blogger MaxSpeak predicted that Trump would be the Republican nominee. I still thought that was enormously unlikely, so I took him up on his offer to bet. My end of the bet was to offer him the keys to LGM for a day. Not really too painful, since I always liked his writing. And, so, he will be addressing you neoliberal shills today. Enjoy, and be tough but fair!

$1,289,507.76

[ 124 ] June 20, 2016 |

trainwreck-review-1

POP QUIZ

The figure above is:

a. The price of a the median one-bedroom apartment in Park Slope.
b. The amount Ryan Howard has been paid per RBI since 2011.
c. The amount per annum I would require before submitting to daily screenings selected from the works of Michael Bay.
d. The cash on hand the Republican nominee for president had at the end of the last reporting period.
Answer.

…as dmsilev observes in comments, Trump is charging his cash-starved campaign roughly $200 K a month in rent. And Trump is on his own payroll (correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this is highly unusual.) In other words, it would seem to be like his other grifts. If you evaluate Trump’s presidential campaign based on obsolete metrics like whether it will help him become president, it’s a disaster. If you evaluate it based on whether it provides Trump the opportunity to loot gullible people while generating publicity, it would seem to be a smashing success.

…and:

Dumble Down: The Changing of the Game

[ 62 ] June 20, 2016 |
Merci to commentivist keta. I think.

Merci to commentivist keta. I think.

What if, instead of putting Trump’s brain in Bill the Cat’s body, they put Bill the Cat’s brain in Trump’s body? And other ponderments.

If you want more Halperin, here he is on how Lewandowski’s exit from Camp Trump gives the campaign a chance to be more traditionally presidential. Or something.

But with Lewandowski departing, there’s now a chance for the campaign to both, as I said, turn the page on the narrative of things and say yes, we understand things are not going the right way, and for those associated with Paul Manafort to make the kind of changes and the kind of hiring decisions that they wanted to make.

[…]

Well, look, there’s plenty of people who believe, and I believe Paul Manafort is one of them, that you can do what Corey Lewandowski preached, let Trump be Trump. Take the benefits and the skills of Donald Trump, which are clear. The guy can get a lot of media attention, he can drive a message, he can rally a crowd. Take all those things, but marry them up to a more traditional campaign.

Trump has had lots of practice getting married. But I would suggest the traditional campaign get a pre nup. Just in case.

Maureen Dowd, Shrewd Judge of Human Character

[ 48 ] June 20, 2016 |

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As Atrios always says, leaving aside the merits of the theater critic approach to political punditry (which have always struck me as scant), most of its practitioners are really terrible even on their own terms. Maureen Dowd, of course, has a ratio of theater criticism:actual politics that approaches 100:0, and yet is notably inept the former.  for example:

Having seen Donald Trump as a braggadocious but benign celebrity in New York for decades, I did not regard him as the apotheosis of evil.

In fact, throughout this period Trump was systematically bilking people out of their money with an endless parade of scams. Why, it’s almost as if forming a vague first impression based on some superficial characteristic and never thinking to revise it doesn’t really work.

As for the rest of the column, I think I’ll just outsource:

Corporate SM

[ 62 ] June 20, 2016 |

Hello, Hugo Award nominated author Dr. Chuck Tingle? Have I got a story idea for you!

DennysDream

My source of pay checks and health insurance makes the occasional feint towards the wonderful world of social media. But the powers-that-be would rather we spend our time doing things that generate money, and since they’re not convinced that increasing our presence on SM will generate more cash, our current SM policy is very informal.

Or it could be they’re worried we’d get bored and do something weird.

Bernie’s Staff Going to Clinton’s Campaign

[ 42 ] June 20, 2016 |

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To what extent Bernie Sanders’ success among young people was due to especially skilled campaign staffers, I cannot really say, but I suppose it’s an encouraging sign that Sanders’ director of student organizing, Kunoor Ohja, has taken a job with the Clinton campaign as her national campus and student organizing director.

Reductio ad Derpum

[ 88 ] June 20, 2016 |

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BERNIE DEAD-ENDER #1: “What have you done for the revolution today, comrade?”

BERNIE DEAD-ENDER #2: “I sent 50 BLISTERING tweets each to five women who remain unconvinced that the question of which liberal is the Democratic nominee for president and how far to the left of the median vote of a Republican House the next Democratic president is constitutes a question of apocalyptic significance. Some may even engage in the counterrevolutionary act of voting for Hillary Clinton.”

#1: “Brilliant! The end of capitalism is surely imminent!”

#2: “And, yet, I am tired by such intense intellectual labors. Perhaps we could try something a little more cheeky.”

#1: “I know!”

Philadelphia: Cheri Honkala, the leader of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, announced that her group was organizing the world’s largest “fart-in” to be held on July 28 at the Wells Fargo Center during Hillary Clinton’s anticipated acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination.

“We will be holding a massive bean supper for Bernie Sanders delegates on American Street in my Kensington neighborhood on the afternoon of July 28,” she said. “We are setting up a Clintonville there, modeled on the Hoovervilles of the 1930s where the poor and unemployed built shanty towns. The Sanders delegates, their bellies full of beans, will be able to return to the Wells Fargo Center and greet the rhetorical flatulence of Hillary Clinton with the real thing.”

Honkala said she would issue an invitation to Sanders to join the bean supper, which she is calling Beans for Hillary. She has asked donors to send cans of beans to 1301-W Porter Street, Philadelphia, Pa., 19148.

“Any remaining beans will be served to the homeless, although we will, of course, be urging Sanders delegates to eat as much as possible,” Honkala said.

Chris Hedges, an author and activist who is an ordained Presbyterian minister, will open the Beans for Hillary meal with a nondenominational prayer.

“I am happy to bless a meal that will be put to such effective political use,” Hedges said.

“The Democratic primary process, as Sanders supporters now realize, was rigged from the start,” said Hedges, a Pulitzer-prize winning former New York Times foreign correspondent. “The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton machine used a variety of mechanisms to game the elections including the appointing of superdelgates, the banning of independent voters from numerous primaries, purging voters from voting lists and using millions in dark money and from Super PACs to fund the Clinton campaign. Caucuses, as we saw in Nevada, were shamelessly manipulated on behalf of Clinton. Sanders never had a chance.”

#2: “Brilliant! If Chris Hedges thinks something is politically effective, you know it’s pure genius!”

#1: “And when people hear him explain how the DNC rigged everything by allowing the candidate who had far more votes and pledged delegates to become the nominee, surely they will rise up and depose the neoliberal Jill Stein agrees with 90% of the time for the hardcore socialist she agrees with 95% of the time.”

#2: “Indeed! Make sure people have plenty of practice using their armpits too.”

#1: “Oh, I think everyone’s already in fighting shape there.”

[Exeunt.]

Bernie and Labor

[ 119 ] June 20, 2016 |

Sanders picketline_1

One more postmortem of the 2016 primary. Joe Burns writes in Jacobin that what labor needs to learn from the Sanders campaign is to reintegrate radicalism into its thinking. A lot of it is just revisiting the anti-communist purges of the CIO and decrying the lack of radicalism in the labor movement, underpinned with anger that the unions backed Hillary Clinton instead of Bernie Sanders.

Reintroducing class struggle into trade unionism also necessitates having a serious discussion about the state of labor’s reform-minded wing. Supportive of diffuse activism, this broad coalition includes true reformers and those who, in the past, would have been considered collaborationist hacks.

Many in labor embrace what could be called “labor pragmatism” — initiatives that try to fight smart within the existing system, like the inside strategy, the corporate campaign, and the one-day strike.

All of these are sensible strategies for workers forced to struggle within an unjust framework of labor control. But because they do not challenge the underlying paradigm, they cannot revive the labor movement.

Many in labor’s progressive wing favor the phrase “social movement unionism” to describe a form of unionism that emphasizes community ties and rejects narrow unionism. This is particularly true in public-sector unions, which live or die based on public support.

Social movement unionism is a broad concept that can encompass a wide range of activities, from the class-struggle approach of the Chicago Teachers Union to staff-driven models more akin to business unionism.

It’s time to move beyond these concepts and toward a more Sanders-inspired vision of labor organizing, which puts our fight in the context of the struggle between the 1 percent and the rest of the population.

Class-struggle unionism incorporates the broad demands of social movement unionism into a workplace-centered struggle against management.

So what would a “Sanders-inspired vision of labor organizing” really look like?

Reestablishing effective trade unionism requires a number of concrete actions. We must develop forms of solidarity that move beyond just fighting a single employer and instead confront capital as a class. We must constrain capital’s mobility and cultivate solidarity across borders.

We must disregard the “property rights” of employers and be willing to flout labor law itself. We must resist the constant pressure to collaborate rather than fight. Fundamentally, we must put workers and struggle back at the center of trade unionism.

None of this is possible in a labor movement that spurns socialist ideas.

Here is the basic problem: over the last eighty years, an aggressive capitalist order has reshaped trade unionism. Collective bargaining is now confined to individual corporations, so the union is captive to each employer’s business decisions.

The profits extracted from workplaces flow largely to capitalists, and workers have no say over the distribution of the wealth they create.

While a web of rules created by the NLRB and the courts have granted this status quo legal legitimacy, today’s labor policies are merely capital’s worldview imposed on the labor movement.

Without a socialist analysis, economic shifts look like forces of nature rather than human creations. Issues like capital flight, subcontracting, or corporate globalization are taken as givens, impossible for any labor movement to resist.

A socialist trade unionism, on the other hand, would demand that capital be bent to labor’s needs.

Past moments in the labor movement — like the AFL’s closed-shop era, when unions controlled hiring decisions and worker education, or the CIO’s solidarity unionism, which brought hundreds of enterprises under the same master agreements and used industry-wide strikes to halt production — remind us that this is possible.

And so has Sanders’s run. In a refreshing challenge to the neoliberal views of Hillary Clinton (and much of the labor establishment that backs her), Sanders has promised to direct societal resources away from the banks to rebuild inner cities, create jobs, and provide free college education.

Applying his vision to trade unionism means rejecting the idea that capital has an inherent right to do what it wishes to our jobs and our communities.

OK, I guess. But this feels a lot more like sloganeering than really analyzing the critical issues with the labor movement. It also papers over a lot of history–the AFL unions that controlled hiring halls used them to exclude black workers, for instance. Flouting labor law is fine, but sometimes can lead to the president crushing your entire union and setting the entire labor movement back. I obviously agree that constraining capital mobility is absolutely central for the ability of the working class to survive. I wrote a book about that very topic. And a socialist analysis does provide some ways forward on these topics. On the other hand, so does our current legal system, which is very much not socialist and not used to socialist ends, but could be used to accomplish some of these policy goals. A labor movement committed to socialism might be useful, but then the labor movement is already committed to a lot of socialist policies if they could be enacted, although there’s no question that unions will often make short-term decisions that undermine the long-term interests of the working class, such as working for minimum wage carve-outs for its own members.

Moreover, I just don’t really see what Bernie Sanders had to do with an entirely new radical approach. Is he calling for the illegal occupation of corporate property? I just feel that there’s a whole lot of projection on the left to Sanders, who see in him what they want to see instead of what he actually is–a good left-liberal on most policy issues with a talent for a certain kind of rhetoric that appeals to 60s radicals and their descendants. And that’s fine I guess, but I’m still struggling to see how Bernie Sanders is that far to the left of Hillary Clinton on most policy issues. He’s a bit to the left on many and the proposal for free college tuition is a good goal, even if the details really need to be spelled out. But she’s not a monster and he’s not a savior.

Finally, I need to know how this actually works on the ground if unions start occupying buildings, ignoring labor law, defy the NLRB, etc. I also need to know how to explain the very real risks involved to rank and file workers.

I guess all this means is that I’m a bad leftist for wanting policy analysis and complexity in my social movements instead of sloganeering. If we just had more solidarity, everything would be better! But those Big Labor bureaucrats sold out the working class once again by supporting Hillary over a man who has similar beliefs on many issues, just a different way of talking about them. And that’s of course a lot of what this whole article is about–the endless battle within the labor movement between pragmatism and radicalism that radicals almost never win because they struggle to bring the rank and file of the unions around to these vague ideas of action and solidarity.

The Trump “Campaign” Rolls On

[ 302 ] June 20, 2016 |

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The Donald’s campaign is pretty much an empty shell:

Donald Trump, reports Maggie Haberman, has fired Corey Lewandowski in what could be seen as either the most recent campaign shake-up, or merely the latest iteration of an endless power struggle that has seen figures like Lewandowski, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort cycle in and out of the candidate’s earshot. When the operation in question is a garbage fire like the Trump-for-president operation, terms like “campaign manager,” which imply a cohesive entity that is managed in some hierarchical fashion, may not even apply.

Trump’s campaign, reports the Associated Press, has 30 paid staff on the ground across the United States of America.

Let’s pause here for a second, because that’s amazing. This isn’t a campaign making some dubious choices; this is a campaign that falls so far below minimum professional standards it’s barely a campaign at all.

That is a smaller number than the Hillary Clinton campaign has in many states. Clinton’s massive ground advantage is supplemented by an even more massive television-advertising advantage. The current ratio of Clinton to Trump television-ad spending in battleground states is one to zero. (Data via NBC News, chart via the Washington Post.)

Trump has previously vowed to campaign in deep-blue states like New York, California, and Maryland, where no Republican could win. He has devoted at least some of his scarce resources to this hopeless goal. Meanwhile, polls show him locked in a close race in overwhelmingly Republican Utah, where he has promised the state’s party chairman he will spend campaign time to lock down the Republican vote. If you’re a Republican presidential candidate devoting resources to Utah, that’s real bad. Trump is also spending some of his time this week on a trip to Scotland, where he will visit a golf course and discuss the Brexit vote. Scotland is not represented in the Electoral College and has very few eligible voters.

The liberal media will surely rue the day it questioned the brilliance of Trump’s plan to plaster Utica with bumper stickers. (Also, it really says a lot about Jeb! and Rubio that the guy beat them easily, all of it hilarious.) But if his staff is small, at least it must be well-organized, right?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is gathering his top lieutenants, including members of his family, in New York on Monday to discuss a political strategy shift as he looks to move beyond recent missteps.

Trump is facing pressure from within his own inner circle—including from donors—who are growing increasingly frustrated with what they see as a lack of coordination and communication, members of Trump’s staff told Bloomberg Politics, at a crucial moment in the presidential race.

There’s also a growing impatience among some on Trump’s payroll that the candidate has failed to fill key roles within his campaign, including traveling press secretary and communications director, while Democrat Hillary Clinton’s synchronized political machine capitalized on a string of negative Trump headlines.

My apologies for anyone involved in McGovern ’72 for invoking them in comparison to Trump.

…I love this detail from Olivia Nuzzi’s fine story about Trump’s PR person [via Anderson]:

Getting the most out of the star requires keeping him informed. While Trump nurses an obvious addiction to cable news, the reading that’s put in front of him is largely confined to a topic he already knows well. Every morning, staffers print out 30 to 50 Google News results for “Donald J. Trump.” He then goes at the sheaf with a marker, making circles and arrows and annotating things he likes or doesn’t like. The defaced article gets scanned and e-mailed to the journalist or the person quoted who has drawn Trump’s attention, under the subject line “From the office of Donald J. Trump.”

Textbooks and the Civil Rights Movement

[ 22 ] June 20, 2016 |
Rev. Ben Chavis, right, raises his fist as fellow protesters are taken to jail at the Warren County PCB landfill near Afton, North Carolina on Thursday, Sept. 16, 1982. Chavis is one of the members of the Wilmington 10. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)

Rev. Ben Chavis, right, raises his fist as fellow protesters are taken to jail at the Warren County PCB landfill near Afton, North Carolina on Thursday, Sept. 16, 1982. Chavis is one of the members of the Wilmington 10. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)

As I discussed in the Black Power post from a couple of days ago, the civil rights movement has no real start or end. It’s an ongoing series of struggles. The Civil Rights Movement we think of as having primarily existed between 1954 and 1965 is really just a moment where the black freedom struggle coincided with a peak of white liberalism that opened political space to change some of the laws oppressing African-Americans. It’s unfortunate that we so often think of the movement in this way because doing so erases the long-term systemic racism that oppressed black people before, during, and after this period. It’s also unfortunate that this periodization dominates American history textbooks, where other than mentions of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s, the civil rights struggle after 1965 is scarcely mentioned, if at all. Adam Sanchez calls for the teaching of the “long civil rights movement,” focusing on the post-1965 struggles, as well as the 1954-65 period.

Far from being the end of the Civil Rights Movement, 1965 marked a legislative milestone and provided activists with another tool. But the new legislation was not a solution to the problems people had been organizing against for many years. In the North and the South, activists continued to confront poverty, unemployment, lack of health care, poor housing, inadequate education, and police and sheriff brutality.

U.S. history textbooks fail to look deeply at the urban rebellions, Martin Luther King’s campaigns against war and poverty, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, and the rise of the Black Panther Party. And there are countless other post-1965 events that should be brought into the classroom: the Memphis Sanitation workers’ strike and the subsequent workers’ struggles of the 1970s, the Orangeburg Massacre, the fight for Ethnic Studies programs, the national campaign for welfare rights, the Attica Prison Uprising, the battle over segregated schools in Boston and community control in New York, the fight in the South to ensure the Voting Rights Act was put into practice, and many more.

The shallow understanding of the Civil Rights Movement that my students brought to class goes beyond not knowing post-1965 events. As historian Jeanne Theoharis has noted, before the Watts Rebellion there was more than two decades of nonviolent activism against legalized segregation in Los Angeles. And in 1963, after what is widely taught as a successful nonviolent struggle to desegregate downtown Birmingham, Alabama, 2,000 African Americans, fed up after segregationists bombed hotels that housed movement leaders, turned to violence. They threw rocks and bricks, looted stores, and set fire to a nearby grocery. Despite the fact that this precipitated Kennedy’s endorsement of the Civil Rights Act, this violence is often left out of the story of Birmingham, just as nonviolent activism is left out of the story of Watts.

What this example reveals and what a growing work of scholarship argues, is that we have been sold a narrative of the movement that ignores enormous parts of Civil Rights history. By mythologizing a successful, exclusively nonviolent struggle against racial segregation in the South that becomes a polarizing call for Black Power as it moves North after 1965, we leave out struggles across the country that don’t fit this stereotype.

We should replace this limited narrative, these scholars argue, with one of “The Long Civil Rights Movement,” a national Black freedom struggle rooted in struggles of the 1930s and extended through the 1970s, that used self-defense and nonviolent direct action, that dealt with issues of race and class, that developed international solidarity, and participated in countless local struggles in the North and South.

In classrooms across the country, guided by the official textbooks and curricula, students learn a version of the Civil Rights Movement that leaves its lessons in the past. School districts across the country should provide time for teachers to produce a people’s curriculum of the movement in order to teach the local histories that are left out of the official narrative. This way our students who we hope will join and shape today’s social movements can do so with knowledge and insight about what came before.

That last paragraph is really important because not only did the legal victories of civil rights start disappearing in the racist white backlash that began manifesting itself by 1965, but stopping our teaching of civil rights in that increasingly distant past is an overt political decision to downplay racism today. This is the sort of thing that allows conservatives to claim Martin Luther King as their own because of a couple of lines in one speech completely disconnected from context. Even King’s turn to democratic socialism, his opposition to Vietnam, his Chicago housing campaign, and his move to organizing a poor people’s movement is significantly downplayed in our historical narrative, and King’s the most celebrated figure in American civil rights. Dealing with racism today requires understanding racism of the past. Understanding Black Lives Matter and the Fight for $15 today requires placing these movements in context of the black freedom struggles not only of 60 and 50 years ago but of 20, 30, and 40 years ago.

Pleistocene Extinctions

[ 23 ] June 20, 2016 |

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New research suggesting the decline of the American megafauna was a combination of both climate change and human hunting happening at the same time. For a long time, there’s been a debate over whether the rapid extinction of so many large American mammals was because of the warming climates after the last Ice Age that turned a lot of grasslands into forests or whether it was because the first human residents of the Americas marching rapidly south through the Americas after being stuck in the Arctic for several thousands years wiped them out through hunting. The most sensible answer was always that it was a combination of the two factors and now it’s pretty clearly the case.

Luckily, there’s no connection between a rapidly warming climate and human interventions decimating wildlife today so we have nothing to worry about.

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