Sunday, January 27, 2008

Israeli checkpoints a modern Jim Crow?

There is a letter to the editor of the Quad-City Times by Art Pitz that takes issue with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s recent comments comparing the Palestinians feelings about Israeli checkpoints with her feelings as a southern black under Jim Crow. He claimed that the Israeli policy is a justifiable response to terrorism while Jim Crow was simply a means to maintain white supremacy. link

I wrote the following response:

Mr. Pitz,
You admit that the Palestinians feel about the Israeli checkpoints and other restrictions the same way that African-Americans felt about Jim Crow. You seem to be claiming that there is a fundamental difference between the two situations in how the other side feels about the situation. The Israelis feel that their policies are justified by the threat of terrorism -- the actions of a minority of the Palestinians (the vast majority of Palestinians are just trying to survive in a difficult situation). You contrast this with the situation in the American south during Jim Crow, where you seem to think that the white power structure would have freely admitted that their actions had no justification other than maintaining white supremacy. (You do not state it that way but your argument makes no sense unless that is what you are claiming.)

You should watch the movie 'Birth of a Nation' again. The argument for the Klu Klux Klan and Jim Crow by the whites was EXACTLY the same as the Israeli argument for checkpoints, etc. -- acts of violence by a few blacks against whites.

Your argument seems to be that the feelings of the Palestinians are of no importance as long as they do not influence American support for Israeli policies. As long as Americans can be persuaded that the Israeli domination of the Palestinians can be justified then the feelings of the Palestinians can be ignored.

Secretary Rice is right to compare the Palestinians under Israeli occupation to African-Americans under Jim Crow. Jim Crow did not end until a majority of Americans saw television images of little black girls terrorized on their way to school and black teenagers blasted with fire hoses and started to empathize with the African-Americans. The situation for the Palestinians will not change until the majority of Americans start to see the situation through Palestinian eyes. Americans might want to keep that in mind when they think about how few images of Palestinians they see on television.

An end to negative politics?

Wouldn’t it be great if the results of the Democratic primary in South Carolina, where Barak Obama won by a surprisingly large margin, signaled a new trend in American politics where negative, polarizing, attack politics are now counter-productive and almost always back-fire on the candidates that engage in them? Wouldn’t it be great if the new conventional wisdom among the political operatives and the media pundits became that the candidate who is most uniting and inspiring, who is seen to be trying to bring people together rather than pit groups against each other was the one most likely to win?

Although Hillary Clinton as president would be a vast improvement over George Bush and would be much better than any of the Republicans running, I am glad that her campaign’s decision to attack Barak Obama in the way they did in the last couple of weeks seems to have been counter-productive. Take a look at the last year of poll data in South Carolina here.

At the end of November Hillary’s support among voters peaked at 40% and has been sliding ever since. As Hillary’s support started slipping both Barak Obama’s and John Edwards’ numbers increased, so the change was not simply a move to Obama. Voters were deserting Hillary. The Clinton Campaign was obviously reacting to this trend as they went increasingly negative the last few weeks. The apparent result of their attacks was a spectacular rise in support for Barak Obama especially in the last few days where he went from about 45% in the polls a few days ago to 55% of vote yesterday.

Wouldn’t it be great if the result of the South Carolina Democratic primary was the start of a trend that resulted in the political elites coming to view a campaign strategy of trying to increase your opponent’s negatives rather than working to increase your candidate’s positives was something that no longer worked and was a losing strategy?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Memories of meeting FDR

I just got an email from my aunt who was born in 1926. She just remembered the time she met President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about 1939 or 1940. She lived in Des Moines, Iowa at this time. Her father had worked for Wallace's Farmer magazine in the 1920s and when Henry A. Wallace became Secretary of Agriculture during FDR's first 2 terms my grandfather went to work for the Department of Agriculture. His job required him to travel all over the country so the family remained in Iowa and he would rent a room when he was in Washington. My aunt's story:

This evening, [my husband] told me he was talking to a woman in the hall who was telling him about the time she shook Harry Truman's hand. And I said that the first president's hand I had shaken was FDR. And suddenly I remembered about that occasion. When I graduated from 8th grade, my father told me that because I had top honors in the county among the 8th grade graduates, he would take me with him to Washington the next time he had to go there for a week or two. that next time was that fall, October, I believe. He drove instead of taking the train, and in Washington we stayed with a Quaker family that rented rooms. In those days, Washington was smaller, safer, and less complicated, so I could spend the day walking or taking a taxi (they were much cheaper!) to all the things I wanted to see. One day I met him for lunch at the Dept. of Agriculture cafeteria, and then we went over to H. A. Wallace's office (he was secretary of agriculture then) because my father thought he would want to see me while I was there. It happened that H. A. was getting ready to go to a cabinet meeting. He took me with him and introduced me to the president before the meeting started. I don't remember any security upon entering, but perhaps there was some, but no one checked on me or asked me anything. Then I walked out of the White House and the White House grounds and went to the Smithsonian. The casual security sort of blows my mind when I think of it. We just walked in, but, of course, I was with someone who was known. I don't believe serious security started until the Second World War started.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Obama not pandering

Barak Obama spoke today at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once served as a pastor. In the speech he talked about institutionalized racism, the sensationalizing of race "by the media" and the creeping of race as an issue into the presidential campaign. But the part of the speech that will probably be most commented on was this section where he called on the black community to do more to counter homophobia, anti-semitism and xenophobia:

For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.


Obviously in this speech Barak Obama is not just telling people what they want to hear, as candidates running for office so often do. You won't hear this degree of candor and straight talk from the other candidates, even the one lauded by the media as being a straight-talker.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pandering to squirrel fryers

Last Wednesday Mike Huckabee, explaining to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough why he would do well in South Carolina, told the following anecdote:

When I was in college, we used to take a popcorn popper, because that was the only thing they would let us use in the dorm, and we would fry squirrels in a popcorn popper in the dorm room.

I will leave it to the voters of South Carolina to determine whether they should feel insulted by Mike Huckabee’s views concerning their dining preferences. But that story raises some questions in my mind that I have not seen asked elsewhere.

Where did Huckabee and his dorm mates get the raw squirrels? Were they road kill? If these college students got their squirrels the way most people get them then they would need rifles or shotguns. Did they keep their firearms in their dorm rooms? Did they shoot the squirrels there on campus or did they go off campus? Either way what did the other students think about all this? Was campus security concerned about these groups of armed students roaming around?

After contemplating these questions for a while I bet that you will start to suspect, as I do, that Mike’s story might not be on the up and up. Will the people who ranted and raved about Al Gore because they thought he made things up treat Mike Huckabee the same way? Don’t hold your breath! They hold Democrats to higher standards than they do Republicans.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More racists attacking Obama

An editorial in the Investor’s Business Daily says the following about Barak Obama
At the core of the Democratic front-runner's faith — whether lapsed Muslim, new Christian or some mixture of the two — is African nativism, which raises political issues of its own.

After repeating thoroughly debunked (see here and here) nonsense about Barak Obama’s church preaching separatism the editorial then asks what it claims is a valid question:
Would Obama put African tribal or family interests ahead of U.S. interests?


Of course that’s racist claptrap since there is no reason, other than his race, to ask that question about Barak Obama and not any of the other candidates.

Why not ask if the other candidates might put their ethnic or religious group and family ahead of the nation? Mitt Romney seems to be very family oriented and has a large family. Might not he be tempted to favor his family at the expense of the nation? It’s a good thing there are no Italians, Irish or Jews running. Those groups are famous for sticking with family no matter what. I guess if you were worried about such things you might want to support Rudy Giuliani. I’ve heard that his own children aren’t speaking to him so I guess he is unlikely to be tempted to sell out the country for their sake.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hillary -- a class act

I cannot support Hillary Clinton for president because she just does not “get it” about Iraq. But I have to admit that she is one tough lady and has shown a lot of class in the way she stood up to the hostility of the press and the pundits as they tried to bury her campaign after the Iowa caucuses—after having been declaring her the inevitable nominee for months.

Here is Rachel Maddow’s analysis of why so many New Hampshire voters decided on or switched to Hillary at the last minute, which I think is spot on.

I had to cheer when I read about Hillary's encounter yesterday with Chris Matthews, one of her most rabid critics. link

In case you were not aware of Chris Matthew’s obsession with Hillary, here MediaMatters documents some of it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

One million new immigrant voters

The Huffington Post blog reports that immigrants are applying for citizenship in record numbers:
A record one million immigrants sought US citizenship last year so they could vote in the 2008 presidential election, overwhelming the processing offices, Hispanic groups said on Monday.

read more

In the past Hispanics have voted in approximately equal numbers for Republicans and Democrats. However, with most of the Republican candidates for president competing with each other over who can sound the most anti-immigrant no one expects very many of these new immigrant citizens to be voting Republican in 2008.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Let's all march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (figuratively)

With each day that passes it appears more likely that Barak Obama will be the Democratic candidate for president in 2008. It also is clear that, although the great majority of the American public is sufficiently non-racist to consider his candidacy in a color-blind manner, there are enough racists and other types of bigots out there to cause considerable trouble. Since these people are almost all among the 30% or so of the voting population who will never vote for a Democratic candidate under any circumstances and without whom a Democratic candidate can still achieve a land-slide victory their opposition to Barak Obama’s candidacy does not in itself pose any problem.

The problems would only be if they are successful in spreading lies, rumors and distortions which, like the Swift-Boat Veterans attacks on John Kerry in 2004, sway under-informed undecided swing voters. As we learned in 2004, considering obvious lies and smears as being unworthy of a response is not a winning strategy. People of good will need to immediately respond to racist and bigoted talk about Barak Obama whenever and wherever they encounter it. Even if you do not support Barak Obama’s candidacy decency demands that this is the time to stand up to bigotry and lies.

Mitt Romney had been talking on the campaign trail about how he remembered seeing his father marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for civil rights. When people who had researched the issue and had documentation proving that Governor George Romney, Mitt’s father, had never actually marched with Dr. King (although he apparently shared most of Dr. King’s views on racial matters) asked the Romney campaign about this they explained that Mitt had not meant to imply that his father had literally marched. He had figuratively marched alongside Dr. King.

Well, ok. Let’s all figuratively march with Dr. King. When you hear someone trying to imply something negative about Obama because his middle name is Hussein ask what someone’s name has to do with anything. When someone says that they have heard Barak attended a Muslim religious school as a youngster tell them that CNN and ABC investigated those charges and refuted them. When someone talks about “those” Obama supporters who may riot if he loses or may be or do this or that, ask them what Obama supporters they mean—Iowans?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Democrats energized, Republicans dispirited

239,000 Iowans attended Democratic caucuses last night, while only 115,000 showed up to vote Republican. Young people, first-time caucus attendees, independents and cross-over Republicans swelled the Democratic ranks.

Some conservative bloggers have recently been trying to take comfort from poll results showing that Congress is unpopular to try to claim that the Democratic Party is in as much disfavor with the voting public as the Republicans. Iowans have shown how wrong that idea was.

Read Michael Moore’s analysis of the results of the Iowa caucuses.