Writing the next chapter on race

An essay by Judith Browne-Dianis, Co-Director Advancement Project, and crossposted with permission from Racewire.org.

For several months, the media has been pushing the fairy tale that the United States moved beyond racism with the election of President Obama. As untrue as that is, there are people who started acting on their post-racial fantasies years ago, eight years in fact, as the Bush Administration used that excuse to essentially stop enforcing the civil rights laws we already have. President Obama and his administration have the opportunity to take dramatic steps towards dismantling institutional racism and inequality by simply enforcing the laws that are already on the books. Rather than blindness or silence, taking this action requires us to live in reality so that we can change that reality.
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Ayn Rand stars at Denver stimulus ‘tea party’ protest

One hundred enthusiastic Atlas Shrugged fans braved chilly temperatures on the east steps of the Colorado capitol Friday as part of a nationwide “tea party” protest to rail against the federal stimulus package and the government, in general.

Beyond the typical conservative-Libertarian rhetoric was some practical advice on how to “shrug these parasites off our backs” like opening a black market in your own garage.
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La Commune: The Battle of Ideas

by gjohnsit, posted with permission

In June of 1940, with the victorious armies of Nazi Germany quickly approaching Paris, the French government prepared to flee to Bordeaux. According to Alistair Horne’s book, The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune, before the federal government left Paris they instructed the police chief and the police force under him to stay at their posts until the German troops arrived. At which point he was to turn over responsibility to the German commander.

Above all he was to prevent any and all public demonstrations.
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The New Republican Congressman on the Block

The November election saw Democratic blowouts all over the place, with even well entrenched Republican federal legislators going down to defeat. But one or two new Republican representatives squeaked into office. One is Glenn Thompson, representing a huge and mostly rural geographic district in central Pennsylvania. This is a district that includes Penn State’s main campus plus several of its branch campuses and a number of other colleges. It includes lots of decaying – once prosperous – industrial towns. And lots and lots of wilderness areas.

So what is life like for this new Republican kid on the block? And what can we expect from him?
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Making ‘Duck Soup’ out of 2009

A guest commentary by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship of PBS’ “Bill Moyers Journal” posted by permission for your reading pleasure:

As 2008 ends and this New Year begins, with all its fledgling promise despite turmoil and crisis, it’s also that time when the media offers its lists of ten best or worst this and that of the previous year, an exercise that simultaneously entertains and infuriates.
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Advocacy vs. cheerleading

I wonder if this good news will help to convince some Democrats that hard-nosed advocacy is more effective than silent hand-wringing or wishful thinking or worst of all, mere cheerleading for Democratic rule? That demanding reform is a mark of loyalty to their principles, rather than an embrace of the opposite? That the time to raise one’s voice is before, not after, disastrous ‘compromises’ have been set in stone? That Democratic politicians respond to pressure, not to its absence?

John Brennan, the deputy to George Tenet when the CIA was forging and implementing an array of illegal practices including the Bush administration’s torture regime, a man who has since then defended and justified Bush’s rendition, detention, and interrogation policies, was being widely touted as a likely choice to head the CIA under Barack Obama. This and several other liberal blogs decried the possibility, arguing that the next administration needed to break with the past and be seen to be doing so. And voila. Today Brennan announced that he was withdrawing his name from consideration for any intelligence posts in the next administration because of the opposition he has aroused. He did not want to be a distraction, he said.

Obama’s advisers had grown increasingly concerned in recent days over online blogs that accused Brennan of condoning harsh interrogation tactics on terror suspects, including waterboarding, which critics consider torture.

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How many Diebold voting machines failed in Pennsylvania?

What follows is a post written in the week after the election. Because it concerns an anomaly in election results that were then provisional, I delayed publishing it. As it turned out, the final results erased that anomaly – but in a way that suggests my original concerns may have been on target. An update at the end explains what I mean by that.

Are you certain that your vote was recorded and counted properly on November 4? If you live in Pennsylvania your answer may be “not at all”.

On primary day in April, I happened to hear a poll worker comment that the Diebold AccuVote TSx machines at our precinct in Lehigh County (PA) aren’t very credible. So I asked whether she trusted paperless DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) machines. She didn’t. As it turned out neither did any of the other poll workers there – nor the other voters waiting in line. Nobody seems to trust them. That in itself is reason enough to get rid of these damnable black box systems. Without trust, what is left of democracy?

Ultimately there’s no way of knowing whether those machines counted votes accurately in the April primary, or whether those votes were tabulated correctly. The very technology makes accountability impossible. As if that’s not bad enough, the (ironically named) AccuVote has a history of flawed performance. What’s more it can be hacked rather easily.

In fact, I see evidence that on Election Day one or more of these touch-screen machines in a local precinct may have failed to record as many as a few hundred votes in the presidential race.
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Bad coinage and worse history

There’s truth in the old saying that bad coinage chases out the good. When mediocre coinage gets passed off so easily that it becomes current, all the rest becomes debased down to a level with the worst. Very quickly people attach no particular value to what ought to be the more authentic specie.

Historical writings are subject to similar forces. What turns out to be popular and widely accepted very often is nearly the flimsiest stuff around. If they’re not actually counterfeit or hollow, popular histories may have the thinnest veneer of authentic learning applied over a core of semi-useless junk. The better histories, though hoarded by specialists, get undervalued and therefore pushed aside from public discourse. Undeterred by norms of accountability, myriad hackers churn out junk history at a phenomenal rate and thus pull the market standard down to their level.

So I wish good luck to Matthew Pinsker as he attempts to reverse the sudden devaluation of the histories of Abraham Lincoln’s administration.
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