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Archive for June, 2013

A Return to Literacy Tests? Take This.

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

How Many White Folks Does It Take to Pass a Jim Crow ‘Brain-Teaser’?

With the Supreme Court’s June 25 decision in Shelby County v. Holder overturning Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and with Republican Jim Crow re-enactors “free at last” to get their electoral racism on, will the United States see a return of the literacy tests once used to block African Americans from voting? We fear they may. Within two days of the decision, two thirds of the states covered by Section 4—including the old Confederate states of Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Virginia—had already rolled out legislation to limit voter participation. ThinkProgress reports:

Less than 48 hours [after the Court’s ruling], six of the nine states that had been covered in their entirety under the law’s “preclearance” formula have already taken steps toward restricting voting. . . . many of which [would] have adverse effects on the abilities of minorities, young people, and the poor to exercise their right to vote

The page below is a word-processed version from a literacy test used in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, in 1964, published by Slate, from the archives of the Civil Rights Movement Veterans. See “Louisiana Literacy Test and How It Worked to Deny Black Voting Rights” by a volunteer in the Freedom Summer of 1964, sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

Try it. See how well you would fare on this test, and on the pages that follow. Remember, “One wrong answer denotes failure on the test.” Good luck!

 

La.Lit-Test1

 



Supreme Conservatives Drag U.S. Ceaselessly into the (Jim Crow) Past

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

ProtectVote

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“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting opinionShelby County v. Holder

 
Re-Legalizing Electoral Racism; Red State Republicans ‘Free at Last’
 

June 25, 2013, will go down in infamy as the day when a radically conservative majority of the Supreme Court ripped the guts out of the historic protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, “the crown jewel of the civil rights movement” that was so proudly signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Congressman John R. Lewis, who was beaten nearly to death by state troopers in the famous “Bloody Sunday” civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965 (see photo below), declared the decision “a dagger in the heart” of the Voting Rights Act.

What the 5–4 decision, signed by Chief Justice John Roberts, does, nearly 50 years after its signing, is declare unconstitutional the single most important part of the Act (section 4), which identifies the states and counties that must submit to oversight (or preclearance) by the Justice Department before changing “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting” in any “covered jurisdiction.” In effect, the conservative majority struck down section 4 as a sneaky way of nullifying section 5, without actually ruling on the constitutionality of section 5. As the New York Times’s Adam Liptak explains:

The majority held that the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, originally passed in 1965 and most recently updated by Congress in 1975, was unconstitutional. The section determined which states must receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before they made minor changes to voting procedures, like moving a polling place, or major ones, like redrawing electoral districts. . . .

The decision did not strike down Section 5 [which sets out the preclearance requirement], but without Section 4, the later section is without significance—unless Congress passes a new bill for determining which states would be covered.

These jurisdictions that were required to seek preclearance include the very states—mostly in the Old Confederacy—that were the worst offenders against minorities seeking the right to vote. Indeed, it is no accident that it was Shelby County, Alabama—i.e., Birmingham—that brought the suit against the U.S. Justice Department. In the 1960s it was the Justice Department, very often backed up by the National Guard, that was on the front lines of protecting southern blacks against discrimination, vicious racism, and murder.

selma42.bloody-Sunday

In “An Assault on the Voting Rights Act,” the New York Times editorial board declared the decision “damaging and intellectually dishonest,” and that was just in the first sentence. In a Times op-ed, Richard L. Hasen, author of The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown, writes:

The court pretends it is not striking down the act but merely sending the law back to Congress for tweaking; it imagines that Congress forced its hand; and it fantasizes that voting discrimination in the South is a thing of the past. None of this is true.

In the Shelby decision, we see a somewhat more open version of a pattern that is characteristic of the Roberts court, in which the conservative justices tee up major constitutional issues for dramatic reversal. First the court wrecked campaign finance law in Citizens United. On Tuesday it took away a crown jewel of the civil rights movement. And as we saw in Monday’s Fisher case, affirmative action is next in line . . . 

John Roberts, who has long sought to weaken the Voting Rights Act, wrote in the majority opinion that because voter registration among black voters is higher than it was at the time the Voting Rights Act was passed, the protections afforded by the Act are no longer needed. (Click here for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s scathing dissent, in which she wrote, “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA. . . . The court errs egregiously by overriding Congress’s decision” to reauthorize the Act.) As though mere registration is the same thing as actually being able to vote, or your vote actually being counted. Ask the citizens of counties in Florida and Ohio in the contested elections of 2000 and 2004, or those who were forced to wait in interminable lines in 2008, 2012. The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson points out:

Ginsburg quoted an F.B.I. investigation of Alabama legislators who referred to black voters as “Aborigines” and talked about how to keep them from the polls: “These conversations occurred not in the 1870’s, or even in the 1960’s, they took place in 2010.”

The United States Senate approved an extension of the law in 2006 by a  98–0 vote, and the House by a 390–33 vote; 33 Republicans (all white men, except one white woman, from North Carolina) voted against it. Former President George W. Bush, who nominated Roberts as chief justice, said many fine words about the importance of the Voting Rights Act in a ceremony at the White House. If you watch the videotape he sounds sincere; perhaps he was. Had the Voting Right’s Acts provisions been truly observed and enforced in the election of 2000, however—and had a similar 5–4 Supreme Court decision not ruled that Florida’s recounting of votes be stopped—George W. Bush would not have been in the White House.

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Cool Digs! NYC’s 2nd Avenue Subway Tunnel in Progress

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

concentric

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Making Tracks on the Line That Time Forgot

Talking Points Memo posts some ultra-kool photos of the excavation of the Second Avenue subway tunnel under the East Side of Manhattan that is due to open for business in December 2016—only about a century after the need for an additional East Side subway line was first recognized. (More cool photos can be seen at the MTA’s Flickr page.)

At the same time, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working on an East Side Access megaproject to connect the Long Island Rail Road to a new passenger concourse underneath Grand Central Terminal, which will ease pressure on the LIRR’s longtime (and congested rat-maze) terminus at Penn Station. (More about Penn Station [and high-speed rail] here.) Verily, the MTA’s crews and engineers are infrastructure heroes. We salute you!

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4X

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Here We Go Again

Friday, June 14th, 2013

belle syria

Once again, politicians demanding austerity for the American public are leading us—and other people’s children—into war

“Just providing arms is not enough.”John McCain

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This should be the mother of all cakewalks. The Obama administration has announced that the U.S. will begin arming certain groups of Syrian rebels because the Bashar al-Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people in the two-year-old civil war. The New York Times reports that the U.S. will “begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition,” according to government officials. Some 90,000 civilians (likely an underestimate) have died in the fighting. Note: This is a public announcement, making official what has been in effect, covertly and surreptitiously and otherwise, for some time (see below).

Click here for the text of the White House Statement on Chemical Weapons in Syria.

Just yesterday, Politico and TalkingPointsMemo reported that former president Bill Clinton, in an appearance at the John McCain Institute for International Leadership (why?), said he now agrees with McCain that the U.S. should do more to aid the rebels. McCain has been saying the same thing for over a year, every Sunday-bloody-Sunday morning. Clinton opined that Obama risks looking like a “total fool” if he allows public opinion polls to guide U.S. policy on the matter. Our first reaction yesterday was, And who axed you? This morning we suspect that, given Clinton’s good standing among Obama’s base, he had clearance, if not encouragement, from the White House to say what he said; thus TPM’s headline, “Politico: Bill Clinton Breaks with Obama on Syria,” was perhaps not entirely accurate, unless “breaks with” means “serves as trial balloon mouthpiece for”.

And then, says Andrea Mitchell on The Rachel Maddow Show, after pointing out that in fighting Hezbollah in Syria, the West is effectively in a proxy war with Iran, McCain goes out onto the Senate floor to preempt the White House’s announcement (“In just a couple of minutes, the president of the United States will be announcing that it is now conclusive that Bashar Assad and the Syrian butchers have used chemical weapons.”). But now McCain says that the aid he’s been clamoring for is not enough; the president “had better understand that just supplying weapons is not going to change the equation . . .” The U.S. should also establish a no-fly zone. If a no-fly zone were to be established, then the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles that Russia has offered to sell—or has already delivered—to Assad could be used against the U.S. Air Force. Then what? And if one of those missiles hits an Israeli airliner? (Russia’s offer, or threat, is at least partly in response to the European Union’s allowing its arms embargo to Syria to expire effective June 1.)

It’s not as though the U.S. has not already been aiding the opposition to Assad. In a May 5 Guardian opinion piece titled “The West and Its Allies Cynically Bleed Syria to Weaken Iran” (source of the illustration above), Seumas Milne wrote:

Airlifts of arms to the Syrian rebels, co-ordinated by the CIA, have increased sharply in recent months to become what one former US official calls a “cataract of weaponry“. British and American forces are training rebel fighters in Jordan. The worth of US aid to the Syrian opposition has doubled to $250m, while the EU has now lifted its oil embargo to allow exports from rebel-held areas.

But John McCain, who assured us in 2002 and 2003 that a conflict with Iraq would be short and sweet, argues that this must be done. And the government, without offering proof, is telling us that chemical weapons were used—haven’t we heard this before?—so the United States, which is a peace-loving nation and a protector of human rights, cannot “stand idly by.” And the governments of the United Kingdom and France, who also support aid to the Syrian rebels, also have not put forth evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. But what have these nations done to negotiate a diplomatic solution? What persuasive force have the U.S., France, or the U.K. applied upon the United Nations, upon Russia and other friends of Bashar al-Assad? France was prepared to take the lead against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya; why not now? (Because Syria is so freaking complicated and fraught with uncontrollable consequences, maybe?) And what part does Iran play in the government’s strategy? And Israel? Is this part of a deal to keep Tel Aviv from pulling the trigger on Tehran’s nuclear program (whatever that may be)?

Syria@EBDid we mention that Syria borders Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and is very close to Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia? And that the Assad regime is backed by and receiving anti-aircraft weapons from, Russia? Or did we mention that, according to recent reports from the BBC (or was it NBC’s Richard Engel?), there are some fourteen different “rebel groups” constituting the opposition in Syria? Or that, as we reported in May, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, says that Syria is viewed by the same neocons who brought us the Iraq war as “a back door to get us in a war with Iran”?

What could possibly go wrong?

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(Weren’t we saying just days ago that austerity economics is prescribed for the public but seems never to apply to the Defense department [¶8]? Who has paid for the weapons that will be supplied to the Syrian rebels? American taxpayers—individuals, mostly. But Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid benefits, they tell us, need to be curved downward—even Obama suggests so.)

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See also:

How Many Wars? After Libya . . . ? (LNW 3/26/11)



In Honor of Medgar Evers and Res Publica

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

MedgarEvers_02281Conservatives’ rejection of all things “public” as “white flight”

“The gifts of God . . . should 
be enjoyed by 
all citizens in Mississippi.”  Medgar Evers (1925–1963)

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Fifty years ago today, Medgar Wylie Evers was killed in his driveway in Jackson, Mississippi, after returning from an NAACP meeting at a nearby church. Evers, a graduate of Alcorn A&M whose application to the University of Mississippi law school was rejected on racial grounds, had served as the NAACP field secretary for the state of Mississippi since 1954. One of his tasks was an investigation of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. He was one of the first members of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC, est. 1957). The assassination of Medgar Evers was commemorated in Bob Dylan’s song “Only a Pawn in Their Game” (1964) and more recently in season three of Mad Men. Evers, who had served in the U.S. Army in France in World War II and was honorably discharged as a sergeant, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

It was late on the night of June 11, and the killer was hiding behind a bush. Myrlie Evers found her husband on the front steps where he had managed to drag himself after being shot in the back. His car keys were still in his hands, and in his arms was a stack of T-shirts reading JIM CROW MUST GO. For thirty years the murder went unprosecuted (a trial in 1964 ended with a hung jury), until Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of murder in 1994. Throughout the 1994 trial De La Beckwith wore a Confederate flag on his lapel. MyrlieEvers@LIFE

On the night her husband was assassinated, Mrs. Evers and her children were watching a televised address to the nation by President John F. Kennedy in response to recent civil rights events, including Alabama Governor George Wallace’s refusal to allow two black students to register at the University of Alabama. (The president announced, “I am . . . asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.”)

In an excellent 10-minute overview of the Jim Crow (segregated, apartheid) South into which Medgar Evers was born, and of early civil rights protests such as the lunch counter sit-ins, Rachel Maddow last night mentioned that, rather than cooperate with the legislation that ordered integration of schools and other public facilities, many white southerners opted to withdraw from desegregated public society. (“Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” as George Wallace put it.)

Rachel explained:

The southern part of the United States was forced to abolish its segregation laws. But it was a bloody, bloody fight. Throughout the old Confederacy, white people were asked, first as a matter of conscience, and then finally they were ordered as a matter of justice, to integrate on racial lines. And when the white people who had control of the laws and the government and the schools and the businesses, when the fight to hold on to segregation laws was a lost fight, and they knew they had no choice but to integrate the society they lived in, in many cases, instead of going through with that and living through that kind of change, a lot of them just decided to quit that society, they gave up public pools and public schools and in some cases movie theaters. They gave up whole cities and moved away. They called it white flight. The census from 1960 records a Jackson, Mississippi, that was majority white, almost two to one. By 1990 Jackson’s population had made the turn toward getting much smaller and it was much blacker. By 2010 Jackson, Mississippi, had become the second most African American city in the nation. White people in the previously legally segregated South, and really across the nation, abandoned places rather than see them change. [bold = LNW’s emphasis]

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Easy Listenin’ to ‘The Eve of Destruction’

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QslV5asj_yM

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From “The Eve of Destruction”

Lyrics by P. F. Sloan / Sung by Barry McGuire (recorded July 1965)

The eastern world it is exploding
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war but whats that gun you’re totin’?

. . . .

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for four days in space
But when you return it’s the same old place . . . 

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Eve-of-destruction