Sunday, June 30, 2013

Twitter Messages From Egypt -- June 30

Today's protests and demonstrations are under way as I type. 
This post is something of a "live Twitter report" with little or nothing by way of organization or commentary. 

Ramadan 2013 begins in the evening of
Monday, July 8
and ends in the evening of
Wednesday, August 7
Dates may vary.

(Click to enlarge)

Go to this link and click for a full image. Very impressive. 
Itihadeya is the name of the presidential palace. 

This Twitter message is from Wael Ghonim, the Google employee whose Facebook page was one of the most important sparks that started the Arab Spring over two years ago. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tension Tonight in Egypt

This post was published the evening before the June 30 demonstrations which were non-violent and of historic proportions. Overwhelming masses of people all over Cairo (and I presume the rest of Egypt) took to the streets in a spectacular display of displeasure with the Muslim Brotherhood in general and President Morsi in particular.  
I collected a stream of Twitter messages as they came into my timeline. They can be found in the post after this.

June 30 marks Egyptian president Morsi's first year in office and it's been one helluva a tough time for him and the Muslim Brotherhood. The lofty expectations of the young revolutionaries whose protests led to the end of the Mubarak era have been followed by political instability and economic challenges that have brought the country to the edge of becoming a failed state. The only source of stability remaining appears to be the military.

Egypt, Its Streets a Tinderbox, Braces for a Spark
Supporters of President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt held
signs saying “We support the popular revolution”
during a protest in Cairo on Friday.
Protests against Mr. Morsi are scheduled for Sunday.
CAIRO — Thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, many wearing hard hats and armed with makeshift clubs, are camped near the presidential palace in anticipation of a battle to defend their ally, President Mohamed Morsi. In three days of protests against him around the Nile Delta, gunmen have killed at least five Brotherhood members and set fire to several of its offices.

The use of firearms is becoming more common on all sides. Activists who once chanted, “Peaceful, peaceful,” now joke darkly about the inevitability of violence: “Peaceful is dead.” 
With a new wave of protests scheduled for Sunday, Egypt’s pre-eminent Muslim religious authority, Al Azhar, warned in a statement this weekend of potential “civil war.”
A year after Egypt’s first credible presidential election, the ballot box has failed to deliver on promises of unquestioned legitimacy or the nonviolent resolution of political disputes. In more than two years of post-revolutionary crises, the streets have never felt so tense. 
Mismanagement or sabotage by the institutions of the old government has stunted the transition to democracy. Egypt’s new Islamist leaders all but gave up on building support beyond their faction. And now long-suppressed conflicts over questions of national identity or entrenched interests are threatening to tear apart the national cohesion that was a hallmark of the 18-day uprising in 2011 against President Hosni Mubarak. The strife is beginning to challenge the historic sense of nationhood that long distinguished Egypt from volatile neighbors whose borders were carved out by colonial powers.
The Times article is excellent. But as you read, make a few mental notes then go to another much longer reading I came across earlier today by independent journalist Khaled Diab. 
His three thousand word essay eighteen months ago reads almost like a screen play for what is now unfolding in Egypt. 
Al-Nour (The Light), the coalition of Salafist parties, emerged, almost out of the blue, to eclipse partially the dawn of Egyptian democracy by garnering an impressive quarter of the first phase vote, almost double what the secular leftist Egyptian Bloc – a major force in the revolution which was expected to come second – managed to salvage from their electoral train wreck.

Khaled Diab is a freelance journalist,
blogger and writer. Until recently
based in Jerusalem, he now
flits between Geneva and Ghent.
Despite its bright name, if al-Nour ever has its way completely, Egypt would be run according to its ultra-conservative interpretation of shari’a, albeit in a “gradual way that suits the nature of society”, because, in their fundamentalist view, Islam cannot be separated from the state and secularism is tantamount to atheism (a common misconception among Egyptians). 
[Does this remind anyone of American religious fundamentalists? JB]

The unexpectedly strong performance of the Salafists and poor showing of the secularists has been the subject of frenzied and worried debate in liberal and progressive Egyptian circles, including among my friends and acquaintances. Overseas, the early fears that Egypt would become the next Iran have been reawakened, and some Western friends who have been terrified by the prospect of an Islamist takeover of Egypt have been wagging an “I told you so” finger at my alleged naivety.


Some months ago, I cautioned that the revolution and the interim regime ignored or downplayed the economic aspect of the uprising, what I called the revolution’s bottom line, at their peril. “You can have all the democracy and personal freedoms in the world, but without addressing the bread and butter issues of poverty and economic injustice, reform will be incomplete and hollow,” I wrote.

Given Egypt’s pressing practical socio-economic issues, we may actually find that the first parliament is not preoccupied with identity politics but rather with more urgent bread-and-butter issues (at least, any sensible parliament should be). This may, paradoxically, lead to some weird alliances of convenience forming not around cultural or identity issues but around economic outlook. So, just as the Muslim Brotherhood has allied itself to al-Ghad partly based of the similarity in their economic outlook, so too might al-Nour, if it is sincere about its economic programme, find itself in an uncomfortable partnership with secular leftists, at least on issues of economic justice.


...the SCAF’s policy of obfuscation and delay since the revolution erupted harmed the electoral chances of the revolutionaries because it enabled the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood to convince quite a number of Egyptians that the resulting instability was the fault of the activists and not the old guard. Had the army handed over power immediately to an interim “Council of the Wise” and had genuine elections been held during the early period of euphoria following Mubarak’s downfall, then the courageous and visionary revolutionary youth could well have led the political pack in Egypt’s parliament, rather than being left with almost nothing.

But why would the SCAF form an unholy alliance with the Islamists? For a number of reasons. Pragmatically, the generals realised that the Brotherhood, particularly its old and conservative leadership, was the lesser of two evils. The revolutionaries want complete regime change. In contrast, the Brotherhood – whose current leadership has been saying for years that good Muslims are obliged to obey their leaders even if they are tyrants – is willing to compromise and live with a power-sharing arrangement.

Additionally, there is an element of intergenerational conflict: the young revolutionaries, including the younger members of the Brotherhood itself, appeared to be a common enemy both to the ageing generals and the ageing Islamists at the top of the movement. And with the Brotherhood’s commitment to free market economics and its reassurances that it would not rock the boat with Egypt’s allies, the FJP must seem like the best guarantor of the elusive “stability” Washington so covets.


So, even without Islamist domination of the next parliament, it will take years of effort, dialogue, education and trust building to slay the dragon of sectarianism and rebuild the confidence of Christians that they are full and equal citizens of the country. Of course, an Islamist victory could well delay or set back such a process.

Likewise, the Islamists have succeeded in setting in motion a counter-feminist revolution which has reversed or frozen many of the gains made by women in their struggle for equality. And, paradoxically, as more and more women go out into the workplace and public sphere, they must do so heavily cloaked in piety and “decency” and, hence, not as equals to men. So, as misogyny is not limited to Islamists in Egypt and the sex divide has reached an unsustainable level, it is unclear whether matters will actually get worse for women.


That last snip qualifies as serious understatement. Take a look at my earlier post about women's rights in Egypt.

And here is a video posted yesterday.

Glimpse of Egyptian Women's Rights Movement

Sarah Abdelrhaman is an activist for women's rights in Egypt. I first saw one of her videos more than two years ago and was taken by her bright, sassy manner. She posted several videos on You Tube with subtitles but when it took too much time and trouble she stopped and I lost interest (I don't understand Arabic).

I was reminded of her this afternoon by another video and checked her channel again, finding to my surprise that her videos now have translations, either in the description or in the form of subtitles on screen.

This appears to be her latest. As you can see, she is serious and mature.

Published on Jan 31, 2013

للتطوع مع "قوة ضد التحرش" و قراءة الشهادات كاملة


'I saw with my own eyes someone tearing my pullover, and bra, and taking them off and fondling my breasts. At the same time, people were assaulting my body in every single way. I was very disgusted and very exhausted, I felt like I was losing consciousness. I was afraid I would fall to the ground and die. I truly felt death was not far.'

This is the testimony of a girl who was subjected to group sexual assault.
200, 300, 500, even 1000 men surround a girl in a rapid and organized manner. They tear off her clothes, beat her, wound her and even try to kill her.

Due to the frequency of this occurrence,a group called 'Op Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault' were formed. Their goal is to intervene when this happens, save the girl, and take her to a safe place or a hospital where she is provided with psychological, medical and legal help.

The disappointing reactions of everyone encourages this crime's occurrence.

Starting from the media that instead of focusing on the assaults, focuses on unimportant details. Like what was the victim wearing, or where does she work or where does she live. Then there are the political powers that completely ignore the issue and claim that this is not the time for it. By the way, you can't tell people to take part in a certain march when you haven't secured it. And then there are of course the people who sit around and do nothing, and try to come up with empty arguments to put blame on the victim, just to ease their conscience. Like saying, she was dressed inappropriately. As a matter of fact, this crime occurs against girls who are veiled and who were the niqab. And a veiled girl was stripped and beaten and run over by army soldiers, in front of the whole world, and no one said a thing.

And then there are those people that want to separate women from the rest of society. This isn't a solution. There are women-only cars in the subway where sexual harassment still occurs.

And then the people who ask why those girls went there (to the Square). Every single person has the right to decide where they want to go. And like this happens in Tahrir Square, it happens in the subway, in celebrations, in universities, in all of the streets of Egypt.

We won't be silenced.
We won't be silenced.

We won't be silenced, and we won't stop going out in the streets. And we will continue to fight for our right to walk in safe streets

This is what she was talking about:

Here is what she was like two years ago...

...and this:

She is (was?) a journalism major at the American University of Cairo (AUC). 
Here is a link to some of her work. 

Rant -- Paula Deen, George Zimmerman and Other Embarrassments

This post is nothing more than a rant. It's different from a report, analysis, summary, referral, re-post or pontification. Ranting is blogging at its best, the Web equivalent of skinny-dipping without actual images -- few or no links, no attempt at either accuracy or balance. Take it or leave it. I'm not sure, but this may be the first of a series (in the same way that all my healthcare reform posts are tagged HCR, this one is tagged simply "Rant.")

This is what happened when I was writing yet another comment at Elatia Harris' Facebook link to one of the Paula Deen stoies that currently pollute the air.

I'll be happy to see L'affaire Paula Deen story fade into oblivion. This woman and her schtick are a shameful remnant of some of the worst attributes of the American South. It's more than generic bigotry. It's the proud, in-your-face kind, unrepentant and irredeemable. I've heard and seen it all my life and every time I see another car tag or decal with the battle flag of the Confederacy it reminds me that two or three generations may need to pass on before we shake free of this ignorance. It would be comforting to imagine that this is a reflection of economic hardships or poor education. But we keep sending elected representatives to Washington who are every bit as backward, with a mean-spirited streak of indifference tossed in for good measure.

Witness the recent exhibition of ignorant bigotry in the Texas Senate. That's ostensibly about women's issues, but you can be certain that the same mind-set applies to blacks, queers and immigrants of all kinds -- even those who are legal, some of whom may have been here for generations. It's all part of the "cracker" sense of victimhood that the defense attorney for George Zimmerman is trying to capitalize on. Someone in one of the comment threads hit the nail on the head when he said it was an appeal to "us crackers gotta stick together." Stir in a little Evangelical righteous indignation, season with Islamophobia, spread on a generous layer of anti-semitism and you have a fully baked main dish just in time for Independence Day.

I don't want to malign Paula Deen personally (or George Zimmerman, for that matter) but my complaint about these stories is more about a subliminal message of which they are part. In the same way that American tourists and others abroad gave rise to the expression "the ugly American" which was also a book title, these unfortunate fumes wafting up from the Southern cultural swamps have none of the romance of ignis fatuus or will-o-the-wisp. They are more like the stench that blows downwind from land fills, cesspools or (as any good Southerner can attest) paper mills. Simply stated, it stinks. The people who keep the pot boiling are not mean people any more than the ignorant bystanders who watch revolutionary changes, vigilante mobs or serious arguments over their heads. When recognized experts argue in public about important matters, from global warming to a military threat of another country, most everyday people tend to remain quiet, even as they sink in a pool of ignorance. That's where the image of the frog in hot water comes from. Or the saying that all that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. 

The sad part is that the South has not always been this way. At least not to the degree that it has become in my lifetime. This part of the country was for years the poorest and most inhospitable place to live, even for those who might be called gentry. Prior to refrigeration and the discoveries of germs and vaccinations it was downright dangerous. We tend to forget that infant mortality was part of the landscape for years, not only in the South but everywhere, but in these latitudes it was especially problematical. Large families with many hands were necessary for agriculture, and that was the economic foundation of the South. Very labor-intensive. Slavery was more than a cultural foible. It was foundational to the economy. In his book "1493" Charles C. Mann writes at length about the Columbian Exchange, the impact of the discovery of the New World on the rest of the planet. His research documents that not only did European diseases and colonial practices wipe out upwards of ninety percent of the indigenous population of the Western Hemisphere, the introduction of African slaves (genetically more resistant to the strains of malaria which killed off European indentured servants which made that labor alternative a poor business model) was a cold-blooded response to man's endless quest to accumulate wealth. 

But even as racism was foundational to Southern history (and no, that's no excuse or justification) there was a connection between blacks and white in the South that other parts of the country could never know about. Southern cooking is essentially that of black cooks, and many of the foods associated with the South were of African origin -- peanuts, collards and okra, for example. Peanut allergies, like melanoma cancers,  are an overwhelmingly white phenomenon. And many a white baby was nursed by a black wet-nurse and reared by a black nanny. And all of these connections were held together with social bonds as strong as they were evil. Jim Crow South was not importantly different in that regard from South African apartheid. Even the Supreme Court validated the system in Plessy vs. Ferguson which was not reversed until the Fifties by Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka.

But throughout all this ugly history, there were Southerners who knew better. Southern writers present a documentary trail that we were not all as ignorant at today's redneck, trashy stereotypes. Even Twain (who famously used the word Nigger, incidentally) reveals a foundational understanding of the humanity of his black contemporaries. Southern writers saw all sides of our complicated society and did so in a way that usually overcame racism. I went to the same high school as Carson McCullars and later became aware of Lillian Smith, both of whom showed a side of the South that was far more sensitive to the pains of the underclasses both black and white than today's Jeff Foxworthys and others who seem to take pride in their backwardness. And who can forget Harper Lee's imortal "To Kill a Mockingbird"? 

As I said, today's Southern racism is more subliminal than overt. Each generation recycles vocabularies giving old words new meanings and interpretations. The day will come, I presume, that terms and phrases once racist will be free of the taint. I know people from Louisiana who talk candidly about being Coonasses, and songs about a Coal Miner's Daughter and Oakey from Muskogee immortalize other parts of a complex mixture of American social classes. I'll let others comment on those variants. But until the South is cleansed of the prejudice about blacks and outsiders that I know is still part of the social fabric, I claim the right to bitch about it. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Morning Reading and Reflections -- June 28

Robert Parry's essay in Consortium News is a timely look at how contemporary politics and racism puzzle together is little more than a replay of the past. 
The modern Republican Party and its chic libertarians have dallied with white supremacists as a political necessity, because blacks and other minorities have rallied to the Democrats due to their better civil rights record. But the Right’s dancing with the racist devil is not new. It’s as old as the Founding, writes Robert Parry.
Highly recommended reading.
In the U.S. news media, there is often a distinction made between the racist Right, which emerged from the struggle to maintain slavery and segregation, and the “small-government” Right, which supposedly represents a respectable conservatism focused on the libertarian ideals of personal freedom and free-market principles 
But the reality is that both of these major branches of the American Right grew from the same political trunk, i.e., the South’s fear that a strong federal government would intrude on the practices of slavery and, later, segregation. And, throughout U.S. history, those two branches of the Right have been mutually supportive 
Thus, prominent leaders of the “libertarian” Right – the likes of William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and Ron and Rand Paul – have opposed major legislative efforts to combat Southern segregation, typically citing the “liberty” of a white restaurant owner to bar black patrons as trumping the right of the patrons to be treated fairly. 
The primary distinction between Washington and Jefferson was that – although both were Virginian slaveholders – Washington was arguably the First American while Jefferson was a Virginian first, rooted deeply in its soil and traditions. 

Unlike George Washington who freed his slaves in his will, neither Jefferson nor Madison granted a blanket grant of freedom in their wills. Jefferson only freed a few slaves who were related to his alleged mistress, Sally Hemings, and Madison freed none. 
As historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg wrote in Madison and Jefferson, these two important Founders must be understood as, first and foremost, politicians representing the interests of Virginia where the two men lived nearby each other on plantations worked by African-American slaves, Jefferson at Monticello and Madison at Montpelier. 
“It is hard for most to think of Madison and Jefferson and admit that they were Virginians first, Americans second,” Burstein and Isenberg note. “But this fact seems beyond dispute. Virginians felt they had to act to protect the interests of the Old Dominion, or else, before long, they would become marginalized by a northern-dominated economy. 
“Virginians who thought in terms of the profit to be reaped in land were often reluctant to invest in manufacturing enterprises. The real tragedy is that they chose to speculate in slaves rather than in textile factories and iron works. … And so as Virginians tied their fortunes to the land, they failed to extricate themselves from a way of life that was limited in outlook and produced only resistance to economic development.” 
In a recent New York Magazine article, Frank Rich summed up this political history while noting how today’s right-wing revisionists have tried to reposition their heroes by saying they opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 simply out of high-minded “small-government principles.” But Rich wrote: 
“The primacy of [Strom] Thurmond in the GOP’s racial realignment is the most incriminating truth the right keeps trying to cover up. That’s why the George W. Bush White House shoved the Mississippi senator Trent Lott out of his post as Senate majority leader in 2002 once news spread that Lott had told Thurmond’s 100th-birthday gathering that America ‘wouldn’t have had all these problems’ if the old Dixiecrat had been elected president in 1948. 
“Lott, it soon became clear, had also lavished praise on Jefferson Davis and associated for decades with other far-right groups in thrall to the old Confederate cause. But the GOP elites didn’t seem to mind until he committed the truly unpardonable sin of reminding America, if only for a moment, of the exact history his party most wanted and needed to suppress. Then he had to be shut down at once. 
As Frank Rich noted, “The boosters of the new voting regulations would have us believe instead that their efforts are in response to a (nonexistent) rise in the country’s minuscule instances of voter fraud. Everyone knows these laws are in response to the rise of Barack Obama. It is also no coincidence that many of them were conceived and promoted by the American Legal Exchange Council, an activist outfit funded by heavy-hitting right-wing donors like Charles and David Koch. 
“In another coincidence that the GOP would like to flush down the memory hole, the Kochs’ father, Fred, a founder of the radical John Birch Society in the fifties, was an advocate for the impeachment of Chief Justice Warren in the aftermath of Brown [v. Board of Education] Fred Koch wrote a screed of his own accusing communists of inspiring the civil-rights movement.”
Am I alone thinking that high-profile news stories about the killing of Trayvon Martin, the crumbling business empire of Paula Deen and the Republican obsession with "border security" in the matter of immigration reform have a lot to do with old-fashioned racism? Of course they do. Border security should include both ocean coasts and the trans-continental Canadian border but when the term is used in Congress it means keeping out brown people to the South.


Changing subjects, this video was passed along by Abbas Raza at 3Quarks Daily.


A word about marriage equality...

Within hours of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional and subsequent invalidation of California's Proposition 8 making gay marriages illegal, I read several Christian evangelical responses that can only be described as a reframing their message with love taking instead of condemnation.

Hey...whatcha gonna do"?

I shudder to think how much longer the love angle would have waited had the Court's decision been different.

The language of many Christian leaders suggests they expect an outbreak of unprecedented sinful behavior leading to a collapse of civilization, despite the fact that homosexuality is literally still illegal in most of the world and the percentage of LBGT people in our own population is really quite small. The percentage of the gay population (under 4%)  is estimated to be less than half the percentage of left-handed people (approximately 10%). I know there seem to be more gay TV and movie parts than in the past, but I can recall when the only black faces on TV were Amos & Andy and Jack Benny's valet Rochester'

The number of people living together without benefit of matrimony is large and growing, about half of marriages end in divorce and the marital status of some can be best described as serial monogamy. It seems to me there is plenty of remedial Christian ministry crying for attention without maligning the relatively small number of same-sex couples wanting to formalize and legalize loving, committed relationships.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Racism Must Go

My immediate response to the Paula Deen story was last Sunday, June 23, but now, a few days later I have added an afterthought.

As someone born and reared in the South I need to say something about this week's scandal du jour, Paula Deen's use and apologies for using inappropriate racial language. Too much broadcast air time, Web space and spilled ink is being wasted by well-meaning people trying to stuff poop back into an elephant (uh -- no pun intended, I suppose) after it's already in the street.

There is no longer any excuse for anybody to use derogatory language about race. Period. I'm sorry, but in this case no longer means no longer. Yes, I know it is still used by those who may themselves be victims, or comedians, script-writers for TV and movies and any number of others. But all those examples do not excuse anyone from such language who wants to be regarded as polite, civilized, good company to be around. It's like trying to claim that drinking "caused me to do it" for regrettable actions or words. I don't buy it. Not any more.

I was spoon fed racism from my childhood and didn't shake free until I became an adult. And mine was not the malignant, toxic variety of racism that made the news. Mine was that of a cultivated white Southerner, explained with Christian love and the sincerest of convictions that there are important racial differences among mankind, put there by the Creator (as explained in the Bible) and it is a violation of God's laws to violate those divine laws. No one in my family was allowed to say Nigger. We were invariably carefully coached to pronounce the word Neegro. I was told never to use the word Black, but to say Colored Person instead. My grandmother (who was the only person I ever heard use the word "octoroon" in a sentence) made a distinction between White Lady and Colored Woman. And I will never forget the first time as a nineteen year old college freshman sitting in the back seat of a car between two black passengers to note that they didn't have any disagreeable body odor. Even as late as my twenties I was talking to someone about my high school days and when I mentioned that "there were only three high schools where I grew up" I suddenly realized that what I said was not true. There were indeed three white-only high schools at that time in Columbus, Georgia, but there were also two schools attended by Black students. And this embarrassing realization still came after I had proudly participated in the civil rights movement and spent a tour of duty in the Army! Years after I thought myself free of racism that vestige was still there, waiting to be discovered and expunged.

The Paula Deen story is not about food. Or butter and sugar. It is not about history or culture or "growing up in a different era." It's about overlooking or not overlooking racism in whatever remnant form it remains. When it shows up, it needs to be rooted out. Like my buried memory of three white high schools, there remain very close to the surface of our society -- at a time we all want to feel "enlightened" and sensitive to delicate matters -- toxic places that are the cultural equivalent of pre-cancerous, little innocent-looking spots that a sample sent to the culture lab for analysis will be returned labeled "malignant."

Ms. Deen's apparently casual and repeated use of racial stereotypes, even by her own admission, is much different from a slip of the tongue. Those rushing to defend the use of racist language, hers or anyone elses, as a protected First Amendment right, are welcome to make that argument. My response is that if the Bill of Rights is all that separates us from savagery we are more dangerously close to that edge than I am willing to accept. I have heard talk-show hosts skating very close to the edge of racist eugenics in an effort to stir up controversy and attract listeners, but standing under the protection of the law is not even close to taking the moral high ground.

Elected representatives sometimes use dog whistle messages to racist elements of their constituencies to signal a presumed agreement with their beliefs. It's hard to know who is being political and who is speaking from the heart. But just as I can't give others a pass on racism, intended or not, I cannot overlook racism in leaders. Elected representatives, if anything, have a greater burden than most to work against prejudice. And the same higher standard applies to prominent people in the public spotlight. A well understood biblical principle applies here. Those to whom much is given, much is required. And in the case of overcoming racism in our society, the biggest challenges are not behind us. The really big challenges remain ahead. And to the Paula Deens of the world my message is "lead, follow or get out of the way."

Here is my afterthought...

I know how Paula Deen might recover from the train wreck caused by her language, but I doubt she can do it, or wants to. There is a very close connection between her type of Southern cooking and traditional soul food from the Black community. If she could find a black sister with the right background and temperament, together they could create a brand that would overcome the mess we now see.

Lester Maddox and his wife were among my many customers in the cafeteria business for years. He became governor of Georgia more by political accident than popular vote, but once there he didn't do too bad as the state's chief executive. He remained the racist he was known to be and never changed his stripes. But in an old-fashioned Southern way he seemed a little less hateful because of his treatment and recognition of black Georgians. One of his campaigns was to improve the state's prison system and he is remembered for staffing more blacks to appointed jobs than any of his predecessors. Among his many PR antics was teaming up with a black former employee in a variety act tagged "The Governor and the Dishwasher."

Here are a couple of fun reads Ms. Deen might check for ideas.

First is from 1977. 

St. Petersburg Times,  May 21, 1977
(Click for larger image)

Lester! --
The strange but true tale of Georgia's unlikeliest governor
by Hal Jacobs in Atlanta's Creative Loafing, March 20, 1999
When African-Americans tried to integrate the restaurant in April 1964, after an unsuccessful attempt the year before, Lester "Pickrick" Maddox put the pick handles -- and a high-pressure water hose -- to another use. No, he and his employees never assaulted anyone, but on July 3, 1964, Maddox did swing a handle and bash the car roof of a black minister. He also waved a pistol and was hauled into court on gun charges, but was later acquitted by an all-white jury. 
By not serving blacks in his restaurant, Maddox says he was merely exercising one of the rights of private ownership guaranteed all Americans by the Constitution. When he closed the restaurant rather than integrate under a federal injunction, he said that "my President, my Congress and the Communists have closed my business and ended a childhood dream." 
It was never solely about race, Maddox says; it was about free enterprise. But because he had injected ugly race talk into his earlier political campaigns for mayor, his racial views now colored everything. Instead of the media covering the story about the little guy who defended his restaurant against the big, bad government, reporters covered the story of the little, white racist threatening black ministers and college students with ax handles.
To his blue-collar customers, who bought thousands of red handles known as "Pickrick drumsticks," Maddox became a folk hero. To the Atlanta business and social elite, he became the bumbling redneck who tarnished the reputation of "The City Too Busy To Hate." To the media, Maddox became the archetype of the Southern racist businessman, albeit a quick-witted one who was always available for a sound byte or a platter of delicious fried chicken, as he circulated through the restaurant, shaking hands and entertaining customers. State Rep. Billy McKinney of Atlanta remembers shaking Maddox's hand in 1964. 
"He was selling his ax handles, and we went out to the place there, out to the Pickrick, and I fooled him. I grabbed his hand to shake it, and I wouldn't turn it loose. I had him. He had a little .22 or a little .25 or something -- one of those little, bitty guns -- and he tried to get his gun. 
"But I held his hand. And I told him, 'I got your goddamn hand.'"
And by all means take a look at Governor Maddox's four-thousand-plus words rebuttal-response to this article.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Morning Twitter Messages -- June 26

For news junkies this morning has several highs. Wendy Davis held the attention of 120,000 people on-line a few hours ago (past midnight) with a filibuster in the Texas Senate, the economy appears to be taking off and I just watched a grizzly video of Chechen jihadists in Syria beheading three men accused of being collaborators with the regime. (And no... I'm not linking that.)

Gold fell to its lowest in almost three years on Wednesday, putting it on course for a record quarterly loss, as U.S. economic data increased fears the Federal Reserve will soon end ultra-loose monetary policy.

Prices could slide further - some investors saying below $1,000 per ounce - while there is little potential for data, market trends or economic developments in the United States or Europe to reverse an accelerating investor move out of gold.

Spot gold tumbled to its lowest since August 2010 at $1,223.54 an ounce and was down 3.8 percent at $1,227.86 an ounce at 1032 GMT. U.S. gold futures for August delivery were down $47.60 at $1,227.90, having hit a low of $1,223.20.

Strong gains in U.S. orders for durable goods, the largest annual rise in house prices in seven years and rising consumer confidence fuelled speculation the Fed would rein in its $85 billion monthly bond-buying programme, which had helped push gold prices to record highs in recent years.

"We bought gold for two reasons - because we were worried about the inflationary impact of policy and because we thought the financial system was going to fall apart," Sean Corrigan, chief investment strategist at Diapason Commodities Management, said.

►Can't resist -- Roubini's description of gold as a barbarous relic appears to be correct.
Wearing pink tennis shoes to prepare for nearly 13 consecutive hours of standing, Davis began the day with a one-woman filibuster to block a GOP-led effort to impose stringent new abortion restrictions across the nation's second-most populous state.

The filibuster began at 11:18 a.m. CDT Tuesday and continued until 10:03 p.m., less than two hours before the midnight deadline marking the end of the 30-day special session.

Rules stipulate she remain standing, not lean on her desk or take any breaks – even for meals or to use the bathroom. But she must also stay on topic, and Republicans pointed out a mistake and later protested again when another lawmaker helped her with a back brace.

Republican Sen. Donna Campbell called the third point of order because of her remarks on the sonogram law. Under the rules, lawmakers can vote to end a filibuster after three sustained points of order.

If signed into law, the measures would close almost every abortion clinic in Texas, a state 773 miles wide and 790 miles long with 26 million people. A woman living along the Mexico border or in West Texas would have to drive hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion if the law passes.

In her opening remarks, Davis said she was "rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans" and called Republican efforts to pass the bill a "raw abuse of power."

Democrats chose Davis, of Fort Worth, to lead the effort because of her background as a woman who had her first child as a teenager and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School.

Did you catch that? There were objections to her having a back brace!!!  Does this mean that an elected representative in a wheel chair, or maybe an amputee wearing a prosthesis or two would not meet the standards?  And since when is mention of a sonogram not germane, since a previous Texas statute made that a mandatory part of the procedure?
Lord, give me grace to remain civil.

She knows about single motherhood, and poverty. The 50-year-old Davis had to care for her three siblings at the age of 14 for her single mother, and became a single mother herself at the age of 19.

She knows the law. Davis became the first person in her family to graduate from college, with a degree from Texas Christian University and then Harvard Law School. She clerked, litigated, and spent a few years in the title insurance business before starting her own practice for federal and local government affairs, real estate, and contract compliance.

She put in her political time. Davis spent nine years on the Fort Worth City Council, focusing on neighborhood economic development. When she was elected to the state senate in 2008, shebecame the 12th Democrat in the upper chamber–just enough to keep the Republicans from closing off debate on bills.

She’s got eclectic interests. Davis has sponsored bills on everything from cancer prevention to payday lending to protecting victims of sexual assault to government transparency.

She’s one of the more successful users of the filibuster. In 2011, she used the tactic against a budget that underfunded the state’s public schools by $5 billion, and two years later got most of the money replaced.

Republicans keep trying to shut her down. Her 2008 victory was a squeaker over the Republican incumbent, and she pulled out another in 2012 after federal courts threw out a Republican gerrymandering plan that would have put her in a much more conservative district. Again, she became the last vote needed to deny Republicans a filibuster-proof majority (The 2012 firebombing of her office appears to have been a random act by a mentally ill homeless person). After her 2011 filibuster, the Republican-led house stripped her of her position on the education committee.

She’s got her eye on higher office. Governor, anyone? The fundraising comes easy, anyway.

She’s got “fashion icon status” in the state Capitol. At least that’s what The New York Times says. For this filibuster, she wore pink sneakers.

You go, Ezra!  Molly Ivins, we miss you terribly.

This is all for this morning. I have other commitments. Besides, SCOTUS rulings on DOMA and Marriage Equality are supposed to be out in the next few hours 
(unless they found a way to punt).

(Click for a larger image.)


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Morning Twitter Messages -- June 25

Zimmerman attorney's opening statement included a knock-knock joke. Not making this up. Check it out for yourself.
" The Board is unanimously of the view that now is not the time to sell the company. The Board is committed to a strategic plan carefully developed by CEO Doug Ewert and the rest of the company's experienced management team, which we all believe will maximize long-term value for all shareholders."
[Shorter version: We've worked whole careers for this moment. It's time to cash in our chips and make a killing.]
But this may be a more balanced explanation than mine...

He's referring to the Paul Ryan Eat the Poor approach to poverty.
Just last week, the House provided another example of Ryan’s anti-poverty principles in action. It enacted a large cut in food stamps, as Ryan has been calling for. Then, concluding this hadn’t gone far enough, it added a provision allowing states to cut off beneficiaries who didn’t have a job. As Robert Greenstein explained, this was completely unlike the welfare provisions designed to encourage people to get jobs:
Work requirements in low-income programs require unemployed people to look for jobs, to accept any job offer, to participate in workforce or training programs if there is a slot available in a program, and the like. If the individuals fail to comply with the requirements, they can be sanctioned by having their benefits cut or terminated. The SNAP program also disqualifies people who quit a job. 
This is not what the Southerland amendment would do. It would allow states to end benefits for most adults who receive or apply for SNAP — including parents with young children and many people with disabilities — if they are not working or participating in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week. The amendment provides no jobs and no funds for work or training programs, and it does not require states to make any work opportunities available. People who want to work and are looking for a job but haven’t found one could be cut off.

A conventional analysis would call this approach cruel, bordering on sociopathic. It’s one thing to tailor policy to encourage people to work. It’s another to create a new punishment for people who can’t find jobs. And given the baseline reality of mass unemployment for low-skilled workers, and a bill that proposes nothing to create more jobs or even job training, the Southerland amendment would do nothing but punish the poor. Ryan voted for it, naturally.

Mario Garcia, a 29-year member of the California National Guard, kisses his dog Russell at home in Sacramento. Garcia marched in uniform in the Sacramento Pride Parade and met with potential recruits.

Is anybody surprised? Really? 

Although "1984" is Orwell's most terrifying novel, its portrayal of a totalitarian surveillance state remains a work of science fiction. His other novels, however, show how in contemporary society people everywhere are trapped by the relentless march of progress, capitalism, commercialism, communism, and other negative aspects of modern society. Orwell warned us about all of it.

I think Tom Watson's on to something...
"Let's be honest - how many progressives of color are critical of President Obama in context of #Snowden #NSA security etc - why is that?
Perhaps it's because they perceive an angrier personal tone in the criticism of the President from a corps of critics that is whiter than the guest list at a Paula Deen dinner party? 

Let's be honest here, folks. 
This is long enough for one post. More later. 
Different links. Stay tuned.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Morning Twitter Messages -- June 22

Evidence gathered in Syria, along with flight-control data and interviews with militia members, smugglers, rebels, analysts and officials in several countries, offers a profile of a complex and active multinational effort, financed largely by Qatar, to transport arms from Libya to Syria’s opposition fighters. Libya’s own former fighters, who sympathize with Syria’s rebels, have been eager collaborators.

“It is just the enthusiasm of the Libyan people helping the Syrians,” said Fawzi Bukatef, the former leader of an alliance of Libyan brigades who was recently named ambassador to Uganda, in an interview in Tripoli.

As the United States and its Western allies move toward providing lethal aid to Syrian rebels, these secretive transfers give insight into an unregistered arms pipeline that is difficult to monitor or control. And while the system appears to succeed in moving arms across multiple borders and to select rebel groups, once inside Syria the flow branches out. Extremist fighters, some of them aligned with Al Qaeda, have the money to buy the newly arrived stock, and many rebels are willing to sell.

For Russia — which has steadfastly supplied weapons and diplomatic cover to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria — this black-market flow is a case of bitter blowback. Many of the weapons Moscow proudly sold to Libya beginning in the Soviet era are now being shipped into the hands of rebels seeking to unseat another Kremlin ally.

These two videos are about six minutes each. There is no way to fully explain why a million people simultaneously decide to take to the streets, but these two videos come close.

This first one, by Brazilian filmmaker Carla Dauden, explains why she’s boycotting the World Cup, which Brazil will host next year, as well as the Olympics in 2016. The sky-high cost of the events, she argues, is a waste of money that should go toward alleviating poverty and illiteracy. “Yeah, maybe the guy selling ice cream on the beach might do better that week,” she says, adding that Brazilian leaders’ decision to host the costly sports events shows their lack of interest or ability to focus on their country’s larger issues.

This next video shows interviews (captioned in English) with a number of Brazilian protesters, who explain why they’re there, their background, what they believe in and what they want from their government. Not all of them share the same ideas or goals, of course, but it’s a compelling, at times poignant window into the mood of this mass movement in the world’s fifth most populous country.


If you read nothing else this morning, read this. Matt Taibbi is at his customary best. 

Thanks to a mountain of evidence gathered for a pair of major lawsuits by the San Diego-based law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, documents that for the most part have never been seen by the general public, we now know that the nation's two top ratings companies, Moody's and S&P, have for many years been shameless tools for the banks, willing to give just about anything a high rating in exchange for cash.

In incriminating e-mail after incriminating e-mail, executives and analysts from these companies are caught admitting their entire business model is crooked.

"Lord help our fucking scam . . . this has to be the stupidest place I have worked at," writes one Standard & Poor's executive. "As you know, I had difficulties explaining 'HOW' we got to those numbers since there is no science behind it," confesses a high-ranking S&P analyst. "If we are just going to make it up in order to rate deals, then quants [quantitative analysts] are of precious little value," complains another senior S&P man. "Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of card[s] falters," ruminates one more.

Ratings agencies are the glue that ostensibly holds the entire financial industry together. These gigantic companies – also known as Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations, or NRSROs – have teams of examiners who analyze companies, cities, towns, countries, mortgage borrowers, anybody or anything that takes on debt or creates an investment vehicle.

Their primary function is to help define what's safe to buy, and what isn't. A triple-A rating is to the financial world what the USDA seal of approval is to a meat-eater, or virginity is to a Catholic. It's supposed to be sacrosanct, inviolable: According to Moody's own reports, AAA investments "should survive the equivalent of the U.S. Great Depression."

In the latest installment of the Snowden disclosures on Friday, The Guardian reported that the N.S.A.’s British counterpart has tapped into hundreds of fiber-optic communications lines and is sharing a vast quantity of e-mail and Internet traffic with American intelligence. Under a program called Tempora, the British agency, known as G.C.H.Q., has been able to tap into 200 of the approximately 1,600 high-capacity fiber cables in and out of Britain and aspires to be able to tap 400 lines at once, harvesting a staggering amount of information, the British newspaper reported.
Figure 1: Arab Public Opinion: attitudes towards the Arab Spring/Arab revolutions. (More results at the link.)