Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Political Humor from 1915

Hat Tip: Meg at Cognitive Dissonance.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Having Governments Declare Hate Groups as Hate Groups is a Bad Idea

Liberals and progressives, just like right wingers, neo-confederates, and gun nuts, have been promoting dubious ideas on the White House petition site.  More than 800,000  reacted to President Obama's re-election in multiple petitions for their states to secede from the United States. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, nearly fifty thousand have petitioned for CNN talk show host Piers Morgan to be deported back to England because of his support for gun control.

Not to outdone, over 300,000 have petitioned for the hateful Westboro Baptist Church to be officially declared a hate group. It is said to be the most signatures on an individual petition in the history of the White House petition site.

Here is the text of the petition
This group has been recognized as a hate group by organizations, such as The Southern Poverty Law Center, and has repeatedly displayed the actions typical of hate groups.

Their actions have been directed at many groups, including homosexuals, military, Jewish people and even other Christians. They pose a threat to the welfare and treatment of others and will not improve without some form of imposed regulation.
Another petition , with close to 100.00 signers, references the White House petition and urges the FBI
to officially designate the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group, urging the IRS to revoke the organization's tax-exempt status and increasing law enforcement's ability to block them from disrupting private funerals.
Not only is this is a really noxious proposal, it is also misguided. I've been asked to sign it several times on both Facebook and Twitter. I'm sure many signed it just to let off steam at the reprehensible behavior and disgusting ideas of Fred Phelps and family, which have made Westboro the symbol of anti-gay bigotry, even though it is tiny, marginal, and counterproductive group.  Its raw, unfiltered hatred is probably a net plus for gay rights, discrediting the antigay cause. The petitions makes its signers feel good, but it diverts attention from the really powerful groups which support antigay bigotry and legislation in the United States and internationally. The petitions make the statement that anti-bigotry is wrong --and the statement that we should abandon the first amendment in favor of having government agencies, whether the President or the FBI, declare some speech to be banned.

There is simply no process today in the United States to legally recognize  an organization as a "hate group."  And that's a good thing.  We don't proscribe groups because we don't like their views.  It is even allowed for individuals and groups to advocate the overthrow of the government as long as they don't advocate imminent action.

And, why, would we trust the FBI,  which in its internal documents has labelled the Occupy movement as a domestic terrorist organization, to make public judgments on whether this or that organization should be labelled a "hate group?"

As Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall argued
the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content. To permit the continued building of our politics and culture, and to assure self-fulfillment for each individual, our people are guaranteed the right to express any thought, free from government censorship. The essence of this forbidden censorship is content control. Any restriction on expressive activity because of its content would completely undercut the 'profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.
The anti-Westboro petition confuses speech and actions.  It says that Westboro "displayed the actions that are typical of hate groups."  And that their "actions" "pose a threat to the welfare and treatment of others...." But there differences in what hate groups do.  The SPLC states that inclusion on the list "does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity."  So far as I know Westboro has never incited attacks on gay people.  Their placards say "God Hates Fags" not "Kill Gays." They have, again so far as I know, obeyed ordinances and requirements that mandate that they conduct their protests a certain distance from funerals. 

The best way to oppose the hatred of Westboro is to either ignore them or to arrange counter-protests., not to have the government but them on a proscribed list.

In the past, the American government has put groups on proscribed lists. During the first red scare at the end of WWI, laws forbade the admission into the United States of immigrants who belonged to groups 'which advocated the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence." Many states passed "criminal syndicalism" laws which in effect  made membership in radical  union organizations like the Industrial Workers of the World illegal. More than twenty states, including Kansas, made it illegal to display red flags. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer listed 12 organizations, membership in which would automatically lead to exclusion or deportation for alien members. However, the deportation proceedings aroused such a public clamor that the list,  was withdrawn. In 1947, Attorney General Tom Clark issued a list of 11 subversive organization including Communist fronts, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Nazi Party.  Within a decade, the list had grown to more than 100 organizations, even though many groups were defunct.

Membership, past or present, in these subversive groups  was a bar to federal employment. Many state and local government employees were required to sign a loyalty oath that they were not members of a subversive group, including but not limited to those on the AG's list.  Teachers were also required to sign loyalty oaths.  The Federal government required defense contractors and ports to clear their employees. Courts, at the time, held that other employers could fire employees who were members of "subversive" organizations.  In 1952 Congress passed a law "which provided that "no housing unit constructed under the United States Housing Act of 1937, as amended, shall be occupied by a person who is a member of an organization designated as subversive by the Attorney General."

Moreover, the subversive list had no real process for organizations to appeal their classification or to see the evidence against them. It took more than a decade for the Independent Socialist League an anti-Stalinist, left-wing group to get removed from the AG's list.  Lewis Coser wrote in an early 1954 issue  of Dissent:
For six years now a conspicuously powerless group called the Independent Socialist League, in political complexion Marxist and premature antiStalinist, has been on the Attorney General’s “Subversive List.” This disgraceful amalgam with Stalinist organizations has done the members of the ISL considerable harm. Yet hardly a voice has been raised in the official circles of liberalism to fight against this injustice. For what does it matter? Everyone knows that in difficult times minor injustices are unavoidable, and besides it is such an insignificant group. . . .

Now, finally, the Attorney General has filed a “bill of particulars” against the ISL. The group is not even accused of favoring “the violent overthrow” of the government; in substance and apart from the gross ignorance of the Attorney General’s charges, the ISL is accused of nothing more than being Marxist and desiring the abolition of capitalism. This, the Attorney General implies, is enough to make it “subversive.”
 (See also the July 1955 issue of the ISL's newspaper Labor Action and pages 5-8 of the  January 27, 1958 issue)

The Industrial Workers of the World was also, quite unjustly, included on the AG's list.

Let's not go down the road of governmental  proscription of organizations for being  "subversive" or "hate groups."

Wichita Martin Luther King Parade

I took some photos in Saturday's Martin Luther King Jr. parade. We marched from a South Broadway church to the Chester Lewis Reflection Square which comemmorates the 1958 Dockum Sit-In, one of the first actions to integrate lunch counters and restaurants in the modern civil rights ear. It was billed as the 34th annual, though I am told that there have been a few missed years. I remember one year when it was just too cold and rainy. 

Organizers of Saturday's events expressed a commitment to build a larger parade next year. Let's hope so. It was a good event, but it could be better. Still, we should not underestimate the importance of MLK events happening in cities and towns all across the country.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Blues on a Saturday: Jerry Hahn "Now's the Time"

I just came across this excellent performance of Charlie Parker's blues tune "Now's the Time" by guitarist Jerry Hahn. The video mixes a couple of Hahn performances with cute cat photos and pictures from throughout Hahn's long career. I heard Hahn live in 1970 with the jazz-rock fusion group Jerry Hahn Brotherhood with Wichita legend Mike Finnegan. And, before that on Country Roads and Other Places by the Gary Burton Quartet.

For those, who don't know the full story, "Now's the Time," recorded by Parker in 1945 was redone by Paul Williams four years later and became a massive best seller and a dance craze. Here the Williams version here on Youtube. It has been recorded myriad times by some very surprising artists and was a top 10 hit for Chubby Checker in the 1960s.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Blues on a Saturday: Lowell Fulson "Sinner's Prayer"

Lowell Fulson wrote and recorded "Sinner's Prayer" in 1950, although the most famous version was recorded by former Fulson sideman Ray Charles in 1957. Until preparing this post, I didn't realize that "sinners prayer" has a specific--and controversial-- meaning for Baptists, evangelicals, fundamentalists, Pentecostals, and charismatics. It is not a term used by Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Here is what wikipedia says

any prayer of repentance, spoken or read by individuals who feel convicted of the presence of sin in their life and desire to form or renew a personal relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ. It is not intended as liturgical like a creed or a confiteor. It is intended to be an act of initial conversion to Christianity, and a way to receive salvation. It also may be prayed as an act of re-commitment for those who are already believers in the faith. Often, at the end of a worship service, an evangelist will invite those desiring to receive Christ (thus becoming Christians) to repeat with him the words of some form of a sinner's prayer. It also is frequently found on printed gospel tracts, urging people to “repeat these words from the bottom of your heart”
Regardless of whether Fulson had church experiences that lead to writing this tune, it is a classic.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Blues on a Saturday: Jimmy McCracklin "The Walk"

Jimmy McCracklin, West Coast bluesman, died on December 20, 2012 after a career that spanned seven decades, having recorded over 30 albums with four gold records and written hundreds of songs including classics like "Tramp" "Think," and "Every Night, Every Day."

Tom Mazzolini of the San Francisco Blues Festival said of him, "He was probably the most important musician to come out of the Bay Area in the post-World War II years." But Kub Coda notes on "McCracklin has always been one of those artists whose currency always ran higher in the black blues community than it has in the subsequent years of white historical revision." On a NPR roundup of musicians who died in 2012, I didn't hear McCracklin's name,so its appropriate to feature this clip."

This is a 1991 recording of McCracklin's 1958 hit "The Walk" with Ry Cooder at the Village Music Anniversary Party. It features Wayne Bennett, long-time guitarist for Bobby "Blue" Bland.

Here are a few other McCracklin songs on Youtube "Georgia Slop," "Get Back," "Get Together."

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Israel's election

From what I read there is an almost universal consensus that Benjamin Netanyahu is headed to an overwhelming victory in Israel's January 22 parliamentary  election.  Look a little closer and you will see that what is really meant is that the merger of Netanyahu's Likud Party and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu will give the new party the largest share of seats in the new Knesset.

But in Israel's parliamentary system that is not the same as forming a new government.

About two weeks ago, Eric Lee wrote a provocative post " "Is this Netanyahu’s final month in office?" looking at the trend in polling results over the last year or more. Lee points out that the right wing parties of Netanyahu and Lieberman have declined in the polls from 45 seats in late 2011 to 36 seats in Dec 2012. [And, in a poll after Lee wrote his post, even lower to 33  seats!]It might be possible, Lee observes, that the left and center parties might be able to form a government with the support of the religious Shas party.  And, in a more optimistic projection, with the left, center and Arab parties getting about 10 percent more current projections, they might be able to cobble together a government without Shas.  Lee concludes "the most likely scenario is that Netanyahu pulls together a coalition, but it’s not inevitable."

Then, on December 29, I read this in the Times of Israel

The three leading center-left parties — Shelly Yachimovich’s Labor, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid — are exploring possibilities to work together after the January 22 elections to try to prevent Likud-Beytenu head Benjamin Netanyahu from retaining the prime ministership, or at least to wield the strongest possible hand in coalition negotiations with him.

Efforts to merge at least some of the center-left parties foundered in the weeks before the deadline for submitting party lists for the elections earlier this month. A bid for a Labor-Hatnua alliance made some headway, but collapsed because both Yachimovich and Livni wanted to lead any such merged slate.

But opinion polls showing a gradual fall in support for Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu — and a first vague indication that some votes might be moving across the political spectrum from right to left — have energized talk of post-election possibilities on the center-left.

At this stage, surveys give no ammunition to the notion that the center-left might prevail in the elections, but activists see Netanyahu sliding, and believe the center-left may yet have more leverage than had been anticipated just a few weeks ago.

Livni said Friday that, after the elections, she would “attempt to create a front with other partners with the same worldview… with the imperative to replace Netanyahu.”
And, here is another reason not be overly pessimistic about the elections. Adiv Sterman reports

A broad majority of the Israeli public would vote in favor of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, if the government brought a plan that offered security guarantees to a referendum, polls published Sunday by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace found.
Roughly two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) expressed support for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps; a demilitarized Palestine; and Jerusalem’s Old City administered jointly by the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, with Israel maintaining control of the Western Wall.
Journalist Larry Derfner praises Meretz's peace program 

the Meretz peace plan, which the party presented in its election campaign this week, an oasis in the desert.

The proposal doesn’t screw around. It calls for Israel’s immediate recognition of Palestine, followed by a settlement freeze, release of prisoners, lifting of roadblacks, and negotiations based on the Arab peace plan with the sponsorship of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – a “Regional Quartet” to accompany the old Quartet of the U.S., EU, UN and Russia. It also calls for scrapping the Oslo Accord – which ex-peace negotiator Dov Weisglass has held up as Israel’s instrument for turning the West Bank into “the only prison in the world where the prisoners have to provide for themselves” – and replacing it with an agreed-upon program for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate on a “fair, equal, government-to government basis.”

Bloggers Round-up

Corey Robin presents his top 5 posts of the year and a little extra

David Kaib  Top Five Posts No One Read