Julian Bond: Principled Pragmatist

A nice remembrance of Julian Bond by Todd Gitlin, sent on by Marshall Ganz, both of whom worked with Bond.

“He was a pragmatist man of principle, no oxymoron intended. The principle was nonviolence, which, as one of his last public statements bears out—I shall quote it below—was his principle to the end. A pragmatist is not a trimmer. A pragmatist looks for results and changes his or her modus operandi—and theory—accordingly. Thus, at first, he and others in SNCC thought they were “still operating on the theory that there was a problem, you expose it to the world, the world says ‘How horrible!’ and moves to correct it.”

A Great Life that Matters

Bond, in one of his last known letters, supported the Iran nuclear deal worked out by the Obama administration.

“Today we have before us an issue that should unite all Americans, supporting the nuclear agreement with Iran. This historic diplomatic accord will not only help prevent the proliferation of mankind’s most heinous weapon, it will help avoid yet another disastrous war in the Middle East.'”

No Republicans at Selma March 50th Year Remembrance

None. Not one.

None of the top leaders — House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy or Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was once thought likely to attend to atone for reports that he once spoke before a white supremacist group — will be in Selma for the three-day event that commemorates the 1965 march and the violence that protesters faced at the hands of white police officers. A number of rank-and-file Republicans have been aggressively lobbying their colleagues to attend, and several black lawmakers concurred.

from Politico via Washington Post

March 21, 1965 file photo, Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., heading for the capital, Montgomery, during a five-day, 50-mile walk to protest voting laws.  (AP Photo/File)

March 21, 1965 file photo, Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., during a five-day, 50-mile walk to protest voting laws. (AP Photo/File)

Martin Luther King, Jr.


A very nice, short compilation of King’s speeches….

Doctors Without Borders Partially Back in Burma

The news coming from Burma has not been good for months.  While foreign investment has picked up and a certain liberalization of life inside the country has taken place, terrible xenophobic violence, led by s few Buddhist monks,  has brought the deaths of many, homelessness and fear to tens of thousands.  A few days ago, the President, inexplicably, forced Médecins Sans Frontières out of the country.  Yesterday, the decision was reversed, partially.  They can’t go where they are most needed.

 BURMA is to allow Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to resume work – just days after announcing that the group was to be thrown out the country.

But the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group will not be allowed to resume work in Rakhine, a state plagued by bloody bouts of sectarian violence. MSF has expressed grave concern at the weekend about the fate of tens of thousands of vulnerable people in that state.

The group has been providing care there to both ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, a mostly stateless minority who live in apartheid-like conditions and who otherwise have little access to health care.

The Scotsman and The Burma Times

A Rohingya family have a meager meal in a camp for displaced Muslim families near Sittwe in May 2013. (Photo: Jpaing / The Irrawaddy)

A Rohingya family have a meager meal in a camp for displaced Muslim families near Sittwe in May 2013. (Photo: Jpaing / The Irrawaddy)

Nelson Mandela: Gone

One of the truly great has gone.

18 July 1918 − 5 December 2013

18 July 1918 − 5 December 2013

I was listening to Bruckner’s 7th Symphony when the news arrived. It suits my mood.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”


“Mandela understood the power of sport to provide dignity and hope in the face of state-sponsored oppression, to undermine discrimination with resistance and to heal and to help unite a society that the racial segregation of apartheid had brutally divided.”

“Sport has the power to change the world,” Mandela, who died Thursday, was often quoted as saying. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”  NY Times, Sports




Al Jazeera

NY Times

Mahalia Called out to King: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”

What a wonderful back story Drew Hansen tells about the March on Washington, Sunday, August 28, 1963

When King arrived at the Willard Hotel in Washington the night before the march, he still didn’t have a complete draft. King called his aides together in the lobby, and they started arguing about what should go in the speech. One wanted King to talk about jobs, another wanted him to talk about housing discrimination. Finally King said: “My brothers, I understand. I appreciate all the suggestions. Now let me go and counsel with the Lord.”

King went up to his room and spent the night writing the speech in longhand. Andrew Young stopped by and saw that King had crossed out words three and four times, trying to find the right rhythm, as if he were writing poetry. King finished at about 4 in the morning and handed the manuscript to his aides so it could be typed up and distributed to the press. The speech did not include the words “I have a dream.”

Oh read it all!

Over in Paris, James Baldwin led a petition writing campaign and presentation at the US Embassy.

More than 550 petitions were delivered; petitions also went to diplomatic posts in Rome, Madrid and several cities in Germany. …

Americans were not the only ones marching on Washington: 1,200 to 1,400 people marched on the American consulate in Amsterdam, led by the local Action Committee for Solidarity with the March on Washington. The mayor of Kingston, Jamaica, led a march of 2,500 in his city. One hundred marched through heavy rain in Oslo, Norway.

There were smaller protests in Israel and Burundi. In Accra, Ghana, a small group held signs reading “America, Africa Is Watching You” and “Stop Genocide in America and South Africa.”

And, Joseph E Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner in Economics was in the crowd on that day, his decision to do graduate work in economics rather than theoretical physics being confirmed.  His reflection, as of others, is how wide the gap still is between white life and black life in America.

The raw numbers tell much of the story: There has been no significant closing of the gap between the income of African-Americans (or Hispanics) and white Americans the last 30 years. In 2011, the median income of black families was $40,495, just 58 percent of the median income of white families.

Turning from income to wealth, we see gaping inequality, too. By 2009, the median wealth of whites was 20 times that of blacks. The Great Recession of 2007-9 was particularly hard on African-Americans (as it typically is on those at the bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum). They saw their median wealth fall by 53 percent between 2005 and 2009, more than three times that of whites: a record gap. But the so-called recovery has been little more than a chimera — with more than 100 percent of the gains going to the top 1 percent — a group where, needless to say, African-Americans cannot be found in large numbers.

The Voting Rights Act

In case the recent Supreme Court ruling eviscerating Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act left you shrugging your shoulders, it should not have.  Bad, very bad stuff.  For a good summary of the cauldron from which the most important civil rights legislation ever passed came from see Louis Menand’s New Yorker (July 8 & 15) article.

There were, in the end, three marches from Selma. Each was momentous. King was not present at the first, which took place on March 7, 1965—“Bloody Sunday.” Some six hundred marchers, led by John Lewis, of sncc, and Hosea Williams, of the S.C.L.C., set off from Brown Chapel and crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge (Pettus was a Confederate general, later a Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan), over the Alabama River. At the far end, they found arrayed before them more than a hundred and fifty armed men: state troopers, under Lingo’s command, and Sheriff Clark’s posse, some on horseback. Wallace had ordered Lingo to take “whatever steps necessary” to stop the march. The troopers wore gas masks and carried nightsticks; Clark’s men were armed with clubs, whips, and cattle prods. One carried a rubber hose wrapped in barbed wire. A number of white Alabamans had come out to watch the sport.

So had the press. It’s all on film. The marchers halt fifty feet from the line of troopers. They are told that they have two minutes to turn around and go back to their homes and churches, but, well before two minutes have passed, the troopers charge into the line, beating everyone in sight. They are followed by Clark’s men on horseback, then by the tear gas.

Forty tear-gas cannisters were fired that day. The marchers were chased for a mile back to Selma. Troopers fired tear gas into the Carver housing project; posse men rode their horses up the steps of Brown Chapel. That evening, forty-eight million television viewers watching “Judgment at Nuremberg” on ABC had the movie interrupted for a fifteen-minute film of the attack. There was no voice-over. The only sounds were the thuds of clubs, reports of tear-gas cannisters being fired, the rebel yells of Clark’s posse, and the constant, hysterical screams of the victims.

At least ninety marchers were wounded, and Lewis had a fractured skull, but the effect was achieved. The film left no room for hairsplitting about provocation. Unarmed men and women on a highway were set upon by uniformed men wearing gas masks and riding horses. The Pettus Bridge was a turning point in American race relations and American history.

The majority of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roberts, argued that the times had changed, that the pre-clearance needed to change voting rules or requirements , as spelled out by Section 4, was based on old data, that the South (11 states) was New, and could not be singled out for long-ago perpetrations.

Immediately, Texas announced it would put into place changes in voting requirements which the pre-clearance had not allowed.


New Zealand Parliament Breaks into Maori Love Song After Passing Gay Marriage Bill

Really, this will choke you up.  Human Beans can come out of their shells and sing to others who only decades ago were despised….

Right after the official tally was announced, the crowd of onlookers, joined by numerous members of Parliament, broke into song, singing “Pokarekare Ana,” a love song in the language of New Zealand’s inidgenous Māori people.


From AmericaBlog

Marriage For those Who Wish to Marry

So President Obama has finally done it: “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

Overdue for some, challenging for some and greater increase of their visceral disgust in others.

What this means in terms of actual legislation, change of laws, acceptance back into families, additions to story-lines in children’s books, teen novels or TV shows is yet to be seen. Though the commentariat is fully at predicting:

Obama Team:

Jonathan Rauch: Brookings

Three Right Wingers

Wall Street Journal Readers

Forbes: 5 Reasons

Generationally, it’s been clear for some time,that couples hanging out together, whatever their looks, or preferences in privacy, are simply part of everyday life.  If they are best friends at 17 and 19 why shouldn’t they be able to cohabitate, marry and divorce, bring up children, go to PTA meetings, care for each other in old age as they get older? To think otherwise can only be explained by the weirdness of being brain dead.

Of course this tolerance didn’t arrive simply because of youth itself.  The young can be notoriously intolerant, as the recent movie Bully shows, or any middle school teacher can tell you from the epithets thrown around the school yard.

It arrived because of decades of insistence by brave souls who were willing to take on abuse by saying publicly that they were gay; decades of public display of togetherness and numbers in parades and demonstrations; decades of people telling their families and co-workers that they were gay, they loved someone with the same equipment as themselves.  Decades to be able to understand that love and heartache were pretty similar, regardless.  Decades to realize how many important, culture shaping people were gay. Decades of individuals and companies instituting their own changes in perception of what is normal.  A management team realizing ‘We need this programer, or that designer, for her skills, his talent, regardless what is done is places we don’t want to know about.’  Soldiers realizing that reliance on one another in danger did not stop because of the precise person another loved.

In this case, as Biden, Duncan and finally Obama have spoken publicly they are following many other political leaders who themselves have come from constituencies that are changing.  Attorneys General in many states are women; it goes without notice now.  CEOs of major companies are women.  CEOs are gay.  Senators and Representatives are gay.  Beloved teachers and mentors are gay.   It’s a good thing more voices are added to the chorus: the times are a changing..the old road is rapidly aging….


Now, for my part, if only some energies that have advanced both racial and sexual rights, the organizing,  the militancy, the  personal testimony, the incremental and major changes, would be released to work on climate change, on the right to live itself — before it is too late.  Civil Rights will mean little in world wide water wars — too much rain, too little rain, cities sunk beneath rising seas, populations pushing up against each other trying to survive.