Tag Archives: civil rights

The protesters at Ferguson might have won, but choose to lose

Summary: 4GW is the dominant form of warfare in our time, allowing materially weaker peoples to defeat stronger opponents. Such victories are not free; they require a group to become morally strong: cohesive, disciplined, behaving so as to gather support from others. Mere violence accomplishes nothing, as African-Americans will learn again in Ferguson MO.

Ferguson: police car

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“Our immediate goal is to make sure that the residents of Ferguson are safe, that the looting stops, that the vandalism stops, that the people who are living in the community are confident that justice will be done.”
— Valerie Jarrett (Senior Advisor to Obama) interviewed by American Urban Radio Networks, 17 August 2014

“A number of locals have told NPR that they’re increasingly frustrated that Ferguson residents are being represented by small handfuls of looters and rioters, who they suspect are from out of town.”
— “More Mayhem In Ferguson: Tear Gas, Looting, Gunshots“, NPR, 18 August 2014

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Technology has given us superpowers, but not to the extent that we know what’s going on in Ferguson. There has been looting and burning. But how much? By whom: locals or outsiders? How violent have the protests been?

What we do know is that the people of Ferguson MO, especially its African-American members, had the moral high ground after the shooting of the unarmed Michael Brown by local police for still-unclear but probably insufficient reasons. The moral high ground has often provided a decisive advantage in conflicts — even in war. America proved in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, gaining vital support in both from the UK and Farnce). It’s even more important in 4GWs.

The Ferguson shooting might have been the equivalent of the 1955 arrest of Rosa Parks, which sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott , which led to the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — from which still greater events came. These triumphs came through non-violent protests, requiring great discipline by large numbers of people — achieved by organizations and leadership built over generations. (I’ve been unable to find details about how they maintained such tight discipline during these protests).

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Congress did a great thing 50 years ago, but rot from that day has spread and taken root

Summary: 19 June 1964. I believe on this day America took a wrong turn. It was the day we took a large step to closure on the wound opened by the Civil War, another step to atoning for and overcoming the legacy of slavery. The Senate voted to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. But one of the opponents saw this as an opportunity, and we live with the dark results today

Barry Goldwater button

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Reflecting the parties geographical, not ideological, foundations, the vote passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act was mixed.

  • Democratic Party: 46–21   (69–31%)
  • Republican Party: 27–06   (82–18%)

But one of those “no” votes was by the GOP candidate for the Presidency, who saw an opportunity to redraw America’s political map and end the  dominant position the Democratic Party had held since the Great Depression. The price was betrayal of the Republican Party’s legacy.

Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) lost the 1964 presidential election, but his campaign reforged a Republican Party with racism as a core element — burned into an alliance with the right-wing social and economic ideologies. The poison took time to spread through the GOP, but by 1980 — amplified by Nixon and Reagan — it helped make conservatism become the dominant political force in America (affecting both parties).

That day 50 years ago could have begun a break with our past. Instead we’re still grappling with our racist legacy from slavery.

Here’s the speech Goldwater gave justifying his betrayal. Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) decodes the key phrases he uses to disguise his political logic.

  • “Demagogue” = “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March on Washington”
  • “Calm environment” = “an end to sit-ins and Freedom Rides”
  • “Special appeals for special welfare” = “desire by African-Americans to eat at lunch counters and stay at hotels open to others”

The text, from DeLong’s post:

There have been few, if any, occasions when the searching of my conscience and the re-examination of my views of our constitutional system have played a greater part in the determination of my vote than they have on this occasion.

I am unalterably opposed to discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color, or creed, or on any other basis; not only my words, but more importantly my actions through the years have repeatedly demonstrated the sincerity of my feeling in this regard.

This is fundamentally a matter of the heart. The problems of discrimination can never by cured by laws alone; but I would be the first to agree that laws can help — laws carefully considered and weighed in an atmosphere of dispassion, in the absence of political demagoguery, and in the light of fundamental constitutional principles.

For example, throughout my 12 years as a member of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee, I have repeatedly offered amendments to bills pertaining to labor that would end discrimination in unions, and repeatedly those amendments have been turned down by the very members of both parties who now so vociferously support the present approach to the solution of our problem. Talk is one thing, action is another, and until the members of this body and the people of this country realize this, there will be no real solution to the problem we fact.

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The pilgrimage of Martin Luther King: an antidote to our amnesia about America’s history

Summary: Racism stained the American experiment at its formation, and has warped its evolution at every stage since. The civil war could have purged it, but the Union abandoned Reconstruction unfinished — allowing the South’s whites to stage one of the most effective insurgencies in history and regain control (a key part of this was construction of a faux history). Only a century after the Civil War was it defeated. Today we look at a review by Michael Rogin of two books looking at that period, and the central figure in bringing it nonviolently to a success. Our amnesia about this history prevents us from owning our past. Works like this, and the books he reviews, help us to close this painful gap in our minds, and so move forward.

“The {FBI’s} assistant director, William Sullivan, compiled from the Bureau’s wiretaps and bugs a tape of the noises of the civil rights leader’s extramarital activities. He sent it to King with a letter threatening to expose him; purporting to be a ‘Negro’; the letter-writer proposed suicide as King’s only way out.”

Martin Luther King

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The Ugly Revolution

Book review by the late Michael Rogin
London Review of Books, 10 May 2001
Reposted with the LRB’s generous permission
Red emphasis added

Books reviewed:

  • I May Not Get there with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr by Michael Eric Dyson
  • The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. IV: Symbol of the Movement January 1957-December 1958 edited by Clayborne Carson et al

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Conceived in slavery and dedicated to the proposition that black men are created unequal, the United States has attempted to come to terms with its longue durée of white supremacy only twice in its history.

The first effort, made by black and white abolitionists in the period of nationalist expansion, and caught up in the conflict between slave and free labour modes of production, brought hereditary legal servitude to an end. Its national hero, Abraham Lincoln, announced at Gettysburg that a nation ‘conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal’ had experienced ‘a new birth of freedom’ in civil war. But with the defeat of Reconstruction a decade after Lincoln’s assassination, the 14th Amendment that was supposed to guarantee former slave ‘persons’ equality before the law came instead to insulate corporations, designated ‘artificial persons’, from popular political control.

Deprived of the right to vote throughout the former Confederacy, freedmen and women were forced to work in repressive systems of labour, on farms, in mines and in chain-gangs; subject to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and debt peonage; terrorised, brutalised and murdered in the thousands of lynchings often advertised in advance as public entertainments; confined to Jim Crow schools, public accommodation, restaurants and hotels (where any were available at all); made involuntary participants in sterilisation and other medical experiments; and confronted with residential apartheid and job discrimination as they moved North. A falsification that held more universal sway among whites than did any Stalinist rewriting of history in the Soviet Union transformed black Americans in the post-bellum South from victims of re-subjugation into political and sexual predators.

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Should we thank the Court as it rescues us from our bad laws? Or just bow?

Summary:  America remains locked in a battle between Left and Right. Each fights to protect the Constitution — or the pieces of it they value. Neither cares for the it as other than a tool to advance their interests. The Constitution, torn between them, slowly withers. The American people mildly, intermittently cheer both sides — wanting what they want, ignorant and uncaring of the political processes that constitute the Republic. Today we see this tragedy play out over same sex marriage.

Oracles, ruling on the basis of a document in which few people believe.

Oracles ruling about a document in which many (most?) Americans no longer believe.

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Americans have voted for laws not allowing same sex marriage. Now opinions have changed (for the better IMO), and we can change those laws.  Acts of collective action like this,  working through our elected representatives, strengthen the Republic. We shape America, making our history, showing our power to govern ourselves. This is the natural course of evolution in a democracy.

But many prefer quicker extra-legal measures, wanting results NOW — not caring about the means. Or the consequences.  The Courts, often ready to act as priest-kings — deciders — provide a fast track for social change. As with Roe vs Wade in 1973, the likely result of Supreme Court voiding the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) will be to extend and embitter the debate and further weaken the legitimacy of the courts.

The Republic — and hence us, the people — grow weaker with each exercise of extra-constitutional power by the Courts and the Executive, no matter how well-intentioned. Eventually our leaders will take bold action, promising to give us what we want — security, prosperity, whatever — without bothering to pretend to follow the Constitution. At that point the Constitution will have died.

My guess most of us will live to see that day.

Some people on the Right look at the Courts. Today they cherish the Constitution

I agree with the following views. But the core fact of American politics today is that neither Left nor Right value the Constitution as anything other an instrument to advance their policies. Tomorrow — when looking at government oppression of Muslims, extra-legal assassination of Americans, or illegal surveillance — they might show less concern about old documents.

Gay marriage and the Supreme Court’s empire“, Paul Mirengoff, Powerline, 4 March 2013:

{N}ine glorified lawyers are about to tell us whether the traditional definition of marriage as requiring members of the opposite sex is rational and/or useful (whether the standard is “rationality” or “utility” is up for grabs in the case). By “traditional definition of marriage” in this context, I really mean the universal definition — one that, as far as I know, prevailed until very recently in all societies since the beginning of recorded time. Isn’t it odd that as few as five judges could determine that the traditional definition of this fundamental institution is irrational (or not useful), and make this judgment stick?

Supremacist Courts“, Mark Steyn, National Review, 4 March 2013:

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Obama repeals Magna Carta, asserting powers our forefathers denied to Kings

Summary:  The Republic  is at war against an adaptive foe that seeks its destruction. Not al Qaeda, which might no longer exist in meaningful form, but internal foes seeking its overthrow. That they’re moving incrementally, small steps slowly growing larger with each success, only masks the boldness of their goals. It’s the quiet coup. Here we look at the latest chapter in the war, the most recent rip torn in the Constitution.

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
— Written by Benjamin Franklin for the Pennsylvania Assembly in its “Reply to the Governor” (11 November 1755).

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As the America-that-Once-Was evolves into the quite different New America, the identity of those responsible becomes increasingly clear.  It’s us. Our disinterest in working the Founders’ machinery of self-government. Our passive acceptance of Empire and plutocracy. Saddest of all is our abandonment of America’s ideals, the end point of a thousand year-long struggle.

These things are all seen in our reaction to President Obama’s white paper granting himself powers not seen in Anglo-American history since the Stuart Kings. Limiting the Monarchs’ right of arbitrary arrest and punishment of their subjects took 450 years, from the first tentative agreement in Magna Carta (1215) to its achievement in the English Civil War (1641-1662).  Now, with our complaisance, Presidents Bush Jr and Obama have erased much of that progress.

Two provisions of Magna Carta deserve our attention today, a gift to us from the Barons of 13th century England.

38.  No bailiff for the future shall, upon his own unsupported complaint, put anyone to his “law”, without credible witnesses brought for this purposes.  {This was replaced by improved legislation in 1863}

39.  No freemen shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised {deprived of land} or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.  {This remains in force for the people of England, but no longer in the USA}

Our ancestors spent much blood, sweat, and tears between that day at Runnymede and the meeting in 1878 at Philadelphia.  The liberties provided by the Constitution were won over those 30 generations, by the unruly Saxons and Normans of Medieval England — and the Founders, jealous of their liberties and willing to fight for them.  In the decade since 9-11 we’ve thoughtlessly thrown away political structures that took centuries to build.

The Constitution is just a “paper bullet of the brain”, with no power except to the degree it lives in our hearts.  That love appears to have died.

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What’s the future of the family in America? How will that change our government?

Summary:  As the dust from the election settles, let’s not forget the powerful elements of the conservative critique of 21st C America. Here we look at one of the many forces driving the expansion of the government — the family. What might be its fate in the next few generations?

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Contents

  1. A question about the family, our government,
    and the future of America
  2. The answer: it’s toast, it’s growing, and …
  3. Allan Boom explains
  4. For More Information

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(1)  A question about the family, our government, & America

Question from Matt D, in response to Civil rights just took a step forward, the slow hard way. The right way. (about same-sex marriages):

I read your first link with quotes from de Tocqueville, and I have a question: How does your support for gay marriage square with de Tocqueville’s observation that the suppression of natural hierarchy among individuals drives societies towards centralized despotism? It is clear enough that the legitimization of same-sex marriage is not a driver of the degeneration of well-defined gender roles, which has been taking place over the last half-century. But it is the direct result of this degeneration, and helps to make it more durable.

Through the lens of de Tocqueville’s analysis, would not the blurring of male-female distinctions represent the elimination of the last natural focus of authority in the smallest and most basic unit of human organization? I won’t speculate about the observable results of this process, as that is a topic where there is much diversity of opinion. But on a purely theoretical level, using de Tocqueville’s framework, will not the man who can no longer order his family and the woman who can no longer be protected by her man be filled with a thirst for an ever-stronger and more intrusive centralized authority?

(2)  The answer: it’s toast, it’s growing, and …

Here we come to deep waters, in which the conservative viewpoint has much to say — if we can find these insights among the trash in which it hides today.

In brief, the family is toast in its current configuration. My guess is that the places where this disintegration have advanced most (eg, Scandinavia, Los Angeles) society is coasting, support by inherited cultural traditions which no longer have any foundation. My guess is that this is one of our greatest social problems, which the boomers bequeath to future generations much as the Founders did slavery. We’ve built a system that we don’t like with hopes it will all work, but no ideas as to how.

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Civil rights just took a step forward, the slow hard way. The right way.

Summary: Yesterday the progress of civil rights in America took another step forward with the election of Tammy Baldwin as Senator of WI, and the approval of same-sex ballot initiatives in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Here’s a quick note about this historic development.

To repeat what I said then August 2010 in The quest for Black’s civil rights was not like the quest for same sex marriages

Same sex marriages have gone from illegal to accepted, and I support this evolution. But let’s not lie to ourselves, claiming that our wisdom makes evident what previous generations should have seen. Instead we have changed our society’s rules. It’s evolution — also called progress.

Much of the commentary about this ruling {Judge Walker’s decision overturning California’s Proposition 8} assumes that rights are Platonic objects, pre-existing in some real but intangible sense. And Judge Walker discovered this right to same-sex marriage — proving his predecessors (those who ruled otherwise) to be wrong. As scientists, like Einstein, do. The psychological mechanisms for this conceit are fascinating, but largely an unwillingness to see that our society evolves — and our interpretation of the Constitution evolves along with it. That’s disturbing to those who see the Constitution as an unchanging foundation — like God, King and currency were for earlier societies.

But the reality is that societies evolve. In America the mechanism for political change is and should be elections, not rulings from unelected judges. I believe instituting widespread abortion through the Courts made it a poisonous political issue far longer than would have been the case if normal channels had been used. On the other hand, this delay — like any delay in granting new rights — comes at a serious human cost.

Today civil rights advanced by vote of the people. The hard slow way. The right way.

About the political significance of this

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