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Texas’ Voter ID Law and Section 2 Litigation September 21, 2013

Posted by Afflatus in History, Politics, Uncategorized.
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The story of Texas’ Voter ID law is fascinating. Ever since 1975, Texas was required, under the Voting Rights Act (VRA), to seek approval from the federal government to any changes the state legislature might want to make to its election laws. The purpose of this law was an important one: to ensure that jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination provide all of its citizens with equal access to the voting booths. Yet in June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the VRA, which stipulated the formula for determining which jurisdictions would be subject to federal “pre-clearance” of proposed voting changes under Section 5 of the VRA. By determining that the Section 4 formula was unconstitutional, Shelby rendered the Section 5 “pre-clearance” regime inapplicable and unenforceable (until Congress updates the formula). So now, Texas may change its voting laws at will.

In 2011, the Texas legislature passed SB 14. It is one of the strictest photo ID laws in the nation, requiring voters to present photo identification from a very limited list before being allowed to vote. The law allows Texans to vote with a Texas concealed handgun license, but not with an ID from a public university or a tribal identification card. (See the Brennan Center’s complaint in its challenge to the law, especially paragraphs 41-45, for how the law will discriminate against minority voters.) In August 2012, in the pre-clearance proceedings, the U.S. District Court in DC rejected the law, finding that it would almost certainly “lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.” The appeals process in this lawsuit was pending when the Supreme Court this summer struck down portions of the VRA, removing Texas from the pre-clearance requirement. Two days after the Supreme Court ruled on the VRA, it instructed the District Court to dismiss the pending litigation against Texas, allowing the State to do as it pleases.

Equal Justice Under Law?

Voting equality groups like the Brennan Center launched lobbying campaigns, and Congressmembers began imploring their colleagues to update the formula as the Supreme Court suggested Congress should do.

In addition to those advocacy efforts, lawyers at the Department of Justice, the NAACP, MALDEF, and elsewhere, started litigating to enforce the equal opportunity to vote. Though the Supreme Court had eliminated Section 5 pre-clearance as a tool, there was still Section 2.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or certain minority-language memberships. Section 2 is a creative alternative to Section 5 for enforcing equal access to voting booths, but it is a poor substitute. First, it is an ex post approach rather than ex ante — the voting discrimination must have already occurred. Second, it is far more costly and litigious. Third, the burden of proof is flipped: rather than States being required to prove, under pre-clearance, that a proposed law is nondiscriminatory, plaintiffs are required to prove that the law is discriminatory. These are serious drawbacks, and, while I acknowledge that there were problems with pre-clearance regime, I’m of the opinion that unconscionable voting discrimination is already occurring across America as a result of the change in the regulatory structure and enforcement due to the Supreme Court’s VRA decision.

As stated before, the burden of proof to show that Section 2 has been violated is on the plaintiff, and the threshold is high. Plaintiffs must show that, in the context of the “totality of the circumstance of the local electoral process,” the standard, practice, or procedure being challenged had the result of denying a racial or language minority an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. This is a statutory standard deriving from the 1982 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.

The Senate Judiciary Committee in 1982 issued a report in an attempt to provide guidance to courts when interpreting whether, in the totality of the circumstances, an election law has violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The factors the Senate suggests are:

  1. the history of official voting-related discrimination in the state or political subdivision;
  2. the extent to which voting in the elections of the state or political subdivision is racially polarized;
  3. the extent to which the state of political subdivision has used voting practices or procedures that tend to enhance the opportunity for discrimination against the minority group, such as unusually large election districts, majority-vote requirements, and prohibitions against bullet voting;
  4. the exclusion of members of the minority group from candidate slating processes;
  5. the extent to which minority group members bear the effects of discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and health, which hinder their ability to participate effectively in the political process;
  6. the use of overt or subtle racial appeals in political campaigns; and
  7. the extent to which members of the minority group have been elected to public office in the jurisdiction.

The Judiciary Committee pointed out that this list is neither exclusive nor comprehensive. However, plaintiffs need not prove every factor, or even a majority of them. It’s obvious that there is a tremendous amount of room for courts to interpret this how they please.

Lawsuits raising claims under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act are few and far between — depending on your definition, there are around 35. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, the leading Section 2 lawsuits are a group of three related cases challenging the same Texas Voter ID law that the District Court in DC reviewed within the Section 5 procedure, one of which was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. Read more about the latest of these three cases, NAACP v. Steen, here.

The complaint in NAACP v. Steen is complex because what it seeks to prove — that a voter ID law will disproportionally impact, and thus discriminate unconstitutionally against minorities — is a very difficult proposition to prove in court. It’s also interesting because of the back story of Taxas’ voter ID law in District Court, and because of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the VRA. As a law student learning about argumentation, it’s interesting to see the strategy adopted by the complaint, and which of the Senate’s factors listed above the complaint chooses to stress.

If you’re familiar with Voter ID laws generally, jumping straight to Paragraph 45 might be a good idea. Paragraph 50, listing the historical voting discrimination perpetrated by the State of Texas, is absolutely appalling.

Ultimately, the complaint alleges that the law has both a discriminatory result and a discriminatory purpose. It also alleges that the law violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. It was filed 4 days ago in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. I’m very curious to watch this unfold!

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Ellsberg and Secrecy Oaths July 5, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History, Politics.
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Daniel Ellsberg is a former US military analyst employed by the Rand Corporation who precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and other newspapers.

He wrote an very interesting article for the Harvard International Review in 2002. It’s interesting from a historical perspective, governance perspective and more, and he proposes a solution that’s hard to disagree with.

Secrecy oaths: A License To Lie?

Harvard International Review – June 22, 2004

Daniel Ellsberg

Between 1968 and 1971, I repeatedly broke a solemn, formal promise that I had made in good faith: not to reveal to any “unauthorized persons” information that I received through certain channels and under certain safeguards, collectively known as the “classification” system.

I have never doubted that, under the circumstances facing me, I did the right thing when I revealed the contents of the top-secret Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War to the US Senate and the press. Although it involved breaking the promises I had made to various government agencies and the Rand Corporation, it was the only way to inform the US Congress and the US public of information that was being wrongfully withheld from them; I had considered many other options and tried most of them. The information was vital to Constitutional processes of decision-making on an ongoing war in which tens of thousands of US citizens and many more Vietnamese had been–in effect–lied to death.

Moreover, this had occurred with the complicity of a generation of officials–myself among them–who had placed loyalty to their oaths of secrecy (and to their bosses and careers) above their loyalty to the US Constitution and to their opportunity to avert or end an unnecessary, wrongful, hopeless, and vastly destructive war. By 1971, it was clear to me that it was my earlier complicity with the secrecy system that was mistaken and censurable, not my later choice to tell the truth.

I signed many secrecy “oaths,” or contractual agreements, over the years: as a US Marine officer, as an employee of the Rand Corporation, as a consultant to the offices of the US Secretary of Defense, the US Department of State, and the White House, and later as an employee of the US Department of Defense and the US Department of State. All of them were blanket promises that I would never give any information that was identified as safeguarded, “secret,” or “classified,” to a person who had not been otherwise authorized to receive it by the person or agency that gave me the information.

Implicit in my promises not to reveal such information to “unauthorized” persons was that I would follow them no matter what this information might be: whether it revealed evidence of official lies, crimes, planning for wars in violation of ratified treaties or the US Constitution, violations or planned violations of laws made by the US Congress; whether the unauthorized persons or agencies were officials of the legislative and judicial branch who vitally needed the information to carry out their constitutional functions and had a legitimate right to learn the truth; whether an election, congressional investigation, or vote that decided issues of war and peace were affected by the silence and obedient lies about the government’s plans and actions; and whether countless people had died and were continuing to die because the information was being wrongfully withheld by my own colleagues and superiors under a policy of secrecy and deception.
(more…)

On (Great) Music… June 3, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History, Music.
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Great music is a thing like nothing else. Great music is highly personalized. We could be best friends, but for whatever reasons, we might enjoy different music. As my father always says: “there is no disputing taste.” Wise words, Dad (Words which apply to more than just music).

O music! Innovative, creative, and consistently reliable, music is a timeless activity which (in some form or another) humans have experimented with since the dawn of the earliest civilizations. See a great article in a recent economist along these lines here.

From traditional drumming in Africa, to ancient civilizations in Japan, China, Peru, the Americas (etc.). Music has evolved. It’s been highly regionalized at times, and now (through technology) it is becoming more integrated as globalization and information-sharing become increasingly easier. User-based sharing of music became so rampant, so quickly (think Napster, Kazaa, Limewire) that new regulatory laws had to be put into place to protect the artists, to ensure innovation. On the subject of the best music policy, I think a healthy balance must be struck in order to protect artists’ earnings but still allow for quick, new, creative, innovation. This balance will allow music to progress continually into the future. And who knows what will happen once more and more healthy and creative people have access to a guitar, a piano (etc.), or to new instruments!

I get excited just thinking about the possible future of music! Because, seriously, what is better than your favorite song, your song which is perfect for that moment, for that context, that time and place? That first instant of recognition, when those beginning notes trigger some recognitory occurrence in the mind that only a neuroscientist can try to explain, is the sweetest and purest moment for some. These days, this view is so clearly captured in the often heard phrase, “OH, expletive/name/whatever, this is my song!!” And it is your song, its perfect for that contextual moment. It’s beautiful, enjoy!

I’m not musical. I cannot sing, rap, make a beat on anything. I can occasionally hold a tune or a melody (whatever that means). For my ignorance about music-making, and for other reasons, I greatly appreciate the music-makers. The creators, the innovators, who, despite declining sales these days because of thievery permitted by technology, continually produce beautiful sounds just because they love it! They love it, and I love it.

I was prompted to write this to spur sharing of good music. After what I’ve written above, sharing should be done legally. (Preview the song, if you like it, buy it for .99 cents on iTunes.) I know my friends who contribute to this site know of amazing songs that have yet to flow melodiously through my outer ear in the form of vibrations…towards the awaiting fluid filled labyrinth, which is my inner ear.

Sooo, anyone have any songs to share?

Briefly, here is some great music I’ve been listening to recently:

Fleetwood Mac – Go your own way
Dungeon Family and DJ Cool Breeze – Watch for the Hook
All of Goodie Mob and Cee Lo (it’s unfair to judge cee-lo based solely on Gnarls Barkley, though Gnarls is good too)
– But here are the names of some of my favorite songs by Goodie Mob and Cee Lo: Sometimes, Bass Head Jazz, Living Again, Childz Play, Die Trying, All Day Love Affair, Thought Process, Soul food, Fighting, Distant Wilderness. And I missed tons, but seriously these guys are good.
Soulsavers – Revival
Robert Randolph and the Family Band – I need more love, Good time.
Widespread Panic – Porch song
Grateful Dead – Sugar Magnolia
Little Brother – Good Clothes
And of course, my boy Paul Simon. esp his African-infused songs. Graceland’s his best album

I also have a buddy who is doing big things on his music blog, reviewing and posting new, great music. Check him out at http://alotabomb.blogspot.com

Anyways, thats like 10 too many songs, just my current playlist. I don’t download illegally so, most of them are old, you guys probably have heard most of them.

But I mainly did this to get some good songs from y’all. When you get a moment of time, post some of your favs!

John Kerry and Foreign Aid May 25, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Events, History, Politics, World Affairs.
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Last Thursday I attended a very interesting event at the Brookings Institute, a left-leaning think tank. The event was titled “Diplomacy and Development in the 21st Century: A conversation with Senator John Kerry.” Kerry was invited to come speak as chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee. He mainly spoke about a desperate need to balance the diplomatic and military aspects of our foreign policy strategy. He wants more funding for the state department, USAID, and other humanitarian efforts that lie within these agencies. He spoke extremely well, and showed he was highly knowledgeable about an huge range of foreign policy issues. My notes from the event follow. They are random, and sometimes unintelligible, but I hope you will gain more insight into what Kerry spoke about. Enjoy

Jason considered coming, but it was too late to RSVP. We wondered whether it would really be packed, “Wouldn’t it be in a large auditorium” I asked. Well, I’m here, and Jason wouldn’t have gotten in. Its packed, not enough seats for all. (I was just interrupted by a battle over a seat 3 seats down.) Jason, I wish you were here with me.

12:37 the doors close, people just outside of the entry squeeze forward, and with that, everyone’s in.

A man enters, stands behind the podium, looks at us, and then turns on the Teleprompters, probably for the next speaker.
• O, how teleprompters have changed politics! Each word is now carefully contemplated and practiced. There is no need for the speaker to remember his speech.
12:43 John Kerry and panel enter.

3 points about Kerry – Kerry’s introduction
• 1. Knows about conflict and war, he is a veteran, if you can avoid it, the gift to humanity of being able to avoid it, is great. John Kerry with a huge nod.
• 2. Helps help treat diseases abroad. Kerry was a leader, he is committed to aid!
• 3. Enviornment issue. Constantly will be an issue from now on. League of Conservation voters considers Kerry really good. He has humanity dear to his heart.

Kerry begins to speak:
• 1 mistake: everyone in elected life needs an introduction

Thoughts are with Strom, who died from Brookings. But reading off Teleprompters, its weird. I am sitting exactly behind the teleprompter so I can see his eyes, it weird.

Begins by hearkening back to the Marshall plan.
65 years ago, George Marshall. Germ lost 90% of RR, 1 in 5 houses in France destroyed. No currencies, no food, totally horrible.

Huge praise of Marshall plan! Super successful he says. Marshall understood isolationism was over. Marshall had a vision, offered at a critical moment.

Developmental assistance born out of Marshall Plan
• Investment aid, east Asian economic miracle stemmed by US, helped with quakes and tsunamis,

USAID is a point of pride, and it should be for Americans

His family moved in 1955 to Berlin, Kerry was 12 and aware of reconstruction efforts, plaques saying Marshall Plan, the plaque stood for the US

Not so easy to just replicate it
• His true genius → he saw clearly the challenges at that particular moment, saw the world he wished to create, reached into govt then changed policy and invented institutions.

• Marshall matched his rhetoric absolutely.
• Today there is a gap btw rhetoric and actions on USAID
• We need a strategic vision 4 diplomacy and develop that will meet new challenges
o Ethnic sectarianism
o Religious extremists
o Far more complex than back then, but still urgent and necessary

Challenges are greater than anything we have ever faced” Kerry

Must summon the political will, and reach global effort to do it.
• Low carbon techs for all, the little people
• Fight disease with a multifaceted intl response.
o I helped do this, which Bush translated into PEPFAR?? Wiki
• Must embolster the efforts of aid organizations loosing men in conflict regions
• Ex. I was in ME with King Abdullah of Egypt
• Easy to see gap btw rhetoric in West and PA to actually build a stable PA.
• Globalization involves us more in crises in ME and around the world
o These challenges are growing, not diminishing, studies show this, ppl point this out

• we need a new global order going forward
o Must summon the will
• From leadership, and grassroots
• Summon it to deal with the challenges in this multipolar world
o Global warming is getting worst, coming at us faster.

.35% funds all state dept, all USAID, all humanitarian efforts, an insult to common sense

Last year the army added 7000 soldiers, which is more than the us Foreign Service. We need to increase diplomatic efforts at achieving US strategic interests. Nice call Kerry

Peshawar
• Met ppl on front lines in NW frontier province
o Fighting to win the hearts and minds
o She was definitely contributing to helping, but she could have done so much more.
o Must give foreign service more, NOW. Their potential is going untapped.!! Great point

o As a result, the military takes over, becomes over-deployed. Soldiers, microfinancing, being policemen, judges, cultural anthropology, hearts and minds winners. It’s a remarkable feat that they do accomplish it, but they need civilian helpers.
Bottom line: US could function more efficiently with a more balances carrot and stick.

Long Term
• More resources
Short term
• Diplomatically
o Rebuild in 3
• 1. More resources more personnel
Diplomats falling through the cracks is horrible. Under funding and understaffing. Loosing hundreds of thousands of jobs
Also hindered
• 1,500 new officers over the next 2 years.
• 2. Use embassies to improve our image abroad
• 3. Must give them freedom, unleash these creative ppl. Read Book: 3 cups of tea, youll see.

• He thinks its crazy more Americans don’t know a 2nd language. I need to master Spanish

Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan

USAID
• Must clarify policies and goals
• become more transparent. You cant prioritize everything, they nothing becomes a priority – true.
• Implement reforms to make USAID
• (60% goes to 10 countries for political military counter narcotics and HIVAIDS
The rest goes to way more countries
We need more balance, comprehensive development strategy. )
• 3. Must strengthen human resources. Agriculture experts to spark green revolution in Africa, scientists to deliver to places where they’ve never seen an America, to save climate,
• Must promote a results based culture of accountability and achieving goals.
• USAID should be a place of innovation and accomplishment
• 4. Must streamline outdated laws! Of course
o Last revision was year of his arrival, 1985.
• 5. USAID must screw Washington, needs to globalize USAID workers
o Like cutting off our nose to spite our face
We like how obama understands and is committed.

Announcing foreign affairs authorization act, the foreign aid bill.
Neither will bring comprehensive reform all at once
• He said he wants comp reform, why not draft it dude?
• Has twice seemingly forgot the name of the bill. I decided to ignore it the first time.

• Reforming diplomatic cure, improve embassies esp. environmentally, will help move it forward,

No state dept. authorization bill since 2002. Lets end this, and take responsibility
• Will be crucial to revitalizing development agencies he spoke of earlier
• Must reform – cutting edge programs to end global poverty.
o Hes getting repetitive here.
• Hiring top talent, yup already said that

• JFK – founding of USAID – “we cant escape our moral obligations to be a moral leader, “to fail to meet those obligations now, would be disastrous and in the LR, more expensive. Then he was talking about communism (interesting). “Thus our own security would be endangered,” conflict is bred by our bad FP which lacks diplomatic efforts.

• This quote can easily be applied to USAID reform.
• Cutting poverty and hunger by half by 2015. Speaking of nice, lofty goals. Way to go.
• Universal effort for education. Must eliminate gender disparity.

• Blog about female genital mutilation, moral problem, and problem with mentioning it, taboo.

Q&A
• What are your views on the role of democracy and human rights in USAID? Cites CFAP – excluding democ and human rights from our efforts.
• Kerry’s response:
• Tough and central question: avoided a little. Then goes
o Democ and human rights are in the American DNA. Should not take a backseat “as we engage with countries” always must be part of the discussion. He always raises human rights issue. Ex. Damascus 12.
o I always mention it, but there does have to be a balance. Can’t deal with everything all the time. Must be a balance.
• It would have been better to withhold the elections for longer, but this possibly violates human rights. Bush messed up, but he insisted on human rights. Great example Kerry and he drilled on bush

I thought he just gave a great answer. Must exercise wisdom, judgment, discretion, and judge on a case-by-case basis. Def True.

Afgh- Pak
• Must win the information war.
• Public Diplomacy
o Voice of America – going on about it, used to be a trustworthy news outlet, lost that, became overly politicizes. Now bbc, cnn,
o But in a lot of parts of the world we have no news going to Pakistan.
o In NW frontier region, over 50 FM channels. They rule through instilling fear, announced executions, announce that some1 must change something, or else will be executed tomorrow. Also, Taliban circulate videos of beheadings, you can buy 1 for 1 USD$.
o Interesting

oHow to approach the Muslim World?
• Conference with evangelicals US, clerics mufdis, elahs,
• Kerry addressed the commonality of the Semitic religions “Abrahamic”.
• The Muslim world must reclaim the legitimate religion, not the hijacked one by the extremists.
o The obvious problem is there no 1 universal figure like the Pope.
o Random ppl issuing fatwa’s
• Abdallah in Egypt and Jordanian King are leading an effort to make the moderate reforms.
o Tolerance, pluralism, coexistence,
o Our diplomacy must do this .
o He has heard thousands of times about how their lives were thrown topsy-turvy by US invasion of Iraq.
Resupports Obama
• Points out how the President is especially good with public diplomacy in the ME, and Muslim world.
o His speech in Egypt. Highlights
AID in US Soviet union, former
Get more specific Kerry…
• Institutional changes? Legislation within these institutions?
• All of the above. Pragmatically speaking: we don’t have unlimited resources.
• Not really answering her questions so far.
• We are doing it in numerous, multi-lateral ways, which is contradictory to his earlier “must not prioritize everything”, also still not being specific like she wanted him to be.
• Again, refers to 3 cups of tea book.
We need legislation that toes the line and does not create more beaurocracy in itself. TRUTH
2 part question: development is in LR, how do we reconcile with SR efforts?
• 2nd part; there are risks.
o Compares the field to Washington
• Don’t dictate from here; create incentives, like globalization, and capitalism, free-market incentive. The democracts should speak with words that show their capitalists, not socialists as the Right tries to say.
Empower ppl on the ground.

LR and SR?
• A matter of defining our national security properly.
• In recent administration; national security was erroneously defined too narrowly,
o Gen. MacKrystal has helped improve national security, empowering grassroots, using more diplomacy, Kerry clearly approves of Obamas new appointment. In conjunction with what I was just talking about” he says. Get people to take a stake in their community (he is now teetering on the edge of my capitalist-prose suggestion.) Making that last step in phrasal framing would benefit American politics, helping it slide to the left.

Afghanistan identity
• Always local
• UK divides Pakistan and afghan arbitrarily. Kerry is explaining the conflict from a historical perspective. Speaking vaguely but truthfully, referencing Pashtun conflict with other ethnicities.
Summary: reconnect to ideas from Marshall plan, let that past inspire us. We rebuilt Japan, now one of our most reliable allies (despite the coercion). We rebuilt Germany, now they are one of the strongest economies in the world! Implies total credit to the Marshall plan.

John Hope May 18, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History.
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While driving through Martin Luther King’s historical district this weekend I passed a park overflowing with children. The children – all of whom were African American – were running jumping screaming sitting laughing playing. I focused on a circle of kids around a parachute each holding onto a section of it. On the teachers command the children begin madly shaking the parachute upanddown. Balls spring up, popping out of their hidden restfulness of the moment prior. The kids laugh and smile.

The scene in the park sends my mind back to a memory that took place at my elementary school, The Children’s School (do names get better than this?). An all-time favorite activity in gym class among my classmates and me was the parachute. Coach Rob would tell us when to begin, just as the African American teacher instructed her kids, and instantly a raucous wave of movement instilled laughter, happiness, and good memories in us all.

The stoplight turned green, and reluctantly I drove off; though I seriously considered parking and watching the kids play for a little longer. I took my last glance at the park, which, nestled in the shadows of Martin Luther King’s former Baptist church, was brimming with happiness, life, and memories-in-the-making.

As I crept away in my silent Prius, I noticed the teacher’s shirt: “Hope is Back” it read. Whether the creator of the shirt intended it or not, the shirt instantly compelled my mind to Obama, and his message of hope. Then, to MLK, and his message of hope. Like Moses, MLK’s eyes had seen the “promised land”, but, he said, he wouldn’t get there with us. Have we reached the “promised land”? Is this it? Obama a “black” man has indeed been elected president.

To answer my own question: No, this is not the “promised land.” I was quickly reminded of this fact when, a few blocks later, I was immersed in the glaring poverty common in the old Fourth Ward of Atlanta (not to mention the extreme poverty in countries that are not the richest and most productive in the world). The residents of the impoverished old Fourth Ward are nearly totally African American, while wealthy, white Atlantans in Druid Hills live nearby. Economic justice became MLK’s focus in his later years, and he would certainly not be satisfied with the huge racial income inequality that is typical in Atlanta and the rest of the United States.

Despite the enormous amount of progress that has been made there is still work to be done, as President Obama often exclaimed during his presidential campaign. But, thanks to MLK, Obama, along with the thousands of other men and women (Dubois, Garrison, Douglas, Tubman, Lewis, Truth etc.) working tirelessly to reach the promised land, we are progressing. Maybe the progress is slower than some of us would like, nevertheless we are progressing substantially. Everyone should do all they can to help us all reach that glorious land. MLK, Obama, and numerous other famous names are granted credit in the historical narrative. This credit is undoubtedly due to these great men and women, but their dreams and their efforts would be impossible without the help of countless others, whose names historians have forgotten, but upon which the hinges of history equally rest.

P.S. When I drove away and noticed the name of the elementary school was John Hope Elementary School, the teacher’s shirt carried new meaning.

Reverse Policy in Japan May 9, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History, World Affairs.
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One month after the atomic bombings of Japan in August of 1945, MacAurther and his SCAP fellows arrived in Japan. The Japanese defeated wartime regime had spent the last month burning massive amounts of evidence of their repressive militarism. SCAP, stood for Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, and was the American occupying administration. SCAP’s two overall policies were democratization and demilitarization. In order to achieve the later, a new constitution was written and then effectuated in 1947. Instead of the militaristic, and totalitarian right-wing regime, America wanted one which was socially and politically liberal. Their new constitution resembled ours, guaranteeing voting rights to all, as well as freedoms of speech, press, and assembly. We freed communists and liberals whom the totalitarian regime had jailed.

This policy of supporting a liberal Japanese government lasted until the Cold War began. By 1949 China had fallen to communists, and tensions with the Soviets were rapidly increasing. In response, the United States began what is known as the “reverse policy.” SCAP then began jailing liberals and communists, eventually totaling in number to 17,000. The US assisted in the election of a conservative man who had ties to the militaristic and totalitarian regime of the 1940s. Communists were suppressed, freedoms were curtailed, all in response to the Cold War framework that was developing. This was the US policy until we “left” in 1952. This is just one example of the heavy-hand the US had in Japan ever since 1853 when Commodore Perry arrived with the US navy to force open Japan’s ports to US shipping and markets. The reverse policy is one of many when it comes to ironic episodes in the history of US foreign policy.

Modern Nationalism and its Origins May 7, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Books and Movies, History.
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Early this semester I was assigned reading from Eric Hobsbawm The Age of Empire: 1875-1914. Hobsbawm is a British Marxist historian born in 1917 and still living. In a chapter on nationalism and its developments he provides some very interesting analysis that I thought I would share with you all. Most of what follows is his words.

The word “nationalism”:
• First appeared at the end of 19th century to describe groups of right-wing ideologists in France and Italy
o These first “nationalists” were keen to brandish the national flag against foreigners, liberals, and socialists in favor of that aggressive expansion of their own state which was to become so characteristic of such movements.
o In this period, 1880-1914, the song “Deutschland Uber Alles’ (Germany above all others) replaced rival compositions to become the actual national anthem of Germany.
• Began to be used by all movements to whom ‘national cause’ was paramount in politics: that is to say for all demanding the right to self-determination
• The basis of ‘nationalism’ of all kinds was the same: the readiness of people to identify themselves emotionally with ‘their’ nation and to be politically mobilized as Czechs, Germans, Italians or whatever, a readiness which could be politically exploited.
• Democratization of politics, and especially elections facilitated the potential to mobilize around national identity.

The word “Patriotism”:
• Usually the functioning term for “nationalism”. In both the English and Japanese languages the term “nationalist” has a negative connotation, while “patriot” is a term every politician wants associated with himself.
• The essence of right-wing nationalism was to claim a monopoly of patriotism for the extreme political right, and thereby brand everyone else as some sort of traitor.
• This phenomenon was new. For most of the 19th century nationalism had been rather identified with liberal and radical movements and with the tradition of the French Revolution.

One last interesting point he makes.
• He also explains how the political dedication to nationalism did not necessarily exclude other political aims.
o For example James Connolly, a class conscious Marxian revolutionary and an Irish patriot, was executed in 1916 for leading the Easter Rising in Dublin

US – Pakistani Relations May 6, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History, World Affairs.
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Check out this great presentation of Pakistan’s history since independence focusing on US involvement in the region. I sure learned a lot!

US and Pakistan

Bush and Somalia April 26, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History, World Affairs.
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I’ve been really busy recently, thus I havent had a chance to post much. Writing a paper on Somalia has taken up most of my time. I’ve briefly shared some of what I’ve learned about Somalia with some of you, but its necessary that everyone understands the extent to which the US and Ethiopia, along with other Western and African countries, made disastrous policy decisions in Somalia in 2006. Without time to explain in more detail, I refer you to this short article from cfr, my new favorite source of news on international affairs.

On thing to get clear is that the piracy on the horn and the Islamic extremism in the south are independent of each other. Pirates are generally not linked to the Islamic terrorists in the south or elsewhere in the world.

Another thing the article notes is that the US has bombed militant Islamic extremists in Somalia 5 times in the past 2.5 years! Pretty crazy right?

In essence, hard diplomacy (the military) is not the solution in Somalia. Combined Western naval fleets can only patrol 1% of the waters within range of Somali pirate attacks. Likewise, it is not the solution in the fight against Islamic fundamentalists. Both problems require soft diplomacy: building up infrastructure and industry, providing much-needed food and water, and supporting the new moderate, Islamic, transitional government in their fight against the extremists.

This view favoring a soft solution is wide-ranging, and held by experts on both sides of the political spectrum. Too bad the Bush Administration did not understand what we do now.

Two more articles that help to explain the immense humanitarian crisis in Somalia are: here and here.

I’ll post more after finals, or if you have specific questions, ask!

Mrs. Dorothea Lange April 18, 2009

Posted by presto21 in Books and Movies, History.
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Hey guys,

(I can’t post her photos in the “My Name Is” section)

My Name Is: Dorothea Lange

Born: Hoboken, New Jersey in 1895

Died: October 11, 1965

Best Known As: American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work. Lange’s photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography. These pictures speak for themselves…

Lange's Migrant Mother

Lange's "Migrant Mother"

Dorothea developed polio at the age of 7 and since treatment was not yet available she came out of it with a rather weak right leg and a life-long limp. She informally apprenticed herself to several well-known New York photography studios in the 1910’s and then moved to San Francisco in 1918. With the onset of the Great Depression, Lange turned her camera lens from the studio to the street. Her studies of unemployed and homeless people captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

From 1935 to 1939, Lange’s work for the RA and FSA brought the plight of the poor and forgotten — particularly sharecroppers, displaced farm families, and migrant workers — to public attention. Distributed free to newspapers across the country, her poignant images became icons of the era.

In 1941 Lange was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for her work but after Pearl Harbor she gave back the award to record the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans to relocation camps. To many observers, her photograph of Japanese-American children pledging allegiance to the flag shortly before they were sent to internment camps is a haunting reminder of this policy of detaining people without charging them with any crime or affording them any appeal.

April 1942, Weill Public School, San Francisco

April 1942, Weill Public School, San Francisco

Her images were so obviously critical that the Army censored them. Today her photographs of the internment are available in the National Archives.

Mississippi Delta Children

Mississippi Delta Children

Check out more of her pictures with captions