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Racism

Five links for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 17:35:00 PM CST

Government offices and many public school districts were closed today in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Bleeding Heartland has compiled links about King to mark this day for the past three years, as well as on last summer's 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Here's a new batch:

The civil rights leader was a fan of the "Star Trek" television series and persuaded Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) not to leave the show during the second season.

Thomas J. Sugrue on Restoring King: "There is no figure in recent American history whose memory is more distorted and words more drained of content than Martin Luther King."

Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon on The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV: "[N]ational news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years."

Daily Kos user HamdenRice on why Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did: "his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer."

Todd Dorman on King's visits to eastern Iowa in 1959 and 1962:

"We have come to the point,' Dr, King said, "where we can say in the South to those who use violence against us:

"We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.

"We will meet your physical force with soul force.

"Do to us what you will, and we still love you."

P.S.-"Abigail Van Buren" published this quote from Dr. King in today's "Dear Abby" column. It was new to me, but I agree with her that it "applies to many aspects of life": "All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face-to-face with another problem."

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Weekend open thread: Nelson Mandela and his legacy

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Dec 08, 2013 at 14:55:00 PM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I've been reading and watching retrospectives on South Africa's first democratically-elected president, Nelson Mandela. Bill Keller's obituary for the New York Times is a good place to start.

When the question was put to Mr. Mandela in an interview for this obituary in 2007 - after such barbarous torment, how do you keep hatred in check? - his answer was almost dismissive: Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.

Only about a tenth of one percent of people live into their 90s, and it's phenomenal that Mandela lived to the age of 95 after suffering tremendous physical and emotional hardship during 27 years in prison. I wonder how much Mandela's ability to rise above hatred, anger, and the desire for revenge contributed to his longevity. During the late 1990s, I had a chance to meet Keyan Tomaselli, a professor of media studies from South Africa. Having spent some time in the U.S., he felt that South Africa had a better chance of overcoming its racist past and identity politics than this country does.

Since news broke of Mandela's death, many American politicians have reflected on the battle in Congress to impose U.S. sanctions on the South African government during the apartheid era. President Ronald Reagan supported the ruling regime, and many Republicans opposed the aspirations of the African National Congress, viewing Mandela's group as a communist, terrorist organization backed by the Soviet Union. On Thursday and Friday, several Republican politicians posted tributes to Mandela on social media, only to see their comment threads littered with attacks on the commie terrorist. Steer clear of those threads if you don't want to be depressed.

I wasn't involved in the divestment movement, other than putting a "DIVEST" button on my backpack when I was in college during the 1980s. But I learned this week that as a college student, the future Iowa Democratic Party Chair Gordon Fischer was a leader of the drive to convince the University of Iowa to divest from South Africa.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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New contender emerges as most clueless Iowa legislator

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 11:30:00 AM CDT

Anyone who follows the Iowa legislature has frequent occasion to wonder how someone that ignorant got elected to the Iowa House or Senate. But every once in a while, a spectacularly clueless act grabs our attention. Last week a little-known first-term state representative made himself a contender for the title of Iowa's most clueless lawmaker.

UPDATE: Not so fast--see today's news, added at the end of this post.

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Weekend open thread: Frightening news

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 10:42:06 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

To get the conversation started, I've posted some scary or disturbing news after the jump.

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Five takes on Asian Americans trending Democratic

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 10:35:00 AM CST

President Barack Obama's 50-point edge over Mitt Romney among Asian American voters was one of the most surprising election results for me. Growing up during the 1980s, it seemed like all of my Asian American friends' parents were Republicans. Bill Clinton received an estimated 31 percent of the Asian American vote in 1992, compared to 62 percent for Obama in 2008 and 73 percent for Obama this year.

Since the election, I've read several attempts to explain this trend. The most interesting links are after the jump.

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Notes from the Trayvon Martin rally at the Iowa Capitol

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 09:54:45 AM CDT

At least 200 people gathered on the west steps of the Iowa State Capitol Monday evening for a rally and vigil marking one month since Trayvon Martin's killing in Floriday. After the jump I've posted a few notes from the event, along with links about the impact of Martin's death on the debate over proposed "stand your ground" legislation in Iowa.
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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 16, 2012 at 17:54:28 PM CST

Last year, Governor Terry Branstad made only a brief appearance and declined to give a speech at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event in Des Moines. He wasn't dumb enough to make that mistake twice.  
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Steve King unsure how best to exploit USDA scandal

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 10:55:29 AM CDT

Representative Steve King rarely misses a chance to accuse the Obama administration of racism, but this week he seems uncertain about the best way to exploit the fiasco over USDA official Shirley Sherrod's dismissal. King told Politico yesterday that he sympathized with Sherrod, having been misquoted himself.

King suggested Sherrod has changed her views over the past quarter-century and should get her job back.

"Also, I think it's interesting that we don't have it clear whether [U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom] Vilsack fired her or the White House fired her," King added. "The president was going to be the first post-racial president but his whole presidency is becoming about race."

But in a talk radio appearance, King took a different tack, saying Sherrod's hiring by the USDA should be investigated. He noted Sherrod was a claimant in the Pigford case (a discrimination lawsuit black farmers brought against the USDA). Apparently King wants Americans to believe the Pigford case settlement resulted in too much money going to too many black farmers.

In other recent King news, to no one's surprise he joined the new Tea Party Caucus that Michele Bachmann founded in the U.S. House of Representatives. Bachmann and King are ideological soulmates who share a press secretary. To see who else became a founding Tea Party caucus member, check this list on the Mother Jones blog. You'll find some famous loudmouths (Joe "You Lie!" Wilson) and "big idea" folks like Paul Broun, who wants to repeal the constitutional amendments that permit the federal income tax and the direct election of U.S. senators.

The Tea Party caucus isn't just a haven for fringe-y House wingnuts, though. Bachmann's group attracted GOP leaders including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence. Whether they'll manage to harness tea party energy for the bulk of GOP establishment candidates remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, heavy rain continues to batter Iowa this week. I see King joined Iowa's other U.S. House members in asking President Obama to "quickly approve Gov. Chet Culver's request for a disaster declaration for Iowa counties" affected by flooding. However, I can't find any press release from King's office explaining his vote last week against extending the federal flood insurance program.

UPDATE: King tweeted around 1:30 on Thursday afternoon, "Shirley Sharrod was involved in a collective farm in Georgia. Nation's largest ($13 million) recipient in Pigford Farms($2 billion) fraud." He got that information from talk radio host Ben Shapiro.

SECOND UPDATE: King notes in a press release that he has signed on to a "friend of the court" brief defending the state of Arizona's new immigration law. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against that law. On Fox News yesterday, King gave a theological justification for his position on immigration:

God gave us rights. Our founding fathers recognized that. It's in our Declaration [of Independence]. It's the foundational document of America, and God made all nations on earth and He decided when and where each nation would be. And that's out of the Book of Acts and it's in other places [in the Bible]. So we can't be a nation if we don't have a border, and if we grant amnesty, we can't define it as a border any longer or ourselves as a nation as a border any longer.
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Vilsack caught up in beltway scandal du jour (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 21, 2010 at 10:16:02 AM CDT

Rarely are secretaries of agriculture near the center of attention in Washington, but Tom Vilsack is in the hot seat after abetting the right-wing noise machine's latest attempt to undermine the Obama administration. On Monday an African-American US Department of Agriculture official, Shirley Sherrod, was sacked because a right-wing website made her appear to have discriminated against a white farmer.

Sherrod, USDA's rural development director for Georgia, said she was ordered to resign on Monday after a video, posted on one of Andrew Breitbart's conservative sites, showed her saying she had not given a white farmer her "full force."

The NAACP later posted the full, unedited video of Sherrod speaking at an NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner, and it showed the remarks had been taken out of context in the version posted by Breitbart. Breitbart had said that he had posted the full version he was given. The farmer, Roger Spooner, now 87, appeared on CNN from his Georgia home and said Sherrod had been "helpful in every way - she saved our farm."

Vilsack should know better than to validate a phony right-wing narrative, but he's never been a happy partisan warrior. I'm not surprised he kicked a USDA official to the curb instead of waiting to hear all the facts. He probably hoped to kill this "news" story before it gained momentum. The problem is, he has created more incentive for Obama's opponents to gin up fake scandals. Vilsack also damaged his own reputation. Lots of people will want answers to the questions Greg Sargent asks today:

Now that the full Shirley Sherrod video has been released, vindicating her completely, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is  promising to undertake a review of her firing. So maybe he will re-instate her after all.

But it isn't enough for Vilsack to reinstate her. People should demand that his review include an explanation for his own decision to fire her. We need to hear his justification for the decision to ax this woman before all the facts were in, on the strength of nothing more than an Andrew Breitbart smear.

Did Vilsack make any effort to learn more about her speech before giving her the push? If not, why not? Sherrod says she told top USDA officials that the full speech would vindicate her. Did anyone at USDA give her protestations even a passing listen? Did anyone try to obtain video of the full speech? If not, why not? Why was Breitbart's word alone allowed to drive such a high-profile decision?

People should also demand that the White House weigh in publicly on what happened here. The White House has only discussed this via anonymous leaks, and this morning, officials are conveniently leaking word that the White House prodded Vilsack to reconsider Sherrod's firing. That's nice, but was the White House told in advance that the firing was about to happen, and if so, why did it allow the firing to proceed?

The White House looks bad for supporting Vilsack's rush to judgment, then backing off when the full video of Sherrod's remarks appeared. But ultimately, this was Vilsack's mistake. Let's hope he learned the right lessons from it.

UPDATE: Charles Lemos posted the full video of Sherrod's speech and his reaction to it. It's worth a read.

SECOND UPDATE: Vilsack has apologized and offered Sherrod another USDA position. I've posted the video after the jump. Good for him; it's not always easy for politicians to admit a mistake. TPMDC reported today,

In response to a question from TPMDC, Vilsack called the debacle "a teachable moment for me." He admitted that Sherrod had received advance notice of Breitbart's intention to (mis)use the clip and had attempted to inform her superiors, including Vilsack, by email -- but the email did not get through, and thus her superiors' first contact with her regarding the incident was after Breitbart's release of the clip.
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Well-meaning bigotry, Midwest-style

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 11:24:20 AM CST

Jason Clayworth published a big feature on Christian Fong in Wednesday's Des Moines Register. I recommend clicking over to read the whole thing before it disappears into the Register's pay-to-download archive. Fong's campaign strategy has always interested me, especially his efforts to sound inclusive while remaining faithful to conservative Republican views on social issues.

I was tempted to write a post here making fun of Fong's balancing act on gay rights. He told Clayworth that after passing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage,

Iowa lawmakers need to make sure such rights as hospital visitation and estate planning are equal for same-sex couples, he said.

"If a constitutional amendment were passed, it would be irresponsible to throw up our hands and say, 'We're done.' " Fong said. "There are going to have to be steps that are taken to make sure we treat all Iowans fairly and compassionately. Gay people, too."

So I'm thinking about how "fair" and "compassionate" it is to let conservatives' religious views override a minority group's civil marriage rights, and I'm laughing at Fong's continuing attempts to advocate for discrimination very respectfully.

And then a sidebar (available only in the print version) stopped me in my tracks:

Christian Fong says he feels a special responsibility as a racial minority candidate.

Growing up, Fong used his middle name, Shun-Bok, given to him by his Chinese father.

When he was considering medical school at the University of Iowa, he was told he should consider going by something other than Shun-Bok because the industry did not need more Asians in medicine.

He's gone by Christian--his first name--ever since.

That kick in the gut (dressed up as a helpful hint) got me thinking about the mixed messages minorities get from nice, polite Midwesterners.

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Young, Green, and Out of Work

by: billyparish

Mon Oct 05, 2009 at 18:11:52 PM CDT

(Thanks for the cross-post. The unemployment numbers are disturbing. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

by Rinku Sen & Billy Parish

Last week, the Labor Department reported that youth unemployment stands at 18.2%, nearly twice the national average of 9.8%. The percentage of young people without a job is a staggering 53.4 percent, the highest figure since World War II. Looking deeper, the statistics for youth of color are terrible and telling.

According to the most recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40.7% of black youth between 16-19 are unemployed, almost double the amount of whites teenagers (23%). For Latinos the same age, the rate is nearly 30%. Get a little older and the gap grows wider. Unemployment for black Americans aged 20-24 is 27.1%, over twice that faced by white youth (13.1%) in the same age range.

The glaring differences indicate that unemployment is not only decidedly raced, but also that the current economic condition is wholly unforgiving for young people of color. Only a massive, well-funded set of green jobs programs explicitly designed to close those racial gaps can create a truly vital, full-employment economy.

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Republican fantasy vs. reality on Sotomayor

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 31, 2009 at 01:07:31 AM CDT

If all you knew about 2nd Circuit U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor came from conservative commentators, you would think Barack Obama had nominated a far-left reverse racist for the Supreme Court. A typically unhinged assessment by Iowa's own Ted Sporer, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party, is titled "The Supreme Court pick: Justice denied, racism and sexism exalted." Like most conservatives who are freaking out, Sporer is reacting to one quotation from a speech Sotomayor gave in 2001:

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Conservative commentator Rod Dreher read the whole speech and concluded on Wednesday, "seeing her controversial comment in its larger context makes it look a lot less provocative and troubling." However, the right-wing noise machine continues to sound the alarm about Sotomayor's alleged radical, racist agenda.

You won't be surprised to learn that people who have examined her judicial record (as opposed to one sentence from one speech) have reached substantially different conclusions. Some reality-based links are after the jump.

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Profile in Extremism on Postville Anniversary: Congressman Steve King (R-IA)

by: Frank Sharry

Thu May 14, 2009 at 17:56:06 PM CDT

(Why am I not surprised? - promoted by desmoinesdem)

A year ago this week, nearly four hundred men and women were corralled into  the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa, in an immigration raid that has  come to be known as one of the least-just immigration operations in U.S. history.  

In fact, since the raid happened on May 12th, 2008, religious leaders and  elected officials across the nation have come out strongly in condemnation of the abuses that took place in Postville, Iowa. Not Congressman Steve King, however.

In a December 2008 op-ed in the Des Moines Register, King praised the immigration raid in Postville, calling it a "step in the right direction." 

Then, in a February 2009 interview with Radio Iowa, King said that the raid "was a good thing in the long run." From that interview:

King is the top-ranking Republican on a House subcommittee on immigration, and King says he will keep pressing for action to reduce the number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. "I do have to carry that banner and I do so willingly..."

King’s perspective on the Postville raid, and his likening immigrants to cattle, are just two examples of a Congressional leader out of step with mainstream America and in step  with the most disturbing arm of the extreme anti-immigrant movement. The Congressman’s record is the focus of our  latest report: "Rep. Steve King (R-IA): Carrying the Banner for Anti-Immigrant Extremists."  

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Grassley maligns Katrina victims

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 31, 2008 at 23:27:44 PM CDT

Matt Stoller found this shameful tidbit in the Congressional Record from last Friday. The speaker is Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who is mad that some senators want to find budget cuts to offset disaster aid for Iowa:

So I don't want anybody telling me that we have to offset a disaster relief package for the Midwest where people are hurting, when we didn't do it for New Orleans. Why the double standard? Is it because people aren't on rooftops complaining for helicopters to rescue them, and you see it on television too much? We aren't doing that in Iowa. We are trying to help ourselves in Iowa. We have a can-do attitude. It doesn't show up on television like it did in New Orleans for 2 months.

Open Left commenter SpitBall raises an excellent point--a better question is "why federal aid to the flood victims in Iowa should require a budgetary offset, when the invasion [and] occupation of Iraq does not."

But getting back to Grassley's comment, it disturbs me that he would denigrate the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Can't he just praise Iowans without portraying us as better than those no-good complainers in New Orleans?

And suppose the Iowa floods had left thousands of people trapped in their homes, unable to escape on foot or by vehicle. Is he saying Iowans would not stand on their roofs hoping to be rescued? Would we build our own rafts, or what?

The Iowa flooding this summer was unprecedented, but we didn't have whole neighborhoods of people stranded without food or water the way New Orleans did the first couple of days after Katrina hit.

The unspoken contrast in Grassley's comment is that (white) Iowans are better people than (black) Katrina victims.

Right-wing blowhard Rush Limbaugh started pushing this meme right away last month. Iowa conservative blogger Emily Geiger picked up the talking point from Rush or some other radio host and ran with it:

Iowans can fix most things ourselves. It's just a matter of who is going to pay for it all after the fact. This isn't like New Orleans, where (I heard some relief worker on the radio the other day say that) out-of-state volunteers had to wake up residents at 10 a.m. so that the volunteers could get inside the houses where the residents then sat around and watched the volunteers work.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: when the going gets tough, count on Republicans to make people feel better by reinforcing their racist stereotypes.

Meanwhile, Democratic Representatives Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell did something constructive on Thursday. They jointly wrote to Steve Preston, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, asking for the immediate release of $30 million in Community Development Block Grants to Iowa.

The full text of their letter to the HUD secretary, along with a joint press release explaining some background, is after the jump.

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Federation for American Immigration Reform Defending Racist Foundation

by: UnitedAmerica

Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 16:04:15 PM CST

Once again, a Beltway anti-immigrant group has chosen to make a brief appearance in Iowa to inject their brand of nativism into the American body politic.

Four years ago, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) was responsible for ads which WHO-TV called “unnecessarily inflaming and borderline racist." FAIR was met by widespread community condemnation. And yet, they’re back. This time, FAIR is importing radio talk hosts to poison the airwaves.

The Center for New Community’s Building Democracy Initiative explores the latest desperate attacks by the nativist group the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in a new article, The Federation for American Immigration Reform Defends the Pioneer Fund.

The article examines the latest attempt by FAIR President Dan Stein to gloss over FAIR’s relationships to white supremacist groups in a December 14 web posting, and discusses how Stein’s ploy may have just made the situation for his organization a whole lot worse.

The article is available here.

 

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