Tag Archives: USA

Forgotten story of America’s whites-only towns – James Loewen’s book documents the rise of ‘sundown towns’ and their enduring legacy.

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Forgotten story of America’s whites-only towns – James Loewen’s new book documents the rise of ‘sundown towns’ and their enduring legacy. By Dan Carter Winter 2007 11.1.07

In the 1980s my wife, a social worker, visited a nursing home on Sand Mountain, a large mountainous plateau in north Georgia that stretches westward into northeastern Alabama. When she mentioned that she noticed there were no black people in the facility or the nearby communities, one of the older residents told her of a sign that had been posted for years on the main highway at the foot of the mountain: “Nigger don’t let the sun set on you on Sand Mountain.” Although the sign had been removed, she acknowledged, Sand Mountain remained a place where no black people were allowed after dark: a “sundown town.”
I wasn’t surprised when my wife recounted the conversation. Living in downtown Atlanta, I considered the isolated communities on Sand Mountain a world apart: Deliverance country, the land of hillbillies, snake-handlers, and inbred family trees. But in his richly documented account of the hidden history of America’s sundown towns, James Loewen shows that Sand Mountain was one of as many as 3,000 communities where whites expelled African Americans between 1890 and 1930. The only thing unusual about the history of Sand Mountain is its location: The overwhelming majority of sundown towns were in the North.

Although census numbers document the dispersion of black Americans into the North through the 1880s and their subsequent disappearance from hundreds of small communities over the next half-century, I reacted skeptically as I began reading Sundown Towns. It’s not that I was surprised by his account of widespread racism in the North. Leon Litwack’s 1961 book, North of Slavery, punctured the myth that most antebellum white Northerners were either abolitionists or open to the possibility of full civil rights for African Americans. My own research and writing has focused upon critical episodes of white-on-black oppression in the era of reconstruction and the age of segregation. But like most historians, I had always attributed black migration patterns to economic forces that drew black Americans first north and then to urban areas that offered jobs in America’s expanding industrial economy. I recalled encountering scattered references to “sundown towns” in state and regional histories and in reminiscences and oral histories, but their existence seemed an aberration. Could racial cleansing on such a scale have taken place and then been forgotten?

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James Loewen certainly makes that case with remarkable tenacity and a mountain of statistical and documentary evidence. By training Loewen is a sociologist (he is also a Unitarian Universalist), but he deftly addresses racial tensions in the changing historical context of the Civil War and post–Civil War years. Initially, and with great hesitancy, northern whites supported political rights for the emancipated slaves. But the majority of white Southerners never accepted the new order. Combining violence and economic coercion, these self-styled “redeemers” overthrew the biracial Reconstruction governments and went on to create a new post-slavery racial hierarchy founded upon the disenfranchisement of black men, legal segregation in all aspects of public and civic life, and a fierce insistence upon white supremacy in every private interaction between black and white.

Continue reading Forgotten story of America’s whites-only towns – James Loewen’s book documents the rise of ‘sundown towns’ and their enduring legacy.

The Media’s Overreaction to Ebola Is Sending a Chill Through My Coworkers at Doctors Without Borders

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By Armand Sprecher OCTOBER 30, 2014

One of my colleagues is ill with Ebola that he contracted while working in West Africa for Medicines Sans Frontiers, otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Craig Spencer is having a hard enough time fighting the disease, but it’s only been made worse for him and his family by the criticism and outrage that was heaped upon him by the press, including The New Republic. It has sent a chill through other MSF field workers, whose job is challenging enough without the added burden of facing similar treatment upon return home.

It is neither fair nor accurate to accuse Dr. Spencer of moral failings for not quarantining himself on his return. He did not run about New York while “sick,” as Julia Ioffe contends, and did not put people in danger. As has been made clear since the beginning of the outbreak, only people with symptoms can transmit Ebola. At the first sign of illness—a fever on October 23, when he still would have represented only a minimal risk of contagion—he contacted the MSF office, which then alerted city health authorities. He was then taken directly to Bellevue Hospital, well before he posed a threat to the public.

Armchair physicians note that a couple days before this, Dr. Spencer was feeling “sluggish.” This is not the onset of Ebola, this is the normal condition of those who have been working around the clock for weeks in a stressful setting prior to travel across several time zones. Nor should one read into his abstaining from work a need to protect his patients. He needed rest. MSF advises all aid workers back from the field to get rest before going back to work, and it goes further with people working in Ebola projects, mandating that they not return to work for three weeks to reduce their exposure to sick people from whom they might catch something that might be confused with Ebola and cause unnecessary alarm.

Howard Markel implies that Spencer presumed he would never get Ebola and therefore took a risk with himself and others. MSF does not send people like that to the field. Everyone who departs on an Ebola mission with MSF is made very aware of the risks involved and how to manage them. What’s more, Dr. Spencer worked with a team that had seen people dying from Ebola every day, and this includes MSF staff. MSF has lost thirteen staff members during this outbreak, and two international staff members like Dr. Spencer had to be evacuated from the field after contracting Ebola. No one who works for MSF in the field thinks Ebola could not happen to them or is unaware of its risks to others. No one.

Noam Scheiber is mistaken in writing that “it’s become our policy in this country to quarantine anyone who had direct contact with an Ebola patient.” This was not federal or state policy when Scheiber wrote his story, nor is it MSF policy. If the public feels that things should have been done differently, they should direct their complaints at MSF, not at Dr. Spencer. We are happy and ready to have this conversation. MSF have been bringing people back from Ebola outbreaks for almost 20 years, and we have an evidence-based policy for how they should protect the public on their return; it does not involve self-quarantine. The World Health Organization does not mandate quarantine for their staff, either. Nor does the CDC feel this is warranted. Only now, after Dr. Spencer’s diagnosis and the excessive reaction to it, are some states beginning to require this, even though public health experts know this is a bad idea. Our colleague Kaci Hickox had the misfortune of arriving back in the U.S. just as the new quarantine requirement was announced, and her haphazard and harsh treatment will not be encouraging to others.

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Continue reading The Media’s Overreaction to Ebola Is Sending a Chill Through My Coworkers at Doctors Without Borders

A Land Without Guns – How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

Tadakazu Shimoyama, chief mechanician at the Ennis gun shop, displays a rifle in Tokyoby MAX FISHERJUL 23 2012, 1:45 PM ET

In part by forbidding almost all forms of firearm ownership, Japan has as few as two gun-related homicides a year.

I’ve heard it said that, if you take a walk around Waikiki, it’s only a matter of time until someone hands you a flyer of scantily clad women clutching handguns, overlaid with English and maybe Japanese text advertising one of the many local shooting ranges. The city’s largest, the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club, advertises instructors fluent in Japanese, which is also the default language of its website. For years, this peculiar Hawaiian industry has explicitly targeted Japanese tourists, drawing them away from beaches and resorts into shopping malls, to do things that are forbidden in their own country.

Waikiki’s Japanese-filled ranges are the sort of quirk you might find in any major tourist town, but they’re also an intersection of two societies with wildly different approaches to guns and their role in society. Friday’s horrific shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater has been a reminder that America’s gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest. Of the world’s 23 “rich” countries, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately owned firearm per person, America’s ownership rate is the highest in the world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of America’s.

But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world’s least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country’s infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.

Continue reading A Land Without Guns – How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

Looking behind the Right’s Hysterical Fear of Actual Democracy – What’s really behind the US fight against non-existent voter fraud has lessons for us all..

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By Janet Allon analysing an article by Economist Paul Krugman October 24, 2014

Plutocrats, they all think alike.

Take the leader of Hong Kong, who accidentally blurted out the truth when he expressed his opposition to the pro-democracy demonstrators’ demand for open voting. “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month. Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies,” he said.

Oh no, not those kinds of policies—the ones that help people with lower incomes!

The fear that people who make less money will vote for “bad” policies is an oft-expressed one among America’s plutocrats and their lackeys as well. It was there in Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remark, and even more radically in the 60 percent that “Representative Paul Ryan argued pose a danger because they are ‘takers,’ getting more from the government than they pay in,”. “For the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy.”

Is there anything to fears that economic populism will lead to economic disaster? Not really. Lower-income voters are much more supportive than the wealthy toward policies that benefit people like them, and they generally support higher taxes at the top. But if you worry that low-income voters will run wild, that they’ll greedily grab everything and tax job creators into oblivion, history says that you’re wrong. All advanced nations have had substantial welfare states since the 1940s — welfare states that, inevitably, have stronger support among their poorer citizens. But you don’t, in fact, see countries descending into tax-and-spend death spirals — and no, that’s not what ails Europe.

So, the main problem with the welfare state isn’t the destruction of the economy at all, it is, as suspected, that the wealthiest of the wealthy have to pay higher taxes, which puts a crimp in their style… barely. That is, of course, unacceptable to them. Their solution is to launch an all-out propaganda war, which includes the ongoing fiction that tax cuts will help job creation.

Another answer is to make the most of racial and ethnic divisions — government aid just goes to Those People, don’t you know. And besides, liberals are snooty elitists who hate America.

A third answer is to make sure people think that government programs fail, or never come into existence, so that voters never learn that things could be different.

And finally, because these strategies don’t work 100 percent, suppress the vote!

That’s what Hong Kong’s leader is trying to do, and that is precisely the motivation behind the right’s effort to get Voter ID laws passed In the Us.

“The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win.”

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Original Article

US Academic points out that what China wants to do to Hong Kong’s Elections is the same as the 1% are doing to America’s elections – Why are Americans not out on the street protesting too???

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We Should Be Protesting, Too by Lawrence Lessig Posted: 10/01/2014 8:47 pm EDT Updated: 10/02/2014 10:59 pm

This week, tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents turned out to protest China’s plan for bringing democracy to that city. Rather than letting voters pick the candidates that get to run for chief executive, Beijing wants the candidates selected by a 1,200 person “nominating committee.” Critics charge the committee will be “dominated by a pro-Beijing business and political elite.” “We want genuine universal suffrage,” Martin Lee, founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party demanded, “not democracy with Chinese characteristics.”

But there’s not much particularly Chinese in the Hong Kong design, unless Boss Tweed was an ancient Chinese prophet. Tweed famously quipped, “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.” Beijing’s proposal is just Tweedism updated: a multi-stage election, with a biased filter at the first stage.

William M. "Boss" Tweed
William M. “Boss” Tweed

The pattern has been common in America’s democracy too. Across the Old South, the Democratic Primary was limited to “whites only.” That bias produced a democracy responsive to whites — only. The battle for equal rights was a fight to remove that illegitimate bias, and give African Americans an equal say in their government.

Continue reading US Academic points out that what China wants to do to Hong Kong’s Elections is the same as the 1% are doing to America’s elections – Why are Americans not out on the street protesting too???

Things Americans don’t understand about their own country

The Victimology Game – And The Empathy Of Atheists
SEP 23 2014 @ 1:37PM by Andrew Sullivan

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Here’s a fact you kinda know already if you watch Fox News, but it’s good to see it quantified in a new Pew poll. 50 percent of white evangelicals believe they are subject to a lot of discrimination, while only 36 percent of them believe the same thing about African-Americans. So it’s not just Bill O’Reilly who’s whining. White evangelical Fox News viewers really do believe they are subject to more discrimination than blacks. But this is not entirely about evangelicals; the belief that your own group is especially persecuted is pretty damn endemic:

While 61 percent of Hispanics say “there is a lot of discrimination against” blacks, 71 percent say the same of themselves … And while Catholics are less apt to see discrimination against their own, fully 33 percent agree that they face “lots” of discrimination. No other group sees Catholics facing even close to that amount of discrimination.

The data has some other little nuggets. When you look at the aggregate views, the balance seems about right to me. The victim pecking order goes like this, from the most victimized to the least: gays; Muslims; blacks; Hispanics; Jews; evangelicals; atheists; Catholics. The most empathetic group? The religiously unaffiliated. They believe that gays, Muslims, blacks and Hispanics have a harder time than they do. How ironic that it’s the faithless who are the most able to appreciate the struggles of other minorities.

Original Article

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5 Ways Most Americans Are Blind to How Their Country Is Stacked for the Wealthy – September 22, 2014

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In a predominantly liberal country like the USA it always surprised me how much power is given to right wing Nutbags..

shutterstock_95058670In this section from a longer article about press bias in the US. Political Journalist  Nick Turse describes the way the media battle between the right and the left is unfairly tilted from the start………

“Put simply, there are two sets of rules: one for liberals and Democrats, the other for conservatives and Republicans. The former are supposed to be fair-minded and rule-abiding, as befits a tradition that harkens back to the likes of Jefferson, Madison, Montesquieu and Locke. The latter are expected to be Nixonian streetfighters—whatever they do is “just politics,” and “everybody does it,” so there’s “nothing to see here.”

These differences are deeply rooted in political culture. Liberalism descends from a long line of urban-, commercial- and professional-based culture, built on three major movements that have shaped the modern Western world: the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. It is primarily bourgeois, though influenced by proletarian strivings from below. Success in this world—a non-zero-sum game—is largely reflected in the uncoerced judgement of one’s equals, one’s peers. Conservatism’s roots, in contrast, are rural, provincial and aristocratic, centered in institutions of hierarchy: the military, the church and, more recently, big business, as well as the patriarchal family. Success in this zero-sum world comes from subordinating others to one’s will, from coercing them, from escaping the judgement of one’s equals and peers—indeed, even from denying that one has equals or peers. These cultural differences—which even stretch back as far as ancient Greece—are in turn built upon differences in psychology and physiology, as I recently wrote about here at Salon.

For months, years, even decades on end, liberals and Democrats have played by these bifurcated rules, and they have repeatedly gotten clobbered as a result. The single biggest reflection of this lies with attitudes toward presidential impeachment. Republicans and conservatives routinely think of impeaching Democratic presidents, expending considerable energy to roil their bases, elaborating paranoid, fantastical, conspiratorial narratives. Democrats do quite the opposite—preemptively discouraging talk of impeachment, even when major political scandals raise serious questions of legitimate rule.

Continue reading In a predominantly liberal country like the USA it always surprised me how much power is given to right wing Nutbags..