Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Nixon approved of abortion if babies were mixed race
Barack Obama might never have been born if Richard Nixon (who otherwise opposed abortion) had his way. I can't help but wonder what Pat Buchanan's thoughts on this would be...

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posted by JReid @ 6:58 PM  
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Lincoln logs
Today is the 200th birthday of America's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln (born not in Illinois, but in Kentucky,) the man Barack Obama seems most influenced by (or perhaps a close second to FDR.) Expect lots of Lincoln trivia on TV and online, and endless questions about whether President Obama can hope to hold a candle to him (after 15 days of trying, no less.)

Oh, and just to make the wingers completely crazy, today is the birthday not only of the man who led the defeat of the traiterous confederacy, but also of Charles Darwin, the guy that makes the righties hate dinosaurs... and it's the NAACP's 100th birthday, too. Sorry, wingers...

But back to Lincoln, a few interesting things online today:

From the Herald Tribune, the story of a museum dedicated to examining Lincoln's famous address at Gettysburg (a speech that lasted just a few short minutes but has lasted an eternity):

The second-floor room that overlooks Gettysburg's town square was also where Lincoln put the finishing touches on his Gettysburg Address. The concise yet powerful speech dedicated a national cemetery at the site of North America's bloodiest battle and envisioned "a new birth of freedom" in a nation divided over slavery and states' rights.

On the eve of his historic address, Lincoln was the guest of David Wills, a wealthy 32-year-old lawyer who bore the burden of coordinating the town's recovery from the three-day Battle of Gettysburg and spearheaded the Soldiers' National Cemetery.

The house where Wills lived from 1859 until his death in 1894 is now the latest addition to Gettysburg National Military Park — a museum focused on the address and the aftermath of the epic Civil War battle. The David Wills House celebrated its grand opening on Thursday, Lincoln's 200th birthday.
Meanwhile from the L.A. Times, a breakdown of the Address, from the point of view of a surly sixth grader.

The Chicago Tribune details the challenges facing Illinois in preserving Lincoln's legacy, despite the tough economic times.

And Chris Cillizza at the WaPo says the president will do the Lincoln thing today:

The president has never been terribly subtle about his admiration for and interest in Abraham Lincoln. So, it's no surprise that Obama travels to Springfield, Ill. today to deliver remarks at the 102nd Abraham Lincoln Association Annual Banquet in honor of the Great Emancipator's 200th birthday. The Fix is something of a Lincoln buff (read: nerd) and, to our mind, the best Lincoln biography out there is David Herbert Donald's "Lincoln." Fred Kaplan, who wrote a GREAT summary of the must-read Lincoln books in the Post's "Book World" over the weekend, agrees.

Meanwhile, Republicans are practically shouting from the rooftops: Hey!!! Look at OUR BROWN PEOPLE!!!

Jindal vs. Obama: The news that Bobby Jindal will deliver the official Republican response to President Barack Obama's Feb. 24 address is evidence of two things: Jindal is THE hot thing in the GOP right now and Jindal wants it to stay that way. The choice, announced yesterday by congressional GOP leaders, is evidence, explained Republican Governors Association executive director Nick Ayers, of a new way of thinking within the party. "Republicans in D.C. finally understand our message can't come from D.C.," said Ayers. "This signals a change in tone and strategy for the Party, and its the right one." It also signals that Republicans understand the need to counter Obama's historic presidency with new faces of their own -- from Michael Steele, the first African American chairman of the Republican National Committee, to Jindal, the Indian-American boy wonder governor. And, while Jindal continues to downplay any interest in a 2012 race, gigs like this one (and his keynote at the National Republican Congressional Committee dinner in March) will put him at the front of the line when the next presidential cycle rolls around -- if he wants to reconsider.
By the way, here's the full text of the Gettysburg address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Given where his party is now, it's almost hard to believe he was a Republican...

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posted by JReid @ 8:11 AM  
Thursday, August 28, 2008
August 29, 1963

Barack Obama will make his historic acceptance speech tonight against the backdrop of history: it was 45 years ago today that Dr. Martin Luther King publicly dreamed of a day when someone like Barack could stand at the precipice of becoming president of the United States. It's a heavy burden for Obama to bear, and he's doing it not just in front of 75,000 people at Mile High Stadium (sorry, like any true Bronco fan, I just can't call it Invesco Field...) but before the world.

Best of luck tonight, Barack.

The WaPo has advance info on the speech:

Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois, is scheduled to address as many as 80,000 people in Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High football stadium and millions of television viewers starting at about 8 p.m. Mountain time (10 p.m. EST).

In the speech, which caps the four-day Democratic National Convention and opens Obama's campaign for the White House as his party's nominee, Obama will offer "a fundamentally new direction to get America back on track, both here and around the world," said David Plouffe, his campaign manager. Appearing on morning television talk shows, Plouffe said Obama would explain his plans for dealing with the economy, health care and education, as well as international challenges such as threats to the United States and strained relations with other countries.

Politico on the significance for African-Americans (by the way, my pal Sonja ran into Al Sharpton at the Pepsi Center yesterday. Needless to say, he has no role this year...)

In 1961, Robert F. Kennedy predicted that the country could elect a black president in the next 40 years. That’s how fast race relations were changing in America, said the attorney general at the time.

Now, 47 years later, Barack Obama stands at the precipice of fulfilling Kennedy’s forecast. On Thursday, he’ll become the first minority to win the presidential nomination, achieving what many thought was impossible given our national obsession with race.

To call this a historic moment feels like understatement. Obama’s nomination represents a sea change, a psychological shift in a country that still struggles with the painful and complicated legacy of slavery.

Fifty-five years ago, whites and blacks learned in separate schools, ate at separate lunch counters and sat in different parts of the bus. Forty-one years ago, Massachusetts elected the first black man to the Senate. Just 18 years ago, Virginia welcomed the first black governor.

And on Thursday, a black man will step up to the podium and accept the nomination of a party that only 44 years ago debated whether to seat black delegates from Mississippi at the 1964 convention.

... and the reactions of black officials:

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

“A few days ago, I was speaking to a group, and one young lady asked me, ‘What do you think Dr. King would say about Barack Obama’s nomination?’ I said, ‘Young lady, I don’t know, but I have a feeling he would look down and say, ‘Hallelujah.’”

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)

“I think my most emotional moment came the night of South Dakota and Montana. ... I was thinking about all those times I was telling people, ‘Be what you want to be when you grow up’ and, hell, I didn’t believe it. ... It’s a big moment and, with these sorts of things, you usually don’t expect to see the day.”

Meanwhile, damn the TV pundits, Biden's getting great reviews for his speech yesterday (including from me.) His everyman thing is real, and people are talking.


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posted by JReid @ 12:53 PM  
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Remembering RFK
Today is a sad and poignant anniversary -- the day in 1968 that the world lost Robert F. Kennedy to an assassin's bullet.

Voice of America looks back, and forward.

ABC remembers in pictures.

The Boston Globe remembers Kennedy's prescience.

Kennedy's oldest daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, talks about her father.


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posted by JReid @ 5:06 PM  
Friday, May 16, 2008
Who said it?
So who originally said the now infamous quote, "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided," used by George W. Bush to, in unprecedented fashion, to attack a political opponent and fellow American on foreign soil?

It was Senator William E. Borah, Conservative/isolationist Republican out of Ohio, and an opponent of U.S. entry into World War II, and he said it in 1939.


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posted by JReid @ 8:25 AM  
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
It was 44 years ago today
That the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave this famed speech in the National Mall in Washington D.C. as 250,000 people marched for freedom and justice.

But what a lot of people omit, was another speech delivered that day -- a much more provocative one, by one John Lewis, then president of SNCC. The money quotes:
The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery. The nonviolent revolution is saying, "We will not wait for the courts to act, for we have been waiting hundreds of years. We will not wait for the President, nor the Justice Department, nor Congress, but we will take matters into our own hands, and create a great source of power, outside of any national structure that could and would assure us victory." For those who have said, "Be patient and wait!" we must say, "Patience is a dirty and nasty word." We cannot be patient, we do not want to be free gradually, we want our freedom, and we want it now. We cannot depend on any political party, for the Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence.
Lewis was challenging the federal government, as was Dr. King, only in a much more confrontational way. I think it's important to remember that you needed both sides in order for the civil rights movement to work -- the spiritual and the provocative.

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posted by JReid @ 9:10 AM  
Monday, June 18, 2007
Juneteenth, anyone/
The holiday Juneteenth, which is only observed as an official state holiday in Texas, but which is recognized as a "holiday observance" in 24 others, plus the District of Columbia, is the subject of yet another a dust-up between African-Americans and President Bush. According to the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign. President Bush has, since taking office, totally ignored Juneteenth proclamations and celebrations, and this year is no different. The NJCH continues to reach out to the president, and despite their having bi-partisan support for making Juneteenth a nationally observed holiday. But before we get to that, let's go back. What is Juneteenth? The organization describes it this way:

"Juneteenth" or "19th of June", is considered the date when slavery ended in America. Although rumors of freedom were widespread prior to this, the announcement of emancipation did not come until Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to read General Order No. 3, on the "19th of June", 1865. This was more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth is now recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Delaware, Idaho, Alaska, Iowa, California, Wyoming, Missouri,
Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Virginia, Washington, Tennessee, Massachusetts
and also in the District of Columbia. Many more states, including South Dakota, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Montana, Maryland and Wisconsin have recognized Juneteenth through special day and year state legislative resolutions
and Gubernatorial Proclamations.

As to the proclamations, on September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation, freeing all slaves held by states that were in rebellion against the Union, effective the following January. It read:

By the President of the United States of America:

Abraham Lincoln


Whereas on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."

"That the executive will on the 1st day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State or the people thereof shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such States shall have participated shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State and the people thereof are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-In-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for supressing said rebellion, do, on this 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the first day above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof, respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Palquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terrebone, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Morthhampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all case when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

Two years later, those enslaved in the American Southwest still had not gotten the message, either by happenstance, or by the deliberate omission of that information by the whites who were enslaving them. Thus, white Southwesterners extracted two extra years of free labor from their unknowingly emancipated slaves, until 19 June, 1865, when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX flanked with 2,000 Union troops, and armed with General Order #3:

"The people are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor. The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

Granger's orders were to take posession of the still Confederate-controlled state of Texas, and enforce President Lincoln's order.

That day is considered by many to be America's second Independence Day. And yet, Juneteenth is only celebrated sporadically around the country, and, much like MLK Day, almost exclusively by African-Americans.

In my opinion, that makes no sense. Slavery wasn't a Black institution, it was an American institution, operated with the full foce of the government and, until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 18, 1865, the Constitution. It's end marked the beginning of attempts to make real the promise of this country, to be a bastien of liberty and equality, and its military end, via the Emancipation Proclamation and General Order 3, cemented the union, by permanently dismantling the Confederate state's rebellion.

That strikes me as a holiday worth celebrating together, as a nation.

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posted by JReid @ 7:30 AM  
Thursday, May 03, 2007
History's mysteries
This morning, we had on the morning show a guy called Anthony Hervey, who has written a book called "Why I Wave the Confederate Flag, Written by a Black Man: The End of Niggerism and the Welfare State." It was, to say the least, interesting. Hervey asserts that the flag of the Confederacy does not represent racial subjugation or slavery, and that the U.S. flag has also been waved by racists, so therefore he can proudly unfurl the former. We never could get him to explain how he squares the history of slavery, the treasonous secession of the Confederate states, who fought under that banner, or the Confederacy's stated goal of creating the first nation in which the inferiority of Blacks was enshrined in its very fabric, or why his decision to wave the flag wouldn't overwhelm whatever arguments he's making in the book (he says he wants to talk about poverty, lack of educational progress, and other social ills.) In fact, we had trouble getting him to answer any of our or our listeners' questions directly.

My impression was that Hervey is a congenial, intelligent, educated man (although he did describe being tried for some manner of student loan fraud, which he said was trumped up to silence his views). But his lack of understanding of (or unwillingness to admit to) the causes of the Civil War was pretty disturbing given that he took the time and trouble to sit down and write a book headlined "Why I wave the Confederate flag." Also, the book cover is so provocative, that I suggested it make it difficult to take his other arguments seriously (Hervey's head is superimposed over a wall to wall flag the cover.)

Every time we do a topic on the Confederacy or the South, I feel at pains to re-argue the point -- which should be self-evident to most Americans by now, that the Civil War was, at base, a war about slavery.

True, the war wasn't fought in order to end slavery -- mainly because that would have requried the Union to start the war. In fact, the Southern states began seceding from the Union almost immediately upon the election of Abraham Lincoln, whose Republican Party had been building a case to allow the ignoble institution to wither on the vine for years (and Lincoln himself had said as much during his famous "House divided" speach in 1858. By February of 1861, 3 months after his election, seven southern states had seceded, starting with South Carolina. The cause: the various Southern Parties (whigs, Democrats, etc.) who had opposed Lincoln, also opposed the idea of making the newly added western territories into "free soil" states. They wanted Kansas and other territories admitted to the Union as slave states, in order to preserve Southern domination of the Congress. And both North and South understood that if the new states admitted to the Union were free states, eventually, slavery was a goner.

In the presidential election of 1860 the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln as its candidate. Party spirit soared as leaders declared that slavery could spread no farther. The party also promised a tariff for the protection of industry and pledged the enactment of a law granting free homesteads to settlers who would help in the opening of the West. The Democrats were not united. Southerners split from the party and nominated Vice President John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky for president. Stephen A. Douglas was the nominee of northern Democrats. Diehard Whigs from the border states, formed into the Constitutional Union Party, nominated John C. Bell of Tennessee.

Lincoln and Douglas competed in the North, and Breckenridge and Bell in the South. Lincoln won only 39 percent of the popular vote, but had a clear majority of 180 electoral votes, carrying all 18 free states. Bell won Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia; Breckenridge took the other slave states except for Missouri, which was won by Douglas. Despite his poor electoral showing, Douglas trailed only Lincoln in the popular vote.

Lincoln's election made South Carolina's secession from the Union a foregone conclusion. The state had long been waiting for an event that would unite the South against the antislavery forces. Once the election returns were certain, a special South Carolina convention declared "that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states under the name of the "United States of America' is hereby dissolved." By February 1, 1861, six more Southern states had seceded. On February 7, the seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America. The remaining southern states as yet remained in the Union.

Less than a month later, on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president of the United States. In his inaugural address, he refused to recognize the secession, considering it "legally void." His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union. But the South turned deaf ears, and on April 12, guns opened fire on the federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor. A war had begun in which more Americans would die than in any other conflict before or since.
And while Lincoln didn't wage the civil war to end slavery, two years into the war, he wound up using emancipation, of slaves in the rebelling states, as a lever to try and end the war, and keep the union together.

The Confederates themselves, meanwhile, made clear that slavery, racial discrimination and white supremacy were enshrined in the very fabric of their "new nation" (a point which also bellies another Hervey belief, shared by other African-Americans, I'm told, that Black soldiers fought on the side of the Confederacy in the war:

The very accurate point made then by opponents of this legislation was, as one Georgia leader stated, "If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong." Southern newspaper editors blasted the idea as "the very doctrine which the war was commenced to put down," a "surrender of the essential and distinctive principle of Southern civilization."

And what was that "essential and distinctive principle of Southern civilization"? Let's listen to the people of the times. The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, said on March 21, 1861, that the Confederacy was "founded . . . its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based on this great physical, philosophical and moral truth."

What was the "very doctrine" which the South had entered into war to destroy? Let's go to the historical documents, the words of the people in those times. When Texas seceded from the Union in March 1861, its secession declaration was entirely about one subject: slavery. It said that Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 - "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" - were "the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color . . . a doctrine at war with nature . . . and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law." ...
And yet, you hear Southerners, mostly White, but occasionally Black, like Hervey, insisting that the Civil War was about something else -- "taxation without representation", "Northern aggression", etc.) -- but not slavery. You'll hear that, as Hervey said on the show today, most Southern Whites couldn't affort to own slaves, Lincoln failed to free all of the slaves in territories outside the rebellius South, etc. Again, that's just historical junk:

Finally, these modem non historians say that slavery couldn't have been a main cause of the Civil War (never mind the words of Alexander Stephens and the various declarations of secession), because most of the Confederate soldiers didn't own slaves.

As modern historians such as Pulitzer Prize-winner James M. McPherson point out, the truth was that most white people in the South knew that the great bulwark of the white-supremacy system they cherished was slavery, whether or not they personally owned slaves.

"Freedom is not possible without slavery," was a typical endorsement of this underlying truth about the slave South. Without slavery, white nonslaveholders would be no better than black men.

I'll reiterate, that I found Hervey to be a quite charming person. He made coherent arguments on issues of poverty, race and what he called the "decadence" of present day Black culture. But then, knowing that Hervey believes such erroneous things about American history makes his arguments that much harder to take in. I suggested he might want to write his next book without the Confederate flag on the cover. He wasn't very receptive.

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posted by JReid @ 10:02 AM  
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Remembering 'Cracker' Johnson
My friend and mentor James T hipped me to this article from this Saturday's Palm Beach Post. A great read, about a different time for African-Americans...

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posted by JReid @ 7:51 AM  
Monday, March 12, 2007
The U.S., Grenada and the perils of revolution
13 March 1979,
Radio Free Grenada,
Maurice Bishop,
Address to the Nation
Brothers and Sisters,

This is Maurice Bishop speaking.

At 4.15 am this morning, the People's Revolutionary Army seized control of the army barracks at True Blue.

The barracks were burned to the ground. After half-an-hour struggle, the forces of Gairy's army were completely defeated, and surrendered.

Every single soldier surrendered, and not a single member of the revolutionary forces was injured.

At the same time, the radio station was captured without a shot being fired. Shortly after this, several cabinet ministers were captured in their beds by units of the revolutionary army.

A number of senior police officers, including Superintendent Adonis Francis, were also taken into protective custody.

At this moment, several police stations have already put up the white flag of surrender.

Revolutionary forces have been dispatched to mop up any possible source of resistance or disloyalty to the new government.

I am now calling upon the working people, the youths, workers, farmers, fishermen, middle-class people, and women to join our armed revolutionary forces at central positions in your communities and to give them any assistance which they call for.

Virtually all stations have surrendered. I repeat. We restress, resistance will be futile. don't be misled by Bogo DeSouze or Cosmos Raymond into believing that there are any prospects of saving the dictator Gairy. ... [From The Grenada Revolution Online

So began the revolution in Grenada, on March 13, 1979. It preceded much like leftist revolutions everywhere -- beginning with wild-eyed idealism, as the "autocratic" capitalists were dethroned, and the "people's revolutionary government (PRG)" promised shared wealth, equality and brotherhood. And of course, it wound up with the revolutionaries, in this case, the NJM or New Jewel Movement, soon turning autocratic, paranoid, increasingly brutal, and worst of all, permanent.

The leader of the NJM, Maurice Bishop, was installed as the new prime minister, but his deputy, Bernard Coard, quickly subsumed him and seized power, as his faction of the revolutionaries demanded strict obediance to the revolution, while Bishop waivered, on the increasing placement of Soviet bases on the Spice Isle, on the driving away of investors and business partners like the Royal Bank of Canada (which abandoned Grenada and was then taken over at the selling price of $1 by the revolutionary council) and of the increasingly close ties with Cuba, which was sending advisors to the island. Bishop was under pressure from the U.S. and other quarters to ban the Cuban ambassador from attending cabinet meetings. When he relented, he lost favor with the Cubans, the Soviets, and the hard-line revolutionaries of the People's Revolutionary Movement under his deputy, Mr. Coard.

On October 13, 1983, Coard pulled a coup of his own, accusing Bishop of not being a "true revolutionary" and placing him and his cabinet under house arrest. Weary of the increasing oppression by Coard's faction, including curfews, shop closures and strict limits on free expression, and clearly preferring the seemingly well meaning Bishop over the harsh Coard, some 25,000 Grenadians took to the streets, overpowering the guards and freeing Bishop and his cabinet, only to have government troops in armored personnel carriers arrive and blitz the crowd with gunfire (forcing many to jump to their deaths from the high prison walls) and execute Bishop and the others against a wall on which the phrase "TOWARDS GREATER DISCIPLINE IN THE PEOPLE'S REVOLUTIONARY ARMY" was written (source: WTPS news reporter and longtime Grenadian radio personality Edward Frederick.)

My colleague at the station, Eddie Frederick (above) has written extensively on this subject, providing chilling details of what led up to the counter-revoltuion and invasion by the Reagan administration, and a coalition of Caribbean states, which were so outraged by the executions and draconian actions of the Coard faction that they banished Grenada from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and led to several Caribbean nations, including Jamaica and Barbados, breaking off diplomatic ties.

The U.S. used the chaos, and the rather paltry excuse of some 700 American students "stranded" in Grenada, as a pretext to invasion (as it turns out, against the advice and wishes of Ms. Thatcher's England). Ronald Reagan at the time was dealing with twin crises, in the Western hemisphere and also in the east -- where U.S. Marines were battened down in Lebanon and revolution was also continuing to vex the U.S. in the Persian empire of Iran (the Shah, Reza Pahlevi, having been overthrown by the Ayatollists in 1979).

The U.S. invasion, alongside Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, commenced on October 25, 1983. It lasted just a few days, and resulted in 19 U.S. and 45 Grenadian military deaths, two dozen civilian deaths, and 116 U.S. and more than 350 Grenadian wounded. Cuba, which was caught somewhat flat footed by the U.S. invasion, lost 25 of its soldiers, had 59 wounded and more than 640 taken prisoner. Much of the world condemned the U.S. action, but many Grenadians were grateful to the U.S. for freeing them from Coard's despotism.

That's the nuts and bolts of the story. It's a tale of the dangers of "revolution" -- which rarely winds up having much to do with the people, and everything to do with a mad scramble for power.

I rather disliked Ronald Reagan, but looking back, I can sort of see the case for the Grenada invasion (though there was no pressing U.S. national interest. At that time, during the Cold War, Grenada looked like another domino the U.S. had to keep from falling into Castro, and thus Soviet, hands. Perhaps it was a show of force as against our relative weakness in the Middle East, or an attempt to cool the fires of populist revolution throughout the world.

Whatever the reason, the invasion of Grenada allowed the U.S. to flex its military might for what would be the next to last time. After that, victories in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and the Balkans during the Clinton years would be undone by the complete castration of U.S. Middle East policy and military hegemony by one George W. Bush, who failed to learned the Reaganite lesson: if you're going to use the United States military on a weak, small country, you'd damned better beat them. The U.S. sent 7,000 troops to fight 1,500 Grenadian regulars and 600 Cuban engineers. And they spared nothing in winningthe war quickly, decisively, and overwhelmingly. Big difference.

We'll be talking about Grenada tomorrow on the show, including with Eddie. Worth tuning in, if I do say so myself.

Update, Tuesday, March 15: I was talking with Ed this morning and he added yet another wrinkle. It seems there remains some doubt in Grenada as to the real truth about Mr. Coard's alleged wrongdoing, and whether he and his cohorts in fact ordered the executions of the wildly popular Mr. Bishop and his cabinet. There is some conspiracy theorizing on the island, even today, as to whether Mr. Coard was, in a sense, the subject of a superpower frame up. Coard and his cohorts remain in prison today.

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posted by JReid @ 10:01 PM  
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Family ties
Rev. Al Sharpton got the shock of his life last week when he learned that his great-grandfather was owned by a relation of none other than long-time segregation stalwart Strom Thurmond. Who'd have thunk it... There will be a press conference tomorrow, and the Rev. will be at our station broadcasting his show tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully we'll get a chance to talk with him on the morning show before that. Here's the story from the NYDN:
It is a history linked in the degradation and cruelty of the slave trade in the South - a history that Sharpton himself was totally unaware of until this week.

The journey into the past began after the Daily News gave him the opportunity to explore his family's history with the help of a team of experts from - a company that has archived more than 5 billion documents around the world and has 55 million additional pieces of data dedicated to African-American ancestry.

In a series of numbing revelations, Sharpton learned how:

His great-grandfather, Coleman Sharpton, was a slave in South Carolina.

Coleman Sharpton, a woman and two children - believed by genealogists to be his wife and kids - were given as a gift to Julia Thurmond, and were forced to move to Florida.

Julia Thurmond's grandfather is Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather.

Once freed, Coleman Sharpton earned a living as an elderly wood hauler, and fathered a son, Coleman Jr., who would go on to be a minister - like his grandson, the Rev. Al. ...

... For the better part of two weeks, a team of genealogists - led by Megan Smolenyak, an ancestry scholar who has written four books and was the lead researcher for the PBS "Ancestors" series - unpeeled the layers of Sharpton's family tree.

They unearthed historic documents, including an 1861 slave contract that confirmed that Coleman Sharpton was indeed sent from Edgefield County, S.C., to Liberty County, Fla., where he would work until given his freedom at the end of the Civil War.

They found incontrovertible data that the woman who owned Sharpton's great-grandfather was related to Sen. Thurmond, a champion of segregation.
A bit more:
Smolenyak explained how Alexander Sharpton's son Jefferson Sharpton, died broke in 1860, leaving his family in debt.

Smolenyak said Alexander Sharpton, a wealthy slave owner, wanted to help out his son's widow.

"The document we found was known as an indenture," Smolenyak said. "It shows that Jefferson Sharpton died in debt and he had no will. His father [Alexander Sharpton] steps in to help the family."

The original copy of the indenture, which sits in the Liberty County Courthouse in Florida, reads:

"Describes negro to wit, Coleman, age 25 years, Biddy (female) age 22 years old, Harrison aged about 4 years and Bachus aged about 8 years," it states.

"Together with the future increase of the said female slave."

Sharpton stared at the image, carefully reading each word to himself.

"You know for real that you are three generations away from slavery," Sharpton would later remark.

Smolenyak said the indenture awarded Coleman and three others to the grandchildren - but placed them in the temporary custody of another relative in Florida, who was to put Coleman and the others to work to pay off the deceased son's debts. ...

... Smolenyak then told Sharpton how she delved into the family tree of the mother of the four children.

"Their mother was a Thurmond," Smolenyak said. "Julia Ann Thurmond." ...

... "Julia Thurmond Sharpton's grandfather and Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather, William Thurmond, are the same man," Smolenyak explained. "Julia Thurmond Sharpton is Strom Thurmond's first cousin twice removed."

"It's chilling," Sharpton said. "It's amazing."
Kind of makes you take a second look at the notion of reparations, knowing that slavery is not some distant past. For many African-Americans over aged 50 or so, it can be as close as a great-grandfather.

The Daily News also records the stunned reactions of Stromond's relatives, who probably are checking with their attorneys right about now to make sure that reparations thing can't get reeeeeal personal.

And we thought Strom's Black daughter, which he knew he had -- and financially supported -- even while he was spouting racist and segregationist views, was a shocker.

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posted by JReid @ 1:34 PM  
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Bad company

Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, pens a President's Day tome to our Worst President Ever:
Our great country has had 43 presidents. Many very good. A few pretty bad. On Presidents Day next Monday, it's appropriate to commemorate them all.

I remember every president since Herbert Hoover, when I was a grade school kid. He was one of the worst. I've personally met every president since Dwight Eisenhower. He was one of the best.

A year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying "this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst."

"She's wrong," I wrote. Then I rated these five presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon. "It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list," I added.

I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top.

I think he might have meant Andrew Johnson, since Jackson is generally regarded as a top tenner (despite his part in the horrific Trail of Tears, rather than a bottom dweller, but point taken. So for the dear reader's edification, it might be worth recalling precisely why some presidents are consistently remembered less than fondly by historians...

Andrew Johnson (Democrat, 1865-1869) -- Although Abe Lincoln was a tough act to follow, nobody could have dreamed that Mr. Lincoln's vice president would follow him so poorly. The native Tennesseean was so eager to bring the Confederates back into the fold, he presided over the dismantling of Reconstruction before it had really begun, and he vetoed civil rights legislation to try and speed the plough. The Radical Reconstructioninsts in the then Republican Party impeached him in 1868 over his attempts to dismiss Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, in violation of the Tenure of Office Act, but he survived by a single vote.

James Buchanan (Democrat, 1857-1861) -- Apparently, Lincoln was also a tough act to precede, and his predecessor, Mr. Buchanan, generally tops the list of worst U.S. presidents. He is principally blamed for failing to avert the Civil War, which cost the lives of nearly 620,000 American lives, by coddling the seditionist Confederates, and claiming that even if secession from the Union was illegal, going to war to stop it was, too. Buchanan favored slavery, and wanted it exanded into all new U.S. territories, including Cuba. He wanted to see the issue of new territories and slavery resolved by a Supreme Court friendly to Southern attitudes, and he is said to have been personally involved in the Dred Scott decision, having shared a Dick Cheney-Tony Scalia style relationship with the Chief Justice, Roger Taney, who wrote the decision. Last but not least, he threw his administration's weight behind the war-ginning decision to admit Kansas as a slave state. Oh, and his administration was also rather corrupt.

Franklin Pierce (Democrat, 1853-1857) -- James Buchanan's predecessor, and another of the pre-Civil War bad presidents, Franklin Pierce was another of the so-called "doughfaces": Northerners with Southern sensibilities when it came to slavery and race. Pierce supported the expansion of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska territories, which is considered to be a major contributing factor leading to the civil war. He was ultimately abandoned by his own party, which nominated James Buchanan as the presidential nominee in 1857. A hero of the Mexican-American war, Pierce ultimately died of alcoholism.

Ulysses S. Grant (Republican, 1869-1877) -- Sandwiched between James Buchanan and "Rutherfraud" Hayes, Grant is best known ... or should I say worst known ... for allowing rampant corruption and patronage to take hold during his administration. But he gets good marks for pushing Reconstruction programs and for supporting civil rights for freed Blacks and bold moves to try and break up the Ku Klux Klan. He also is ranked among America's best generals, for his exploits during the Civil War.

Warren G. Harding (Republican, 1921-1923) -- The first of our 20th century bad presidents (and the first U.S. president to ride to his inauguration in a car,) Warren Harding is best known for presiding over the Teapot Dome scandal, in which his interior secretary, Albert Fall, took bribes and no-interest personal loans in exhange for leasing public oil fields to his business cronies, leading to Fall's becoming the first presidential cabinet member to go to prison. Herbert Hoover was his secretary of commerce, and one of the few members of the cabinet not to wind up needing a lawyer. From wikipedia:
Thomas Miller, head of the Office of Alien Property, was convicted of accepting bribes. Jess Smith, personal aide to the Attorney General, destroyed papers and then committed suicide. Charles Forbes, director of the Veterans Bureau, skimmed profits, earned large amounts of kickbacks, and directed underground alcohol and drug distribution. He was convicted of fraud and bribery and drew a two-year sentence. Charles Cramer, an aide to Charles Forbes, also committed suicide
Not a good look, even though there was never any direct link proved between the scandals and the president. He had the largest feet of any U.S. president, which may be why he was also said to have dabbled in extra-marital affairs ... hmmm.... Beaten down by scandal, Harding died in office at age 57 after suffering a stroke or heart attack while visiting Alaska (he was also the first U.S prez to do that...)

Herbert Hoover (Republican, 1929-1933) -- How much must it blow to be the president who gets elected on the eve of the Great Depression? Herbert Hoover was actually a very well known and respected economic mind (and both Warren Harding and Calvin Coolige's commerce secretary) before he wound up being the nation's 31st president. But after just one term, the phrases "Hoover hotels" and "Hoovervilles" said all you need to know about his presidency. It's possible that there was nothing Hoover could have done to avert the Depression, but what's clear is that once it happened, he was a paragon of presidential paralysis, particularly after the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 crippled U.S. trade and touched off a string of international bank collapses.

Richard Nixon (Republican, 1969-1974) -- From Watergate to Vietnam, Richard Nixon's presidency was a study in presidential overreach, corruption and scandal. But Nixon was actually quite a liberal when it came to civil rights and the environment, and he created OSHA. He opened diplomatic channels to China, and pioneered detente with the U.S.S.R., but his increasing paranoia, spying on opponents, grabs for presidential power, and tunnel vision on the war ultimately did him in. Nixon became the first U.S. president to resign his office on August 9, 1974.

And then there's George W. Bush... where ... oh God ... to begin ...

There's also John Tyler (Whig, 1841-1845) who was a traitor and served in the Confederate House of Representatives after his term, Millard Filmore (Whig, 1850-1853) who supported the Fugitive Slave Act, and Calvin Coolidge (Republican, 1923-1925), who had a great re-election slogan, but a rather sheepish president at a time when the Great Depression was looming. But these are the really, really bad eggs.

So happy President's Day, George W. ... you're in good ... or should I say BAD ... company.

Oh, and I might as well big up the president with the shortest term in U.S. history: William Henry Harrison, also our nation's second oldest president at age 68, who insisted on giving an hour and 45 minute, 8,445-word inaugural address on the coldest inauguration day in U.S. history. 30 days later, he was dead, setting the table for John Tyler, the man with two wives, but no vice presidet, and who was otherwise known as "His Accidency."

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posted by JReid @ 3:07 PM  
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