“Penetration however slight”: Remembering a good and noble hoax – the U.S.S. Pueblo, 46 years later

January 22, 2014

January 23 is the anniversary of the North Koreans‘ capture of the spy boat, U.S.S. Pueblo, in 1968 — a beginning of a momentous year for bad events.  The saga of the Pueblo and its crew, including especially Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher, is of special interest to me because it features a series of some of the grandest, best and most humorously American hoaxes ever perpetrated by imprisoned people against their captors and wardens.  This is one of the great Kilroy stories of American history.  It should not be forgotten.  Especially with the role North Korea plays in contemporary angst, the Pueblo episode should not be forgotten. This is an encore post, with new links added.

1968 brought one chunk of bad news after another to Americans. The year seemed to be one long, increasingly bad disaster. In several ways it was the mark of the times between the feel-good, post-war Eisenhower administration and the feel-good-despite-the-Cold-War Reagan administration. 1968 was depressing.

Lloyd M. Bucher

USN Cmdr. Lloyd M. Bucher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was so bad? Vietnam manifested itself as a quagmire. Just when Washington politicians predicted an end in sight, Vietcong militia launched a nationwide attack in South Vietnam on the Vietnamese New Year holiday, Tet, at the end of January. Civil rights gains stalled, and civil rights leaders came out in opposition to the Vietnam war. President Johnson fared poorly in the New Hampshire primary election, and eventually dropped out of the race for the presidency (claiming he needed to devote time to making peace in Vietnam). Labor troubles roiled throughout the U.S., including a nasty strike by garbage collectors in Memphis. It didn’t help to settle the strike that the sanitation workers were almost 100% African American, the leadership of Memphis was almost 100% white, and race relations in the city were not so good as they might have been – the strike attracted the efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Martin Luther King, Jr. – who was assassinated there in early April. In response, riots broke out in 150 American cities.

More below the fold, including the key confession to “penetration.” Read the rest of this entry »


Gun rights advocates stalking Texas women arguing for gun safety

November 12, 2013

You can’t find it much in Texas newspapers, though Steve Blow at the Dallas Morning News had a good piece about it today (he’s a columnist, not a news writer).

Texas “gun rights advocates” have been stalking people who argue for safety for school kids.  You could see photos of it in all sorts of blogs and websites — but silence from most Texas media.

Cops in Arlington, Texas, seem uninterested because, they say, it’s legal to wave guns around in Texas.

But it’s not legal to stalk, and the on-line photos and other coverage should be warning to those nuts giving gun owners a bad reputation:  Every dog gets one bite, every stalker gets one visit, and you just had yours.

Here’s the skinny:  Four women want to agitate for rational laws to protect their children and grandchildren.  They chat about it in even public places, like restaurants and Facebook.  Four of them met for lunch, at a restaurant in Arlington, Texas.  A bunch of gun idiots decided to show up to intimidate them, with guns “openly carried.”

It hit my e-mail inbox as “Wee Winkie Parade.”  Here’s the photo from Moms Demand Action:

Photo of the

Photo of the “Wee Winkie Parade,” posted at the Facebook site for Moms Demand Action.

Here are the photographs offered by the intimidating group, Open Carry Texas:

Open Carry Texas's Facebook photos of the Arlington, Texas, incident.

Open Carry Texas’s Facebook photos of the Arlington, Texas, incident.

What would a rational person think if a group of gun-carrying people showed up after announcing they were coming to crash your lunch?

Arlington Police, perhaps with some wisdom, didn’t make arrests (avoiding confrontations with people waving guns in public is often an act of good discretion).  They noted Texas law allows hunters and others to carry non-handguns openly, if no other violations of law are involved.

Arlington Police, and Open Carry Texas may want to familiarize themselves with Texas’s anti-stalking laws, as described by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Information on Stalking

You have the right to defend yourself against a stalker. This page lists strategies that can help shield you from stalking.  You do not deserve to be intimidated or terrified.

Questions About Stalking…

What is Stalking?

A stalker tries to control his or her victim through behavior or threats intended to intimidate and terrify. A stalker can be an unknown person, an acquaintance or a former intimate partner. A stalker’s state of mind can range from obsessive love to obsessive hatred. A stalker may follow a victim off and on for a period of days, weeks, or even years. A stalking victim feels reasonable fear of bodily injury or death to self or to a family or household member or damage to property. Stalking can be perpetrated by the stalker or by someone acting on her/his behalf. Stalking can take the form of verbal threats or threats conveyed by the stalker’s conduct, threatening mail, property damage, surveillance of the victim, or by following the victim.

How do I Know if I’m Being Stalked?

The stalker may, on more than one occasion:

  1. Follow the victim and/or victim’s family or household members, or
  2. vandalize the victim’s property, or
  3. inflict damage to property–perhaps by vandalizing the car, harming a pet or breaking windows at the victim’s home, or
  4. make threatening calls or send threatening mail, or
  5. drive by or park near the victim’s home, office, and other places familiar to the victim.

Terroristic Threat

What is a terroristic threat?

Terroristic Threat is a penal code offense (Section 22.07). A person commits the offense of Terroristic Threat if he or she threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with the intent to place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.  Penalty: Class B misdemeanor.

Texas Stalking Law

The law on stalking can be found in Section 42.072 of the Texas penal code.

How is stalking proven?

  1. Intent of stalker: Stalker has the intent or the knowledge that his/her actions will instill fear of death or bodily injury to the victim or a member of the victim’s family or household. Threats can be explicit (e.g.-stating that he is going to kill the victim) or implied (e.g.-veiled threats, hurting the family pet). Threats have to be aimed at a specific person; they cannot be general threats. Threats may be conveyed by the stalker or by someone acting on behalf of the stalker.
  2. Conduct of stalker: Conduct has to occur on more than one occasion and be directed towards the victim and/or the victim’s family or household members. More than one police report is not required. The acts may include threatening contact by mail or by phone, or damaging the victim’s property.

Penalty: Third Degree Felony- unless there is a prior conviction for stalking, in which case the penalty is upgraded to a 2nd degree felony.

If You Are Being Stalked…

NOTIFY THE LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PROSECUTOR’S OFFICES. All stalking incidents should be reported to the police. Request that each incident be documented. Request a copy of the report from your local law enforcement agency. Give police any written correspondence and report any phone threats. Put dates received on all correspondence from the stalker. Know the name of the law enforcement officer in each incident.

KEEP A DIARY. Obtain the names and addresses of witnesses. Complete records are essential to the successful prosecution of stalking cases. Write a description of each incident.

GET A PROTECTIVE ORDER if you are related to the stalker by blood or marriage, if you ever lived together, or if you have a child in common. To get a Pro Se Protective Order Packet call 800-777-3247. This packet will help you obtain a protective order barring the stalker from certain areas near your home, your work, or your child’s school. You can also review our Domestic Violence Protective Order Kit.

RECORD TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS. Tell the stalker to stop calling and hang up. Screen your calls. Write down the time and date the stalker calls. Keep recorded messages and give them to law enforcement.

TAKE PICTURES OF THE STALKER. Take pictures of the stalker if it can be done safely and write time, date, and place on the back of each picture.

KEEP ALL CORRESPONDENCE. Make a copy of anything you receive from the stalker. Touching the letter as little as possible will preserve fingerprints.

TELL EVERYONE. Give friends, co-workers, and neighbors a description of the stalker. Ask them to document each time the stalker is seen by them.

Important Safety Measures

BE ALERT and aware of your surroundings, the people and things happening around you.

VARY ROUTES of travel when you come and go from work or home.

PARK SECURELY and in well-lit areas. Ask someone to escort you to your car.

BE AWARE of vehicles following you. If you are followed drive to a police station, fire depart-ment, or busy shopping center and sound the horn to attract attention.

ALERT MANAGERS or security at your place of business. Provide a picture or description of the stalker.

HAVE A SECURITY CHECK MADE by law enforcement of your home to ensure your home can be locked safely. Secure all doors and windows in both your home and vehicle.

MAINTAIN AN UNLISTED NUMBER. If Caller ID is available in your area, obtain the service for your phone.

DO NOT DISMISS ANY THREAT, written or verbal. Call the police or sheriff ‘s department and save any documentation.

MAINTAIN PRIVACY, never give out personal information to anyone where the information can be overheard. Remove phone number and social security number from as many items as possible.

DEVELOP A SAFETY PLAN for yourself and family members in case of emergency. Decide on a safe place to meet and someone to call if problems do arise.
Revised: November 08 2012

Dallas’s Mayor campaigns for an end to violence against women.  Perhaps Moms Demand Action should move their lunches to Dallas.

More:


Moral Monday in Raleigh, North Carolina

June 11, 2013

Unidentified pProtester Thierry Wernaers in Raleigh, North Carolina,  in photo by an unnamed photographer:

Protester in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Moral Monday, June 11, 2013

Protester Thierry Warnaers in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Moral Monday, June 11, 2013; photographer unidentified

Love that sign:  OMG/GOP/WTF?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Devona Wyant. Thanks to Thierry Warnaers for writing in to identify himself (see comments).

More, but not all:


Lunch at Woolworth’s, with a side of non-violence and civility: North Carolina, February 1, 1960

February 1, 2013

Today is the 53rd anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in. Be sure to read Howell Raines‘ criticism of news media coverage of civil rights issues in a 2010 article in the New York Times: “What I am suggesting is that the one thing the South should have learned in the past 50 years is that if we are going to hell in a handbasket, we should at least be together in a basket of common purpose.”

This is mostly an encore post; please holler quickly if you find a link that does not work.

Four young men turned a page of history on February 1, 1960, at a lunch counter in a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond, sat down at the counter to order lunch. Because they were African Americans, they were refused service. Patiently, they stayed in their seats, awaiting justice.

On July 25, nearly six months later, Woolworth’s agreed to desegregate the lunch counter. One more victory for non-violent protest.

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Caption from Smithsonian Museum of American History: Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

News of the “sit-in” demonstration spread. Others joined in the non-violent protests from time to time, 28 students the second day, 300 the third day, and some days up to 1,000. The protests spread geographically, too, to 15 cities in 9 states.

On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Smithsonian caption: “On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)”

Part of the old lunch counter was salvaged, and today is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. The museum display was the site of celebratory parties during the week of the inauguration as president of Barack Obama.

Part of the lunchcounter from the Woolworths store in Greensboro, North Carolina, is now displayed at the Smithsonians Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.

Part of the lunch counter from the Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina, now displayed at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.- photo from Ted Eytan, who wrote: ["Ever eaten at a lunch counter in a store?"] The words . . . were said by one of the staff at the newly re-opened National Museum of American History this morning to a young visitor. What she did, very effectively, for the visitor and myself (lunch counters in stores are even before my time) was relate yesterday’s inequalities to those of today, by explaining the importance of the lunch counter in the era before fast food. This is the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter, and it was donated to the Smithsonian by Woolworth’s in 1993.

Notes and resources:

Student video, American History Rules, We Were There – First person story related by Georgie N. and Greg H., with pictures:

Associated Press interview with Franklin E. McCain:

More, in 2013:


“Penetration however slight”: Remembering a good and noble hoax – the U.S.S. Pueblo

January 23, 2013

January 23 is the anniversary of the North Koreans‘ capture of the spy boat, U.S.S. Pueblo, in 1968 — a beginning of a momentous year for bad events.  The saga of the Pueblo and its crew, including especially Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher, is of special interest to me because it features a series of some of the grandest, best and most humorously American hoaxes ever perpetrated by imprisoned people against their captors and wardens.  This is one of the great Kilroy stories of American history.  It should not be forgotten.  Especially with the role North Korea plays in contemporary angst, the Pueblo episode should not be forgotten. This is an encore post, with new links added.

1968 brought one chunk of bad news after another to Americans. The year seemed to be one long, increasingly bad disaster. In several ways it was the mark of the times between the feel-good, post-war Eisenhower administration and the feel-good-despite-the-Cold-War Reagan administration. 1968 was depressing.

Lloyd M. Bucher

USN Cmdr. Lloyd M. Bucher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was so bad? Vietnam manifested itself as a quagmire. Just when Washington politicians predicted an end in sight, Vietcong militia launched a nationwide attack in South Vietnam on the Vietnamese New Year holiday, Tet, at the end of January. Civil rights gains stalled, and civil rights leaders came out in opposition to the Vietnam war. President Johnson fared poorly in the New Hampshire primary election, and eventually dropped out of the race for the presidency (claiming he needed to devote time to making peace in Vietnam). Labor troubles roiled throughout the U.S., including a nasty strike by garbage collectors in Memphis. It didn’t help to settle the strike that the sanitation workers were almost 100% African American, the leadership of Memphis was almost 100% white, and race relations in the city were not so good as they might have been – the strike attracted the efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Martin Luther King, Jr. – who was assassinated there in early April. In response, riots broke out in 150 American cities.

More below the fold, including the key confession to “penetration.” Read the rest of this entry »


Banksy’s modern Nativity, revisited in 2012

December 25, 2012

An encore post, from 2008.

Thomas Nast helped bring down the crooks at Tammany Hall with cartoons. Boss Tweed, the chief antagonist of Nast, crook and leader of the Tammany Gang, understood that Nast’s drawings could do him in better than just hard hitting reporting — the pictures were clear to people who couldn’t read.

But a cartoon has to get to an audience to have an effect.

Here’s a cartoon below, a comment on the security wall being built in Israel, that got very little circulation in the west at Christmas time. Can you imagine the impact had this drawing run in newspapers in Europe, the U.S., and Canada?

It’s a mashup of a famous oil painting* related to the Christian Nativity, from a London-based artist who goes by the name Banksy. (Warning: Banksy pulls no punches; views shown are quite strong, often very funny, always provocative, generally safe for work unless you work for an authoritarian like Dick Cheney who wants no counter opinions.)

banksy-israels-wall-77721975_fda236f91a.jpg

Banksy’s modern nativity — does he ever bother to copyright his stuff, or would he rather you broadcast it?

*  At least I thought so in 2008.  I can’t find the painting now.  Anybody recognize a work underneath Banksy’s re-imagining?  Let us know in comments, eh?  Perhaps this one, by David Roberts?  Perhaps this engraving after Joseph M. W. TurnerTurner’s original?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Peoples Geography.

More, in 2011: 

More in 2012:


“The War Prayer” of Mark Twain (encore post)

September 21, 2012

(Updating dead links, especially from the late and lamented (here at least) VodPod, I found myself back in 2008, with this post on Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.”  Fortunately, I found the film migrated to YouTube, though split in two parts.  Some information that should have caught our attention in 2008 deserves noting now, and we can update and add new links.)

It’s largely forgotten now, especially in history texts in high schools.  After the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. wrested several territories from Spain, including Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the U.S. quickly got mired in one of the original guerrilla wars in the Philippines.  It took 15 years, but the U.S. finally put down the rebellion — 15 brutal, bloody years.  The conduct of that war shocked many people, including Mark Twain.

This piece was written partly in response to that war.

Many Americans, like Twain, who questioned the war, in turn had their patriotism questioned.  Why wouldn’t they get on board with the war, and kill off those Filipino rebels? the critics asked.

Here’s a film in two parts, a stunning production, produced and directed by Markos Kounalakis (who uploaded the thing); go to the film’s website for a copy of the text.

Part I:

Part II:

Why didn’t I notice this in 2008?  The film is narrated by Peter Coyote.  Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti plays the minister.  Erik Bauersfeld plays the Stranger.

Another short film of The War Prayer came out in 2007, from Lyceum Productions.  Neither version appears to be available on DVD or Blu-Ray.  Too bad.


Still quote of the moment, one more time: Martin Niemöller, “. . . I did not speak out . . .”

August 21, 2012

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

Martin Niemoller on a postage stamp, painted by Gerd Aretz in 1992 - Wikipedia

German theologian and Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller on a postage stamp, painted by Gerd Aretz in 1992 – Wikipedia

Some time this year school curricula turn to the Holocaust, in English, in world history, and in U.S. history.

Martin Niemöller’s poem registers powerfully for most people — often people do not remember exactly who said it. I have seen it attributed to Deitrich Bonhoeffer (who worked with Niemöller in opposing some Nazi programs), Albert Einstein, Reinhold Niebuhr, Albert Schweitzer, Elie Wiesel, and an “anonymous inmate in a concentration camp.”

Niemöller and his actions generate controversy — did he ever act forcefully enough? Did his actions atone for his earlier inactions? Could anything ever atone for not having seen through Hitler and opposing Naziism from the start? For those discussion reasons, I think it’s important to keep the poem attributed to Niemöller. The facts of his life, his times, and his creation of this poem, go beyond anything anyone could make up. The real story sheds light.

Resources:

Noted here in February 2011, and August 2011.

800px-Martin_Niemoeller


Banksy’s modern Nativity, revisited

December 19, 2011

An encore post, from 2008.

Thomas Nast helped bring down the crooks at Tammany Hall with cartoons. Boss Tweed, the chief antagonist of Nast, crook and leader of the Tammany Gang, understood that Nast’s drawings could do him in better than just hard hitting reporting — the pictures were clear to people who couldn’t read.

But a cartoon has to get to an audience to have an effect.

Here’s a cartoon below, a comment on the security wall being built in Israel, that got very little circulation in the west at Christmas time. Can you imagine the impact had this drawing run in newspapers in Europe, the U.S., and Canada?

It’s a mashup of a famous oil painting* related to the Christian Nativity, from a London-based artist who goes by the name Banksy. (Warning: Banksy pulls no punches; views shown are quite strong, often very funny, always provocative, generally safe for work unless you work for an authoritarian like Dick Cheney who wants no counter opinions.)

banksy-israels-wall-77721975_fda236f91a.jpg

Banksy's modern nativity -- does he ever bother to copyright his stuff, or would he rather you broadcast it?

*  At least I thought so in 2008.  I can’t find the painting now.  Anybody recognize a work underneath Banksy’s re-imagining?  Let us know in comments, eh?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Peoples Geography.

More, in 2011: 


Elizabeth Warren: Grace under pressure (we need this woman in the Senate)

November 14, 2011

Here’s a woman who keeps her wits about her; no wonder Scott Brown is scared by Elizabeth Warren’s campaign:

According to the story at Huffington Post:

BROCKTON, Mass. — Moments into a speech before volunteers here Wednesday evening, Elizabeth Warren was interrupted by a Tea Party supporter who hurled a gender-based epithet at the Senate candidate. The man, who said he’d been unemployed since February 2010, objected to Warren’s expressed affiliation with the frustrations of Occupy Wall Street, and argued that the Tea Party has been protesting Wall Street excess for longer than the nascent global movement.

The crowd tried to shout the man down, but Warren told her supporters to let him speak. “No, no, it’s alright. Let me say two things,” she said. “I’m very sorry that you’ve been out of work. I’m also very sorry that the recent jobs bill that would’ve brought 22,000 jobs to Massachusetts did not pass in the Senate.”

There’s more.  The man called her “a socialist whore;” just to irritate the Tea Party and Republicans, probably, Warren’s organization let the guy wander away, no Tazer, no fight, no handcuffs.  Warren addressed his issues and the issues that his presence highlighted.  Civil discussion of serious matters.

This is a case of Elizabeth Warren modeling the way on bringing civility to political discussion.

Other candidates, are you paying attention?  Voters?

We need this woman in the Senate, even if you’re not from Massachusetts.

More:


Pete Seeger: STILL standing taller than his critics

September 6, 2011

(This is almost completely an encore post — one that should get more circulation.  From four years ago, in 2007.  I have not updated years or ages — sharpen your math skills, and do it as you go.)

Some people can’t let go of the past, and like the greedy chimpanzee who grasps the rice in the jar, and then is trapped when he cannot pull out his fist nor will he give up his prize to save his freedom, they trap themselves out of a good life.

  • Cover to Pete Seeger album

    Cover of 1996 album of songs, "Pete." Seeger, born May 3, 1919, is 88 years old now.

Like this fellow, whose father’s dislike of an old political position of Pete Seeger kept them both from a good concert. He appears to agree with his father, though, thinking that somehow Seeger is responsible for the evils of Stalinism, and complaining that Seeger was tardy in making note of the fact that Stalin was evil. And Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds agrees, profanely, and inaccurately, as I’ll explain below the fold. But heed this warning: I’m explaining at length.

Get a life, people! Pete Seeger did.

Read the rest of this entry »


Still quote of the moment: Martin Niemöller, “. . . I did not speak out . . .”

August 16, 2011

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

– Pastor Martin Niemöller

Martin Niemoller on a postage stamp, painted by Gerd Aretz in 1992 - Wikipedia

German theologian and Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller on a postage stamp, painted by Gerd Aretz in 1992 - Wikipedia

Some time this year school curricula turn to the Holocaust, in English, in world history, and in U.S. history.

Martin Niemöller’s poem registers powerfully for most people — often people do not remember exactly who said it. I have seen it attributed to Deitrich Bonhoeffer (who worked with Niemöller in opposing some Nazi programs), Albert Einstein, Reinhold Niebuhr, Albert Schweitzer, Elie Wiesel, and an “anonymous inmate in a concentration camp.”

Niemöller and his actions generate controversy — did he ever act forcefully enough? Did his actions atone for his earlier inactions? Could anything ever atone for not having seen through Hitler and opposing Naziism from the start? For those discussion reasons, I think it’s important to keep the poem attributed to Niemöller. The facts of his life, his times, and his creation of this poem, go beyond anything anyone could make up. The real story sheds light.

Resources:

Noted here last February.


Surely ALEC wouldn’t be purging e-mails that are now evidence, would they?

March 26, 2011

You could write a soap opera about this stuff.

You remember Wisconsin?  Remember the teachers, cops, firefighters and other public employee unions?

Of course.  And it’s still a mess.  Gov. Scott  “Ahab” Walker signed into law a bill that would have the effect of abrogating union contracts without any bargaining, but the skullduggery used to sneak the bill through the Wisconsin legislature opened the door to charges that Wisconsin open meetings laws were violated, and a judge has stayed the implementation of the law.

In the meantime, a Wisconsin historian stepped up to lend historical perspective to the whole affair.  He thought he was turning on some lights, but Wisconsin Republicans have treated it like great heat.

[Off-topic note:  Some creatures are negatively photo-tropic, which means they avoid light.  You know, like the way the cockroaches in your first New York apartment scattered when you'd turn on the light.]

So, just as Virginia Attorney General and Chief Inquisitor and Witch Hunter Ken Cucinelli tried with those pesky scientists who keep finding the global temperature rising, Wisconsin Republican legislators have turned on the historian.  Here’s how the  New York Times‘ editorial, “A Shabby Crusade in Wisconsin,”  described it:

The historian, William Cronon, is the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas research professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, and was recently elected president of the American Historical Association. Earlier this month, he was asked to write an Op-Ed article for The Times on the historical context of Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to strip public-employee unions of bargaining rights. While researching the subject, he posted on his blog several critical observations about the powerful network of conservatives working to undermine union rights and disenfranchise Democratic voters in many states.

In particular, he pointed to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by business interests that circulates draft legislation in every state capital, much of it similar to the Wisconsin law, and all of it unmatched by the left. Two days later, the state Republican Party filed a freedom-of-information request with the university, demanding all of his e-mails containing the words “Republican,” “Scott Walker,” “union,” “rally,” and other such incendiary terms. (The Op-Ed article appeared five days after that.)

American Legislative Exchange Council.  ALEC, in K Street lobbyist parlance.

But, Dear Reader, do you see the potential problem here for Republicans in Wisconsin?  They have based their request on a Wisconsin law that prohibits private use of state-supplied e-mail — no politicking, no religious proselytizing.

What about all those ALEC e-mails to Wisconsin Republican legislators?  Sure, they’re more than fair-game for such a witch hunt, too.  And, since it’s the state Republican Party, and not a state or other public official making the FOIA request, surely that means the Republicans would not mind a similar request to cover contacts legislators had with the Wisconsin Republican Party, to the National Republican Party, or even ALEC itself.

Fair is fair, right?

ALEC generally has better lawyers than state legislators, and so we’d expect a group like that to recognize they could be in trouble.

Of course, purging of e-mails now would be a crime, a Watergate-style cover-up, destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice — after it’s become clear that there could be court action and claims of violation of law.

Jean Detjen provided links to the stories of the attacks on the distinguished Prof. Cronon over the last couple of days.  In a Facebook exchange, I noted that ALEC is fair game for such a witch hunt fishing expedition FOIA inquiry, too.

Don’t look now, Ms. Detjen said — but the ALEC site is down.

Server Error

The server encountered an internal error and was unable to complete your request.

JRun closed connection.

[Here's a general link -- try it, and let me know when the site is back up, if Paul Weyrich and the other ALEC-ians don't skip to Brazil.]

Surely ALEC wouldn’t be illegally purging e-mails to Wisconsin, New York, Ohio, Texas, Idaho, Washington, California, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Florida legislators, would it?

Update:  As of this evening, March 26, 2011, the ALEC site is back up.  Why was it down?

The NYT editorial closed with this:

The party refuses to say why it wants the messages; Mr. Cronon believes it is hoping to find that he is supporting the recall of Republican state senators, which would be against university policy and which he denies. This is a clear attempt to punish a critic and make other academics think twice before using the freedom of the American university to conduct legitimate research.

Professors are not just ordinary state employees. As J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a conservative federal judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, noted in a similar case, state university faculty members are “employed professionally to test ideas and propose solutions, to deepen knowledge and refresh perspectives.” A political fishing expedition through a professor’s files would make it substantially harder to conduct research and communicate openly with colleagues. And it makes the Republican Party appear both vengeful and ridiculous.

Well, yeah, Wisconsin’s Republicans wouldn’t want to be caught stifling discussion, nor taking revenge on a whistle-blower — because certainly if Cronon’s e-mails are discoverable with an FOIA request, he is a Wisconsin state employee.  “Whew,” the Wisconsin Republicans might wheeze:  Wisconsin has no specific whistleblower protection.  Ah, the plot thickens:  There are general laws that would appear, to me, a no-longer-practicing-in-that-area lawyer, to offer some protections for any employee engaged in general political speech, or in speech protecting the employee’s rights, or in speech designed to shed light on a wrongful or wrongfully executed official act — that is, Cronon’s evidence showing the unsavory and potentially illegal links of legislators to businessmen and business groups, and the potential conspiracy issues of ALEC’s nationally-directed efforts to use state legislators to gut union laws.

I wish Ahab would just get Jesus and quit thickening the plot.

More, resources, links from Jean Detjen and others:

Obviously, big tip of the old scrub brush to Jean Detjen, in Wisconsin.


Civility? Doing lunch the rights way, North Carolina, February 1, 1960

February 1, 2011

Today is the 51st anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in. Be sure to read Howell Raines’ criticism of news media coverage of civil rights issues in last year’s New York Times: “What I am suggesting is that the one thing the South should have learned in the past 50 years is that if we are going to hell in a handbasket, we should at least be together in a basket of common purpose.”

Four young men turned a page of history on February 1, 1960, at a lunch counter in a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond, sat down at the counter to order lunch. Because they were African Americans, they were refused service. Patiently, they stayed in their seats, awaiting justice.

On July 25, nearly six months later, Woolworth’s agreed to desegregate the lunch counter. One more victory for non-violent protest.

 

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record) (Smithsonian Institution)

News of the “sit-in” demonstration spread. Others joined in the non-violent protests from time to time, 28 students the second day, 300 the third day, and some days up to 1,000. The protests spread geographically, too, to 15 cities in 9 states.

On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Smithsonian caption: "On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)"

Part of the old lunch counter was salvaged, and today is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. The museum display was the site of celebratory parties during the week of the inauguration as president of Barack Obama.

Part of the lunchcounter from the Woolworths store in Greensboro, North Carolina, is now displayed at the Smithsonians Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.

Part of the lunchcounter from the Woolworth's store in Greensboro, North Carolina, is now displayed at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.

Notes and resources:

Student video, American History Rules, We Were There – First person story related by Georgie N. and Greg H., with pictures:

Associated Press interview with Franklin E. McCain:

This is mostly an encore post.


Secession? Matthews sounds off, appropriately

December 22, 2010

All that talk about secession, and nullification, and states’ rights? Matthews calls it for what it is.

Maybe we should say he calls it out for what it is.

Secession? Matthews sounds off, appropriately, posted with vodpod

It’s time to stop the talk of tearing our nation apart. If you’ve been talking this smack, stop it.

Santayana’s Ghost keeps a wary eye on all such discussion.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Mike Heath sitting in for Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.


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