From the US International Socialists:
Above: Obama and Cruz
The good cop/bad cop routine in Washington
The Republicans may not get away with defunding Barack Obama’s health care law, but they’re pushing ahead with all their favorite anti-worker, pro-business measures.
THE LATEST congressional showdown over federal spending–with another threat of another government shutdown looming over it all–is starting to look like a bad TV police drama, ending with a familiar scene of “good cop/bad cop.”
The “bad” cop: the Republicans, led by foaming-at-the-mouth Tea Partiers like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, threatening a shutdown of the federal government unless Barack Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is defunded.
The “good” cop: the Obama administration and the Democrats, loudly insisting that they’ll never give up on health care reform or let the government close because they care about working people–while quietly agreeing to many of the cuts and concessions that the Republicans want, and claiming they’re being “responsible” for doing so.
The two sides seem so far apart that they’ll never agree on anything, but we all know how “good cop/bad cop” works. The Republicans and Democrats are getting much more of what they each want than anyone lets on–and the target of their routine, which in this case is tens of millions of working-class Americans, is getting played.
The same scene has spun out over and over during the Obama presidency–the Republicans playing the part of the budget-cutting maniacs, pushing hard to shred the social safety net altogether, while the Democrats act like they’re powerless to do anything about it, and then go along with most of what the Republicans want.
The Democrats support the least-worst “realistic” option–and claim it’s the best they can do.
At the end of 2010, after almost two years in office, Obama and the Democrats finally acted on their campaign promise to rescind the Bush-era tax cuts for the super-richest of Americans. Even though a majority of people supported them, even though the Democrats were still a majority in both houses of Congress, the Democrats agreed to a two-year extension of the tax cuts for the rich, in return for a temporary extension of supplemental unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut.
In the summer of 2011, the Obama administration needed an act of Congress to raise the debt ceiling or the U.S. government would go into default–but the Republicans refused even Obama’s offer of a “grand bargain” to impose three times as much reduction in spending, including Social Security and Medicare, as increases in tax revenues. Even Corporate America warned against the Republicans’ game of chicken with the world economy. But it was the Democrats who capitulated, agreeing to even deeper spending cuts.
There were more showdowns at the start of 2013, in the wake of an election that Obama won easily. The outcome: Obama agreed to $85 billion in federal spending cuts, including furloughs of thousands of federal workers and cuts to supplement jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.
If this is “standing up” to the Republicans, you don’t want to know what caving in looks like.
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NOW, THERE’S another looming government shutdown, and the Affordable Care Act is on the chopping block. October 1 is supposed to be the start date of the new state-based “insurance exchanges,” created under the 2010 health care law, where individuals who don’t have health insurance can go to obtain “minimal essential” coverage. If they don’t, they risk paying penalties with their taxes.
The individual “mandate” will force millions and millions of new customers into the arms of private insurers–and leave billions and billions of dollars in their bank accounts. The insurance giants knew there were windfall profits to be made from a new health care law, which is why their lobbyists were in place to help shape the legislation–to make sure, for example, that there was no “public option” for mandated insurance that would compete with private companies.
That was the “inside” strategy, while the Republicans represented the “outside” strategy–continual obstructionism to make sure the Democrats continued to compromise on every question.
This “Plan B” continues today. Last week, the Republican-controlled House voted–almost exactly on party lines–to continue funding federal government operations after the cutoff date of September 30, but to defund the ACA. With a tear in his eye, House Speaker John Boehner called this a “victory for the American people and a victory for common sense.”
Then, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz took the fight to the Senate, where he staged his own filibuster on Tuesday, claiming that the Democrats were willing to risk a government shutdown rather than put the brakes on the health care law.
Most Senate Republicans distanced themselves from Cruz. But they don’t want to distance themselves from the assault on the health care law. Thus, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he disagrees with the threat to shut down the government as of September 30–but he’s just fine with gutting the ACA.
The ACA is a far cry from what’s needed to provide access to affordable health care in the U.S. But that’s not why Republicans are opposing it. From Boehner to Cruz and the others, the Republicans’ fierce opposition to “Obamacare” is another example of playing politics with people’s lives for personal gain–sometimes very personal gain.
While Cruz says his stance on health care is all about the folks back home in Texas, there’s a much bigger influence on him. In May, he was among the special guests at an exclusive party thrown by the arch-conservative oil billionaire Koch Brothers in Palm Springs, Calif.
At the “party,” the Kochs outlined a new focus for Republicans, working toward smaller government and deregulation rather than pressing losing social issues like immigration. Cruz, one of the “rising stars” at the event, is an important part of the project.
The Koch Brothers are up to their elbows in the crusade against Obama’s health care law. In the run-up to the October 1 start-up of the insurance exchanges, they’re backing a campaign to get people to not sign up. For example, a Virginia-based organization with ties to the Kochs is running a campaign of television ads–complete with gynecological exams being performed by a spooky Uncle Sam figure–aimed at scaring off college students and young people.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are more than happy to have fanatics like Cruz attacking them in Congress–it helps them look like they’re trying to get something done. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared that the Democrats would reject any attempts by Cruz and others to gut the ACA–but he invited advice from “responsible” Republicans on even more compromises in a thoroughly compromised law.
The Republicans won’t get away with defunding the health care law as long as the Democrats control the Senate. But in the meanwhile, they’re loading up spending legislation with all their favorite anti-worker, pro-business measures: means-testing for Medicare, medical liability “reform,” shredding the federal employee retirement system, eliminating the Dodd-Frank financial regulations passed in 2010, weakening the Environmental Protection Agency, restricting other federal regulators, and expanding offshore energy production.
With Democrats talking tough about the ACA, but showing their willingness to compromise on other questions, who knows how many of these pet projects of the right–most of them considered fringe issues for many years–will make it into the “compromise” that ends this latest crisis.
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THE LACK of a real debate over health care has had an effect–opinion polls reflect the effects of the confusion being sown by the Republicans. Some 42 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the ACA, compared to only 37 percent with a positive view, according to an August poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Republican scaremongering has had a lot to do with that result–but it also shows the widespread misgivings about the real inadequacies that have been exposed about the health care law.
Amid the phony debate about Obamacare, there’s a real health care emergency taking place in America. Last year, some 48 million people–about 15 percent of the population–went without health insurance, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A quarter of people who earn less than $25,000 annually don’t have health insurance.
“Reform” as it exists in the Obama health care law–rife with loopholes, compromises and watered-down provisions–won’t come close to fixing this gap. The ACA won’t confront skyrocketing health care costs or reform the wasteful and inefficient way for-profit health care is delivered.
But the opposition to the law in Washington isn’t only about the ACA. We’re seeing the same script play out: Intransigent Republicans go on the attack–with or without a majority–and Democrats compromise. For all the flashes of anger and indignation, the good cop and the bad cop end up working together to carry through an austerity agenda that whittles away at the living standards of working people.
…about jazz and much else…
Above: Murray (left) and friend Ralph Ellison
By Eugene Holley (at npr’s a blog supreme)
An essayist, cultural theorist, novelist, educator and biographer who died on August 18 at 97, Albert Murray spent more than five decades developing his thesis that America is a culturally miscegenated nation. His contention was that blacks are part white, and vice versa: that both races, in spite of slavery and racism, have borrowed from and created each other. In all of his writing, jazz music — derived from the blues idiom of African-Americans — was the soundtrack at the center of his aesthetic conception.
For the Alabama-bred, Tuskegee Institute-educated, New York-based Murray — and his Tuskegee classmate and aesthetic fellow traveler Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man — jazz was “the embodiment of the American experience, the American spirit, the American ideal,” he is quoted as saying in Jazz: A History of America’s Music, the companion book to the PBS documentary series for which he served as commentator and artistic consultant. It was the creation of a sepia panorama of black, brown and beige people, partially descended from Africa but fully Euro-American in outlook, character and aspiration.
“The omni-Americans are the Americans. My conception makes Americans identify with all their ancestors.” —interview in American Heritage, September 1996
To fully understand Albert Murray’s jazz aesthetic, a vital part of the worldview he called “Cosmos Murray,” you have to read his first book, The Omni-Americans (1970). The collection of essays counter-states “the folklore of white supremacy and the fakelore of black pathology” as social-science fictions that dehumanize black people as inferior. “American culture, even in its most rigidly segregated precincts, is patently and irrevocably composite,” he writes.
In The Omni-Americans, Murray critiques black authors Richard Wright and James Baldwin for creating clichéd views of black life; Afrocentric romanticism and the separatist tendencies of Black Nationalism; and well-meaning but paternalizing U.S. inner city social programs. Murray’s answer to such folly is the blues: home-grown black music that acknowledges the “essentially tenuous nature of all human existence … through the full, sharp and inescapable awareness of them.” In the subsequent essay collection The Hero and the Blues (1973), Murray celebrates the bluesman as an epic hero who, in his tragicomic lyricism, confronts the difficulties of life through the creation of a resilient art.
“We invented the blues; Europeans invented psychoanalysis. You invent what you need.” —interview in American Heritage, September 1996
Musically speaking, all this leads up to Stomping the Blues (1976). Beautifully illustrated with vivid period photos, LP covers and broadsides of black jazz icons, Stomping represents the zenith of his writing on the subject. Eschewing a bleak sociological approach for affirmative, literary prose, Murray celebrates jazz as the most advanced and comprehensive blues-derived art form, one which ritualistically provides people with “equipment for living.” The music serves as a “stylistic code for representing the most difficult conditions, but also provides a strategy for living with and triumphing over those conditions with dignity, grace, and elegance.” In other words, one does not kill the blues, but one can, by what he called “the velocity of celebration,” stomp the blues to keep them at bay.
In Stomping, Murray portrays African-American musicians like bandleader Duke Ellington, singers Jimmy Rushing and Ella Fitzgerald, and saxophonists Lester Young and Johnny Hodges as courageous blues stompers. Their artistry is “a synthesis of African and European elements, the product of an African sensibility in an American mainland situation.” Musicologically, Murray also examines jazz in its myriad locales, inventions and dimensions, from New Orleans and Chicago to Kansas City and Harlem, and how it grew from a folk art to a fine art, “stylized into aesthetic statement.”
Murray also co-wrote Good Morning Blues (1985), the intimate autobiography of the pianist and bandleader Count Basie. It covers the halcyon days of Kansas City in the ’30s, where Negro territory bands reigned supreme and where Basie — who hailed from the East Coast — transformed his stride-style piano into the rugged, 4/4 swing that characterized the driving Kansas City sound. The Blue Devils of Nada (1996) features more impassioned essays on Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and his friend, collage artist Romare Bearden. Jazz and the blues also color his quartet of semi-autobiographical novels, starting with Train Whistle Guitar (1974), a coming-of-age chronicle of a boy named Scooter who hails from Alabama, grows up to be a college-educated bassist and leaves home to find fame in Harlem-like Philamayork.
“Jazz is only possible in a culture of freedom.” —from Jazz: A History of America’s Music
Though Murray was not as well-known as his contemporaries Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, his work not only lives on in his books, but also in well-known Murray-ites. Writer and cultural critic Stanley Crouch, whose long-awaited biography of Charlie Parker will be published in September, is a prominent one. Another is Wynton Marsalis, the celebrated musician and artistic and managing director of Jazz at Lincoln Center; the well-known jazz performance venue was largely built on Murray’s philosophical and musicological ethos. “He’s my mentor, but it’s more than that,” Marsalis told Newsweek. “Stomping the Blues had a profound impact on me in terms of understanding the context of the art form and the society.”
In the 21st century, Murray’s omni-American idea — that the U.S. is a composite nation of culturally multiracial people — still deeply resonates in today’s browning, globally connected world. He used jazz to shine a light upon these lesser-seen pockets of American culture — the ones that he believed unite us all.
Guardian obit, here
Fascinating interview with Murray at The Ralph Ellison Project, here
The 1963 March on Washington is one of the most-remembered events of the civil rights movement — but what you learned in school left out a lot, writes Elizabeth Schulte at the US Socialist Worker website (no longer associated with the Brit SWP):
The march was about jobs and housing, as well as racism
THEY CAME from every corner of the country–from New York, Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi–to be at the largest demonstration that Washington, D.C. had ever seen.
Organizer Bayard Rustin captured the mood of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, held 50 years ago this August. “It wasn’t the Harry Belafontes and the greats from Hollywood that made the march,” Rustin said. “What made the march was that Black people voted that day with their feet. They came from every state, they came in jalopies, on trains, buses, anything they could get–some walked.”
More than 30 chartered trains and 2,000 buses brought people to the nation’s capital. The Brooklyn chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) walked the 230 miles from New York City to D.C.–over a period of 13 days.
The United Auto Workers, one of the march sponsors, printed hundreds of signs with slogans such as “UAW Says Jobs and Freedom for Every American.” But other marchers brought homemade signs, with messages like “There Would Be More of Us Here, But So Many of Us Are in Jail. Freedom Now” and “Stop Legal Murders.”
An airplane full of celebrities, including Ossie Davis, Sammy Davis Jr., Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, Paul Newman, Josephine Baker and Marlon Brando, was organized by Harry Belafonte. Singers Mahalia Jackson, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and the Freedom Singers performed. CBS canceled all its daytime shows to broadcast the entire event, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech was televised around the world.
By 9:30 a.m., some 40,000 people had gathered in the Mall. Two hours later, there were twice as many. When the march stepped off, the crowd was estimated at a quarter of a million people. They were of all ages–college students, union members, families with children, older people. About a fifth of the crowd was white–this was overwhelmingly an African American march for jobs and freedom.
Excitement among the protesters was so great that they began marching on their own–the official heads of the march had to run to get to the front.
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THE YEARS leading up to the historic 1963 march were marked by explosive civil rights battles throughout the South and a growing radicalization among many of the people who took part.
The second wave of the civil rights movement had been kicked off three years before by a handful of students in North Carolina who organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters starting in February 1960. In two months’ time, lunch counter sit-ins had spread across the South, involving some 50,000 Black and white youth.
In 1961, activists from the recently formed Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) joined the Freedom Rides organized by CORE. The goal of the Freedom Rides was to desegregate interstate bus lines throughout the South. The Freedom Riders were attacked by racist mobs, as local cops looked on.
The instinct of the national Democrats–who the civil rights activists initially looked to–was to try to tame the struggle. Attorney General Robert Kennedy offered civil rights activists tax-free status if they would agree to abandon their sit-ins and Freedom Rides, and focus on voter registration.
Recognizing this opportunity for further activism, activists seized on the offer and set up headquarters in Mississippi to register Blacks to vote. Organizers from CORE, SNCC and other groups initiated a campaign to register as many Black voters as possible in Mississippi. In the process, they established Freedom Schools, community centers and other initiatives to aid Blacks living in the poorest state in the country.
At every step of the way, the activists were met with violence from racist terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Councils. While they were harassed, jailed and beaten, the Kennedy administration, unwilling to intervene for fear of offending the segregationist Southern Dixiecrat wing of the Democratic Party, continued to look the other way.
In April 1963, civil rights activists targeted Birmingham, Ala.–home to notorious segregationist Gov. George Wallace and racist Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor. When Connor ordered his cops to use clubs, dogs and fire hoses on peaceful protesters, it was televised, showing the whole world what Jim Crow rule in the South looked like.
For the activists, the violence begged the question: Why isn’t the Kennedy administration doing anything to stop it? And furthermore: How can a country that proclaims itself to be a beacon of democracy to the world be attacking Black children in its streets?
The event helped educate a wider audience about racism in the U.S. South. According to polls at the time, only 4 percent of Americans saw civil rights as a pressing issue before Birmingham. Afterward, that number grew to 52 percent.
The movement didn’t stop with the streets of Birmingham. The fight for civil rights spread across the South and around the country. 1963 saw more than 900 demonstrations in more than 100 cities, with more than 20,000 arrested and at least 10 deaths to the civil rights struggle. These protests were putting the Kennedy administration on the spot–pressuring it to make good on its promises of passing stalled civil rights legislation.
The 1963 March on Washington would bring together activists from the movement, but also people who had been radicalized by these events–and by the realities of everyday life for Blacks in the North and the South.
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THE OUTRAGE over Bull Connor’s crackdown forced Kennedy to introduce a civil rights bill in Congress–and fueled the enormous turnout to the March on Washington. But the aims of the Kennedy administration–and the leadership of the march as well–didn’t always match the aspirations of marchers.
In their conception of the march, many SNCC activists, including John Lewis, envisioned mass civil disobedience–staging sit-ins and lie-ins across Washington, particularly in the offices of Southern members of Congress. But these more radical plans were halted by more conservative forces that seized leadership of the march organizing.
President John F. Kennedy had tried to stop the march from happening. When that failed, he set out to co-opt it.
In July, there was a march organizing meeting involving the “Big Six” civil rights leaders–A. Philip Randolph, who had led the aborted March on Washington movement in 1941; Roy Wilkins of the NAACP; James Farmer of CORE; John Lewis of SNCC; Whitney Young Jr. of the Urban League; and Martin Luther King, representing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
In the eyes of the more militant activists of CORE and SNCC, the march should be an expression of the growing frustration of Blacks at the federal government failing to take a side in the fight against the Jim Crow South. But for the more conservative civil rights leaders, such as the NAACP’s Wilkins, the focus was on simply getting a Kennedy-backed civil rights bill through Congress. The self-appointed march leaders made every effort to keep the march acceptable to the administration.
This didn’t stop FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover–who was particularly inflamed by the march button’s image of black and white hands clasped in solidarity–from treating the demonstration as a terrorist plot in the making.
When telling Kennedy that King was under the influence of communists didn’t get the march called off, Hoover spared no expense preparing for the violence that never came. Kennedy and the military even drafted a proclamation that would give the go-ahead for 4,000 troops assembled in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.–and 15,000 paratroopers–to break up the demonstration.
Meanwhile, march leaders cut speakers who might sound too radical, such as writer James Baldwin. Others were censored. The day before the march, the planned speech by SNCC John Lewis was revised by organizers. ” The original version, to which several SNCC activists had contributed, read:
In good consciousness, we cannot support the administration’s civil rights bill, for it is too little, too late. There’s not one thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality…What is in the bill that will protect the homeless and starving people of this nation? What is there in this bill to ensure the equality of a maid that makes $5 a week in the home of a family whose income is $100,000 a year?
Objections were also raised to Lewis’ angry tone in the original speech, exemplified by this section:
We will march through the South, through the Heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We will pursue our own “scorched-earth” policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground–nonviolently. We will fragment the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy.
Even with the revisions, however, the speech Lewis did ask a critical question: “Where is our party? Where is the party that will make it unnecessary for us to march on Washington? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march in the streets of Birmingham?”
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THE CLIMAX of the day in Washington was King’s speech. In it, he gave voice to the widespread frustration with the unkept promise of racial equality in the U.S.
[W]e have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
King expressed the urgency of these demands for the civil rights movement–and the fact that activists were no longer content to sit and wait for equality:
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
For most people, this is King’s most recognized speech. It’s been used and misused by politicians of many political stripes. As Gary Younge notes in his new book The Speech:
The ability of America’s powerful to co-opt and rebrand resistance to past inequities as evidence of the nation’s essential and unique genius is as impressive as it is cynical. Such sleight of hand is often exercised at the same time as attempts to correct the inequalities that made such resistance necessary in the first place are ignored or marginalized… Sanctified after his death, King’s speech would eventually be celebrated by those who actively opposed his efforts whilst he lived.
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THE MORE radical version of King–for example, the man who spoke out against the U.S. war in Vietnam a few years later at the Riverside Church in Harlem–hasn’t been included in the history books.
By the same token, when we talk about the march itself, it’s important to emphasize the struggles that came before and after–including the many much smaller and modest actions and events. The activists who defied Jim Crow to organize the movement should be remembered as the heart and soul of the March on Washington–more so than the people who spoke from the front.
The march drew together both the activists from these fierce struggles, as well as people who were inspired by them–and because of this, it was inspirational on many levels. But it didn’t mean that the fight was anywhere near over. The Democratic Party, in particular, continued to drag its feet on civil rights legislation, while simultaneously trying to curb the movement’s more radical demands.
After Kennedy’s assassination later in 1963, his successor, Lyndon Johnson, pushed the Civil Rights Act through Congress in 1964, finally outlawing Jim Crow segregation. This was followed the next year by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which guaranteed Southern Blacks the right to vote.
The laws passed not because Democratic politicians had a change of heart, but because of the pressure of the mass civil rights movement across the South and throughout the U.S.
The Democratic Party establishment showed its real allegiances again at the 1964 national convention in Atlantic City. SNCC had organized delegates from the non-segregated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) to claim the state’s seats from the Dixiecrat delegation. But party liberals led the way in trying to push a rotten compromise on the MFDP. When civil rights delegates refused the urging of figures like Hubert Humphrey–and even Martin Luther King–to retreat, they were escorted out of the convention by police.
These and other betrayals would lead some civil rights activists to reject relying on the Democratic Party–and turn to the more radical ideas, like those of Malcolm X. This set the stage for the the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. “Never again,” SNCC’s Cleveland Sellers later recalled, “were we lulled into believing that our task was exposing injustices so that the ‘good’ people of American could eliminate them. After Atlantic City, our struggle was not for civil rights, but for liberation.”
Others, like John Lewis, would dedicate themselves to the Democratic Party, despite its broken promises.
One of the greatest lessons of the civil rights era is that what we do makes a difference. It was the mass mobilization across the South that defeated Jim Crow segregation–and it was the hundreds of thousands who came to D.C. who made the March on Washington the historic occasion it was.
Cartoon from the Guardian
The international ruling classes are clearly in a quandary over Syria. But so is the serious left (the word “serious” meaning discounting Assad-supporters and hypocritical fake-Westphalians who’ve been looking forward to western intervention for the past two years and more, just so’s they can have something to protest about).
Shiraz Socialist does not oppose foreign intervention in principle, especially when a country is descending into sectarian mass-murder. Also, the use of chemical weapons should be recognised as a “red line” and, if possible, the perpetrators punished.
The problem with regard to Syria is not any “principled” objection to “outside” intervention, but the fact that the opposition seems to be a bunch of sectarian Islamists who are already attacking Kurds, Allowites, Christians, Shias and others.
The best result now would be a cease-fire arrived at by a conference brokered and enforced on the ground by the UN, Arab League or, indeed, NATO. Frankly, that’s not very likely.
It looks like Labour are going to opposes unilateral military action http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/08/douglas-alexander-warns-cameron-vote-must-be-held-syria-and-labour-could-oppose-gov
The left in general, perhapd due to the bank holiday, has yet to react. There are a few voices though – Owen jones opposes military action but, against all the evidence, appears to doubt that the Assad regieme launched the chemical attack. He calls on the international court to bring charges and for UN peace talks: “There’s no question that those who use chemical weapons must be arraigned in an international court. But a UN-brokered peace process involving all the local and regional players remains the only solution.” http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/for-the-syrians-sakes-and-for-our-own-we-must-not-intervene-8784220.html
The wretched Lindsey German and ‘Stop the War’ are entirely predictable. They call it a proxy war but conveniently only mention the Western and Saudi arming of the rebels, not Russia or Iran who have been sending arms and troops to aid Assad. They call for peace talks, but really they’re in support of Assad: http://www.stopwar.org.uk/news/attack-in-syria-no-pretext-for-intervention
Above: Bayard Rustin
As the world gears up for the fiftieth anniversary of the great 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, the Social Democrats USA remember the crucial role of Bayard Rustin, and the ”Shachtmanite” organisation, of which he was a member: their role has been figuratively airbrushed out of official histories. Rustin was the key figure linking the Civil Rights movement and the unions:
By David Hacker
The 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington is [this coming Wednesday]. Everyone knows about Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that he delivered at the rally outside the Lincoln Memorial for this event. What most do not know is that the entire march was conceived and planned by the Shachtmanites. A Philip Randolph conceived it. But Max Shachtman also had a hand in the idea for the march. He also chose Rustin to be the main organizer for the march. When Rustin was caught and arrested for homosexual conduct in a men’s room in Washington, Shachtman (though he was a homophobe) outlined for Bayard a defense of his action. Randolph was being pressured to fire Rustin and Southern Senators, such as Strom Thurmond, were attacking him on the issue of immorality. But as a result of Shachtman’s defense, Rustin continued to be the main organizer of the march (though his official position was downgraded a bit.), and he hired many Shachtmanites such as Norman Hill and Tom Kahn to assist him. At the same time, Bogdan Denitch organized the West Coast version of the march in California. At the rally itself, Kahn wrote the controversial speech by SNCC chair John Lewis in which the advanced text contained attacks on the Kennedy Administration and stated that “the revolution is at hand. We will take matters in our own hands and create a source of power, outside of any national structure that could and would assure us a victory…If any radical social, political and economic changes are to take place in our society, the people, the masses, must bring them about.” Then Att. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy said that Lewis shouldn’t be allowed to deliver his speech at the March. Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, the Catholic prelate of Washington protested that he wouldn’t deliver the invocation for the rally if Lewis delivered his speech. Randolph, King, Rustin, Kahn and Lewis and other leaders of SNCC argued about revising the speech while the rally had already started. Finally, Lewis agreed to a rewritten speech and he was allowed to address the masses gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. (Lewis is now a Democratic congressman from Atlanta.)
What most history books do not tell you about is the Socialist Party conference that was held in Washington after the rally was over. It was entitled, “Socialist Party National Conference on the Civil Rights Revolution”. This was a 2 day affair held at the Burlington Hotel from Thursday August 29-Friday August 30, 1963. (The SP had a party for Marchers and Conference participants on the evening of August 28th after the conclusion of the March on Washington and rally.) The first session was Thursday morning with the theme: “Toward Full Equality in a Progressive America. Chairman of the session was Richard Parrish ( who was the chairman of the Civil Rights Committee of the United Federation of Teachers, Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers and Treasurer of the Negro-American Labor Council. Parrish was also running on the SP line for a special election for NYC Councilmember at Large in Manhattan and was supported enthusiastically by all factions of the SP.) Speakers were Norman Thomas, Floyd McKissick, Chairman of CORE (spoke in place of James Farmer, who was in jail in Louisiana), A. Philip Randolph and Congressman William Fitts Ryan (D-NY), a leader of the reform Democrats. Special remarks by Samuel H. Friedman, SP VP candidate in 1952 and 1956 and former editor of the Socialist Call. The afternoon session was entitled: “The New Phase: A Prospectus for Civil Rights.” Chairman of the session was long time SP activists Seymour Steinsapir. Speakers were Bayard Rustin, Deputy Director March on Washington. Responding to Rustin’s address were Robert Moses, Field Secretary, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, Ike Reynolds, Task Force, CORE and Tom Kahn, Staff, March on Washington. The evening sessions theme was “A Political Strategy for Civil Rights. The sessions’s chairman was Eleanor Holmes, now DC Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. She introduced the conference’s keynote speaker, Max Shachtman, who spoke on the topic, “Drive Out Dixiecrats For Jobs and Freedom.” Responding to Shachtman’s address were Ernest Calloway, President, St Louis Chapter of the Negro-American Labor Council, and Wiloughby Abner, Vice-President, NALC, National Staff, UAW. The final session of the Conference took place on Friday morning. It’s subject was “Fair Employment-Full Employment. The chairman of the meeting was Warren Morse (a name I am unfamiliar with). Speakers were Lewis Carliner, Assistant to the Director, International Affairs Dept., UAW, Norman Hill, Assistant Program Director, CORE, Cleveland Robinson, Secretary Treasurer, District 65 RWDSU, Co-Chairman of March, Herman Roseman, Economist. Closing Remarks and Summary by Norman Thomas.
Thus, well known figures took part in this conference. such as leaders of CORE, SNCC, Randolph, Rustin, Norman Thomas, Norm Hill, Kahn, prominent folk singers like Joan Baez, etc. But my main point is that the Shachtmanites, militant civil rights leaders, labor, were all united seemingly in the same broad realignment movement of the democratic Left. SDS was still also a part of this coalition, despite of Harrington’s tirade against them over the Port Huron Statement, the year before. As long as the Shachtmanite-militant civil rights alliances continued, it would be counter-productive for SDS to seem to be against this realignment coalition. This is the very positive aspect of the Shachtmanites activities in the SP that too many are unfortunately not aware of. Harrington was not at the March. He was in Paris writing his second book, The Accidental Century.
David Hacker is Vice Chair of Social Democrats USA. The above article is excerpted from a book he is writing about Max Shachtman. Historical note: The Socialist Party in existence in 1963 would be renamed Social Democrats, USA in 1972. Harrington chose to leave the organization at that time. But organized labor stayed and so did Bayard Rustin, becoming National Chairman.
More on Rustin’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, and his subsequent political evolution, here
Gary Younge in the Gruan doesn’t even mention Rustin’s Shachtmanism
As marchers assemble in Washington to honour the memory of Martin Luther King and the continuing relevance of the 1963 March For Jobs and Freedom, the US Socialist Worker (once, but no longer, affiliated to the UK SWP), has published this important report:
Taking our struggles to Washington
Elizabeth Schulte, Laura Lising, Gaston Lau and Ann Coleman report on local organizing for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
BY AUGUST 1963, brave civil rights struggles across the U.S. South had thrust the ugly face of Jim Crow segregation–symbolized by the scenes of police attacking Black children with German shepherds and high-pressure fire hoses in Birmingham, Ala.–into the national consciousness.
For many participants, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom represented a coming together of the different battles for civil rights, as well as many people inspired by those struggles. The unexpected and unprecedented turnout of some 250,000 people showed the reach of the movement.
On the 50th anniversary of the famous march where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, the situation is different, of course. We aren’t witnessing the crest of a mass movement. In fact, many of the gains of the civil rights struggles of half a century ago, like legalized desegregation in public schools and housing, are being eroded. And thanks to the popularity of the idea that we are living in a “post-racial society”–as evidenced by the fact that an African American occupies the White House–opponents of racism often find themselves struggling to push the conditions that Black America endures into the national spotlight.
But the murder of Trayvon Martin last year gave a clear picture of racism in “post-racial” America–and the outpouring of anger after his murderer George Zimmerman was acquitted in July showed the potential for protest, even if they were relatively short-lived. As a result, what might have been mostly a commemoration of the 1963 march 50 years on has taken on a new spirit and urgency.
At least some people will come to Washington this year to speak out about the often localized civil rights issues of today that they have been organizing around–against stop-and-frisk and racial profiling, against police violence and the New Jim Crow, for jobs and union rights, for housing and education justice, against voter ID laws and disenfranchisement, against the relentless austerity agenda.
The August 24 march represents the first time in many years that established civil rights organizations like the NAACP and National Action Network (NAN) have called for a national mobilization and put real resources behind it. Unions have taken up the call–around 15 unions have endorsed officially, including the American Federation of Teachers, AFSCME and the United Auto Workers.
The weight of established liberal organizations in the official apparatus of the demonstration means that some of burning issues on marchers’ minds will be addressed from the speakers’ podium, but others will not. After all, many march organizers like Rev. Al Sharpton of NAN have so far failed to criticize the Obama administration, despite how little it has delivered for Black America.
But the same was true of the 1963 March on Washington, at least as radicals of the day, like Malcolm X, viewed it. Yet the 1963 demonstration is remembered not only for the famous words spoken from the front of the demonstration, but for the spirit and determination of the demonstrators.
There’s no way to tell how many people will attend this year, but reports from around the country indicate the march is inspiring more people to get on the bus than anyone expected a few months ago. In some cities, organizers say spaces on buses are selling out fast.
Lauren Byers of the University of Florida chapter of the Dream Defenders, a group of antiracist youths who occupied the Florida Capitol for a month after Zimmerman’s acquittal, said, “We are named after that historic speech by Dr. King, and we understand that the dream he died trying to accomplish has yet to flourish into reality.”
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IN NEW York City, buses are filling up fast. The United Federation of Teachers booked some 25 buses, and the seats were quickly taken.
Many longtime criminal justice activists are traveling as a group from New York and marching together with the formerly incarcerated and other longtime activists. Anti-criminal justice system activist and socialist Lee Wengraf said she was excited about how march organizing is drawing together people around issues of solitary confinement, conditions at the prison on Rikers Island, police brutality and other similar issues.
Constance Malcolm is one of them. She’s the mother of Ramarley Graham, the unarmed 18-year-old who was shot and killed by New York City police in his home. Since her son’s murder, Constance and her family have fought for justice for their son, along with the families of other victims of police violence. Last week, a grand jury refused to re-indict the police officer who killed Ramarley.
Constance explained the importance of attending this march:
We want to go to Washington because this is where Eric Holder, the head of Justice Department, is. We want him to take up Ramarley’s case–not just look into it, but take up this case. We want them to know who Ramarley is in Washington. The same way that Trayvon Martin became a household name, we need them to know that Ramarley was here. It was a police officer who murdered Ramarley, and Zimmerman was a wannabe police officer.
The everyday racism of the NYPD were in the national spotlight last week when a federal judge ruled in Floyd et al v. the City of New York that the department’s stop-and-frisk policy violated the constitutional rights of its hundreds of thousands of victims each year. The cracks in the criminal justice system are showing.
Joseph “Jazz” Hayden of the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow in New York City explains that if activists are going to win this fight, we’re going to have to push forward our own demands:
The people initiating this march, I don’t know that we should be restricted to their agenda. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were products of mass demonstrations. The movement brought into question U.S. foreign policy around the globe–whether it was about democracy and fairness and human rights.
With that in mind, I looked at the Floyd decision that was just rendered in New York against stop-and-frisk and the announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that he wants to reform federal sentencing laws and mandatory minimums. I think the Obama administration is aware of this mass population of predominately people of color descending on Washington. I think that has our first Black president concerned.
I think that these are incremental reforms–giving the appearance of moving in the right direction and finally recognizing the issues that impact poor people of color, which he has ignore totally throughout his administration. This march should be done for the purpose of holding their feet to the fire. We need to ask why haven’t they addressed the issue of mass incarceration in the U.S., of growing poverty, lack of affordable housing.
Moreover, said Hayden, the march is an opportunity to make connections toward building a national movement. “We saw the grassroots response to the Trayvon Martin decision, which led to demonstrations in over 100 cities across the country. Imagine if we were organized in 100 cities across the country. Anytime we decided we wanted to put something on the national agenda, we could put it out there instantly.”
Yusef Salaam of the Central Park Five–innocent Black youth who were framed for a high-profile rape and assault in 1989–spoke to the demands of the original march that remain unmet:
I think we can be sure that we are still in need of Jobs and Freedom, which are inclusive of our civil and economic rights. The progress we need isn’t satisfied by piecemeal gains for a few, but requires advancement for all. Marching lets the world know we are still at odds with a system that refuses to allow for this gain to take place.
Enough is enough! I want a brighter future for us and future generations, as I’m sure our predecessors wanted for us. As a member of the Central Park Five, I know all too well what it means to wear skin of a darker hue in a system that sees it as beneath them and as a tool of exploitation. Enough is enough!
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IN CHICAGO, activists organizing to attend the march are drawing the connection between the 1963 march’s demand for “Jobs and Freedom” with the unfinished fight for economic and racial justice today. At a meeting at the Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, activists invited attendees to join their Chicago Labor Freedom Riders caravan.
Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Recording Secretary Michael Brunson began the meeting by talking about the real legacy of the civil rights movement:
It was not until I did studying on my own that I learned how deeply concerned Martin Luther King was with the issue of labor. He not only spoke about it, but you must never forget that he lost his life when he went down to Memphis to stand with sanitation workers. So like the memory of the march, the memory of Martin Luther King himself has been condensed, circumscribed and sanitized.
Dr. Timuel Black, a 94-year-old veteran Chicago teacher and labor activist, described his own education as an activist:
Watching my father and his peers as they began to participate in union activities of United Steel Workers and later the United Packinghouse workers, I began to learn that in unity, there is strength…We began to organize…and we could tell the people that controlled the jobs: If you don’t hire us at a decent wage, we’re going to put you out of business.
Black attended the March on Washington in 1963, and when he got back, he helped organize a successful boycott movement in the Chicago Public Schools to demand equal education for Black children.
Brandon Johnson of the CTU’s Black Caucus explained how the gains in the fight for public education in the 1960s are being undermined today:
This attack on public education is very much an attack on Black labor. Public education and public-sector jobs are overwhelmingly held by Blacks, women in particular. So these conversations about privatization of public education are very much a threat to the working class, to middle-class Black families…
We have to make sure that the conversation about public education, housing, transportation and so on isn’t separated from racial, social and economic justice.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that guts the 1965 Voting Rights Act, seven Southern states have passed or implemented new restrictions that target people of color. This was very much on the mind of Martese Chism, a registered nurse at Cook County Hospital and member of National Nurses United.
Chism told the story of how her great grandmother Birdia, along with fellow Charleston, Miss., Freedom Riders, traveled to Jackson, Miss., in 1965 to give testimony at a voting rights hearing, despite death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. “On the way back home, just outside of Greenwood, Miss., their car was forced off the road,” she said. The women were removed from the car, marched to the edge of the wood and killed, and their bodies were mutilated. As Chism said:
Fifty years later, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act that Birdia and Miss Hamlet testified in support of has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court…Striking down the 1965 Voting Rights Act is like striking down hypertension medicine for a hypertension patient…We are riding for my great grandmother Birdia, for the schoolteacher Miss Hamlet…and for Main Street. Get on the bus.
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IN BOSTON, back in 1963, organizers were only able to provide one bus to go to the March on Washington, and most people who wanted to go had to find their own way there. This year, the Boston branch of the NAACP is organizing four buses for the march.
At a meeting in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood on August 15, victims of police violence spoke about why the August 24 march was an opportunity for individual campaigns against police violence, led mostly by family members, to connect with other organizations and individuals to lay the basis for future organizing efforts.
Wayne Dozier is the grandfather of DJ Henry, a 20-year-old Pace University student who was shot through the windshield of his car by a Mount Pleasant, N.Y., officer in 2010. Through the family’s organizing efforts, it has been revealed that police conspired to lie about what happened the night Henry was killed.
After sharing the story of his grandson, Dozier pointed to a pin for Ramarley Graham on his shirt. He wears the pin to remind him that our struggles are connected, and that judges and courts from Boston to California support police violence. “March on Washington with a new cause and sense of purpose,” he said. “We need to question why we have more Black men in prison today than we had slaves in 1850.”
In May, Anwar Luckman was riding his bike when Brookline police surrounded him, causing him to crash, and then pepper sprayed and handcuffed him. Now, Anwar is facing up to $700 in fines or two-and-a-half years of prison. “It has to be a collective effort,” Anwar said. “We need different shades and shapes of people so we can’t be overlooked.”
Other attendees at the 75-person meeting included Carla Sheffield, mother of Bo (Burrell) Ramsey-White, a 26-year-old who was murdered by Boston police in August 2012, as well as mothers from Legacy Lives On, a nonprofit for family members who have lost loved ones to homicide or street violence.
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IN WASHINGTON, D.C., networks of activists have come together over issues related to criminal justice and are planning a special feeder march for the August 24 demonstration.
The activists first connected at an event celebrating the abolition of the death penalty in Maryland in May, which brought together former death row prisoners, antiracist activists, death row lawyers and people who have been part of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and other criminal justice activism.
Afterward, a handful of people started meeting to discuss launching a new campaign, building on the changed political climate following the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia in 2011 and the popularity of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.
When George Zimmerman was acquitted in July, activists organized rallies, meetings and speak-outs. When a report was released revealing rampant racial profiling in D.C., activists organized a press conference linking the struggle for justice for Trayvon Martin and an end to racial profiling by police. There, they called for a rally and march on the morning of August 24, which would then link up with the 50th Anniversary march.
Momentum for the feeder rally and march has been building, say organizers, with a packed forum on August 15 where community members spoke out about their treatment at the hands of the D.C. police. TeOnna Ross, who was distributing flyers the weekend before the rally, said:
As people of color, we know we can’t trust the police, and we teach our children to watch out for them. But the statistics in the report made the issues come to light in a new way. The report and the forum and the rally are all ways to pull people into this struggle against racial profiling.
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ON THE West Coast, activists are organizing their own actions on August 24 to coincide with the March on Washington.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, working-class Blacks, Latinos and Asians are being pushed out of the city centers and into suburban ghettos. Over the last 30 years, the Black population of San Francisco has fallen from 14 percent of the population to 4 percent.
Between 2008 and 2012 alone, 1,465 homes in one of the last remaining Black neighborhoods, the Bayview neighborhood, faced foreclosure–84 percent of which have been conducted illegally. As gentrification spreads across the Bay, the Black population in Oakland has dropped by a quarter over the past decade.
In the face of the housing crisis, the city of Oakland has increased its police department budget by $90 million since 2001. The priorities are clear, and the plight of Black and working-class people have been once again put off to the side.
In response, members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unions and Bay Area Black Worker Center have organized a solidarity action for August 24 in Mosswood Park, a historic meeting place for the Black Panthers.
Organizing efforts have been drawing together different pockets of anti-racist forces. For example, the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP has voted to endorse the August 24 action. The organizing has also incorporated younger community members, such as students from the University of California-Berkeley Black Student Union.
Local activists hope that efforts like these that will lead to future struggle and lay the ground for an ongoing fight against racism.
As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and that “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, it seems right to bring you some of the music that sustained the civil rights movement in the sixties – and beyond.
This selection is by Nick Morrison of NPR, as are the brief comments:
I Wish I knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free) – Nina Simone
Of the many musicians who used their music to advance the cause of civil rights, Nina Simone was one of the most passionate, most outspoken and most gifted. Although many of her civil rights era songs had their origins earlier in the 20th century, this song was written in 1967 by noted jazz pianist and educator Dr Billy Taylor (along with Dick Dallas), and was recorded by Simone that same year. It quickly became one of the musical mainstays of the movement.
Selma March – Grant Green
The march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., took place in March 1965. Today, some people tend to forget that there were two failed attempts to make the journey earlier that month. The first march ended in bloodshed, while the second was met with a restraining order. That ruling was quickly overturned and, on March 21, Dr King began the historic four-day march. Five months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This jubilant instrumental by jazz guitarist Grant Green seems to reflect the jubilation surrounding the Selma march’s completion. A 1965 recording, it also features Harold Vick (sax), Larry Young (organ), Ben Dixon (drums) and Candido Camero (congas).
We Shall Overcome – Larry Goldings
Many people, when asked to name a song that encapsulates the civil rights movement, will pick “We Shall Overcome.” It was, indeed, the movement’s theme song, sung by countless people all over the world. That’s how we often think of the song: large groups of people gathered together, singing it as they struggle against mighty odds. Pianist Larry Goldings, however, gives us a different view of this classic. Accompanied only by trumpeter (actually, he’s on cornet – JD) John Sneider, Goldings turns “We Shall Overcome” into a wistful, intimate and moving meditation.
This Little Light of Mine – Sam Cooke
Folklorist and activist Zilphia Horton did a wonderful thing when she introduced this children’s gospel song to the civil rights movement in the 1950s. Vocalist Sam Cooke did something equally wonderful, and much more amazing. He took this song that people were singing at sit-ins and marches and brought it into America’s toniest nightclubs, putting the music of The Movement in front of an audience that probably didn’t spend much time at sit-ins and marches. Cooke performed this joyful and uplifting version of “the Little Light Of Mine” in 1964 in New York’s Copacabana.
Lift Every Voice And Sing – Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff
[No Youtube clip available, so click here]
In 1919, this song (by James and John Johnson) was adopted by the NAACP as “The Negro National Anthem.” Its resonance in the civil rights movement is indisputable and, like all of the songs in this brief overview, it remains an incredibly moving piece of music today. This soulful instrumental version by alto saxophonist Hank Crawford, with his long-time musical partner and organist Jimmy McGriff, is one of the best. Prepare to be taken to the river.
Elmore Leonard died today, aged 87.
The New York Times obit is here.
If you’ve never read his stuff, start with Get Shorty and/or Rum Punch (both filmed, Rum Punch as Jackie Brown).
Here he is on his famous (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) ’Ten Rules of writing’:
Here are the ‘Ten Rules’:
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
- Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
- Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
He added: “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
* Excerpted from the New York Times article, ‘Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.’