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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Blocked for talking Venezuelan trash to @BootsRiley

At 3:22 PM today I posted my first ever reply to a Boots Riley tweet:
Six minutes later I posted my second reply to a Boots Riley tweet:
A few minutes later I attempted to post my third reply to a Boots Riley tweet:
Starving people eat food where ever they can find it. Were they finding food? Yes? Why wasn't it eaten already by safer/cleaner homeless ppl 1st? Maybe the can needed to be dumped to get at the food they got. So dump on ground or wait for dump truck?
After I entered that text and hit the [tweet] button, Twitter responded with the ominous message that: You are not allowed to perform that action, please refresh your page. When I refresh the page, I discovered that Boots Riley had blocked me:

It took just two contrary tweets, and about ten minutes for Boots Riley to block me. So much for his attitude towards open dialogue and free speech.

The video that angered Nicolás Maduro & Boots Riley

According to Jorge Ramos, these images of men eating garbage in Venezuela caused Nicolás Maduro to hold him and his team for two hours.
Boots Riley is promoting the conspiracy theory that the video that journalist Jorge Ramos showed to Nicolás Maduro of Venezuelans rummaging for food in the garbage being dumped into the back of a dump truck, the video that got Ramos arrested by Maduro, was a staged video. His proof: Real starving people wouldn't do that.

When I politely challenged him on that in two tweets, he blocked me, so let me post my response here.

The sum of his argument is that obviously it was staged because people would just forage for food from the trash cans and garbage bags ahead of the truck, rather than out the back of the truck were it would be even dirtier and more dangerous. As far as he is concerned: Case Closed.

Of course, if it was staged, those staging it could have just as easily staged it the way Riley suggests, assuming they agreed with his analysis of the improbability of starving people foraging for food wherever they could find it. In any case, in spite of being blocked by Boots Riley on Twitter, I still have some questions for him, which I will publicly post here:

Riley suggests no hungry Venezuelan would pick food out of the back of a garbage truck. Here is a picture of Venezuelans foraging for food even farther down the garbage chain, after it has been left at the dump by those garbage trucks.

People scavenge for food and recyclables at a garbage dump overlooking the main port and industrial plants of Morn, Venezuela, Sept. 30, 2017. Many of the people picking through the trash at the dump said that they used to work in the port but were now desperate to feed their families after being laid off once ship traffic slowed to a trickle. (MERIDITH KOHUT/NYT)
Was this picture staged?

Families salvage food scraps from garbage bags in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 10, 2017. A recent report by the United Nations and the Pan American Health Organization found that 1.3 million people who used to be able to feed themselves in Venezuela have had difficulty doing so since the economic crisis began three years ago. (MERIDITH KOHUT/NYT)
Was this picture staged?

Esteban Granadillo, 18 days, who weighs 4 pounds 10 ounces, lies at Dr. Agustn Zubillaga University Hospital of Pediatrics in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Aug. 28, 2017. Doctors across the country said that their emergency rooms were being overwhelmed by children with severe malnutrition — a condition they had rarely encountered before the economic crisis began. (MERIDITH KOHUT/NYT
Was this picture staged?

Family and friends attend the burial of 3-month-old Kleiver Enrique Hernndez at the cemetery in Ca, Venezuela, Aug. 17, 2017. (MERIDITH KOHUT/NYT)
Was this picture staged?

Nerio Parra and Abigail Torres on July 8, 2017, visit the graves of two of their five children who died from severe malnutrition, in Caracas, Venezuela. (MERIDITH KOHUT/NYT)
Was this picture staged?

These pictures are from As Venezuela collapses, its children are dying of hunger, Seattle Times, 18 December 2017. Venezuelans have been eating garbage for a while now, in case Riley hasn't noticed. There is no need to stage their misery. Does he think those graves are empty? Also note that this was the state of the famine in the Fall of 2017, before Trump's sanctions had a chance to have an effect, or even before three-quarters of them had even been imposed.

While we must strongly oppose US attempts to use the crisis to increase its influence by putting a US friendly government in Caracas, and especially oppose any military intervention, we should not let our just opposition to US imperialism morph into support for the increasingly authoritarian and brutal Maduro regime. Most importantly, we must put the welfare of the Venezuelan people above any other consideration in this crisis.
Boots Riley has already shown his willingness to ignore facts in his defense of Bashar al-Assad's use of sarin, and his conclusion that an ISIS execution video was faked, not unlike other members of the white Left, he is rushing to Maduro's defense, and see's only the ways US imperialism seeks to take advantage of his government's corruption, which is the main cause of the economic crisis in Venezuela. That's right, I said white Left, because that's who he runs with, and those are his politics. It's not a question of skin color. In his little tweeter storm he was belittling the plight of Venezuela's poor while upholding a government that falsely claims to speak for them. This is one of the hallmark features of the white Left.

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

How speaking Truth to Democracy Now on Venezuela gets you cut off

Edgardo Lander, Venezuelan sociologist and member of the Citizen’s Platform in Defense of the Constitution, as well as a retired professor at the Central University of Venezuela, gave us a good example on Friday's Democracy Now on how to get cut off by Amy Goodman. He was there to be the critic in a segment titled: This Is Not Humanitarian Aid: A Maduro Critic in Venezuela Slams U.S. Plan to Push Regime Change, but he said too many of the wrong things:
There are reasons why there is huge, huge, massive discontent in Venezuela in relation to the Maduro government. The crises that the Venezuelan people are facing are, to a great extent, the responsibility of this government, that has been extremely corrupt, inefficient, and has become increasingly repressive. But that in no way justifies a U.S. military intervention or this attempt to strangle the Venezuelan economy, which is of course doing much [more] harm to the Venezuelan people than to the Venezuelan government.

So, in this situation, where today, I would say, a majority of the people in Venezuela reject the Maduro government, and, on the other hand, a great majority also reject U.S. intervention, we need a negotiation that opens the way for Venezuelans to decide by themselves. And this is the option of both this negotiation with some international backing, on one hand, and this referendum that we are calling for, from the platform and other groups in Venezuela that think that the biggest threat for Venezuelans today is the threat of this escalation of violence, the possibility of a civil war and the possibility, that has been announced again and again, of a military intervention by the United States government.
This flies in the face of the white Left's full on support for the Maduro government, and its view that every problem besetting Venezuela has been caused by US imperialism, so he was not allowed to continue. But he tried:
So, the need for some sort of negotiation, for putting a stop to this escalation, and to put the blame, on one hand, on Maduro’s responsibility for having, throughout this six years of government, created such an incredible collapse of the Venezuelan economy—today, the economy is half of what it used to be when Maduro came to power, and this is basically the government’s responsibility. U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, Trump’s sanctions against Venezuela, started a year and a half ago, around mid-2017. But the crisis came from way before. U.S. sanctions have deepened the crisis, but they are not the main cause of the crisis. The main cause of the crisis is ineptitude and massive corruption by the Maduro government.

So, we in Venezuela are faced with these two evils, with these two confronting enemies that have the Venezuelan people in between, paying for their own ineptitude, for their own violence, for their own political purpose, which are not the purposes of the Venezuelan population. We need to have some sort of pressure on the U.S. government to stop this level of intervention, this threat of military intervention. And we have to call on the Maduro government to be willing to open up a negotiation, because there are a lot of reasons why people in Venezuela don’t really trust Maduro when he calls about his willingness to negotiate, because he always says the same thing. But when negotiations are always carried out, they are negotiations in which he has not been willing to do anything. He hasn’t been willing to cede on any one basic issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Edgardo Lander, I want to thank you—

EDGARDO LANDER: The Venezuela government today is—

AMY GOODMAN: —for being with us. Edgardo is a sociologist, speaking to us from Caracas, Venezuela, where he’s part of the Citizen’s Platform in Defense of the Constitution, a retired professor at Central University of Venezuela.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Green Book: Guide to Freedom. Stay with us.

And so it goes on Democracy Now. Don't look for Edgardo Lander to be a regular.

See also: Why does Democracy Now miss what's important about Venezuela?

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Before We Were Slaves: More on the first Africans in Virginia

Today on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman spent the bulk of the show with Glenn Greenwald trashing Jeff Bezos and Amazon. While most of their critique was true, it is the timing that I find interesting. Because Bezos is making news by exposing the blackmail practices of the National Enquirer and Donald Trump pal David Pecker, they spend the hour attacking him. The best defense is a good offence. I get that, but I'm not here to talk about that. I'm writing this to talk about something Amy Goodman said in the Headline section:
Host Gayle King had to correct Northam when he referred to slaves brought to Virginia in the 17th century as “indentured servants.”
Gov. Ralph Northam: “In 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort, what we call now Fort Monroe. And while—

Gayle King: “Also known as slavery.”

Gov. Ralph Northam: “Yes.”
Sean Hannity used the same quote, and made the same point on Fox News. Why doesn't Democracy Now do their own homework rather than parrot the mainstream media when they think that's the cool thing to do?

So, the points I made this morning in FACT CHECK! Gayle King: You are wrong, VA Gov Northam is right - 1st Africans in US were not slaves! are worth repeating.

Actually, the correct answer is a bit more complicated than either Northam's of King's answer. Some good scholarship has been done on this (See Sluiter & Thornton) that traces these 20 Africans back to the Angola region of Africa. Clearly, they were headed for slavery when they were taken on the high seas from a Portuguese slave ship. I'm not sure they should be considered slaves already just because they had been captured. Sluiter established that they weren't "seasoned" or had labored under slave conditions before they were taken by the Dutch raiders. In any case, they were sold in Virginia, which was an English colony. Slaves as a legal status was obsolete in England, and didn't exist in Virginia, as legal status until 1661, so they were treated as indentured servants, which was terrible for all subjected to that bondage. But it was still not the developed slave system as manifested in the 1705 Virginia Slave Codes.

It's important that we get this right. The "traditional" white supremacist version of our history is exactly what Gayle King said: That the first 20 Africans that landed in Fort Monroe, VA in 1619 where slaves. Wrong! This supports a narrative that blacks were always slaves in this country until the white man freed them. Wrong!

I won't repeat the history I related in that piece. Consider it incorporated here by reference. But I do want to take this opportunity to respond to the criticism that the claim that those first twenty Africans in Virginia were indentured servants and not slaves rests solely on the fact that the law didn't permit slaves in Virginia until 1661. Those critics are saying that while their legal status may have been that of "indentured servants," they were slaves in every other respect.

In the hopes that I can convince them that the true history is different than they imagine, I have transcribed to text this brief selection from The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 by Bernard Bailyn:
"Negars,” “negors,” and Africans otherwise identified by color had begun appearing in very small numbers well before 1619, when John Rolfe noted the arrival in Virginia of “20. and odd Negroes.” They were Angolans hijacked from a shipment to Spanish America and sold by their Dutch captors “for victualles.” Their numbers rose very slowly, their arrivals random occurrences. The Virginia census of 1625 identified only twenty-three blacks, scattered thinly through the separate plantations. In 1640 Maryland recorded twenty blacks. But then the numbers began to rise as planters gradually, almost casually, began including them in their purchasing orders. 80 in 1638. Baltimore ordered his agent to buy for him—along with forty cattle, ten sows, and forty hens—“ten negroes to be transported to St. Mareys,” and in 1642 Leonard Calvert offered a passing ship captain three manors or 24,000 pounds of tobacco for fourteen “negroe men-slaves, of between 16 & 26 yeare old, able & sound of body and limbs.” By 1650 there were 300 blacks in Maryland; in 1660, 758; and in 1670, 1,190 (9 percent of the population), by which time Virginia’s black population had reached 2,000. But there was as yet no wholesale importation of slaves. The proposal of the Royal African Company in 1664 to send one to two hundred slaves a year to Maryland had to be refused, Charles Calvert reported, because there were not “men of estates good enough to undertake such a businesse,” despite the fact that “wee are naturally inclin’d to love neigros if our purses would endure it.” Most if not all of those who arrived in Maryland came not directly from Africa but from the Caribbean islands, Barbados in particular, from Spanish settlements on the mainland, and from Dutch islands via New Netherland, hence people who were to some extent “seasoned” and used to life in European colonies. And they came in various statuses. Some came as freemen and remained free, though often under particular disabilities. Others could show by oral or written testimony that their service was contractually limited to a specific term, after which, like indentured servants, they were to be released. And a very few, who came bound in service, through ceaseless labor and fierce determination were able to buy their freedom and that of their families and establish themselves in the society at large. In 1668 nearly a third of the fifty-nine blacks in Northampton County on Virginia’s lower Eastern Shore, all of whom had arrived bound in unlimited servitude, had acquired freedom; some had bought property which they were able to pass on to the next generation, established effective community ties among themselves, and participated broadly in the larger white society. All blacks before 1660, Edmund Morgan writes, “whether servant, slave, or free, enjoyed most of the same rights and duties of other Virginians. There is no evidence . . . that they were subjected to a more severe discipline than other servants.”

But the importance of the most remarkable achievers among the blacks can easily be exaggerated. Their numbers in fact were small, they are found only in one or two counties, they were subject to white harassment, and their claims to independence and full equality were tenuous, contestable, and not long sustained. The great majority of Africans, even in this most favorable period, were never viewed as fully equal to white servants. Lacking contracts, actual or implicit, and having been bought or seized in Africa or abroad, they were considered to be bound in servitude for life unless otherwise identified, a condition never imposed on whites but that seemed suitable in most Europeans’ eyes.
I have made bold the section I want to draw your attention to. I don't know how important it is that we remember this early history correctly as we fight for racial equality today. There was a period in history of our country, however brief, before slavery was established. There was already a degree of social justice that first had to be overthrown to establish the slave system. It then required a bloody civil war some two hundred years latter to end that system, and put us, however tentatively, back on the road to social justice.

We should also remember that condition for the English, Irish & Scot laborers in Virginia were also very much slave like.  Historian Edmund S. Morgan noted:
Virginia offered a bleak alternative to the workhouse or the gallows for the first English poor who were transported there.
And James Baldwin wrote:
The Irish middle passage, for but one example, was as foul as my own, and as dishonorable on the part of those responsible for it. But the Irish became white when they got here and began rising in the world, whereas I became black and began sinking.
Its important that attempts to bury Ralph Northam also not bury this history.

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FACT CHECK! Gayle King: You are wrong, VA Gov Northam is right - 1st Africans in US were not slaves!

Gayle King's CBS News interview with embattled Virginia Governor Ralph Northam gave way to conflict fast. After Gayle King asked him: "Where would you like to begin?"

Ralph Northam began: "If you look at Virginia history we're now at the 400 year anniversary, just 90 miles from here in 1619 the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort, what we call Fort Monroe, and while ..."

At this point Gayle King interrupts him to say: "Also known as slaves."

So, what are the facts of the matter? What was the status of the first Africans that landed in Virginia? Are indentured servants the same as slaves?

As we say in the tech world "Google is your friend." So with the help of Google, let's start with the first question last, the one provoked by King's "correction" of Northam.

When I Google "first Africans in america," I get this summary from African Americans - Wikipedia:
The first recorded Africans in British North America (including most of the future United States) were "20 and odd negroes" who came to Jamestown, Virginia via Cape Comfort in August 1619 as indentured servants.
It's almost like Northam was reading from Wikipedia. So who's right, Northam and Wikipedia, or Gayle King and CBS News, and does it matter?

Digging further, Wikipedia cites: Grizzard Jr., Frank E.; Smith, D. Boyd (2007). Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 198. ISBN 978-1-85109-637-4.

The link on Grizzard gives us this background:
Frank E. Grizzard Jr., is an American historian, writer, and documentary editor. He was born in 1954 in Emporia, Virginia, graduating from Greensville County High School in 1971. He earned B.A. degrees in history and religious studies from the Virginia Commonwealth University, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Virginia. His doctoral dissertation, Documentary History of the Construction of the Buildings at the University of Virginia, 1817–1828 dead link], consisting of a lengthy narrative and more than 1,750 documents chronicling the construction of Thomas Jefferson's architectural masterpiece, the Academical Village, became the first electronic dissertation to be placed online when it was completed in 1996. The dissertation was tagged in the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) while Grizzard was a fellow at the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technologies in the Humanities (IATH).
So he seems very solid, although there are many sources for what Wikipedia regards as the facts of the matter. [See for example: The Misguided Focus on 1619 as the Beginning of Slavery in the U.S. Damages Our Understanding of American History, Michael Guasco, Smithsonian.com]  But are indentured servants and slaves essentially the same thing, and was King interrupting to make the point that Northam was avoiding calling them slaves? That's what it seemed like to me.

Again we turn to Google, the search is for "indentured servants vs slaves."
Question: How were indentured servants different from slaves?

Answer: Servants typically worked four to seven years in exchange for passage, room, board, lodging and freedom dues. While the life of an indentured servant was harsh and restrictive, it wasn't slavery. There were laws that protected some of their rights.
This is from the PBS History Detectives page on Indentured Servants In The U.S., and it goes on to speak directly to the question at hand:
In 1619 the first black Africans came to Virginia. With no slave laws in place, they were initially treated as indentured servants, and given the same opportunities for freedom dues as whites. However, slave laws were soon passed – in Massachusetts in 1641 and Virginia in 1661 –and any small freedoms that might have existed for blacks were taken away.
This is an extremely important FACT about American history. It is one that Gayle King and CBS News, either through their own ignorance, or their desire to keep us ignorant, is trying to obscure.

Ralph Northam, the Governor of Virginia, knows:

The first Africans that came to the US were not slaves!

That legal status didn't even exist yet. That came much later, mid-century. There were no "white people" in the US either in 1619, at least nobody was calling themselves "white" yet. That also came much later in the 1600's, concurrent with the abandonment of indentured servitude for all, and the adoption of racial slavery.

The History Detectives need to do a little investigating, and revise the above statement by replacing "white" with "English," because if they go back in a time machine to 1619, and start asking about "white people," the Virginians won't have a clue what they are talking about. Not only was this a time before slaves in Virginia, this was a time before Virginians were divided into "black" and "white" people.

The phrase "white people" had only been invented in 1613, just 6 years earlier in a London play named "The Triumphs of Truth," by Jacobean playwright Thomas Middleton. Ironically for our current discussions, it was first uttered by an English actor in blackface playing an African king. He looks out over the audience and says
I see amazement set upon the faces/Of these white people, wond’rings and strange gazes.
It would be another 50 years before the phrase began to be widely used. In 1619, there were no slaves in Virginia. There were no "white people" or "black people" in Virginia yet. English and Africans worked together, played together, and even freely intermarried. Racism had to be taught, ground in really, and that came later. Everyone that was here legally was an indentured servant or free. All indentured servants where bonded for a given number of years, after which they would be released from bondage and given their "freedom dues." This might include a little land, and the former bondsman might become so successful at farming that they might start importing bonded servants on his own and competing with his former master for the available fertile land. Even Africans could follow that route and a number became so successful in their own right that they had their own bondsmen.

Even as late as 1676, three-quarters of all the bondmen in Virginia were European. Governor Berkeley, one of the first governors of Virginia, estimated that about 1,500 European chattel bond-laborers arrived in Virginia that year, "the majority English, with a few Scots and fewer Irish."

However, labor unrest was growing, and it was proving increasingly difficult to keep everyone in chains. There was an economic crisis in Virginia in the last half of the 17th century that brought to the fore the class differences between the working poor and a handful of "grantees." African and European laborers fought together, often with arms, against the colonial powers and the landowners.

In Virginia there were at least 10 popular or servile revolts between the 1663 Servants’ plot for an insurrectionary march to freedom, to the tobacco riots of 1682. In Bacon’s Rebellion, 1676, an army of European and African bond-servants and freedman recently “out of their time” captured and burned the colonial capital of Jamestown, which Governor Berkeley left in a hurry. It took 1100 British troops sent from England in 11 ships to put him back, and they took a while to get there.

Nathaniel Bacon confronts Governor William Berkeley at the Statehouse in Jamestown
This class struggle accelerated the move towards African slavery. Karl Marxwrote about why the colonial capitalists turned to this indentured servitude labor system, and why even it was failing, in Capital, Vol. 1:
It avails him nothing, if he is so cunning as to import from Europe, with his own capital, his own wage-workers. They soon “cease... to be labourers for hire; they... become independent landowners, if not competitors with their former masters in the labour-market.”[15] Think of the horror! The excellent capitalist has imported bodily from Europe, with his own good money, his own competitors! The end of the world has come! No wonder Wakefield laments the absence of all dependence and of all sentiment of dependence on the part of the wage-workers in the colonies. On account of the high wages, says his disciple, Merivale, there is in the colonies “the urgent desire for cheaper and more subservient labourers — for a class to whom the capitalist might dictate terms, instead of being dictated to by them...." 
The solution the colonial capitalists came up with was racial slavery. The History Detectives put it this way:
As demands for labor grew, so did the cost of indentured servants. Many landowners also felt threatened by newly freed servants demand for land. The colonial elite realized the problems of indentured servitude. Landowners turned to African slaves as a more profitable and ever-renewable source of labor and the shift from indentured servants to racial slavery had begun.
This history is extremely important for us to understand if we are to ever overcome racism in country. There was a period before racism, as we have come to know it, even existed.

There was a period in US history when English and African "slaves," shall we say, lived, labored and revolted together.  Those first 20 Africans that landed in Virginia were not slaves, they had the same legal status as the English, Irish and Scots that arrived in chains in much greater numbers that year. VA Governor Ralph Northam know this history, but CBS News would prefer that you didn't. I think that is why Gayle King interrupted the Governor.

See also:
The hidden meaning of Northam's racist yearbook photo, 2 February 2019
If Ralph Northam has to resign, why is Donald Trump still in office?, 5 February 2019
How the "Northam" redefinition of blackface serves white supremacy, 6 February 2019

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Friday, February 8, 2019

Northam blackface: Does Democracy Now really believe most Michael Jackson impersonators are racist?

Frankly, I don't see how you can draw any other conclusion.

In the headline section of Thursday's show, Amy Goodman was bringing us up to date on the Virginia blackface scandal. After relating the latest news, the admission by Virginia AG Mark Herring that he had once wore blackface, she went on to say:
His admission came just days after a racist photo emerged showing Governor Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page, depicting a man wearing blackface posing next to a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Northam initially apologized for the yearbook page but later said he was neither of the two men in the photo, while admitting to wearing blackface on another occasion that same year.
Amy Goodman is saying that Ralph Northam admitted to wearing blackface on another occasion that same year, but Northam never used the word blackface to describe what he had done. So how did he describe it? This is what he said at the Saturday Press Conference:
That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume.
In other words, he performed a winning Michael Jackson impersonation! That isn't particularly original, but I have also never heard it called racist until Northam said he did it 35 years ago.

There are still a lot of people doing Michael Jackson impersonations. Check out YouTube, if you have doubts. There are even many YouTube videos on how to do makeup to look like Michael Jackson. I looked at just three of these howto videos. All involved using makeup to darken parts of the skin. All used subjects that started with somewhat lighter skin than Michael's, but not all the subjects were "white" as it is generally understood. The results typically attempt to honor Michael Jackson. They try to come as close to the original as possible, and that includes his very subtle and unique skin tones. They are the very embodiment of that old Oscar Wilde maxim: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That can also be said for their dancing. They are fans. They are darkening their faces in tribute to a great African American performer.

The resulting image is a far, far cry from the racist caricature that is the traditional blackface, and yet Democracy Now is equating these two. This is the way it was put on Monday's show "blackface is blackface," and again on Wednesday, as they described Northam's admission that he darkened parts of his face as part of a Michael Jackson impersonation, as blackface. It makes no difference that everyone else is saying the same thing. They all are wrong.

Billy Crystal in blackface playing Sammy Davis, Jr. on Saturday Night Live
12 May 1984

This was a regular skit on SNL in 1984, the same year that young medical school student Ralph Northam did his now infamous Michael Jackson impression. Many are now saying that was an example of blackface as bad as if he had been the student in blackface with the fake Klansman in the racist medical school yearbook photo, and are demanding that he resign as VA governor because he did something arguably much less offensive than the openly blackface example he was given by a major American TV network on a so-called progressive show that very year. [SNL by no means meant this skit to be a tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr.] Since that is the case, shouldn't they also be demanding that Billy Crystal albums and videos be pulled from the shelves, SNL be banned, or at least sanctioned, and what about Joe Piscopo, who plays Frank Sinatra in the scene? Shouldn't he be treated like the Klansman in Northam's racist photo and be made to suffer too?
I understand why it happened. After Northam apologized for the racist photo under his name on Friday, the only open questions seemed to be 1) Was he the one in the Klan outfit, or the one in blackface?, and 2) How soon would he resign? Then he came out on Saturday and changed that all around. He didn't exactly take back the apology for the racist photo under his name, but he did say adamantly that he was neither of the people in the racist yearbook photo, and in fact, claimed that he had never seen it before it was published by the right-wing website Big League Politics on Friday.

He was in San Antonio in 1984, a medical school student in the army, and he says he never purchased the yearbook. [Has anybody checked for a sales receipt?] BTW, BLP was the same website that would break the Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax sexual assault story two days later.

Probably, most didn't believe him. But proving it, now that's another matter, so they pretty much abandoned the charge that he was either of the students in the racist photo. Besides, he had thrown them a lifeline with his Michael Jackson story. They simply made the equation that in admitting that he darkened his face to play Michael Jackson, he was admitting to wearing blackface, and that made it every bit as bad as if he was the blackface character in the racist picture. With this sleight-of-hand, they were able to maintain the narrative they had developed on Friday of the governor in blackface.

By defining blackface as any use of theatrical makeup to darken the skin and completely removing the very political question of intent, they trivialize what blackface historically has been. By their definition, it makes no difference if the intention is to honor or denigrate. It is the act of darkening the skin that is the crime. And speaking of crime, they talk only of the use of blackface in performance settings, and completely ignore its sinister history as a tool to criminalize black people and terrorize white people far from any camera or stage.

When Democracy Now got to the main part of Wednesday's show, Nermeen Shaikh repeated the claim that Northam had admitted to blackface when he told of his Michael Jackson impersonation. Northam should be used of this sort of malicous substitution by now. The Fox News crowd had been after him to resign for weeks because of his support for late term abortions. Since they define that as baby killing, they have been openly saying the governor should resign because he supports infanticide for at least a week before they were joined by voices on the Left saying he should resign because he once wore "blackface." Shaikh put it this way:
The controversy that’s enveloped Virginia since governor Ralph Northam admitted to wearing blackface last week took a shocking turn Wednesday, when Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted to wearing blackface at a college party.
She should have made it clear that Northam never called what he did blackface. That is their description of what he "admitted to." It is Shaikh's judgement that what he did amounted to blackface. In fact, he specifically rejected that description.

Although he did answer a number of questions at the press conference that used "blackface" in their description of the San Antonio situation, without specifically objecting to that term, he did reject it when asked that question directly:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, you said at the San Antonio party, you darkened your face. I just want to be perfectly clear. Were you in blackface?

NORTHAM: I wasn't. I'll tell you exactly what I did, Alan (ph). I dressed up in a -- what's his name, the singer -- Michael Jackson, excuse me, that's why I have Pam with me. I had the shoes, I had a glove, and I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put on my cheeks. And the reason I used a very little bit is because, I don't know if anybody has ever tried that, but you cannot get shoe polish off. But it was a dance contest. I had always liked Michael Jackson. I actually won the contest because I had learned how to do the moonwalk.
I think you can see from that exchange that Democracy Now is being, shall we say a bit disingenuous, when they claim "Northam admitted to wearing blackface." It uses the same logic that allows the Fox News crowd to claim "Northam admitted to killing babies," and President Trump to charge Northam "stated he would execute a baby after birth" in the SOTU. Precisely, the same corrupt logic.

Much has been made about the fact that the governor knew how hard it is to wash off shoe polish. "How would he know that?" is asked coyly by opinion makers who have never had to polish shoes for a living.

Nermeen Shaikh then went on to tell us again how Northam "did admit to wearing blackface":
Governor Northam has refused to step down since a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook page emerged featuring a man wearing blackface posing next to a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Northam initially apologized for the yearbook photo but later said he was not either of the two men in the photo; however, he did admit to wearing blackface on another occasion that same year.
I think it is clear that it is Democracy Now that is calling Northam's Michael Jackson impersonation blackface. Northam didn't  say he wore blackface.

So far, there has been nothing to suggest that Northam's Michael Jackson impersonation was a parody and not a attribute. Nothing that would imply that it was racist that wouldn't also apply to any Michael Jackson impersonator that used something to darken his cheeks. Since it won the contest, it was probably a pretty good Michael Jackson impersonation for San Antonio. So, if it was racist, so are they all. That's my logic.

Meet the new "blackface" racists, Democracy Now style

Professor Khalilah Brown-Dean, associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, was on the show as an expert on blackface. She also called what the governor did in San Antonio in 1984 "blackface," and thought he should step down because of it. She also gave us this good description of blackface:
I spent yesterday at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, and there is a poignant display there about the history of blackface, the ways in which theater performers used these exaggerated caricatures of black people to communicate not just their inhumanity or to deny their humanity, but to also convey stereotypes about blacks as being lazy, as being ignorant, of being lackadaisical and just happy to go around singing and dancing.
She didn't say how this applied to a Michael Jackson impersonator, unless using singing and dancing in a performance together with makeup to darken makes it blackface, even if its in tribute and not to convey stereotypes about blacks "as being lazy, as being ignorant, of being lackadaisical and just happy."

Then she goes on to lament:
While we are dealing with the governor’s blackface pictures, while we are dealing with these allegations against Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, there are people in the Commonwealth of Virginia who are suffering because we are not addressing the very real public policy concerns that are happening. Virginia is being hit with the opioid crisis. Virginia is trying to figure out how to properly educate students in public schools. There are issues around criminal justice reform and making sure that people are safe and also have access to a fair and just process. So that the interests of the people of Virginia can be served and government can do what people elected it to do, that resignation should come.
That is rich with irony. It's really rich! Last May, USA Today ran this article:
Virginia, after 5-year battle, passes Medicaid expansion for 400,000 poor people

31 May 2018
By Doug Stanglin
After a five-year-battle, the Virginia legislature has voted to expand Medicaid coverage for some 400,000 poor people, despite opposition from the White House.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician who made Medicaid expansion a centerpiece of his campaign in 2017, is expected to sign the legislation soon. More...
Needless to say, the right-wing battle against this victory didn't end with his signature, but by early this year the Coalfield Progress was reporting:
Virginia gets massive turnout for expanded Medicaid

9 January 2019
More than 200,000 adults have enrolled in Virginia’s expanded Medicaid coverage and are covered effective Jan. 1, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Dec. 28. More...
There are powerful forces in Virginia, and the White House, that frankly could care less who Ralph Northam dressed up as 35 years ago, but they don't like his take on, how did she put it?, "addressing the very real public policy concerns" today, so they are in a budget cutting frenzy now that they think he's down for the count. The Virginia-Pilot reported Wednesday:
House, Senate square off on Gov. Northam's proposed budget

By Dave Ress
6 February 2019
Both bodies agree on deep cuts to the two-year budget proposed by the now-crippled governor a bit more than a month ago — even if they don’t agree on exactly what should be slashed from his $2.1 billion increase to state spending for this year and next.
A windfall from federal tax changes that took effect in 2018 is making a bit more than half that increase possible.

Gov. Ralph Northam wanted to use that money for a series of investments in water quality, school construction, broadband and transportation projects, setting aside $216 million over the two years for a tax relief program aimed at families with incomes below $54,000.

Both the House and Senate want the money to go back to taxpayers who face higher state income tax bills as a result of the federal changes.
But the House completely cut the $80 million Northam proposed adding to a school construction loan fund.
And while much of the budget writers’ attention was on trimming spending proposals to free up the federal windfall for tax relief,..
The House cut Northam’s proposed $35 million supplement to the Water Quality Improvement Fund to $20 million, and dropped his $50 million addition to the stormwater local assistance fund.

Northam’s $75 million for the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank also was dropped by the House. More...
Of course, Democracy Now mentions none of this state business going on behind the scene, even though it has been made possible by this Northam "blackface" scandal ignited by a white supremacist website as they lament the lack of focus on the real needs of the people of Virginia, and join the Alt-Right in demanding that the governor that has been spearheading these reforms resign.

That is why I have to laugh. But it is a sorrowful laugh.

Billy Crystal in blackface playing Sammy Davis, Jr. on Saturday Night Live | 17 March 1984

So maybe we should ban SNL, and Mickey Mouse while we're at it, because he, like many of Disney's most enduring cartoon characters where based on the blackface minstrel shows of an earlier era.

See also:
The hidden meaning of Northam's racist yearbook photo, 2 February 2019
If Ralph Northam has to resign, why is Donald Trump still in office?, 5 February 2019
How the "Northam" redefinition of blackface serves white supremacy, 6 February 2019

See also: Rest In Peace Michael Jackson, 5 July 2009

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

4 DAYS STRONG NOW & STILL SPIKED! Haiti in Revolt - News spiked in US

Rise, Haiti Rise!

Have you heard about this?

Anti-government protests have broken out all over Haiti today, and so far I have seen nothing about it in the news. They are demanding the resignation of President Moise and his administration. Today is the second anniversary of his inauguration. It is also the 28th anniversary of the inauguration of Haiti's 1st democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Here is some of what I have gathered so far. Return for updates soon.

Haiti | 7 Février 2019

The Miami Herald just published this report minutes ago:
It’s been 33 years since Haiti welcomed democracy. How did it mark the day? Protests.

By Jacqueline Charles
7 February 2019
Thousands of demonstrators march in the street as they chant anti-government slogans during a protest to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise and demanding to know how Petro Caribe funds have been used by the current and past administrations, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. Much of the financial support to help Haiti rebuild after the 2010 earthquake comes from Venezuela’s Petro Caribe fund, a 2005 pact that gives suppliers below-market financing for oil and is under the control of the central government. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
Thousands of demonstrators march in the street as they chant anti-government slogans during a protest to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise and demanding to know how Petro Caribe funds have been used by the current and past administrations, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. Much of the financial support to help Haiti rebuild after the 2010 earthquake comes from Venezuela’s Petro Caribe fund, a 2005 pact that gives suppliers below-market financing for oil and is under the control of the central government. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery) DIEU NALIO CHERY AP
Thirty-three years after Haitian President-for-Life Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier fled into exile, ending his family’s 28-year dictatorship and ushering in Haiti’s democratic transition, Haitians marked the day Thursday with widespread protests throughout the country.

Angry over their plummeting currency, frustrated by the rising cost of living and disappointed by decades of failed leadership and rampant corruption, protesters threw rocks, burned tires, attacked police stations and blocked roads in major cities while calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, who also marked his second anniversary in office Thursday.

Haiti National Police deputy spokesman Gary Desrosiers said police registered at least two deaths, 36 arrests and 14 injured cops — mainly from rocks — during the tension-filled day. It was Haiti’s third major anti-government protest in four months. More...

UPDATE 11 February 2019:

Haiti Protests Continue for a fourth day!

Sorry for the delay in updating. I've been preoccupied with other matters. The media blackout is continuing, but so is the struggle:

Four Days Of Protests Rock Haiti

More Later...
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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Why does Democracy Now miss what's important about Venezuela?

Yesterday I received this information from Amnesty International. The subject line caught my attention, Crisis in Venezuela: Children are being sent to jail:
Venezuelan security forces have been detaining children for allegedly protesting in Venezuela.
Dear Clay,
A human rights crisis in Venezuela is unfolding: thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest the serious institutional and human rights crisis that has gripped the country.
Venezuelans are starving. Inflation and scarcity has left many people unable to afford or find anything to eat. It has led entire families, especially children, to scavenge for scraps of food. Instead of seeking solutions, the authorities have responded by sending military and police officials onto the streets to arrest adults and children.
Venezuelan security forces have been detaining children for allegedly protesting in Venezuela. Take action: tell the Venezuelan government to release the imprisoned children now.
In just one week, 77 children under the age of 18 have been detained, including a girl of 12. There are reports that judges have been pressed to punish children as a way to deter anyone in civil society from protesting.
Protesting is a human right — and using bullets in an attempt to silence those who make legitimate demands for their human rights only leads to further crisis in Venezuela. Tell the Venezuelan government to release these children before it’s too late.
This isn’t the first time an assault on young people by authorities has happened in Venezuela. Young people in Venezuela are living in poverty, and being killed and criminalized for it by the authorities. Poverty and survival is not a crime.
I have to believe that Amy Goodman is also on the Amnesty International mailing list, because on Tuesday's show she reported that:
Amnesty International says that activists were sexually harassed, electrocuted, flogged and subjected to death threats.
This was about women activists in Saudi Arabia. This would seem to indicate that they think AI is a credible information source, and not just an imperialist mouthpiece. But when it comes to the crisis in Venezuela, which occupied the bulk of the show, none of Amnesty International's concerns about the condition of the people were addressed. Children starving to death, and being sent to jail, isn't the crisis they are concerned with. For Democracy Now, the crisis in Venezuela is that so many, including the US government, are demanding that Maduro step down as president. His crisis is their crisis.

For them it is Nicolás Maduro versus John Bolton, and they're for Maduro. That keeps it simple. They try to leave the Venezuela people out of it. And why not? More than three million have left the country already!

Even when they talk about the effect of US sanctions on Venezuela, their focus is not on the famine killing people but on oil industry losses tanking profits. Amy Goodman said:
While the U.S. is rejecting negotiations, the impact of the sweeping new U.S. sanctions on Venezuela are being felt across the country. The Wall Street Journal is reporting oil tankers are beginning to pile up off the Venezuelan coast as Venezuela struggles to pump and ship oil.
Fortunately, Democracy Now, had a guest on Tuesday that was knowledgeable about the real situation in Venezuela, and was able to end the segment by brushing aside all the "anti-imperialist" nonsense and conspiracy theories, and bring the focus back to the people. David Smilde, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America and professor of sociology at Tulane, ended the segment with:
Yeah, I have no doubt that this—you know, what’s going on in Venezuela—is part of a larger strategy of the neocons that have now inhabited the Trump administration. But I would suggest that I think, you know, it’s good to take Venezuela on its own. I think, you know, simply reacting to this—I’m no fan of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, but I think we have to look at Venezuela and prioritize the people there. I don’t think that, you know, “enemy of my enemy is my friend” or “enemy of my enemy gets a critical bye” is a proper response. I don’t think that’s a progressive response. I think it dehumanizes people. I think Venezuelans have to be prioritized. And in every case, I think you have to look at the situation, look at who’s suffering, who has power, who needs to change, and criticize and comment as needed.

And so, I think—in the case of Venezuela, I don’t think that the actions of the Trump administration should be held against the Venezuelan opposition and their struggles. And I think, you know, Maduro’s legacy and Maduro’s record, I think, is very clear to everybody. I think he’s been an absolute disaster in Venezuela in the past few years, and now he’s become a very undemocratic disaster. And I think that’s really what’s got to be prioritized here. I mean, I think, you know, the Trump foreign policy is very worrying. But I think we have to treat contacts and people as ends in themselves.
That attitude is rare on Democracy Now. Thank you for that.

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