Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ta-Nehisi Coates' list of 13 recommended books on race, slavery, segregation

I just saw this article about Ta-Nehisi Coates' list of recommended books (the link also brings you to an hour-long interview with him), and I'm putting it here to remind myself to start reading some of them, plus his own book, Between the World and Me.

1. “The Fire Next Time” in Collected Essays by James Baldwin. Many years ago I read as much of Baldwin's work as I could get my hands on, including this essay, and his fiction. I need to reread it.

2. The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life, His Own by David Carr

3. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist

4. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Era of the Civil War by James McPherson

5. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch
6. Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America by Beryl Satter. I started reading this - it is about, among other things, the role that the author's father played in fighting against anti-black housing discrimination in Chicago. A quote from the New York Times review: "She persuasively and devastatingly argues (turning conventional wisdom on its head) that the true cause of black ghettoes in Chicago was financial exploitation — not the “culture of poverty” or white flight. She goes further, linking this kind of financial exploitation to today’s subprime mortgage crisis, an earlier example of greedy lenders pushing people “to take on more debt than they could handle” and charging inflated interest rates."
7. Confederate States of America – Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union from Avalon Project, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School

8. Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court nomination That Changed America by Wil Haygood

9. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia by Edmund S. Morgan

10. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields

11. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula Giddings

12. Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign against Lynching by Paula J. Giddings

13. Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household by Thavolia Glymph

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Why not to trust Wikileaks

For those who still have the illusion that Wikileaks is a courageous truth-teller that only publishes in order to challenge the power of oppressive states, see these recent tweets, highlighted by Anshel Pfeffer (Haaretz writer). They show (as previous evidence has also shown) that Assange trafficks in antisemitism.

The three brackets around Twitter handles came originally from alt-right antisemites who used it to identify Jews. Once this was exposed, Jews and other anti-racists started using it to defy the neo-Nazis and make fun of them. That's what Julian Assange is referring to here (assuming he's in control of the Wikileaks Twitter account).

Pfeffer's reply to Assange's tweet, with two tweets from Assange's Neo-Nazi fanboys.

Jews are often accused of being "clannish" and I take "tribalist" to be a synonym for Jews. 

This pissed Assange off and he replied:

I guess this means that anyone who criticizes Assange and Wikileaks, especially with the charge that they now appear to be in the pockets of the Russian government, can't really be anti-racists, especially if they are Jews with black-rim glasses (LOL!).

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Comparing Trump to Hitler

Over the past few months I've seen an excerpt from the article below about Hitler, the first one published about him in the New York Times in 1922. People have posted the last three paragraphs, which seriously underestimate Hitler and especially his anti-Semitism, and have suggested that they contain a message for us today not to underestimate the fascist potential of Donald Trump. I don't think, at this point, that the exact, specific comparison between Hitler and Trump is helpful, but it is interesting to think about some common features between them, as well as marked differences. 

In this article, Hitler's oratorical and organizational abilities are stressed - abilities which are markedly not possessed by Trump. He also has his own private army (the stormtroopers), which Trump certainly does not have. Trump, like Hitler (and other demagogues in American history) appeals to many people because of troubled economic times (we've had a recovery since the 2008 crash, but it doesn't go very deep and many people lost a great deal that they have not regained) and also appeals to people's bigotry and hatred of those whom they think should stay in their place (Jews, for Hitler and the Nazis; in the US, Trump singles out Muslims and immigrants, especially Mexicans, for special hatred). 

Read the whole article, not just the last three paragraphs, and draw your own conclusions about whether it's useful to compare Trump to Hitler.


Hitler Credited With Extraordinary Powers of Swaying Crowds to His Will.


Armed With Blackjacks and Revolvers and Well Disciplined, They Obey Orders Implicitly.


Is Anti-Red and Anti-Semitic, and Demands Strong Government for a United Germany.


Copyright, 1922, by The New York Times Company
By Wireless to The New York Times.

Munich, Nov. 20. – Next to the high cost of living and the dollar, “Der Hitler” and his “Hakenkreuzlers” are the popular topic of talk in Munich and other Bavarian towns. This reactionary Nationalistic anti-Semitic movement has now reached a point where it is considered potentially dangerous, though not for the immediate future.

Hitler today is taken seriously among all classes of Bavarians. He is feared by some, enthusiastically hailed as a prophet and political economic savior by others, and watched with increasing sympathetic interest by the bulk who, apparently, are merely biding the psychological moment to mount Hitler’s bandwagon. Undoubtedly the spectacular success of Mussolini and the Fascisti brought Hitler’s movement to the fore and gained popular interest and sympathy for it. Another condition favorable to the outburst of the movement is the widespread discontent with the existing state of affairs among all classes in the towns and cities under the increasing economic pressure.

Hitler’s “Hakenkreuz” [swastika] movement is essentially urban in character. It has not yet caught a foothold among the hardly Bavarian peasantry and highlanders, which would make it really dangerous. As a highly placed personage put it:
“Hitler organized a small insignificant group of National Socialists two years ago, since when the movement has been smoldering beneath the surface. Now it has eaten its way through, and a conflagration of course is not only possible but certain if this now free flame of fanatical patriotism finds sufficient popular combustible material to feed on.”
Hitler has been called the Bavarian Mussolini, and his followers the Bavarian Fascisti. There is nothing socialistic about the National Socialism he preaches. He has 30,000 organized followers in Munich alone. His total following throughout Bavaria is uncertain, since the movement is in a state of rapid flux. He is wasting no time working out political programs, but devotes his whole energy to recruiting fresh forces and perfecting his organization.

Blackjacks Silence Opposition

“Herr Hitler regrets he is unable to meet you as he is leaving town on important business for several days,” was the answer received by The New York Times correspondent. His important business was going to Regensburg with three special trainloads of Munich admirers for the purpose of holding a series of reactionary inflammatory meetings and incidentally to beat up protesting Socialists and Communists with blackjacks if any dare protest, which is becoming increasingly rarer.

His simple method is, first, propaganda, and secondly, efficient organization. He personally conducts patriotic revival meetings for this purpose, often descending from his stronghold, Munich, on other Bavarian towns with special trainloads of followers. He has the rare oratorical gift, at present unique in Germany, of spellbinding whole audiences regardless of politics or creed. The new converts made at these rallies, those who absolutely and unconditionally pledge themselves to Hitler and his cause, are carefully sifted through and the pick of them who pass the standard military muster are organized into “storm troops” with gray shirts, brassards in the old imperial colors, black and an anti-Semitic Swastika cross in a white circular filed on red; armed with blackjacks and, it is popularly whispered, revolvers.

According to a reliable specialist informant, there are probably 400,000 military rifles and 150 cannon still concealed in Bavaria. So that some fine day Hitler’s legionaries might well make their debut with rifles.

Hitler’s strength is in the combination of his undeniable great gifts as an orator and organizer. He exerts an uncanny control over audiences, possessing the remarkable ability to not only rouse his hearers to a fighting pitch of fury, but at will to turn right around and reduce the same audience to docile calmness and good order. A typical instance is related by the informant mentioned:
“At the height of the recent Bavarian Government crisis Hitler was holding a mass meeting in Munich and had worked up the big audience when a rumor spread through the hall that he had planned a coup and that he would overthrow and seize the Government that night and was about to give the signal at this rally. His followers burst into an enthusiastic uproar, drew and brandished blackjacks and revolvers, and with shouts of ‘Heil, Heil, Heil,’ prepared to follow Hitler and storm anything. 
“With a few electric words he worked a magic change in the audience. Their duty, on which the success of the cause depended, he said, was iron discipline and implicit obedience to orders when orders were given. The time for action had not come yet. And the riot was nipped in the bud.”
A Different Show of Power

A different exhibition of Hitler power: during a mass meeting in Nuremberg, a stronghold of Bavarian socialism, the radical elements undertook a counter-demonstration, massed outside the meeting hall and sang the “Internationale.” The strains of the hated tune heard in the hall enraged Hitler’s followers. At his word of command shock troops of gray shirts with fine discipline marched from the hall, pulled their blackjacks, charged and dispersed the crowd with many a broken head.

Hitler is credited with having a rapidly increasing following among the workers disgruntled by the high cost of living. It is also said many ultra-radicals, including Communists, have flocked to his reactionary banner. He is beginning to draw support from the politically sluggish middle classes, which in Bavaria, however, are not so sluggish as in Berlin. Even more significant there is some active, more passive support and to a still greater extent sympathetic interest for the Hitler movement among the Bavarian loyalists, among monarchists and militarists and in government and political circles, apparently coupled with the idea that the movement would prove a useful tool if it could be controlled by their special interests. But there is also the latent fear that the movement might wax beyond control.

Hitler, in addition to his oratorical and organizing abilities, has another positive asset – he is a man of the “common people” and hence has the makings of a “popular hero,” appealing to all classes. It is reported that he was a worker before becoming leader of the Bavarian Social Nationalists. He served during the war as a common soldier and won the Iron Cross of the First and Second Classes, which for a common soldier is distinctive evidence of exceptional bravery and daring. To Bavarian mentality he talks rough, shaggy, sound horse sense, and according to present Bavarian public opinion a strong, active leader equipped with horse sense is the need of the hour.

Chief Points of His Program

Hitler’s program is of less interest than his person and movement. His program consists chiefly of a half a dozen negative ideas clothed in generalities. He is “against the Jews, Communists, Bolshevism, Marxian socialism, Separatists, the high cost of living, existing conditions, the weak Berlin government, and the Versailles Treaty.” Positive he stands only for “a strong united Germany under a strong Government.”

He is credibly credited with being actuated by lofty, unselfish patriotism. He probably does not know himself just what he wants to accomplish. The keynote of his propaganda in speaking and writing is violent anti-Semitism. His followers are popularly nicknamed “the Hakenkreuzler.” So violent are Hitler’s fulminations against the Jews that a number of prominent Jewish citizens are reported to have sough safe asylums in the Bavarian highlands, easily reached by fast motor cars, whence they could hurry their women and children when forewarned of an anti-Semitic St. Bartholomew’s nigh.

But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.

A sophisticated politician credited Hitler with peculiar political cleverness for laying emphasis and over-emphasis on anti-Semitism, saying: “You can’t expect the masses to understand or appreciate your finer real aims. You must feed the masses with cruder morsels and ideas like anti-Semitism. It would be politically all wrong to tell them the truth about where you really are leading them.”

The Hitler movement is not of mere local or picturesque interest. It is bound to bring Bavaria into a renewed clash with the Berlin Government as long as the German Republic goes even through the motions of trying to live up to the Versailles Treaty. For it is certain the Allies will take umbrage at the Hitler organization as a violation of the military clauses of the treaty and demand disbandment, even as in the case of its predecessor, the Orgesch.

Friday, July 01, 2016

UN Human Rights Council approves action against anti-LGBT violence and discrimination

The UN Human Rights Council has finally done something useful (other than its usual rote denunciations of Israel). By a vote of 23-18, with 6 abstentions, it voted to "deplore" violence and discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It also voted to appoint an independent expert "on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity." The text of the whole resolution is below.

The yes votes were: Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Venezuela, and Viet Nam. [I think this list must be incorrect, because Nigeria stated during the discussion before the vote on the resolution that it opposed it - unless its position changed just before the actual voting].

Those voting no were: Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Morocco, Namibia, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Togo, and United Arab Emirates.

Those abstaining were: Botswana, Ghana, India, Maldives, Philippines, and South Africa.

The official UN report recounts the voting both on the resolution itself and on various amendments that were brought forth by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that would have totally eviscerated the meaning of the resolution.

Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Nigeria (speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC], with the exception of Albania) put forward an amendment to take no action. This was rejected 22 against, 15 in favor, and 9 abstentions.

Nigeria also spoke in favor of the amendment to take no action:
Nigeria took the floor on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, with the exception of Albania, and spoke in favour of the no-action motion on draft resolution L.2 as requested by Saudi Arabia. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation believed that the draft resolution L.2 was divisive and was concerned that the lack of definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity and the attached human rights and fundamental freedoms carried certain responsibility for States. The controversial views of those issues could not be imposed by some Member States. The adoption of the resolution would ensure that the attention on sexual orientation and gender identity issues as seen by the Western States would take root in the United Nations, without taking into account the views of a large number of States. The draft resolution was highly divisive and would create rancour within the Council which now should be focusing on its core agenda.
Pakistan then put forward ten amendments on behalf of OIC (with the exception of Albania). Saudi Arabia spoke in favor of the amendments:
Saudi Arabia, speaking in a general comment, said that the universality of human rights did not mean the imposition of certain so-called human rights concepts or ideas imposed from the point of view of another party, when those ran counter to some beliefs and specificities. Protecting the universality of human rights should not go beyond the main framework of human rights and be used to interfere in the affairs of sovereign States. The draft resolution imposed a specific notion that ran counter to religions. Saudi Arabia would not compromise or barter man-made legislation against divine laws. Islam knew the true meaning of human rights. The international community had to refrain from using the Council to interfere in the affairs of other sovereign States. Such resolutions would compromise the functioning of the Council. All were called on to vote yes for the amendments. 
The proposed amendments sought to insert statements that put the values of religion (most obviously Islam) and culture over those of human rights for LGBT people. These are the seven that were adopted:
Stressing the need to maintain joint ownership of the international human rights agenda and to consider human rights issues in an objective and non-confrontational manner, [adopted 24-17-4]

Undertaking to support its broad and balanced agenda, and to strengthen the mechanisms addressing issues of importance, including fighting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in all their forms, [adopted 23-17-5]

Reiterating the importance of respecting regional, cultural and religious value systems as well as particularities in considering human rights issues, [adopted 20-18-6]

Underlining the fundamental importance of respecting relevant domestic debates at the national level on matters associated with historical, cultural, social and religious sensitivities, [adopted 21-17-7]

Deploring the use of external pressures and coercive measures against States, particularly developing countries, including through the use and threat of use of economic sanctions and/or application of conditionality on official development assistance, with the aim of influencing the relevant domestic debates and decision-making processes at the national level, [No one had suggested these measures]. [adopted 23-18-4]

Concerned by any attempt to undermine the international human rights system by seeking to impose concepts or notions pertaining to social matters, including private individual conduct, that fall outside the internationally agreed human rights legal framework, and taking into account that such attempts constitute an expression of disregard for the universality of human rights, [adopted 17-18-9 - if this is a correct record of the vote, then this amendment was rejected, not adopted]
Underlining that the present resolution should be implemented while ensuring respect for the sovereign right of each country as well as its national laws, development priorities, the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people, and should also be in full conformity with universally recognized international human rights, [adopted 22-17-5]
From what I can see of the resolution as it was adopted, it seems that the first paragraph of the preamble incorporated language from these seven amendments, but did not include the most inflammatory one, about "external pressures."

The next amendment, L.80, would have entirely replaced the second paragraph of the resolution with these words: "Deplores acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." This amendment was rejected: 16 in favor, 20 against, and 8 abstentions.

Amendment L.81 would have replaced paragraphs 3-8 with the following words, which totally eliminated any reference to sexual orientation or gender identity:

Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a report to the to the Human Rights Council, at its thirty-fifth session, on the protection of all individuals against violence and discrimination committed because of their race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status with a focus on major challenges and best practices in this regard;
This amendment was also rejected: 17 in favor, 19 opposed, and 8 abstentions.

In the discussion leading up to the final vote on the resolution, Saudi Arabia said:
Saudi Arabia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that this draft resolution went contrary to its sacred values. It sought to impose issues that were prohibited by Saudi Arabia’s religion. This had nothing to do with discrimination or violence. The adoption of this mandate holder would lead to discussions on controversial issues that the Council would never be in a position to impose on Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia would vote against this text, and would not cooperate with the Independent Expert.
Morocco said:
This text ran against the beliefs of more than 1.5 billion people in the world. Islam was a religion of non-violence, and Morocco had made great commitments in that regard. But today it was forced to call on all States to vote against this text, in order to support those outside the United Nations who expected the Council to protect their culture and values. 
The Russian Federation said:
Russian Federation, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that authorities in Russia carefully investigated and prosecuted all cases of violence and discrimination. Elements of private life were deeply individual choices, and they did not need a particular system of protection. International law, and national law in Russia, was extended in all areas equally, including women, ethnic or religious minorities or homosexuals. The Russian Federation noted that many thousands of years of development was carried out by those who did not make such a private choice, and the Russian Federation regretted that the co-sponsors of this resolution were trying to prevent others from defending their own views. The Russian Federation would vote against the creation of this mandate, and should it be established nonetheless, it would not cooperate with it. [In fact, gays and lesbians in Russia are discriminated against, are subject to great violence, and can run afoul of the state if they engage in so-called pro-gay propaganda].
Albania, the only majority Muslim state that voted in favor of the resolution, explained its vote as follows:
Albania, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, commended the leadership of the core group protesting against violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Violence against any individual was condemned, and the inherent dignity of all individuals should be upheld. The protection from violence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons was a priority for the Albanian Government. The aim of the draft resolution was to appoint a Special Procedure mandate holder, who could work on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The current text of the resolution did not seek to create any new rights, but affirmed the application of existing human rights standards.
Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

The Human Rights Council,
Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Recalling that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action affirms that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated, that the international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis, and that while the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Recalling also General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, in which the Assembly stated that the Human Rights Council should be responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner,

Recalling further Human Rights Council resolutions 17/19 of 17 June 2011 and 27/32 of 26 September 2014,

Recalling Human Rights Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2 of 18 June 2007,

1. Reaffirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;

2. Strongly deplores acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity;

3. Decides to appoint, for a period of three years, an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, with the following mandate:
(a) To assess the implementation of existing international human rights instruments with regard to ways to overcome violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, while identifying both best practices and gaps;
(b) To raise awareness of violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and to identify and address the root causes of violence and discrimination;
(c) To engage in dialogue and to consult with States and other relevant stakeholders, including United Nations agencies, programmes and funds, regional human rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and academic institutions;
(d) To work in cooperation with States in order to foster the implementation of measures that contribute to the protection of all persons against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity;
(e) To address the multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of violence and discrimination faced by persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity;
(f) To conduct, facilitate and support the provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building and international cooperation in support of national efforts to combat violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity;
4. Requests the Independent Expert to report annually to the Human Rights Council, starting from its thirty-fifth session, and to the General Assembly, starting from its seventy-second session;

5. Calls upon all States to cooperate with the Independent Expert in the discharge of the mandate, including by providing all information requested, to give serious consideration to responding favourably to the requests of the Independent Expert to visit their countries and to consider implementing the recommendations made in the mandate holder’s reports;

6. Encourages all relevant stakeholders, including United Nations agencies, programmes and funds, human rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, national independent monitoring frameworks, civil society, the private sector, donors and development agencies to cooperate fully with the Independent Expert to enable the mandate holder to fulfil his or her mandate;

7. Requests the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Independent Expert with all the human, technical and financial resources necessary for the effective fulfilment of his or her mandate;

8. Decides to remain seized of this issue.