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Darren Wilson Fundraisers End With Little Explanation

Huffington Post News - 3 hours 27 min ago

A fundraiser for a Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager has vanished, the LATimes pointed out.

There had been two major GoFundMe pages raising money for Darren Wilson, who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown earlier this month. Combined, the fundraisers had pulled in almost $500,000. This weekend, seemingly out of nowhere, the campaigns stopped.

Matt Pearce, who covered the unrest following the shooting on the ground for more than a week, first noticed the shutdown.

A spokesperson for GoFundMe told Pearce that they didn't pull the campaign.

In a Facebook post, the Support Darren Wilson confirmed that their online fundraiser had ended but vowed to continue raising money for the St. Louis County cop.

According to the page's moderators, the decision to end the fundraiser was "made by those closest to Officer Darren Wilson looking out for his best interest." The group said that any donations that were already made would go directly to Wilson.

Earlier this month, a barrage of inflammatory remarks on the GoFundMe page forced organizers to shut off comments.

Wilson shot and killed Brown on August 9th, 2014. In the weeks following the shooting, protests erupted in Ferguson and across the country, many in support of Brown. The movement in support of Wilson has grown, however, with protesters staging rallies against media coverage and selling 'Support Darren Wilson' T-shirts.

Here's the Facebook group's full statement:

First off, we want to say again how much we appreciate ALL of the support for Officer Darren Wilson. This page and everything we have done, up until this point, would not have been possible if it hadn't been for everyone here.

Secondly, we understand your questions, concerns and frustrations with both GoFundMe accounts. Please note, NOBODY shut down the GoFundMe account because of any petitions floating around trying to close it and GoFundMe did not close them either. That decision was made by those closest to Officer Darren Wilson looking out for his best interest. We are doing our best daily to keep you updated (to the best of our ability) with all truths that come to us. That is our number one priority, to always be honest with our supporters.

Rest assured, if you donated to either GoFundMe it will go to Officer Darren Wilson. We are constantly trying to find the best ways to support Officer Darren Wilson as we know our supporters want to keep helping as best they can.

Bare with us as we are going through these changes. We will continue to be open and honest with our supporters. We will not do anything unless it is in the best interest of Officer Darren Wilson.

Thank you all, so much!


Categories: Political News and Opinion

Rick Perry Deletes Tweet Mocking District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 11:25pm

Someone with access to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Twitter account sent out an image on Sunday night mocking the figure at the center of the abuse-of-power accusations that led to an indictment against him.

The tweet, which has since been deleted, showed an image of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who was arrested on drunk driving charges in April 2013, and the following words:

"I don't always drive drunk at 3x the legal blood alcohol limit... But when I do, I indict Gov. Perry for calling me out about it. I am the most drunk Democrat in Texas."

The phrasing is a play on "The Most Interesting Man In The World" beer commercials, which have since become an Internet meme.

Lehmberg, who pleaded guilty in the case, did not indict Perry. He was indicted by a grand jury after an investigation by Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor appointed in the case.

Perry or someone acting on his behalf deleted the tweet, but it was preserved and retweeted by several others, including Evan Smith, editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune:

The full deleted @governorperry tweet:

— Evan Smith (@evanasmith) September 1, 2014

Perry sent out a tweet saying the message had been unauthorized:

A tweet just went out from my account that was unauthorized. I do not condone the tweet and I have taken it down.

— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) September 1, 2014

Austin-based journalist Scott Braddock pointed out on Twitter a 2011 interview in which a Perry spokesperson said the governor had sole control over the Twitter account.

Perry is accused of abuse of power and coercion for allegedly attempting to use his veto power to pressure Lehmberg into resigning after the highly publicized arrest. He denies any wrongdoing.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Louisiana Abortion Law Temporarily Blocked

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 9:58pm

By Jonathan Kaminsky

NEW ORLEANS, La., Aug 31 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Sunday temporarily blocked a Louisiana law that advocates say would likely have closed of all five abortion clinics in the state.

The measure, signed into law by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in June and due to take effect Sept. 1, would require doctors who perform abortions to have patient admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice.

However, the judge's ruling means that for the time being doctors can continue to perform legal abortions while seeking to obtain admitting privileges. A hearing will be held at a later date for the judge to make a more permanent ruling on the law.

"Plaintiffs will be allowed to operate lawfully while continuing their efforts to obtain privileges," Federal Judge John deGravelles wrote in the decision.

Abortion rights activists applauded the decision, the latest in a string of rulings against similar measures, saying it would give abortion doctors more time to seek the hospital privileges.

"Today's ruling ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which sued to block the law on behalf of three of the state's five clinics.

Louisiana is among 11 states that have passed similar laws, with courts recently ruling unconstitutional such measures in Alabama and Mississippi. Key parts of Texas law that would have shuttered most remaining clinics in that state was blocked by a federal judge on Friday.

Abortion rights campaigners, along with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, say admitting privileges laws impose medically unnecessary requirements on doctors.

Anti-abortion advocates have countered that the measures are intended to protect women's health, though some have also lauded their effect of shuttering clinics.

Only one doctor who performs abortions in Louisiana currently has hospital admitting privileges, the Center for Reproductive Rights said.

If all other doctors in the state are forced to stop performing abortions, that doctor, fearful for his safety, would stop carrying out the procedure, the group said. (Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Labor Day: The Beginning of a Breakthrough

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 9:12pm

This Labor Day, working families do not have much to celebrate when it comes to wages and job security. But we can celebrate the fact that the deteriorating conditions of work are finally breaking through into broad political consciousness.

Item. Last week, the board of directors of Market Basket, one of the last of the independent supermarket chains, agreed to restore the fired CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, who had treated workers decently rather than just milking the enterprise for dividends as another faction of this family-owned company has sought to do. An uprising by salaried managers and workers had brought the business to a halt. More on Market Basket in a moment.

Item. On August 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, issued a blistering ruling on the long running dispute involving FedEx's policy of classifying its employees as independent contractors. This saves them costs on health care and other fringe benefits, cuts FedEx's taxes, and puts all the burden of schedule shifts on drivers.

Writing for the majority, Judge William Fletcher wrote:

The drivers must wear FedEx uniforms, drive FedEx-approved vehicles, and groom themselves according to FedEx's appearance standards. FedEx tells its drivers what packages to deliver, on what days, and at what times. Although drivers may operate multiple delivery routes and hire third parties to help perform their work, they may do so only with FedEx's consent.

FedEx is one of a growing number of companies who disguise regular employees as temps and independent contractors. The corporate desire to squeeze wages, and not technology, is driving this trend.

Item. In late July, Richard F, Griffin, Jr. the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, held that McDonald's Corp. is jointly responsible for the wellbeing of McDonald's employees, along with the local franchisees who are nominally the employers of record. If upheld, this ruling will facilitate both organizing of fast food workers and going after a range of shabby practices for which the parent corporation disclaims responsibility, holding that the franchisee did it. Of course, everything about McDonald's, from the menu to the décor to the cooking procedures is dictated by the parent company. Even if it's not upheld, the action raises the profile of this issue.

Item. After the New York Times ran a series detailing the impact on families of on-call scheduling practices making it impossible for working parents to plan more than a few days in advance, Starbucks did an about face and promised to give its workers at least a week's lead time. Until it was outed, Starbucks claimed it had a national policy of giving decent notice, but in fact local managers often required employees to work split shifts, working late into the evening and then coming in early the next morning.

Even so, the concession of a week's notice for split shifts still stinks. How do you build family life around that? Who picks up the kids? Try finding child care that adjusts to the boss's whim?

All of these stories are variants of the same story. The true employer imposes ever-worsening conditions on workers, and then hides behind the fiction that they are someone else's employee, or blames the pressure of the stock market.

Of these events, the Market Basket story is particularly instructive, because it represents how so-called shareholder capitalism puts pressure on managers to destroy job security and decent earnings for working people. People who followed this episode casually saw it as the good cousin versus the bad cousin, and somehow, miraculously, the good cousin won.

But the larger story is how shareholder capitalism puts pressure on even benign bosses to squeeze workers ever harder in order to maximize returns for owners. The good cousin, Arthur T. Demoulas, had to borrow half a billion dollars to buy out the bad cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, and it remains to be how Arthur T.'s need to pay back that loan will eventually squeeze wages.

There is no policy breakthrough on the near horizon to improve the security of work, but there is the beginning of an important shift on consciousness.

Radical reform often begins with such shifts, as when African Americans insisted in mass numbers, beginning in the late 1950s, that the racial caste system had to be destroyed; or when feminism evolved from the fringe cause of a few brave pioneers to a generalized, mainstream claim that women deserved the same opportunities as men; or when gays and lesbians began coming out and demanding recognition of their humanity. The shift in consciousness came first -- the political and then the policy revolution came later.

How could these trends be changed? I can think of five ways, and they could be mutually reinforcing.

First, more union organizing to regularize work.

Second, more regulations and enforcement of regulations to prevent corporations from disguising regular employment as contingent employment. The idea of time and a half for overtime, for instance, seems like just a natural concept but it was not handed down by God on Mount Sinai. It took federal legislation, in 1938, in the Roosevelt era. We need similar rules, to fit the modern economy, to regularize work.

Third, full employment would help. If workers, rather than jobs, were scarce, employers would be more likely to treat employees decently.

Fourth, more worker-owned firms. If the shareholder is king, a worker-shareholder has a better chance of reaping the rewards of his or her hard work, and of not being treated as just another cog in a wheel.

Fifth, citizen-dividends, modeled on the Alaska Permanent Fund, so that Americans get a share of the total product not just as employees but as members of a functioning social contract. Peter Barnes has written a smart book on this, With Liberty and Dividends for All.

This Labor Day, more people are conscious of the fact that precarious work needn't be the norm. As citizens, we need to politicize an issue that until now has been seen mainly as people's private problems -- I was born at the wrong time; I didn't get enough education; I should have been an entrepreneur.

Sorry, but people just like you, in an economy with different rules, were able to get a much fairer shake from the system. We need a fair economy back. It begins with consciousness and consciousness has to lead to politics.

Robert Kuttner's latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He is co-editor of The American Prospect and a senior Fellow at Demos, and teaches at Brandeis University's Heller School.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Hillary Got It Right on Ferguson and Race

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 8:22pm

Hillary Clinton was pilloried and battered for days on end for not uttering a peep about the Michael Brown slaying, the Ferguson disorders, and most importantly race. Clinton took heat on this for the simple reason that she almost certainly will run for president and likely win. It would look pretty peculiar for a presidential candidate, especially a Democratic presidential candidate, and likely winner not to say anything about America's eternal flashpoint issue. But it was worth the wait for her to speak out. Clinton skipped the platitudes and echoed the uncomfortable truths that black men are routinely profiled, disproportionately pack America's jails and prisons, and get longer sentences than white males.

This took courage because presidents and presidential candidates have avoided race like the plague not just in the case of Ferguson and the Brown killing, but whenever racial controversy inevitably flares up. Racial issues have seeped into presidential debates only when they ignite public anger and division.

Race has been a taboo subject for presidents and their challengers on the campaign trail for the past two decades for a good reason. No president or presidential challenger, especially a Democratic challenger, would risk being tarred as pandering to minorities for the mere mention of racial problems.

The double standard on race has been especially troublesome to President Obama. From the moment that he announced his presidential bid in 2007, he knew that race would be a minefield that could blow up at any time and the explosion could be even more harmful to him. That was the case when he knocked a Cambridge police officer for the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Gates, and the few times that he cautiously addressed other controversies from the slaying of Trayvon Martin to Ferguson.

No matter how loud the deafening the silence from presidents and contenders about race is, its painful consequences can't disappear. In each of its annual State of Black America reports the past decade the National Urban League found that blacks are less likely to own their own homes, die earlier, are far more likely to be jailed disproportionately and receive longer sentences, receive less or poorer quality health care and earn far less than whites. They attend failing public schools, and are more likely the victims of racially motivated hate crimes than any other group.

The report also found rampant discrimination and gaping economic disparities between Latinos and whites. In the past decade, the income, and education performance gaps between blacks and Latinos and whites have only marginally closed, or actually widened. Discrimination remains the major cause of the disparities.

Shunting race to the back burner of presidential campaigns invariably means that presidents shunt them to the backburner of their legislative agenda. Yet, presidents have not been able to tap dance around racial problems. Reagan's administration was embroiled in affirmative action battles. Bush Sr.'s administration was tormented by urban riots following the beating of black motorist Rodney King. Clinton's administration was saddled with conflicts over affirmative action, police violence and racial profiling. W. Bush's administration has been confronted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, voting rights, reparations, and affirmative action battles, gang violence, and failing inner city public schools.

By ignoring, or downplaying these issues until they burst into touchstones of national debate and conflict, presidents have been ill prepared to craft meaningful legislation and programs to deal with them.

This won't be the case with Clinton. She tipped her hand on this at an NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet in Charleston, South Carolina during the 2008 presidential campaign when she publicly vowed to do everything from aggressively fighting hate crimes to strengthening voting rights. It was the kind of civil rights speech that top Democrats in campaigns past have sprinted from giving like the plague. Two months before that she intimated that racism drove public policy in how Americans dealt with the HIV/AIDS plague and said that if young white women were dying at the rate young blacks are from AIDS, there would be a national outcry.

Clinton's aim was to send a forceful message to her then chief Democratic presidential campaign rival Barack Obama that she -- not he -- was the real civil rights candidate. This was hardly the case since Obama had to walk the tightest of tight ropes on race as an African-American and with the wolves ready to pounce on any utterance from him would supposedly prove that he would tilt toward blacks once in the White House. Yet, Clinton did stake a bold, aggressive, and challenging in-your-face approach to frontally confronting racial issues. There almost certainly will be more Ferguson-like tests on race for Clinton in the 2016 race for the White House. The odds, though, are great that she'll get it right again as she did this time on Ferguson and race.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter:

Categories: Political News and Opinion

A Labor Day Documentary: 'Brothers on the Line' Tells the Story of the Reuther Brothers -- Founding Fathers of the American Middle Class

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 7:55pm

Ask most Americans to name the most influential siblings in our nation's history and they'll probably think about politics (the Kennedy and Bush brothers), sports (the DiMaggio brothers and the Williams sisters), and show business (the Marx brothers, Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal, the Osmonds, and the Jackson Five).

It is unfortunate that the Reuther brothers (Walter, Roy and Victor), who built the United Auto Workers union that transformed the broader labor movement and helped build the nation's middle class, would probably not make the list because few Americans know much about labor history. A new documentary film, Brothers on the Line, may help remind America about these three courageous union organizers who deserve a place in the pantheon of America's social justice heroes.

(Left) Victor, Roy and Walter Reuther. (Right) Walter Reuther with civil rights leaders Roy Wilkins and A. Philip Randolph at the 1963 March on Washington

Even as we celebrate Labor Day, few Americans understand the crucial role that the union movement has played in improving the lives of working people in terms of better pay, safer working conditions, and improved health care, retirement, and educational opportunities. And, as events in Ferguson, Missouri unfold and draw attention to the persistence of racism in America, it is good to be reminded, as Brothers on the Line does well, that the Reuthers and the UAW were at the forefront of the civil rights movement, as close allies of Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and other progressives. The film is currently available for rent or purchase on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Instant across the U.S. and Canada.

The Reuthers would surely be upset about the current state of organized labor (which now represents only seven percent of private sector employees), but hopeful about some the resurgence of activism among fast food, hotel, hospital, port, Walmart, and other workers as well as the growing movement in cities around the country to raise the minimum wage. Brothers on the Line shows us that the struggle for workers' rights goes hand in hand with the battles for a more humane society.

"We are the vanguard in America of that great crusade to build a better world," Walter Reuther told about 3,000 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) at the union's 1947 convention. "We are the architects of the future."

The 40-year-old UAW president was preparing his members, many of them military veterans, for another kind of war, one that would pit unions and their progressive allies against the increasingly concentrated power of big business, a war whose battlefields would be the shop floor, the bargaining table, the voting booth, and the halls of Congress.

Walter was the best-known and most influential of the brothers, a household name in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, whose photo adorned the cover of TIME magazine in 1945. But the film (produced by Sasha Reuther, Victor's grandson) makes it clear that Walter, Roy and Victor were part of a team who recognized that a successful union requires rank-and-file shop floor militants, mid-level strategists and "inside" activists, and visible public leaders who can inspire the nation, negotiate with corporate chieftans, and confer with presidents. All three began as shopfloor militants and eventually rose to prominence within the UAW. Walter was elected UAW president in 1946 and served in that position until he was killed in a plane crash in 1970. Victor served as head of its educational and later its international office. Roy became the director of the UAW's political department.

The 80-minute documentary understandably spends more time on Walter than on his brothers, although Victor -- who was probably the most radical of the trio -- gets his due for his brilliant tactical maneuvers during the 1930s organizing drives, for getting the UAW to support democratic unions around the world, and for encouraging Walter to oppose the Vietnam war. Victor was the only one of the brothers still alive when his grandson made the film. He is a wonderful storyteller and the clips of his speeches and his interviews sprinkled throughout the film are a highlight. Roy, who as the UAW's political director, helped elect John F. Kennedy, used its influence to push Congress to enact Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and other key laws, and persuaded Walter to support the United Farm Workers, gets less airtime in the film.

The film weaves together archival newsreel footage, tapes of speeches, narration by Martin Sheen, and interviews (with rank-and-file UAW members and union leaders as well as Reuther allies like Ted Kennedy, John Conyers, Dolores Huerta, and Andrew Young), and a few academics, most usefully labor historian Kevin Boyle. Brothers on the Line could serve as a basic introduction to key trends and moments of the 20th century, including the rise of mass production, the emergence of big cities, the exodus of blacks from the South to the North and Midwest, the social and political turmoil of the Depression, the rise of the auto industry as the lynchpin of post-war American prosperity, the battles to unionize the Big Three auto companies against outrageous corporate terrorism, the emergence of the civil rights movement, and the turmoil and conflict over the Vietnam war. (The film overlooks two key aspects of the Reuthers' story and the 20th century - World War 2 and the birth of the environmental movement).

The Reuthers grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia, three of the five children of Valentine Reuther, a German immigrant, a Socialist, and an activist in the brewery workers' union. In 1919 Valentine took Walter and his brother Victor, ages eleven and six, to visit Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs at a prison outside Wheeling, where he was being held for his opposition to World War I. The visit made an indelible impression on both young Reuthers, who became committed Socialists.

Walter quit high school at age sixteen and became an apprentice tool-and-die maker. He moved to Detroit in 1927, drawn by the Ford Motor Company's promise of high wages and a shorter workweek. He quickly established himself as one of the most skilled toolmakers at Ford's massive River Rouge plant. Victor and Roy joined Reuther in Detroit and on the assembly lines in the growing mass production auto plants. The exhausting and inhumane conditions -- speed-up, close scrutiny and anti-union intimidation by supervisors, the lack of job security, the blatant racism that assigned black workers to the most dangerous and dirtiest jobs -- led Walter to characterize the industry as a "social jungle" in which workers were "nameless, faceless, clock-card numbers."

The Depression deepened the Reuthers' already radical outlook. Working nights, Walter earned his high school diploma at the age of 22 and took classes at Detroit City College (now Wayne State University), where he was joined by his younger brothers. Walter and his friends formed a Social Problems Club on campus and affiliated with the Socialist League of Industrial Democracy, organized protests against establishing a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit on campus, and protested the segregation of a local swimming pool leased by the college. In 1932 Walter campaigned for Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas and was promptly fired by Ford, which kept a close eye on its employees' nonwork lives.

The following year, Walter and Victor embarked on a world tour, hoping to work at the Soviet Union's huge Gorki automobile factory, which Henry Ford had equipped. The brothers spent a year helping train the Gorki tool-and-die workers. Reuther was impressed by Russia's quick transformation into a modern industrial society, but he also saw the repression under Stalin's totalitarian regime, an experience that shaped the brothers' anticommunism during the Cold War.

The three brothers played key roles in the major union organizing battles in Detroit, Flint, and other auto industry centers. Walter and Victor returned to Detroit in 1935. Walter never worked on the shop floor again, but channeled his talent and ambitions into building the fledgling auto workers' union. Victor got a job at the Kelsey-Hayes Wheel Company, in Flint, Michigan. Together they led a successful sit-down strike at Kelsey-Hayes, a Ford supplier with 5,000 employees. The strike led to a settlement that doubled workers' wages.

Walter and Victor both played roles in the 1936 General Motors strike in Flint, with its now infamous scenes of pro-GM cops attacking workers with billy clubs and tear gas. During the strike, Victor, then 24, drove around Flint in a car equipped with a loudspeaker on the roof, encouraging the "sit-down" strikers who had occupied the factories. The strike spread to over 100 other plants, virtually shutting down GM's production. When the strike was settled, winning many improvements in pay and working conditions, the Reuther brothers' exploits became well-known. In Victor's case, it meant that he and his wife Sophie (the UAW's first woman organizer) had to leave town to evade a warrant for their arrest issued by a pro-GM judge.

On May 26, 1937, Walter and other UAW organizers were passing out leaflets at a pedestrian overpass next to Ford's factory complex in Dearborn, Michigan. As the film shows, Ford's private police organization, euphemistically called the Service Department, attacked the union activists in what became known as the "Battle of the Overpass." Newspaper photographers captured Ford's thugs beating Reuther bloody. At a time of widespread pro-union sympathy, the incident was a public relations nightmare for Ford. Even so, it took almost four more years -- until April 1941, when a huge strike shut down Ford's operations -- before the company recognized the UAW and signed a union contract.

The Reuthers had many enemies -- among the auto companies, the mob (whose influence within the unions the Reuthers sought to squash), right-wing vigilantes, and opposing factions within the union. In the 1940s, both Walter and Victor were victims of assassination attempts that caused permanent physical harm. The film chillingly recounts these episodes through interviews with friends and family members.

The film skips Walter's first major foray into social planning. In 1940, when half the auto factories were idle, he proposed a bold plan to convert idle factories to build 500 military aircraft a day. A brilliant student of industrial engineering and planning, Reuther's plan would put employees back to work, serve a patriotic goal, and put labor on an equal footing with business in planning the war economy. But the auto executives did not want to share decision making with government bureaucrats, much less with union leaders, and they rejected the idea out of hand. Once the nation went to war, however, President Franklin D. Roosevelt frequently consulted Reuther (whom he once called "my young red-headed engineer") on wartime production problems. Anticipating the war's end, Reuther proposed creating a three-part peace production board (with representative from business, labor, and government) to convert defense plants so they could produce railroad cars and workers' housing. To many Americans, this idea seemed like common sense. But business viewed it, correctly, as a radical shift of power, reducing business's influence in shaping the economy. One Detroit auto executive, George Romney (father of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney), understood Reuther's genius: "Walter Reuther is the most dangerous man in Detroit because no one is more skillful in bringing about the revolution without seeming to disturb the existing forms of society."

When the war ended, Reuther was determined to put the labor movement on a more equal footing with corporate America. In 1946 he led a 116-day strike against GM. Autoworkers' buying power had eroded during the war, and the UAW demanded a 30 percent pay increase without an increase in the retail price of cars. When GM insisted that it could not meet the union's demand, Reuther challenged the company to "open its books." GM refused, but the UAW won an 18 percent wage increase.

But Reuther was making a larger point, one he would return to many times, particularly after he was elected UAW president in 1946. By demanding that GM freeze its prices, Reuther was appealing to consumers as well as to UAW members. He argued that the automobile industry -- the largest and most profitable companies in the world -- had a responsibility to society as well as to its stockholders and its workers. And it was the labor movement's responsibility not only to look out for its members but also to use its influence -- at the bargaining table with business and in the political realm with government -- to make America a more livable society for all. "What good is a dollar-an-hour more in wages if your neighborhood is burning down?" Reuther asked, in a speech that unfortunately isn't included in the film. "What good is another week's vacation if the lake you used to go to is polluted, and you can't swim in it and the kids can't play in it?"

Using the UAW's clout within the labor movement and with the Democratic Party, Reuther pushed a progressive postwar agenda that included national health care, economic redistribution, full employment, and job security for all.

Reuther's call for a progressive social contract among government, business, and labor was too radical for most Democrats, especially as the Cold War was heating up. So Reuther sought to achieve similar goals at the bargaining table, creating, in effect, a private welfare state for those Americans lucky enough to work for the nation's biggest corporations and to have a union contract. In 1948 the UAW got GM to agree to a historic contract tying wage increases to the general cost of living and to productivity increases. Over the next two decades, UAW members won unprecedented benefits, including enhanced job security, paid vacations, and health insurance. In 1955 the UAW won supplemental unemployment benefits that enabled UAW members to earn up to 95 percent of their regular paycheck even if they were laid off. Reuther hailed that provision as "the first time in the history of collective bargaining [that] great corporations agreed to begin to accept responsibility" for their workers during layoffs.

The union used strikes -- or the threat of work stoppages -- to gain these victories. It took a strike at Ford in 1949 to establish the union's right to have a voice in the speed of the assembly line. It took a 100-day strike at Chrysler in 1950 to win a pension plan.

As a result of these victories, UAW members were able to buy homes, move to the suburbs, send their children to college, take regular vacations, and anticipate a secure retirement. The UAW set the standard for other unions to win similar benefits from other major industries.

The UAW was on the front line of the civil rights movement. Reuther marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in Mississippi and elsewhere. The UAW helped fund the 1963 March on Washington (which the AFL-CIO refused to endorse) and brought many of its members to the historic protest. Reuther was one of the few white speakers at the march. The UAW used its political clout to lobby for passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act. Reuther was also an early and generous supporter of Cesar Chavez's efforts to organize farmworkers, marched with Chavez on numerous occasions, and supported the boycott of nonunion grapes and lettuce, long before other union leaders recognized the importance of the farmworkers' struggle.

Reuther advised Presidents. Kennedy and Johnson to champion a bold federal program for full employment that would include government-funded public works and the conversion of the nation's defense industry to production for civilian needs. This, he argued, would dramatically address the nation's poor, create job opportunities for African Americans, and rebuild America's troubled cities without being as politically divisive as a federal program identified primarily as serving low-income blacks.

Both presidents rejected Reuther's advice. They were worried about alienating racist southern Democrats and sectors of business who opposed Keynesian-style economic planning. LBJ's announcement of an "unconditional war on poverty" in his 1964 State of the Union address pleased Reuther, but the details of the plan revealed its limitations. Testifying before Congress in April 1964, Reuther said, "While [the proposals] are good, [they] are not adequate, nor will they be successful in achieving their purposes, except as we begin to look at the broader problems [of the American economy]." He added, "Poverty is a reflection of our failure to achieve a more rational, more responsible, more equitable distribution of the abundance that is within our grasp." Reuther threw the UAW's considerable political weight behind LBJ's programs, but his critique proved to be correct.

In 1952 Reuther was elected president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and three years later brokered a merger with American Federation of Labor (AFL) president George Meany. By then about one-third of America's workers were union members. Reuther hoped that the AFL-CIO would spearhead a new wave of union organizing, particularly in the South, but he was constantly frustrated by the indifference of many unions to organizing the unorganized or to mobilizing their members for political action.

In 1966 Reuther said, "The AFL-CIO lacks the social vision, the dynamic thrust, the crusading spirit that should characterize the progressive modern labor movement." Two years later he withdrew the UAW from the AFL-CIO and forged a new labor group, the Alliance for Labor Action, with the Teamsters union. Reuther had big plans for the organization, but before it could launch any initiatives, Reuther, his wife, and two others were killed in a private plane crash in 1970.

Brothers on the Line does an excellent job of explaining why Walter was reluctant to oppose the Vietnam war, whatever his personal views about that conflict. He had a close working relationship with President Johnson, who endorsed many of Walter's views on civil rights, anti-poverty, and labor issues. The film lets us in on a remarkable phone call between Walter and LBJ in which the president uses all his charm and persuasive powers to convince Reuther to publicly support the war. "I want you to tell the rest of them that I'm no goddamn fascist," Johnson said, referring to Walter's fellow liberals, who were increasingly critical of LBJ's Vietnam policy.

After the murders of King and Bobby Kennedy, however, Walter was more open to hearing his children and Victor's arguments against the war and changed his public stance.

The film does not overlook two of the most troubling aspects of Walter's ascendancy in the UAW and the labor movement. Although Walter was often at odds with the conservative Meany, who resisted putting more resources into rank-and-file organizing, Reuther shared some of the blame as well. He viewed the Communists within the UAW and the broader labor movement -- who included some of the most experienced and effective organizers -- as a threat. During the Red Scare, he used anti-Communism as an excuse to expel the radicals from the labor movement, weakening its left wing and creating a vacuum filled by more conservative factions.

Reuther was also slow to bring more than a handful of black workers into the UAW's leadership ranks. Although Reuther was a powerful champion of civil rights, many African-American autoworkers -- radicalized by the Black Power movement -- were angered by his failure to recruit and groom blacks into the union's top leadership.

Under the Reuthers' leadership, the UAW grew to become the nation's largest and most powerful union, with more than 1.5 million members. It has since shrunk to about 355,000 members, reflecting the outrageous mismanagement and declining fortunes of the U.S. auto industry, the relocation of many auto factories to right-to-work states in the South, and increasing competition from European and Asian auto companies. General Motors, once the largest and most successful corporation in the world, is now profitable but employs many fewer American workers. It has been replaced by companies like Walmart, now the world's largest private employer. Walmart -- like GM before it -- has poured enormous resources into fighting efforts by its employees to unionize.

Among Walmart's more than one million American workers, there are many potential union leaders -- many of them now part of OUR Walmart -- who will eventually find ways to successfully challenge the company and build a strong voice for employees. Perhaps there are even three sisters who now work at Walmart and will become national leaders in this new wave of workplace organizing. And 25 or 50 years from now, one of their grandchildren will make a film about them -- Sisters on the Line.

Peter Dreier teaches Politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Wars and Rumors of War

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 6:38pm

The United States faces the possibility of greater involvement in two wars: one with Russia and one with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, aka the Islamic State. One is a throwback to nationalist wars of the past. The other is a worrying harbinger of the future. But for Ukraine the future is now.

The Russian invasion and undermining of Ukraine continues as do the absurd denials by Russian President Vladimir Putin. . The latest front around the port city of Mariupolin southeast Ukraine appears aimed at opening a land corridor to the previously seized Crimea. It could also presage a push to extend the land corridor to Transnistria, the ethnic Russian part of Moldova. This would cut off Ukraine from the Black Sea and leave it a land-locked rump state. The rebels and their Russian supporters deem this the "Novouisiya" or New Russia and Putin continues to deny Russian involvement while saying a new state must be part of any negotiated settlement.

The response from the European Union (EU) is predictable: another gradual tightening of economic sanctions crafted not to hurt themselves too much. Such incremental steps give Russia time to adjust.
Putin knows that the sanctions are causing more pain to Russia than they and the Russian counter boycott of European food products are causing the West. He is betting, however, that his autocratic Russia has a much greater tolerance for such pain than the democracies of the West.. After all the West cannot even bring itself to call the invasion an invasion, let alone an act of war.

While Putin reaps the rewards of political popularity and an unmistakable message to Russia's "near abroad", European and American special interests and economic malaise dampen the Western response. To date, he is winning the bet. Russia is willing to tolerate current and increased levels of pain. Europe and the U.S. not so much.

With Russia on the march in Ukraine and the Islamic State sweeping across the Mesopotamian desert obliterating the Syria - Iraq border, NATO will meet this week in Wales. The first priority should be Ukraine. ISIL can wait. It will be slowed by current U.S. bombing policy and diplomacy to coordinate or at least de-conflict regional interests. cannot be effective until there is a credibly inclusive government in Baghdad.

The first thing on NATO's agenda is to call the invasion an invasion and aggressively refute Putin's lies. Polls show Russians oppose an invasion but believe his lies. Every effort should be made including information warfare and social media to alter this misperception. Actions to support this strategy could include a staged walk out if he addresses the U.N. General Assembly this fall and moving the 2018 world cup to the Netherlands. Russian university students in the U.S. should have their visas revoked and be sent home.

Next, Putin's calculus must be changed. Both the energy and financial sanctions, should be severely tightened. And the sanctions should be imposed in a quantum leap, not gradually. Identified accounts of Putin and his close collaborators in western financial institutions should be frozen.

Ukraine must be helped and Russia weakened militarily. NATO infrastructure funds should be used to purchase the two assault ships being built in France for Russia. All sales of military equipment and technology should be suspended. NATO should accelerate moves to preposition equipment and headquarters in Poland and the Baltic and increase exercises of a rapid deployment force in the region. Ukraine should be provided military training, logistic support and equipment, especially anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems.

Some will contend that such moves will provoke Putin. But Putin continues to provoke the West and not responding has only encouraged him. Might this back him into a corner? Yes so NATO needs to offer an exit ramp. The West will offer to lift the sanctions and commit to a lengthy moratorium on Ukraine joining NATO. Ukraine will agree to protections for Russian ethnic citizens and language. In return, Putin will withdraw all his forces and "volunteers" from Ukraine, cease all support to the rebels and agree to international monitoring of a new referendum in Crimea.

If Putin accepts such an offer, we will know his real concerns are NATO on his border and a hostile Ukraine, both legitimate, If he declines and continues his invasion and dismemberment of Ukraine, we will know he seeks a New Russia. In that case we will be in a New Cold War and, sooner or later, a hot one.


Categories: Political News and Opinion

24 Years Of America's Unemployment Rate In 10 Seconds

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 4:39pm

The 2009 financial crisis wreaked havoc on American workers. This map gives a sense of just how dramatic its effect was on employment.

The map, created by data designer 'Metric Maps' and originally posted to Reddit, uses county-level data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to depict the annual unemployment rate for every county in the U.S. from 1990 to 2013. Relatively low unemployment in the late '90s and early 2000s gives way to an explosion of red (denoting counties with an unemployment rate of 8 percent or greater) in 2009 following the crash.

Check it out below:

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Readout of the Vice President's Call with Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani

News from the White House - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 3:05pm

This morning, Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani.  The Vice President and President Barzani discussed the humanitarian assistance and military strikes that the U.S. has provided to support the Iraqi people trapped in the town of Amirli.  Both leaders expressed their support for the ongoing efforts by Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga, with U.S. and international support, to break the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's siege of Amirli.  President Barzani underscored his commitment to forming a new Iraqi government as quickly as possible.

Categories: White House News

Germany To Send Rifles, Tank Busters To Aid Kurds

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 2:43pm

BERLIN (AP) — Germany will send high-end rifles, tank-busting weapons and armored vehicles to aid Kurdish fighters battling Islamic extremists in Iraq, officials said Sunday.

Germany's defense minister said the arms would be sent in three shipments, starting in September, and would initially be enough to equip a brigade of 4,000 Peshmerga fighters. "This is in our security interest," Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Berlin.

Germany joins other European countries who have pledged to provide arms to the Kurds fighting the Islamic State group that has swept into northern Iraq in recent months.

The shipments will include 8,000 G36 assault rifles and the same number of G3 rifles, as well as ammunition; 200 Panzerfaust 3 bazookas and 30 long-range MILAN anti-tank systems; and five heavily armored Dingo infantry vehicles.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the arms would complement humanitarian aid that Berlin is sending to help civilians uprooted by the fighting. The decision to send weapons had been criticized by some in Germany as a return to militarism 75 years after the start of World War II

"This isn't an easy decision for us, but it's the right decision in a situation that is difficult in every way," Steinmeier said.

He voiced hope that Iraq's new government would seek to bring together all ethnic and religious groups in the country, including the Sunni minority, to fight the extremist threat.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

There Can Be Dignity in the Face of Poverty

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 2:10pm

Two Harvard graduates, Bevis Longstreth and Timothey Wirth, were discussing that Harvard should divest itself of investments in fossil fuels.

They argued that it is "repugnant to profit from enterprises directly responsible for carbon emissions or to allow shareholder funds to be deployed in searching for more fossil fuel." (Harvard Magazine; September/October Issue). Divestment is now on the table at Harvard, but not quite as forcefully as it was when the arguments about investments in South African enterprises came under scrutiny.

To gain or not to gain profits from the investment or exploration of fossil fuels is the question. But what is the answer?

Rumors are circulating on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota about large quantities of oil beneath the surface of the lands harboring the poorest people in America. If this be true then the next question would be: What do we do about it? Do we "drill baby drill" or not?

Having been born, raised and educated on this "the poorest county in America" according to the 1980 U. S. Census, I would venture to say that if the question was put to a vote of the Oglala Lakota people, the answer would be a resounding NO!

How can that be? Other Indian nations have become wealthy by exploiting the natural resources on their lands. The Three Affiliated Tribes, or as they now call themselves, the MHA Nation (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara) are located smack dab in the middle of the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota. Oil is literally gushing from every available hole drilled in the ground. What used to be a very quiet and peaceful land is now reminiscent of the Cushing Oil Fields near Shamrock, Oklahoma in 1915.

During the boom Shamrock sported hotels, gambling halls, saloons, brothels and man-camps spread throughout the region. As the oil supply diminished Shamrock began to decline in the 1920s and business after business closed their doors for good. Even the makeshift homes that were hastily constructed to house the oil workers were moved to other locations.

I would advise the residents of New Town on the MHA Nation to visit Shamrock and pause and reflect if this is ever going to happen to their community. Take a look at the man-camps springing up all around your community imagine them gone. What shape will the landscape take after that?

Twenty-two years ago I spoke at the Fort Berthold Community College graduation ceremonies at New Town. I visited New Town again in the fall of 2013 and the shock of what I saw 22 years ago and what I saw on my last visit still haunts me. I asked a longtime friend of mine who has lived in New Town most of her life how she felt about the sudden boom. She said, "Back when you visited us we were a very poor people with a dysfunctional government and now we are a very rich people with a dysfunctional government." So I suppose one can say that money never solves all of the problems.

The Lakota people of Pine Ridge are, for the most part, very traditional people. In a sense they are much like the Hopi of the Southwest, a people who have retained and enriched their traditional and spiritual heritage even in the face of extreme poverty and endangerment. You will not find a gaming casino on the Hopi Nation and there would not be one on the Pine Ridge Reservation if the traditional people had been organized enough to defeat the proposition when it was placed on a ballot, but even then the casino passed by a very narrow margin.

To the Lakota people the land is sacred and to drill holes in the earth in search of oil would be considered a desecration of that sacred land. One of the best kept secrets from the American people is the fact that the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people have more than $1 billion dollars in a supposed settlement of the ownership of the Black Hills and other lands, but the poorest of the poor have refused to accept that money. Since 1980 when the United States government forced the cash settlement on them they have been saying, "The Black Hills are not for Sale. One does not sell one's mother just as one does not dig into the flesh of Mother Earth to extract wealth."

When the New York Times' reporters and Dianne Sawyer of ABC traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation they were more interested in depicting the Lakota people as falling down alcoholics, which they are not, than in reporting on the historic refusal of a poor and downtrodden people to accept money for the sale of their sacred land. Now that is the story not the drunks lying in the streets of Whiteclay, Nebraska.

If there is a billion gallons of oil beneath the soil of the poorest county in America, will the Lakota people allow the oil companies to dig for it? I believe the answer to that is an unequivocal NO! While Longstreth and Wirth argue with Harvard for divestment, I believe the Lakota people addressed that argument many generations ago. Dignity in the face of poverty is a virtue.

If the Lakota people can turn their backs on more than $1 billion dollars while standing in the shadows of extreme poverty where is the national media to honor and report on them for their unflinching courage? Answer: They just don't give a damn! Where is the controversy in that?

(Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. He can be reached at

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Mitch McConnell Widens Lead Over Alison Lundergan Grimes In New Poll

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 1:23pm

A Saturday Bluegrass Poll gives Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the edge in one of the tightest Senate races in the nation, with just over two months left before the November midterm election.

The incumbent McConnell leads Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) by 4 points in the race to represent Kentucky in the U.S. Senate, according to the poll, in which 569 likely Kentucky voters were surveyed. Grimes was leading in Bluegrass Polls until a July release had McConnell ahead by 2 percentage points.

The Senate minority leader's 4-point lead falls within the poll's 4.2-point margin of error.

Unsurprisingly, McConnell is largely favored in rural parts of the state, while Grimes carries a safe lead in bluer areas like Louisville, where she's ahead by 7 points. Grimes is also safe among poor and middle-class voters, maintaining double-digit margins among both groups. Of those polled, likely voters with an income of less than $40,000 favored Grimes by 17 points; voters with an income around $45,000 favored her by 10 points over McConnell.

The incumbent and challenger are in a dead heat for women's support. The Democratic challenger is ahead by only 1 percentage point among female voters, and McConnell leads among male voters by 10 points. When asked which candidate would improve the lives of women, respondents chose Grimes by a 21-point margin.

The Grimes campaign expressed continued confidence in its candidate's chances come November, highlighting Grimes' resilience in the face of major spending by the opposing campaign. Her campaign also noted that the poll was conducted prior to news of McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton's resignation amid revelations of possible ties to a bribery scandal, and the release of audio from a secret Koch brothers gathering.

"After facing a barrage of more than $30 million in spending from Mitch McConnell and his allies, our campaign remains well within the margin of error against the 30-year Washington incumbent," the campaign said in a statement Saturday. "Today's poll reflects how close we are to winning the race, however it does not reflect the tornado of bad news that has upended Senator McConnell's campaign this week, including a secret tape and a bribery scandal that resulted in the resignation of his campaign manager. We remain strongly positioned to win due to our superior candidate and first-class grassroots organization."

McConnell's campaign saw good news in the results, pointing to the uptick in support for the senator as the election approaches.

"It's becoming more clear the closer we get to the election that voters want a proven leader like Senator McConnell who delivers for Kentucky rather than an inexperienced liberal who is just another vote for the Obama agenda," McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore told the Courier-Journal in a statement.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Rep. Mike Rogers: Obama Foreign Policy Is In 'Free Fall'

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 11:38am

The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said on Sunday that President Barack Obama's foreign policy is in "absolute free fall" in the face of challenges in Iraq, China and Russia.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) cited in particular Obama's lack of a plan for dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

"We have a serious host of problems presenting itself, and our traditional allies are now standing up and saying, well, maybe America is not the best one to lead us through these troubles," Rogers said on "Fox News Sunday."

Obama admitted this week that his administration has no strategy for dealing with the threat posed by the Islamic State. A White House spokesman pointed a finger at the Pentagon, saying it is still coming up with plans -- but Rogers said Obama has already failed to act, and should have acted earlier to assist Arab allies in the region.

"There have been plans on the table, the president just did not want to get engaged in any way. That is a decision, that is a policy, that is a strategy -- and it's not working," Rogers said.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

John McCain Calls For 'Strong Measures' Against ISIS

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 11:16am

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized President Barack Obama for saying the administration lacks a plan to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and called for expanded airstrikes in both countries.

Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation," McCain said, "We now are facing the largest, most powerful, wealthiest terrorist organization in history, and it's going to require some very strong measures to defeat them. And they must be defeated, not contained."

Obama said earlier this week that the U.S. does not yet have a strategy to deal with the Islamic State, which began a lightning advance through Iraq in June.

McCain called on Obama to take a number of steps, most of them military actions, to stop the group -- including sending in U.S. special operations forces, arming Kurdish fighters in Iraq's north, launching airstrikes in Syria as well as in Iraq, and arming the Free Syrian Army, a so-called moderate group fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Iraqis will fight, but there has to be a strategy and a policy to implement that strategy," said McCain. "I think it starts with understanding that this is a direct threat to the United States of America."

Categories: Political News and Opinion

College Must Be More Than Just a Classy Trade School

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 11:08am

Yesterday many PBS stations carried this conversation I had on liberal education with Alexander Heffner of Open Mind. Here's a clip.

The following is cross-posted from The Daily Beast.

There is a tradition in this country stretching back to Thomas Jefferson of lofty ideals for our colleges and universities. Liberal learning is said to prepare one for autonomy and for citizenship. As Ralph Waldo Emerson emphasized, it also led one away from the crowd; it helped one escape mere imitation and opened access to authenticity. Finally, education offered the opportunity to discover work that would be meaningful -- to find one's "passion."

But, as I describe in Beyond The University: Why Liberal Education Matters, there is another tradition stretching back just as far questioning the "real world" relevance of these lofty ideals. Is it right to speak of "finding meaningful work" when available work might necessarily involve drudgery and worse? Is it right to emphasize citizenship and finding one's passion to students who first and foremost are desperate to find a job? Such questions, so much on our minds today, were especially urgent for freed African slaves and their descendants at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1903, Booker T. Washington voiced the following complaint about education for African-Americans:
There were young men educated in foreign tongues, but few in carpentry or in mechanical or architectural drawing. Many were trained in Latin, but few as engineers and blacksmiths. Too many were taken from the farm and educated, but educated in everything but farming.

Washington was a passionate advocate for an intensely practical education for ex-slaves and their descendants. He was born a slave on a small farm in Virginia and after the Civil War found work in the mines of West Virginia. After his education at the Hampton Institute, Washington was convinced that only by achieving economic success would blacks ever be recognized by white Americans as full members of society. Education should make people self-reliant, in Emerson's ideal sense, but for Washington self-reliance was first and foremost the ability to earn a decent living.

Washington's fame was as a teacher, institution builder (especially at the Tuskegee Institute), fundraiser, and spokesperson for the view that American blacks needed an intensely practical, vocational education. He appealed to ex-slaves and their descendants who were looking for a path out of poverty, and he appealed to whites who appreciated his decision not to demand much in the way of political or cultural change. Washington was an "accomodationist," willing to work within the structures for legal subordination of blacks in the South as long as he was able to promote black economic advancement. His message resonated with wealthy industrialists, high-toned educators, and even presidents. He was the most famous black man in America at the end of the 19th century.

Born shortly after the Civil War, W.E.B. Du Bois came into his own just as Washington was reaching the height of his fame. Du Bois was a prodigious intellectual with a slew of degrees--bachelors diplomas from Fisk and Harvard, eventually a Ph.D. also from Harvard (he was the first black person to receive one there) with continued graduate work in Berlin. He was a classics professor and a historian who wrote sociology (highly praised by Max Weber), poetry, plays, and fiction--to name just some of the genres in which he worked.

Washington was impressed by the American desire for material success and wanted to build progress for African Americans based on their ability to be successful in the economy. Du Bois, on the other hand, emphasized political and civic equality, along with the Jeffersonian notion of "education of youth according to ability." Education was at the core of the differences between the two. "The pushing of mere abstract knowledge into the head means little," Washington had written. "We want more than the mere performance of mental gymnastics. Our knowledge must be harnessed to the things of real life." Du Bois agreed, but he wanted to broaden what might count as "the things of real life" so that the pursuit of happiness wouldn't be reduced to the pursuit of dollars:
The function of the university is not simply to teach bread-winning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a center of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization.

Du Bois was acutely aware that the "fine adjustment" between life and knowledge was especially problematic in a society of oppressive racial inequality, a society that had denied many blacks the most rudimentary education in the years after emancipation. He was committed to the ideal that education was a path to freedom, but he also acknowledged the fact that different people need different kinds of educational opportunity:

How foolish to ask what is the best education for one or seven or sixty million souls! Shall we teach them trades, or train them in liberal arts? Neither and both: teach the workers to work and the thinkers to think; make carpenters of carpenters, and philosophers of philosophers, and fops of fools. Nor can we pause here. We are training not isolated men but a living group of men--nay, a group within a group. And the final product of our training must be neither a psychologist nor a brickmason, but a man.

Educational institutions should aim to stimulate hunger for knowledge -- not just contain it or channel it into a narrow path destined for a job market that will quickly change. Education should not teach the person to conform to a function, a repetition of slavery, but should provide people with a wider horizon of choices.

Du Bois repeatedly defended liberal education against those who saw it as impractical. In an address at the Hampton Institute in the beginning of the century, he lamented that "there is an insistence on the practical in a manner and tone that would make Socrates an idiot and Jesus Christ a crank." At one of the centers of industrial learning for blacks, Du Bois argued that its doctrine of education was fundamentally false because it was so seriously limited. What mattered in education was not so much the curriculum on campus but an understanding that the aim of education went far beyond the university. And here is where Du Bois issued his challenge:

The aim of the higher training of the college is the development of power, the training of a self whose balanced assertion will mean as much as possible for the great ends of civilization. The aim of technical training on the other hand is to enable the student to master the present methods of earning a living in some particular way . . . We must give our youth a training designed above all to make them men of power, of thought, of trained and cultivated taste; men who know whither civilization is tending and what it means.

The differences between Washington and Du Bois, and the tensions between the lofty and practical ideals for higher education, are instructive for us today. Sure, we must pay attention to what our graduates will do with their education, and we must give them the skills to translate what they learn in classrooms to their lives after graduation. But we shouldn't reduce our understanding of "their lives after graduation" to their very first job -- which should be the worst job they'll ever have. We must recommit ourselves instead to ensuring that a broad, liberal education is also pragmatic -- in Washington's words, "harnessed to the things in real life," to productive skills valued beyond the university. By doing so, we will also achieve what Du Bois championed: practical idealism based in lifelong learning.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Ferguson Is Rallying Cry For Protests Over Cop Killings

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 11:04am

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- They were killed in Wisconsin, New York and California. Some were shot on the street. One was killed in a Wal-Mart. Another died after being placed in a chokehold. All died at the hands of police and all have been united by one thing: the killing of Michael Brown.

Details may differ, circumstances of their deaths may remain unknown, but the outrage that erupted after the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of the unarmed, black 18-year-old by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the nation.

While there's been nothing approaching the violence seen in the St. Louis suburb, demonstrations fueled by a sense of injustice and buoyed with the help of social media have rolled across cities, regardless of whether the shootings took place last week or last month.

The spark, said Garrett Duncan, an associate professor of education and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, was how Ferguson police bungled the aftermath of Brown's killing, leading to rioting and looting in the face of a heavily armed police force and, later, the National Guard.

"When you leave an 18-year-old boy's body in the street for four hours in a Missouri summer, that's going to trigger something," Duncan said. "The reason it's politicized is we still don't know what's going on. The boy is buried and we still don't know the circumstances."

"Folks exploit these things for one thing or another," he said. "Whether to loot - or get their 15 minutes of fame."

In a culture where the 24/7 news cycle dissects events and often fills the information void with opinion, the topic of police shootings has become polarizing - from the White House to cable shows to Asia.

Brown's name and Ferguson have become synonymous with police killings. They have been splashed on signs by protesters, added to hashtags on Twitter and referred to on T-shirts that sport the refrain heard in the city: "Hands up! Don't shoot."

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city facing federal-ordered reforms over excess police force, protesters have begun invoking Brown's name at rallies connected to the city's string of police shootings.

David Correia, a critic of city police, said protesters invoked Brown's name because they believe minorities have been targeted in some excessive force cases. Around half of the 41 police shootings involved Hispanic suspects in a city where about half of the residents are Latino.

"Although it is true that many of the victims of police shootings here have been the homeless and those struggling with mental illness, that element of racialized police violence is there," Correia said.

Brown's name has been spoken loudly in Los Angeles where demonstrators peacefully marched, held vigils and confronted police leaders over the Aug. 11 killing of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old unarmed black man who family members said was mentally ill.

Police said he tackled an officer and reached for his gun. News media have reported that witnesses did not see any struggle.

With LA's long history of racial tensions between police and the black community - including the deadly violence that followed the acquittal of officers who beat Rodney King - the Los Angeles Police Department has taken a more proactive approach, releasing information and holding public forums.

"They've gone on a charm tour with the community," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. Still, he said, the same tensions that boiled over in Ferguson lie just beneath the surface in Los Angeles.

"While you didn't see the looting and mass demonstrations that you saw in Ferguson, the hostilities, distrust and mistrust between the African-American community and LAPD is still there," he said.

Brown's death has refocused attention on race in some killings or renewed interest in older cases.

The Aug. 5 shooting of a black man holding an air rifle in an Ohio Wal-Mart didn't become a racial issue until after Ferguson blew up with violence. The family of John Crawford III has since called on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a civil rights probe.

In Milwaukee, demonstrators have taken to the streets three weeks in a row to call for federal officials to investigate police brutality against minorities after Dontre Hamilton, a 31-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a white Milwaukee police officer four months ago.

In New York, the City Council will review police procedures after a black man suspected of illegally selling cigarettes on the street died after being placed in a chokehold by a white officer.

Gina Thayne's nephew, Dillon Taylor, 20, was fatally shot by Salt Lake City police within days of Brown's death. Protesters decried the use of lethal force in Taylor's shooting and others, including Brown's, as well as the outfitting of officers around the nation with military-style gear.

Thayne said she participated in the demonstrations, but was reluctant to make a connection between the two cases.

"I just want to find out the truth, no matter what it is," she said.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

France Arrests 16-Year-Old Girl Suspected Of Trying To Join Islamists Rebels In Syria

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 10:46am

PARIS, Aug 31 (Reuters) - A 16-year-old girl suspected of trying to reach Syria to join Islamist rebels has been arrested in the southeastern city of Nice, France's interior minister said on Sunday.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement that border police at Nice airport arrested the girl on Saturday, before her departure "for jihad".

A man around the age of 20 was later arrested on suspicion of being her recruiter and of purchasing her airline ticket to Turkey, in order to reach Syria.

Thousands of foreign fighters, many from Western Europe, have joined extremist Islamist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, according to U.S. and European intelligence estimates.

France has made clamping down on radicalized Islamist cells a priority, but has not been able to stem a wave of its citizens and others, some as young as 14, from leaving France to join the Syrian civil war.

It estimates that approximately 800 of its citizen have left to join Islamist groups in Syria.

Cazeneuve unveiled measures in April to try to prevent young French Muslims and others from becoming radicalized, including a hotline set up for parents to signal suspicious behavior in their children.

Authorities have received nearly 300 tips via the hotline, the statement said, 45 percent of which involved women or young girls.

The family of the girl arrested on Saturday was not aware of her intentions, Cazeneuve said.

France's Muslim community is the biggest in the European Union, at 5 million. (Reporting By Alexandria Sage; Editing by Stephen Powell)

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Islamist Militia Claims To Have 'Secured' U.S. Embassy Compound In Libya

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 10:33am

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — An Islamist-allied militia group says it has "secured" a U.S. Embassy compound in Libya's capital, more than a month after American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing fighting.

An Associated Press journalist walked through the compound Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, invited onlookers inside. Windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched.

A commander for the Dawn of Libya group said his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week.

A video posted online showed men playing in a pool at the compound. In a message on Twitter, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Safira Deborah said the video appeared to have been shot in at the embassy's residential annex.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez: It's Time To Arm Ukraine

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 10:17am

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said it's time for President Barack Obama's administration to arm Ukraine in the face of a Russian "invasion."

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" from Ukraine's capital Kiev, Menendez said Russian President Vladimir Putin has "sized up" the west and decided that it will not give Ukraine enough aid to defend itself.

NATO estimates there are 1,000 Russian troops in Ukraine, but Obama has avoided calling that an "invasion," perhaps worried about the obligations that might follow.

Menendez said what the Russians are up to is clearly an invasion, and argued that it's time to act.

"We have to give the Ukrainians the fighting chance to defend themselves," he said.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

Israel Claims To Shoot Down Drone From Syria

Huffington Post News - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 9:48am

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military said Sunday that it shot down a drone that entered Israeli-controlled airspace from neighboring Syria, heightening tensions in the volatile Golan Heights.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the aircraft apparently belonged to the Syrian military and accidentally crossed over into the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan. It was shot down with a Patriot missile. "We have repeatedly stated that we will respond to any breach of Israel's sovereignty and will continue to act to maintain safety and security," Lerner said.

The military said the incident occurred near Quneitra, a main crossing point between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan.

The Quneitra area has experienced heavy fighting in recent days between Syrian government troops and rebels.

Israel has avoided taking sides in the three-year civil war in Syria, though Israeli troops have responded to occasional mortar fire that has landed on the Israeli side of the Golan. Israel says some of the attacks have been accidental spillover, while others have been intentional. It has always held Syria responsible for any cross-border fire.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war from Syria and subsequently annexed it in a move that has never been internationally recognized.

Categories: Political News and Opinion