Martin Luther King Jr.

This is the day that we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. And so we should remember what he said and what he stood for (from his letter from a Birmingham jail cell):

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

from one of his last speeches:

We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible.

Why do we do it this way? We do it this way because it is our experience that the nation doesn’t move around questions of genuine equality for the poor and for black people until it is confronted massively, dramatically in terms of direct action.

If you want to honor his memory, you could do worse than go to the Women’s March next Saturday in Washington or one of the hundreds of others around the country.

and more from the previous speech:

In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful. It was something like keeping a person in prison for a number of years and suddenly discovering that that person is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. And you just go up to him and say, “Now you are free,” but you don’t give him any bus fare to get to town. You don’t give him any money to get some clothes to put on his back or to get on his feet again in life.

Every court of jurisprudence would rise up against this, and yet this is the very thing that our nation did to the black man. It simply said, “You’re free,” and it left him there penniless, illiterate, not knowing what to do. And the irony of it all is that at the same time the nation failed to do anything for the black man, though an act of Congress was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest. Which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor.

But not only did it give the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every years not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.

We must come to see that the roots of racism are very deep in our country, and there must be something positive and massive in order to get rid of all the effects of racism and the tragedies of racial injustice.

You could also honor him by trying to help the immigrants (from his speech in Memphis):

One day a man came to Jesus and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base.  Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from midair and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho.  And he talked about a certain man who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side; they didn’t stop to help him. Finally, a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying this was the good man, this was the great man because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

Now, you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that one who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony. And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem, or down to Jericho, rather, to organize a Jericho Road Improvement Association.  That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho Road is a dangerous road.  I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho.  And as soon as we got on that road I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road.  It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about twelve hundred miles, or rather, twelve hundred feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about twenty-two feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road.  In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around.  Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking , and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” That’s the question before you tonight.

You could also help out a union:

Negroes in the United States read the history of labor and find it mirrors their own experience. We are confronted by powerful forces telling us to rely on the goodwill and understanding of those who profit by exploiting us. They deplore our discontent, they resent our will to organize, so that we may guarantee that humanity will prevail and equality will be exacted. They are shocked that action organizations, sit-ins, civil disobedience and protests are becoming our everyday tools, just as strikes, demonstrations and union organization became yours to insure that bargaining power genuinely existed on both sides of the table.

In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. It is supported by Southern segregationists who are trying to keep us from achieving our civil rights and our right of equal job opportunity. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.

What you shouldn’t do is denigrate one of the leaders in Civil Rights:

Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!

Nixon and the Vietnam War

This has been known for a while:

Richard M. Nixon always denied it: to David Frost, to historians and to Lyndon B. Johnson, who had the strongest suspicions and the most cause for outrage at his successor’s rumored treachery. To them all, Nixon insisted that he had not sabotaged Johnson’s 1968 peace initiative to bring the war in Vietnam to an early conclusion. “My God. I would never do anything to encourage” South Vietnam “not to come to the table,” Nixon told Johnson, in a conversation captured on the White House taping system.

Now we know Nixon lied. A newfound cache of notes left by H. R. Haldeman, his closest aide, shows that Nixon directed his campaign’s efforts to scuttle the peace talks, which he feared could give his opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, an edge in the 1968 election. On Oct. 22, 1968, he ordered Haldeman to “monkey wrench” the initiative.

So now it’s proven. And shades of President Obama and the Russian hacks:

Johnson’s closest aides urged him to unmask Nixon’s actions. But on a Nov. 4 conference call, they concluded that they could not go public because, among other factors, they lacked the “absolute proof,” as Defense Secretary Clark Clifford put it, of Nixon’s direct involvement.

Oh, for all those ‘Democrats are the real racists’:

They contain other gems, like Haldeman’s notations of a promise, made by Nixon to Southern Republicans, that he would retreat on civil rights and “lay off pro-Negro crap” if elected president.

National Park Service turns 100

Hey, here’s another example of government doing good things: the National Park Service turned 100 yesterday. Can you imagine what would have happened to all these amazing places if the government hadn’t become involved?

In celebration, all National Parks are free through Sunday August 28, if you click on the link you can find parks near you and there is a list of events here. You can also look here.  The concept of national parks started when Yellowstone became the first national park in the world in 1872. Go out and celebrate one of the great things the United States has done, make the most beautiful parts of the country accessible to all and something that will last for as long as our government lasts.

Trump vs. Clinton circa 1972

Let’s go back to 1972 to see what the candidates for President were doing.

First Hillary Clinton:

The future Mrs. Clinton, then a 24-year-old law student, was working for Marian Wright Edelman, the civil rights activist and prominent advocate for children. Mrs. Edelman had sent her to Alabama to help prove that the Nixon administration was not enforcing the legal ban on granting tax-exempt status to so-called segregation academies, the estimated 200 private academies that sprang up in the South to cater to white families after a 1969 Supreme Court decision forced public schools to integrate.

Her mission was simple: Establish whether the Dothan school was discriminating based on race.

In 1972, Mrs. Edelman’s Washington Research Project, which later became the Children’s Defense Fund, and other groups published a seminal report, “It’s Not Over in the South: School Desegregation in 43 Southern Cities 18 Years After Brown.” That year, an estimated 535,000 students attended private schools in the South, compared with 25,000 in 1966.

Mrs. Clinton was one of a handful of young researchers and interns who worked in Washington reviewing documents, looking into the schools that had been granted tax exemptions, and coordinating with activists and lawyers in the South who had been at the forefront of integration efforts.

After Mrs. Clinton spent several weeks studying the issue and establishing relationships in Atlanta and Alabama, she and other researchers were sent to different parts of the South to gather data and report firsthand on the private schools. They delivered their findings to Mrs. Edelman’s and other advocacy groups that were trying to pressure the Nixon administration.

Now Donald Trump:

When a black woman asked to rent an apartment in a Brooklyn complex managed by Donald Trump’s real estate company, she said she was told that nothing was available. A short time later, a white woman who made the same request was invited to choose between two available apartments.

The two would-be renters on that July 1972 day were actually undercover “testers” for a ­government-sanctioned investigation to determine whether Trump Management Inc. discriminated against minorities seeking housing at properties across Brooklyn and Queens.

Federal investigators also gathered evidence. Trump employees had secretly marked the applications of minorities with codes, such as “No. 9” and “C” for “colored,” according to government interview accounts filed in federal court. The employees allegedly directed blacks and Puerto Ricans away from buildings with mostly white tenants, and steered them toward properties that had many minorities, the government filings alleged.

That’s just a bit of a contrast.

For fun, it turns out that Woody Guthrie went to live in a complex owned by Donald’s father, Fred,  and was so disgusted by the bigotry that he wrote a song about it:

It turns out that Fred didn’t have a problem making money from corruption when building housing for veterans:

He explained, for example, that the land under his Beach Haven development was held by a trust devoted to his children. The buildings, however, were owned by half a dozen corporations. Every year these six entities paid rent to the trust—really his children—for the use of the land. Under the terms of the lease the Trump kids might receive $60,000 or more in pure profits every year for 98 more years. Then lease could be renewed for another 99 years.

Fred wasn’t convicted since he didn’t do anything explicitly illegal, it was just very scummy.

Racism strikes back

So, here’s Steve King:

“This whole business does get a little tired, Charlie,” King said. “I would ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

“Than white people?” MSNBC host Chris Hayes interjected.

“Than—than western civilization itself that’s rooted in western Europe, eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where christianity settled the world,” King said. “That’s all of western civilization.”

Gee, Steve, language almost definitely started in Africa, writing is thought to have originated in Sumer (that’s in the Middle East), and agriculture also is thought to have first originated in the Middle East. Those are the bases for all civilization and none originated in Europe, which is why civilization itself is thought to have first originated in the Middle East.

This is about as racist a comment as it gets.

Math and the American Heritage Education Foundation

Like everyone else, I get a lot of spam in my email boxes. Sometimes they can be fun. Case in point:

Dear Teachers and Citizens,
A unique Social Studies/U.S. History reference text book is now available!
The American Heritage Education Foundation (AHEF) announces a new resource/text that reveals the connection between America’s historical founding ideas and the Bible..
The Miracle of America: The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief
By Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation
This would be the group that wrote a history book for Houston strongly based on a work by W. Cleon Skousen, a far right crazy in the mold of the John Birch Society (for example, he believed Eisenhower was a Communist dupe).
It seems their mailing list is about as accurate as their history: they send an email about a high school history book to a college math teacher. Hey, maybe I’ll use it for a probability course?

Kent State

46 years ago today, four students were killed at Kent State University. In commemoration, here’s Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young:

I really wanted to put up the version by Devo, but I can’t seem to find one. The history of the band (two of the band members were at Kent State at the time and one knew two of those who were killed–it’s basically why the band was formed) makes the song a bit more powerful. Here’s a different song by them that gives a bit of the same feeling:

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