March 4, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 118


Topics: Proposing a Democratic Party agenda for 2016; the conservative reaction to the new AP US History test. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: March 2nd, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– What should Democrats run on in 2016? We pitch some themes to mobilize voters who usually stay home.
– Why is there so much conservative controversy over the new AP US History test (or US history in general)?

Part 1 – Democratic agenda:
Part 1 – Democratic agenda – AFD 118
Part 2 – AP US History:
Part 2 – APUSH – AFD 118

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links
Segment 2

ThinkProgress: Oklahoma Committee Votes Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History
ThinkProgress: Oklahoma Bill Banning AP US History Would Make Students Study Ten Commandments, 3 Speeches By Reagan
Education Week: Republican National Committee Condemns New AP History Framework – Curriculum Matters
The Economist: The president’s patriotism: It’s complicated


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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

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Northern Ireland attracting more notice in UK elections

In a further sign that the typically marginal Northern Ireland members of the United Kingdom parliament might increasingly play a “coalition kingmaker” role after the breakdown of the three-party system in London, the UK Labour Party is relaxing its policy against competing in Northern Ireland constituencies.

That policy was originally adopted back when the party wanted to remain a neutral mediator in the Northern Ireland conflict over British/unionist or Irish/independence alignment (and forcing people to identify with a UK party based in Britain would inherently not be neutral). Now, an official satellite party (like Scottish Labour) will formally open in Northern Ireland, but with the extra wrinkle that it will also be a satellite of the Irish Labour Party, from neighboring Ireland.

The aim of this complex, multi-country fusion is probably eventually to help Labour in overall UK elections while still not demanding unionist allegiance from members. In the past, Labour’s general economic views have been represented in Westminster for Northern Ireland voters most closely by the tiny SDLP, but the SDLP was not part of Labour governments. Membership in UK Labour wasn’t even opened in Northern Ireland until 2004.

Map of UK general election results in Northern Ireland by constituency for 2005 and 2010 (via Wikipedia). NI Sinn Féin does not occupy its seats under current policy, due to opposition to the union's control of Northern Ireland.

Map of UK general election results in Northern Ireland by constituency for 2005 and 2010 (via Wikipedia). NI Sinn Féin does not occupy its seats under current policy, due to opposition to the union’s control of Northern Ireland.

UK Labour’s counterpart party from the Republic of Ireland (a completely independent nation-state, of course), Irish Labour, is a rather small party in the Oireachtas (Ireland’s parliament) but very often serves as a junior coalition partner and is currently actually the second largest by representation.

Study on Syria finds concrete link between drought, climate, the war

A new study found that prolonged drought conditions (directly associated with warming of the global climate) in Syria for several years preceding the war pushed over a million people to migrate from the northern countryside to cities in the 2007-2011 period, fostering substantially more unrest and instability than usual by the time the Arab Spring sparked protests and an uprising that became the Syrian civil war. While many factors caused the war, this seems to have exacerbated or accelerated it.

“There are various things going on, but you’re talking about 1.5 million people migrating from the rural north to the cities,” said climate scientist Richard Seager at Columbia, a co-author of the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It was a contributing factor to the social unravelling that occurred that eventually led to the civil war.”

These results are among some of the most definitive so far in proving not just a general environmental/resource stress factor in civil unrest but stress factors specifically connected to global warming.

The study in Syria is also not the first link identified between global warming-related droughts and the upheaval of the Arab Spring. Previously, drought conditions in Ukrainian and Russian export breadbaskets in the summer of 2010 — also thought to be a result of global warming — have been tied to skyrocketing wheat and bread prices in Egypt, which was a major contributing factor in the January 2011 revolution.

Pictured: Destroyed Syrian Army tanks, August 2012, after the Battle of Azaz. (Credit: Christiaan Triebert via Wikipedia)

Pictured: Destroyed Syrian Army tanks, August 2012, after the Battle of Azaz. (Credit: Christiaan Triebert via Wikipedia)

France still stiffing nuclear test victims

Johnny Magdaleno reported extensively on France’s failure to compensate involuntary civilian test subjects in a piece for Al Jazeera America headlined “Algerians suffering from French atomic legacy, 55 years after nuke tests”

If you thought U.S. nuclear tests were bad (and they were), the French nuclear tests make them look like a paragon of ethics by comparison. The U.S. did battlefield nuclear tests on soldiers near fake towns/farms in the desert and tests near island populations in the Pacific. The French just rounded up Algerians and tested nukes near existing villages. Many people weren’t even warned that there would be testing happening nearby and some went blind from the flash(es). 27,000-60,000 Algerians were affected by atmospheric and underground nuclear weapons tests, directly and over time from subsequent effects.

Then, after French military activities ended (shortly after Algeria’s independence from mainland France), the military lightly buried all the contaminated equipment (leaving it to unsuspecting local salvagers) and relocated tests to French Polynesia, much like U.S. tests in/near the Marshall Islands, with similarly devastating effects to islanders.

The United States has at least been making extensive compensation payouts to troops and civilians for decades, while France — as the article details — has barely paid out anything for anyone, to date, despite admitting to responsibility for injuring/harming tens of thousands of people.

Additionally, according to Wikipedia, the 1961 French testing in Algeria may have been responsible for the USSR — and in turn the United States — ending an informal moratorium on atmospheric testing, thus causing scores more nuclear weapons to be unleashed on the planet and escalating tensions ahead of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Lesotho holds special election to try to resolve coup crisis

Previously from Arsenal For Democracy:
“Possible coup attempt in progress in Lesotho” – 8/30/14
“Lesotho military appears to fracture after coup attempt” – 9/8/14
“South Africa making headway in Lesotho crisis talks” – 10/26/14

As part of South Africa’s mediation plan to resolve the crisis following a failed military coup in Lesotho last August and an earlier suspension of parliament, the people of Lesotho voted this weekend in a special election for a new parliament. Most of the same faction leaders in the crisis are running again, but with their various security forces on the sidelines. Although the election seems to be going smoothly, it’s not clear it can actually bring any additional stability to the country.

Justice Mahapela Lehohla, chairman of Lesotho’s Independent Electoral Commission, said: “The voting has been proceeding peacefully and according to plan.”

There are 23 politicians vying for the top post, with another coalition likely, according to analysts.

A final result may not emerge for days due to the remoteness of some communities voting.

If nobody gets a majority and the same people are returned to power and opposition leadership (or the same unstable coalitions are formed again), I have a hard time seeing how this moves the country forward. The fear and mutual recriminations within the country’s elite are likely to continue, particularly in such a small country where everyone in politics knows everyone else in politics and have long (often bitter) histories with each other.

Michael J. Jordan, who styles himself on Twitter as “the lone Western foreign correspondent” in Lesotho, has reported extensively on the crisis, the mediation, and the new elections. His latest report (which was also published in Foreign Policy magazine) does not paint an encouraging picture either:

With shared roots in the country’s first post-independence party, the factions are distinguished more by personality than politics, with little difference between their ideologies. But as one civil servant who requested anonymity said, “Whichever side doesn’t get to be a part of the next government, I’m afraid they will cause some troubles — I think they’ll fight.”
“Lesotho is in some ways a victim of its narrative — as the ‘first coalition government in southern Africa’ — because it was a very fragile, shaky edifice, driven by personal splits within the parties,” says John Aerni-Flessner, a Lesotho specialist and professor of African history at Michigan State University. “It was never based on ideological unity, but on politics as convenience. To see it disintegrate isn’t as surprising for Lesotho-watchers as it is for those who bought into the narrative.”

Ironically, the seeds of unrest were planted by the success of the 2012 elections. The upending of the old power structure created an opportunity for the new government to pursue corruption cases against members of the ancien régime, who for years had acted with impunity, accused of fixing contracts and taking kickbacks for everything from agriculture and infrastructure tenders to diamond and water projects. Soon after taking office, Thabane (himself a survivor of 50 years in southern Africa’s rough-and-tumble politics), launched his crusade, digging into the purported crimes of his political rivals.

While Thabane’s critics accused him of conducting a vengeful witch hunt — and others accused him of hypocrisy for his own checkered record — his campaign opened the door for the small handful of local anti-corruption lawyers contracted by the state’s Director of Public Prosecutions, to take on a handful of top officials who had abused their power during the 14-year rule of former Prime Minister Mosisili.

By late 2013, prominent business, political, and security elites named in these investigations soon found they were being made targets. As more were forced to hire lawyers to avoid prosecution, the political fight boiled into violence, culminating on Aug. 30 with an attempted coup.

Jordan suggests, as well, that South Africa didn’t really try to solve the underlying causes of the crisis, but rather just tried to end the surface-level breach of constitutionality and lack of law and order. Hence the big push for quick and early elections that will probably just leave Lesotho waiting for the next shoe to drop. There are also serious, credible complaints that the election wasn’t conducted in a fair or clean manner.

Map of Lesotho's location in southern Africa. (CIA World Factbook)

Map of Lesotho’s location in southern Africa. (CIA World Factbook)

Disgraced Mexico AG, having had “enough,” resigns

Mexico’s Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam, has finally resigned from office, nearly four months after he made international headlines by exasperatedly saying “Ya me cansé” (roughly “I’ve had enough” or “I’m tired of this”) to reporters asking him questions during a press conference over the disappearance and suspected brutal murders of 43 students protesting government corruption and cartel violence.

That one boneheaded utterance perfectly crystallized every reason why the people of Mexico had come to be so angry at the current federal government for their inaction on the epidemic violence, corruption, fear, and disappearances. The three words quickly become a protest slogan.

The remark also sharply focused attention on Attorney General Murillo Karam in particular, because it was a mystery as to how he had managed to skate through such a long political career with minimal heat from the cartels and had now risen to the highest crime-fighting office in the land but didn’t seem to be doing much crime-fighting. A lot of people started to wonder if he was secretly cooperating with one of the cartels, just like the local government officials who abducted the student demonstrators and handed them over to the cartels to be killed, burned, and dumped.

It seems unlikely that simply replacing him will make much of a dent in the problem. But it might at least improve the tone of the government’s approach to the violence.


Black Wall Street: We did it by ourselves and were punished.

When Black people and other People of Color speak out about the lack of representation for them in any medium there is usually a lot of pushback. Replies range from pointing to the one example of non-White representation they can find, to the more extreme and exclusionary “If you want to be represented, make it yourself!” The latter is an interesting piece of advice, but it’s entirely too simple.

Moreover, it ignores the fact that Black people have for many years have been doing just that, only to then be punished for it. Throughout history, in instances where Black people in the U.S. tried to make their own place in society, they were met with extreme opposition.

In Memphis TN in 1889, because the success of his grocery store was taking Black customers away from the competing White-owned grocery across the street, Thomas Moss was lynched.

In 1923, the town of Rosewood FL, a primarily Black town, was destroyed after a rumor was spread that the town was housing an escaped Black prisoner. In both cases, and in many other instances of lynchings or any attack on Black communities, the Black victims were attacked because White people were uncomfortable with the idea of Black Success — or even Black Self-Esteem and Assuredness.

The bombing of Black Wall Street (otherwise known as the Tulsa Race Riot) is a textbook example of the results of this discomfort. In the early 1900s, the city of Tulsa began to grow at a rapid pace. By 1921, just after the first world war, the city was already going through its second oil boom.

The Black neighborhood of Greenwood, although not oil-rich, was prospering in its own right. Segregation meant that the Black residents could not patronize most place outside of the area, but they could own businesses, homes, and more in Greenwood. They did so, establishing good businesses by the hundreds. The neighborhood flourished and became a center of Black affluence, earning it the nickname “Black Wall Street.”

Then, predictably, in May 1921, there was a crime reported. A young White woman was assaulted, and the assailant was said to be a young Black man. The young man under suspicion was arrested and, shortly after the rumors of the events spread, a mob of angry and armed white men decided to take matters into their own hands. They were met by a counter-mob, of Black men, and then the confrontation escalated when shooting broke out.

By the next morning, on June 1, Greenwood had been burned almost to the ground, and up to 300 people were killed. Residents even reported that planes had gone over the neighborhood and dropped crude bombs on businesses and residential buildings. Troops were deployed to try to restore order, but it was too late. The destruction left many of the residents homeless and living in tents for almost a year.

Postcard in the collection of McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa, showing the fires the day after the destruction of Black Wall Street. (via Wikimedia)

Postcard in the collection of McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa, showing the fires the day after the destruction of Black Wall Street. (via Wikimedia)

There is a lot of speculation on what the actual motivation behind the attack was. Although it was initially stated that it was because of the alleged (and later dismissed) attack of the young White woman, there was already high racial tension before then. White residents’ membership in The Ku Klux Klan had grown rapidly in the few years before the attack, and many of the White people in the Tulsa neighborhoods just outside of Greenwood were poor.

Seeing the neighborhood just next door doing so well probably made the already existing tension even worse. The initial accusation of an assault on a White woman by a Black man was a common trope in, and racist excuse for, lynchings or attacks on Black neighborhoods that were doing well economically in the South.

Whatever the motives behind the attack were, this is still a horrendous moment in U.S. history. Although the neighborhood was able to eventually rebuild itself over the next five years, it still goes to show that even when Black people are able to build their own communities, there is still the threat of people on the outside destroying everything.

Maybe instead of the emphasis just being on Black people “making their own” there could be an equal emphasis placed on others not destroying what we do make.

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