Archive for June 12th, 2008

Jindal_opener_4

Details: The first thing you notice about Bobby Jindal—everyone says this—is how damn young he looks. Stick him next to John McCain, however, and his appearance skews toward the pubescent. It’s a sun-blasted, sweat-stained late-April day in New Orleans, and Jindal—102 days into his term as the governor of Louisiana, and just 36 years into a life that’s looking increasingly politically charmed—is walking beside McCain down Caffin Avenue in the city’s blighted Lower Ninth Ward. The neighborhood’s few remaining residents—easily outnumbered by the hordes of National Guardsmen and political aides and the reporters sequestered in the flat beds of two National Guard trucks—are out on their porches, with arms folded, observing this odd promenade. McCain’s giant, gleaming bus (“the Straight,” as his aides call it) looks like an alien spacecraft idling beside the scruffy Caffin Avenue median.

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New York Times: Will Americans vote for a black president? If the notorious historian William Estabrook Chancellor was right, we already did. In the early 1920s, Chancellor helped assemble a controversial biographical portrait accusing President Warren Harding of covering up his family’s “colored” past. According to the family tree Chancellor created, Harding was actually the great-grandson of a black woman. Under the one-drop rule of American race relations, Chancellor claimed, the country had inadvertently elected its “first Negro president.”

In today’s presidential landscape, many Americans view the prospect of a black man in the Oval Office as a sign of progress — evidence of a “postracial” national consciousness. In the white-supremacist heyday of the 1920s (the Ku Klux Klan had a major revival during the Harding years), the taint of “Negro blood” was political death. The Harding forces hit back hard against Chancellor, driving him out of his job and destroying all but a handful of published copies of his book.

In the decades since, many biographers have dismissed the rumors of Harding’s mixed-race family as little more than a political scandal and Chancellor himself as a Democratic mudslinger and racist ideologue. But as with the long-denied and now all-but-proved allegations of Thomas Jefferson’s affair with his slave Sally Hemings, there is reason to question the denials. From the perspective of 2008, when interracial sex is seen as a historical fact of life instead of an abomination, the circumstantial case for Harding’s mixed-race ancestry is intriguing though not definitive.

To anyone who tracks it down today, Chancellor’s book comes across as a laughable partisan screed, an amalgam of bizarre racial theories, outlandish stereotypes and cheap political insults. But it also contains a remarkable trove of social knowledge — the kind of community gossip and oral tradition that rarely appears in official records but often provides clues to richer truths. When he toured Ohio in 1920, Chancellor claimed to find dozens of acquaintances and neighbors willing to swear that the Hardings had been considered black for generations. Among the persuaded, according to rumor, was Harding’s father-in-law, Amos Kling, one of the richest men in Harding’s adopted hometown of Marion. When Harding married his daughter, Florence, in 1891, Kling supposedly denounced her for polluting the family line.

There were rumors of other family scandals as well: the 1849 case in which “one David Butler killed Amos Smith” after Smith claimed that Butler’s wife, a Harding, was black; the suggestion that Harding’s father’s second wife divorced him because he was too much Negro “for her to endure.” In Chancellor’s book, such stories are relayed with a bitter, racist glee — ample reason not to accept them out of hand. But if none of this had any resemblance to the truth, how did all of these rumors get started?

In 1968, the Harding biographer Francis Russell offered an explanation: Harding’s great-great-grandfather Amos told his descendants that he once caught a man killing his neighbor’s apple trees and that the man started the rumor in retaliation — a rather weak story that Russell declined to endorse and that did not silence the mixed-blood rumors. Well into the 1930s, African-Americans claiming a family link continued to pop up in the press. (One decidedly dark-skinned Oliver Harding, supposedly the president’s great-uncle, appeared in Abbott’s Monthly, a black-owned Chicago magazine, in 1932.) As recently as 2005, a Michigan schoolteacher named Marsha Stewart issued her own claim to Harding ancestry. “While growing up,” she wrote, “we were never allowed to talk about the relationship to a U.S. president outside family gatherings because we were ‘colored’ and Warren was ‘passing.’ ”

Genetic testing and genealogical research may one day prove the truth or falsity of such claims. In the meantime, as the campaign season plunges us headlong into a “national conversation” about race, it’s worth thinking about why that truth has been so hard to come by for so long — about what makes it into our official history and what we choose to excise along the way.

Harding’s hometown, Marion, Ohio, provides a case in point. The town gained national fame in 1920 as the site of Harding’s “front-porch campaign”; for weeks, he delivered stump speeches from his well-tended home. Far less well known, as the historian Phillip Payne has noted, is what happened the year before, when a mob of armed white Marion residents drove more than 200 black families out of town, one of a wave of postwar race riots that served to segregate the industrialized north.

As he campaigns to become the nation’s first (openly) black president, Barack Obama likes to say that we’ve begun to put that divisive history behind us. The truth may be that we don’t yet know the half of it.

Politico: In a major shakeup at the Democratic National Committee — and a departure from tradition — large parts of the committee’s operations are relocating to Chicago to be fully integrated with the Obama campaign.

The DNC’s political department, housed in Washington, D.C., will be dramatically rebuilt, with staffers offered a choice of moving to Chicago, joining state operations, or staying in Washington, DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney said.

But the power will clearly be shifting to a centralized Chicago hub.

The DNC’s key role in coordinating political operations with state parties is expected to largely be taken over and overseen by Obama’s senior staff in Chicago, state party officials said.

AFP: Belgian-Brazilian brewing giant InBev wooed Anheuser-Busch on Thursday, vowing to respect its St. Louis heritage and not close any US breweries if it accepts a 46-billion-dollar (30-billion-euro) takeover bid.InBev, which already owns leading brands such as Stella Artois, Beck’s, Leffe and Brahma, offered 65 dollars a share for Anheuser-Busch on Wednesday, seeking to build an unrivalled global brewer.

Even though the St. Louis, Missouri-based company said it would “review the merits” of the takeover, InBev faces stiff opposition from local politicians and beer lovers, who were quick to attack the takeover.

The success of the takeover offer will ultimately be decided by Anheuser-Busch’s shareholders.

AFP: Belgian-Brazilian brewing giant InBev wooed Anheuser-Busch on Thursday, vowing to respect its St. Louis heritage and not close any US breweries if it accepts a 46-billion-dollar (30-billion-euro) takeover bid.InBev, which already owns leading brands such as Stella Artois, Beck’s, Leffe and Brahma, offered 65 dollars a share for Anheuser-Busch on Wednesday, seeking to build an unrivalled global brewer.

Even though the St. Louis, Missouri-based company said it would “review the merits” of the takeover, InBev faces stiff opposition from local politicians and beer lovers, who were quick to attack the takeover.

The success of the takeover offer will ultimately be decided by Anheuser-Busch’s shareholders.

AFP: Belgian-Brazilian brewing giant InBev wooed Anheuser-Busch on Thursday, vowing to respect its St. Louis heritage and not close any US breweries if it accepts a 46-billion-dollar (30-billion-euro) takeover bid.InBev, which already owns leading brands such as Stella Artois, Beck’s, Leffe and Brahma, offered 65 dollars a share for Anheuser-Busch on Wednesday, seeking to build an unrivalled global brewer.

Even though the St. Louis, Missouri-based company said it would “review the merits” of the takeover, InBev faces stiff opposition from local politicians and beer lovers, who were quick to attack the takeover.

The success of the takeover offer will ultimately be decided by Anheuser-Busch’s shareholders.

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CNN: Suspected terrorists and foreign fighters held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in federal court, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

A prefabricated court complex has been erected at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to try terrorism suspects.

The decision marks another legal blow to the Bush administration’s war on terrorism policies.

The 5-4 vote reflects the divide over how much legal autonomy the U.S. military should have to prosecute about 270 prisoners, some of whom have been held for more than six years without charges. Fourteen of them are alleged to be top al Qaeda figures.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system reconciled within the framework of the law.”

Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, was supported by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, generally considered the liberal contingent.

At issue was the rights of detainees to contest their imprisonment and challenge the rules set up to try them.

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CNN: Suspected terrorists and foreign fighters held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in federal court, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

A prefabricated court complex has been erected at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to try terrorism suspects.

The decision marks another legal blow to the Bush administration’s war on terrorism policies.

The 5-4 vote reflects the divide over how much legal autonomy the U.S. military should have to prosecute about 270 prisoners, some of whom have been held for more than six years without charges. Fourteen of them are alleged to be top al Qaeda figures.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system reconciled within the framework of the law.”

Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, was supported by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, generally considered the liberal contingent.

At issue was the rights of detainees to contest their imprisonment and challenge the rules set up to try them.

Advocate: Eighteen-year-old Katherine Patrick, daughter of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, came out as a lesbian during an interview she conducted with her father by her side. “I’ll always remember the first thing my dad did was, [he] wrapped me in a bear hug and said, ‘Well, we love you no matter what,’” Katherine Patrick told Bay Windows, an LGBT publication that covers New England.

Governor Patrick and First Lady Diane Patrick fully supported Katherine’s decision to come out publicly, despite acknowledging that if their daughter were straight, she would not have had to make a formal announcement about the matter. “But the world is such and my job is such that rather than have someone do a ‘gotcha,’ [story about Katherine’s sexuality] and our giving the misimpression that this wasn’t completely natural in our family, then we thought, ‘Alright, let’s just say it and move on,’” Gov. Patrick said.

Just a note to folks who love YouTube videos where people cover your favorite bands. Check out Boyce Avenue. They’re pretty fantastic.And nice to look at.[Now if I could just get this damned Coldplay song out of my head…]

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I can’t get this song out of my head.

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