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What Frederick Douglass Revealed—and Omitted—in His Famous Autobiographies

December 2, 2018 in History

By David Blight

The former slave, whose brilliant prose and soaring oratory pricked the conscience of a nation, carefully shaped his own myth. Details like a white second wife didn’t exactly fit.

Frederick Douglass, the most influential black man in 19th-century America, wrote 1,200 pages of autobiography, one of the most impressive performances of memoir in the nation’s history. The three texts included Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (published in 1845); his long-form masterpiece My Bondage and My Freedom, (1855); and finally, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, revised in 1892). During his lifetime, the texts launched him to national prominence; since then, they have become essential texts of U.S. history.

In them, Douglass tells his extraordinary personal story—of the slave who endured and witnessed untold acts of brutality, then audaciously willed his own freedom. He describes the young slave who mastered the master’s language, and who saw to the core of the meaning of slavery, both for individuals and for the nation. And then he captures the multiple meanings of freedom—as idea and reality, of mind and body—as no one else ever did in America.

But as in so many autobiographies, there is also much Douglass holds back, details that don’t fit his carefully constructed narrative. He says little, for instance, of his complex family relationships—including his second marriage to a white woman—or his important female friends. Nor does he ever really reveal his true feelings about his improbable odyssey from a fugitive slave and radical outsider, a black man who gained fame for eloquently trumpeting the nation’s harshest truths, to a political insider warmly welcomed by Abraham Lincoln in the White House.

Black Leaders During Reconstruction (TV-PG; 2:25)

From orphaned slave to conscience of a nation

Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, on the Holme Hill Farm, in Talbot County, Maryland in February, 1818. He was the son of Harriet Bailey, who he saw for the last time in 1824, at age six. Douglass never knew the accurate identity of his father, although some evidence indicates that it was either his first owner, Aaron Anthony, or his second owner, Thomas Auld, to whom he was bequeathed on Anthony’s death. Douglass was, therefore, in the fullest sense an orphan long in search of father and mother figures as well as any semblance of a secure “home.” He lived 20 years as a …read more


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Government shutdown may be averted again after Trump blinks first and suggests he'll back another short-term spending bill

December 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Gwendolyn Smith, The New Civil Rights Movement

Trump is pushing for billions of dollars for his southern border wall.

Donald Trump, who has long threatened a government shutdown, appears to be backing down on the latest such crisis, saying he will back yet another short-term spending bill to halt the shuttering of important government services on the 7th.

“If they (Congress) come, which they have, to talk about an extension because of President Bush's passing, I would absolutely consider it and probably give it,” said Trump aboard Air Force One late Saturday.

The reason behind this latest extension is the death of former president George H. W. Bush, whose funeral is planned for next Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral. The funeral and accompanying day of mourning give lawmakers a reason to avoid, at least, temporarily, paralyzing the U.S. Government.

Trump is pushing for billions of dollars for his southern border wall, a move that is not supported by Democrats. The President is seeking 5 billion dollars for the effort.

Trump has threatened to shut down the government more than seven times during his two years in office, primarily over his wall proposal funding, but has somehow managed to walk away from it each time in favor of stop-gap spending bills that keep the lights on.

For example, as far back at the 29th of July, Trump took to Twitter to declare that he would “shut down” the United States government to get Democratic votes for his border plans. This, in spite of the Congress being predominately Republican.

I would be willing to “shut down” government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2018

Trump will be meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday regardless, to try to convince the pair to his budget demands.

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Utah man who reportedly shouted he was 'here to kill Mexicans' before brutal attack avoids hate crime charges

December 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Marissa Higgins, Daily Kos

According to Utah state laws, Alan Covington won’t be charged with a hate crime.

Alan Covington, 50, allegedly attacked a father and son, both of whom are Latino, at a tire shop in Salt Lake City, Utah. While doing so, he allegedly shouted, “I hate Mexicans” and ”I'm here to kill a Mexican.” But according to state laws, Covington won’t be charged with a hate crime. 

The victims were Jose Lopez, 51, and Luis Lopez, his 18-year-old-son. Covington allegedly struck them both with a metal pipe after entering the tire shop. 

According to a GoFundMe set up by the family, Luis became unconscious from the hit to his head. He had a three-hour surgery resulting in a titanium plate being put in the right side of his face, as it was “shattered” during the attack. His father survived with eight stitches in his arm and bruising on his back.

So why isn’t a hate crime charge being pursued? Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill explained the following to Buzzfeed News on Saturday:

”I as a state prosecutor cannot give them a measure of justice proportionate to the injury that they're feeling and that truly is an injustice…It basically leaves us without any kind of hate crime statutory framework. It's a farce is what it is.”

As explained at Buzzfeed, Utah’s statutes are tricky. Essentially, prosecutors can only “upgrade” the level of some misdemeanor charges where perpetrators allegedly targeted the victim because of their race or social group.

Covington has been charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault, in addition to other weapons and drug charges. But for obvious reasons, the family feels targeted and frustrated.

“It makes my blood boil,” Veronica Lopez, the victims’ sister, and daughter, respectively, told the Salt Lake Tribune.  “What do they want next? Do they want him to kill someone to see that he’s dangerous?”

Hate crimes have been on the rise since the 2016 presidential election, with Latinos, in particular, suffering from an increase in hate crimes. In some states, like California, hate crimes against Latinos increased by 50 percent in 2016 alone. Whether it’s the administration’s anti-immigrant (and vehemently anti-Mexican) …read more


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Here are the 10 best Christmas songs for atheists

December 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Greta Christina, AlterNet

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What do you do if you're an atheist who likes Christmas carols?

It's widely assumed that atheists, by definition, hate Christmas. And it's an assumption I'm baffled by. I like Christmas. Lots of atheists I know like Christmas. Heck, even Richard Dawkins likes Christmas. Plenty of atheists recognize the need for rituals that strengthen social bonds and mark the passing of the seasons. Especially when the season in question is dark and wet and freezing cold. Add in a culturally- sanctioned excuse to spend a month of Saturdays eating, drinking, flirting, and showing off our most festive shoes, and we're totally there. And we find our own ways to adapt/ create/ subvert the holiday traditions to our own godless ends.

Sure, most of us would like for our governments to not be sponsoring religious displays at the holidays. Or any other time. What with the whole “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” thing. And some of us do rather resent the cultural hegemony of one particular religious tradition being crammed down everybody's throat, in a grotesque, mutant mating of homogenized consumerism and saccharine piety. But it's not like all atheists are Grinchy McScrooges. Many of us are very fond of Christmas. Some atheists even like Christmas carols. I'm one of them.

It is, however, definitely the case that, since I've become an atheist activist, my pleasure in many Christmas carols has been somewhat diminished. It's harder for me to sing out lustily about angels and magic stars and the miracle of the virgin birth, without rolling my eyes just a little. And I do notice the more screwed-up content of many Christmas songs more than I used to: the guilty self-loathing, the <a target=_blank href="" target=" …read more


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MSNBC segment goes off the rails when Republican strategist interrupts female journalist to mansplain ‘binders full of women’

December 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Tom Boggioni, Raw Story

Evan Siegfried claimed Mitt Romney's much-maligned gaffe “was not a sexist, offensive, anti-woman comment.”

Republican strategist Evan Siegfried on Sunday interrupted journalist Maria Hinojosa to insist that “binders full of women,” a phrase used by Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign, was not sexist in his opinion.

A panel discussion on MSNBC’s Am Joy went off the rails on Sunday after Siegfried claimed that reporters who criticize President Donald Trump are “blurring the lines” between journalism and opinion.

Guest host Jonathan Capehart disagreed.

Capehart argued that “to say the president has lied” is part of the job of journalists.

“We have an administration that every single day has Sarah Sanders out there spewing lies,” Hinojosa noted as Siegfried talked over her. “The point is, as journalists, do we not have a responsibility not to just, all we can do is report? … There is a responsibility that is longstanding of American journalism.

“I think you’re missing the point,” Siegfried said, cutting off Hinojosa. “It’s important to go back and to look at how we got to this situation.”

“There are instances that conservatives have felt more and more slighted to the point that they say, ‘You know what? When you as a journalist speak, I’m not going to listen to you because I think you’re lying,'” he ranted. “I can think of one example is that with Mitt Romney and ‘binders full of women.’

“That was not a sexist, offensive, anti-woman comment,” Siegfried insisted. “That was a factual statement of, yes, we have binders full of women. And it was innocuous but built up. It’s more crying wolf.”

“The wolf is at the door, peeking through the windows at this point,” Capehart interjected.

“We have the history of the country in our hands,” Hinojosa reminded the panel. “And to consistently clarify, ‘This is a lie. It is a lie. Today he is lying.’ We have to say that. We cannot just set back and let this be some kind of normality.”

Siegfried interrupted Hinojosa again: “Fifteen percent of Americans in the past ten years have said they no longer trust the media.”

Watch the video below from MSNBC.


<Img align="left" …read more


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A prescription for stagnation and disaster: Here's why Democrats must resist the 'bipartisan' trap

December 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Paul Rosenberg, Salon

Democrats always have to compromise, no matter how large an electoral victory they may win.

With Democrats about to assume control of the House of Representatives, we're being treated to another round of wide-ranging calls for bipartisanship, both overtly and more insidiously in sub-rosa form. Democrats are supposed to act in a bipartisan manner — but without expecting either Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell to accept normal House oversight, much less to sit down with them and pass any serious bipartisan legislation. 

So, the real message to Democrats is that they must not articulate a clear, principled policy position of their own — even for the purpose of saving civilization as we know it — because that would only further “polarization” and “tribalization,” as argued in the deeply flawed “Hidden Tribes” report I wrote about recently. The default assumption here is an article of faith among the D.C. punditocracy: Serious policymaking progress requires bipartisan consensus. In practice, this means Democrats always have to compromise, no matter how large an electoral victory they may win.  

This assumption wildly misrepresents American history. The abolition of slavery wasn’t the product of bipartisan consensus, nor was anything else the Civil War-era Republicans did that fundamentally reshaped America: building the transcontinental railroad, establishing land grant colleges, imposing an income tax, creating fiat money. The same could be said of FDR’s New Deal, as well as Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Medicare, for example, passed with significant GOP support — mostly gained late in the process — but the final roll call vote showed it passing easily based on Democratic votes alone, with Republicans narrowly supporting it in the House, and opposing it in the Senate.

There are many possible reasons why this assumption is so strong, but one of them surely is because we’re living in the midst of a prolonged historical anomaly, which today’s pundits can no more recognize than a fish can recognize water. For the last 50 years, one-party trifectas — controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress — have been relatively infrequent, and never sustained for long: Jimmy Carter and …read more