January 26, 2015

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Among Repubicans, Huckabee leads in southern states such as AK,MD, NC, SC. Rand Paul leads in CO. Romney leads in IA, NH. Christie leads in NJ, NY. Walker leads in WI

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Moderation in temper is always a virtue. But moderation in principle is always a vice. -- Tom Paine

The day the buses ran empty

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 1966 – Monday January 24th, was the day that Washington thumbed it nose at 0. Roy Chalk. There is a long list of grievances against Mr. Chalk a Washingtonian could compile, but it is enough here to mention that Mr. Chalk is head of the D. C. Transit System and that Mr. Chalk, on the day in question, was in the midst of petitioning the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Com-mission for a fare increase from twenty-five cents to thirty cents.

On the morning of the 24th, about 7 a.m., my alarm went off, but I didn’t hear it. About twenty minutes to eight I awoke and remembered the promise I had made to myself to take part in the bus boycott that day. I don’t like demonstrating, probably for the same reason I don’t like ringing door-bells during a campaign, being on committees, or attending civic meetings. The theory of democracy. I concluded long ago, is fine: the practice of it is often a pain in the neck. Still, thirty cents is a lot of money to pay for a bus ride. It’s more than most public transit riders in the coun-

try pay. John Lindsay had only recently emerged from a bruising fight with New York transit workers; one of the major issues had been maintenance of a fifteen cent fare.

It seemed to many Washingtonians that Mr. Chalk and his company were making enough money already and that, in any event, thirty cents was too much to demand of thousands who rely upon bus transportation for the simple reason that there is nothing cheaper.

So I hauled myself out of bed, swallowed a cup of coffee, warmed up my ’54 Chrysler, and made my way to 6th and H Sts. NE, one of the assembly points established for volunteer drivers providing free car rides during the boycott. There a boycott organizer filled my car with three high school girls and a middle aged and rather fat lady.

A bus drove by and it was empty.

“They’re all empty,” the lady said. It was the first bus I had seen that morning and I wondered whether she was right.

As we drove west a long H. St., I asked one of the students, “Has there been a lot of talk about the boycott at your school?”

“Oh yeah, we’ve been hearing about it on us teenager’s favorite radio station.”

“WOL?” WOL is a popular Negro station.

“Yeah man, soul radio.” A bus passed us with two passengers in it.

“That’s why I’ve got my transistor,” the fat lady said, and she showed me the portable radio she grasped under a purse and a shopping bag with a green floral design on it.

The radio stations, particularly the Negro ones, were playing up the boycott. This was important since the daily papers had not been overly generous with their coverage.

If both the fat lady and her husband worked, the five cent proposed fare increase would cost them twenty cents a day. That’s the price of a loaf of bread. Over the course of the year it would probably cost them as much as they spent in groceries during a month. Nickels add up.

I let off my passengers and headed back to 6th V H. At Florida V New York, I counted five empty or near-empty buses. It wasn’t even nine o’clock in the morning and the boycott was working. With the type of metabolism I’ve got, it’s pretty damn hard for me to feel exhilarated about anything before nine o’clock in the morning. But when I saw those five empty buses it was different. Washington was no longer taking. it lying down. The people were being heard from. The city was coming alive. Today it was talking back to 0. Roy Chalk. Tomorrow: perhaps the Board of Trade and its opposition to home rule, or slum landlords and their rat-infested basement apartments.

The boycott had been organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, with the help of numerous civic action organizations includhg the Coalition of Conscience, a respectable group of mild hell-raisers under the impeccable leadership of a white Episcopal bishop and a Negro minister.

SNCC and the other groups charged that the fare hike was discriminatory since it would largely hurt Negro Washington. They scheduled the boy-

cott primarily against nine heavily travelled routes in the mostly Negro northeast section of town. But they also called for city-wide walkout against D. C. Transit.

Washington is a city of considerable apathy in local matters. It has been so long denied home rule that it tends not to believe that the voice of the people matters. It often accepts its fate with a passivity that would surprise more politically conscious communities. When demonstrations and protests are organized, the police are likely to outnumber the demonstrators.

SNCC proposed that people walk, hitch a ride, or stay home on the dav of the boycott. High school students were urged to organize walk-ins. Cars and volunteer drivers were sought. to pick up riders along the boycotted bus lines. Domestics were asked to tell their employers that they would have to be picked up.

SNCC set up a communications headquarters, procured radio equipped cars, and established car assembly points. Handbills were widely distributed, stuck under doors and beneath the windshield wipers of parked cars. The police stationed additional men along the boycott routes.

“It’s beautiful,” the man in the slightly frayed brown overcoat said after he told me he was headed for 17th St. NW. “It’s working and it’s beautiful. Hey, you see those two there? Let’s try and get them.” I pulled over to the right lane by a stop where two men stood.
“Hey man, why spend thirty cents? Get in,” my rider called to the pair.

“You headed down town?”

“Yeah, get in.”

“Great. It’s working, huh? Great!”

The boycott was like an informal game of touch football on a Saturday afternoon. Nobody was too good at the game but everyone who played seemed to enjoy it just the same.

Not everyone played. As I made my way back from downtown, I stopped at several bus stops. “Fight the fare increase: ride for free,” I’d call out.

Most of those waiting for the bus were white. Some pretended they didn’t hear me and looked the other way. Others stared as if I were a little crazy. Still others shook their head in that nervous, embarrassed way people do when they’re refusing to buy pencils from a crippled man on the street corner. During the day I carried 71 people. Only five of them were white. Three American University students. One man on his way to a job interview in a crummy section of town. And one lady who thought the boycott wasn’t going far enough.
I wondered about those who rejected my offer of a free ride. Perhaps they wanted a thirty cent fare. But I doubted that. It was more likely they were apprehensive about anything that upset the routine of life.

They were more prosperous than the riders I picked up on Benning Road; more successful than the cement-caked laborer who got in on Florida Ave

nue; and had more reason to be satisfied with life than the Negro maid I carried who commuted regularly halfway across town to a badly paid job.
But when someone offered them a free ride they were afraid: better not, he might rape me: what’s the gimmick, must be one of those agitators; hitching rides is dangerous . . .

I was glad to get back to Northeast Washington, where people were help-

ing each other out that Monday without apprehension. Life hadn’t done as well by them, not by a damn sight, but at least they were not afraid of its novelties. It’s too bad people get scared when they start to succeed.

At the delicatessen at 24th and Benning, one of the assembly points, a young, wavy-haired Negro who worked with SNCC greeted me. “Been waiting all morning for a car to work from here; said they were going to have one, but they didn’t send it.
Want a cup of coffee?” “Thanks.” “I’m tired, man. Been up all night down at the office. We got some threats. One bunch said they were go-

ing to bomb us, but they didn’t.’’ The SNCC worker went to the pay phone and tried to reach the SNCC office. He couldn’t. “Let’s go out to 34th and Benning.” We got into my car and continued east out to Benning. Lots of empty buses.

“We ,got to live together, man. You’re white and you can’t help it. I’m Negro and I can’t help it. But we still can get along. That’s the way I feel about it.” I agreed.

“You ever worked with SNCC before?”


“Well, I’ll tell you, man, you hear a lot of things. But they’re a good group. They stick together. You know like if you get in trouble you know they’re going to be in there with you. If you get threatened they’ll have peo-

ple around you all the time. They stick together. That’s good, man.”

People were sticking together well that Monday. SNCC estimated D. C. Transit lost 130,000 to 150,000 fares during the boycott. Only occasionally did the enthusiasm for the boycott threaten to get out of hand. One lady said she had heard that kids at her boy’s school were going to wait at the bus stops and beat up any of their schoolmates who got off D. C. Tran-

sit vehicles. But there were no reports of this actually happening. More probably, it was just talk. Like the lady in my car who asked a man we had picked up at a downtown bus stop,

“You weren’t waiting for a bus, were you?”

“No, I just figured someone would come along and pick me up.”

“That’s good. ’Cause if you were waiting for a bus I was going to bop you over the head.”

We all laughed and the man reassured her again.

“You know,” the lady in the back continued, “there were some of the girls at work who said they were going to ride the bus and they really made me mad. I thought I’d go get a big stick and stand at the bus stop and bop ’em one if they got on Mr. Chalk’s buses. Some people just don’t know how to cooperate. And you know you don’t have nothing in this world until you get people together . . . Hey lookit over there, let’s see if that guy’s going out northeast.”

He was. The car was full again and we drove to the northeast end of town together. None of us knew whether the boycott would have any effect on the fare increase. Two days later, however, the transit commission, in a unanimous decision, denied D. C. Transit the hike. The commission’s executive director drily told reporters that the boycott played no part in the decision. He was probably right. The commission worried about such things as cash dividends, investor’s equity, rate of return, depreciated value, company rate base. The boycotters vorried about a nickel more a ride. Fortunately, it all came out the same. But in case it hadn’t, the boycott organizers were preparing to renew the protest. It would have been interesting.

There is plenty more to protest in Washington. And the passivity of the city’s citizens can no longer be taken for granted.

Roy Chalk deserves at least some thanks for that.

After the bus boycott, I wrote a letter to its leader congratulating him and offering to help in the future. Not long after the leader, Marion S. Barry, and his colleague, L. D. Pratt, were sitting in my living room talking about how I could help in SNCC’s public relations. I readily agreed to advise on these matters. For the first time in my life I had joined a movement.

January 25, 2015

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UN slams Israel over destruction of Palestinian home

Al Jazeera America - The United Nations has slammed Israel’s destruction of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and unfair, after a series of demolitions this week left dozens of Palestinians—mostly children—homeless.

"In the past three days, 77 Palestinians, over half of them children, have been made homeless," the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement issued late Friday. "Some of the demolished structures were provided by the international community to support vulnerable families."

"Demolitions that result in forced evictions and displacement run counter to Israel's obligations under international law and create unnecessary suffering and tension. They must stop immediately," said OCHA.

US Olympic Committee wants to tell Boston what to say.. .Tip: That generally doesn't work

Mass Live - Mayor Marty Walsh has said he will not enforce an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee that not only bans all city employees from criticizing the Boston bid, but also orders them to actively promote it.

Despite his assurances, the ACLU of Massachusetts is concerned. Deputy legal director Sarah Wunsch said Walsh's promise might not be good enough and the agreement is "troubling" and "ridiculous."

"I actually am concerned about the kind of legal advice the mayor is getting," said Wunsch, adding that the city has "no right" to make such an agreement. Walsh signed the deal as part of the effort to secure Boston as the host city for the Summer Games in 2024.

The first problem with the "joinder agreement," according to Lawrence Walters, who practices First Amendment law in the Orlando area, is censorship, and the second is "compelled speech," both of which are grounds for federal lawsuits that the city must be prepared for.

An employer, even a government agency, can censor speech if it's "reasonably related to the employment relationship and if the speech will cause a negative impact on the employer," said Walters. Compelled speech is tough to fight if the speaker's job is to actively promote the city's political or business efforts.

The torture behind being a contestant on one of the reality shows

Maureen Callahan, NY Post - Two former contestants on “The Biggest Loser” revealed to The Post the torture, starvation and anguish that goes on behind the scenes of the popular reality show.

Since publication, a number of former contestants on other shows reached out to the Post to tell stories of utter devastation: physical, mental, financial. Some have since changed their names; some have had to change careers.

“The contracts they make you sign absolve the networks of any responsibility whatsoever — but what they don’t tell you is that they intend to inflict physical and emotional harm on you.”

New Yorker Seth Caro thought he was prepared — he knew people who’d done the show, and they’d warned him it could be manipulative. “But they also said, ‘If you ride the wave correctly, you will benefit.’”

As with many reality shows, semifinalists are locked up in hotel rooms, and their cellphones, laptops, wallets and IDs are confiscated. Caro says he met with three psychotherapists throughout the audition process. “It doesn’t feel like prison,” Caro says. “It still feels like opportunity.”

Once selected, Caro and the rest of the cast were flown to LA and boarded a double-decker bus. They rode on top while camera crews filmed, and while driving through an overpass, a standing crewmember’s camera flew into a female contestant’s face. “It blew the top of her forehead open,” Caro says.

They all drove to the nearest hospital, and the contestants were left to sit on top of the bus, in the sun, for four hours while the injured woman was treated. “She had 26 stitches, from her forehead to her nose,” Caro says. “She was in shock, afraid of disfigurement, but they wouldn’t let her call her family. She was given an ultimatum: She could either compete on the show or leave, but she would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and never sue — and she had to decide now.” She stayed.

“The first few days in, I’m thinking, ‘Is this fun, or is this a cruel experiment?’ ” Contestants, he says, average two hours of sleep a night, are fed at the whims of production, and can’t talk to each other during breaks in filming— and those breaks can last six hours.

Caro says he tried to leave several times, but was pressured by the show’s psychotherapists and producers to stay. His castmates, he says, “fell in love with their tormenters. It’s like Stockholm syndrome. Everyone’s saying, ‘Don’t rock the boat; it’s a great opportunity.’”

Finally, Caro broke down during a challenge: he asked for his phone and his wallet back so he could leave. “I was physically prevented from doing so,” he says. “This producer had three cameras shoved two feet from my face. I literally slumped down in the corner and started crying.”

Caro was put in a separate room, where he suffered a panic attack. EMTs were called, and it was all filmed. Caro demanded to leave. “They said, ‘Will you film one final challenge?’ I said no. ‘Will you go on camera and say your goodbyes?’ ‘No.’ Will you do a final on-camera interview?’ ‘No — I want to go home and never be on camera again.’ ”

After production put him in a van, Caro says he spotted a cameraman hiding in the trees. He jumped out of the van and was tackled by show security. “They took me back to the hotel — I was never arrested — and then they took me to a mental hospital, where I was put on a 5150 [involuntary psych hold] for three days. I was in my chef’s jacket and socks. I didn’t have my phone. No one from the network or the show came to see me.”

Caro called his father from a pay phone, who flew in from New York to collect his son. Today, Caro says, his life is ruined: He can’t get a job in the culinary industry. His father supports him financially. He’s in the process of changing his name so that potential employers, friends and significant others won’t be able to Google him. His season, like so many others, lives forever on the Internet.


Finland's cardboard box for babies

BBC - For 75 years, Finland's expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It's like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates.

It's a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it's designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they're from, an equal start in life.

The maternity package - a gift from the government - is available to all expectant mothers.

It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.

With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby's first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box's four cardboard walls. Mother and daughters look at a pack from 1947 A 1947 maternity pack

Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it's worth much more.

The tradition dates back to 1938. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families on low incomes, but that changed in 1949.

"Not only was it offered to all mothers-to-be but new legislation meant in order to get the grant, or maternity box, they had to visit a doctor or municipal pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy," says Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela - the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.

So the box provided mothers with what they needed to look after their baby, but it also helped steer pregnant women into the arms of the doctors and nurses of Finland's nascent welfare state.

Recovered history: How the feds went after Billie Holiday

Politico - From his first day in office in 1930, Harry Anslinger had a problem, and everybody knew it. He had just been appointed head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics—a tiny agency, buried in the gray bowels of the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.—and it seemed to be on the brink of being abolished. This was the old Department of Prohibition, but prohibition had been abolished and his men needed a new role, fast. As he looked over his new staff—just a few years before his pursuit of Billie Holiday began—he saw a sunken army who had spent fourteen years waging war on alcohol only to see alcohol win, and win big. These men were notoriously corrupt and crooked—but now Harry was supposed to whip them into a force capable of wiping drugs from the United States forever...

Jazz was the opposite of everything Harry Anslinger believed in. It is improvised, relaxed, free-form. It follows its own rhythm. Worst of all, it is a mongrel music made up of European, Caribbean and African echoes, all mating on American shores. To Anslinger, this was musical anarchy and evidence of a recurrence of the primitive impulses that lurk in black people, waiting to emerge. “It sounded,” his internal memos said, “like the jungles in the dead of night.” Another memo warned that “unbelievably ancient indecent rites of the East Indies are resurrected” in this black man’s music. The lives of the jazzmen, he said, “reek of filth.”

His agents reported back to him that “many among the jazzmen think they are playing magnificently when under the influence of marihuana but they are actually becoming hopelessly confused and playing horribly.”

The Bureau believed that marijuana slowed down your perception of time dramatically, and this was why jazz music sounded so freakish—the musicians were literally living at a different, inhuman rhythm. “Music hath charms,” their memos say, “but not this music.” Indeed, Anslinger took jazz as yet more proof that marijuana drives people insane. For example, the song “That Funny Reefer Man” contains the line “Any time he gets a notion, he can walk across the ocean.” Anslinger’s agents warned that’s exactly what drug users were like: “He does think that.”

Anslinger looked out over a scene filled with rebels like Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and Thelonious Monk, and—as the journalist Larry Sloman recorded—he longed to see them all behind bars. He wrote to all the agents he had sent to follow them and instructed: “Please prepare all cases in your jurisdiction involving musicians in violation of the marijuana laws. We will have a great national round-up arrest of all such persons on a single day. I will let you know what day.” His advice on drug raids to his men was always simple: “Shoot first.”

He reassured congressmen that his crackdown would affect not “the good musicians, but the jazz type.” But when Harry came for them, the jazz world would have one weapon that saved them: its absolute solidarity. Anslinger’s men could find almost no one among them who was willing to snitch, and whenever one of them was busted, they all chipped in to bail him out.

In the end, the Treasury Department told Anslinger he was wasting his time taking on a community that couldn’t be fractured, so he scaled down his focus until it settled like a laser on a single target—perhaps the greatest female jazz vocalist there ever was.

He wanted to bring the full thump of the federal government down upon that scourge of modern society, his Public Enemy #1: Billie Holiday.


The Second Confederacy: Huckabee thinks ISIS a bigger threat than climate change

The Hill - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) bemoaned the Obama administration’s foreign policy priorities in the final speech of the Iowa Freedom Summit .
The winner of the 2008 caucuses criticized President Obama’s indifference toward foreign threats throughout much of his speech, slamming his State of the Union address this week for singling out climate change as the greatest threat to the country.  “Not to diminish anything about the climate at all, but Mr. President, I believe most of us would think that a beheading is a far greater threat than a sunburn," he said,

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