Wonk’s Saturday Reads: In Memory of MLK and Jeannette Rankin

"Martin Luther King, Jr." by Danny Daurko (click image to visit fineartamerica.com for a larger view)

Good morning, news junkies!

Today is January 15, 2011… Eighty-two years ago, in 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born. Thirty-nine years later, in 1968, the Jeannette Rankin Brigade gathered in DC to protest the Vietnam War (links go to two great photos). At the end of the march, the 88-year old Rankin–on behalf of a delegation of women that included Coretta Scott King–presented to then-House Speaker John McCormack a petition calling for an end to the war (link takes you to another amazing photo).

I dedicate my Saturday offerings this weekend to Dr. King, his family, congresswoman Rankin, and everyone who stood with them in the fight for nonviolence, a movement largely spurred on in the twentieth century by Gandhi and his strategy of nonviolent resistance — satyagraha.

And, with that, I’ll dive right into my current event picks, the first of which takes us to Gandhi’s homeland. From earlier in the week, at the NYT Opinionator: A Light in India,” in which David Bornstein discusses the exciting new ‘frugal innovation’ of turning rice husks into electricity that is “reliable, eco-friendly and affordable for families that can spend only $2 a month for power.”

Husk Power is bringing electricity AND jobs to poor villagers — what a story! Check it out.

The top story on memeorandum right now is the developments coming out of Tunisia with President Ben Ali fleeing amid protests. Mother Jones‘ Nick Bauman has a helpful primer up which brings the Wikileaks connection into focus: “What’s Happening in Tunisia Explained.” Joe Coscarelli at the VV‘s Runnin’ Scared blog also has a post up called Tunisia in Turmoil: Where to Learn the Most Quickly with some good links to CNN, Salon, and an AOL News piece by Theunis Bates.

Is a video game really grist for a reality show to "bring Pac Man to life"? Click on image to read the rest of the story.

Also, saw this story on Runnin’ Scared while I was there — it’s a bizarre headline that I heard yesterday as well:Pac Man to Get Reality Series… I’m a child of the ’80s. I grew up on Pac Man. I really don’t get it. The blogger at VV says suggests that this is the moment “‘reality tv’ jumped the shark.” Funny, I would have said that television jumped the shark with infotainment and reality tv!

And, while we’re on the subject of games–in national political news, looks like the RNC played musical chairs on Friday.CNN: RNC bounces Steele, taps Wisconsin GOP leader as new chairman.” The NYT has more info on the new head of the RNC, Reince Priebus.

Over at US News & World Report‘s Washington Whispers blog, Paul Bedard has the scoop on Ron Reagan’s upcoming book: “Reagan Son Claims Dad Had Alzheimer’s as President.”

I have a lot of ground to cover from this week, so stay tuned for more after the fold.

There are several headlines of interest on the AZ shooting circulating at the moment, I am just going to link to a few of them briefly:

In an Online Game Forum, Tucson Suspect Lashed Out (NYT); “Tucson Shooting Survivor: ‘It Looks Like Palin, Beck, Sharron Angle and the Rest Got Their First Target’ (Democracy Now interview with survivor Eric Fuller). From the Gray Lady op-ed section: Charles Blow: “The Tucson Witch Hunt” — Blow basically criticizes Dems for counterproductively turning what I call the Sarah Palin footnote (and it is valid and constructive to discuss as a footnote, imho) into the entire byline of the Tucson story (not so constructive); Bob Herbert: “Helpless in the Face of Madness — Herbert takes on the issue of gun control and asks, “Are we really helpless in the face of the astounding toll that guns take on this society?”

Susie Madrak started an interesting discussion on gun control at C&L yesterday —A Modest Proposal: What If We Required Mandatory Gun Insurance?” Be sure to take a look at the comments. Some of them are a hoot. Here’s a taste:Not a mandatory insurance fan.. I think we should all have equal access to free weapons. Why not socialize all violence?”

Speaking of ever-present violence, sad story from across the border this week. In an ugly twist of fate, the BBC reports that Mexican activist Susana Chavez, who herself led protests against the unsolved killings of hundreds of women in Juarez, has been identified as the victim of a gruesome murder.

Peter Daou also has a powerful read up right now called “On human violence.”

Next up, two MLK-related stories… first, an unsettling statement from the Obama Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeh Johnson, made at the Defense Department’s commemoration of King’s legacy on Thursday: “I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”

If Dr. King were alive today, I think he would be speaking out against the American war machine and advocating for America’s marginalized, who have been ill-served by unnecessary war. I think it is quite sad and revealing to see someone from the current Administration posit otherwise. D-Day at FDL has more on the context of Jeh Johnson’s remarks, but I have to say that Johnson’s acknowledgment of King’s belief in nonviolence only makes the above statement even more jarring.

Here’s the other MLK-related item, as reported by Veronica Roberts at allvoices.com — Snowday Makeup In Tennessee Causes Controversy: Should Schools Open On MLK Holiday?This story gets curiouser when you delve into it, because apparently the decision to open the schools on MLK Day came from Jimmie Garland, who is himself chairman of the local NAACP chapter.

Obama, Hillary, and Bill, at the Holbrooke memorial.

In other memorial news, at Politics Daily, WH correspondent Alex Wagner reports on Friday’s gathering at the Kennedy Center in honor of a foreign policy giant: “Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton Pay Tribute to Richard Holbrooke at Memorial.” Wagner quotes Obama as saying, “Richard possessed a hard-headed, clear-eyed realism about how the world works. He was not naïve. But he also believed that America has a unique responsibility in the course of human events.”

I doubt there was any mention of Holbrooke’s dying words about ending the war in Afghanistan–if there was, it was probably passed off as a joke between him and the medical staff again. I did catch most of Hillary’s remarks on C-SPAN, and they were very moving (video here). You could tell this is not just a brilliant statesman that many people in the room had lost but a friend and a fixture in their lives. RIP, Ambassador Holbrooke.

Here is a handy State Department link on Holbrooke’s passing, btw. Lots of links to official statements and tributes.

In Texas news, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) announced this Thursday on facebook that she will not be running for re-election in 2012. As one of Kay’s constituents, I’m not sure how to feel about that. From the WSJ‘s Washington Wire: “The 67-year-old Texan is a social moderate, fiscal conservative and the Senate Republicans’ longest-serving woman.” I’d rather have Hutchison as my Senator than a tea partier. On the other hand, if Democrat Bill White makes a go for Kay’s seat, this could get interesting.

Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling had this to say about Hutchison’s plans for retirement: “The fact that someone like Hutchison who has generally been among the more popular Senators in the country and has always won by wide margins has been at least partially pushed out by the Tea Party is indicative of a new reality for Republican Senators- pretty much no incumbent is safe if these folks decide to target them.”

Keeping my fingers crossed that some genuine liberals break through during the next primary cycle and that the tea party continues to expose its ideology for the callous, irresponsible social darwinism that it is underneath the small gov’t rhetoric. (Truly “small” government would stay out of our bedrooms and our uteruses.)

Oh, and hey, remember when the Obamaphiles used to scream bloody murder at any mention of DLC? Ezra Klein has something for the kiddos that they’ll have to read with their blinders on: “The White House brings in Bruce Reed.” This story dovetails right into a Roll Call headline that caught my eye on Monday: “Bitter Blue Dogs Ready to Cut Deals.”

Wise words on the subject from Glen Ford over at BAR: “Indeed, in order for Obama to reach his comfort zone, it was necessary that the Democrats be defeated. Only then could New Democrat Obama’s collaboration with the GOP in furtherance of corporate rule appear to be an act of statesmanship, a grand compromise (as the tax deal was pitched) in the interest of orderly government by the ‘grownups.'”

Briefly, a bit of comic relief — in”WTF, how did this person get elected” news, via Reason.com’s Hit & Run blog: Iowa Legislator Seeks to Criminalize Cocktails.” Hmm, makes me think of the RNC cocktails that the Boehner of our existence was having instead of attending the Tucson memorial.

In economic headlines, from Arvind Subramanian at the IIE — “Is China Already Number One? New GDP Estimates.” From the link: “When the presidents of China and the United States meet next week in Washington, neither will likely be aware that, measured in terms of purchasing power, it is Hu Jintao not Barack Obama who represents the world’s largest economy. Some time in 2010, the Chinese economy overtook that of the United States. My calculations of GDP for 2010—which of course are subject to the uncertainty associated with all such exercises—are based on new estimates of GDP that will soon be published by the Penn World Tables (PWT) under the guidance of Professor Alan Heston at the University of Pennsylvania.”

Staying on the wonkish track but turning to science news, from Tuesday’s Gray Lady: “ESP Report Sets Off Debate on Data Analysis.” In a nutshell, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology will be publishing a study this year purporting to prove the existence of extrasensory perception, and this report has sparked the age-old controversy in social science research of whether to measure the significance of results by classical significance testing or Bayesian inference. This story ties in to an earlier one about the scientific method and the decline effect — from last month in the New Yorker,The Truth Wears Off” (h/t to commenter Inky).

Both stories, with their focus on research, vaguely reminded me of an NYT story from last Saturday that I had wanted to touch on but didn’t have time to weave into my roundup then: “Journal Showcases Dying Art of the Research Paper.” William Fitzhugh, publisher of said journal , says he recently inquired to a NJ high school department head as to whether he assigned research papers: “‘Not anymore,’ Mr. Fitzhugh quoted the teacher as saying. ‘I have my kids do PowerPoint presentations.'”

What do you guys think? Is powerpoint an adequate substitute for a research paper? Personally, I had to write several research papers in my AP classes in high school and didn’t do powerpoint until college, and even then only as a supplement to present actual papers I had to write first. I can’t imagine doing one in lieu of the other.

Click book cover to go to the Amazon listing.

Two fascinating art reads, one from a couple of weeks ago in the NYT Sunday Book Review: “The Nonconformist,” and another from last weekend at the NYT Lens: “Adding Islam to a Latino Identity.” The former is a review of Phoebe Hoban’s biography of the artist Alice Neel, titled Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty, and the latter is an interview with freelance photographer Eirini Vourloumis featuring a slideshow of some of her work.

While I’m at it, if you missed C. Roger Denson’s spotlight on Shirin Neshat’s stunning photography and films over at Huffpo at the end of last month, you need to go see it now!

If you’re in need of a super silly pick-me-up, try the Craig Ferguson and Lauren Graham puppet show. It’s from a little over a year ago, but my sister recently pointed me to it, and it left me in stitches. (Here’s Part 2 of the puppet show).

I’ll close with some Hillary fluff from NYDN‘s Gatecrasher: Designer Diane Von Furstenberg looks toward Hillary Clinton for political inspiration…Diane Von Furstenberg surprised us at Tuesday’s YMA Geoffrey Beene National Awards Scholarship Dinner when we asked her which contemporary political figure inspires her. We half expected Mrs. Barry Diller to name Michelle Obama or Carla Bruni, but she shocked us by choosing Hillary Clinton. Will next month’s DVF fall 2011 collection be filled with boxy pantsuits in radioactive pastels? We wonder, especially after von Furstenberg told us at the Waldorf that our nation’s secretary of state is ‘the most amazing woman in the world.'”

Have a great MLK weekend, and as always–if you get a chance, please stop by in the comments and share what you’re reading and ruminating on this Saturday.

Originally published by Wonk the Vote at Let Them Listen. Crossposted at Sky Dancing and Taylor Marsh.

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4 Responses

  1. Another item on the AZ shooter — this has moved up the memeorandum foodchain and bumped the Tunisia story to second place:

    Loughner video with ‘genocide’ and ‘torture’ ramblings is released (LA Times)

  2. Mona Eltahawy puts out another must-read, via WaPo:

    Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution“.

    Quick teaser:

    Not once in my 43 years have I thought that I’d see an Arab leader toppled by his people. It is nothing short of poetic justice that it was neither Islamists nor invasion-in-the-name-of-democracy that sent the waters rushing onto Ben Ali’s ship but, rather, the youth of his country.

    Taylor Marsh pointed me to this great link on the difference between the Western media’s coverage of Tunisia and the coverage of Iran in 2009:

    http://www.realclearworld.com/blog/2011/01/coverage_of_tunisia.html

    It’s a shame that the press isn’t giving this the coverage it deserves. This story out of Tunisia is absolutely incredible. From the NYT:

    BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hours after President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia on Friday, a Lebanese broadcaster, in triumphant tones, ended her report on the first instance of an Arab leader to be overthrown in popular protests by quoting a famous Tunisian poet.

    “And the people wanted life,” she said, “and the chains were broken.”

  3. Reuters: “Tunisia’s Ben Ali finds refuge in Jeddah palace“:

    JEDDAH (Reuters) – Behind a high wall in a palace guarded by soldiers, Tunisia’s former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family have found a home in Saudi Arabia after being swept from power in Tunis.

    Following weeks of violent protest, Ben Ali, president for more than 23 years, fled to the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on Friday, arriving late at night after France turned him away.

    The Saudi government welcomed Ben Ali and his family but did not say how long they would stay in the Gulf Arab kingdom.

    Read more at the link.

  4. The interesting thing about Tunisia, is that it was People Power, protesting after having had enough oppression and it was communicated by the young Tunisians who got some cyber connectivity and began to review information. The power of knowledge can lead to freedom and I hope they achieve their goals of Freedom of Information, Freedom of the Press, Justice, a Free Society and are able to work in peace..

    Oh, and I love that their wasn’t any AK 47s or 30 pack rounds guns, just People Power.

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