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“A Real And Tangible Atrocity”: The Groveland Four, Justice Denied For 66 Years… And Counting

It was the road sign that made it real.

Josh Venkataraman was returning to the University of Florida, where he is a senior, from Orlando earlier this year when he saw it. “Groveland,” it said.

He had read what happened there in Gilbert King’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Devil in the Grove, for a class a few years before “and it touched me.” But seeing that sign did more; bringing home to him that Groveland was a real and tangible place where a real and tangible atrocity unfolded beginning in 1949. That, he says, was when he knew “I really wanted to get involved and change history, essentially.”

So Venkataraman, who, as a high-school student, won a Silver Knight, a service award given by The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, sought out Carol Greenlee, a 65-year-old consultant in Nashville. Her father, Charles Greenlee, was the last of the so-called “Groveland Four.” He died in 2012.

She admits she was skeptical of this 21-year-old kid and questioned him closely. But when Venkataraman asked for her support in mounting a petition drive on behalf of her father and the other men, she gave it. “I’m in the mode of trying to get my father exonerated,” she explains, “and I need all the help I can get.”

The two of them want one thing from you: your name on their petition. It’s at www.change.org/p/richard-scott-exonerate-the-groveland-four. To reiterate: They’re not asking Florida Gov. Rick Scott for a pardon. They want exoneration — recognition that these men were not just innocent of the crime for which they were charged, but that the “crime” itself never happened.

King details in his book how a young white woman named Norma Lee Padgett concocted a tale of gang rape by four black men. A doctor’s exam turned up no evidence of sexual assault. Neighbors who saw Padgett right after the alleged attack said she was neither disheveled nor panicked. They scoffed at the idea she was raped, but refused to testify for the defense. “Wouldn’t do to be called n—-r lover,” one said.

In Klan-infested postwar Florida, Padgett’s flimsy claim was enough for police to essentially start rounding up black men en masse: Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, Ernest Thomas, and Charles Greenlee. The men didn’t all know each other. No forensic evidence tied them to the “crime.” But again, this was Florida in 1949.

Before it was over, a white mob would rampage through an African-American community, one man would be killed trying to escape, three would be beaten and tortured, the sheriff would summarily execute one man, and the remaining two would be convicted.

Carol, born shortly after her father’s arrest, says she grew up feeling a “cloud” over the Greenlee name. When she was young, her mother used to take her to visit him weekly “until he couldn’t take it to see me anymore and he told my mother not to ever bring me back there again.” She didn’t see him again until he was paroled. She was 11 by then.

Here’s why this matters: Some people like to pretend the world sprang into existence yesterday. In an era of mass incarceration and epidemic police misbehavior, they earnestly wonder why African-Americans often don’t trust law enforcement. Here, then, is an instructive reminder, past tapping present on the shoulder — justice denied for 66 years and counting.

“You still have innocent people,” says Carol Greenlee, “innocent black men, every day being rejected, being dejected and being put in prison for things they have not done. So we’ve got to find a way to correct the injustice that a group of people have been experiencing for years. I’m 65 years old and I’m still looking for justice for my father, who was wrongfully imprisoned for something he didn’t do and really didn’t happen. Why don’t you correct that?”

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, September 28, 2015

September 29, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Racial Injustice, The Groveland Four | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why The GOP Is The True Party Of ‘Free Stuff'”: Bush’s Logrolling Directs Almost All The Benefits To People Who Don’t Need It

While other candidates are a lot crazier, Jeb Bush is clearly the most fumble-brained option in the presidential race. He can’t seem to string two words together without committing a grievous political faux pas. Whether it was his call for “phasing out” Medicare, or his scorn for women’s health issues, or his claim that Asians are the real anchor babies, he’s got a serious case of foot-in-mouth disease.

Now he’s out with a fresh clunker, this time about how Republicans, unlike Democrats, won’t try to lure black voters with “free stuff.” Primary voting is months away, and already Bush is flirting with language that may have lost Mitt Romney the election.

Bush’s argument — that Democrats cynically use welfare to buy black votes and thereby trap them in a cycle of dependency — is seriously mistaken, as well as deeply hypocritical. But a more fundamental mistake is the picture of government Bush envisions. Put simply, handing out “free stuff” of one sort or another is perhaps the most important job governments can do.

First, let’s tackle why black people vote Democratic. I think the answer can be illustrated best in two words: Strom Thurmond. He was a South Carolina Democrat when he broke the record for the longest Senate filibuster ever trying to stop the 1957 Civil Rights Act. But after a much more aggressive civil rights bill passed in 1964, he switched parties, eventually followed by most of the other Dixiecrats. As Philip Bump demonstrates, blacks unsurprisingly did the opposite at the same time, shifting very heavily towards the Democratic Party.

In other words, government benefits play, at best, an incidental role in black support for the Democrats. Republicans today are not segregationists, but they are the inheritors of a legacy of outright white supremacy. Thurmond was in the Senate until 2003. At his 100th birthday party in 2002, then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) praised Thurmond’s 1948 run for president under a third party apartheid ticket. (Lott later resigned as leader after his comments were made public.) Democrats have not been the finest stewards of black fortunes, but it’s pretty obvious that they’re better than the alternative.

That brings me to the hypocrisy. While Democrats support social benefits in a wishy-washy way, conservatives are absolutely obsessed with directing huge monetary benefits to their favored constituencies — namely, the rich.

George W. Bush’s tax cuts were violently skewed towards the wealthy — over 73 percent of the benefits went to the top income quintile, and fully 30 percent to 1 percenters alone. Jeb Bush aims to pull the same trick, proposing another corpulent set of tax breaks — only this time, over half of the benefits would accrue to the top 1 percent alone. You can’t win an election solely with the support of billionaires, of course, but Bush and his allies have also already raised over $120 million. Not, one suspects, a coincidence.

Overall, welfare benefits for the top income quintile — largely a result of conservative policymaking — cost roughly $355 billion yearly. Meanwhile, what passes for new policy in Republican circles — a child tax credit — is a government benefit for middle- and upper-class parents that carefully and deliberately excludes the poor.

But it would be a mistake to stop here. Good government types often rail against the blatant cronyism of Bush family politics — i.e., you give me hundreds of millions of dollars for my presidential campaign, and I’ll cut the capital gains tax so you can better loot your company — but making good policy isn’t as simple as being against patronage in general. As Francis Fukuyama points out in Political Order and Political Decay, Boss Tweed-style patronage politics can also be a first step towards an efficient, decent modern state. There is no bright line between handing out jobs to one’s ethnic community in return for votes, and constructing a modern bureaucracy that provides universal social benefits like clean air and water, low crime, a safety net, and so forth.

For what are governments good for, if not providing universal security and prosperity for as many citizens as possible? Even in a jalopy country like the U.S., the vast majority of state activity is dedicated towards this end, at least ostensibly. The military, to defend the nation; Social Security, to provide for the retired and disabled; Medicare, Medicaid, and ObamaCare, to provide universal access to health care; various safety net programs like food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit, to keep people from destitution — these together, plus interest on the national debt, account for 84 percent of direct federal spending. Many of these could be improved, or are badly misused, but that’s their bedrock ideological justification. Other nations with better versions of similar policies show that universal high-quality health care and an end to poverty are easily within our grasp.

So the problem with Bush’s logrolling — and Republican policy in general — is mainly that it directs almost all the benefits to people who don’t need it.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, September 28, 2015

September 29, 2015 Posted by | Black Voters, Economic Inequality, GOP, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Mode Of Deception”: Carly Fiorina Abuses The Truth Just Like A Teenage Conservative Hoaxer

Comparing female politicians to petulant 13-year-old boys is generally unwise, but in Carly Fiorina’s case it is apt.

CJ Pearson, a black conservative teenager from Georgia, became a sensation on the right this year for denouncing President Barack Obama in homemade YouTube videos, two of which have now been viewed over two million times each. Pearson isn’t the first precocious conservative to become a right-wing celebrity, but he is probably the first to parlay that fame into a campaign gig, specifically as Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s youth-outreach chairman.

Late last week, though, the charismatic kid was revealed as the perpetrator of a number of hoaxes, including a trumped up beef with Facebook for censoring his speech (he was 12 years old at the time, too young to run a Facebook account of his own), and engaging in a Twitter fight with a supposedly racist Obama supporter, who turned out to be Pearson’s own sockpuppet. Most recently, he staged evidence suggesting that Obama had blocked his Twitter account, and got busted by a reporter at Glenn Beck’s conservative website, The Blaze.

Rather than admit to the prank, Pearson has continued to insist that his word was good.

“[H]ere’s what the PR folks are saying: say you lied and apologize to avoid backlash,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “But, instead, I choose to stand by my word. While the article will be incriminating, all we have in politics is our word and I stand by it.”

Carly Fiorina’s mode of deception, and her response to being fact-checked, is nearly identical. The main difference, of course, is that Fiorina is a 61-year-old former corporate executive who’s a top contender to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, while Pearson is still going through puberty. The fact that so many conservatives are lining up to defend her is indicative of the degree to which conservatism has become a movement defined by affective rage and imagined victimization by mainstream forces. This toxic brew contributed to the party’s difficulty winning recent national elections. It is already poisoning the party’s campaign for the presidency in 2016.

Two weeks ago, during the second GOP primary debate, Fiorina delivered a crowd-pleasing condemnation of Planned Parenthood for, as she’d have it, delivering children alive to steal their organs and sell them for profit.

“I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these [Planned Parnthood] tapes,” she said. “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'”

If the footage she described existed, people might go to jail. But it doesn’t. In fact, basically every factual claim in those two sentences is untrue. Florina’s conservative defenders, and her super PAC, have produced footage unrelated to the Planned Parenthood sting depicting a life-like fetus—but not a verifiably aborted fetus, nor a fetus delivered during a procedure conducted in a Planned Parenthood facility. Nobody performing the procedure said, “we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,” either.

Fiorina’s fabricated description of the Planned Parenthood videos wasn’t issued in passing, but in a way that was calculated to dominate cable news highlight reels. She can’t admit to confusion, or to unintentionally blending unrelated footage into a single, imagined scene, because that would amount to telling her new supporters that the thing that attracted them to her wasn’t real.

So, like young CJ Pearson, she’s cooked up extremely weak post hoc defense, hoping that over time the truth and her twisted version of it will bleed together. “That scene absolutely does exist,” she said on Meet the Press this weekend, “and that voice saying what I said they were saying—’We’re gonna keep it alive to harvest its brain’—exists as well.” (It doesn’t.) But while Pearson’s reputation on the right is in free fall, many conservatives are twisting themselves into epistemological knots arguing that Fiorina’s right, even though she’s wrong. In the Los Angeles Times, the conservative writer Jonah Goldberg explained that while “the exact scene, exactly as Fiorina describes it, is not on the videos … anybody who has watched the videos would find Fiorina’s account pretty accurate.”

In a way, that the wagons are circling around Fiorina helps explain why Pearson thought his own fabrications might pay off. Recent history is replete with examples of conservatives racing to defend other conservatives caught peddling stories no less fictional than Pearson’s.

James O’Keefe, a propagandist and agent provocateur with a history of selectively editing his sting footage to make the opposite of reality seem true, is a right-wing celebrity. Republicans in Congress, including Pearson’s boss, Ted Cruz, want to shut down the government over videos that everyone knows have been doctored. In 2012, conservatives dedicated themselves to the fiction that Obama had refused to call an attack on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi an act of terrorism, when in fact he had called it terrorism the day after it happened, in the White House Rose Garden. When Mitt Romney repeated the myth at the second presidential debate, CNN moderator Candy Crowley famously embarrassed him by interjecting to set the record straight. To this day, conservatives detest Crowley, and insist that she didn’t give Romney a fair shake by telling the truth.

As more interviewers and moderators interject to debunk Fiorina’s story about a video segment that doesn’t exist, Fiorina’s reputation among conservatives isn’t suffering. Instead, the right’s journalist shit-list is growing longer.

Pearson can be forgiven for expecting the conservative media to rush to his aid, rather than orchestrate his demise. He’s coming of age in a movement that often treats reality as subordinate to perception; that will embrace obvious distortions of facts if doing so might move the needle of public opinion, and dissemble and whine, rather than admit error, when the media gets wise. If the stakes were higher—if Pearson were a 61-year-old presidential candidate instead of a 13-year-old kid—he would be climbing in the polls today.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor at The New Republic, September 28, 2015

September 29, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Conservatives, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP’s Delusions”: Politicians And Voters, Both Pretending Their Party Can Do Things It Can’t

These days, conservatives have to take their victories where they can find them. After all, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land, gay people are getting married, our noble job creators suffer under the tortuous and unjust burden of high marginal income tax rates, the government continues to provide food stamps to layabouts who think their children ought to eat, immigrants walk amongst us speaking strange and indecipherable tongues, and worst of all, that usurper Barack Obama strolls into the Oval Office every day like he’s the president or something.

In the face of all this horror, even small victories can be cause for celebration. So it was when Marco Rubio told attendees at the Values Voter Summit on Friday that Speaker of the House John Boehner had announced his resignation, and was met with whoops and cheers lasting a full 30 seconds. I couldn’t help wondering: What exactly do they think is going to happen now? Is there any way that Boehner’s departure makes it more likely that any of the things conservatives say they want will actually come to pass?

Today’s Republicans are hardly the first party to spend more time worrying about betrayal from their colleagues than from their opponents on the other side; it’s a dynamic nearly as old as politics itself. But they truly have created not just a politics of anger, but a politics utterly removed from any substance at all. Policy goals may be the nominal justification for all the anger, but in truth nobody bothers figuring out how they might be achieved. The performance is its own end.

Ted Cruz is in many ways the prototypical legislator for this Republican era. On the campaign trail, he tells audiences he has “a proven record” that qualifies him for the presidency. But what is that record? Since he got to Washington two and a half years ago, he has not authored any legislation that passed, or used his position on various committees to some important policy purpose. He’ll tell you a lot about “standing up” — against Obamacare, against increasing the debt ceiling, against Planned Parenthood. And what were the results of all that standing? Did Ted Cruz get the Affordable Care Act repealed, get taxes cut, get government restrained — did he get a single solitary thing that conservatives would look at and say, “Yes, that was one of our goals, and he helped make it happen”?

Of course not. Cruz is not a legislator, he’s a performer, a kind of right-wing version of the Code Pink activists who disrupt Capitol Hill hearings. He doesn’t accomplish anything, but he certainly does stand up. So it’s no accident that many House Republicans look to him as a mentor when they’re considering shutting down the government — another bit of political performance art that inevitably gains conservatives nothing, as long as you’re thinking about the goals they claim to espouse.

You might say it’s not his fault — after all, he’s a first-term senator in the party that doesn’t control the White House. The problem is that Cruz and others like him continually tell their constituents that none of that will matter as long as Republicans despise Obama with sufficient fervor and show sufficient immovability once they do all that “standing up.” And so their voters are inevitably disappointed.

You can blame ignorant voters who expect things they’ll never get, but the greatest responsibility lies with the politicians who keep telling them to expect it. At that same Values Voter Summit, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (Is there anyone who has been more diminished by running for president this year?) got up and told the crowd, “That’s one down and 434 to go,” adding, “Here’s what I say in response to Speaker Boehner stepping down: Mitch McConnell, it is now your turn.”

Yeah, if every member of Congress were ousted, that would…um…I don’t know, but to hell with them! The fact is that no one has done more to thwart Barack Obama over the last seven years than Mitch McConnell has, and there is no Republican in Washington more shrewd. Tea Partiers hate him not because he’s some kind of moderate compromiser, but because he’s realistic about what is and isn’t possible — and because he isn’t shy about expressing his dislike for ultra-conservative members of Congress who couldn’t strategize their way to passing a National Puppy and Kitten Appreciation Week.

Jindal isn’t the only one saying conservatives should turn their unquenchable rage on McConnell now that Boehner is out of the way. And there’s no doubt that the idea that Boehner and McConnell have been ineffectual is driving much of the success of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson, as they feed the childish and ignorant idea that an outsider president can swoop into Washington and make everything work through the force of his or her will. But to repeat the question I asked earlier, what do they think is going to happen now? If the next speaker of the House is conservative enough, will that mean Barack Obama will suddenly start signing all the ridiculous bills the House passes? Of course he won’t.

Intra-party conflict and tumult can leave a party stronger, as new ideas get tested and fresh approaches find their way to implementation. But it’s awfully hard to look at the GOP today and say that they are going to emerge from this period primed for great policy victories. They’ve got the anger thing down pat though.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, September 27, 2015

September 29, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“For The Far-Right, It’s One Leader Down, One To Go”: Emblematic Of The Larger Story About GOP Radicalization

There may be 54 Republicans in the Senate, but only one has publicly expressed support for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). That endorsement came from none other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Paul’s grudging home-state partner.

With this support in mind, it was curious to see Kentucky’s junior senator on Fox News this morning, confronted with a simple question: do you support McConnell’s position as majority leader? Three times the Fox host asked Rand Paul for an answer, and as TPM noted this morning, three times the senator dodged.

The furthest Paul was willing to go was this faint praise for his colleague: “Well, there is no election. There is no battle going on.” In other words, Paul supports McConnell insofar as he has no other choice right now.

But for many Capitol Hill conservatives, the fact that there is “no battle going on” is precisely the problem. Far-right members have helped force House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) out of Congress, and Politico reported late last week that many of these same lawmakers are equally eager – if not more so – to change Senate leaders, too.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a hardliner who frequently worked at odds with Boehner, was texting Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Friday morning to make a suggestion: “Next guy in the crosshairs is probably gonna be McConnell.” Lee, who chairs the conservative arm of McConnell’s GOP conference, texted back to doubt that conclusion.

But Salmon and many other House conservatives are unswayed.

“Mitch McConnell is infinitely worse as a leader than Boehner. He surrenders at the sight of battle every time,” Salmon said.

To the extent that reality matters, Mitch McConnell, perhaps more than any Republican in the nation, has been the embodiment of anti-Obama obstructionism. No GOP lawmaker of the Obama era has gone as far as McConnell to reject every White House proposal – regardless of merit, regardless of consequence, regardless of whether or not Republicans actually agreed with the administration.

The Kentucky senator has practically pioneered the art of mindless, knee-jerk obstructionism, relying on tactics with no precedent in the American tradition, undermining governance in ways that seemed impossible in the recent past.

But for far-right lawmakers, this record just isn’t good enough.

Boehner’s resignation “should be an absolute warning sign to McConnell,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) told Politico. He added that conservatives’ focus will now “invariably and should turn to McConnell in the Senate.”

Over the weekend, the chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana urged McConnell to resign.

The odds of McConnell stepping down anytime soon are roughly zero. Boehner faced growing pressure from a significant faction of his own caucus, but McConnell faces sporadic pressure from Ted Cruz – whom most Senate Republicans are generally inclined to ignore. The qualitative and quantitative differences between the two GOP leaders are striking: McConnell was elected unanimously by his members, for example, while Boehner was not.

The importance of these developments isn’t the practical threat McConnell faces. Rather, the fact that the anti-McConnell push exists at all is emblematic of the larger story about GOP radicalization. The rationale behind the far-right campaign against Boehner is that he failed to beat President Obama – as if that were a credible outcome – which put him at odds with Republican expectations. As the bulls eye shifts from one end of Capitol Hill to the other, McConnell faces the same foolish, misguided complaint, his record of confrontation with the White House notwithstanding.

The Majority Leader’s position is secure, at least for the foreseeable future, but as the GOP base continues to direct its ire at party leaders, it’ll be worth watching to see how many Senate Republicans dodge as clumsily as Rand Paul did this morning.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 28, 2015

September 29, 2015 Posted by | John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell, Right Wing Extremisim | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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