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“This Flag Comes Down Today!”: Reciting Prayers, Woman Takes Down Confederate Flag At South Carolina Capitol

A woman publicly took down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina state Capitol grounds early Saturday morning, climbing the pole at the Confederate memorial and removing that flag before she then submitted herself to be arrested. A new Confederate flag was then put back in its place.

The woman has been identified as Brittany “Bree” Newsome, an African-American resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, Columbia’s newspaper The State reports. Newsome has been detained on a vandalism offense — and in the hours since, a popular hashtag has emerged on Twitter, called “#FreeBree.”

Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) called this week for the Confederate flag to come down, in the wake of the massacre at a historic black church in Charleston by a confessed white supremacist. Haley’s statement has in turn kicked off a process of debates and votes in the state legislature, which is still ongoing. That flag has been located at a Confederate war memorial on the Capitol grounds since 2000 — a compromise measure after it had previously flown from the state Capitol Dome itself, placed there in 1962 as a gesture of state defiance against desegregation and the civil rights movement.

In a video posted on YouTube, showing Newsome clad in climbing gear, she grabbed the Confederate flag and cried out: “You come against me with hatred, and oppression and violence — I come against you in the name of God! This flag comes down today!”(

Newsome also recited Christian prayers as she descended the pole: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Who shall I fear?”

As she descended, the pole was surrounded by three police officers. She assured them in a calm and friendly tone of voice: “I’m gonna come, sir. I’m gonna comply. I promise you, I’m coming down. I’m prepared to be arrested.”

Of the three arresting officers, two were black and one white. The arrest appears to have gone smoothly, with Newsome and the officers cooperating to help her over the waist-high iron fence surrounding the flagpole before placing both her and a white male accomplice in handcuffs.

The State also reports:

At about 7:45 a.m., a maintenance worker and a state security officer, neither of whom would give their names or comment, raised a new banner after removing it from a plastic sheet. The two state employees who arrived on the State House grounds to put the flag back up were African-Americans.

A member of a group associated with Newsome express disappointment to the paper that the Confederate flag was put back up again: “All they had to do was keep it down.”


By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, June 27, 2015

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, South Carolina Legislature, White Supremacy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Lessons Of Charleston”: The Real Threat To America Is Right-Wing Terrorism

On Wednesday night, a man named Dylann Storm Roof allegedly entered a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, during a prayer meeting. There he reportedly sat quietly for almost an hour, before opening fire with a pistol and killing nine people. He has since been captured.

When a mass shooting happens, people naturally wonder about the motivation. What we know so far is that Roof made overtly racist remarks to his friends; boasted a Facebook profile picture that showed him wearing the flags of white supremacist African states; and allegedly told one of the victims, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” It seems a safe bet that racism was a likely motive in the Charleston shooting.

Until we know more about the gunman, it’s impossible to get more specific than that. What can be said, however, is that the attack is congruous with America’s history of white supremacy and right-wing extremism, a real domestic threat that far outstrips that of Islamist terrorism. If terror is the mortal threat it has long been trumped up to be, then we must conclude that our whole political and law enforcement apparatus has been pointed in the wrong direction.

First, this should be emphasized: Random murders of black civilians are not some historical aberration. On the contrary, they were the very foundation of the political system in the American South for something like 90 years. Segregation and Jim Crow did not just mean separate drinking fountains, but a system of racial subordination in which blacks were controlled through fear of psychotic violence. This shooting spree is the worst single incident in many years — but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Colfax Massacre. If he had done it in 1890, the Charleston gunman probably wouldn’t have even been arrested.

That ugly history has not been confronted in a remotely honest way. Right now, the flag of treason, chattel slavery, and apartheid flies over a Civil War memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. In 2014, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley defended this placement, noting that she had heard no complaints from local CEOs.

That brings me to right-wing militant activity, which also has not been confronted. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security finished a report on right-wing extremism, started during the Bush years. It argued that the election of the first black president, the Great Recession, and veterans having trouble adjusting to civilian life (Timothy McVeigh was a veteran of Desert Storm), and other factors might lead to a spate of terrorist attacks, similar to what happened in the 1990s. It was mainly a cautionary note, proposing little aside from increased watchfulness and naming no specific threats.

Nevertheless, the backlash from conservatives was immediate and fierce. Pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin spun it as indicting all veterans and conservatives. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano eventually withdrew the report, and apologized repeatedly.

Six years later, how have things turned out?

Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012. [The New York Times]

Those few Islamist plots — a great many of which were basically created wholesale by the FBI — are presented as justification for tremendous effort on the part of law enforcement and the military. They assassinate American Muslims overseas. They deluge American mosques with infiltrators and spies. They keep innocent people in Guantanamo Bay for year after year.

Since 9/11, right-wing terrorists have killed more than five times as many people as Islamist ones. Yet a short study warning to keep a watchful attitude towards the former is met with enraged hostility. It reveals both the small actual danger of Islamist terrorism, and the utterly ridiculous and hypocritical way in which anti-terrorism resources are allocated.

Still, if conservatives are confident in their ideas, and do not subscribe to the paranoid delusions of the sovereign citizen, white supremacist, or neo-Nazi movements, they should not feel threatened by close investigations of such people. But I’m not holding my breath.


By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, June 19, 2015

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Terrorism, Right Wing Extremisim, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Have Been Teaching Fiction Instead Of American History”: Unraveling The Threads Of Hatred, Sewn Into A Confederate Icon

This blighted boy with red hate in his eyes but otherwise colorless curdled milk skin — this boy is a failure. It takes more than a weak stick like him to start a race war.

Personally, I pray that the lives of nine Charleston, S.C., martyrs serve this purpose: Instead of hammering and whispering on racism, we finally reach a tone of agreement based in simple self-truth. Surely we all can shake on the idea that the murder of preachers, teachers and librarians in the name of color demands that we examine how such an old, infectious poison got into the veins of a newborn American boy. And that requires admitting that we have been teaching fiction instead of American history. We have romanticized the roots of hate with crinoline and celluloid.

If you went to Germany and saw a war memorial with a Nazi flag flying over it, what would you think of those people? You might think they were unrepentant. You might think they were in a lingering state of denial about their national atrocities. The Confederate battle flag is an American swastika, the relic of traitors and totalitarians, symbol of a brutal regime, not a republic. The Confederacy was treason in defense of a still deeper crime against humanity: slavery. If weaklings find racial hatred to be a romantic expression of American strength and purity, make no mistake that it begins by unwinding a red thread from that flag.

Yet it is easier for the governor of South Carolina to call for the execution of this milkweed boy than it is for her to call for the lowering of that banner. Why?

This lack of political will and failure of self-recognition is not hers alone. It has repeated itself, on a large scale and small, generation by generation for 150 years, a self-lying sentimental tide. “It seems inconceivable,” Stanley Turkel wrote in “Heroes of the American Reconstruction,” “that the losers of the bloodiest war in history were allowed to wrap their traitorous acts in the description of their so-called noble cause.” Yet in 1957, John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for “Profiles in Courage,” in which he distorted and maligned the character of Union Medal of Honor winner Adelbert Ames, chased from the Mississippi governor’s office during Reconstruction by White Line terrorists, while instead lauding L.Q.C. Lamar as the more heroic figure. Lamar drafted Mississippi’s ordinance of secession and raised the 19th Mississippi Infantry Regiment.

Maybe it wouldn’t have done any good for Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof, who we’re told repeated the ninth grade, but he and his classmates should have been required to read “The Bloody Shirt” by Stephen Budiansky, which describes in vivid detail how between 1867 and 1877 the defeated South was permitted to overthrow new state governments representing black citizens, killing more than 3,000 of them with terrorism. Roof should have been required to read “Redemption” by Nicholas Lemann, who documents how President Ulysses S. Grant effectively gave back everything he had won in the war when he lacked the will to enforce the 14th and 15th amendments with troops, instead abandoning Ames to the White Line terrorists.

All wars are romanticized by those who have never felt bullets fly through their coats. But there is something deeply pernicious in the continued attempts to soft-focus the causes of the Confederacy, its aftermath and its lingering effects. South Carolina’s part of the Declaration of Causes of Seceding States, also signed by Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia and Texas, stated that secession was the direct result of “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding states to the institution of slavery.”

We will have truthfully reckoned with our racial history when high school and college students quit going to Heritage Balls wearing butternut military tunics and sashes and understand that Jeff Davis and Bobby Lee should have spent the rest of their natural lives in work camps, breaking rocks with shovels, instead of on their verandas — and the fact that they didn’t was a profound miscarriage. And when they understand that the South was in fact deeply divided along class as well as racial lines. Enforced conscription and edicts such as the Twenty Negro Law allowed the wealthiest slaveowners to sit out the fight. Something else Roof should have been required to read is Mark A. Weitz’s book “More Damning than Slaughter,” which shows that dissension from within and the desertion of well over 103,000 disillusioned Confederate soldiers defeated the South as much as any battles.

In 1872, another much-maligned patriot, Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, introduced a resolution that would have forbidden placing the names of Civil War battles on regimental colors of the U.S. Army. Sumner felt that conflicts in which Americans killed Americans should not be romanticized or celebrated. He was shouted down and censured.

Maybe Dylann Roof’s alleged acts have killed the impulse to romanticize atrocity anymore. Maybe instead of provoking a race war, he has provoked the wish to clean out this brutal wound once and for all with the astringent of truth. We are all unutterably weary of bloody internal estrangements. Can we not agree to run up the same flagpole? And to lower those crossed and starred banners, the bloody shirts with their inverse reds and blues? Personally, I would like to burn them and bury the ashes in an unmarked grave, keeping just a few for the museums.


By: Sally Jenkins, Sports Columnist for The Post and Co-author with John Stauffer of “The State of Jones”; The Washington Post, June 20, 2015

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Charleston SC Shootings, Emanuel AME Church, Race War | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“If Not Now, When?”: Charleston Church Massacre Is Yet Another Wake-Up Call For Gun Control

This will be short. I am tired of politicians and pundits telling us after horrible gun tragedies that now is not the time to confront our “gun problem.”

Many of us remember when John F. Kennedy was murdered with a mail-order rifle; Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by an easily-bought Remington .30-06 rifle; and Robert F. Kennedy was killed with a cheap handgun. That was a half century ago.

We have watched as gun violence has continued to consume us as a nation. And yet, our leaders do not act; our culture does not change. The National Rifle Association and other groups, pardon the expression, have a gun to our heads.

When threats to our society confront us we act: Trans fats are banned because they have harmful health effects; smoking is prohibited on planes, in restaurants and in public places; air bags and seat belts are mandated because they save lives; billions are appropriated to combat terrorism, which is deemed a threat to our nation.

But where is the courage to embrace control of guns? Where are the common sense solutions that nearly every other civilized, developed nation has put in place? Why have we not responded to this threat, to this reality? If not now, when?

We can grieve and act at the same time. We can mourn and call for solutions to our gun problem, to our racial problem, all at the same time.

In 2013, the Congressional Research Service determined that there were 78 incidents of mass shootings over the past thirty years killing 547 people – incidents such as occurred at Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and now in Charleston.

That same year, Pew Research Center reported that 37 percent of American households have guns, and that there were between 270 and 310 million guns in the United States, nearly one for every man, woman and child.

We acted in 1968 to pass gun control legislation. We acted under President Bill Clinton. But not nearly enough time, effort or courage has been exhibited by our leaders or our citizens to confront this problem.

We are terrorized by our own love affair with guns. It is long past time to get over it. It is time to recognize that acts like the Charleston massacre should change attitudes and change laws. The longer we wait, the more people will die.


By: Peter Fenn, Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, June 19, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Emanuel AME Church, Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Insurgency By Any Other Name”: Republicans Only Believe In Democracy Insofar As It Achieves Their Desired Ends

In my very first post here at Political Animal, I described the possible threat from a Confederate insurgency. In his review of Charles Murray’s latest book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, Ian Millhiser basically describes it as an insurgency by another name.

Before he gets to the book, Millhiser reminds us of a couple of things. First of all, he points to the fact that it was not that long ago that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that democracy wasn’t working.

At the height of 2011’s debt ceiling crisis, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a candid explanation of why his party was willing to threaten permanent harm to the U.S. economy unless Congress agreed to change our founding document. “The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check,” McConnell alleged. “We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’ve tried elections. Nothing has worked.”…

Few politicians are willing to admit what McConnell admitted when he confessed that elections have not “worked” to bring about the policy Republicans tried to impose on the nation in 2011. Elected officials, after all, only hold their jobs at the sufferance of the voters, and a politician who openly admits that they only believe in democracy insofar as it achieves their desired ends gives the middle finger to those voters and to the very process that allows those voters to have a say in how they are governed.

Secondly, he reminds us that, even though an entire industry has risen to debunk Murray, he is still revered by powerful Republicans.

Dr. Murray’s pre-Bell Curve work shaped the welfare reforms enacted in the 1990s. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan cited Murray in 2014 to claim that there is a culture of laziness “in our inner cities in particular.” Last April, when Jeb Bush was asked what he liked to read, he replied “I like Charles Murray books to be honest with you, which means I’m a total nerd I guess.”

So when Murray speaks, powerful and influential men (and his acolytes are, almost invariably, men) listen, including men who shape our nation’s fiscal policy and men who could be president someday.

Millhiser then does a thorough job of explaining what Murray proposes in this book. It’s important to note that it’s title “By the People” is the exact opposite of what he recommends. Basically what Murray wants to see is an ultra-rich benefactor who would be willing to pay for a legal defense fund that would subvert the work of the federal government.

To impose these limits on society, Murray claims that his Madison Fund can essentially harass the government into compliance. The federal government, Murray claims, cannot enforce the entirety of federal law “without voluntary public compliance.” Federal resources are limited, and only a small fraction of these limited resources have been directed towards enforcement. Thus, Murray argues, by simply refusing to comply with the law and contesting every enforcement action in court, regulated entities can effectively drain the government’s resources and prevent it from engaging in meaningful enforcement.

These are not merely the ravings of a lunatic right-winger. I was immediately reminded of the fact that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has advised states to disregard the recent EPA rulings on coal plant emissions while various entities challenge them in court.

For a while now I have been suggesting that this form of Republicanism is best described as a beast in it’s final death throes. That beast is now a minority in this country and as it lashes out, one of the only remaining possibilities for survival is to subvert our democratic process.

I hope that by now you know that I am not one given to hyperbole and conspiracy theories. I don’t say all this to ramp up a fevered reaction. But it’s important to see what is happening here with clear eyes and name it for what it is…a call to insurgency.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 27, 2015

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Mitch Mc Connell, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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