This bill must die

Lately there’s a Russian under every rock if not every bed. We’ve also been seeing some new bipartisan frenzy over Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Senators keep heaping sanction after sanction on America’s many enemies, including Russia, and there is revived interest in the registration of foreign agents. “People should know if foreign governments, political parties or other foreign interests are trying to influence U.S. policy or public opinion,” says Iowa Republican and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley.

Indeed, people should know who is trying to influence U.S. policy and public opinion.

And they should also know who the worst offender is.

AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, is unique in bending U.S. policy and public opinion to a foreign government’s will. Try to imagine a ChinaPAC, a SaudiPAC, or a RusskyPAC operating with as much impunity, introducing whatever federal legislation it wants on a regular basis, sending hundreds of congressmen on junkets to Moscow every summer recess, establishing Russian trade delegations in every state, letting Russians decide how we interrogate terrorists, giving a major voice to Russia on our foreign policy in Eastern Europe. It’s shocking when our relationship with Israel is described like this, but It’s especially shocking that Israel gets away with it because neither political party objects.

AIPAC is only a slice of an Israel lobby that spans dozens of organizations, but it is the largest of the Israel attack dogs, and it has teeth. As FORTUNE magazine put it, “if a congressman from Kansas gets a call from an AIPAC lobbyist, he and his constituents may not think much about about Israeli affairs, but voting with the lobby is politically beneficial. Voting against them, meanwhile, gives that congressman a powerful enemy.” Plus, the money and junkets are great.

Unlike lobbyists who represent China, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia, the Ukraine or other foreign interests, AIPAC seems free to flaunt FARA, the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act. Indeed, this week, in the middle of discussions on Russia, Senator Lindsay Graham asked [rhetorically] whether AIPAC should be required to register: “They come up here in droves: lobbying Congress to do things, in their view good for the U.S.-Israel relationship. I know they have a lot of contacts in Israel. Should somebody like that be a foreign agent?”

If they’re not representing Israel, who does AIPAC really represent? Although it frequently claims to speak for American Jews, Jewish Voice for Peace rabbi Joseph Berman would beg to disagree: “they don’t speak for the Jewish community.” Poll after poll shows that American Jews are, first and foremost, Americans who believe in religious plurality, do not believe in ethno-religious government, and support diplomacy with Iran rather than reckless provocation. There are already plenty of lobbyists for a strong defense and muscular foreign policy so, once again, who does AIPAC really represent? In the words of Middle East expert Juan Cole, “the only logical possibility is that AIPAC is acting on behalf of the Likud government of Israel.”

In 2005 AIPAC Policy Director Steve Rosen and AIPAC Senior Iran Analyst Keith Weissman were fired after the FBI became suspicious the two had passed classified information to Israel. The stolen information was provided by Larry Franklin, who served a 12 year sentence for espionage. And though the two AIPAC employees were plainly operating in Israel’s behalf, because of the belief that American and Israeli interests are synonymous the prosecution claimed it could not prove that passing stolen information to Israel had actually harmed the United States.

AIPAC is involved with many linked organizations, including the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) — which operates out of the same building and sent almost all freshmen Congressmen to Israel in 2015 — and Islamophobic groups like Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran (CNFI). As the INTERCEPT reported, AIPAC’s political beneficiaries are bi-partisan. Four ostensibly “liberal” Democrats, for example, advise CNFI, which in turn finances some of Frank Gaffney‘s work. AIPAC has gotten Democrats to suppress the BDS movement at both legislative and executive levels. New York governor Andrew Cuomo wrote an executive memo to establish an anti-BDS blacklist. And Hillary Clinton’s AIPAC speech made it clear that her party would fight BDS for Israel in the halls of Congress. And AIPAC was grateful when Republican David Friedman became the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

But the only party AIPAC really cares about is the Likud.

For the moment, however, AIPAC continues to pretend that it represents a domestic constituency and not a foreign government. But, like ALEC, it has numerous legislators willing to sponsor its Israel-friendly bills. And the legislation just keeps on coming.

Back in March AIPAC sponsored Senate bill S.722, “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017,” designed to promote Israel’s foreign policy goals regarding Iran.

In May the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R.672, “Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017,” which makes the United States responsible for Israel’s interests in Europe. The bill accused European leaders who have voiced even tepid criticisms of Israel, including Angela Merkel, of anti-semitism.

More recently the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, also sponsored by AIPAC, appeared in both House and Senate flavors and has been roundly denounced by civil liberties and progressive organizations.

The “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” joins the federal Combating BDS Act of 2017 and last year’s Anti-Semitism Awareness Act in trying to outlaw the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in the United States. It also joins legislation filed by Israel’s lobbyists in 35 states, and enacted in 19, which outlaw the use of anti-Israel boycotts, a First Amendment right affirmed by the Supreme Court’s 1982 ruling in “NAACP vs. Claiborne Hardware” that tested the legality of peaceful advocacy of a politically-motivated boycott.

Despite its dubious constitutionality, the proposed law would make support of the BDS movement a felony, slapping $1 million dollar fines and imposing 20 year prison sentences on critics of Israel. It specifically goes after BDS supporters by suppressing political opposition to the Israeli government. The text of the bill reads: “The term ‘politically motivated’ means actions to impede or constrain commerce with Israel that are intended to coerce political action from or impose policy positions on Israel.”

And this is what the 46 Senate and 249 House co-sponsors really oppose — the political right of their constituents to pressure for change in Israel.

Because the “Israeli Anti-Boycott Act” is so vaguely-worded, it could be interpreted quite extremely. For example, suppose a consumer, before deciding to boycott an individual Israeli product, wanted to know if SodaStream machines, Naot shoes, or Ahava cosmetics are made in Israel proper or in the occupied West Bank. According to the ACLU, posting even an inquiry on social media could theoretically cost a citizen 20 years of freedom or $1 million for his exercise of free speech. defends the right to use boycotts, “regardless how you feel about BDS,” as a Free Speech issue. As well it is.

Another defect of the bill is that, while it was clearly written specifically for Israel’s benefit, it contains ambiguous language punishing anyone who boycotts any “country friendly to” the United States, or who joins, supports, or echoes support for a foreign boycott of that country. This could also have unintended consequences because the United States has many dubious friends — including the Saudi dictatorship, Egypt’s dictator, Philippine dictator Duterte, Pakistan, Afghanistan’s kleptocracy, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Honduras, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Djibouti, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and many others.

“Friends” of the United States also include several new European members of NATO that are in the process of shedding their democracies, including Poland and Hungary. And Thailand, a SEATO member, is a government currently under dictatorship. No citizen should feel safe criticizing a repressive foreign regime with a toxic combination of vague, anti-democratic legislation and our present authoritarian president.

Brand Israel has successfully sold itself as the “only Democracy in the Middle East.” Yet the government’s public relations campaign rings as hollow as anything to come out of the Trump administration. Israel has much in common with South Africa’s Apartheid regime in maintaining a cruel, repressive occupation over a people denied their civil rights. And Israel just celebrated its fiftieth year of occupation. As Israeli historian Ilan Pappe puts it, Israel is not a democracy, nor with an occupation could it ever be. “What we must challenge here, therefore, is not only Israel’s claim to be maintaining an enlightened occupation but also its pretense to being a democracy. Such behavior towards millions of people under its rule gives the lie to such political chicanery.”

Israel is no longer recognizable as the spunky little nation of friendly kibbutzniks. Over the years it has transformed into an extreme right-wing settler state and has instituted a series of anti-democratic laws of its own. Israel has cracked down on domestic human rights advocates like B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence. Like our own president, Israel treats its own press as enemies. Journalism is frequently censored in Israel and, like Saudi Arabia, the government is now trying to shut down the Jerusalem office of Al Jazeera. Despite wide support for so-called “shared values,” the more Americans learn about Israel the more its reputation in the United States suffers. Shutting down the BDS movement is not a shared value but a desperate attempt to shut down criticism within a nation that is Israel’s most useful enabler.

A few weeks ago, on a tour of Eastern Europe, Israeli prime minister Netanyahu was caught lecturing leaders of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech republic — xenophobic nations that oppose resettlement of refugees — that Israel was a bulwark in the defense of “Judeo-Christian” values against Muslim hordes and that European concern for Palestinians was “crazy.” Netanyahu sounded precisely like American white supremacist Richard Spencer and an awful lot like Donald Trump in Poland last week. “Don’t undermine that one European, Western country that defends European values and European interests and prevents another mass migration to Europe,” Netanyahu told his fellow right-wing Islamophobes.

BDS activists say that a boycott is a legal, peaceful way to keep pressure on Israel so long as its Palestinian occupation continues and land thefts persist. Only a few days ago 100 armed settlers invaded the home of the Abu Rajab family in Hebron and forcibly ejected them into the street. Speaking for the government, Israel’s Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel, defended the home invasion: “The entry into the home is another step in strengthening the natural connection of the Jewish people to its land. In the last few days in which Jerusalem has been under incessant incitement, I am glad that the people of Israel continue to establish themselves in the City of the Patriarchs.” Another government minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, threatened Palestinians with a “third Nakba” (more ethnic cleansing).

These were voices of the government speaking and, curiously, Ariel used the word incitement, which is frequently deployed when talking about BDS or making any appeal for Palestinian rights.

Sponsors of the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” should have known a backlash was coming. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland says now that his bill was misinterpreted by the ACLU. But the ACLU’s David Cole and Faiz Shakir stood by their reading in a Washington Post editorial:

“Whether one approves or disapproves of the BDS movement itself, people should have a right to make up their own minds about it. Americans engage in boycotts every day when they decide not to buy from companies whose practices they oppose. Students have boycotted companies that sold clothing manufactured in sweatshops abroad. Environmentalists have boycotted Nestlé for its deforestation practices. By using their power in the marketplace, consumers can act collectively to express their political points of view. There is nothing illegal about such collective action; indeed, it is constitutionally protected.”

Cardin has since offered to tinker with the bill’s wording. But regardless of how it is phrased or re-phrased, the bill ultimately has only one purpose — to make political action by Americans illegal if it offends Israel.

This practically defines the phrase “un-American.”

Voters must let Senate co-sponsors and House co-sponsors of this bill know in no uncertain terms that this bill must die. Here in Massachusetts that includes Reps. Richard Neal and Joe Kennedy who once again sullies the family name.

In addition, Congress must ensure that the AIPAC lobbyists at 251 Massachusetts Avenue in Washington D.C. all follow what their colleagues Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Monica Farley, John Podesta, and thousands of others have been forced to do — register with the Justice Department under the 1938 FARA Act as agents of a foreign country.


A Better Deal?

The newly-announced Democratic strategy for 2018 will be neither good for progressives nor for centrist Democrats. A terminally ill party has chosen to forego a direction that might save it. It has chosen a strategy that justifiably skeptical voters will reject in the midterms, one sure to alienate progressives and Republicans alike, in the earnest conviction that walking straight down the middle of the road at midnight is the safest way to move forward. The new strategy also demonstrates that a marriage between party centrists and progressives is untenable.

Yesterday Senate minority leader Charles Schumer and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi stood in the sun in rural Virginia and announced the Democratic Party’s “Better Deal” for Americans. Their message was completely economic: “First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.”

The Democratic campaign was crafted by Madison Avenue but symbolically launched in Berryville, Virginia, population 4,185, 85% white, a Southern town where Hillary Clinton led in the 2016 election. The slogan actually reads: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future” but GOP hecklers noted similarities with the Papa John’s slogan “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” and brought their own pizza boxes ridiculing the Democrats. THEWEEK echoed skepticism of the campaign’s ham-handedness: “Congrats on getting a new slogan, Democrats. It might just be dumb enough to work.”

The Democrats’ new strategy seems to embrace the ideas of Clinton strategists Mark Penn and Andrew Stein, whose piece in the July 6th New York Times advised “Back to the Center, Democrats.” POLITICO noted that the new strategy “sidesteps” social issues, appearing to further reject so-called “identity politics,” a direction recommended to the DNC in a November 2016 op-ed in the New York Times by Mark Lilla, a Libertarian. Furthermore, the DNC now seems to be chasing rural white voters, a strategy Amanda Marcotte sees as doomed.

But the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune saw the launch as a smashing success, calming a “restive left” in the party’s ranks. David Atkins at Washington Monthly sounded a “mission accomplished” note by declaring that the party had learned its lessons and now the “healing” could begin. John Stoehr saw the party learning how to be “populists” again. McClatchy News claimed the announcement made progressives delirious with joy at the “left-leaning” agenda. Centrists, wrote the friendly pundits, had moved as far to the left as possible, and now love was in the air.

But when one parses the new economic strategy, it reads exactly like the old economic strategy: economic and wage adjustments, public-private partnerships, and training for the New Economy du jour. But, this time, with tax credits for employers doing the training. The New Republic argues that the DNC emphasis on worker retraining will resonate as poorly with those like the Carrier worker in Elkhart whom Obama lectured during a town hall last June. CUNY Political Scientist Corey Robin points out that public-private worker training schemes are rarely successes and observes that, if this is the best the DNC can come up with, it must have a death wish:

“It’s true that Schumer offers other proposals, including a $15 minimum wage, but for anyone with a memory, the devotion of one sentence, much less a paragraph, of precious column space to this synecdoche of the bipartisan political economy of the last four decades—well, it’s enough to make you think this is a party that wants to die but can’t pull the plug.”

Liberal WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson sees the new Democratic strategy as timid and uninspiring. “I’m still waiting to hear the “bold solutions” that Democrats promise. I can think of one possibility: Why not propose some version of truly universal single-payer health care?”

Writing on Bill Moyers & Company, UC Berkeley law professor Ian Haney Lopez wrote that the new Democratic strategy is everything that’s wrong with the party: Wall Street connections; an over-emphasis on marketing; a party turning its back on minorities by focusing now on whites; and a “boring party with limited ambitions.”

A list of twenty organizations including Our Revolution, Democracy for America, and Progressive Democrats of America wants Democrats to support seven pieces of progressive legislation. It’s been a remarkable litmus test for the party’s willingness to actually move in a progressive direction. Not surprisingly, Democrats have rejected the progressive agenda. Forget the Blue Dogs and Red State Democrats for a moment and look at the Massachusetts Congressional delegation.

Not one in the entire delegation supports the Massachusetts Democratic platform’s call for free college education. Only two are willing to tax investment income. Only two are willing to get rid of private prisons. Only three support healthcare as a human need and not a profit center. Only three support automatic voter registration (Democratic Secretary of State William F. Galvin is even appealing a State Judicial Court ruling that bars the state from forbidding people from voting unless they registered 20 days prior to an election).

It seems clear where all this is headed. Does anyone really expect hundreds of midnight conversions to progressive politics from Bay State Democrats? This is a party that has learned nothing from its loss in 2016. Democrats, both centrist and progressive, need to admit that efforts to reform the DNC have failed. There will be no new direction, no recalibration — only a further slide to the right as Democrats try even harder to play the Republican game.

2018 Midterms

Midterm elections will be here in fifteen months. Every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and a third of all Senate seats will be up for grabs. The state Democratic primaries will be here long before that, but nobody seems to be worried — except maybe the worry-warts and Cassandras who see disaster unfolding.

Democrats are divided on moving right or moving left, so instead the party has chosen “we’re against Trump” as its anthem. Massachusetts Democrats heard a five-hour preview of this song at the June 3rd convention in Worcester. But merely opposing Trump has limited appeal to Republicans, unenrolled voters, and progressives. Instead, voters are asking: What have you done for me lately? And: What do you really stand for?

Democratic leaders say they are working on something great (sounds like Trump) but they’re in no rush to let American voters in on their secret. When Democrats finally do come up with a new platform, as POLITICO points out, even if it is progressive, centrist Democrats say they’ll chart their own political course. Words are cheap. Platforms apparently are even cheaper.

Democrats face not only apathy and division but a demographic crisis. According to the non-partisan Voter Participation Center at Lake Research, the “Rising American Electorate” (millennials, unmarried women, and people of color) are more likely to stay home for 2018 midterm elections or remain unenrolled than in 2012. In Massachusetts the net loss is expected to be 12.7%, while in states like New Mexico it may be as high as 29.6%. A total of 40 million Americans will drop out of the electoral process. And unfortunately they won’t be Trump voters.

If Democrats cannot agree on a platform, they should at least make voting rights and voter registration a major effort. But so far it’s been radio silence from both the DNC and MassDems.

Among the races coming up in Massachusetts and our slice of the SouthCoast:

  • Elizabeth Warren is up for re-election but her victory is far from assured.
  • All nine U.S. Congressmen seem likely to run unopposed in the primaries as they did two years ago, although in 2012 Sam Sutter challenged Bill Keating (9th Congressional district) in the Democratic primary and got a surprising 40% of the vote.
  • Republican Governor Charlie Baker is up for re-election and any Democrat who wants to take on the telegenic and personable (but nevertheless Republican) governor really needs to emerge as a strong challenger long before the March primaries.
  • William Francis Galvin ran unopposed for Secretary of the Commonwealth in the 2014 primaries, and we’ll probably see a repeat of this in 2018.
  • Popular Attorney General Maura Healey is clearly running an aggressive re-election campaign, taking no chances.
  • Treasurer Deb Goldberg had two primary challengers in 2014 and squeaked by with 55% of the vote in the 2014 general election. Republicans will be gunning for her job again this year.
  • Auditor Suzanne Bump won with 57% in the 2014 general election and ran unopposed in the primaries.
  • Governor’s Council member Joseph C. Ferreira (1st district), who ran unopposed in both the 2014 and 2016 primaries and also unopposed in both general elections, will likely run for his campaigning-free $36K a year job.
  • State Senator Mark Montigny (2nd Bristol and Plymouth), who has generally run unopposed in both primaries and general elections since 1992, will be up for re-election.
  • State Representative Christopher Markey (9th Bristol) is up for re-election. Markey has had periodic challengers (Alan Garcia, Patrick Curran, Joe Michaud, Russel Protentis, Robert Tavares, Raymond Medeiros) but the conservative Democrat has somehow clung to his $75K part-time job.
  • In 2014 Bristol County Commissioner John Saunders was challenged in the primaries by Daniel Dermody but ran unopposed in the general election.
  • In 2014 Sam Sutter ran for Bristol County District Attorney and had no challengers in either the primary or the general election.
  • In 2016 Thomas M. Quinn ran for Bristol County District Attorney and had no challengers in either the primary or the general election.
  • A couple of bland part-time positions offer six-year terms, nice salaries, and generally few challengers:
  • Mark J. Santos has run unopposed for the last 18 years as Bristol County Clerk of Courts. There have been no primary or general election challengers in all this time for his $110K job.
  • In announcing his retirement last March, Mark Treadup, a former school board member, former city councilman, former state representative, former county treasurer, former county commissioner, and former member of the Governor’s Council, bequeathed his most recent job as Career Democrat to Susan A. Morris, but it was given instead to fomer New Bedford mayor Fred Kalisz to finish out Treadup’s term.

At this late date Democrats are unlikely to get their act together. Careerism, apathy, and division can’t be cured overnight. And voter trust remains the critical issue. A party’s actions will always speak louder than platforms and promises.

While you weren’t looking

No doubt Donald J. Trump’s antics consume a lot of your attention. But the Trump administration isn’t alone in trying to dismantle American democracy. While you weren’t looking — or maybe you were just looking the other way — Republicans and Democrats were trying to take your rights away from you.

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing group funded by the Koch brothers and devoted to taking your rights away from you, has really done it this time.

Today ALEC will be considering the following:

Originally, the U.S. Constitution provided for U.S. Senators to be selected by state legislatures however the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution adopted in 1914 upended 124 years of precedent calling for direct election of U.S. Senators. This change heralded many unintended consequences including greater federal overreach and Senate campaigns that are so costly that U.S. Senators become unduly beholden to special interests. This model policy urges the U.S. Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Yes, that’s right. You’re not hallucinating. ALEC wants to take away your right to directly elect your U.S. Senator by overturning the 17th Amendment of the United States Constitution. And if it succeeds, well, why not the 15th and the 19th too? Gilead plus the Confederacy would really make a lot of Republicans happy.

* * *

It pains me to say this, but there are a bunch of Democrats trying to destroy democracy with a different wrecking ball.

43 Senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — want to criminalize free speech by making criticism of Israel a felony punishable by a $250,000 fine or 20 years in prison.

The bill, S. 720, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, is co-sponsored by the following Democratic senators: Michael F. Bennet (CO), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Maria Cantwell (WA), Christopher A. Coons (DE), Joe Donnelly (IN), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (NY), Margaret Wood Hassan (NH), Joe Manchin III (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Robert Menendez (NJ), Bill Nelson (FL), Gary C. Peters (MI), Charles E. Schumer (NY) and Ron Wyden (OR).

The House version, H. 1697, has 237 co-sponsors, but 63 Democratic representatives decided to trash the First Amendment too: Pete Aguilar (CA), Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA), Joyce Beatty (OH), Sanford D. Bishop (GA), Robert A. Brady (PA), Anthony G. Brown (MD), Tony Cardenas (CA), Kathy Castor (FL), J. Luis Correa (CA), Joe Courtney (CT), John K. Delaney (MD), Theodore E. Deutch (FL), Eliot L. Engel (NY), Ruben Gallego (AZ), Vicente Gonzalez (TX), Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Gene Green (TX), Colleen Hanabusa (HI), Alcee L. Hastings (FL), Brian Higgins (NY), Steny H. Hoyer (MD), Hakeem S. Jeffries (NY), Joseph P. Kennedy (MA), Derek Kilmer (WA), Rick Larsen (WA), John B. Larson (CT), Sander M. Levin (MI), Ted Lieu (CA), Daniel Lipinski (IL), Nita M. Lowey (NY), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), A. Donald McEachin (VA), Grace Meng (NY), Grace F. Napolitano (CA), Richard E. Neal (MA), Donald Norcross (NJ), Tom O’Halleran (AZ), Frank Pallone (NJ), Jimmy Panetta (CA), Collin C. Peterson (MN), Kathleen M. Rice (NY), Jacky Rosen (NV), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA), C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD), John P. Sarbanes (MD), Adam B. Schiff (CA), Bradley Scott Schneider (IL), Kurt Schrader (OR), David Scott (GA), Brad Sherman (CA), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Albio Sires (NJ), Adam Smith (WA), Darren Soto (FL), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY), Eric Swalwell (CA), Dina Titus (NV), Juan Vargas (CA), Marc A. Veasey (TX), Filemon Vela (TX), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL), and Frederica S. Wilson (FL).

Section 5 of the bill specifically identifies Israel boycotts as political acts to be criminalized.

If this passes, what sorts of political acts and opinion will be criminalized next?

Many of the Democratic senators supporting the bill often cross the aisle to vote for extreme Republican legislation, but it was shocking that Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer chose to join them. And Ron Wyden, for all his great work defending the Fourth Amendment, turned his back on the First. Among the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Joseph Kennedy III (4th Congressional district) won’t be winning his family’s “profiles in courage” award for his betrayal of the Constitution, nor will Richard Neal (1st). I suppose I should be grateful that Bill Keating (9th) — at least for the moment — hasn’t co-sponsored the House version.

Democrats. I’m really trying to like you, but why do you make it so damned hard?

Bill Keating’s Voting Record

I’ve done a little preliminary research on Bill Keating’s voting record in preparation for his Town Hall at Dartmouth High School on August 30th.

I hope other folks will contribute additional voting information and issues. Email me (with URLs) at

Not progressive

Progressive organizations are urging support for eight bills:

  • Medicare for All: H.R. 676 Medicare For All Act
  • Free College Tuition: H.R. 1880 College for All Act of 2017
  • Worker Rights: H.R.15 – Raise the Wage Act
  • Women’s Rights: H.R.771 – Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2017
  • Voting Rights: H.R. 2840 – Automatic Voter Registration Act
  • Environmental Justice: Climate Change Bill – Renewable Energy
  • Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights: H.R.3543 – Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2017
  • Taxing Wall Street: H.R. 1144 – Inclusive Prosperity Act

Bill Keating has not co-sponsored any of them.


Keating voted YEA with Blue Dog Democrats on H.R. 3192, a Republican bill which reduces transparency for mortgage lending institutions.

Keating also voted YEA with conservative Democrats on H.R. 1737, a Republican bill which neutered the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s oversight of Indirect Auto Lending and Compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.


Keating is a hard-liner on immigration.

Keating and five other Democrats voted for H.R. 3009, the “Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act,” a Republican bill to withhold funding for states and municipalities with “sanctuary” policies.

Keating and Blue Dog Democrats voted for H.R. 4038, the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015.” The Republican bill adds additional obstacles to the already-onerous screening and vetting of Syrian refugees.

Keating voted YEA on H.R. 3004, “Kate’s Law,” a Republican bill which expands indefinite detention of migrants who repeatedly cross the border. The bill will do nothing to prevent future actions by desperate people but it will increase the number of private prisons in the United States.

Civil Liberties

Keating gets good grades on civil liberties for women’s and LGBTQ issues. However, when it comes to surveillance and Fourth Amendment issues, Keating is no friend and he gets only middling ones: “Keating supported ‘cybersecurity’ legislation, and opposed defunding the government’s Section 702 surveillance programs (PRISM and Upstream); however, he supports banning backdoor searches on US persons. He voted for the USA FREEDOM Act, which purportedly reformed the small amount of government surveillance that occurs under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, and continued to support it even after its reforms were watered down to the point where there was much debate about whether it would do more harm than good to pass it.” Keating also refused to let PATRIOT Act extensions expire under “sunset” provisions, including this and this one.

Militarism and Foreign Policy

Keating voted NAY on a resolution to bar President Obama from using an AUMF to invade Libya. The resolution would have required Congress to declare war — per the U.S. Constitution. Keating did, however, vote YEA on ending the war in Afghanistan.

Keating was reluctant to support Obama’s and Kerry’s Iran deal and has courted the MEK, an exile group which until 2012 was designated a terrorist organization seeking to overthrow and replace the Iranian government with its own “government-in-exile.” Thanks to Republican and Democratic hawks the designation was lifted.

Keating is pro-Likud. He has fought international efforts to support a Two State Solution, advocated moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, opposed the use of the word “Palestine” and threatened to cut off U.S. contributions to the U.N. and funding for U.N. refugee efforts because of the international body’s criticism of Israel’s land theft and occupation.

Keating, along with Democratic hawks, sent a letter to Rex Tillerson affirming their support for Trump’s policies on NATO and for Tillerson’s office. Keating shares Republicans’ view that NATO needs to be stronger to oppose Russia.

Keating cheered Donald Trump’s deployment of tomahawk missiles, which were in violation of both AUMF statements and the U.S. Constitution.

The True Flag

Review of “The True Flag” by Stephen Kinzer (ISBN 9781627792165)

Stephen Kinzer’s The True Flag is an account of the moment the United States embraced Empire and never again looked back. The U.S. had already taken Native American and Mexican land by force and tasted victory in Cuba. Now it was contemplating making the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam — and Hawaii — permanent colonies. Powerful business and political interests, including Theodore Roosevelt, who had made a name for himself on San Juan Hill in Cuba, were unapologetic advocates of empire.

For the Imperialists there was little difference between taking Texas or the Philippines. From the moment the U.S. became a nation, Thomas Jefferson described America as a new empire and set forth the goal of taking Spanish territory when “our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece.”

But in 1898 there was a powerful, national “Anti-Imperialist League” — founded in Massachusetts, with at least a hundred chapters. It was led by former Senator and Interior Secretary Carl Schurz, magnate Andrew Carnegie, labor chief Samuel Gompers, civil rights advocate Booker T. Washington, Democratic Party leader William Jennings Bryant, co-founder of the Republican Party George Bouthwell, former presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison — all opposed the Treaty of Paris advanced by President William McKinley that would foist “Christian” rule over the “niggers” and savages of the Philippines.

For over a month the issue was debated in the Senate and the true soul of American Imperialism was bared and permanently read into the Congressional Record. Kinzer makes use of the Record, as well as contemporary newspaper accounts in his excellent book.

Behind the scenes were the Imperialists — Henry Cabot Lodge, Theodore Roosevelt, William Randolph Hearst, and Senators from mainly what we would now call the red states. American industry wanted to expand beyond its limited trade with Europe, the states of the North had tasted victory in the Civil War, and suddenly there were new enemies and new markets to conquer. Finally, the crumbs of Spain’s disintegrating empire were simply too tempting to resist, and the Philippines were seen as a stepping-stone to China. Nationalistic, “jingoistic” fervor gripped the nation, and it was not merely industry and commerce itching for war — it was also the average American who was aching for conquest.

While debate over America’s soul was raging in the Senate — and this is how serious the moral risks of Imperialism were seen at the time — the Philippines had already been occupied. In what even at that time had become standard operating procedure, President McKinley instructed General Arthur MacArthur (father of General Douglas MacArthur) to provoke a military response from the Philippine military. The resulting massacre claimed 3,000 Filipino and 60 American lives and galvanized public opinion in favor of possession of the islands.

On the same day that the battle in Manila occurred, three American newspapers published a new poem by Rudyard Kipling called “The White Man’s Burden: the United States and the Philippine Islands.” Kipling’s work was everything Americans wanted to hear, and had been specifically written for the occasion:

Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go send your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child
Take up the White Man’s burden
In patience to abide
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;

This was an anthem for Christian warriors. This was a rationale for conquest. Moreover, it was a glorification of a better race performing its Christian duty to serve their captives’ needs, these “new-caught, sullen peoples, half devil and half child,” and — curiously — to “veil the threat of terror.”

Since the beginnings of Imperial America, the threat of terror from non-Christians and non-white has always been a rationale for occupation.

The final nail in the coffin of American anti-Imperialism was the betrayal by William Jennings Bryan, head of the Democratic Party, who decided to play along with the Republican Imperialists, supporting the Treaty of Paris, and then begging for Philippine independence. That was his shockingly naive strategy. Bryan, who saw himself as a “pragmatic progressive,” managed to shake the resolve of at least a dozen Democrats, who ended up voting with the Republicans.

Senator Eugene Hale of Maine, a fundamentalist who cheered the U.S. acquisition of Hawaii because of his state’s many missionaries, was nevertheless shocked by the bloody Filipino insurgency and the brutal manner in which is was suppressed: “More Filipinos have been killed by the guns of our army and navy than were patriots killed in any six battles of the Revolutionary War. […] The slaughter of people in no way equal to us […] has stupefied the American mind. No one has said that our mission of commerce and of the gospel was to be preceded by the slaughter of thousands of persons.”

But senators like Hale had been deceiving themselves all along. McKinley and his generals certainly anticipated the slaughter. They planned it.

The Imperialists ran their victory lap and boasted that the United States was now the most fearsome military in the world. Indiana Senator Albert Beveridge felt no need to address the East Coast elites or their swishy European friends. After the U.S. victory over the Filipinos, Beveridge did what today’s chickenhawk Congressmen do — traveled to the Philippines on a “fact-finding mission” and met with the American occupation commander, General Elwell Otis, who was fighting an insurgency with 30,000 troops. Like today’s Senators who strap on the kevlar and pose for patriotic constituents, Beveridge did all that and thanked the troops for their service. American troops, he said, were “Saxon types” with “racial virtue in their veins.” They were “manifest destiny personified.”

“We are the most militant nation on earth,” Beveridge crowed. “We have more of the world, we know more of the world, we are better prepared to bless the world and thus to bless ourselves. The great people of the American Republic, from whom flow all our large and elemental movements, feel that the day of our empire, as a soverign force of earth, is in its first grey dawn.”

And Beveridge had nailed it. This, the theme of Kinzer’s book, was indeed the grey dawn in which the American empire was born. Or at least its paternity acknowledged.

The story ends, as we know, with the United States committing war crimes in the Philippines, including mass slaughter of civilians and the use of an early form of waterboarding, carving out what is now an American gulag in Guantanamo, Cuba, and making the other seized territories permanent gifts to pineapple barons and American sweatshops. Eventually Hawaii became a state. Puerto Rico was plundered by Congress, victimized by investment schemes created for industry that financially bankrupted the island for generations to come.

Now, over a century later, the only thing that’s changed is that a modern-day “Anti-Imperialist League” is all but unimaginable in a nation at permanent war for generations. And Democrats and Republicans are still unanimous in continuing to take up the “White Man’s Burden” — invading any land they fancy and preempting any threat of terror from sullen brown devils with their childish, savage ways.

* * *

Earlier this year Terry Gross did an interview with Stephen Kinzer on Fresh Air.

Reinstate Lisa Durden

The petition

Last month I signed a petition demanding the reinstatement of Lisa Durden, an adjunct professor at Essex County College in New Jersey. Durden is also a well-known media commentator who in that capacity crossed swords with Tucker Carlson on FOX News, only to lose her part-time teaching job two days later. On the surface it seemed like just another case of an American discovering the limits of the First Amendment.

As a former adjunct myself, she had my sympathy. But as I read more, the story had components that touched on issues of race, gender, corporatism, worker protections for part-timers, and censorship of all types:

  • A Black Lives Matter chapter in New York City wanted to celebrate the black roots of Memorial Day — the roots of which most Americans are ignorant.
  • The American Right is always looking for an opportunity to smear Black Lives Matter.
  • Durden came to BLM’s defense and was censored and insulted as both a black person and as a woman.
  • Two days later the “senior management executive” of her community college fired her because free speech and academic freedom are inconvenient luxuries for an institution in crisis — and also because adjuncts are a cheap, disposable resource — just the way corporate America likes it.

Durden’s experience encapsulates a lot that’s wrong with America.

FOX News and Friends

On June 6, 2017 Lisa Durden, who had previously appeared on the Kelly File at FOX News, appeared on the Tucker Carlson show, also on FOX. Carlson began his segment by showing viewers selected quotes from a Black Lives Matter invitation to a blacks-only Memorial Day Party in New York City. FOX News viewers knew where this was going: demonization of Black Lives Matter, best known for raising hell about the American epidemic of police murders.

But Carlson omitted two key facts in his “set-up”: first, the party was a single event in a single city; and second, the organizers wanted to celebrate the black origins of Memorial Day [more on this in a minute]. Carlson also conflated a single celebration with the entire Black Lives Matter movement — which is actually an umbrella organization with many different tendencies and numerous white allies — and then he asked Durden to respond:

“… I thought the whole point of Black Lives Matter, one of the points would be to speak out against singling people out on the basis of their race and punishing them for that, because you can’t control what your race is, and yet, they seem to be doing that. Explain that to me.”

This was supposed to be an easy score against BLM’s supposed hypocrisy but Durden insisted on putting it in context — something ill-suited for FOX viewers.

The reality of White Privilege

Now, Lisa Durden is no shrinking violet. She is equal parts public intellectual and showman. And there is a very good reason FOX kept asking her back, particularly to debate FOX’s black reactionary Kevin Jackson on police violence — conflict sells. Durden also has a tendency to tune her No-BS meter right up to the max. On this particular evening, when Carlson asked her if it wasn’t racist to have a black-only party Durden responded:

“Boo hoo hoo, you white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited to the Black Lives Matter, all-black Memorial Day celebration. Wow! Let me contextualize that for you — ”

And that was enough. Carlson had heard “White Privilege” and it effectively short-circuited portions of his brain related to high-level executive function. He was seeing White and he was seeing Red. In addition, a woman was challenging him. Not only that, Carlson had heard a strong black woman refuse to play along with his patronizing attempt to catch her in a transparent trap. Carlson interrupted Durden, cutting off her microphone. She had actually dared to offer viewers an explanation for a black celebration of Memorial Day — to “contextualize” it, as she put it. But Carlson just wasn’t having any.

“No, you don’t need to contextualize anything for anyone considering your logic is nonexistent and your racism abundant.”

Durden’s unsympathetic “Boo hoo hoo” was probably the trigger. But now there would be no opportunity to hear Durden’s reasoning, though she tried unsuccessfully to be heard, to explain to viewers that Memorial Day was a commemoration first celebrated by South Carolina slaves. But the FOX segment only went downhill from there.

Nevertheless she persisted

“A man is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man” (Corinthians). “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians). Today’s white male Republicans love to drag their conveniently medieval theology into the public sphere — whether it’s government or a broadcasting studio.

When Elizabeth Warren argued against Jeff Sessions’ racist history during confirmation hearings, Mitch McConnell invoked an arcane Senate rule barring “insults” to former members of the Senate. When Warren argued Sessions’ record was germane to his confirmation, McConnell angrily defended her harsh censure: “Nevertheless she persisted.” Because once a Good Ole Boy tells you to shut up, you’d better do it immediately.

But if persistence is an offense, derision is a capital offense.

During the same confirmation hearings Desiree Fairooz, a 61-year-old member of Code Pink, was forcibly removed and arrested for laughing at Jeff Sessions. Fairooz chuckled when Republican Senator Richard Shelby praised Sessions’ “extensive record of treating all Americans fairly under the law,” adding it “is clear and well-documented.” It is remarkable that there wasn’t more laughter. For more on this topic, see Maggie Hennefeld’s excellent piece in LA Progressive, “On the Criminalization of Female Laughter.”

Five years ago, when Megan Kelly was still at FOX, she hosted a segment with the express purpose of attacking Elizabeth Warren’s mention of distant Cherokee ancestry. Kelly asked both Tucker Carlson and black feminist Jehmu Greene whether this was laughable. Greene defended Warren, pointing out that even the Chief of the Cherokee Nation was only 3% Cherokee and calling out Carlson’s racist and sexist dog-whistles: “You see Scott Brown really questioning her qualifications because he has to appeal to white, working-class voters who feel marginalized because of affirmative action. This smells real stank to women who do not like being called on their qualifications.”

Typically, Carlson made it patronizing and personal, again challenging a black woman’s reasoning: “It’s so offensive and dumb. But leaving that aside, it does provide a window into a system that is fundamentally corrupt that awards people based on their DNA.” Greene then called him out on both the misogyny and racism: “[Your attitude] “is going to appeal to folks like you, voters like you: bow-tying white boys.”

Needless to say, Durden’s persistence and derision didn’t go over well at FOX, the 24 hour racism and sexism channel.

Freedom of What?

Durden’s firing is not unique. People are dismissed, censored, or punished all the time for views employers, schools, advertisers, lobby groups, internet service providers, and even foreign governments don’t like. People can be fired whether they are speaking on or off the clock, as representatives of a group, or simply for themselves. They can be fired for saying nothing but simply being who they are — and that includes being gay or pregnant. They can be fired for being whistle-blowers, even when they are exposing criminal acts.

Sometimes it’s quite amazing how little the First Amendment actually protects.

And it’s not just liberals who run afoul of censorship and retaliation. Bill O’Reilly was fired by FOX by his advertisers, though not because of his chronic sexual harassment. Richard Spencer lost a gym membership expressly because he’s noxious white supremacist scum. Tech entrepreneur Brendan Eich lost his seat on the board of Mozilla for his homophobic views.

Right or Left, in America social and political “norms” must be enforced and outliers punished. On the Left it’s frequently gay-bashers and neo-Nazis. On FOX it’s simply progressive black women.

Academic Freedom

But the First Amendment says that government cannot censor you in word or print. This is commonly understood as applying to public or government entities like community colleges and universities. Durden’s firing should certainly trigger a lawsuit for violation of her First Amendment rights.

And there is also a long tradition in colleges and universities of giving faculty members freedom to say what they want without censorship. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) notes that academic freedom as “common law” has existed since 1940. Many of the rights extended to faculty depend on tenure and teaching status, though there are disagreements among Federal Courts about what rights apply to whom.

Still, the Collective Bargaining Agreement under which Durden was hired “declares its commitment to sustain the principles of academic freedom” as well as “retention of all the adjunct faculty members’ rights as a citizen to free speech and publication. Such rights are not, as such, subject to institutional censorship or discipline.” The only caveat in the contract pertains to “the adjunct faculty member’s unusual influence on the opinions and values of the students with whom the adjunct faculty member works.“

But Lisa Durden never identified herself as an Essex faculty member and was trying to influence Tucker Carlson, not a room full of impressionable undergraduates.


Community Colleges may be called “colleges” but there is a caste system when it comes to teaching in America’s institutions of higher learning. To put it indelicately, adjuncts like Durden are the fast-food workers of the academic world. The AAUP has attempted to show some solidarity with adjuncts but this has never been translated into anything substantial. Instead, it has been up to advocates like Robin Meade, a union organizer for Moraine Valley Community College, to put rights for adjuncts into contracts.

But when Meade spoke out about adjuncts being treated as “disposable resources” at her college she had much the same experience as Durden: The “chief of campus police hand-delivered a letter of termination to Meade at her home. Her college email was immediately cut off and locks were changed on the union office at the college.” Meade appealed to the Illinois Department of Labor Relations and she won. Though this was a labor rights case, it also touched on her rights as an academic.

Seventy-five percent of faculty members in American colleges are adjuncts and, shockingly, they earn less than poverty wages. A majority of adjunct faculty members are women — those facing the most discrimination with tenure track positions. And while 60% of adjuncts in Colorado, for example, are women, they earn significantly less than their male counterparts. And the percentage of adjuncts is increasing nationally, just as part-time workers are increasing in the general labor market.

A typical adjunct can expect to earn $3-$5K for a single semester course. Her union will often — as in Durden’s case — be able to do little for her both in terms of wages or representation. Like Meade, after being fired Durden was denied union representation and treated like a criminal.

Because in the end Durden — like all American workers — was just another disposable resource.

College or Corporation?

While its adjuncts earn $7 to $8 an hour, Essex County College’s president, Anthony E. Monroe, a former healthcare consultant, earns $215,000 every year. Monroe was hired in May to deal with a stream of crises that have plagued the predominantly black college.

In May 2017 the former president and former university attorney were fired for pursuing an investigation of financial misconduct and coverup by the same administrators who ended up firing them. Both women are now pursuing wrongful termination lawsuits against the college. Essex is also at risk of losing its accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education for “enrollment” and “leadership” issues.

Enter Anthony E. Monroe, Ed.D, MBA, MPH, FACHE.

Monroe’s resume describes him as a “Senior Management Executive” and his own effusive description of his abilities oozes like a jelly donut with corporate flummery:

“Dynamic, energetic, and experienced visionary and strategic executive with 28 year career in complex, world-class institutions that is showcased by an impressive record of leadership and management performance. Significant track record and achievements in delivering strong market, financial, and operational results in very complex and large systems. Recognized for innovative leadership in transitioning underperforming organizations into top producers and guiding others through growth and expansion; skilled in negotiations, changing culture, board relations, creating systemness, improving operations efficiency and project management, driving revenues and market shares, improving productivity and quality, generating savings, enhancing customer satisfaction, managing multi-site operations and integrating systems. Expertise in public health systems operations, physician relations, network development, strategy execution, clinical excellence, financial management, and market growth.”

Monroe came from City Colleges of Chicago, Malcolm X College, where he was president for seven years. He revamped a $251 million dollar campus, put his fingerprints on a $524 million capital plan, oversaw an 80% increase in degrees, saw graduation rates increase by 3%, and so on. Numbers. Widgets. Percentages. And “systemness.”

But Monroe’s other talent was making controversies go away. While president of Malcom X College, Dr. Micah Young, Dean of Medical Sciences, informed Monroe that there were four boxes of rotting cadavers stored in an unrefrigerated closet in the James Craig Lab, and that they represented a slew of health and workplace safety violations. Within a week Young was out of a job.

Young’s lawyer, Dennis Stefanowicz, said, “He tried to do the right thing for the families and for the individuals who gave their bodies to science. When he tried to do the right thing, he ran into a brick wall, and when he brought the issue to light, instead of taking the time to figure out how the problem occurred and figure out how to right the wrong, they just terminated the person who brought the issue to light. It was the easy way out.”

Mission Creep

Monroe’s talent for taking “the easy way out” certainly came in handy within weeks of assuming the presidency at Essex County College. Monroe posted a long-winded justification for Durden’s firing — one sounding like it had been concocted in a corporate H.R. department but not an institution of higher learning:

“While the adjunct who expressed her personal views in a very public setting was in no way claiming to represent the views and beliefs of the College, and does not represent the College, her employment with us and potential impact on students required our immediate review into what seemed to have become a very contentious and divisive issue. […] In consideration of the College’s mission, and the impact that this matter has had on the College’s fulfillment of its mission, we cannot maintain an employment relationship with the adjunct. The College affirms its right to select employees who represent the institution appropriately and are aligned with our mission.”

When Durden’s case finally goes to court Monroe will have to explain precisely why violating an adjunct’s employment contract was necessary, what he thinks the college’s “mission” is, and precisely how Durden’s private opinions were incompatible with that mission.

Black Lives Matter

But let’s not forget where this journey began — with Durden defending Black Lives Matter.

Four years ago George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. Many on the jury believed Zimmerman was guilty of murder but had been instructed that Florida’s “stand your ground” laws prevented a finding of guilty. Black Lives Matter was born out of this injustice. The killings of black people is an important part of the BLM movement, but BLM’s statement describes it as a liberation movement with broader goals:

“Four years ago, what is now known as the Black Lives Matter Global Network began to organize. It started out as a Black-centered political will and movement building project turned chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene when violence is inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.

In the years since, we’ve committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.

Black Lives Matter began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism. Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities. The impetus for that commitment was, and still is, the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state.”

The BLM movement foresaw that, especially after the election of Donald Trump, things were going to get ugly, and fast:

“What is true today — and has been true since the seizure of this land — is that when black people and women build power, white people become resentful. Last week, that resentment manifested itself in the election of a white supremacist to the highest office in American government.”

Newsweek cited the Trump administration’s threats:

“The president has targeted the organization, especially protesters who have taken to the streets. The White House website went live after inauguration and promised to end the ‘anti-police atmosphere’ while noting ‘our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.’ Slate wrote about this shift with the headline ‘In One of His First Acts as President, Donald Trump Put Black Lives Matter on Notice.’”

Ignorance of American History

The history lesson Durden hoped to remind America of was lost the moment Tucker Carlson heard the words “white privilege.” But the history is quite relevant to this entire story.

In 2011 historian David Blight looked at the history of Memorial Day in a New York Times piece, “Forgetting Why We Remember.”

“By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. […] Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war. […] The largest of these events, forgotten until I had some extraordinary luck in an archive at Harvard, took place on May 1, 1865. […] After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway… […] The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots.”

Though the impulse to honor the half-million Union and Confederate dead was expressed in many such commemorations, black Americans are very likely to have been the first to do so.

This is what Lisa Durden never got to explain to White America.