Required Reading, MLK Day edition

I’m ashamed to say that until Charlie Pierce in his own, powerful essay on MLK day pointed me to it, I had never actually read Lyndon B. Johnson’s speech to Congress urging — almost ordering — the legislators before him to pass the Voting Rghts Act.

Here’s a sample:

But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

And we shall overcome.

As a man whose roots go deeply into Southern soil I know how agonizing racial feelings are. I know how difficult it is to reshape the attitudes and the structure of our society.

But a century has passed, more than a hundred years, since the Negro was freed. And he is not fully free tonight.

It was more than a hundred years ago that Abraham Lincoln, a great President of another party, signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but emancipation is a proclamation and not a fact.

A century has passed, more than a hundred years, since equality was promised. And yet the Negro is not equal.

A century has passed since the day of promise. And the promise is unkept.

The time of justice has now come. I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come. And when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American.

For Negroes are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated, how many white families have lived in stark poverty, how many white lives have been scarred by fear, because we have wasted our energy and our substance to maintain the barriers of hatred and terror?

So I say to all of you here, and to all in the Nation tonight, that those who appeal to you to hold on to the past do so at the cost of denying you your future.

This great, rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all: black and white, North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They are the enemies and not our fellow man, not our neighbor. And these enemies too, poverty, disease and ignorance, we shall overcome.

Pierce calls this “the greatest speech an American president has delivered in my lifetime.”

Mine too.

Read it.

One last thought: One strand I draw from Johnson’s speech is that it is possible to have a politics that transcends the mere purchase and sale of interest; one in which words have both power and integrity.

I want that politics back.

Update: Boss Bitch points us to newly recovered audio of an MLK speech to an Ohio High School in 1967.

Image:  Lyndon Baines Johnson with Martin Luther King on August 6, 1965, at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

 

136 replies
  1. 1
    boss bitch says:

    Make sure you listen to/read Eric Holder’s speech today on voting rights. He’s giving it today in SC at a rally sponsored by NAACP.

  2. 2
    boss bitch says:

    Not sure if anyone here knows about but:

    Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at Glenville High School preserved on little-known recording (audio)

    CLEVELAND, Ohio — Art teacher Jayne Sylvester and one of her students stumbled over a slice of history a year ago as they rummaged through cast-off items at Glenville High School’s library, hunting for unusual objects to turn into artsy robots.

    Inside a slim box of reel-to-reel tape, in a pile of stuff to be discarded, they found a little-known recording of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Glenville’s auditorium on April 26, 1967. A year later, he was killed by an assassin’s bullet.

    Now, after being rescued from the trash heap, the recording of King’s stirring speech is being readied for use as a social studies lesson at Glenville and other Cleveland schools.

    The audio is further down the page.

    http://blog.cleveland.com/metr.....peech.html

  3. 3
    ornery_curmudgeon says:

    “I want that politics back.”

    Me too, Tom … thanks for the post.

    It is interesting how some responded to the challenge to move into a brighter future, and some listened to the call to hold onto the past. Can’t say I’m extremely proud of my country right now, but I have hope.

  4. 4
    kay says:

    Good choice!

    I like this:

    Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.

  5. 5
    rikyrah says:

    that section gave me chills. thank you.

  6. 6

    i know it’s not what you meant, but what would come out, if the electeds spoke from deep conviction and lived experience.

    if they were to speak on anything they understand as well as johnson understood poverty and inequality, i am afraid of what those issues might be, and where they would stand.

    thinking just of the gop field, santorums personal story from the focus on the family debacle back in november, he kinda makes the case, in speaking about his wife and how she bulldozed the doctors into letting her do, what only rich people have the option of doing.

    of course the obvious pro-choice allegory of a woman asserting her rights was lost, as the point drifted towards her defying medical convention, and i am sure the anecdote was autotuned for the occasion, but that is what johnson’s commitment to civil rights gets you from a modern pol.

  7. 7
    Maude says:

    I don’t want back the politics that got us into Vietnam.

  8. 8
    Napoleon says:

    What LBJ did with civil rights it the one thing that any President has done in my lifetime that was truely great.

  9. 9
    Anya says:

    It’s sad that Vietnam tarnished LBJ’s legacy.

  10. 10
    Barry says:

    The price for the passage of the VRA has been over 40 years of Republican misrule.

    Still well worth the price.

  11. 11
    WereBear says:

    @Maude: I don’t want back the politics that got us into Vietnam.

    I know but we still have them.

    And they were not Johnson’s politics. He felt trapped into it by the Republicans, who would “shred him on national security” and thus he would not be able to build his Great Society; and pass the Voting Rights Act.

    He understood compromising. Back when it wasn’t such a bad word.

  12. 12
    Nathaniel says:

    @Anya: Lets be clear. LBJ tarnished his own legacy. Nobody put a gun to his head and forced him to lie to congress to gin up a land war in Asia.

    Dude gets major props from me for his domestic accomplishments. Which is why its so enraging that his foreign policy mindset ended so royally screwing the pooch.

  13. 13
    David Fud says:

    I think this might deserve a tag of “because of wow”. I hadn’t heard it (it was before my time), and it was quite refreshing. Very impressive.

  14. 14
    Tom Levenson says:

    @David Fud: At your command, sir.

  15. 15
    Maude says:

    @Tom Levenson:
    You can add lotsa tags. Maybe 10 or 20.
    Good morning and thank you for this post.

  16. 16
    Phylllis says:

    @boss bitch: At the statehouse, during the ‘King Day at the Dome’ rally. Whilst our Asian-American governor speaks at a Tea Party rally in Myrtle Beach. A governor whose family was impacted positively by the Voting Rights Act, since they would certainly have been targeted for poll taxes had they been in SC during that time.

  17. 17
    gravie says:

    I read Charles Pierce’s piece yesterday, and posted it to my FB page today. It’s eloquent and heartfelt, and he just nailed it. I hope everyone I know will read it.

  18. 18
    Rick Massimo says:

    One thing that (I think) Pierce pointed out in a different column, but not this one: “We shall overcome” was, don’t forget, a much more specific reference than it is now. The spit-takes from the Southerners when LBJ said that must have been something to see.

  19. 19
    Mino says:

    Dennis G probably knows this book. It is a meticulously researched biography of LBJ. The last half of the book concentrates on a killing history of civil rights in US leading up to the legislation.

    http://www.amazon.com/Master-Senate-Years-Lyndon-
    Johnson/dp/0394528360/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    A huge book, but toatlly captivating to anyone with even a smidge of curiosity about those quiet back rooms.

  20. 20
    WereBear says:

    @Mino: I adore that book. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand politics.

  21. 21
    WereBear says:

    BTW, I’m watching Hulu, and a commercial for Hulu Plus appeared; with a couple who has a kid and a dog and is just settling in with popcorn for a movie.

    Unexceptional… except the father is African American, and the mother is not.

  22. 22
    gene108 says:

    poll taxes

    Given the anti-access fervor of Republicans today, I’m amazed a Constitutional amendment to ban poll taxes ever got passed.

    I’m guessing a lot of folks back then would’ve liked nothing more than to keep the “wrong people” from voting, as well as today.

  23. 23
    geg6 says:

    @Mino:

    Agreed on the book. A simply amazing portrait of an amazing politician at an amazing moment. I can remember my mother crying during that speech. I was only about 5 or 6 and don’t really remember listening to LBJ, but do remember thinking it remarkable that she would cry over LBJ when she had been such a Kennedy fan. I just didn’t understand, but we talked about that when I got a bit older and I actually understood the import of it.

  24. 24
    Gretchen says:

    “Every device of which human ingenuity is capable has been used to deny this right (to vote)”. Unfortunately still true.

  25. 25
    Chrisd says:

    Nowadays we clap when a presidential speech is at least coherent and its content inoffensive. Nothing like reading a transcript of a good old speech to show how far our rhetoric and aspirations have fallen.

  26. 26
    Gretchen says:

    @Rick Massimo: what was the more specific meaning of “we shall overcome?”

  27. 27
    Napoleon says:

    @Mino:

    I am 1/2 way through it. Caro really makes LBJ look bad (not that he does not deserve it).

  28. 28

    […] BJ) Poison someone else's mind:FacebookStumbleUponDiggRedditEmailPrint This entry was posted in […]

  29. 29
    WereBear says:

    @Napoleon: Yeah, the first half makes you despair. Then… it becomes different.

  30. 30
    geg6 says:

    @Mino:

    You should actually read the entire biography, which is in four parts. Means of Ascent, The Path to Power, Master of the Senate, and The Passage of Power.

    I read a lot, lot, lot of biographies, particularly political biographies. I don’t know that I’ve read a better one than this. And for all that, it’s eminently readable.

  31. 31
    Mudge says:

    Well, of the three enemies, poverty is rising (although below ’60’s level), disease is down (except maybe among the Jenny McCarthy crowd) and ignorance is concentrated in the Republican Party. We still have work to do.

  32. 32
    gnomedad says:

    My pick from the LBJ speech (attention American Exceptionalism! types):

    And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For, with a country as with a person, “what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

  33. 33
    gnomedad says:

    @Mudge:

    ignorance is concentrated in the Republican Party

    See, they’re falling on the grenade for us.

  34. 34
    Mino says:

    @Napoleon: Well, he is very even handed, he calls the warts. People who wield power are not angels. But we are fortunate when they feel a greater calling than self.

    But not gonna bash politicians today, just remember when we had statesmen, regardless of their warts.

  35. 35
    Mino says:

    @geg6: Oh, I have. Just was pointing to the volume pertinent to today.

  36. 36
    Rick Massimo says:

    @Gretchen: Oh, just that it came straight out of the anthem of the black civil-rights movement (as opposed to now, when it’s a bit more of a general call to egalitarianism).

    It’s a bit like if Mitt Romney won the 2012 election and immediately gave a speech where he called for a 50% top tax rate, full funding of Head Start and a 25% reduction in defense spending, and punctuated it with references to “the 99%,” or by saying “Yes we can.”

  37. 37
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @WereBear: Over Christmas there was a commercial on ABC Family with a black woman and a white man talking to each other, with each one of them saying to the other at some point in the commercial “And that’s why I married you.” I had to watch it twice. I’m 42, in Texas, so while my only involvement in the 60s is the last 1.5 months, I still saw a lot of stuff growing up. My kids, on the other hand, wonder why I am interested in who is being shown in commercials.

  38. 38
    BO_Bill says:

    Characteristic of human religions are reading lists and the suppression of differing views.

  39. 39
    WereBear says:

    @geg6: OMG, the new one came out? Humina Humina!

  40. 40
    WaterGirl says:

    That excerpt from LBJ is amazing. I will have to go read Pierce now, too.

    I am usually a big fan of Google’s graphics of the day on their main screen, but I am appalled by the one for today. To me, it looks cartoonish, and not a tribute to MLK at all. I really have to wonder what they were thinking when they chose that. Did anyone else have that reaction?

  41. 41
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @BO_Bill: Your random sentence generator needs better phrases.

  42. 42
    WereBear says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): I remember the fuss over the show Julia, OMG!

    It’s very noticeable when we watch Canadian TV, when people of all skin colors blend in and pop up with no discernable seams showing. It wasn’t until recently that US commercials displayed the same ease; there was always someone in the group who reeked of tokenism, no matter what minority was being represented.

  43. 43
    BO_Bill says:

    Then I’ll try again. Socrates and Galileo, both, applied mathematics in a Religious atmosphere. This was to humanity’s gain, although our communal gain was achieved at great personal sacrifice to the individuals involved. Fortunately for us, the Founding Fathers of the United States were able to draw upon the lessons of the Greeks, and the Enlightenment, and for a period of time codify upon Americans the ability to exchange voices, and mathematical observations.

    In the face of the Believers.

  44. 44
    Mino says:

    @WereBear: Whoa, I missed that. I was afraid he wouldn’t live long enough. Almost scared to get it.

  45. 45
    MeDrewNotYou says:

    In the comments over at Pierce’s, there was plenty of well-deserved praise. But inevitably a person popped up and said (paraphrased), “That was pretty good, up until you criticize the GOP.” The best part was that the commenter specifically said that there wouldn’t be a problem with racism without the Democrat’s race-baiting.

    After a little more perusal, the same guy has comments reminding us that “Republicans don’t have a monopoly on racism.” Outstanding.

    What’s the phrase? “How very white of him.”

  46. 46
    Ben Cisco says:

    I linked to the Pierce column yesterday, it really is a must-read.
    __
    @boss bitch: Thank you for posting this; great stuff.

  47. 47
    WereBear says:

    @Mino: I know, he’s the most amazing writer. While we are waiting :) it’s a great time to mention his first book, a wonderful biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker, from 1974.

    Used the Amazon link to pre-order this fourth one… will probably get the whole LBJ series on Kindle as I can, because Master of the Senate practically broke my wrists.

  48. 48
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    I read the speech. I watched the video. It’s a very good speech.

    But what makes it “the greatest speech an American president has delivered in my lifetime?” I’m not saying it isn’t, I just want to know what the reasoning is.

  49. 49
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @BO_Bill: Fuck off BoB

  50. 50
    jfxgillis says:

    Tom:

    I remember LBJ’s speech.

    One thing I think you and Charley left implicit that should be made explicit, is that in real time it operated in harmony and contrapuntally to MLK, Jr.’s speech as oratory and as art.

    The one asked, the other answered. The effect was almost literally operatic.

  51. 51
    gaz says:

    Tom Levenson,

    You’re forgetting the narrative, which I believe is supposed to go something like this: LBJ sucked, he quit before he could lose.

    Please update your notes

    /snark

  52. 52
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @jfxgillis:

    Wow. What a wonderful observation. Thank you.

  53. 53
    catclub says:

    @Napoleon: I think you are selling short the protection of the nation from the threat that was Grenada.

    Reminded of it because at the Reagan library, school kids are forced to make the _right_ decision to invade, but sometimes resist. Go kids!

    Heard it on This American Life.

  54. 54
    catclub says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe: Nominate a better one. We are open to suggestions.

  55. 55
    BO_Bill says:

    The man who authored most of Martin Luther King’s Boston College dissertation name is Jack Boozer. You can view annotations of the plagiarism in the archived copies of the Good Doctor’s papers, inserted before The Believers achieved their current degree of power.

    Boston College refused to take any action in the face of this plagiarism, when it came to light. The Believers are most wrathful, most watching.

    Jack Boozer is a, wait, hold on, a Professor of Religion at Emory University.

    The sum of the square of the two sides of a right triangle equals the square of the hypotenuse. This is always and forever good, and True.

  56. 56
    gaz says:

    @catclub: Somehow, at least for me, a bit of the beauty is lost when the speech is written to support american imperialism/interventionism.

  57. 57
    catclub says:

    @Nathaniel: What sticks with me from Robert Caro’s biography is the chapter title:

    ‘The Compassion of LBJ’,

    because it was completely fake and only for the benefit of LBJ, but look what it accomplished.

  58. 58
    the fenian says:

    BO —
    Boston UNIVERSITY. Not Boston College.
    Just sayin’.

  59. 59
    jfxgillis says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    No props for me! Only took me 46 years to make it.

  60. 60
    gaz says:

    @BO_Bill: Surely, denigrating MLK’s legacy with a half articulated charge of plagerism* isn’t because you’re a racist. It’s because you care, right?

    *also inconsequential, even if true, which I doubt, considering how often you lie

  61. 61
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @catclub:

    Nominate a better one.

    That’s exactly what I’m getting at. Words like “better” and “great” need to be defined. What criteria are we using?

  62. 62
    The Sailor says:

    It’s a reminder that the insanity keeps rolling along. 3 forward, 2 back. Things are better now but there is so much work to be done.

  63. 63
    gaz says:

    nit-picking on parade! weee!

  64. 64
    Kola Noscopy says:

    “One strand I draw from Johnson’s speech is that it is possible to have a politics that transcends the mere purchase and sale of interest; one in which words have both power and integrity.”

    Yes, I agree: It’s a tragedy that President Obama chose to not live up to the promise of his grand and soaring campaign speeches. I want that politics back.

  65. 65
    General Stuck says:

    Happy Birthday, MLK! wherever you hang you hat in the spirit world.

  66. 66
    gaz says:

    @Kola Noscopy: Why does everything have to be about Obama with you? God, you must be really annoying at social events.

  67. 67
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Anya:

    It’s sad that Vietnam tarnished LBJ’s legacy.

    LBJ tarnished his own legacy thru his actions regarding Vietnam.

  68. 68

    …politics that transcends the mere purchase and sale of interest; one in which words have both power and integrity.
    __
    I want that politics back.

    You can’t have it back because it never existed. It wouldn’t be politics then.

    The Civil Rights act — passing then on its fourth try, IIRC — was as much a Cold-War response to Soviet propaganda, then perhaps at its most potent overseas, as a long-delayed recognition of justice denied. Congressional Democrats wanted a monument to JFK, white Southern Democrats, and the Bircher wing of the GOP, needed to show they didn’t kill him.

    If anything depended entirely on the nobility of Lyndon Johnson’s soul for its being ushered into existence, it’d arrive around the same time as the heat death of the sun.

  69. 69
    gaz says:

    @Anya: http://existentialistcowboy.bl.....nixon.html

    As always, there was a republican behind the scenes who wanted to cause more harm, because it was politically expedient to do so.

    Not saying LBJ didn’t screw up w/ vietnam. But he didn’t do *that* above. That was nixon. The treasonous fuck.

  70. 70

    […] we, as a nation, pause to remember the birth of one of our great leaders, Martin Luther King.  Balloon Juice frontpager Tom Levenson links to a “newly recovered audio of an MLK speech to an Ohio High School in 1967.” […]

  71. 71
    General Stuck says:

    God, you must be really annoying at social events.

    The Kola exhibit is all the rage on family day at the local zoo.

  72. 72
    gaz says:

    @Davis X. Machina: You basically described why for me, results are more important than motivations.

  73. 73
    The Sailor says:

    @gaz: He didn’t quit, he properly decided not to run again. Sarah Palin quit, biiiig difference.

  74. 74
    gaz says:

    @The Sailor: You *really* need to adjust your snark meter dude.

    I even said /snark, FFS

    Do you not know what that means? Go read a book about teh Internetz. Or something.

  75. 75
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @gaz:

    Why does everything have to be about Obama with you?

    heh. It’s MLK Day. You might have noticed Barack Obama is the first AA president. I know it’s crazy to draw a connection, but thought I’d throw it out there…

  76. 76
    gaz says:

    @Kola Noscopy: Seems *everything* becomes a connection to Obama with you.

    But I’ll throw you a bone. If you can make 20 posts in succession (real posts, with a few thoughts and articulated observations) – in a row without – without mentioning Obama, I’ll retract my assessment of ODS on your part.

  77. 77
    Elizabelle says:

    Thank you for this thread, and the links. Shall enjoy them at leisure later today.

    Bookmarked Pierce’s column last night; didn’t realize it had link to LBJ speech, which I look forward to reading.

    This is the most meaningful MLK Day I have ever lived. The arc of the universe, and requiring patience beyond belief.

  78. 78

    @gaz: This is why the fascination, on a large chunk of the left, with a non-partisan, immaculately-conceived politics-without-politicians is so counterproductive.

  79. 79
    gaz says:

    @Davis X. Machina: Personally, I don’t believe in that crap either. It’s hippy BS. I’m all about results. Because, umm, they matter.

  80. 80
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @gaz:

    http://existentialistcowboy.bl.....nixon.html

    The tapes also show that Johnson and Hubert Humphrey kept quiet about the Nixon/GOP shenanigans at the time. History might have changed had Johnson gone public.

    So if Johnson would have just spilled the beans on Nixon, Humphrey — who lost by 500,000 votes out of 73 million total votes cast — very likely would have won. Sigh.

  81. 81
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @gaz:

    Dearest gizz: Your assessment of me is of no consequence. Carry on.

  82. 82
    gaz says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe: I’m not quite sure precisely what you’re getting at, but for me it has nothing to do with who was going to get elected next, and everything to do with the continuing bloodshed in Vietnam.

  83. 83
    gaz says:

    @Kola Noscopy: IOW, ad-hominem, and a big declaration of “I CAN’T DO IT!”.

    Fair enough,

    Carry on.

  84. 84
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @gaz:

    I’d say who got elected next has everything to do with continuing bloodshed in Vietnam.

  85. 85
    Brachiator says:

    @WaterGirl:

    I am usually a big fan of Google’s graphics of the day on their main screen, but I am appalled by the one for today. To me, it looks cartoonish, and not a tribute to MLK at all. I really have to wonder what they were thinking when they chose that. Did anyone else have that reaction?

    Nope.

    It features artwork by Faith Ringgold, who has an interesting story herself.

    And, as always, you can click on the doodle and get a wealth of info and related articles on MLK.

  86. 86
    Yutsano says:

    @gaz: Please do not fall victim to the derailing attempt. You give Special Timmeh the attention he so desperately craves.

  87. 87
    gaz says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe: Maybe, but I can’t say what Humphrey would have done about vietnam.

    Here’s what I know. Peace talks were in the works. And there is evidence that Nixon tried to sabotage them – arguably, successfully.

    So, that’s what I know. And while it may be irresponsible for me *not* to speculate (seems a BJ meme I guess), I simply won’t when it comes the Humphrey. I have no idea what he would have done.

    But there were peace talks. And they failed. Nixon attempted to get in the way of them (so the evidence seems to suggest).

    That’s enough for me, without going in to the machinations of the politics of the day.

  88. 88
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Yutsano:

    Could you explicate the process by which I attempted to derail this thread?

    Thanks.

  89. 89
    gaz says:

    @Yutsano: Yeah, I’m trying to limit it to 2 or 3 posts at most, and shorter ones at that. Which means I’m about done now.

    So no worries =)

  90. 90
    Yutsano says:

    @Kola Noscopy: No.

    I won’t play your stupid game. Use your own damn gray matter to figure it out.

    @gaz: I am in alignment with your moratorium. Submitted for thine approval.

  91. 91
    Kola Noscopy says:

    Nutso the Hall Monitor attempts to control the discussion, as per usual. What a dweeb.

    That said, I was just googling images of MLK to put one up as my FB profile pic for the day, and came across photos of the new MLK memorial.

    I’d like to hear from other commenters what they think of the artistic/aesthetic qualities of that awesome piece.

  92. 92
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Anne Laurie, one thread down, wrote:

    Next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and I look forward to witnessing the commemoration led by America’s first African-American president during his second term in office.

    And it occurs to me that March 15, 2015 will be the fiftieth anniversary of President Johnson’s VRA speech to a joint session of the Congress. And, d.v., President Obama will still be serving his second term and will be in a position to lead this commemoration as well. As jfxgillis observed above, the call-and-response of the two speeches is essentially operatic; I can’t think of an orator who could bring the two together more effectively than our current POTUS.

  93. 93
    Brachiator says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    The Civil Rights act—passing then on its fourth try, IIRC — was as much a Cold-War response to Soviet propaganda, then perhaps at its most potent overseas, as a long-delayed recognition of justice denied. Congressional Democrats wanted a monument to JFK, white Southern Democrats, and the Bircher wing of the GOP, needed to show they didn’t kill him.

    It is a trivial point to take the view that good legislation is done only because of political calculation and cynical motives.

    A very good detailing of the background on the bill can be found on the Wiki. Reads like a suspense novel, especially the actions by the Dixiecrats, especially Strom Thurmond, to derail the bill.

    One other thing of note is how LBJ and didn’t just use the bully pulpit, but legislative Kung Fu and the skill of other Congressional leaders, to the the bill passed. One quick example of the hurdles that had to be dealt with.

    Johnson, who wanted the bill passed as soon as possible, ensured that the bill would be quickly considered by the Senate. Normally, the bill would have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator James O. Eastland, Democrat from Mississippi. Given Eastland’s firm opposition, it seemed impossible that the bill would reach the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield took a novel approach to prevent the bill from being relegated to Judiciary Committee limbo. Having initially waived a second reading of the bill, which would have led to it being immediately referred to Judiciary, Mansfield gave the bill a second reading on February 26, 1964, and then proposed, in the absence of precedent for instances when a second reading did not immediately follow the first, that the bill bypass the Judiciary Committee and immediately be sent to the Senate floor for debate. Although this parliamentary move led to a filibuster, the senators eventually let it pass, preferring to concentrate their resistance on passage of the bill itself.
    __
    The bill came before the full Senate for debate on March 30, 1964 and the “Southern Bloc” of 18 southern Democratic Senators and one Republican Senator led by Richard Russell (D-GA) launched a filibuster to prevent its passage. Said Russell: “We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states.”

    It was a brutal fight, and it is clear that die hard segregationists were not going to yield to any public sympathy over the death of JFK.

  94. 94
    Yutsano says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I’m limited (by law) for what I can do for his re-election. I can and will, however, vote for this man. Even if he will win my state easily.

  95. 95
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @gaz:

    @Shawn in ShowMe: Maybe, but I can’t say what Humphrey would have done about vietnam.

    Sure, but you can make an educated guess. According to biographer Robert Dallek, Johnson favored Nixon over Humphrey because he felt the former would hold firm on the war.

  96. 96
    The Sailor says:

    gaz, my apologies, I’m on a couple of other threads and I read too quickly and not for content … or snark tags.

    My irony meter has been broken since Jon Swift passed. I’m a Poe, po’, reader.
    ++++++++++++++
    Colonoscopy, shove it up your ass.

  97. 97
    gaz says:

    @The Sailor:

    Colonoscopy, shove it up your ass.

    LOL! okay that was funny!

    sorry if I was snippy. It’s morning here – and cold as hell and dreary outside – I’m off my meds today =)

    And yeah – snark is dead – life it seems, imitates the Onion.

  98. 98
    gaz says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe: Sounds like a lot of casting the bones to me, especially when you consider that nixon publically promised to disengage from Vietnam, while escalating the war in private. So… who really knows?

    I don’t. I just know that anybody who was involved in politics at that time should have known better than to trust Nixon. Fvck words, actions speak louder than!

  99. 99
    Brachiator says:

    @BO_Bill:

    Then I’ll try again.

    Please don’t. Why don’t you just take your meds and go lie down.

  100. 100
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @gaz:

    life it seems, imitates the Onion.

    As indicated daily by the incessant one note posting of you and the other O-Trolls.

    Your expert analysis of the LBJ/Nixon/Vietnam debacle is just fascinating…a grateful world waits, breath bated, to get your take on things.

  101. 101
    Sly says:

    @Anya:

    It’s sad that Vietnam tarnished LBJ’s legacy.

    What boggles the minds of most is that Vietnam and the Great Society, for Johnson, stemmed from the same set of principles. Yes, he was an egomaniac who wanted to be known as the greatest President in American history and being the first President to admit failure in a foreign conflict was not part of that calculus, but this was a man who wanted to build hospitals and schools in Saigon and just couldn’t quite understand why Ho Chi Minh “just wouldn’t quit” and let him.

    Not to mention how much anticommunism was, in a pigheaded fashion, intertwined with Cold War liberalism. Not to digress too much on the point, but one of the forgotten reasons why the Civil Rights Act passed was because many in power did not want the Soviet Union to continue to exploit America’s racial divisions in their own propaganda, which the Soviets had been doing since at least the 1930s. America was ubiquitously portrayed as a nation divided into racial castes in which the black was the constant victim of white imperial aggression.

    Anyway, acting purely from first principles is a dangerous game. Johnson didn’t see the complexities of Vietnam largely because he didn’t want to see them. And so by his late second term the man who began his career teaching poor rural immigrants to read and write was ordering schoolhouses to be obliterated from their air.

  102. 102
    gaz says:

    @Kola Noscopy: Ahhh, U MAD!

    FFR, I’m ignoring you on this thread.

  103. 103
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Yutsano: It would be snowballs-in-hell miraculous if Obama (or any Democrat) carried my state. But come autumn I’m still going to pound the pavements to get people registered, and phonebank until I’m hoarse, and help arrange transportation to the right polling places, and all the rest of it.

  104. 104
    Yutsano says:

    @gaz:

    and cold as hell and dreary outside

    Ahh c’mon! IT’S SNOWING!!

    @SiubhanDuinne: It could happen, especially if Willard is the nominee. I have a very difficult time imagining the South going for a Mormon bishop. It’s one thing to be a member, but an actual clergyman? Yikes. That will be a tough pill to swallow no matter how badly they want the nigra out.

  105. 105
    gaz says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I’d go stealth tea-bagger, and point out how Romney is a communist.

  106. 106
    gaz says:

    @Yutsano: Yes!, it is.

    And I hate it. I’m such a spoiler.

    Although I always wanted to go sledding down James St. heh

  107. 107
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @gaz:

    Sounds like a lot of casting the bones to me, especially when you consider that nixon publically promised to disengage from Vietnam, while escalating the war in private. So… who really knows?

    I just returned from the year 2040 and your kid is telling my kid he can’t say for sure what Al Gore would have done differently from George W. Bush in Iraq. Especially since the latter publicly disavowed any interest in nation-building ;-)

  108. 108
    gaz says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe: Since you have a time machine, please travel to the 1960’s, so you can come back and regale us with your observations. Kthx

  109. 109
    Yutsano says:

    @gaz: It was closed yesterday. Ya had yer shot. Not that Seattle isn’t full of great sledding hills.

    Oh and they’re organizing a huge snowball fight on Capitol Hill. Could be entertaining.

  110. 110
    gaz says:

    @Yutsano: I miss my old neighborhood. =(

    I used to live in teh Casa del Rey

    Oh, and if Lee still runs the place – that sucks, I’m certain he’s still a dick.

  111. 111
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Sly

    but this was a man who wanted to build hospitals and schools in Saigon and just couldn’t quite understand why Ho Chi Minh “just wouldn’t quit” and let him.

    When you’re an imperialist, there is no contradiction between “teaching poor rural immigrants to read and write” and “ordering schoolhouses to be obliterated from their air.” Imperialists give orders and everyone else in the world is supposed to follow them. If you oppose their judgement, you’re going to have serious problems.

  112. 112
    Drum Circles And Weed says:

    “I want those politics back”

    Bullshit. I haven’t found a Democrat yet that does. “Those politics” require a commitment to fighting dirty, fighting to win instead of fighting to preserve some noble ideal of the “high road” and “fair play” bipartisan horseshit that Demand love more than actually getting something done for the people that still vote for them. Largely in vain.

  113. 113
    Drum Circles And Weed says:

    “I want those politics back”

    Bullshit. I haven’t found a Democrat yet that does. “Those politics” require a commitment to fighting dirty, fighting to win instead of fighting to preserve some noble ideal of the “high road” and “fair play” bipartisan horseshit that Demand love more than actually getting something done for the people that still vote for them. Largely in vain.

  114. 114
    El Cid says:

    Rick Perlstein (via Digby) reminds us how the nasty reactions to MLK’s assassination were limited entirely to marginal characters of the South and in no way were representative of the mainstream of the conservative establishment.

    Another, even more prominent conservative said it was just the sort of “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they’d break.”
    __
    That was Ronald Reagan, the governor of California, arguing that King had it coming.

    If only those uppity Negroes and their white Communist dope-smoking long-haired dupes had been willing to patiently wait for the laws to be changed in the appropriate time-frame, all those troubles we’ve had since the ’60s wouldn’t have happened.

  115. 115
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Drum Circles And Weed:

    Bullshit. I haven’t found a Democrat yet that does. “Those politics” require a commitment to fighting dirty, fighting to win instead of fighting to preserve some noble ideal of the “high road” and “fair play” bipartisan horseshit that Demand love more than actually getting something done for the people that still vote for them. Largely in vain.

    GOOD GOD, THIS.

  116. 116
    dww44 says:

    @gaz: Exactly.

  117. 117
    dww44 says:

    @Yutsano: As a Southerner, I think skin color trumps religion every time. There are a goodly number of Mormons around these parts and virtually all of them are GOP’ers.

    The sad reality is that almost all my fellow Southerners would cast a vote for Hitler if he were running against Obama. And, that is not a joke.

  118. 118
    Chris says:

    @Drum Circles And Weed:

    Bullshit. I haven’t found a Democrat yet that does. “Those politics” require a commitment to fighting dirty, fighting to win instead of fighting to preserve some noble ideal of the “high road” and “fair play” bipartisan horseshit that Demand love more than actually getting something done for the people that still vote for them. Largely in vain.

    One of the biggest differences between Democrats now and then IMO is that back then, the Democratic Party was still a party composed of, shaped by and dominated by “boss” and machine politics; Tammany Hall in New York, the Pendergast machine in Kansas City, the one Huey Long built in Louisiana, and of course “Chicago style politics.” It was ugly, it was dirty, it was corrupt as hell, but it’s also what gave us politicians like Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, and their supporters in Congress, and what enabled them to pass a lot of that good legislation.

    Today, those machines are either gone or enormously weakened. Something for liberals to consider, because Republicans sure as hell aren’t giving up that kind of politics.

  119. 119
    Donut says:

    Maybe I’m just feeling irascible lately (like any of you should care), but I find it kinda disturbing that this thread is all about LBJ and has five times the comments in the thread below that Anne Laurie posted about Dr. King.

    I guess I’m here to rain on the LBJ parade, just a little. Without the concerted, focused and relentless pressure from Dr. King, and many many many many others, what do you all think he would have done about civil rights?

    I don’t know how much. I just don’t know.

    The speech Tom excerpts…yeah, it’s moving as a stand-alone document, and yes, I am a student of history and especially African American political history at that, so I have some understanding of what Johnson was about.

    But no president exists in a vacuum.

    I guess I’m just saying, let’s give credit where it is due, but also focus on the fact that the movement behind Dr. King and others – the people, in other words – is what forced LBJ, literally forced him, to do the right things.

    It’s easy to play with hindsight, but I do not truly believe that LBJ would have been so eloquent in public, nor so willing to spend his political capital, were not for the immense pressure he faced from below.

    It’s so easy to give LBJ so much of the credit, in political terms, but we forget about what causes men and women in politics to do what they do. Rarely are they driven by desires to just do the right thing.

    They have to be pressured, hard; shoved forward, even harder.

    Inertia is often an overwhelming state in “small-d” democratic politics unless and until average, every day folks are standing up and demanding their rights.

    As much as we do well to be thankful for LBJ’s leadership, let’s also not forget what caused him to act: our literal and figurative mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

    There was also a long and protracted struggle that led there being a political environment where LBJ could find the political will and courage to deliver that speech.

    Decades and decades after the Civil War, it took the will of every day women and men demanding their rights, deciding that they could not wait, that, using Dr. King’s own word, they would be “impatient” for change and NEVER apologize for it.

    Those men and women are far more important to me than LBJ.

    We the People made the social changes of the social changes put in 1960s happen, and it took many decades of struggle with many people in leadership roles, whom we should not forget:

    Booker T. Washington
    WEB Du Bois
    A. Phillip Randolph
    Marcus Garvey
    Paul Robeson
    Thurgood Marshall and his colleague Charles H. Houston who in some ways was even more important than Marshall to dismantling Jim Crow laws
    Fannie Lou Hamer

    That is just to name a few off the top of my head.

    This holiday, in my mind, is about those forebears to Dr. King, who made his work possible, by opening doors for him – just as he opened doors for Barack Obama.

    And as well, this holiday honors the millions of others who are nameless to history, in most ways, but whose legacy we still struggle with today. Average folks doing extraordinary things, which is made possible by the rule of law in a democratic society.

    So, I close my little rant saying, please do honor LBJ’s courage, but also keep in mind what it’s really all about.

  120. 120
    El Cid says:

    @Chris: Yes, but such strong party systems are also a potential barrier to corporations and the super-rich to shape the slates of candidates and individual candidates’ leanings in their interests.

    It’s not like these changes are entirely internal — the dominant upper class political elites and their institutions also push long-term for their interests, and they’re actually pretty good at it.

    I was listening to David Frum talk about this on Bill Maher in the fantasy that if we’d just go back to restricting donations to candidates but free it up to parties (as if there were an easy mechanism to do so), we’d return to those halcyon days.

    There are reasons that power and money devolved from them; when Big Business’ organized interests turned largely against the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s (the “Right Turn”, often described entirely on the basis of Southern strategy and internal Republican developments), it was because the party’s favoring of union & labor & business-regulating interests appeared vulnerable to ideological and political funding attacks.

  121. 121
    Chris says:

    @El Cid:

    Sorry, I’m not completely sure I understood what you were trying to say – are you saying we moved away from the machine politics system because the big money moved away from them in the 1970s?

  122. 122
    El Cid says:

    @Chris: That’s part of what was going on. Big money interests began to diversify their investments in political activity; you had an immense increase in the strength of business lobbying and policy advocacy groups like the Business Roundtable, in hired political think tanks creating a veneer of intellectual independence, in conservative / pro-business media, and in more systematic outreach to find and back candidates with a desired background.

    If you’re a local and/or national business interest and you face, say, a city or county Democratic political party organization controlled by pro-union liberals, sure, you can back people to run for control of that organization. And of course, as a self-interested person or institution, you should. (I.e., the evangelical conservative movements beginning with school boards, town officials, etc.)

    But if you provide an alternate path of funding (informally or via one or more local groups you create or begin to work with), then candidates as individuals are typically free to place themselves on the ballot, declare themselves as running for office under whatever political party they wish to run for, and they can avoid seeking the support of the local party organization whatsoever.

    Part of Newt Gingrich’s “revolution” was pretty revolutionary as far as Republican funding and its relation to the Republican establishment: he realized (as did many) that the Republican Party establishment was mostly beholden to large donors who were closely connected to a party establishment he and others wished to rebel against.

    He began showing Republican candidates how to replace the limiting feature of seeking money from either the Party (alone) or the small number of big money interests by seeking the funding of much larger numbers of contributions from the more conservative small to medium sized businesses and their owners and executives — i.e., regional insurance companies, and so forth.

    And it worked, and it was a strategy which allowed the fundamental shift of the Republican Party as a whole away from the more moderate national and Northeastern business establishment (which despite many exceptions still dominated in the Californian-originating Reagan / Bush Sr. era) and toward a more radical and grassroots-linked base.

    Of course, once they demonstrated that it could work and actually captured power, big money was more than willing to give money to those even more radically pursuing their own interests.

  123. 123
    Brachiator says:

    @Donut:

    Maybe I’m just feeling irascible lately (like any of you should care), but I find it kinda disturbing that this thread is all about LBJ and has five times the comments in the thread below that Anne Laurie posted about Dr. King.

    There does appear an odd sentiment among some posters here that black people were little more than bystanders in the Civil Rights movement. Very unfortunate.

  124. 124
    Chris says:

    @El Cid:

    So basically, movement conservatives learned to set up their own political machines to challenge the Democratic ones, and to power them by tapping into smaller and more conservative businesses in the “heartland” rather than the establishment based on Wall Street.

    And this hurt the Democratic machines because local money that would previously have gone to them (for lack of an alternative) now had elsewhere to go. Makes sense.

  125. 125
    patroclus says:

    And I’d like to thank Sam Rayburn for talking LBJ into it and for providing a model of an objectively-pro-civil-rights Texas politician that LBJ could emulate.

    Rayburn was the principal Dem sponsor of the Transportation Act of 1920 which prohibited “undue discrimination” on trains and the sole author of the 1935 Motor Carrier Act which prohibited “undue discrimination” on buses. These statutes were later interpreted to supercede Jim Crow state laws and they provided the constitutional basis for the CRA by resting on the Commerce Clause.

    Rayburn also packed the Rules Committee to overcome Howard Smith’s obstructionism, he pushed the DC Voting Rights Amendment and moved to pass the poll tax constitutional amendment. But the most important thing was wedding LBJ to the civil rights cause prior to the 1957 CRA, and then using that as a means to show Northerners that LBJ wasn’t all that bad on civil rights which then helped get LBJ on the ticket with JFK.

    Rayburn didn’t give us the great speeches; just the necessary parliamentary support for what later got enacted after he died.

  126. 126
    Donut says:

    @Brachiator:

    Unfortunate and not limited to the BJ commentariat, by any means, and that’s also too bad.

  127. 127
    clayton says:

    Boss Bitch points us to newly recovered audio of an MLK speech to an Ohio High School in 1967.

    Yeah, local wingnuts were using this to bash blacks with, saying, ‘don’t ask for a handout, be the best shrub you can be.’

    They try to ruin everything.

  128. 128
    slightly-peeved says:

    @Drum circles and Weed:

    That machine politics is still visible in the left-leaning political movements of other countries. Those movements have a history of getting stuff ddone. However, what they also often have is an expectation that people shut up and go along with the party. It’s called Solidarity. If you want Ben Nelson to become part of the machine, you’ll need Bernie Sanders to do so too. If you accept that, great, but I think a lot of people on the left in the US value their individuality and their freedom to complain too much to accept it.

  129. 129
    Chris says:

    @slightly-peeved:

    Ideological liberals in the U.S. have never been comfortable with machines and bosses, often considering them as corrupt and as much a part of the problem as trusts and robber barons. It came to a head in the 1960s, with a complete breakdown in trust between the new left movements and the old, machine-friendly establishment. The fall of the machines came soon thereafter.

    I can more than understand the criticism liberals throw at the machines. But it’s been nearly half a century since that breakdown occurred… and I have yet to see the new Democratic Party come up with a system that’s anywhere near as good at getting results as the old one was.

  130. 130
    mclaren says:

    One strand I draw from Johnson’s speech is that it is possible to have a politics that transcends the mere purchase and sale of interest…

    But that’s exactly what America has today! America has descended into a barbarism that does not limit itself by race or color or creed: Shithole America has sunk into the deepest shadows of mindless superstition and lawless self-delusion entirely without regard for its personal interest or the cost to its elites.

    An America submerged in mindless barbarism, drowning on superstition and tearing itself apart with an insane new Grand Inquisition misnamed the “Global War On Terror” will hurt everyone in this benighted country, rich as well as poor — America is destroying its infrastructure, damaging its economy, wrecking its educational system in order to plunge itself into barbarism…but Americans are willing to pay that price in order to move backwards into a New Dark Age!

    See?

    Americans can work together for a common goal! We can overcome enormous odds (the pesky persistence of observed reality, a basic human reluctance to torture our neighbhors, the infuriating stumbling blocks of facts and logic) as we harness the genius of the American people to regress into a Great Endarkenment!

  131. 131
    Brachiator says:

    @Chris:

    and I have yet to see the new Democratic Party come up with a system that’s anywhere near as good at getting results as the old one was.

    This is in part because people overstate the benefits and understate the price paid when machines rule.

    And there are always liberals who love their own brand of non-religious based authoritarianism. For the greater good.

  132. 132
    El Cid says:

    @Chris: Yes, except that the exact same dynamic works with Democratic Party politics as well. (As always, dependent upon the particulars of some time and context.)

    If you want to run as the Democrat more likely to accommodate the desires of local business, most often regarding “growth” policies, then you could turn to individuals, organizations, and institutions for funding directly versus battling through the local Party structure.

    At root, the local Party’s job is to raise funds and get out the vote; if some candidate wins the “D” ticket slot of some race, then they’re the candidate whether or not the party machine wanted it.

    Sure, there are going to be cases in which for various reasons a Democratic political party structure is centrally or overwhelmingly important, but it won’t be when there is money to be had by candidates when wealthy or economic interests groups are there as funding and other support sources.

    Let’s say you’re in an area in which Democrats are probably going to win some election which could affect your material interest, and that you have enough money to spread some influence.

    Also, let’s say that the local party machine is in the control of people hostile to your agenda — whatever, expand water and sewer lines to some new currently undeveloped area of the county, let some small business tax lapse.

    Why would you restrict yourself from doing everything you could to find and back candidates for the Democratic ticket for this position who are more amenable to your interest? Especially given that there is more than likely some existing ‘pro-business’ clubs or groups, and various informal networks of local bigger money or insider money influential persons?

    This doesn’t mean that whatever candidates you favor and which the local Democratic party organizations don’t like, maybe even hate to some degree, have to be a parody of being completely contrary to every point in the Democratic platform.

    If your preferred candidates get in and especially if they win the nomination or other selection process — which is particularly easy when other potential candidates recognize that those candidates are loaded up with funding potential while they are likely to have to sacrifice a great deal and maybe not get much funding and so many worthy opponents choose not to run — then probably as long as there’s some modicum of nice behavior on both sides, the local party will do what it does, and raise money for the chosen Democratic candidate(s) and get out the vote.

    And if it totally goes haywire and party functionality breaks down, why, then, maybe the Republican candidates you preferred, and to whom you and/or your allies were also giving money, would get into office and do what you wanted anyway.

    In short, it’s not just about how the Party as an organization wants to get things done; there are lots of powerful forces outside the Party with the ability to do things their way.

  133. 133
    JD says:

    I also love that speech. My favorite part of it was where LBJ recounted his experience teaching poor Mexican kids who had been hurt by racism. He tells Congress that he never thought he would have the chance to do anything about it. He tells Congress that he now has that chance. He narrows his eyes, that classic LBJ expression of COMPLETE DETERMINATION and tells his audience “I MEAN TO USE IT”. Gives me gooseflesh.

    I know that none of this would have ever happened had it not been for Dr. King and people like him, but Lyndon Johnson worked his butt off for civil rights legislation and deserves credit for his effort.

  134. 134
    Chris says:

    @El Cid:

    In short, it’s not just about how the Party as an organization wants to get things done; there are lots of powerful forces outside the Party with the ability to do things their way.

    Okay, I think I’m getting it now.

    Basically it’s not even about Democrats/Republicans anymore. The donors learned to just run their own candidates directly and cut out the middleman.

  135. 135
    El Cid says:

    @Chris: The monied interests have always been able to independently influence the slates of and success of candidates; but at certain times in our history, and varying by place and context, political party organizations have exerted more control.

    The “middleman,” however, also responds, because power elites run the parties, too.

    So the Democratic Party too adapted to appeal to and integrate more into itself the big money interests which some decades ago began being quite skeptical of it.

    But yeah — powerful interests don’t wait around mutely for a political party system to nicely favor them. They make it happen when they need to.

  136. 136
    Nickws says:

    Davis X. Machina:

    The Civil Rights act—passing then on its fourth try, IIRC — was as much a Cold-War response to Soviet propaganda, then perhaps at its most potent overseas, as a long-delayed recognition of justice denied.

    Heh, I’m amused to read this ultraChomskyist reductionist rot on the same thread where I learned that Caro’s new volume on LBJ is to be released.

    Civil rights legislative dealmaking as a direct response to foreign policy pressures, you have got to be kidding me.

    Congressional Democrats wanted a monument to JFK, white Southern Democrats, and the Bircher wing of the GOP, needed to show they didn’t kill him.

    All the Goldwaters and Poppy Bushs and Strom Thurmonds (not to mention plenty of yellow dogs) opposed voting rights, opposed civil rights.

    Where the hell did you come up with the idea that civil rights legislation was window dressing for these guys?

    If anything depended entirely on the nobility of Lyndon Johnson’s soul for its being ushered into existence, it’d arrive around the same time as the heat death of the sun.

    AH, you would be a stereotypical white boomer, no?

    That would explain the crazy fallacies.

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