Open Thread: Honors for Bayard Rustin

Better late than never, via commentor J.Ty. Hard to think of a more deserving recipient:

[Last] Thursday, the White House announced that Bayard Rustin, the trailblazing civil rights activist, will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

The timing couldn’t be better. Rustin was a key advisor to Martin Luther King and the primary organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom — a job he seemed to have prepared for all his life. Many Americans will be celebrating that event’s 50th anniversary on August 28, and insisting that the country complete the march’s unfinished business of economic justice, full employment, voting rights, and equal opportunity.

Honoring Rustin with the Medal of Freedom tells us something about how far America has come as a nation in the past 50 years. After all, he had four strikes against him. He was a pacifist, a radical, black and gay. Controversy surrounded him all his life.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, Rustin marshaled his considerable talents — as an organizer, strategist, speaker and writer — to challenge the economic and racial status quo. Always an outsider, he helped catalyze the civil-rights movement with courageous acts of resistance. Rustin was a brilliant thinker and strategist, but given his political liabilities as a gay, black, radical pacifist, he also relied on his incredible charm to win converts to the causes of peace and civil rights. A remarkable tenor, he frequently sang gospel and blues songs for his audiences. Had he not become an organizer, he could have become a popular entertainer.

Rustin is not as well known as other civil rights leaders in large part because of his homosexuality and his brief flirtation, during his twenties, with Communism. Although highly respected in labor, pacifist, and civil rights circles, he was typically a behind-the-scenes organizer rather than a public figure…

I remember, back in the 60s, my union-dockmaster father telling me that Rustin had been written out of America’s political history because (I quote), “the chickenshit Goo-goos were afraid of being associated with a guy might get called a Commie.” The old man was temperamentally incapable of pacifism, but he respected honest pacifists and despised ‘tough guys’ whose only bravery was big talk cheerleading mob violence.








Disability Rights Are Human Rights, Too

Even the “luckiest” of us are just TABs (Temporarily Able Bodied)*. Because this particular failure-to-legislate disgrace by the Dung Beetle Republicans is a minor personal obsession, Tammy Duckworth’s latest email caught my eye:

Before I was wounded, I never expected that the Americans with Disabilities Act would have such a profound impact on my life.

This landmark bill – passed with bipartisan support – made our nation the world’s leader in protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination. It has also made it possible for me and thousands of other Veterans to continue living a full, mobile life.

Now the Senate has the chance to encourage other countries to adopt our own high standards by ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Tell the Senate to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

Approving this treaty should be a no-brainer. After all, it won’t change U.S. law. Ratification will simply encourage other countries to meet our standards. A more accessible world is also good for our service members stationed overseas who might have family members with disabilities there with them.

But Republican extremists have made this non-controversial treaty into a yet another partisan vote. Even after fellow disabled Veteran and former Republican Majority Leader Bob Dole visited the floor of the Senate in his wheelchair this past December to support the bill, Senate Republicans voted it down.

Fortunately, the Senate is expected to vote on the treaty again after August recess. We have an opportunity right now to encourage Senators to reject the Tea Party propaganda about this treaty, and do the right thing.

As to whether this issue is “really important” — who actually wants to discriminate against people with disabilities? — commentor Origuy linked just this afternoon:

A handicap ramp in front of a Fountain family’s house is in the middle of a neighborhood squabble.

Vincent and Heidi Giesegh say their neighbors are threatening legal action if they don’t remove the ramp. They say the next door couple is worried that the ramp will hurt the value of their home. The Giesegh’s say they need it for their 16 year old daughter Kirsten who has Cerebral Palsy…

The Giesegh’s neighborhood doesn’t have an HOA, and the family says the City of Fountain told them it was ok to install the ramp and widen their driveway for a handicap van. 11 News went next door to get the neighbor’s side of the story and they told us no comment…


* Edited, because commentors correctly pointed out that not all of ‘us’ are TABs.








The Best of Times (Good Reads Redux)

Fair warning:  What follows is ~3000 words on what a good time it is to find science fascinating.  Avoid if you’re not interested.

Given my day job teaching young writers about covering science, and given that we’re a month shy of the first day of classes for our next cohort of science-writing graduate students, I’ve been doing an informal survey of what’s out there as venues in which those folks will perform over the next few years.  And, as I suggested in this post, I came away with the somewhat unexpected sense that we are living in a genuinely great age for writing and the public engagement with science.

Science writers are fond of weeping in their cups* about the dire state of the traditional science media.  And they/we should.  MSM science writing is often said to have peaked in the so called “golden age” of the 80s.  That was when a whole new crop of science-technology-gee-whiz glossies appeared.  I think I listed a fair number of the new rags last time — Time Inc.’s Discover (my first real employer), Science 8X, Penthouse publication’s Omni** (founded 1978, actually) and others I’m blanking on, joining old stalwarts enjoying new interest — Scientific American, Popular Science, Science News, and others.  The end of the decade saw the birth of one of my all-time favorites, the short-lived, much missed Mondo 2000, and in the early 90s, you got Wired.

The NYT’s Science Times first appeared as a separate section on November 14, 1978.  It still exists, and is reasonably healthy — but diminished from its heydey.  Following the Grey Lady (no longer of) 43rd St., other newspapers built up their own dedicated science, technology and health desks.  There were lots of jobs to be had, a seemingly endless tally of stories to be written.

Juan_Gris_004

Part of the reason you saw such an expansion of science journalism was that the late 70s and onwards have been simply a fabulous time to be covering the beat.

Consider: Read more








Rep. John Lewis to Congress: Do the Right Thing

Via commentor Rickyrah, from the MSNBC Politics/Nation blog, “Rep. John Lewis optimistic Congress will pass new Voting Rights Act”:

States have been swift to take action on new voter suppression measures in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that effectively gutted the Voting Rights. After less than two weeks, already six states have moved forward with new voter suppression measures, but that action has also inspired a renewed push for voting rights from the civil rights community in the wake of the Court’s decision, and few may be more passionate about the cause than John Lewis.

The Georgia congressman was a freedom rider who was beaten within an inch of his life as he marched in Selma, Ala., in support of voting rights for all Americans.

I truly believe that what the Supreme Court did was to stab, to put that dagger deep in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” he said on Saturday’s PoliticsNation from Essence Festival in New Orleans.

The decision to restore the provisions destroyed by the ruling now rests in the hands of Congress, and while some lawmakers in Washington have been uncertain if not outright pessimistic about the likelihood of passing the new legislation, Lewis has no such doubt.

“We’re coming together—both Democrats and Republicans—on the House side, and they will do the same thing on the Senate side,” he said. “And we’re going to pass another Voting Rights Act.”…

Heck, let them name it after Nelson Mandela, now that all the Reagantots are trying to pretend that the whole “Mandela is a Commie, and the ANC a notorious terrorist organization stuff never happened. Good for Rep. Lewis, calling on his fellow Congresspersons to stand up for justice.








I’m tired, but we are all OK.

First, the important part–all of my family and coworkers are OK.  No serious injuries either.  The house has no electricity.  It’s about a quarter mile south of the damage path.  Our old neighborhood may have been hit.  The street names are all from there.  I haven’t seen television at all, nor heard much radio since we moved out of the apartment on Saturday.  Cox cable was supposed to come out this morning, but for obvious reasons that hasn’t happened.  If anybody has tried to email me, I don’t have access to that account right now.

My daughter and I saw the tornado.  It was the most awe-inspiring, ugly, terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.  It turned the fucking sky black.  I was a quarter mile away, and I felt the ground shaking.  My wife was in the city on the opposite side of the damage path.  Normally, we’d drive from our house nine miles straight north to that location, but we had to drive six miles east, ten miles north, six miles west, and one mile south to get to her.  That took three hours, with the cell phones only working intermittently.  We got my wife, and none of us had heard from our son.  He was at his high school graduation rehearsal when the tornado hit.   We didn’t hear about him until around 11:00 PM at my sister’s house.  It took seven hours to drive from the old apartments where my wife was to my sister’s house, and we didn’t know about my sister or her family, or my dad, or my son until we got to my sister’s.  During this time, we saw first hand the devastation of the Moore Medical Center.  It’s destroyed as a functional structure.  Supposedly no patients or staff were seriously injured.  The credit union, 7/11, bowling alley, and the post office in that vicinity were all destroyed completely.  Then we learned that everybody was OK, but that my son’s car had overheated in the stop/go traffic, and he had pulled it over and abandoned it to continue on foot.  He was picked up by a couple of Navy Reservists, who took him to a shelter set up in a Baptist church.  He called us, and told us that he was in a shelter, and then the connection died.  I spent the better part of the night trying to connect with family in other places and let them know we were OK, and  My Brother in Law and I got up at five this morning, and drove down to Norman, about 15 miles, found a working gas station, fueled up and filled some gas cans, and bought all the bottled water, and AA batteries we could load in his truck at Wal Mart.  We drove back to the city, and made our way to a Baptist church-shelter.  We got a list from them of places, and left some water with them.  We drove around from shelter to shelter looking for the boy, dropping water and batteries at shelters and checkpoint intersections as we went.  By  8:30, we found him in a shelter, perfectly fine, if a little worse for wear.  We dropped off half the remaining water, and made our way back to my sister’s house.  That took two hours to go three miles.  At this point, my wife and I decided that we needed to go to our respective offices, so she left for Norman and had a straight shot in, and I left for the city in the BIL’s truck.  It took me about two hours to make it to work.  I’m writing this on the work computer.

I haven’t slept or eaten, so I’m going to go do one of those here shortly, and the other after that.  I don’t really have much in the way of plans beyond that right now.  When I’m done at work with a couple of things, I’ll try to get back to my house to check on it, but it’s very slow going right now.  At some point I’ll start doing something more for the community, but finding my boy was priority one.

UPDATE:  Current information on employees of OKC VA Medical Center:

• 1 employee lost an immediate family member in the storm
• 1 employee had an immediate family member severely injured in the storm
• 18 employees have completely lost their homes
• 38 employees have minor to severe damage to their homes
• 14 employees have unknown damage to their homes due to limited access to the area
• 14 employees have yet to be reached; however we continue our efforts to contact them.

The American Red Cross

Safe and well site–someone you know may be registered here