John Edwards

I haven’t been following news about Presidential candidates yet, but this speech by John Edwards is good.

Our ancestors came here to escape a world where birth was destiny, and build a nation where all are born with the right to control their own destiny. For more than 200 years, our country has been propelled by this single, powerful idea: that all Americans should have the opportunity to rise as far as their hard work and God-given potential can take them.

That idea is the very bedrock of America —- as President Andrew Jackson put it, “Equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none.” Take that away, and the dream our forefathers fought and died for will no longer exist.

And yet, in the first years of what ought to be America’s greatest century, too many of our leaders have walked away from the values that got us here: Work, responsibility, country, a fair shake for all and a free ride for none.

Our great free enterprise system has been rocked by some at the top who put their own fortunes ahead of their company’s future and their employees’ hard work. Our democracy has been wounded by some at the top who put favors for the few ahead of what’s right for the whole nation. Worst of all, the character of our country has been betrayed by some at the top who want the measure of an American to be how much she is worth, not how hard or how well she works.

Here in Washington, some of our most powerful leaders stand accused of letting big campaign contributors write special favors into law. And tonight, a President and Vice President who have doled out special privilege more quickly than any administration ever will begin a two-week sprint to collect, in return, more special-interest money more quickly than any administration ever.

[…]The President and I agree on one thing: this campaign should be a debate about values. We need to have that debate, because the values of this president and this administration are not the values of mainstream America, the values all of us grew up with —- opportunity, responsibility, hard work.

There’s a fundamental difference between his vision and mine. I believe America should value work. He only values wealth. He wants the people who own the most to get more. I want to make sure everybody has the chance to be an owner.

For a man who made responsibility the theme of his campaign, this president sure doesn’t seem to value it much in office. We’ve lost 3.1 million private sector jobs. Over $3 trillion in stock market value lost. A $5.6 trillion budget surplus gone, and nearly $5 trillion of red ink in its place. Bill Clinton spent 8 years turning around 12 years of his predecessors’ deficits. George Bush erased it in two years, and this year will break the all-time record.

Yet even with all those zeroes, the true cost of the administration’s approach isn’t what they’ve done with our money, it’s what they want to do to our way of life. Their economic vision has one goal: to get rid of taxes on unearned income and shift the tax burden onto people who work. This crowd wants a world where the only people who have to pay taxes are the ones who do the work.

Make no mistake: this is the most radical and dangerous economic theory to hit our shores since socialism a century ago. Like socialism, it corrupts the very nature of our democracy and our free enterprise tradition. It is not a plan to grow the American economy. It is a plan to corrupt the American economy and shrink the winners’ circle.

This is a question of values, not taxes. We should cut taxes, but we shouldn’t cut and run from our values when we do. John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan argued for tax cuts as an incentive for people to work harder: Americans work hard, and the government shouldn’t punish them when they do.

See also William Saletan’s analysis of this speech in Slate.

Eric Rudolph Visits

Wow, I got a visit from Eric Rudolph himself to say:

i didnt do it

Am I important or what?

And then there’s Bobby who thinks I am a judgmental nutcase who judges terrorists like Rudolph or Bin Laden:

Sounds like you have all the problems in the world solved. Can you judge me next?

Sure, Bobby. If you blow up some people, I will judge you.

I never got whether Bobby was mad at me for judging Rudolph or Bin Laden or both. Bobby, if you are reading, please enlighten me.

Kayak Touring

I am going to a kayaking trip on Lake Tugalo on the border of Georgia and South Carolina. It is a 2 day trip and I’ll be back on sunday afternoon.

Letter from my Undergrad School

I am thinking of writing about my undergrad years. Not personal stories, but more tied into education and politics in Pakistan. Instead of first giving the background, I’ll post the translation of a letter that my parents got from the head of our college during my junior year (the letter is dated March 12, 1992). That same letter was mailed to the parents of all male students. I’ll get to the story behind the letter in a later post.

So here’s the translation. I have tried to make the translation as halting and verbose as the original. I don’t think I have succeeded.

Through this letter, I sincerely appeal to the students’ parents that they, alongwith the university administration and faculty, do their best in improving student behavior so that their child can have a better professional career.

Unfortunately, in December 1991, due to some miscreant students, there was a fight between the college and the locals of Gangoo Bahadur, a village near the college. As a result, the students set fire to local property and a government toll booth. A bus and tractor belonging to the college were also severely damaged. Your son was also involved in this incident. After this incident, on December 17, 1991, the civil administration called the police to action in the campus which resulted in some students being arrested. Now those students have been released on bail. After mutual discussion of the civil and college administrations, the college has reopened on January 25, 1992. The college administration has taken serious notice of this incident and has fined each student one hundred Rupees so that students are warned and focus on their studies and are dissuaded from getting involved in dirty politics.

You are reuested that you advise your son that he not take part in such activities in the future and help us in guarding against non-academic and discipline. [I know this sentence does not make sense but this is how it’s written in Urdu. —- Zack]

If your son is involved in such activities in the future, then his name will be struck off the rolls according to college rules and regulations and thus his future will become dark.

I have fervent [?] hope that you will cooperate with us in restricting activities against the college discipline. (Thank you.)

Wishing for your cooperation

Chew on it for a while. I’ll post more about this and related issues during my college years in Pakistan in a couple of days.

UPDATE: More here and here.

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63

I recently finished reading Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63. It’s a huge book with more than 900 pages of text plus about 78 pages of notes. It took me a long time to read, but it was worth it. The book is fascinating and Taylor Branch brings the civil rights era to life. I highly recommend it to everyone.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is about the Birmingham protests by children. The use of dogs and firehoses on those children is heart-wrenching. It’s somewhat unreal to read the comments of some leaders of the time feigning concern for black children.

Birmingham’s white leaders scrambled to head off a swell of public sympathy for King by denouncing his use of children. Mayor Boutwell told the city that “irresponsible and unthinking agitators” had made “tools” of children to threaten life and property. “The respectable people of Birmingham, white or colored, did not create this danger,” he declared. “We are not contributing to it. We are innocent victims.” […]Judge Talbot Ellis […] said that those who “misled these kids” into demonstrations “ought to be put under the jail.”

Another interesting bit was the difference in perception between whites and blacks, something that has not been eliminated (though is greatly reduced). It seems from the book that a lot of whites did not understand the conditions blacks lived under. It was as if they had turned a blind eye to the black population.

The role of the press is as usual not the best. They jump for stories when they get big, but then lose all interest after the climax. At times, they don’t understand the fundamental issues at all. It’s like that stupid “objectivity” thing. Here are the questions King and Wilkins (NAACP head) were asked on “Meet the Press” before the March on Washington:

Lawrence Spivak spoke of the numerous authorities who “believe it would be impossible to bring more than 100,000 militant Negroes into Washington without incidents and possibly rioting,” and he asked Wilkins sourly what the country could possibly learn about civil rights that could justify such risks. […] the next panelist promptly asked King three times how the march’s leadership could tolerate Bayard Rustin’s background of subversion and character defects. […] The fourth panelist pressed King to admit that the movement needed to eliminate extremism and “rowdyism,” such as the public booing of Mayor Daley and J. H. Jackson.

Here is King speaking at a mass meeting during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955:

“And you know, my friends, thhere comes a time,” he cried, “when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression.” […] “There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being thrown across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair,” he declared. “There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July, and left standing amidst the piercing chill of an Alpine November.” […] “We are here —- we are here because we are tired now.”

Here are some excerpts from Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham jail replying to some white Alabama clergymen who had written a public letter opposing King’s marches in Birmingham:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant ‘Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

[…]I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

And here is the text of King’s famous “I have a dream” speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963 and click here to listen to an audio version.

Finally, I want to note Kennedy’s hesitant role for civil rights. He was very mindful of politics and of losing support of Southern Whites who were all Democrats and generally in favor of segregation.

Mississippi must wait until I am finished with the second book Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65. That book covers the Freedon Summer of 1964. There is however a lot of material about Mississippi, including the assassination of Medgar Evers, in this book as well. To whet your appetite for civil rights in the worst state of the era, here is a post by Al-Muhajabah.

Musharraf’s Gems

This guy Musharraf makes me angry:

President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday declared that the Legal Framework Order could not be undone and he would continue as the chief of army staff as “unity of command comes through one person in order to give stability to the nation”.

This is the government we are talking about, not the army. Quit your army talk.

“I will not remove my military uniform, nor would give a time in this regard. I understand uniform has to be removed, as it is not democratic.”

“When I see functional democracy and stability in the country, I will give up the post of army chief. God has placed me in this position. If I have to wear 10 hats in the interest of the country I will do that,” the president added.

So the uniform is not democratic. Therefore, while he’s in uniform, there’ll not be real democracy in Pakistan. But Musharraf will only remove his uniform when he sees functional democracy. Do you see the problem here?

[…]Replying to a question, the president said he had the power to dissolve parliament. He stressed that the nation was supreme. “If the nation is in trouble, I have to take a decision in the national interest,” he maintained.

[…]To another question, he said: “Democracy is the rule of the majority. Majority wants me and wants me in uniform.” The minority was being dictated by people from outside who were least concerned about democracy in Pakistan. They were least bothered about the LFO or the Constitution, he said, adding they were only interested in personal gains.

That’s great. Everything I do is in the national interest and everything my opponents do is for their personal gain. Great logic by Our Great Leader!

Country Quiz

United Nations
You’re the United Nations!

Most people think you’re ineffective, but you are trying to completely save the world from itself, so there’s always going to be a long way to go. You’re always the one trying to get friends to talk to each other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of beating each other about the head and torso. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and you get very schizophrenic as a result. But your heart is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.

Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Via Brian’s Study Breaks who I have added to my blogroll.