Political MoJo

Video and Transcript: President Obama's Speech on 50th Anniversary of MLK's "I Have a Dream"

| Wed Aug. 28, 2013 4:07 PM EDT

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama spoke at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Video and transcript of the speech are below:

Here's the transcript:

To the King family, who have sacrificed and inspired so much, to President Clinton, President Carter, Vice President Biden, Jill, fellow Americans, five decades ago today, Americans came to this honored place to lay claim to a promise made at our founding.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In 1963, almost 200 years after those words were set to paper, a full century after a great war was fought and emancipation proclaimed, that promise, those truths remained unmet. And so they came by the thousands, from every corner of our country -- men and women, young and old, blacks who longed for freedom and whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others. Across the land, congregations sent them off with food and with prayer. In the middle of the night, entire blocks of Harlem came out to wish them well.

With the few dollars they scrimped from their labor, some bought tickets and boarded buses, even if they couldn't always sit where they wanted to sit. Those with less money hitchhiked, or walked. They were seamstresses, and steelworkers, and students, and teachers, maids and pullman porters. They shared simple meals and bunked together on floors.

And then, on a hot summer day, they assembled here, in our nation's capital, under the shadow of the great emancipator, to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress and to awaken America's long-slumbering conscience.

We rightly and best remember Dr. King's soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions, how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike. His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.

But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV.

Many had gone to segregated schools and sat at segregated lunch counters, had lived in towns where they couldn't vote, in cities where their votes didn't matter. There were couples in love who couldn't marry, soldiers who fought for freedom abroad that they found denied to them at home. They had seen loved ones beaten and children fire- hosed. And they had every reason to lash out in anger or resign themselves to a bitter fate.

And yet they chose a different path. In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in with the moral force of nonviolence. Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us. They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglass once taught: that freedom is not given; it must be won through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith.

That was the spirit they brought here that day.

That was the spirit young people like John Lewis brought that day. That was the spirit that they carried with them like a torch back to their cities and their neighborhoods, that steady flame of conscience and courage that would sustain them through the campaigns to come, through boycotts and voter registration drives and smaller marches, far from the spotlight, through the loss of four little girls in Birmingham, the carnage of Edmund Pettus Bridge and the agony of Dallas, California, Memphis. Through setbacks and heartbreaks and gnawing doubt, that flame of justice flickered and never died.

And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, the voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else's laundry or shining somebody else's shoes. (Applause.) Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed and Congress changed and, yes, eventually the White House changed. (Cheers, applause.)

Because they marched, America became more free and more fair, not just for African-Americans but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans, for Catholics, Jews and Muslims, for gays, for Americans with disabilities.

America changed for you and for me.

And the entire world drew strength from that example, whether it be young people who watched from the other side of an Iron Curtain and would eventually tear down that wall, or the young people inside South Africa who would eventually end the scourge of apartheid. (Applause.) Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought with each step of their well-worn shoes. That's the depth that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries -- folks who could have run a company, maybe, if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm's way even though they didn't have to -- (applause) -- those Japanese- Americans who recalled their own interment, those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust, people who could have given up and given in but kept on keeping on, knowing that weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning -- (cheers, applause) -- on the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all, in ways that our children now take for granted as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth.

To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed -- that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. (Applause.) Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr., they did not die in vain. (Applause.) Their victory was great.

But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn't bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether it's by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all in the criminal justice system and not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails -- (applause) -- it requires vigilance.

(Cheers, applause.)

And we'll suffer the occasional setback. But we will win these fights. This country has changed too much. (Applause.) People of good will, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history's currents. (Applause.)

In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights, the eradication of legalized discrimination -- the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the march, for the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract idea. They were there seeking jobs as well as justice -- (applause) -- not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity. For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can't afford the meal?

This idea that -- that one's liberty is linked to one's livelihood, that the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security -- this idea was not new.

Lincoln himself understood the Declaration of Independence in such terms, as a promise that in due time, the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men and that all should have an equal chance.

Dr. King explained that the goals of African-Americans were identical to working people of all races: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures -- conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.

What King was describing has been the dream of every American. It's what's lured for centuries new arrivals to our shores. And it's along this second dimension of economic opportunity, the chance through honest toil to advance one's station in life, that the goals of 50 years ago have fallen most short.

Yes, there have been examples of success within black America that would have been unimaginable a half-century ago. But as has already been noted, black unemployment has remained almost twice as high as white employment (sic), Latino unemployment close behind. The gap in wealth between races has not lessened, it's grown.

As President Clinton indicated, the position of all working Americans, regardless of color, has eroded, making the dream Dr. King described even more elusive.

For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate. Even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes, inequality has steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder. In too many communities across this country in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence.

And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires; it was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life. (Applause.) The test was not and never has been whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many, for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran. To win that battle, to answer that call -- this remains our great unfinished business.

We shouldn't fool ourselves. The task will not be easy. Since 1963 the economy's changed.

The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class, reduced the bargaining power of American workers.

And our politics has suffered. Entrenched interests -- those who benefit from an unjust status quo resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal, marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools -- that all these things violated sound economic principles.

We'd be told that growing inequality was the price for a growing economy, a measure of the free market -- that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.

And then there were those elected officials who found it useful to practice the old politics of division, doing their best to convince middle-class Americans of a great untruth, that government was somehow itself to blame for their growing economic insecurity -- that distant bureaucrats were taking their hard-earned dollars to benefit the welfare cheat or the illegal immigrant.

And then, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots.

Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse- making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself. All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided.

But the good news is, just as was true in 1963, we now have a choice. We can continue down our current path in which the gears of this great democracy grind to a halt and our children accept a life of lower expectations, where politics is a zero-sum game, where a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie. That's one path. Or we can have the courage to change.

The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history, that we are masters of our fate.

But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together. We'll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago.

And I believe that spirit is there, that true force inside each of us. I see it when a white mother recognizes her own daughter in the face of a poor black child. I see it when the black youth thinks of his own grandfather in the dignified steps of an elderly white man. It's there when the native born recognizing that striving spirit of a new immigrant, when the interracial couple connects the pain of a gay couple who were discriminated against and understands it as their own. That's where courage comes from, when we turn not from each other or on each other but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone. That's where courage comes from. (Applause.)

And with that courage, we can stand together for good jobs and just wages. With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on earth for every person. (Applause.) With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them. (Applause.) With that courage, we can feed the hungry and house the homeless and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise.

America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there. Yes, we will stumble, but I know we'll get back up. That's how a movement happens. That's how history bends. That's how, when somebody is faint of heart, somebody else brings them along and says, come on, we're marching. (Cheers, applause.)

There's a reason why so many who marched that day and in the days to come were young, for the young are unconstrained by habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is. They dared to dream different and to imagine something better. And I am convinced that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose serves in this generation.

We might not face the same dangers as 1963, but the fierce urgency of now remains. We may never duplicate the swelling crowds and dazzling processions of that day so long ago, no one can match King's brilliance, but the same flames that lit the heart of all who are willing to take a first step for justice, I know that flame remains. (Applause.)

That tireless teacher who gets to class early and stays late and dips into her own pocket to buy supplies because she believes that every child is her charge -- she's marching. (Applause.) That successful businessman who doesn't have to, but pays his workers a fair wage and then offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con, who's down on his luck -- he's marching.

(Cheers, applause.) The mother who pours her love into her daughter so that she grows up with the confidence to walk through the same doors as anybody's son -- she's marching. (Cheers, applause.) The father who realizes the most important job he'll ever have is raising his boy right, even if he didn't have a father, especially if he didn't have a father at home -- he's marching. (Applause.) The battle-scarred veterans who devote themselves not only to helping their fellow warriors stand again and walk again and run again, but to keep serving their country when they come home -- they are marching. (Applause.) Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day, that change does not come from Washington but to Washington, that change has always been built on our willingness, we, the people, to take on the mantle of citizenship -- you are marching. (Applause.)

And that's the lesson of our past, that's the promise of tomorrow, that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. And when millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low, and those rough places will be made plain, and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. (Cheers, applause.)

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Corn on MSNBC: Would a Punitive Strike Against Syria Work?

Wed Aug. 28, 2013 3:15 PM EDT

According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the President is poised to make a final decision on US action in Syria. Watch David Corn and The Atlantic's Steve Clemons discuss the possible outcomes of a US strike against Bashar al-Assad on MSNBC's Martin Bashir.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Neocons Push Obama to Go Beyond a Punitive Strike in Syria

| Wed Aug. 28, 2013 3:02 PM EDT

The drums of war are beating, as various news reports state that President Barack Obama and his European allies are close to launching some sort of military attack against Syria. But one question is how big the bang will be. The White House has signaled that whatever comes will be strictly a punitive strike in retaliation for the Assad regime's presumed use of chemical weapons against civilians. It will not be an action aimed at toppling Bashar al-Assad or changing the overall strategic dynamic of the ongoing civil war in Syria. The supposed goal is to deter Assad from resorting to chemical weapons again. Foreign policy experts disagree—of course—on whether any assault of this nature would achieve that end, and such an action could have unintended consequences (say, a host of dead civilians) that might render it not a clear-cut success. But the band of neocons that led the United States into the Iraq War have quickly moved to seize on the administration's inclination to mount a punitive strike in order to draw the nation further into the conflict in Syria.

On Wednesday, the Foreign Policy Initiative—which was started by Bill Kristol, Dan Senor, Robert Kagan, and other hawkish-minded policy wonks—sent a letter to Obama, urging him to slam Assad in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria: "At a minimum, the United States, along with willing allies and partners, should use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship’s military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons."

But the letter—which was signed by Elliott Abrams, Fouad Ajami, Max Boot, Ellen Bork, Eliot Cohen, Douglas Feith, Joseph Lieberman, Clifford May, Joshua Muravchik, Danielle Pletka, Karl Rove, Randy Scheunemann, Kristol, Kagan, Senor, and dozens of others—demands that Obama go further. It calls on the president to provide "vetted moderate elements of Syria's armed opposition" with the military support necessary to strike regime units armed with chemical weapons. That is, the neocons and their allies have CW-ized their pre-existing demand for the United States to arm the rebels.

And there's more: "The United States and other willing nations should consider direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime. The objectives should be not only to ensure that Assad's chemical weapons no longer threaten America, our allies in the region or the Syrian people, but also to deter or destroy the Assad regime's airpower and other conventional military means of committing atrocities against civilian non-combatants." Plus, Obama should not only aid the rebels to thwart additional chemical weapons attacks; he should arm "moderate elements" of the opposition so that they can "prevail against" the Assad regime and the rebel factions affiliated with Al Qaeda or other Islamic extremists. In other words, get in whole hog.

Every sign from the White House indicates that the president does not want the United States to become a major participant in the Syrian conflict, let alone a key player in what could become a three-way civil war. It remains to be seen how Obama can thread the needle with a punitive strike that achieves its punitive goal but that does not lead to deeper US involvement in the war. But for the neocons and others—also signing the letter were Leon Wieseltier, Bernard-Henri Levy, and Tim Pawlenty—this is a moment to exploit. They want to turn a punitive strike into a commitment for war, and they have redeployed an argument from a decade ago: "The world—including Iran, North Korea, and other potential aggressors who seek or possess weapons of mass of destruction—is now watching to see how you respond."

Here's the full letter:

August 27, 2013

The Honorable Barack Obama                                               
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:
 
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has once again violated your red line, using chemical weapons to kill as many as 1,400 people in the suburbs of Damascus. You have said that large-scale use of chemical weapons in Syria would implicate "core national interests," including "making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies [and] our bases in the region." The world—including Iran, North Korea, and other potential aggressors who seek or possess weapons of mass of destruction—is now watching to see how you respond.
 
We urge you to respond decisively by imposing meaningful consequences on the Assad regime. At a minimum, the United States, along with willing allies and partners, should use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship's military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons. It should also provide vetted moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition with the military support required to identify and strike regime units armed with chemical weapons.
 
Moreover, the United States and other willing nations should consider direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime. The objectives should be not only to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons no longer threaten America, our allies in the region or the Syrian people, but also to deter or destroy the Assad regime’s airpower and other conventional military means of committing atrocities against civilian non-combatants. At the same time, the United States should accelerate efforts to vet, train, and arm moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition, with the goal of empowering them to prevail against both the Assad regime and the growing presence of Al Qaeda-affiliated and other extremist rebel factions in the country.
 
Left unanswered, the Assad regime's mounting attacks with chemical weapons will show the world that America's red lines are only empty threats. It is a dangerous and destabilizing message that will surely come to haunt us—one that will certainly embolden Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons capability despite your repeated warnings that doing so is unacceptable. It is therefore time for the United States to take meaningful and decisive actions to stem the Assad regime’s relentless aggression, and help shape and influence the foundations for the post-Assad Syria that you have said is inevitable.
 
Sincerely,

  Ammar Abdulhamid Dr. Robert Kagan
  Elliott Abrams Lawrence F. Kaplan
  Dr. Fouad Ajami James Kirchick
  Michael Allen Irina Krasovskaya
  Dr. Michael Auslin Dr. William Kristol
  Gary Bauer Bernard-Henri Levy
  Paul Berman Dr. Robert J. Lieber
  Max Boot Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
  Ellen Bork Tod Lindberg
  Ambassador L. Paul Bremer Mary Beth Long
  Matthew R. J. Brodsky Dr. Thomas G. Mahnken
  Dr. Eliot A. Cohen Dr. Michael Makovsky
  Senator Norm Coleman Ann Marlowe
  Ambassador William Courtney Clifford D. May
  Seth Cropsey Dr. Alan Mendoza
  James S. Denton Dr. Joshua Muravchik
  Paula A. DeSutter Andrew Natsios
  Dr. Larry Diamond Governor Tim Pawlenty
  Dr. Paula J. Dobriansky Martin Peretz
  Thomas Donnelly Danielle Pletka
  Dr. Michael Doran Dr. David Pollock
  Mark Dubowitz Arch Puddington
  Dr. Colin Dueck Karl Rove
  Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt Randy Scheunemann
  Ambassador Eric S. Edelman Dan Senor
  Douglas J. Feith Ambassador John Shattuck
  Reuel Marc Gerecht Lee Smith
  Abe Greenwald Henry D. Sokolski
  Christopher J. Griffin James Traub
  John P. Hannah Ambassador Mark D. Wallace
  Dr. William Inboden Michael Weiss
  Bruce Pitcairn Jackson Leon Wieseltier
  Ash Jain Khawla Yusuf
  Dr. Kenneth Jensen Robert Zarate
  Allison Johnson Dr. Radwan Ziadeh
  Ambassador Robert G. Joseph  

The Last Time Obama Gave a Major Speech About Race

| Wed Aug. 28, 2013 2:07 PM EDT

On March 18, 2008 in Philadelphia, then-Senator Barack Obama delivered a speech that is considered by many to be one of the greatest speeches on race in America's history. Our own David Corn wrote that the speech, which Obama gave in response to the controversy surrounding his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was "unlike any delivered by a major political figure in modern American history."

When Obama talks about race, he makes waves (see his surprise press conference after the Zimmerman verdict for a more recent example). Wednesday, when he delivers a speech on the National Mall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, he's expected to speak about race again. As a reminder of how good he can be when he does, watch 2008's "A More Perfect Union:"

Black Parents Need to Get It Together, Says Former Tea Party Congressman Sued Over Child Support

| Wed Aug. 28, 2013 11:20 AM EDT
Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.)

Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, an event organized by a badass gay activist and keynoted by Martin Luther King Jr.'s (copyrighted) "I Have a Dream" speech. It's a time for reflection on where the United States has been and where it's headed.

Unless you're former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.).

Walsh, a tea partier elected in the conservative wave of 2010, has reinvented himself as a talk radio host after getting trounced last fall by Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth. On Wednesday, Walsh celebrated King's legacy by drafting a list of problems he believes afflict African Americans, such as an unwillingness to take responsibility for their own lives, and a total dependency on "the government plantation":

I have a dream that all black parents will have the right to choose where their kids attend school.

I have a dream that all black boys and girls will grow up with a father.

I have a dream that young black men will stop shooting other young black men.

I have a dream that all young black men will say "no" to gangs and to drugs.

I have a dream that all black young people will graduate from high school.

I have a dream that young black men won't become fathers until after they're married and they have a job.

I have a dream that young unmarried black women will say "no" to young black men who want to have sex.

I have a dream that today's black leadership will quit blaming racism and "the system" for what ails black America.

I have a dream that black America will take responsibility for improving their own lives.

I have a dream that one day black America will cease their dependency on the government plantation, which has enslaved them to lives of poverty, and instead depend on themselves, their families, their churches, and their communities.

You can listen to the audio of Walsh himself reading it, if you hate yourself.

Walsh's dream that all black boys and girls will have fathers who play an active role in their lives and wean them away from a culture of dependency is somewhat ironic given that his ex-wife sued him in 2011 for $117,437 in overdue child support payments. (The former couple settled in 2012; details of the settlement have not been released, although Walsh's ex-wife released a statement at the time saying the congressman was not a "deadbeat.")

Income Inequality Takes Manhattan—in 3-D!

| Wed Aug. 28, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

It's no surprise that income inequality in America is on the rise. Eighty percent of Americans have seen their incomes stagnate or fall since 1979. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent of earners is taking in more than ever before. We've made numerous charts to illustrate these disparities. But what if you could actually see the split between the superwealthy and everyone else?

Artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm's images of income in New York do just that. Using 2012 data from the mapping site ArcGIS, Lamm superimposed 3-D bars over photos of the cityscape to show the median net worth of census block groups. For example, "if one section had a net worth of $500,000, the height of the 3-D bar shape for that section was 5 cm. If one section had a net worth of $112,000, the height for that section was 1.12 cm." The resulting images clearly illustrate New York's status as one of the cities with the highest levels of income inequality.

Below, you can interact with the cityscape and the 3-D images for various neighborhoods.

Central Park. The Upper West Side is on the left.

 

The Financial District and the southern tip of Manhattan. (Note: Statue of Liberty has been added.)

 

Harlem

 

Looking south over Manhattan from Englewood, New Jersey. Washington Heights is on the left. Central Park and Midtown are in the distance.

 

Midtown near the Trump Tower.

 

Above Brooklyn. The Financial District is on the left. Midtown is on the right.

 

Looking south toward the Upper West Side.

 

Above Central Park. The Upper East Side is on the left.

 

Above Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

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This Black, Gay, Badass Pacifist Mastermind of the March on Washington Is Finally Getting His Due

| Tue Aug. 27, 2013 4:42 PM EDT
Bayard Rustin at a March on Washington news briefing in 1963.

Bayard Rustin was for years one of the least known and celebrated major players in the civil rights movement. Now Martin Luther King Jr.'s trusted adviser—the black, gay, "badass" pacifist who organized the March on Washington—is finally getting his due 50 years after the landmark demonstration.

Rustin, born in Pennsylvania in 1912 and raised by his grandfather and his Quaker grandmother—who, along with Mahatma Gandhi, influenced his philosophy of pacifism—had his hand in several major moments in a fight for equality that would span his entire life. He helped organize and participated in the first freedom ride, 1947’s "Journey of Reconciliation" (for which he and several other participants were jailed and put in a chain gang). In the 1950s, he advised, strategized, and raised money behind the scenes for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, helping to direct King's rise to national prominence. He's also credited with honing the King's nonviolent strategy. Later, Rustin was the mastermind of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (now simply known as the March on Washington), organizing it in just two months. But Rustin was kept in the shadows by the homophobia of both his enemies (segregationist Strom Thurmond used Rustin's sexuality to denigrate the movement) and his allies.

"We must look back with sadness at the barriers of bigotry built around his sexuality," NAACP Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond, who knew and worked with Rustin, wrote in the forward for 2012's I Must Resist, a book of Rustin's letters. "We are the poorer for it."

Although prejudice kept Rustin behind the scenes—and out of history books—his name is finally making headlines. In March, President Obama awarded Rustin, who died in 1987, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The National Black Justice Coalition, a black LGBT civil rights organization, launched a movement to celebrate Rustin on what would have been his 100th birthday in 2012 and created the Bayard Rustin 2013 Commemorative Project, which highlights his contributions to the March on Washington.

Michael G. Long, who edited I Must Resist, tells Mother Jones the accolades are long overdue. "Rustin is finally emerging out of the shadows," he says. "This is a man who labored for decades behind the scenes. And he labored there willingly, but he was also pushed there and kept there and confined there by civil rights leaders."

Rustin should be remembered not just for his fight for racial equality, which was accompanied by a quest for economic justice, but also his unflinching participation in the fight for gay rights. In a 1986 speech he advocated for a change in civil rights activism: "The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people."

Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, told USA Today this month that her organization is "advocating the preservation of his legacy by removing the barriers that didn't allow society to get to know all of Bayard Rustin. His legacy deserves its due."

"I hope that Bayard can bask in the daylight for decades and centuries to come and that we'll finally see his name in history books in high school and elementary school," Long says. "I hope that every elementary school student will come to know that Bayard Rustin was the man who organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in eight short weeks."

Your Facebook Friends Could Soon Prevent You From Getting a Loan

| Tue Aug. 27, 2013 3:54 PM EDT

If your Facebook friends don't pay their bills on time, you may soon be less eligible to get a loan.

Some lenders, like Lenddo, a tech startup that offers loans in developing countries, and the German company Kreditech have started using social media data to determine the creditworthiness of potential borrowers instead of traditional measures like credit scores, according to CNN. If Lenddo, for example, finds that you're Facebook friends with someone who was late paying back one of their loans, the company could determine that you're a high credit risk and deny you funds. If you interact with that person a lot, your chances for a loan are even worse.

"It turns out humans are really good at knowing who is trustworthy and reliable in their community," Lendo's CEO Jeff Stewart told CNN. "What's new is that we're now able to measure through massive computing power."

Using social media data to determine creditworthiness is just getting off its feet for now; Lenddo mainly targets middle-class people in smaller markets like the Philippines, Columbia, Poland, and Mexico. But harnessing big data to assess credit risk could go mainstream soon, CNN reports. Kreditech gives out 10 million loans each year, and will soon launch operations in Australia, the Czech Republic, Argentina, and Russia.

Not everyone is enamored with the innovation. Via CNN:

John Ulzheimer, a credit expert at CreditSesame.com, says social data aren't necessarily indicative of whether the borrower will pay back a loan on time. FICO [a credit scoring company that traditional lenders use] only considers a handful of factors, but they are all 'incredibly predictive of risk,' Ulzheimer said.

There's also the potential to game the system. Consumers can easily control how many Facebook friends they have... The same cannot be said for what goes into their credit score.

"To me, using social media is a little bit dangerous," Ulzheimer said.

Corn on "Hardball": Why Are Republicans Calling for Obama's Impeachment?

Tue Aug. 27, 2013 2:31 PM EDT

This year, a smattering of US Congressmen including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) have publicly called for President Obama's impeachment. DC Bureau chief David Corn says that the mounting impeachment calls are like drug addictions in that "you keep having to get a bigger, better fix." Watch Corn discuss the calls for Obama's impeachment with David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama, with host Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball:

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

WATCH: Ken Cuccinelli's Response to His Pro-Choice Critics: What About Anthony Weiner?

| Tue Aug. 27, 2013 11:55 AM EDT

On Monday, a group of pro-choice activists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's bid to be governor. The protestors warned that Cuccinelli, a hard-line conservative on social and economic issues, would greatly restrict women's access to abortions and birth control, infringe on their privacy, and force women to seek illegal alternatives that could endanger their lives. "We need a government that takes care of what the government should be taking care of: the economy and roads and schools," said Charlotte Brody, a registered nurse who participated in the protest. "And we need that government to let us make our own personal health decisions."

When Charlottesville's ABC 19 asked Cuccinelli's campaign for comment, the campaign's response was...strange. Team Cuccinelli said Democrats should denounce New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. What Weiner has to do with Virginia's gubernatorial race or women's rights in Virginia is unclear. The Cuccinelli campaign had nothing to say about the women's rights protest in Charlottesville.

Team Cuccinelli's response begins at the 40-second mark in the video. Chalk this up as one of the weirder responses by a major political campaign.