Debate, at 20 paces

Hillary Clinton has challenged Barack Obama to a non-moderator debate, a la Lincoln-Douglass. Obama should go back even farther in history and challenge her to a duel.



Mr. Chairman,

Last September I was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association.

The latest news is that my colleagues chose me to chair the planning committee for the symposium that we are organizing for next year. My updates to follow, here and at the Website I just put together.


Washington Times piece

I have a piece in today's Washington Times. It marks the anniversary of D.C. Emancipation Day.




This is a test. This is only a test to see whether I am (successfully) live blogging at a conference.

I have media credentials to the Newspaper Association of America’s Capital Conference at the Washington Convention Center on April 14‐15, 2008.

McCain is speaking this morning from 10:30 a.m., Obama will be the luncheon speaker. Clinton will be speaking tomorrow at lunch.



Fighting poverty--or fighting for development?

In September 2005, former President Clinton launched an initiative "to tackle poverty, climate change and other worldwide issues" during "a gathering of political leaders and activists who are promising to pitch in--and must put those pledges in writing." In early 2005--along with many other times--Mandela was demanding that the world do more to fight poverty. Others have talked about trying to end poverty. And of there is the war on poverty that officially started in the mid-1960s.

Yesterday, on the 40th anniversary of MLK Jr's assassination, John McCain took up Martin Luther King Jr's call for America to fight poverty. McCain said: "I will answer his call, and tell him and the American people today that I will make the eradication of poverty a top priority of the McCain Administration."

Here's a different suggestion--a fight for development rather than a fight against poverty. Okay, for a liar like Clinton, that might sound like a distinction without a difference. To be clear, I don't mean that a Clinton or Obama speech writer should toss in a throw-away line like "of course we care about development." Rather, I mean that development should be treated as a priority.

Saying that you are against poverty may sound great in focus groups and to soccer moms working as journalists and college professors, but if we really want people to live independently and at a higher level, then development is needed.

But people don't often chant for development.

What do we want? Free markets! When do we want them? Now!

2-4-6-8, capitalism now, we can't wait!

Invisible hand, yes! Government meddling, no! Privatize, yes! Nationalize, no!

Hey-hey, ho-ho! Democratic socialists have got to go!

I'm reminded of a documentary in which John Kenneth Galbraith went on for an hour about poverty and ways to fight it. The late Peter Bauer had a short rebuttal: There are no causes of poverty. That is the natural human state. It is the causes of success that must be investigated.



Frederick Douglass--liberal, conservative, libertarian, other?

Booker Rising links to a new online magazine that focuses on issues from a black conservative perspective.

Booker Rising comments: "I don't know about the late Frederick Douglass being put on that cover as a conservative. I'd call him a liberal, and even moderate would be a stretch for his time period."

The thing I've noticed about Douglass is that just about every ideology claims him to be one of their own.

You can see in the quotes that people choose to focus on:

Liberals, socialists and activists: "Without struggle, there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will."

Libertarians and conservatives: "'What shall we do with the Negro?' I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!"

In a recent book on black conservatives, Saviors or Sellouts, author Christopher Alan Bracey included Booker T. Washington, but left out Douglass. When I asked Bracey about this at an event, he said that Douglass had both a liberal and conservative side, and that it would have "confused" readers if he had included Douglass. As I also noted: Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Machine was very similar to what Douglass proposed to Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1853. (see pages 353-59)

I don't know of a quote from Frederick Douglass identifying himself with a particular political ideology, but he was associated with the Republican party for more than four decades.

He did say things such as:

"I am a Republican, a black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress."

"The Republican Party is the ship and all else is the sea."

I do believe that, in his later years, that his devotion to the Republican Party caused him to ignore that Republicans began to waver on civil rights. The generation of "Radical Republicans" had died off, replaced mainly with politicians more concerned with counting votes than on justice for blacks.

That Douglass usually spoke about eternal truths may be the reason that liberals, conservatives, libertarians and even socialists can see themselves in what he said. Plus, it helps that he has been dead for 113 years.