Category Archives: LDVUSA

Happy Thanksgiving!

Plymouth Rock

This is a revised version of last year’s post…

The North American holiday of Thanksgiving was born of tragedy. The Mayflower, filled with settlers from England, docked in Plymouth, Massachusetts in December 1620. Of the 102 passengers and around 30 crew on board, only five women of eighteen survived the winter, and around half the men and crew.

The following spring, the Wampanoag, a native people, taught the incomers which crops were endemic to the New World, and how to fertilise their crops with fish. This act of good will let to a plentiful harvest, and gave the Pilgrims hope that they might survive the next winter.

American Thanksgiving was set as the fourth Thursday in November by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 when he signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.

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Even through bleary eyes, I can see a blue wave

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Well, I’ve stayed up, clicking refresh like a hyper-ventilated gerbil for the last six hours, so you didn’t have to….

The Democrats have comfortably won control of the House. The Republicans have gained ground in the Senate. The Democrats have so far flipped four governor’s mansions, including in Kansas, where Laura Kelly beat Kris Kobach.

Is it is a Blue wave? Taegan Goddard of Political Wire says it is, quoting some convincing figures. The New York Times estimates the Democrat vote margin, based on nationwide House votes, as +7.6%. These last elections were considered “waves”:

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US needs a birthday present 

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine has called on the Conservative Government to give the American people a “proper birthday present” by standing up to President Trump on human rights.

Ms Jardine made her plea as the US celebrates Independence Day on the 4th of July. The Liberal Democrat MP wants the Conservative Government to use President Trump’s visit to the UK next Friday to “promote the shared values between British and American people” and “condemn Trump’s treatment of migrant families and his comments on torture.”

Ms Jardine said: 

“The British and American people have a long history of shared values. Among the

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The first live press conference – 57 years ago today

Today is the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s first live TV press conference. It was held five days after his inauguration as President of the United States. He clearly wanted to start as he intended to continue – the people’s president.

This news conference, in 1961, was unprecedented. Unedited, and with no time delay, it was JFK’s way of speaking directly to the American people. You can listen to the broadcast here, and read the transcript in full.

JFK opens with a word about the upcoming meetings in Geneva which would review the atomic test ban. He follows with an update on the famine in the Congo and how the U.S. will support aid relief efforts. JFK finishes with the good news of the release of two Air Force crewman detained by the Soviets.

In our current climate of fake news, the candour of JFK’s statements is refreshing. He is clearly trying to connect with the U.S. populace. His answers to the press questions which follow his opening statement show a quick wit and mastery of detail.

QUESTION: Does your Administration plan to take any steps to solve the problem in Fayette County, Tennessee, where tenant farmers have been evicted from their homes because they voted last November, and must now live in tents?

THE PRESIDENT: The Congress, of course, enacted legislation which placed very clearly responsibility on the Executive Branch to protect the right of voting. I supported that legislation. I am extremely interested in making sure that every American is given the right to cast his vote without prejudice to his rights as a citizen, and therefore I can state that this Administration will pursue the problem of providing that protection, with all vigor.

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For Winchester 1997, read Virginia 2017

The mantra “EVERY VOTE COUNTS” is an article of faith for political activists everywhere. Liberal Democrats know this more than most, having won one election and lost one in the last twenty years by a margin of two votes (Winchester 1997 and North East Fife 2017).

Now, from the state of Virginia, comes another reminder that every conversation with an undecided voter can swing an election, in a very unusual outcome. On election night last November, Republican David Yancey ‘won’ a crucial state house seat by ten votes, just preventing Democrats from overturning a 32-seat Republican majority. However, his challenger, Shelly Simonds, filed for a recount.

Held in December, the recount appeared to have Simonds winning the seat by a single vote, 11,608 to 11,607. Great news for Virginia Democrats, who thought they would now split control 50-50 of Virginia’s 100-seat lower House of Delegates.

However, their initial euphoria was short-lived. Two days later, a three-judge panel threw out Simond’s one vote win, ruling a disputed ballot should count for Yancey, the Republican, and tying the race. (Veterans of disputed ballot arguments at recounts might want to look away now – here’s a copy of the disputed ballot in question, which shows a mark against both the Democrat and Republican candidates, but then also crosses out the Democrat candidate’s name).

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Plymouth Rock

Take a moment to be thankful.

For your job, your friends, that you have food to eat and a place to sleep, for the air we breathe and the freedom we have. Be thankful.

The North American holiday of Thanksgiving was born of tragedy. The Mayflower, filled with settlers from England, docked in Plymouth, Massachusetts in December 1620. Of the 102 passengers and around 30 crew on board, only five women of eighteen survived the winter, and around half the men and crew.

The following spring, the Wampanoag, a …

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Backlash against Trump in US elections


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Here’s a few stories about the encouraging elections in the USA last Tuesday.

Politico summarised the news:

This one was for Donald Trump. Exit polls revealed an unmistakable anti-Trump backlash Tuesday, as Democrats won resounding victories in governors races in Virginia and New Jersey. Majorities of voters in both states disapproved of the job Trump is doing as president, with significant numbers of voters in each state saying Trump was a reason for their vote. And far more of those voters said they made their choice to oppose Trump than to support him.

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Martin Luther King: How the dream speech wasn’t planned

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It was one of the most famous speeches ever made and led to two major pieces of Civil Rights legislation in the USA.

Yet, in issue 1277 of the Big Issue, author Philip Collins tells how Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” on August 28th 1963 in The Mall, Washington DC, wasn’t planned as it happened.

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The Fight for Equality Goes On!

I have been inspired by Paul Walter’s excellent series on this site for Black History Month. If you have as well, I encourage you to write a blog for Black History Month and send it in.

American by birth, I am guilty of unconscious bias which permeated through my upbringing. Many people don’t recognise the racism which lies beneath the surface in the way they relate to one other. Of course overt acts of racism make the news, but it is the little interactions and assumptions which bother me, as they are …

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Protesting by ‘taking the knee’ during the “Star-spangled banner” – who are the patriots?

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This is the sixteenth and final of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month I have been posting about my experiences. In this last article, I reflect on my journey and its relevance to what is going on these days in the good ol’ US of A.

Imagine the scene. Being an absolute sucker for plaques, I was dutifully reading the plaques in Court Square, Montgomery AL. I was queuing up, or should I say “in the line”, to read the Rosa Parks’ plaque there. There was a couple in front of me.

Why should we celebrate that ****?

– said the fellow in front of me, using a very strong expletive not normally wittingly unleashed on LDV readers. Neeedless to say, the man was white also. This outburst surprised me a bit. Here I was, paying great reverence to Ms Parks, having travelled 4,303 miles (as the crow flies) to do so. And here was this guy asking why we “should celebrate this ****”.

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A journey through American history – a compendium


Over the last few weeks, I have posted up recollections from my recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I have been relating some of the things I saw. Here is a compendium which lists the sixteen posts in this series with links to all of them:

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This single photograph shows an amazing crucible of American history


This is the fifteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

Without any doubt, the highlight of my USA tour was my visit to Mongomery, Alabama. To coin a phrase of Stephen Fry’s, for someone interested in history, it was like swimming through liquid chocolate. Within half a mile of the State Capitol, there are a clutch of historic sites which bore witness to some of the most seminal events in the history of the USA.

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The woman who refused to budge on the bus – and made history


The statue of Rosa Parks in the Rosa Parks museum, Troy University, Montgomery, Alabama.

This is the fourteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I’ve wanted to visit the Rosa Parks museum for years. It has been very high on my bucket list. It was a strange desire. The Rosa Parks museum is in Montgomery, Alabama, which is not one of the easiest places to places to get to in the States. (I had to go on a Greyhound bus from Atlanta, Georgia – which turned out to be a very peaceful and calm experience!) And I would not say that I am an expert on the history of Rosa Parks. I had barely read her Wikipedia write-up before I planned a trip to Montgomery. It was just that I respected her as someone who did something quite awesome – she simply, and with quiet dignity, refused to give up her bus seat to a white person and, as a result, sparked a movement that led eventually to the end of racial segregation in the USA and a step-function advancement in civil rights for Black people there.

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The home where Martin Luther King’s family were bombed



This is the thirteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

In Montgomery, Alabama I visited the Dexter Parsonage Museum (photo above) – which was the home of Dr Martin Luther King Jr during the Montgomery Bus Boycott (of which more in a latter post). Dr King lived here with his family from 1954 to 1960. It is preserved with the furnishings and household things as per that period.

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In the heart of the American rebellion


The main drawing room – what was effectively the “Oval Office” – of the First Confederacy White House in Montgomery, Alabama.

This is the twelfth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

You’re in the heart of the Jefferson Davis rebellion empire!

I had just walked up to the door of “the first Confederacy White House”, across the road from the Alabaman State Capitol in Montgomery. I wasn’t sure that the museum was open – the door was closed and there was no sign of it being open. So it was a bit of a surprise to open the door and be immediately confronted by a very excited docent, who was like a character actor from a John Wayne film. After the declaration above, I half-expected him to shout “Yee-haa!” and plonk a globule of his oral juices into a nearby spittoon!

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Just as US President Jimmy Carter was the antidote to “Tricky Dicky”, could Oprah Winfrey save the world from Trump?



This is the eleventh of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I had the great pleasure of visiting the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. It is set just outside the city centre, in very leafy and peaceful surroundings. The exhibition gave me a sense of a great man, shaped by his upbringing in Georgia, his experience as a farmer and businessman, and his service in the US Navy in nuclear submarines.

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Splendid memorial to Dr Martin Luther King Junior in Washington DC

This is the tenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

In Washington DC, I was lucky enough to stay in a neighbourhood where the people were extremely friendly and welcoming. But it is true that the centre of “DC”, as it is almost universally called in the States, is odd. It consists of virtually all federal buildings of some sort or another, plus a lot of monuments. In fact there are so many monuments that, after a couple of days, I had definitely reached “peak monument”.

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The black slave whose failed bid for freedom led to the American Civil War

This is the ninth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I enjoyed a visit to the wonderful US Capitol “Visitor Center”. At presumably astronomical expense, a fantastic underground visitors’ entrance has been built on the east side of the Capitol. You enter it and are taken on a tour of the US Capitol where you go up inside the centre of the building.

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Reminders of the unspeakable inhumanity of slavery



Bermuda (UK) image number 431 graphic depiction of how slaves were kept below decks

This is the eighth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I visited two sites which reminded me of the unspeakable inhumanity of slavery.
The Charles H Wright Museum of African American history is superb. From the very origins of humanity from one common mother, revealed via mitochondrial DNA, “And still we rise” tells the story of African Americans in great detail with very attractive displays.

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The music that united the world



This is the seventh of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

When I started planning my US trip, I had two items high on my bucket list which I wanted to tick. One was the Rosa Parks museum (of which more later in this series) and the other was the Motown museum in Detroit. I was extremely excited to visit the home of Tamla Motown. I made a major 3000 mile detour in my trip just to do it! And I was not disappointed. I have still not completely calmed down from my excitement three weeks after visiting it!

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The underground road to precious freedom for black slaves

This is the sixth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I had low expectations for Detroit. You hear stories about bankruptcy and violence. In fact, I found Detroit to be a wonderful city. It is beautifully spaced out. Rather than having all its prominent buildings in the centre of the city, they are spread out across the urban area. The heritage of the wealth of the automative industry has bestowed some wonderful buildings to Detroit.

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Riot? Rebellion? or Revolution?



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Violet Temple Lewis – an educational trailblazer for African American women

The Lewis College of Business, Detroit, Michigan

This is the fourth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

As I was wondering through the streets near my hotel in Detroit, I came across one of the many historic plaques which one sees right across America. The plaque was next to this house (above) in John R Street, Detroit. It records that this building became, in 1941, the office of the Lewis College of Business. It said:

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The governor who stood in the doorway to stop black students entering university – and the landmark speech which followed


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This is the third of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

On the first day of my tour, I made a bee-line for the John F Kennedy Presidential library and museum. It’s on the outskirts of Boston and quite magnificant. In the comprehensive display of JFK history, one of the events given prominence concerned two African American students trying to enrol in a previously all-white Alabaman university in June 1963.

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Prominent US statue of Philip Randolph – #2 in a journey through African American history



This is the second of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

Back Bay metro station in Boston, Massachusetts, is a very prominent and large underground railway station, serving a particular busy and affluent part of the city.

As I moved through it, I couldn’t help noticing that the passenger transit area is dominated by a very large statue of a man (photo above). There were several panels explaining the statue, with much praise for its subject, A. Philip Randolph.

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#1 in a journey through African American history – the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment


Detail from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, Boston

I’ve recently returned from a seven city, 10786 mile-long tour across the eastern United States.

This trek sprang from several random “bucket list” items of mine. I was fortunate enough to be able to stitch together an itinerary which did a lot of ticking of my terminal wish list. The visits were all deeply “anorakky” in nature – mainly to museums.

But as I prepared to travel, I noticed that there was a clear theme running through most of my destinations – that of African American history.

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Inside the home of “fake news”


Last Tuesday, I visited the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I don’t have any great insight on CNN Center which will interest LDV readers, except to say that it is absolutely humungous, gives the impression of being an extremely professional organisation and, if you’re ever within striking distance of Atlanta, I would thoroughly recommend a tour.

I booked well in advance for a “VIP tour”. This is a few more dollars than a standard tour and you see a few more control rooms and studios. It is to CNN’s credit that they organise such tours. You can no longer have a tour of the BBC studios in London.

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Can you guess what this parliamentary appurtenance is?


In the UK, we’re used to elements of the Palace of Westminster reflecting past goings-on. The two sides of the House of Commons are seperated by enough space to accomodate the length of two swords. And there are little red silk loops for each MP to hang their sword in outside the chamber.

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President John F. Kennedy continues to inspire, 100 years after his birth

My photo of President John F. Kennedy’s beloved sailing boat, Victura, with his eponymous museum to the left and Boston’s harbour and city skyline in the background.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is holding a special exhibition called “JFK 100 – Milestones and Mementos” to mark the centennial of the great man’s birth.

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Do we need to brace ourselves for Trump being perceived as a “great President”?

The fellow on the left of the photo (above) is Jared Kushner. He is the son-in-law of Donald Trump and, perhaps, “the power behind the throne” of the new President. An MBA and Harvard graduate, he knows how to run a business. Given Trump’s extraordinary victory, of which he was the architect, he is also a successful political campaign manager.

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