Tag: Race

Dec 05

Our Ugly History

What’s going on in America with regards to the killing of black men for pretty petty crimes so often now really reminds me of the old days of lynchings. In those days, the white folks in town played judge, jury, and executioner of a great many black folks who they had accused of some crime or another. They didn’t get a trial. And then they would pose around the bodies and take pictures, sometimes even smiling as if they were proud. Those pictures would be made into postcards that they could send to friends and family. Really not something to be proud of imo.

I suggest everyone take a look at some of the pics in the links below to get a feel for what it was like. These photos are not something you want kids to see or your work to see, so keep in mind that they are purely and graphically brutal. It’s jarring, seeing the actuality, and if you’re like me, you were probably raised maybe occasionally hearing references to it, but to truly understand the barbaric nature of us you have to view the pictures. Keep in mind this was just last century, and many of them in my parent’s lifetime. I will never forget the first time I was confronted with the pictures of our actual past, a past that should haunt us and disgust us.

When i think of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the others that have been shot and killed in the recent past, I think that we really haven’t moved that far past the old lynching days. We may have outlawed old style lynchings, but nowadays we’ve seemingly codified a new way of doing it: via law enforcement. And still for accused crimes, many of them petty, no trial allowed. We’re still lynching them albeit without the postcard pictures. And then we’re insulting the folks who do nonviolently protest. Sigh…

As I said, I’m forewarning you that these pictures are graphically brutal. Take a good look at our horrible past and maybe understand some of the anger:

Without Sanctuary: Photographs and Postcards of Lynchings in America

Some of our ugly fairly recent history

Oct 06

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Workers, not Servants by Irene Ortiz Rosen

Today we are fortunate to have a diary describing the current condition of domestic workers in Mexico. This is an issue which has received increasing attention in the last three years. A long-time activist in the Domestic Worker Movement, Irene Ortiz Rosen,  is the Co-Founder  and Director of Collectivo Atabal,  an organization of activists and  feminists formed to defend the rights, dignity and demands of domestic workers in Mexico City. She is also the Co-Author of “Así es, Pues” a socio-economic study of domestic workers in Cuernavaca. A recent emigrant from Mexico, she approaches the subject from a global perspective which emphasizes the class and anti-imperialist aspects of the struggle as well as its patriarchal nature.

In the world of labor, a large group of women whose work is the maintenance of the homes of others is largely ignored-domestic workers. According to the ILO, there are more than 52 million domestic workers in the world.

In almost all countries, domestic workers share the following characteristics:  1) invisibility; 2) migration; 3) low levels of education; 4) gender, ethnic and racial discrimination; and 5) the informality of their labor. These are all products of poverty.

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Domestic workers make up an invisible workforce because their work is carried out in the private sphere, that is, the homes of their employers. Their contract is verbal, their work is isolated, and their mobility is common.

Generally they are migrants, usually, within their own countries. This is the case for indigenous women  and women who come from rural areas in Latin America.  And as the gap in inequality grows throughout the world, in the poorest countries the phenomenon of migration (usually without papers) is growing beyond borders.  That is how they arrive to United States and Canada, by informally working as House Cleaning Personnel, Nannies and Home Attendants. In New York alone, we are talking about more than 200 thousand people who are working under disadvantaged conditions due to their Undocumented status.



Their discrimination is shared with nearly all women, and its logic corresponds to the subordination of women in a patriarchal culture. Within the patriarchal view of the traditional role of women, their work is an extension of the reproductive role, which is considered natural for their gender.  

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We should not forget that women in general, as housewives and mothers, perform domestic work without any pay whatever. Consequently, their work is not considered part of the national economy despite the fact that it makes up about 20% of the GDP. If a woman looks for waged work, she enters the labor market in a disadvantaged way; forty-five percent of women domestic workers receive salaries that are 10% lower than salaries received by men for the same work.

Global economic policies that have impoverished the majority of the world´s population have brought women in all countries into  the public sphere. The women working in the public sphere then need to hire a domestic worker to care for their children and home. However, because they, themselves, are not paid well, they are unable to pay a fair  wage, even if they value the services being performed by domestic help.

Jul 25

What’s African-American DNA?

When the wannabe cop, George Zimmerman, shot an unarmed teenager through the heart for having too much skin pigmentation, a racist jury of skin pigment-challenged women decided it was a good and just thing to do because they heard the large man with the gun screaming for help.

Betcha a jury of non-skin-pigment-challenged men would have heard the unarmed teenager as the one screaming for help from the heavier stalker with the gun.

There was, as usual, lots of ignorant, untruthful testimony in the trial but how could anyone top the imaginary African-American DNA the pathologist claimed was found?

It is not hard to differentiate biology from culture though both contribute to the individual. A racist cannot do so because he or she is blinded by color they claim, like sociologists, to be unable to see.

When Jesse Owens caused a stir in the 1936 Olympics by outrunning Der Fuehrer’s Supermen, learned scholars wrote in scientific journals that Jesse had the advantage of the negroid foot.

But Jesse had a caucasoid foot when someone bothered looking at Jesse’s foot rather than his face.

So then wasn’t Jesse a caucasian with the same disadvantage, if such it be, as the German supermen?

If there were a God, would He not save us from this hateful color bigotry?

The pathologist was undoubtedly relying on continental ancestry but that does not exactly fit continents nor does it comport with skin pigmentation.

Caucasian and Negroid arose from physical anthropologist’s attempt to differentiate sub-species of Homo sapiens before DNA.

Continental ancestry based on DNA groupings includes the South Asian sub-continent for “European” ancestry while the “African” ancestry in popular and also misleading popular misconception includes only sub-Saharan Africa in broad categorization.

There is no DNA for culture and bigotry that twists both to accommodate popular prejudices.  

Best,  Terry  

Jun 23

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Don’t Buy the Hype: The Gender Wage Gap and Women’s Oppression by Geminijen

Accordingly to an article entitled, “More Women Are bringing Home the Bacon…, ”  heralding women’s gains in pay equity, a recent Pew study revealed that an  impressive number of married breadwinner moms reflects society’s increasing opportunities for women, while the median income for the growing population of  single mother households  is $23,000 — just 28 percent of the income of one in which the female breadwinner is married, and less than half the median household income in America.

So What Else Is New?

The wage gap between women’s and men’s individual wages is the most standard indicator used to define women’s march toward equality. In recent studies of the gender wage gap, women make between 76 to 78 cents for every dollar made by men and most literature is optimistic that the gap will disappear or even reverse in  the near future. The gender wealth gap, however, another measure of gender inequality which measures the total wealth or net worth a woman has accumulated over time,  shows that women have, on average, only 6% to 36% of the wealth owned by men and that the gap is growing.

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source:http://www.cunapfi.org/download/198_Women_of_Color_Wealth_Future_Spring_2010.pdf

The stark difference between these two measures suggests two things about statistics:1) statistics on the same subject can fluctuation wildly depending on what is being measured and the methodology used and 2) One of the main functions of statistics is not to measure the reality, but as a propaganda tool to reinforce the ideology of the dominant culture.

The problem with using the wage gap . As a measure of inequality, the gender wage gap only measures an individual’s income growth in the market place and does not take into account either the worth of women’s unpaid social labor in the home(outside the marketplace) or how this unpaid labor structurally effects women’s position in the market place over time.

Because of its narrow parameter, much of the analysis of what the wage gap means in terms of the overall inequality of men versus women is merely a guess that allows for a lot of unverifiable  interpretations. For example, the recent Pew study echoes a demographic study that hit the New York Times a couple of years ago that showed  a narrowing of the wage gap, suggesting women’s wages were even surpassing men’s in some cases, especially in major cities.

The cause of women’s increased equality, the researcher suggested, was due to  increases in women’s higher educational status and increased  “feminist  consciousness.” In fact,  a closer analysis showed that the close in the wage gap was due to the outsourcing of  well paying union manufacturing jobs which had been held by men due to a sex segregated workforce. By focusing on city populations where people of color form a larger part of the database, the lower gap also reflected the fact that the wage gap is generally lower between women and men of color since men of color generally make significantly less than white men due to racism.  

Aug 10

The Real Cause of Rioting In Tottenham

Cross Posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Coming to a country near you:

London Sees Twin Perils Converging to Fuel Riot

Frustration in this impoverished neighborhood, as in many others in Britain, has mounted as the government’s austerity budget has forced deep cuts in social services. At the same time, a widely held disdain for law enforcement here, where a large Afro-Caribbean population has felt singled out by the police for abuse, has only intensified through the drumbeat of scandal that has racked Scotland Yard in recent weeks and led to the resignation of the force’s two top commanders.

The riot was the latest in what has turned out to be a season of unrest in Britain, with multiple demonstrations escalating into violence in recent months. And there was not long to wait until a new one erupted: across London, skirmishes broke out on Sunday between groups of young people and large numbers of riot police officers, which one officer said were drawn from forces around London.  

snip

Economic malaise and cuts in spending and services instituted by the Conservative-led government have been recurring flashpoints for months.

Late last year, students demonstrating against a rise in tuition fees occupied a building near Parliament and clashed repeatedly with the police. Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were attacked in their Rolls-Royce as protesters – some of whom were subsequently jailed – shouted “Tory scum,” a reference to the Conservative Party’s traditional links with the aristocracy, and “off with their heads!” In March, a reported 500,000 people marched against the cuts, with some protesters occupying the exclusive food store Fortnum & Mason – Prince Charles’s grocer.

On Saturday night, as rioters in Tottenham threw fireworks and bottles at police officers, one man shouted, “This is our battle!” When asked what he meant, the man, Paul Rook, 47, explained that he felt the rioters were taking on “the ruling class.”

Rioting and looting that started in the London suburb of Tottenham on Saturday evening was sparked by the shooting of a 29 year old black man during a car stop by police earlier that day. There is a lot of conflicting reports about what sparked the incident in the first place but what is known is the young man, a father of four and alleged cocaine dealer was armed, was shot once on the chest by a police officer and died. A peaceful protest march of about 200 degenerated into gangs attacking police cars, shops, banks and other buildings with widespread looting around Tottenham. The unrest in and around London has now spread across England to Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham.

There are more reasons for this rioting and goes to the heart of the Cameron government’s austerity that has cut the social safety net for the very poor and unemployed who are mostly minorities.

Like many European cities, London is in the midst of serious fiscal inadequacies, and poor neighborhoods such as Tottenham and Hackney have suffered the most. Unemployment is rampant in such areas, especially in North London.

“Tottenham is a deprived area,” recently laid-off Uzodinma Wigwe told Reuters. “UnemploymentMetro police, as well as a private agency, are investigating the riots and the shooting.

The violence has marred otherwise peaceful rallies in London against government austerity measures.

In March, isolated clashes erupted in London between police and protestors marching from Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park to Parliament. Police fired tear gas on the protestors, who in turn threw rocks, bottles, paint and light bulbs filled with ammonia at the police officers.  That clash injured 31 police officers and led to the arrest of 214 people.

snip

Earlier in the year, student protests against a tuition hike also turned violent, with students and police clashing on London streets. Demonstrators broke out shop windows and attacked Prince Charles’ Rolls Royce as it rolled down Regent Street. is very, very high … they are frustrated.”

“We know we have been victimized by this government, we know we are being neglected by the government,” said a middle-aged man who declined to give his name. “How can you make one million youths unemployed and expect us to sit down?”

Unemployment here in the US hovers around 9.1%, among African Americans it is 15.9%, nearly double that of unemployed whites (8.1%). While not nearly as bad as 1982 when unemployment for Afican Americans soared to 19.2%, the wealth gap has widened dramatically

ndeed, blacks have suffered disproportionately in the ongoing crisis, since they have lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs and endured huge cuts in public sector spending. Black teenagers bear the worst of it – their jobless rate is at a staggering 39.2 percent (versus 23 percent for white teenagers).

According to a recent study by the National Urban League (NUL), almost all the financial/economic gains that blacks have accomplished over the past three decades were wiped out by the Great Recession.

The economic collapse is not only thinning the ranks of the black middle class, but has likely condemned millions more to permanent poverty.

The NUL report further indicated that the nation’s housing crisis has disproportionately hurt black home ownership, which “has fallen at three times the rate of white home ownership.”

These are the same factors that have sparked the violent unrest in England. The president and congress would be wise to cease the talk about spending cuts and talks of more austerity and pay more attention to job creation. The US has seen this many times in it’s 235 year history, the most recent during the 80’s and 90’s when the socio-economic disparity was high as it is now. It is has been proved historically that putting people back to work correct the deficit and reverse the spiral towards recession.

Apr 28

The Uneasy Intersection Between Sex, Morality, Abortion, and Racial Typcasting

In an essay submitted for a college class, a young woman recently wrote about her sexual relationship and resulting pregnancy with her high school band director.  Though she changed some of the details and names in her paper, enough autobiography was left intact that statutory rape charges against the man have been filed.  Various news agencies, websites, and blogs have pursued different angles when presenting the details of this case.  The story found within the link posted above treats the accused like a common criminal, inviting us to view him in the worst possible light, while simultaneously encouraging our sympathy for the victim.  If this were a clear-cut case of non-consensual sexual assault, then this approach would be more appropriate and justified.  But as we learn more, and confront different perspectives of this multi-layered story, the truth itself begins to drift into grey area territory.  Separating facts from bias might as well be our eternal homework assignment.

Nov 06

An Astounding Measure of Racial Inequality in the USA

I’m not exactly easy to amaze about economic inequality in the USA, but I have to admit that my eyes literally bulged out of my head when I saw this bar graph from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances (via Wolff, 2010).

Figure_3

Median net worth for white households is $143,600.

Median net worth for black households in $9,300.

Median net worth for Latino households is $9,100.

Inequality in net worth dwarfs income inequality, with a ratio between whites and blacks or Latinos of about 15 to 1, and when you leave housing equity out of the mix, as in the third set of bars above, the ratio of financial equity, stocks, bonds, and money in the bank, increases to more than 80 to 1.

Aug 29

Are We Finally Ready for an Honest Discussion on Race?

I appreciate the opportunity now laid before the American people to have a long overdue discussion on race.  Prior opportunities like these have come and gone but, pardon my skepticism, I still don’t think many of us are willing to commit to it.  Doing so would explode a variety of myths, particularly ones held by those who enjoy patting themselves on the back for a job well done.  Jobs this complex cannot be undone by one movement alone.

Feb 10

One of the Elephants in the Room

I’ll be mercifully brief. I just listened to a program on KPFA which is an interview with Michelle Alexander speaking of her new book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Basically, her contention that the 5 fold increase in incarceration in this country is thew way the elites have managed to use prisons as a means of social control as industries have moved away from population centers and left in its wake unsustainable ghettos. Which were invaded, starting under Reagan, by federally subsidized efforts to incarcerate a high proportion of African-American men through the spectacularly disproportionate application of drug laws against the poor and, largely, ignoring the white middle-class. SWAT Teams were sent in and funded to roust people out of their beds, seize and confiscate their property and deprive them of their civil rights.  

Jan 20

The Poor Need Health Care, The Rich Need to Take Note

The circular firing squad over the defeat of Martha Coakley and what this means for the Democratic Party and Health Care Reform got underway a couple days ago.  I’ve said my bit, and have nothing further to add, but I’d rather address the potential challenges facing reform aside from the loss of a seemingly filibuster-proof majority.  It is now absolutely imperative we push forward and bring a bill to President Obama’s desk.  Our backs may be against the wall, but perhaps it will take abject panic and fear to rouse our complacent, weak-kneed Democratic legislators towards the goal.  If it takes the shock and dismay of a humiliating defeat to break the logjam, then so be it.  I’m not concerned with speculating as to how we got here; I am instead consumed with what we learned from it and how we will use this tough lesson to think of others and their needs rather than ourselves.  

What I have noticed in my own struggles to obtain low-income health insurance is how class and race ensure that government subsidized plans are underfunded and often dysfunctional, but money (or the lack of it) seems to be the most powerful determinant of all.  What many have noted is that basic selfishness is what threatens to derail any efforts towards changing the existing system—namely that people who have always had sufficient coverage do not understand the limitations faced by those who do not.  We can call that privilege if we wish, but that term has always seemed accusatory to no good end to me, and my intent is not to chastise anyone but to make many aware of the challenges in front of us that never get much in the way of attention.  In my own life, I can say that I have now seen how the other half lives for the first time ever, and I noted that they live lives severely impeded by the tremendous limitations and senseless complications of the existing system.

I have been unemployed or at least severely underemployed for several months.  As a result, I had no choice but to file for government assistance.  When I was finally granted food stamps I signed up as well for a local DC funded health insurance plan.  What I have discovered in the process is that since the Recession hit, social service agencies in DC have been swamped by new applications for every existing option currently offered.  According to one worker with whom I spoke, claims have tripled since the bottom began to fall out of the economy.  The system was barely able to manage the number of filings in more stable times, and now it has in large part ground to a halt if not slowed to a trickle.  New claims are supposed to be processed in no more then 30 days from approval, and I was forced to make several time-consuming, additional calls to the proper department to even get the coverage activated.  Those without the time or without the persistence likely will be granted nothing at all and this simply should not happen.  

My great point is that without the infrastructure in place, it doesn’t matter how many people to whom we grant coverage.  Ensuring that everyone can get their teeth cleaned, fillings filled, broken bones set, flu-like symptoms properly treated, diabetes regulated, or depression adequately under control is the ultimate goal, but we must also be sure to build a sufficient number of clinics, medical centers, doctor’s offices, dental hygiene practices, well-stocked pharmacies and all the rest.  They must be built in proper proportion to need and since humankind has never been able to curtail its zeal for making money at the expense of the health of the financial system, we need to devise strategies to build these things for both good times and bad.

In DC, the low-income, government-funded system forces the poor and/or disabled to a handful of centers scattered across the District itself.  Visiting a private doctor or specialist is not an option, since coverage is only granted to those who use these designated centers.  Likewise, pharmacies and medication dispensation function under the same parameters.  Using Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, or other commercial medication fillers is not allowed under the plan.  Though there are a score of specific pharmacies which take the DC plan, in my case, there is only one pharmacy in the entire District that fills psychiatric medication, and for me it is a 35 minute trip, one-way via public transportation and then by foot.  The pharmacy itself is attached to a Mental Health services clinic which is the sole site whereby psychiatric care is provided for a city of roughly 600,000 people.

Without enough workers to process claims, grant coverage, manage medical records, or attend to even the most basic of needs the system is essentially worthless or at least incredibly inefficient.  Without enough revenue allocated by governments from taxation or other means, it doesn’t matter how snazzy or up-to-date is any system designed to speed up or modernize the system.  Window dressing is window dressing.  Without the money to properly stock a pharmacy, medications will be obtained on a priority system and as such, meds that are rarely prescribed or are very expensive will rarely be on hand when needed.  For example, one of my medications, Parnate, is an MAOI inhibitor.  Parnate is a very powerful anti-depressant that is infrequently prescribed because with it comes potentially dangerous, even deadly side effects if I do not take care to abstain from eating certain foods.  As you might expect, it is not one of the more common prescriptions, but it is essential to my lasting health and quality of life.  A commercial pharmacy usually has it in stock, or if it does not, it can be quickly ordered or is certainly in stock at some other store in the immediate area.  With the government-subsidized pharmacy I must use, if that particular drug is available at all it is due purely to chance and luck, and if it needs to be ordered, it may be a week or more before they have it in stock.      

Regarding visits with a GP, specialist, or other specific health practitioner, some clinics and centers accept walk-ins or schedule appointments within a reasonable time frame.  Some do not.  For those who need surgical procedures or more invasive treatment, one might be expected to wait months.  When I still lived in Alabama, there was approximately one Medicaid-accepting clinic for the entire state that performed the procedure, and as such when it came time for me to have a very routine, non-invasive treatment, I was booked four whole months in advance.  In more affluent, usually blue cities and states, the wait time is often less, but it can still be a bit on the lengthy side.  As for me, I found to my utter dismay that my coverage was terminated before the procedure could be even performed after the clinic filed and billed Medicaid for the cost of the preliminary screening.  Someone must have realized that to save cost I was not what they deemed a “high-priority” need and thus I could be safely removed from the rolls to save money in what was a system already in danger of being completely depleted of funds.    

An important distinction needs to be drawn here.  The DC-based coverage I have been talking about is different from Medicaid or, for that matter, Medicare.  This coverage augments or seeks to provide coverage to those who either have Medicaid/Medicare or cannot get approved for it.  This is why the rules, parameters, and hoops to jump through are more severe.  Medicaid usually allows a person to pursue more orthodox means of seeking treatment.  Though some medical practitioners do not accept it because it usually pays out less than a gold standard coverage plan through a private insurer, many do.  Again, money is a big factor at play.  If Medicaid were capable of paying out at a sufficient rate, everyone would take it.  If it wasn’t at times forced to pay out much later than a private carrier or even being forced to issue IOU’s when monetary shortfalls and partisan bickering delayed enactment of a satisfactory state budget, then it certainly would be on par with usually employer-based coverage.

Yet, it is very disingenuous at best for those who oppose health care reform to stubbornly dig in their heels and express haughty indignation that they are NOT going to have “the government” take away their right to choose their doctor.  The only way this would ever happen for most is if they lost their insurance altogether, lost all their personal savings, and lost the ability to come up with the money to see a well-compensated physician and/or specialist.  Their worst-case-scenarios and numerous reservations are true only for those living in abject poverty, or at or below the poverty line.  The wealthier among us have any number of lifelines, be they family, co-workers, friends, fellow members of a particular group or club, or other sufficient means.  Those at the bottom have none of this upon which to rely.  Friends, family, and others are just as impoverished and less fortunate as they are, and they have no choice but to take and use what they can get.  And taking what they can get means dealing with a system that is convoluted, needlessly complex, inconvenient at best, and regimented to such an authoritarian degree that even obtaining the minimum often is an exercise in debasement.

If ever we had a need for revolutionary reform and change, now would be it.  Decades after a declared War on Poverty, we still have many battles ahead of us.  We haven’t really given this matter anything more than perfunctory attention, and we haven’t really allocated resources of any significant means to this very pertinent cause.  Doing so would require us to understand exactly how fortunate we are to have been granted, by complete luck and chance, the socio-economic status of which we were born.  For some quirk of God, fate, or nature we do not get the right to choose our parents or to choose our upbringing.  But we do have the obligation to see to it that those for whom daily adversity is not an abstraction have the same rights that we frequently take for granted.  I am not seeking to lecture, nor to hector anyone, but rather to strongly emphasize that our continued success as a people, a party, and a movement demands that we seek to assist the poor and the less fortunate.  Our wallets, billfolds, and bank accounts couldn’t open fast enough to provide aid to suffering Haitians.  If only this were possible for our own poverty-stricken citizens, many of whom struggle through conditions not that dissimilar to those we now view through heart-wrenching news reports and graphic photographs.  After all, it might be you someday who faces the disquieting realization that our health care system is designed for the wealthy, by the wealthy, and in so doing realizes just how much you took it for granted.

Jan 19

EcoJustice: How is the dream?

KuangSi2

Forty six years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered I Have a Dream. In that speech, even one hundered years after emancipation, he spoke of black communities crippled by segregation and discrimination. They lived, ‘on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.’

Today, blacks participate in all levels of professional society and leadership. We have a beautiful first family, former Secretaries of State, and even Supreme Court judges. It is common to see black lawmakers, doctors, lawyers, business professionals, and professors. Perhaps that ocean is embracing the island. One might think that discrimination is a thing of the past — that America is a place that tends toward racial equality…

Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them. –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If Dr. King could return and look at America, would he say the same thing today?

Jan 04

Obama effigy hanged in Jimmy Carter’s home town

The US Secret Service says it is investigating after an effigy of Barack Obama was found hanging in the home town of former President Jimmy Carter.

The BBC  Monday, 4 January 2010

TV footage showed the doll hanging by a noose in front of a red, white and blue sign that reads “Plains, Georgia. Home of Jimmy Carter, our 39th President”.

Witnesses said the effigy had President Obama’s name on it.

Plains Mayor L.E. Godwin III said the fire department had been called to take it down.

In Washington, US Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan confirmed that the agency was investigating the case.

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