The Wheel Turns

February 22, 2020 (Saturday)A lot of folks have been asking me lately if America has ever been in such a crisis before…

Posted by Heather Cox Richardson on Sunday, February 23, 2020
Facebook – Heather Cox Richardson

One of the comments under that article puts forward the fantasy that the South would try to secede again. It’s a quaint idea, that the South would be dumb enough to secede from the Union en masse exactly like it did in 1860, setting the United States on a path of self-destruction that would see it reborn like a phoenix out of the ashes of what went before. That Southerners as a group still see themselves as preserving their peculiar institution, something they share in common that would cause them to think they had the numbers on their side to win the day and persevere in the face of the revulsion of the rest of the country.

They had grounds to think that in 1860. The world clamored for their cotton and tobacco and sugar. Commodities that required huge, cheap labor forces to plant, maintain and harvest. Slavery made that possible, and they saw themselves as irreplaceable and that England or France would support them in their war against the Union.

However, in today’s United States, nothing like slavery exists to unite Southern oligarchs into a force that might think they could win a war against the rest of the country, and the rest of the country still has the world’s greatest military machine on its side to put down any insurrections that might emerge in these troubled times. The bad outcome is more certain now than it was in 1860. Anyone with a lick of sense knows this and so won’t be rattling the sabers of succession this time around.

Don’t get me wrong, those people do exist. I’ve had fellow Texans propose this idea to me, many times. It’s a common enough joke, save your Confederate money boys, the South will rise again! Those people are the same people who think that Texas can divide itself into five states (it can’t. Or rather, it already has) They are stuck mentally in a time and place that probably never existed. It is a reinvention by our grandfather’s generation (as the history lesson I started this article touches on) a myth that has outlived its usefulness and is now more of an embarrassment than any kind of real movement.

The same brother-in-law that inspired me to write,

RAnt(hony)-ings

The same brother-in-law that voiced those veiled racist statements summoned the ghost of the Confederacy the last time we spoke,

You know there is another civil war coming.

I know nothing of the kind. The South won’t leave. They aren’t that stupid and they weren’t that stupid in 1860, either. But the South not leaving is not the same as the US continuing. Yes there is hope, as Heather Cox Richardson explains in her Facebook article. We can overcome. That doesn’t mean we will overcome. How many people thought that the USSR would cease to exist, before it did cease to exist? As long as there are people living in Texas, there will always be a Texas. Ditto for the other coastal states, because coastline yields ocean trade and trade is the lifeblood human social existence. But the US as a political entity can and will end if we don’t act to preserve it.

Make no mistake. The majority of Trump voters wanted to bring this country down when they voted for Trump in 2016. The wanted an end to the status quo, the status quo of the wealthy dictating policy at the expense of workers and the poor. The status quo embodied in the person of Hillary Clinton. Right or wrong they saw their votes as ending that status quo.

How do I know this? Because I was one of them until 2008. In 2005 I qualified for disability and was gifted with the ability to continue existing as a side effect. It took three more years for me to come to grips with my own short-sightedness. But I swore that I would never vote to bring down the system again after casting my last vote as a libertarian in 2008. In 2012 I defiantly voted for Barack Obama while all my libertarian friends were shouting about how bad he was. I ate a big bowl of crow and I went on with my life, understanding that the United States government isn’t just a system. It is people living their lives, and they have the right to continue living their lives.

When Hillary Clinton pulled out a win in 2016 I put on a brave face and voted for her anyway, knowing that Texas would never go for her. But I wouldn’t vote against her. I knew what Trump was. Right or wrong, Hillary Clinton was the only way forward.

Enough people were angry, and enough people wanted to tear down the system at any cost. Their numbers were just enough in three key states to swing the election into Trump’s hands, and the rest is the history that we’ve lived through over the last three years.

This is how I know that my kind Uncle Joe will not be the president we need for the future. Don’t get me wrong, I will vote for him if he is the Democratic nominee. I know how the US political system works. Joe Biden is the past. The loveable part of our past, but the past all the same. He is the status quo come back to promise us hope and change again if we just vote for him.

The angry people will dismiss him as a presidential candidate because of this. They won’t willingly embrace the legacy of the Democratic party and all the baggage that comes with it. They may just stay home, or they may hold their noses and vote for him like I did for Hillary Clinton in 2016, knowing what kind of president that Trump is already.

Most of them will not vote for Trump again. The tide is turning and you can feel it in the air if you stop and listen to the wind. But that doesn’t mean he loses, and that doesn’t mean the United States continues to exist. Without the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Americans on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, the United States would have died in the years between 1860 and 1865. In much the same fashion, but hopefully with a lot less blood spilled, the United States can and will cease to exist if we don’t give our full measure in her defense today, tomorrow and every day between now and the November elections.

Make no mistake, we are in crisis. We are beset with enemies both inside and outside of the country, all of them focused on keeping us from exercising our birthright. Our birthright? Creating a government of, for and by the people of the United States of America. Creating a government of the people for probably the first time in our lives here in the US. What will that government look like, and will there be a government at all? We are the only ones that can determine that, if our interests are to be served.

Rebutting Thought-Ending Conservatism – Part One: Slavery

For Shelby

American News XJuly 18, 2016

When I posted this image to my Facebook wall, I hadn’t expected any real pushback. I mean, the facts of how dark skinned humans came to be slaves and lower class in America, and how they are still mostly poor in America, are incontrovertible. Nevertheless, my own family pushed back, people who should know better than to argue facts or history with me. They all know how much I read (or they should) and they all know that I have a tick that won’t allow me to simply ignore stupidity when I hear it.

…and still, the first comment I got was all lives matter, a stubborn refusal to see the world as it really is, a willfully ignorant insistence of falseness being truth that continued for the entire dialog under the image. The replies that I got were boilerplate. They were talking points that could be repeated (and have been repeated to me endlessly) by any FOX watching conservative; and so consequently this little exercise bears going through just this one time. Just to expose the talking points for what they are, so as to illustrate just how wrong they are.

All lives matter is a thought-ending phrase. It doesn’t actually mean anything in and of itself, which is why people repeat it after hearing that black people object to being targeted as they have been throughout US history. 

The people who say all lives matter simply want the person they are speaking at to shut up. Here’s Felonious Monk from the Nightly Show (Larry Wilmore) explaining how this works,

THE NIGHTLY SHOW WITH LARRY WILMORE ALL WORDS MATTER – FELONIOUS MUNK
Stormtrumpers did get the Nightly Show canceled. You did manage to get one thing done in Trump’s first year.

I want the doctor to fix my leg.

Language is our evolutionary prerogative. It is the air I breathe. I will not be shut down, belittled or pushed aside; and the people who, rightly, want to stop being targeted by police officers where they live simply because of the color of their skin will not be shut down either. Insisting there is no problem to be corrected makes you the target, and Stormtrumpers should remember what happened when they made everyone else the target of their anger in 2016. That payback is coming. You can be sure of this if of nothing else.

Here’s the first long comment from that attempt at a Facebook dialog I want to quote,

Democrats enslaved the black man Republicans freed them (Lincoln being the first Republican President). Democrats are now trying to enslave the country. As long as there are ignorant people in this country to vote democrat, there will always be slavery. On another note. 90% of the killing of the black man is the black man killing there own. Your president has caused more chaos in this country and ya’ll still voted that piece of shit back in and want people to believe that it’s the Republicans fault. When people learn to work for there own and not sit at home and feed off the working man they might have a different view of whats happening in this country.

Now, this comment comes from a relative, an in-law. One who knows that I am disabled. This is the kind of love and understanding that is common across Texas, not just in the men who are married to one of your sisters. They are certain that people who don’t want to work are just lazy, as if laziness were not a survival trait. As if they aren’t equally as lazy on any given day, willing to let their wives and family do the housework while they get fat on their recliners drinking beer and watching football. Writing is about the only work I’m capable of doing these days, and I can only do that sporadically between bouts of vertigo. The people like this relative who tell me to get a job are speaking in code. Unluckily for these hateful types, I understand their code because I was one of them once. Get a job is code for crawling away somewhere and dying out of sight. Out of sight is out of mind. They, to borrow a phrase, simply want me to starve to death and decrease the surplus population. They are Scrooges, manufacturing the chains they will wear for the rest of eternity, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Also note the logical disconnect in saying that Democrats, led by a black man, favor enslaving that same black man and everyone else in the U.S., a black man who we elevated to the office of the president. A president that he loving calls a piece of shit even though Barack Obama was demonstrably the best president of our lifetimes (more on this in a bit) This insistence that Democrats favor slavery is a non-sequitur, it doesn’t follow any logical reasoning, and yet nearly all conservatives and Republicans in general believe this kind of crap without even asking why they believe it. It is essential to their mental makeup that they project their own hatreds onto others, in a pretty typical psychological fashion.

White men enslaved the black man long before there was such a thing as the Democratic party. Slavery itself predates every record that has ever been kept by any society, and it was more frequently the next tribe over from yours who were enslaved rather than a group that was distinctly different looking. It was far more likely to be your neighbors than it was that your tribe had the chance to conquer peoples in a far away place and enslave them. Only expansive civilizations like the city-states of old could muster that kind of might. Rome took slaves from every part of the known world, most of them not being of any different color skin than their own. No, it took enterprising Europeans to hit upon enslaving a specific group of people who looked different than everyone around them, making those people easy to spot as slaves without having to think about the problem too hard.

Black slavery worked well in the early American colonies and across most of Europe because black people could be seen as slaves at a glance. The otherness of appearance made it easy to keep those people in their lessor place of status. You didn’t have to keep records of whether or not this or that black person was a slave (although they did anyway) because if you looked different, you were property and not a person. This disconnect, this racism, continues to the present day in the structures and beliefs of the people in the formerly slave holding states, and in the major cities all across the U.S. Most people simply don’t make the connection that darkness, even darkness of skin, is routinely chalked up to something malign.

Have you never noticed the prevalent fear of the dark? I’ve had many people insist that this is not the same as racism, but it is based on exactly the same mental structures. Just like sinister means left-handed as well as being threatening, darkness implies threat or differentness, and this is across all peoples everywhere. And it manifests in people looking down on those around them whose skin is darker than theirs is. It manifests in trying to force left-handed people to become right-handed, or killing the left-handed outright for their threatening nature. Killing those who look or act different because they scare you. Xenophobia, as someone with more education would refer to it. Xenophobia is rampant in the world today.

Slavery runs rampant in the Bible and was widespread throughout the world prior to the enlightenment, and it was those enlightened liberal thinkers that ushered in the end of slavery as well as many other laudable achievements of the time (things like the germ theory of medicine) and conservatives of the time (today’s Republicans) fought tooth and nail against the notion that slavery was bad. Because conservatives favor tradition, and slavery was a cherished institution.

So slavery predates the modern Republican hatred for Democrats. The Democrats in the 1800’s were pro-slavery, that much is true. Democrats were a predominantly conservative party at that time; conservative being the generic label for people who favor the status quo, people who don’t want to change.

The party that opposed the Democrats in 1852 was referred to as the Whigs. The Whig party disintegrated in 1854 over the question of slavery in the form of the Kansas-Nebraska act. I’m sure you all remember that from your Kansas history. No? Well, that’s okay. The Kansas-Nebraska act made it possible for states to decide if they wanted to be slave or free states at their time of admission, making the broad expansion of slavery across the American continent a thing to be feared by abolitionists everywhere. The Whigs really didn’t have a purpose for existing in the first place other than to be opposed to the policies of Andrew Jackson, and he’d been dead for quite awhile at that point. The Democratic party as it existed then had been formed by Andrew Jackson and his supporters. The party of slavery is a fitting label to hang on his legacy of murder and genocide.

(Suggested reading: Jacksonland)

Progressives of the time were abolitionist and they joined forces with Northerners who didn’t want the South to be able to bring their slaves into non-slaveholding states. This further injury to the sensibilities of abolitionists was the net result of the Dred Scott decision; this Supreme Court decision made it possible for slave-owning Southerners to live wherever they liked and keep their slaves in whatever state they lived in whether that state was a free state or a slave state. If the repeal of the Missouri compromise wasn’t enough to solidify an anti-slavery movement, then having to compete with slaves for work in your own free state was a thought far too loathsome to contemplate.

The formerly progressive Whigs and the progressives from the other political factions in 1856 joined together to create what became known as the Republican party. This is important, so take note of this fact. Republicans were the progressives and liberals of the time. Republicans were progressives and liberals when they were formed in 1856. They were the people who favored change, and they nominated Abraham Lincoln in 1860, a presidential candidate who successfully stood astride the two warring factions (pro-slavery/anti-slavery) and managed to pull a victory out of the contested election of 1860 by promising to leave historically slave states alone and promising to preserve the union. Northern conservatives, people who wanted to preserve their non-black, non-slaveholding states, also sided with the progressives in handing the Republicans and Lincoln this victory.

(Suggested reading: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln)

Progressives freed the slaves. Not conservatives. Conservatives were pro-slavery in 1860. The progressive Republican party elected Abraham Lincoln. Just as progressive Republicans lead by Teddy Roosevelt broke up the monopolies and cleaned up the corporate mess that the country was mired in back in 1900.

(Suggested reading: The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism)

Parties are not static creatures. They live and breath and change. The Democrats eventually changed, although it took time for the conservative/liberal polls to shift. The Democrats aligned themselves, one might even suggest anchored themselves, in the unquestionable white supremacy of the Andrew Jackson years. They stuck with white supremacy through the Civil War and reconstruction. Stuck with it through Jim Crow. They clung to their white majorities and their white working-class voter base through World War I and looked the other way during the red summer. But they weren’t the only ones who looked the other way. There was mass denial of the racism of that year, across the political landscape.

The Democrats held their white majorities through the Depression and World War II. It helped that Republicans had been bought by that time. Bought by the corporations that they had fought in the 1900’s. So the anti-monopolists were tamed. Republicans looked the other way as the poor starved through the depression, or shrugged their shoulders and pretended there was nothing to be done. So the progressives started to shift from the Republican party. They started to put their allegiance with the Democrats and their support of unions. Unions that just happened to be in alignment with the concerns of the white, working-class voter that dominated the landscape of the time. Aligned themselves with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his hair-brained scheme to short-circuit the malfunctioning international gold standard and end the Great Depression.

(Suggested reading: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World)

After LBJ’s betrayal of White Southerners by pushing through the Civil Rights Act, the majority of white voters in the South migrated to the Republican party, a party that they had hated until explicitly invited to join the party by Richard Nixon. At the same time minorities made a political shift and started supporting their historic enemies, the Democrats. It was at this point that the parties functionally changed political orientations, the Republicans harkening back to the past, becoming predominantly conservative, and the Democrats became liberal. These trends remain in place today.

Look around any Republican gathering, Trump’s never-ending Hitler-esque political rallies for example, and notice that the audience is predominantly white. Now look at Democratic gatherings, a the offices recently filled with women and people of color, and you should notice a pretty stark contrast. This is what Reince Priebus tried to warn Republicans about when he chaired the Republican National Committee. That future he warned ya’ll about? That future is now.

The last point to refute in the long (previously quoted) comment is this one,

90% of the killing of the black man is the black man killing there own.

Murder is always predominantly committed by people who look like the victim, not just black murder. This is because murder is generally committed by people the victim knows, and those people will generally be people who look like them. Their own family members are quite frequently the perpetrators, for the exact same reason. Look it up. White on white crime far exceeds any other created racial grouping. So this pointing out of black on black crime as being indicative of something sinister? That is just more racism being exposed by someone who can’t seem to figure out he’s a racist.

Here’s the next comment that I want to refute.

The black man sold the black man to the white man. You can not deny that there are more poor people now then before obama became the dictator of this country. You can not deny the democrats crashed the housing market. You can not deny that what is really wrong is only wrong for Republicans not democrats. You can not deny that hilary clinton killed 4 good men in Bengozie. You can deny obama has devided this country. You can not deny obama has spent 10 trillion dollars while saying Bush spent 4 and should never have done that. Liberals (democrats) are moochers and free loaders, you can not deny that. I know plenty of democrats that are in denial because they are secretly ashamed of them selves because they are so used to the way they are they can’t change. A person can look at history and see what ever makes them selves feel good but that doesn’t mean they are right. If there were no Republicans to work and support liberals (democrats)? How would liberals (democrats) live then.

Assuming that my antagonist was serious and not attempting to be humorous. That’s a large assumption, I know. But, assuming he’s serious, I’ll take these points one at a time.

The black man sold the black man to the white man.

White men sell white men to black men. Probably yesterday, even. Slavery still goes on, especially sex slavery. Ask your president about sex slavery. He met a few sex slaves while hanging out with his buddy Jeffrey Epstein. You’ll be finding out the truth of this in the near future. In any case, the simple fact that people sell people proves about as much as selling your time to someone else for money proves. Everyone is a mercenary, some of us are just better paid than others. Knowing that selling people crosses a line that will get you killed for your trouble, that alters the calculation from “how much can I get for selling my child” to “how much does that third job pay?” the latter being the preferable moral decision we are looking for as a society.

You can not deny that there are more poor people now then before obama became the dictator of this country.

Obama wasn’t a dictator. He wasn’t even an aggressive president like W. or Bill or Bush the first or Reagan. He was definitely better than Tricky Dick, who was probably the most aggressive person to hold the Office of President in my lifetime before Trump cheated his way into office. Trump wants to be a dictator, just like his heroes are dictators. Trump puts all other presidents to shame being single-handedly the worst president ever to hold office on the first day that he was in office, and has gotten worse every day since that day. I find it hard to imagine how he could be worse, until the next time I wake up and read the news and think well, that’s how he could be worse. Tomorrow will be no different than it was today.

As I said previously, Barack Obama was demonstrably the best president of our lifetimes. The only reason to propose that he was not is that his skin is black or because he was a Democrat. Being a black Democrat makes hatred for him a double feature. Not only were his policies the policies of Republicans watered down, just like Bill Clinton’s were, but he had the unmitigated gall not to march to the military drumbeat that every president since Reagan has adopted.

But poverty? Poverty has gotten markedly worse under every president since Ronald Reagan. Obama was no exception to this fact, largely because he didn’t change the trickle-down bullshit that Reagan forced through congress in the 80’s. The economic bullshit that has been adopted by every president after Reagan just like the focus on the military was adopted by every president after Reagan. Trickle-down economics was rightly termed voodoo economics by Bush the first, but he was just as willing to practice that voodoo if it got him elected. When he dared raise taxes to balance the budget, he was forced out of office by the wealthy elites who wanted to punish him for raising their taxes to pay for services that they didn’t solely benefit from.

( Suggested reading: #MAGA: The Myth of Bootstraps)

Poverty has gotten worse under Trump, just as it did under Obama. (40% of Americans are poor) His rewards to the wealthy have stoked a fire that will shortly have the economy overheating and tanking (yield curve inversion) and who knows what the effects of his writing his own personal loopholes into the tax code will be. Everyone should be channelling every dime they have through a series of shell companies now, just like President Trump does (He’s smart. Just ask him) That’s how you get to keep all of your money and then sue people because they didn’t give you more money.

The poor are still the economic slaves of the wealthy. That inequity has yet to be addressed. That is what the current liberal/progressive movement wishes to fix, one goal among many.

I’m not going to make this long, long article longer still longer by belaboring the last few misconceptions that were voiced in that quote. The image and the article were and are about the Black Lives Matter movement, and slavery. I’ll just run through a few more refutation links for clarity’s sake (and I might need them later myself)

( Suggested reading: Caveat Emptor)

There have always been conservatives and liberals, even though they didn’t always use the same names. There have always been adherents to tradition and people unafraid of experimentation, people ready to adopt new rules to cover new realities. Conservatives are the former, liberals are the latter.

Since the vast majority of young people are liberal by definition (they themselves representing change to the status quo, the status quo being their parents) and since the vast majority of young people are not lazy shirkers, his broad dismissal of liberals as worthless lacks even the basic merit that I try to give every argument offered. He’s condemning his own children and their children with one fell sweep of his opinion. They will probably discard him when he becomes a burden in old age, just as easily as they will discard his dismissal when they hear it now.

Rampant militarism is the hallmark of a dictator. The kind of person Trump loves and wants to be. So Obama? Not a dictator. The black lives matter movement is not a threat to you unless you are a White Supremacist. That is it, in a nutshell. Don’t believe me? Black Lives Matter protest in Wichita changed to cookout with police. There is your answer.

Every. Single. Point. Every point that was offered has now been shown to be wrong. All of them. If I wasn’t related to the commeter that I was quoting from by marriage, I wouldn’t have bothered to write this novelette. I substantiate my arguments with checkable facts and links to articles that reinforce my arguments. Facts which are irrefutable. Follow those links and understand the arguments, then if you, dear reader, still disagree with me feel free to offer a verifiable argument of your own.

John Legend | TED2016 “Redemption Song”

Facebook


Editor’s note. This one has sat on the edit pile since I copied the comments to the blog in expectation of writing this now completed article. That was back in the summer of 2016 as the Facebook link to the original meme posting on my Facebook wall should illustrate. I went ahead and advanced this article in time to it’s publish date (January 31, 2020 why 4:04?) so that it will at least briefly appear on the front page of the blog. I agonized over outing my in-laws for their blatant racism for all the years in-between 2016 and now. Now, with the Trump impeachment soon to be history and Trump (probably) crowing about victory on Tuesday at the SOTU, I wanted this article out. If there is a civil war, this is it. Here. Now. At the polls in November. We will fight and we will win, or we will die trying.

Contrary to former RL friend’s comments, the contrapositive of this yard sign are not false unless you want to craft them as false statements. That is, all the contrapositives other than the line about kindness, which cannot be everything. Kindness is only kindness, but it goes a long way.

Slaves?

Main deficiency of active people. Active men are usually lacking in higher activity-I mean individual activity. They are active as officials, businessmen, scholars, that is, as generic beings, but not as quite particular, single and unique men. In this respect they are lazy.

It is the misfortune of active men that their activity is almost always a bit irrational. For example, one must not inquire of the money-gathering banker what the purpose for his restless activity is: it is irrational. Active people roll like a stone, conforming to the stupidity of mechanics.

Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.

Friedrich Nietzsche – Human, All Too Human
Section Five: Signs of Higher and Lower Culture #283

I’ll just quote a book title as the proper question in response to Nietzsche’s aphorism above. Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? Like Adam Smith, Nietzsche is oblivious to the comforts that having others around, even others that he derides as lesser than himself, provides. If Friedrich Nietzsche or Adam Smith cooked and cleaned for themselves, they would be slaves, per Nietzsche. Slaves to their own needs. At least, in Adam Smith’s case, he would have ended up with a better idea of what economics was. If he had time to think about economics between the washing and the cooking, the hauling of water, etc. I wonder what that version of Wealth of Nations would have looked like?

Listening to the discussion of Nietzsche contained in Episode 11: Nietzsche’s Immoralism: What Is Ethics, Anyway? it’s easy to see the inspiration for much of Hitler and the Nazi party’s philosophy. How and why Hitler was so empowered by the German people to go out and achieve greatness for them. Never mind that Nietzsche would never have condoned the use of his ideas in this fashion. Ideas are like that. Once realized and expressed they are free to be used by anyone who happens upon them.

I need a certain level of comfort to be great.

Mark Linsenmayer

Census Citizenship Question

“Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution mandates that the U.S. House of Representatives be reapportioned every ten years after conducting a national census of all residents. In addition to the reapportionment of the U.S. Congress, Census data are used to draw legislative district boundaries. Census data also are used to determine funding allocations for the distribution of an estimated $675 billion of federal funds each year.”

Countable

The key phrase here is “national census of all residents”. All RESIDENTS not citizens. If you wanted to quibble about the difference I would stand on the reality of the fact that residents of an area are the citizens of that area. There is no other way to define citizenship and have it be meaningful. Pretending that there are those among us who are not full members of society is the first step towards creating an underclass which can be used in the same fashion that slaves were used. This move towards solidifying an underclass, forcing people to either declare citizenship during the census or go into hiding, is nothing less than an attempt to create a modern slavery system. This move must be stopped.

There should be no question about citizenship because residency presumes citizenship.

Comment on the Federal Register, Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; 2020 Census

Newt Knight

Free State of Jones (2016)

We just finished watching Free State of Jones starring one of my favorite Austinites, Matthew McConaughey. I really, really wanted to like this movie, which is probably why its meh presentation frustrated and disappointed me so thoroughly. It’s slow in places. The film makes some unexpected turns and time jumps that leave the audience puzzling over events and characters, distracting them from what is happening on the screen.

Perhaps another editor could have fixed this problem? It’s really hard to say. Films like this one are a testament to just how hard it is to get even the most gripping stories and well-written scripts in front of audiences in a form that they will understand and appreciate. Thousands of people have to do their jobs flawlessly. The directors, editors, and producers all have to have the same vision of the finished product in mind the entire time that the film is in production. The actors have to create believable characterizations that can speak to the viewing audience. The film crew and audio crew have to capture those performances flawlessly. If any one group of people fails to do their job, including craft services, that failure will be noticeable in the finished product. If what the audience ends up watching doesn’t connect, for whatever reason, all of those people’s time, energy and dedication can come to naught. It is heartbreaking when this happens to good actors and good stories.

The story of Free State of Jones is one that everyone should be familiar with, but have probably never heard before. It is a portion of the life story of Newt Knight, a plantation owner who never owned slaves while living in the slave state of Mississippi in the years leading up to the Civil War,

“He was a Primitive Baptist who didn’t drink, didn’t cuss, doted on children and could reload and fire a double-barreled, muzzle-loading shotgun faster than anyone else around,” said Moulds. “Even as an old man, if someone rubbed him the wrong way, he’d have a knife at their throat in a heartbeat. A lot of people will tell you that Newt was just a renegade, out for himself, but there’s good evidence that he was a man of strong principles who was against secession, against slavery and pro-Union.”

Smithsonian Mag.,The True Story of the ‘Free State of Jones’, March 2016

After volunteering for the Confederate army and being involved in several botched battles with heavy casualties, he deserted the army and returned to Jones County and his now-ruined plantation. All of this is covered in the movie, to some extent. What extent is real and what is contrived for the convenience of filmatic storytelling is open to question; open to question because not even historians agree when it comes to the details of Newt Knight’s life. The one thing they all do seem to agree on is that, after the war was ended and the South was returned to the Union, Newt Knight remained a supporter of equal rights for all without regard to skin color. Which is why he’s still a pariah in his home state and even in the county of Jones, Mississippi. It is also one possible explanation as to why the film about his story is so hard to follow. It’s hard to follow because the principles involved in the film are too close to the subject matter and so cannot see the big picture, the story that needs to be told.

Which is a shame. Because the story of a white Southerner who rebelled against secession, a plantation owner who hated slavery, is exactly the kind of story this country needs right now. It just isn’t the story that the film Free State of Jones ends up telling. Maybe someday the events of that war, the history of slavery in the US, all of it will be far enough in the past that we can give the story of Newt Knight a proper telling in a visual medium. Maybe in that future time there will be a monument to Newt Knight in the Jones county seat, and not a monument to the Confederate soldiers of the Civil War. The existence of that monument is a testament to the fact that the cause of the Civil War still exists in the minds of the people living in the old South and all across the United States. The cause still has converts living in the US right now. Maybe someday we will end that war, if we are lucky.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

William Faulkner

Expanded from four sentences, 27 words and a web address, written as a Facebook status. To say I expanded this one is just a bit of an understatement. 

Monuments to Traitors

Statues of Confederate figures are coming down all over the country, but the names of generals who fought for the South during the Civil War remain on U.S. military bases.

Ten Army posts in the South are named for Confederate officers — including the nation’s largest, Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It’s named for Gen. Braxton Bragg, who commanded 40,000 troops battling the Union Army.

Military bases should not be named for traitors anymore than we should have monuments to traitors on our soil. This really is a no-brainer of a problem, especially when you realize that most of the Confederate monuments were installed as part of the resurgence of White Supremacy in the early part of the 20th century, not part of remembrance for true American war heroes.

This is basic common sense, monuments are to people who deserve to be admired, not to people who fought on the wrong side of history attempting to extend the time that their peculiar institution could be practiced without being seen as the injustice that it was. The names should be changed, the monuments removed and replaced with more appropriate remembrances. Maybe each statue should be replaced with a lynching memorial, a reflection of the true legacy of slavery.

New York Timesmuseumandmemorial.eji.org

A radically expanded Facebook status.

Texas Trying to Secede. Again.

Hanging around the fringes of Texas politics as I have off and on over the last 20 years, you hear a lot of strange ideas. Texas is conspiracy fantasy central in many ways, and Austin being the capitol of Texas means that the conspiratorial currents all lead to the vortex located at 15th and Congress.

Since the clean sweep that the GOP experienced in 2014, the wackos have come out of the woodwork and aren’t embarrassed to let their freak flag fly. Over the last year we’ve had the whole Jade Helm 15 teapot tempest, the newly elected governor calling out the Texas Guard to defend Texas against the largest military on the face of the planet. Governor Abbott calling out the underfunded and understaffed Texas Guard to face down the unquestionable might of the US military. Facing down a US military that maintains troops in superior numbers to the Texas guard, just at the bases inside Texas (not to mention Texas citizens in the service of the US Army) troops that are included in the Jade Helm training exercises. We’ve seen the governor’s replacement in the office of Attorney General arrested and booked while embroiled in a scheme to deny marriage certificates to gay couples who wanted to get married in the wake of the SCOTUS decision.

Texans are also suffering due to continued resistance to the ACA by our sitting legislature and governor.  The ACA may be the law of the land according to the federal government, but the overwhelming majority of Texans spit at it as Obamacare, while at the same time whole segments of the Texas population who can’t afford to buy health insurance are left without any healthcare options because they make too much money to get Medicaid under the old rules, but are still supposed to have health insurance or face penalties.

Since all of this is Obama’s fault, it should be no wonder that a perennial favorite of the Texas conspiratorial fantasists is making the rounds again. Yes dear readers, we are faced with the dreaded initiative to secede from the Union. Again.

As I said previously, those of us who’ve been paying attention are not surprised to learn that the beast has raised its ugly head again. The history of the Texas secession movement is both long and checkered. I’m not going to go through all of it (the wiki page does a decent enough job of it) but it bears mentioning that many shady people for many long years have declared not only that Texas should secede, but that it probably isn’t legally a state of the Union.

Help, help we’re being repressed!

Texas not being a state would be news to the rest of the United States, since Texas manages to pretty much have its way with all sorts of things that affect other parts of the country. Make no mistake, the rest of the US knows that Texas is a state, much as many of them might rather it wasn’t.

The problem is, most Texans can’t be bothered to read;  and those that do read really can’t make heads or tails out of the Texas Constitution.  Or maybe it isn’t a problem with reading.  Maybe it’s a problem with who writes the books, especially the text books. In any case, these factors have lead to a number of interesting fantasies considering the nature of Texas’ relationship to the rest of the nation, as well as its status as a state.

Most Texans have heard the 5 states story, I’m sure.  The theory that Texas could be split up into 5 different states? The first time I heard it, the provision was in the Texas Constitution; which would be quite a feat I quickly discovered.  Upon the briefest of searches I learned that Texas has had seven constitutions since she left Mexico. So it isn’t in the Texas Constitution, not that we can tell among the nearly 500 amendments that have been passed (second only to Alabama. Saved again, Texas) The provision was actually imposed by the US Congress (those imperialists!) in their legislation which annexed Texas into the Union.

This is the tidbit that most people have probably never realized. Texas has already been split into 5 states. There are pieces of Texas in Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Wyoming; and while this may not have been the intention of the drafters of the legislation, Texas was paid for the severance of these lands, and they are no longer part of the state. So, yes. Texas could be subdivided, and those crazy plans to have Texas dominate the Senate by breaking itself into 5 or 6 more states that would somehow still vote in lockstep are all too late.  The deed has already been done.

The southwestern tip of Kansas was claimed by Texas. Dodge City was in Texas. Glad to know that. “Gunsmoke” always seemed like a Texas series. We know that Marshal Matt Dillon was born in San Antonio. His father was a Texas Ranger. It’s all coming together.

KUT, W.F. Strong, Sure, Texas Is Big – But It Used to Be Even Bigger

Another one of these fantasies is that Texas has permission to secede from the union.  This feature would be a truly curious development considering that all the slave states reacquired by the union after the civil war were required to renounce any intention to leave the union again as a condition for readmittance as states, as well as adopt the 13th and 14th Amendments. Most scholars agree that there is no basis to assume that a State could secede from the Union; it would be hard to see how this would be possible outside of the failure of the United States as a political entity and a military power.  These facts didn’t stop former Governor Rick Perry from voicing his opinion that Texas could secede at a rally full of supporters chanting for secession.  This wouldn’t be the first time that Rick Perry was in error, especially when it comes to the subject of law.  I wouldn’t put too much stock in his remembering facts about secession, or evolution, or whatever that third thing was (have you figured that out yet, Mr Perry? It’s the branch of the administration that you currently lead – editor)

…in hindsight Rick Perry’s governorship feels like a walk at the wildflower center compared to the level of crazy currently ensconced in the capitol building. Between Governor Abbott’s blatant hypocrisy as a disabled person who was uniquely situated to keep other disabled person’s from taking his road to Wellville, his trumped-up war on Planned Parenthood, his initiative to remove local control from Texas cities, and the legislature’s rejection of a minimum wage hike, it’s hard to imagine how life could get more grim than it currently is for the average Texan.  Which goes a long way towards explaining the desperation present in movements to secede as a political entity from the United States. Again.

A side word here for my fellow Texans.  Ya’ll might want to go back and read my piece on Greece in Perspective (hint, it really isn’t about Greece) and ponder at the level of desperation that you feel today and just who really is to blame for that.  Is it at all possible that that blame currently resides in a white house a good bit closer to you than Washington D.C.?

As an illustration of just how well history rhymes, here are the words of Governor Sam Houston as he was forced out of  office by confederate zealots in 1861.

Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas….I protest….against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.

Texans have once again been lied to and betrayed; not by Washington, but by the leadership of the conservative religious power base that dominates all of Texas politics.  They are lied to nightly by the talking heads at FOX news, in the hopes that we will blame each other rather than the leadership in this state that has brought us to this impasse. From the moment that conservatives declared that science was a matter of opinion, that critical thinking was something to be avoided,  their entire ideology became a house of cards which could be blown down by the slightest breeze.

Imagine Sam Houston’s outrage at the knowledge that in a park that bears his name, in the city that bears his name, stands a monument to the folly that he gave up the leadership of Texas for rather than embark upon.  What would he think of the even more foolish notion that Texas could or should leave the union again?

I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her.

Sam Houston

Independence Day

For the last few years my July 4th celebrations have been limited to watching my favorite holiday film and the wife‘s favorite holiday film; which are 1776 watched on the dusty old laserdisc player (the only complete version of the film in existence, although the blu-ray comes close to it) and ID4 which can be watched on any format as long as it includes surround sound.

For me it’s hard to beat the patriotic zeal of John Adams and his co-conspirators plotting to remove the American colonies from under the heel of their English masters. A good portion of it set to music, and sung quite well by the original broadway cast, directed by the same director. I own and have watched the blu-ray version of this film.  It is quite good, but it is not the same film that was released on laserdisc; nor does it have the secondary audio track describing the painstaking effort spent on reassembling the film after it was cut by Jack Warner with a pair of scissors; this after it had been put to bed by the director and assumed finished.  The cutting included the removal of a pivotal song in the middle of the film Cool, Considerate Men at the request of President Nixon, personally.  The song portrays the views of conservatives of the time who did not want to risk their lives, wealth and property on the very slim chance that Washington would ever be victorious against the British army.

The pro-slavery song Molasses to Rum should be especially poignant this year, given the tragedy enacted in Charleston a few weeks ago.  History is a fine teacher, if you don’t deafen yourself to its advice.

On a lighter note, the wife loves ID4. When the pool was functional, she was frequently alone in the living room watching it while the rest of us retired to the pool. One year she begged a projector from friends and we watched it on the patio from the pool.  That was a good summer.  The best part of the film for me is the scene where Houston, having been destroyed by the aliens earlier in the film, is nuked in a defensive attempt to destroy the invading aliens.  Any film that destroys Houston twice is a watchable film in my book. Sorry Houston residents; the truth hurts, I know.

A sequel to ID4 is slated for release next Independence Day (2016) titled Independence Day Resurgence which they shorten to IDR. I don’t relate to that title very well.  Maybe the film will make up for it. (Editor’s note: It didn’t)

The most common form of Independence Day celebration, fireworks, are only a memory for me. As a kid it was my favorite holiday because of the fireworks. We’d always have a decent personal show set up in the street in front of our house, or in our back yard. I constructed models just to blow them up with fireworks on the 4th of July. I remember fondly the first time Leoti paid for a firework display, laying in the middle of the football field watching the fireworks go off overhead.  I also remember many a summer where I temporarily deafened myself standing too close to explosives when they went off.

Another point of history that should be instructional.

As my disability has progressed, sensitivity to noise has increased. Any loud noise can set off vertigo quite easily. Flashes of light are painful, not enjoyable. Combustion fumes alone have been known to send me into a vertigo spell, so the great American pastime of trying to set the neighborhood on fire on Independence Day occurs without my active participation.

In Austin the city display is the only display allowed by law, a fact I find ironical as well as sensible.  There is always a neighbor who defies the ordinance and sets fireworks off anyway, usually several of them. The police and firemen are kept running all night long responding to calls.  At least the region is well watered this year. Won’t be any county-wide grass fires set off by fireworks this summer.

The pertinent image from Oatmeal’s America Explained to Non-American’s

Oatmeal’s America Explained to Non-American’s on a Facebook friends wall inspired this introspection.  The page features a whole fleet of images, you’ll just have to go to his site and soak up the glory that is America. Looking back, as I’ve alluded to twice already, I wonder why the obvious desperation of July 4th celebrations isn’t apparent to more Americans. We so desperately want to demonstrate to the world how happy we are being free.  One would think that the joy of real freedom would be enough, if only we know what that elusive thing really is.

Ideally There Would Be No Idealists; the Sovereign Version

Crazy shit of the moment I stumbled across on a BBS I frequent;

Jim Sanders, 45 of Mulberry, Indiana says that he is a “sovereign man,” who is not subject to the laws of Indiana and or his local governments, That’s why — after amassing over $900 dollars in fines for traffic violations and refusing to pay – his driver’s license got suspended. With no license, he says that his “only legal mode of travel is walking,” apparently making an exception for the law that requires a driver’s license.

Raw Story (via the Wayback Machine)

Apparently Jim Sanders never talked to one of the sovereign citizens, or he’d know (well, think. Believe. Something) that you don’t carry a driver’s license in the first place. You don’t get a license, you don’t buy a car with a title, you don’t put tags on your car, etc, etc, ad nauseum. You just continue to drive without all that and when the cop stops you, you talk his ears off about all this kooky stuff until he lets you go before he has a mental break and shoots you.

This is one of those wacky but true stories. The kind of thing I only share when I’m enjoying my preferred spirits.

This whole sovereign citizen thing was making the rounds right about the time I bailed on the LP (at least one prominent leader of the Texas LP at the time was into this) You never could nail down exactly what the system was, but it was purportedly to do with admiralty law, and yellow fringed flags, and your name in all caps on legal documents. You had the right to drive common vehicles without a license, because you didn’t have to have a license to ride a horse or drive a wagon; consequently all those laws didn’t really apply and so you could just ignore them PROVIDED that your car wasn’t titled by and purchased from the state. So you had to buy a car from outside the country, essentially. Cars bought from outside the states aren’t titled by the states. What you get is a transfer deed (or some such) not a state registered title to the vehicle. You can drive that car without a license, or so they claim.

Weirdly, the cops never had heard of any of this when they stopped you for not having tags on you vehicle; and then they’d impound the vehicle when you couldn’t show them current registration. These guys were always having to recover their vehicles from impound, bumming rides from the rest of us or taking the bus or taxi everywhere.

The tax- and fine-free driving was just one of the perks. You also could skip out on property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, etc. If you aren’t a subject of the federal government, then none of that stuff applies to you. Just as weirdly, the counties will still repossess your property for not paying taxes, no matter how many different ways you try to explain your exemption to them.

The news article jogged my memory about the sovereign citizen movement, something I’d heard recently on a podcast or news show. Something to the effect that sovereign citizen is a known white supremacist tactic/ideology (ah, the wonders of the internet) Low and behold, when I look on the SPLC website, I find this;

The strange subculture of the sovereign citizens movement, whose adherents hold truly bizarre, complex antigovernment beliefs, has been growing at a fast pace since the late 2000s. Sovereigns believe that they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don’t think they should have to pay taxes. Sovereigns are clogging up the courts with indecipherable filings and when cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence, usually directed against government officials. In May 2010, for example, a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two police officers with an assault rifle when they were pulled over on the interstate while traveling through West Memphis, Ark.

The movement is rooted in racism and anti-Semitism, though most sovereigns, many of whom are African American, are unaware of their beliefs’ origins. In the early 1980s, the sovereign citizens movement mostly attracted white supremacists and anti-Semites, mainly because sovereign theories originated in groups that saw Jews as working behind the scenes to manipulate financial institutions and control the government. Most early sovereigns, and some of those who are still on the scene, believed that being white was a prerequisite to becoming a sovereign citizen. They argued that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed citizenship to African Americans and everyone else born on U.S. soil, also made black Americans permanently subject to federal and state governments, unlike themselves.

The Sovereign Belief System
The contemporary sovereign belief system is based on a decades-old conspiracy theory. At some point in history, sovereigns believe, the American government set up by the founding fathers — with a legal system the sovereigns refer to as “common law” — was secretly replaced by a new government system based on admiralty law, the law of the sea and international commerce. Under common law, or so they believe, the sovereigns would be free men. Under admiralty law, they are slaves, and secret government forces have a vested interest in keeping them that way. Some sovereigns believe this perfidious change occurred during the Civil War, while others blame the events of 1933, when the U.S. abandoned the gold standard. Either way, they stake their lives and livelihoods on the idea that judges around the country know all about this hidden government takeover but are denying the sovereigns’ motions and filings out of treasonous loyalty to hidden and malevolent government forces

SPLC

I have never, NEVER been happier to be divorced of the LP than I am right as this minute. I think I’ll have another glass of cognac.

I also found this tidbit;

CLTV – A ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Tries To Explain How His Ideology Works – 8/21/10

I don’t want to appear flippant, because the interviewer references a police shooting incident (actually, it’s the one before last, because the last one was the two crazies kicked out of the Bundy Ranch group) but I swear I’ve listened to about 10 guys ramble on like that for hours on the subject.


Editor’s notes:

2014. A small “l” libertarian acquaintance of mine took me to task for the observation of “many leaders” of the Texas LP following this ideology.  I had to admit that I could name only one, so I revised the blog entry.  Still, it bears mentioning that the Libertarian Party (like the Republican party, and the Democratic party) is informed by an even larger group of hangers on, like-minded individuals who won’t join the party per se, but feel that the party can benefit from their insight on the ideology; consequently there were many others in the circles around the Texas LP leadership who felt that the LP was on a fool’s errand, attempting to alter government.  That the true purpose of anarchists and anarchism was to end government and assert the rights of sovereign individuals. 

The idea that anyone can be sovereign or should expect to be considered sovereign is laughable; this is entirely aside from having the ultimate authority on what you personally will do or not do, whether you will continue to exist or not. Sovereign is a completely different approach to the subject of authority.

2019. I find it hilarious that I linked a Russia Today segment on the blog. As in, even for the humor content of an epic fail, why would I do that? Also, RT would be foursquare in favor of promoting the sovereign citizens movement inside the US today because that belief system is at the heart of Trumpism; and Vladimir Putin, the man who controls RT, loves him some Donald Trump.

Cliven Bundy is a White Supremacist? Who’d a Thunk It?

The Washington Post reports on an embarrassing situation developing on the Republicans and conservatives right flank,

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Cliven Bundy told supporters last week, according to a New York Times story that published on Wednesday night.

The Nevada rancher was previously best known for refusing to pay two decades-worth of fines for grazing his cattle on federal land and fighting off the Bureau of Land Management for the nth time, this time with the help of armed militia — or for being the patron saint of state’s rights, pick your poison. But since those controversial comments were published, he has seen most of his friends in high places vanish overnight. Republican politicians who saw the Bundy stand-off as an opportunity to connect with the far right are now trying to figure out which adverb will put the most distance between themselves and the rancher.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went with wholeheartedly, releasing a statement on Thursday saying Bundy’s “remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.” Nevada Sen. Dean Heller chose completely. His spokesperson said Thursday, “Senator Heller completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.” Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, who previously battled with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about Bundy, preferred strongly. “I strongly disagree with Cliven Bundy’s comments about slavery,” she said.

The Washington Post

Don’t even pretend to me you didn’t recognize what this man was saying from the beginning, conservative politicians. All of you know where these arguments come from, because I knew where they came from. If you didn’t know, your vaunted experience in politics isn’t worth the spit necessary for you to talk about it.

Nothing new here. This is old, old news; that white supremacists still exist, and that their arguments have been adopted and inculcated into the politics of libertarians and conservatives, and through them into the Republican party. I recognized his arguments as being representative of this particular flavor of politics even before he showed his hand in that interview.

What I want to know is, why has this man not been arrested? Why does he still have land, possessions, etc? Because he is a wealthy rancher in a sparsely populated state, he gets to hold guns on federal officials and remain at large? He’s a simple tax cheat. Make an example of him, already.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.