Violence Is An Artifact Of America's History Chest

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You need to get a life, conservatives, if you are excited by the vicarious thrill of tough talk with North Korea. Seriously, you are hyped by bully threats? . . . → Read More: Violence Is An Artifact Of America’s History Chest

Trump's Fall From Love And Grace

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Is the joint proposed bill from Arkansas’ Tom Cotton, Georgia’s David Perdue and Trump to restrict legal immigration by cutting it in half and creating a language and financial means test . . . → Read More: Trump’s Fall From Love And Grace

Murder and Theft

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DDWitness Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience at its unimagined worst: a Congress in rebellion against itself and its oath, whose continual looting has brought inattention and cynicism to the treasures carefully hidden and being lifted out of its ruins. The powerful have long been known for the benefits that can be reclaimed from the trough of moral morass. Pull out freedom; its leverage becomes an element of theft.

Before any great political theft, the ground must be made ready. Money must be put in in order for money to be taken out. Politics must reach beyond logic and ignore facts and details to ignite passion, a passion tied to fear and prejudice that becomes push-pull factors that block and bend the attractions of voters and drive their preferences. A push-pull factor that combines fear and prejudice into a powerful package is death.

Death is a common bedfellow of politics. Death is the political spear of politicians. Its push-pull offers the satisfactions of blood lust to followers and offers a palate of fear that dismantles opponents. Other than martyrs, death defines losers.

Socrates’ sentence of suicide is a part of the politics of the ancient Greeks. Crowds in the 1800s gathered in festive moods outside of London’s Newgate Prison for hangings as vendors set up shop for food and sold relics of the hangman’s ropes. In Charleston, during this period, the heads of convicted slaves were mounted on wood columns at the foot of the city’s entry bridges as a warning and assurance to all who passed. These few examples are among the many ways civilizations dealt death as punishment and tried to prime the social environment for political theft.

The use of African-American deaths in politics begins with the journey of the Middle Passage from Africa to America; bodies were jettisoned during the Atlantic crossings, and these deaths incited rebellion and despair—and a raft of insurance claims. Later, the enslaved were hunted and murdered at night by special horseback patrols. The Civil War brought the Fort Pillow massacre; the blood spilled by black Union troops turned the Mississippi red. At Ebenezer Creek, in December 1864, 30 miles from Savannah, the bodies from a refugee train killed by Wheeler’s Cavalry dammed the creek.

After the Civil War came the organized, methodical killing of KKK units across the South; then came the mob violence of lynchings in which bodies were hanged and burned. The violence caused black schoolteacher and former Civil War nurse Susan King Taylor to write in her reminiscences:

In this “land of the free” we are burned, tortured, and denied a fair trial, murdered for any imaginary wrong conceived in the brain of the negro-hating white man. There is no redress for us from a government which promised to protect all under its flag. It seems a mystery to me. They say, “One flag, one nation, one country indivisible.” Is this true? Can we say this truthfully, when one race is allowed to burn, hang, and inflict the most horrible torture weekly, monthly, on another? No, we cannot sing “My country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of Liberty”! It is hollow mockery. The Southland laws are all on the side of the white, and they do just as they like to the negro, whether in the right or not.

In 1923, a riot resulted in six blacks and two whites killed and destroyed the self-sufficient black town of Rosewood, Florida.

And then the Civil Rights movement came. It brought a new wave of white violence that targeted blacks: the deaths mounted, from the violent beating with a cotton weight that bashed in the skull and tore out the eye of visiting teenager Emmett Till, to the shooting on his porch of Mississippi NAACP President Medgar Evers, to the explosion that killed Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, four young girls attending Sunday school in a Birmingham Baptist church on September 15, 1963, to the three civil rights workers, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner, killed less than a year later in June 1964, to three college students in South Carolina, killed on campus by state police at South Carolina State in February 1968. The name of the college’s basketball arena memorializes Samuel Ephesians Hammond Jr., Delano Herman Middleton and Henry Ezekial Smith.

From 1882 to 1968, over 3,400 blacks were lynched, killed in anger and hate, without due process, murdered by mobs and individuals that got away scot-free. And last week, in a rally across from the White House, caught on an open microphone, the cry to hang Obama was seconded by a voice that said, “He wouldn’t be the first.”

Death and theft are not separate in politics, but in America, death has been the throwaway; it launches a political payload and drops away. Texas executions, school massacre (there has been a school shooting every five day, on average, since Newton), street violence; in recent days, the misuse of police authority has brought hundreds of thousands to the streets from New York and Chicago to Berkeley and San Francisco to the stadiums of pro sports, where outraged police officials have demanded apologies but have sent none of their own to the families grieving from police killings. Not a single card of sorrow for their loss, not an expression (except for Ferguson and New York) of compassion or sympathy.

Death is a muscle memory in black communities. Every local town has an incident etched in memory.

Yet the effect of the grief and the lost of the dead themselves are denied. The dead are blamed for being killed while unarmed, blamed for being choked to death, shot to death, lied about, blamed for disobedience, until the primal taste of the lynch mob fills the mouths of those who cannot find a way to say, “I’m sorry.”

What guides the killings, expanded now to a global stage (this week: Pakistan, Australia), is a culture that revels in its hidden impulses. This era has seen the world’s largest sustained impulse for wealth. The heads of state of African countries (Angola, Nigeria) are billionaires. Fines for illegal conduct by big banks in the US run into the billions. Russia, once the world’s great communist regime, has billionaires sitting in its parliament. China, a socialist nation, has the world’s second largest number of billionaires, after the US. The world’s richest person is a Mexican business mogul who controls much of Latin America’s telecommunications and cell phone business. The sovereignty of Argentina is being threatened by US Federal Court judgments made on behalf of hedge funds that own large bundles of Argentina’s defaulted debt; the country’s President flies commercial when she leaves the country; an Argentine navy ship was seized but returned when it docked in Africa.

Within the global culture that desires and celebrates wealth is an out-of-control ideal expressed as greed. Greed argues for shortcuts to wealth: not work hard and climb the ladder, but kill and steal. Greed flourishes where there is destabilization. Killing weakens the bonds of the society’s structure. Insurgencies are getting rich. ISIL is the creation of this paradox.

Faith lost, and greed spreads. More die. It repeats again. Ancillary breakdowns of society occur. The irrational widespread fear of Ebola, and crowds of adults blocking buses of immigrant children who had reached our borders to stop their entry into facilities in their communities foretell a loss of inner strength and inner truth.

Through seemingly unconnected, death is one of the elements that sets the ground for greed and leads to theft. The connection is the way their interior values attract and repeal, push and pull.

The worst form of civil disobedience is robbery, the taking of what belongs to others by law or natural right. The law is broken when Congress or the crowd goes against government measures and protections and when the law itself becomes a tool to steal and rob, as it supposedly comforts our loss. Murder can occur only once in a life, but robbery can be repeated. When done under law, it is protected by force, and justified as stopping intrusion.

For example, out goes the cry: the Affordable Care Act robs us of the right of choice. But those insured clients dropped after the purchase of insurance were robbed of the right of choice in a time of need; at precisely the point where insurance took on greater importance and would provide security against health catastrophes and the cost of catastrophic illness, it vanished, without appeal or recourse.

The point here is political theft is often committed in the name of freedom, and this flag-wrapped theft often stands on bloody ground. But rarely are these connections direct. In modern cultures, blood money will have two phases, seemingly unconnected. The first destabilizes, the second resets the rules.

Witness the budget bill swiftly approved by the two chambers of Congress last week. After six years of destabilization, its resets included riders on potatoes, whole grains and salt in school lunches, on clean water, on truck drivers’ working hours, on farmers with livestock killed by wolves, and on campaign gifts, all passed without debate, swept forward, tucked in neatly with the $1.1 billion in spending that in some places was as much vendetta as budget.

Despite its size, the central issue of this mundane list of special interest riders is an overarching fact: its business-as-usual is destroying democracy. It places special interests beyond the reach of public accountability. It replaces Congress’ fear of discovery with the cold glare of indifference, and while it claims to condemn government as the enemy of business, it deliberately hides the use of government for gifts to business friends. The doors of democracy are unlocked to the rich. Those same doors are closed and sealed shut to the poor.

If government is the enemy, look again to find out who its friends are. Too often, it is those who criticize it as being the enemy. This blame and embrace is an old favorite of corruption. Cast the blame elsewhere; haul in the spoils. Continue reading Murder and Theft

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Civil Rights for Some

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An Open Letter to the Reverend William Owens


Having just read your remarks at the National Press Club this morning, I felt compelled to write you about your truly appalling comments.

Let’s begin with:  “The President is in the White House because of the civil rights movement …”

No, sir.  This President is in the White House because a majority of the citizens of this country saw him as the best man for the job, and cast their votes accordingly.  The civil rights movement made the presidency of a black American possible, although it seemed a distant possibility at the time.  But Barack Obama earned his presidency in the same way white American presidents have earned it in the past – by presenting his vision of a better nation, and garnering the support of those who believed in that vision and his ability to make it a reality.

“I was a leader in that movement, and I didn’t march one inch, one foot, one yard for a man to marry a man or a woman to marry a woman.” 

That begs the question, sir:  Exactly who did you march for?  Was it for all black Americans, or only those you personally approved of?  Was it for every man and every woman who was being denied their rights, or was it only for those whose rights you deemed acceptable?  Was it for your fellow citizens who deserved equality in the eyes of the law, or was it only for those who you determined were deserving in the eyes of the Lord you claim to represent?

“So the President has forgotten the price that was paid.  People died or they suffered or they gave their blood to have equal rights in the United States.”

Far from forgetting the price that was paid, this President no doubt remembers that price well – and apparently better than you do.  He remembers the suffering of those oppressed due to their race and, as a result, understands the suffering of those who are denied their rights due to who they choose to love, to cherish, to spend their lives with.

It is saddening to know that you, sir, who fought for the rights of others to be recognized, are somehow too arrogant to recognize your own bigotry – the same kind of bigotry that allowed people to deny employment, educational opportunities, housing, and an equal share of the American dream to fellow citizens on the basis that they weren’t the right color.  The fact that you would now seek to deny the rights of others based on their not being of the right sexuality goes a long way in negating whatever praise you choose to heap upon yourself for having spoken up for some, but not all.

“And for the homosexual community and for the President to bow to the money, as Judas did with Jesus Christ, is a disgrace and we are ashamed.”

Exactly what money are you referring to, sir?  Is there money to be made by being a gay man or lesbian woman in today’s society, or in supporting their rights in the current political arena?  Is there a secret windfall of cash to be had by those who desire equal rights for all citizens, regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation?  More to the point, was it monied interests that moved the civil rights movement forward – or simply citizens of all colors, all religious beliefs, all sexual orientations who stood up for what was right and refused to back down despite the blood to be shed, the sacrifices to be made?

As for your comparison of President Obama to Judas, I can only shake my head in bewilderment – and utter embarrassment at your continuing to hold yourself out as some kind of champion of civil rights.  Obama is the President of ALL Americans, sir, and that includes the ones you don’t like.  It is his job to see that their rights are protected, and their treatment as citizens is equal under the law.  That was once, to hear you tell it, a concept you found worth fighting for. Continue reading Civil Rights for Some

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Take Five (What a Fool Believes edition)

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ONE: Bleatings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Which little city has the sixth-best beach in New Jersey, was famously name-checked in a Bruce Springsteen album title, and just got a self-appointed Republican nanny? If you guessed Asbury Park, then kudos to you, even if you only got it from the subtitle above.

Louise Murray used to serve on Asbury Park’s city council, and although the predominantly blue burg no longer has to put up with her in that role, it will have to endure her tenure as chair of the local Republican Party, a position she assumed this week. Murray’s avowed first order of business is to “concentrate on re-energizing the Republicans in the city,” and if you’d like an example of what it apparently takes to re-energize Republicans, here you go:

Beachgoers may be surprised to learn beachwear is illegal on the boardwalk in Asbury — and one resident wishes the city would enforce the dress code rules.

Louise Murray… spoke during public comment at the June 20 council meeting about the issue.

Murray’s remarks no doubt sent an electric shock right through the hindquarters of local Republicans:

“I’ll be darned if I want to be standing at a bar and have somebody slither up in a Speedo or bikini that shouldn’t be in a bathing suit,” Murray said. “It’s disgraceful… I implore you to enforce this, but do not amend it.”

Good thinking. This will finally give Asbury Park’s 86 police officers something to concentrate on other than a violent crime index over five times higher than the national average. And – bonus! – Murray’s position has the support of at least one local Democrat:

Deputy Mayor John Loffredo responded, “I honestly don’t disagree with you.”

So here’s to a boardwalk unadulterated with butt-floss, postage-stamp-sized banana hammocks and other assorted fashion crimes. After all, as Murray insightfully points out:

“I don’t want to go back to 1940 or 1950 but the bottom line is you have on your books an ordinance — no person clad in bathing attire shall be on the boardwalk or public walks adjacent thereto,” Murray said. “Asbury Park was known for being the classiest boardwalk in the summertime. You never went down there unless you were dressed.”

Even if The Boss didn’t want you to be:

“Chasin’ the factory girls underneath the boardwalk where they all promise to unsnap their jeans…”

For all her admirable heavy lifting in New Jersey, I do hope Louise Murray stays away from Oregon. I’m just not sure how she might react to a recent wardrobe-related incident there, what with the GOP being The Official Political Party of JesusTM and all:

State police say a 26-year-old Texas man, who identified himself as Jesus Christ, has been arrested after he was discovered disrupting traffic near Roseburg wearing only his underwear and socks…

The man, whose name has not been released, was able to evade arrest from [a state] trooper for disorderly conduct, even after the trooper used a baton and pepper spray to try and subdue him.

A vacationing, off-duty Virginia police officer who was in the area and an officer from Roseburg soon joined the fray to help apprehend the man.

The Roseburg officer used a Taser on the man as the state trooper and Virginia officer put him in handcuffs.

Now, I don’t know if God so loved the world that He couldn’t even wait until His only begotten Son was fully dressed before sending Him back to this screwy planet, but the last time the authorities got hold of Jesus, things went south pretty quickly. And now we wait uneasily to see if Governor Kitzhaber gets involved, or whether he washes his hands of the matter.

TWO: Joe Rockhead

Viewers of The 700 Club got a rare treat recently when Congressional aspirant Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher related to the program how he came to Christ. It all began when his youth pastor invited him out for a bite and told him to bring along a science book:

He put the Bible on one side and I put the science book on this side.  He said: Okay.  Read the cover. And I don’t exactly remember, you know, if – my biology or chemistry book, but I do remember this, you know: “Revision 7.”

And he said: Now look at the Bible. What’s it say? I said: “Holy Bible.” He said: Do you see any revisions on it, Joe? I said: Well, no. He says: Well, the reason why is because this is God’s word. You know, it was right the day it was penned, as it is now, as it will be in a hundred years or a thousand years. Man’s always looking for an answer. That’s why it’s revised.

It hit me like a ton of bricks right then and there, and I accepted Jesus Christ there at Frisch’s Big Boy, and it was – it was pretty incredible.

Pretty incredible? The only way it could be more incredible would be if Joe had seen the face of Jesus on the rye bun of his Brawny Lad.

Along with this artful pandering to evangelical voters, Joe is making sure to kiss some NRA ass, as well. A recent web video offered up an idea so thoroughly scrambled it makes the ravings of Wayne LaPierre seem almost rational:

Mr. Wurzelbacher released a campaign web video in which he blamed the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide on gun control laws.

“In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917 one-point-five million Armenians, unable to defend themselves were exterminated,” Mr. Wurzelbacher says in the clip. “In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others unable to defend themselves were exterminated.”

Mr. Wurzelbacher’s video features footage of him on a shooting rage blasting fruits and vegetables with a shotgun. As the clip draws to a close, Mr. Wurzelbacher, gun in hand, proclaims, “I love America.”

Maybe you do, Joe, but why do you hate her produce?

THREE: Birth of a Notion

A chastened Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett appeared in Take Five late in May, apologizing for having made his state a laughingstock by pestering Hawaii to provide proof that the President was born there:

“If I embarrassed the state I apologize, but that certainly wasn’t my intent,” Bennett, a Republican, told Phoenix radio station KTAR.

Bennett must believe that his brief lapse into remorse cost him some of his GOP street cred, so last week he decided to just go for the conspiracy theory gold:

Secretary of State Ken Bennett says he’s convinced Obama was born in Hawaii, but he now believes the president fraudulently claimed to be born in Kenya so he could get into college. He also believes the president has spent millions of dollars since then to cover it up…

“So if there was weird stuff going on,” he said, “I actually think it was happening back in his college days because I think he has spent $1.5 or $2 million through attorneys to have all of the college records and all of that stuff sealed. So if you’re spending money to seal something, that’s probably where the hanky panky was going on.”

I have to disagree, Ken. I think the weird stuff is still going on. Weird stuff like 59% of Arizona voters actually believing you’re fit to be their Secretary of State. That’s so weird I still have a hard time believing it. Continue reading Take Five (What a Fool Believes edition)

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The New Shock and Awe - The Republican War Against Women

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It used to be that you would write an article or give a speech about how Republicans would love to turn back the clock on women’s rights and you would get a lot of kind but condescending expressions and responses. Many women and men who would read these articles thought that this not only could never happen, but they couldn’t imagine that Republicans had the desire and will to actually do it. I’ve always believed deep down that if the GOP thought they could get away with turning the clock back on women’s rights, they would try.

Two generations of women have been born since the feminist movements of the late 60s early 1970s. That means that around half of the women in this country do not know life before the hard-fought gains of the women that came before them. Generations X and Y have never known a world where women don’t have the right to make their own reproductive choices like contraceptives and abortion. They have never known a world where the statutes against the workplace crime of sexual harassment didn’t exist. They don’t remember a world where women who wanted to have a career outside of teaching or nursing were met with virtually immutable resistance.

There are still some glass ceilings around now waiting to be breached, but before the early 1970s, there weren’t ceilings, there were glass boxes.

Women had very few choices about how they could live their lives and how their intimate relations could be conducted. Society nearly demanded that women submit to control by their husbands and the demands of stay-at-home motherhood and housekeeping.

Those of us who were born or came of age after that time don’t know what that was like, and it should be said that while women are far better off now than before the 1970s, much work needs to be done.

Still, all this time the Republican party has been conspiring to return women to the glass box. It’s obvious now that was the case, but what made it obvious to me before the recent GOP war on women was the statements by conservative pundits and media personalities like, yes, Rush Limbaugh. Long before he attacked Sandra Fluke as a, quote, “slut”, he had an ongoing, several decades long war against women’s rights activists, belittling them, calling them names like “feminazis”. And Limbaugh was far from the only one.

What is clear now is that these conservative media personalities were purposefully weakening the women’s rights movement; they were ridiculing the idea that there was a reason to continue to have women’s activists, claiming that they were anti-men, and all of the slander and innuendo we have heard from Rush and his ilk over the last 30 years, all the while biding their time for when they hoped to go on the attack legislatively.

When Republicans won back the House in 2010 and reduced the Democratic control in the Senate to one seat and had President Obama seemingly reeling and fighting to stay on his feet, they launched their war on women. The first salvos were launched during the run-up to 2010 election.

Five high-profile Tea Party Republican Senate candidates – Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ken Buck of Colorado, Joe Miller of Alaska, Sharron Angle of Nevada and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware – announced they were against a woman’s right to have an abortion even in the case of rape or incest! They wanted women who were raped and girls who got pregnant by a relative to be forced to bear those children. Several Republican Senate and House candidates also announced they were against birth control pills and other contraception choices for women.

During that campaign, you had Republican Senator DeMint say that if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom, and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend — she shouldn’t be in the classroom. No mention, of course, about men who are promiscuous with women. Continue reading The New Shock and Awe – The Republican War Against Women

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