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We hear about the legacy of slavery and we think of modern remnants of a nearly ancient wrong. Slavery ended a century and a half ago. Past injustices are mitigated by the diffusion of generations of love and birth. How far back into history must we go in looking for wrong?
How to we see the injustice that decimated the Saxon inhabitants of Britain after the Norman invasion from France in 1066? How do we even identify with accuracy the descendants of those who suffered and died?
The history we were taught when I was a youngster acknowledged slavery and drew lines to mark the end of injustice. The discrimination that happened sometime between Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King was dangerous and hard, but those perils and inconveniences ended with Civil Rights laws.
That lesson was repeated and tested. We were graded on our retention of the details.
Documents exist, largely ignored, that tell a different story, a harsher and more recent story. Formal slavery was replaced with a rough behind-the-scenes equivalent. Deputies received orders from diverse centers of wealth: landowners, factories, and mines. Law enforcement met daily corporate labor needs by inventing charges and picking up able bodied men, who were then rushed through a rigged local law enforcement system. As prisoners, they were then rented out, as needed, for dangerous work at no pay. Police, prosecutors, judges, and prison officials were compensated by corporate recipients.
The legal substitution of rental slavery in place of legal ownership remained a systemic reality up to World War II, according to research by Pulitzer Prize journalist Douglas A. Blackmon. He published the documentation in his book Slavery by Another Name.
Routine confiscation of large areas of black-owned real estate by corporations and wealthy individuals had a thin veneer of legality. Oral testimony by white claimants was accepted as valid and written documentation of black ownership was dismissed as illegitimate.
Depriving black citizens of the right to vote was an important part of that oppression and exploitation. Post Civil War amendments to the Constitution had to be circumvented. But this proved to be less an obstacle than an inconvenience. Legal fictions were all that were needed to perform an end-run around the law. A cooperative Supreme Court continued to help well into the 20th century.
Poll taxes, educational requirements, and citizenship tests were applied to African-Americans. Grandfather clauses exempted previous voters, which is to say white voters, from these requirements. That exemption extended to the children of white voters, their children's children, and their descendants.
Ta-Nehisi Coates presents a Senate speech by Ben Tillman, given in 1900. It is one of many forthright expressions. Tillman talked frankly about the need to devise bogus requirements that would keep black people from voting.
... we had a constitutional convention convened which took the matter up calmly, deliberately, and avowedly with the purpose of disfranchising as many of them as we could under the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. We adopted the educational qualification as the only means left to us, and the negro is as contented and as prosperous and as well protected in South Carolina today as in any State of the Union south of the Potomac. He is not meddling with politics, for he found that the more he meddled with them the worse off he got.
- Senator Benjamin R. Tillman (D-SC), March 23, 1900
Tillman went on to praise white residents for lynchings that had recently been committed. Those lynchings were simply an additional guarantee. If rigorous voting requirements were not enough, there was always a last resort, a final solution of sorts. Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo explained to white audiences in 1947:
You do it the night before the election. I don't have to tell you any more than that. Red-blooded men know what I mean.
- Senator Theodore Bilbo, quoted by the Jackson Daily News
It is not hard for people my age to remember when federal Voting Rights legislation was enacted, or the Jim Crow system of discrimination and confiscation that federal laws began to overturn.
It took nearly half a century for conservatives again to capture the Supreme Court and to devise catch-22 logic that now strips away many protections. The fact that the right to vote has been extended by Congress is taken as proof that such protection is not needed.
As Justice Antonin Scalia put it:
There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law, just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.
- Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking from the bench, February 27, 2013
States with conservative legislative majorities rushed to enact new voting requirements. Most rejected long established voter identification and replaced those requirements with new, restrictive, photo IDs. Voters who drive automobiles qualify right away. Driver's licenses are a permitted method. Other photo IDs, such as check or college identification and Social Security ID are no longer be allowed.
Conservatives say they are concerned that massive voter fraud might be possible in the future. Studies reveal that current ID laws work well, but the new laws will keep up to half a million citizens from exercising their right to vote.
Those who commute to and from work with public transportation, those who have long retired and no longer drive, students earning college education suddenly find themselves ineligible. Substitute IDs must still be allowed, but states like Texas and North Carolina have closed offices that could issue such IDs. Remaining offices are restricting their hours. In Ohio, state employees are ordered not to provide the locations of ID issuing offices.
Now, in Alabama, tough new photo ID voting requirements are accompanied by the closing of ID offices in every county, every one, with more than 75% black population.
The fiction of preventing voter fraud was a common justification during Jim Crow days. In his speech in 1900, Senator Ben Tillman saw the struggle against black voting rights as identical to preventing voter fraud. That was why he endorsed restrictive voting requirements, combined with lynching where needed.
We took the government away from them in 1876. We did take it. If no other Senator has come here previous to this time who would acknowledge it, more is the pity. We have had no fraud in our elections in South Carolina since 1884.
- Senator Ben Tillman, March 23, 1900
Another justification has been offered through the years. Restricting the right to vote is simply good politics. If you are a Republican, you should be for voting restrictions. If you are a Democrat, you should be against them.
Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo, the Senator who urged white constituents to election eve violence, explained that it was not personal. He saw nothing wrong with black people voting as long as they knew who to vote for.
I believe Negroes should have that right, and in Mississippi, too - when their main purpose is not to put me out of office and when they won't be influenced by those who try to besmirch the reputation of my state.
- Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, August 17, 1947
As long as the dark corners of the human heart provide a hiding place for disregarding the rights of others, some part of humanity continues to subvert democracy.
Creative restrictions on the right to vote are not new.
The fictional prevention of widespread voting fraud is not new.
The cynical justification of preventing access to the voting booth as politics as usual is not new.
Bilbo and Tillman are still with us. The struggle for basic democracy continues.
From James Wigderson:
Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race on Monday. He returns to a state that is as divided over his presidential campaign as it was over his policies.
Trying to analyze the end of the Walker campaign is like watching the debate at the end of “A Bridge Too Far.” Was it Nijmegen? The single road? The fog?
The immediate cause of the Walker presidential campaign’s end was money, of course.
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From PZ Myers at Pharyngula:
We had another mass murder in America this week, and there’s no way around it: it was by a “none”, someone who hated organized religion, and who described himself as "Not Religious, Not Religious, but Spiritual". If he were participating in a survey, we’d embrace him as one of us, part of our growing majority. He was also a Conservative Republican, and if he were attending CPAC, we have atheists who’d enthuse about a possible recruit to the cause. But instead, he slaughtered innocent people, so we turn around and pretend his disbelief had absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s all very convenient. If he’d been a Christian we’d all sneer at the hypocrisy of all the believers who’d reassure us that he wasn’t a True Christian™, but now it’s only reasonable that we rationally and calmly divorce ourselves from any responsibility.
I don’t accept that.
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From Jon Perr at Perrspectives:
On Monday, Donald Trump became just the latest Republican White House hopeful to propose a Treasury draining, tax cut windfall for the richest Americans. But while Trump calls for slashing the top marginal income tax rates at a time of record income inequality, a new study from the Brookings Institution argues that hiking those same rates will have little impact on the immense income gap in the United States.
That finding from former Obama budget official Peter Orszag and his co-authors William Gale and Melissa Kearney may seem counter-intuitive. But it's not, for the simple reason that Orszag and company focused their attention on the wrong set of tax rates. As it turns out, historically low capital gains tax rates haven't fueled greater investment in the U.S. economy, but instead helped fuel the biggest income gap since 1929.
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Vatican says private meeting occurred day before brief encounter with Kim Davis
From The Moderate Voice:
Those who interpreted the Pope’s so-called “private meeting” with anti-gay Rowan County, KY., Clerk Kim Davis as an endorsement of her position on same-sex marriage — now refuted by the Vatican — may have something new to ponder on.
As mentioned here, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi had stated “The only real audience granted by the pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.”
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Death may be inevitable for us all, but not for all the lies we tell. In fact the bigger the lie, the longer it lasts and as any student of ancient literature knows, old lies never die. They don’t even fade away.
Take the $600 hammer Donald Trump pulled out of it’s moldy coffin the other day as an example of the kind of gross overspending he would eliminate.
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In response to comments by a welcomed visitor, Matt Smith
So scoff if you like, however I believe that our Declaration of Independence should be respected.
- Matt Smith, October 1, 2015
It seems that our founding fathers themselves did not respect what they wrote, given our country's treatment of slaves, women, those who did not own property, etc. We corrected those mistakes and some would argue that the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade corrected another.
It is important to bear two points in mind regarding the unborn child and its "rights":
Until the point of viability, it cannot survive without the mother. So even if we grant that even the lowly zygote has rights, there is a clash of rights between mother and offspring, should she desire to be rid of it. The issue is therefore not so easily resolved by pointing to the Declaration of Independence or rights, even if it ought to be in your mind.
- Until a certain point in development, the fetus does not even have a brain that is capable of thought, feeling, desire, pain, etc. It has no concern for rights or even for itself. Without at least some of these qualities, it really is just tissue, albeit tissue with potential. To me, it is ridiculous and insulting to suggest that such a thing has the same moral or legal value that I do.
It's also worth noting that some people back then, including people relevant to the lives of the founding fathers and perhaps some of the founding fathers themselves, believed that life began at quickening: when the mother first perceives movement in the womb. You believe that "all men are created equal" means that we are equal at conception, but the phrase does not specify that creation refers to conception. It could refer to the point at which we are imbued with a "soul," before which we are, as I say, mere tissue. And it's anyone's guess when that is, especially since we can't even define the soul or prove that it exists.
In any case, we know more now about reproduction, fetal development, childbirth, etc. than our ancestors did, so I think that I'll trust our judgment over theirs.
Ryan can also be found at Secular Ethics, a site devoted to the application of reason to ethical behavior.
Christopher Harper-Mercer, the shooter at an Oregon community college was a Republican of “mixed race” who apparently didn’t like Christians.
Okay, so who broke the irony machine?
Oh, and he had a MySpace page.
What 26-year-old has a MySpace page in 2015?
Apparently Christopher Harper-Mercer had one at the time he decided to go all “white man crazy” and shoot up a classroom, killing nine of his fellow classmates and wounding seventeen others. On his MySpace page, Christopher Harper-Mercer described himself as a conservative and of a “mixed race” – like, whatever that means. His father is white, and his mother is black.
Yeah, somebody at the U.S. Dept. of Conspiracy Theory has some explaining to do.
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First off, in case anybody was wondering -- no, I was not personally affected by the attack. Roseburg is 260 miles from here, and nobody I know lives there. There was a period several years ago when I visited that general area of Oregon regularly, but it's very different from Portland -- rural, conservative, and steeped in gun culture. Roseburg has only 22,000 people and it's the biggest town in the area.
As is often the case with mass murders, it will take some time to pin down the killer's motive.
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From Human Voices:
How many times have I said "here we go again" in the last year? I suppose everything else said about this latest school shooting will be as predictable, as overused and as useless. Here we go again.
Will we hear more statistical gymnastics arguing that rampage shooting is on the increase because of this factor or that factor alone and has nothing to do with the successful promotion of the genre as a way to go out in a blaze of "glory?" Is there something about our society that produces a generation of existentially challenged young males? Is it really all about a fictional increase in gun ownership or a fictional increase in the deadliness of modern guns and ammunition?
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From Green Eagle:
The departure of Arne Ducnan, one of the most business-friendly (i.e. corrupt) members of the executive branch is a perfect opportunity for me to state the obvious about government education policy; that is, what at all costs the mainstream press will not say.
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Some conservatives are a little irritiated that Jeb Bush has been getting flack for dismissing shooting deaths with the out-of-context remark "stuff happens." tengrain at Mock Paper Scissors disagrees and provides context via video recordings.
- Vincent at A wayfarer's notes begins to see life the way he sees art.
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Going south on Kingshighway in St. Louis, you encounter a series of bridges that don't go over waterways, but rather over other streets. It is as if the avenue of the kings tried to become an expressway, but couldn't quite get rid of every traffic light or crosswalk. The border streets that run parallel along the bridges do take on side streets that would otherwise break up the main-drag flow.
So you exit at Shaw for such a little jag it's hardly worth calling a turn. Veer right and straighten up and you're off Shaw and on Dagget. Another block and Dagget turns right, becoming its own cross street.
It is what we might call a declining neighborhood. Each year, the market speaks and property values go down. It is largely an industrial area, but the left side of the street is all boarded up. The right side isn't so vacant. R&J Sign Company has been around since the 1950s and their building takes up about a block. There are a couple of little houses.
Then you're there. Rigazzi's dominates the city square where it's been since the Eisenhower administration. They've started a thread on Twitter dedicated to Yogi Berra. When they were teenagers, Yogi and Joe Garagiola worked as waiters at Rigazzi. Later in life, it became a favorite hangout. You go to Rigazzi's and you might find Yogi Berra there.
A visitor who had been gone for several years, asked Yogi about Rigazzi's. Did he still hang out there? Berra said no. "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
A few Yogi-isms are captives of the legend. Hidden among the a-nickel-ain't-worth-a-dime-anymore, when-you-come-to-a-fork-in-the-road-take-it throwaways are a few that don't really fit the story of fractured syntax. They string along like cars on a train, moving because of common connection to a driving force of locomotive narrative. They don't really move on their own. They are a testament to the power of an overarching good story.
Once he was asked about those who tried to copy the unique pitching or throwing or running styles of other players. He launched into a thoughtful analysis of the flawed logic of valuing the strength-weakness combinations of others over your own. It could have been a lesson in life itself. Instead, what survives is his pithy summary, as just another jangle of words: "I'd be pretty dumb if all of a sudden I started being something I'm not."
It's a pity everyone missed it.
I thought of Yogi Berra's successful management of the Yankees, Mets, and Astros and couldn't help but apply some political lessons. One was the power of narrative.
The end of John Boehner's speakership has provoked competing stories. He was a failure because he did not, or could not, resist the destructive impulses of the hard core right wing of his congressional caucus. He was a success because he reined in the most extremist elements, diverting them from even more self-destructive urges.
That first, the failure of leadership, was captured in an over-caption to an unrelated political headline. Talking Points Memo introduced a story of renegade anti-Gay Country Clerk, Kim Davis, of Kentucky. She announced that she had switched parties. She would now and henceforth be a Republican. TMP introduced the headline with "In Other GOP Leadership News ..."
Speaker Boehner's own tired, angry emotional analysis the Sunday following his announcement incorporated the link between the two, the caucus crazies:
The Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there, you know, spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean this whole idea that we're going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013 -- this plan never had a chance.
But over the course of the August recess in 2013 and in September, a lot of my Republican colleagues who knew this was a fool's errand -- really, they were getting all this pressure from home to do this.
- John Boehner, Face the Nation, CBS, September 27, 2015
The core issue, the root problem, is understated or entirely missed by most analysis, including that of the speaker himself. The base of the Republican Party, the core voters who can be counted on in a primary, is extreme and growing more extreme. Their extremism is not simply one of every individual taking a step to the right, although there is some of that.
It is that traditional conservatives, even those considered extreme just a few years ago, are becoming unwelcomed in the Republican Party for being insufficiently extreme. The rest is simple math. As less extreme conservatives leave, the aggregate of those left behind drags to the right.
On issue after issue, those who remain as Republicans embrace ideas considered absurdly extreme by the general public. It is becoming hard to satirize the GOP. Life must be difficult in the writers' bin at the Onion. One cartoon did manage, (via The Big Empty):
As the Pope announces his support for economic justice, immigration reform, and climate change action, an advisor whispers to the pontiff:
"43% of Republicans now say you're a Muslim."
John Boehner comes close to the truth, ascribing hometown pressure on members of Congress to go off the deep end. Paul Begala of CNN is also close with his own colorful description of the difference between Republicans and Democrats.
There's two kinds of political leaders, just like there's two kinds of religious leaders. Those who hunt down heretics, and those who seek out converts.
Paul Begala, CNN, September 27, 2015
As the Republican Party shrinks and thereby grows extreme and thereby shrinks and on and on, the pundit who gets it right is the late Yogi Berra. When asked what makes a good manager, he answered simply: "A good ball club."
When it comes to being a winning party, a winning country, or a winning world, the voters who comprise the Republican Party are no longer willing.
That unwillingness, not John Boehner's level of skill as speaker, but that unwillingness is the real story.
From Associated Press:
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican on Friday distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis, the focal point in the gay marriage debate in the U.S., saying she was one of dozens of people the pope greeted in the U.S. and that their encounter "should not be considered a form of support of her position."
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This makes more than 50 Republican votes In Congress so far.
From Associated Press:
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans advanced legislation Tuesday to dismantle President Barack Obama's health law that could actually reach the president's desk.
The House GOP has voted more than 50 times to repeal all or parts of the health law. Almost all the bills died in the Senate.
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From Max's Dad:
Wow. I was holding off writing about this Republican orgy of dumb because I figured by now the party faithless would have fallen into line, had their butlers throw the trailer park trash out , and gotten back to the coronation of Jeb The Dullard to be the next loser they put up to be the victim of massive voter fraud.
But alas, or rather WOO HOO, the rube section of the party has continued to lie to pollsters and express their support for a loudmouthed reality show star, a failed CEO and a brain surgeon who apparently practiced on his own cerebellum. LOTS.
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