Saturday, April 18, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 18: White racism as a method of domination

Paul Krugman has been saying for a while that these days, the way to get new ideas in economics is to read old books. He uses that to refer to the fact that basic Keynesian macroeconomics, which was founded on a solid theoretical and empirical basis, was abandoned by many policymakers, respectable economists and financial commentators during the ascendancy of neoliberalism.

And the neglect of those old books and their still-valid ideas inflicted a terrible toll in the real world when applied to economic policy in the wake of the crash of 2007-8.

It may not be the same with history. But sometimes it is. This article is an example: William Best Hesseltine, Some New Aspects of the Pro-Slavery Argument, The Journal of Negro History 21:1 (Jan 1936). Even during that period when a neo-Confederate Lost Cause/Gone With the Wind viewpoint was the dominant narrative from this history profession to textbooks to public memory ceremonies to popular culture, there were still people telling a realistic story about the Civil War and its implication.

Hesseltine's article is an example of this. He talks about the conscious usage of white racism as a means of social control in a more blunt way that we normally see it stated:

The pro-slavery argument carried but little promise to the lower classes, yet it sufficed to draw a line of demarkation between the exploited groups of the South. Playing upon the race prejudice which the argument inculcated, the planter aristocrat and his Bourbon successor have been able to remain in control. When the Civil War began, the non-slaveholders of the South did battle to maintain the Southern system of life. Following the war, there was imminent danger that the lower orders might forget race and unite, but the Ku Klux Klan saved the day for the Bourbons. In the nineties, the Populist movement brought whites and blacks of the oppressed classes together, but again the heritage of the pro-slavery argument brought division and eventuated in new constitutions which effectually disfranchised both the Negroes and their potential allies among the poor whites. Occasional lynchings have sufficed to keep burning the flames first kindled by the pro-slavery argument. Only in recent months has depression-born necessity brought tenant farmers of both races to stand shoulder to shoulder against their oppressors. For more than a century, the pro-slavery argument has enabled the planting aristocrats to dominate Southern society.
Now, those are some broad generalizations about complex processes, of course. But it's also an accurate broad description.

Most of his article is about developments in proslavery arguments during slavery times. As he explains, the theory of racism that the planter class used to justify slavery was also used in modified form, without the slavery part, to justify the suppression of African-American citizens after the war.

In addition to combating Northern Abolitionists, the active pro-slavery arguments were always also consciously directed at nonslaveholding whites of the South:

Despite this [contemptuous] attitude [of planters] toward the lower classes, the planters were obliged to appeal to them in the pro-slavery argument. The primary purpose of this exposition was to convince the non-slaveholding whites of the superiority of white over Negro blood. An analysis of the literature of the Southern "defense" will indicate that the fundamental premise of the slaveholders was that Negroes were inferior to whites. Throughout the era of the sectional conflict ministers of the Southern churches searched the Scriptures and compared Hebrew texts to show that God had made the Negroes a subordinate race and ordained them for slavery. In addition, a pseudo-anthropology demonstrated the biological inferiority of the Negro race. In the field of politics, the planters abandoned the principles of democracy, and frankly proclaimed that the Declaration of Independence was designed for white men alone.
Racism, either theoretical or practical, is not compatible with democracy. Even without the institutional of chattel slavery.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taking Old Hickory off the $20 bill? I'm in favor

Just for the record, I'm down with putting Rosa Parks or some other accomplished American women on the $20 bill in place of Andrew Jackson.


A website called Women on 20s addresses the question of removing Jackson this way:

WHY BOOT ANDREW JACKSON FROM THE $20?

TWO REASONS THAT ARE GAINING TRACTION:

1. Andrew Jackson was celebrated for his military prowess, for founding the Democratic party and for his simpatico with the common man. But as the seventh president of the United States, he also helped gain Congressional passage of the "Indian Removal Act of 1830" that drove Native American tribes of the Southeastern United States off their resource-rich land and into Oklahoma to make room for white European settlers. Commonly known as the Trail of Tears, the mass relocation of Indians resulted in the deaths of thousands from exposure, disease and starvation during the westward migration. Not okay.
Okay, that's a valid criticism that I've shared here more than once.

2. Some argue that because Jackson was a fierce opponent of the central banking system and favored gold and silver coin or "hard money" over paper currency, he is an ironic choice for immortalization on our money.
"Some" in this case are badly mistaken. The Bank of the United States in Jackson's time did not function like central banks of today. It functioned as a key institution by the wealthy to maintain a concentration of wealth and power, including direct (but legal!) bribes to Members of Congress.

But Jackson's immense contributions to democracy and his faults, especially on the Indian Removal Act, are well established in history. His reputation doesn't need a $20 bill.



Huffing and puffing and bluffing over Greece

The publicity/propaganda battle over Greece is pretty confounding to follow. Because some of it is substantial, some of it is bluff and the negotiating strategies of Greece and Germany - and the choir of conservative and social-democratic parties in the eurozone loyally supporting Angela Merkel austerity economics - are generating their own spins on matters.

Ioanna Zikakou gives an English summary of a couple of recent pieces from the German "quality" press in German Press: ‘Greece Might Have to Leave the Eurozone’ Greek Reporter 04/17/2015.

There will be no solution for Greece’s fiscal problem in the near future, said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung. However, as the newspaper reported, that is the only way for Greece to avoid bankruptcy, therefore the decision has pretty much been made. “It appears that Greece might have to leave the Eurozone,” the article concluded.

Meanwhile, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is predicting that Greece will have to take on another bailout program, in an article entitled: “Ad calendas Graecas – The crisis will last.” The newspaper referred to the various scenarios regarding the developments in the Greek debt crisis.

“It is likely that the conflict between Greece and its European partners will continue until autumn and it may result in an election,” noted the article. “Even if a solution for the liquidity problems faced by Greece is found, the debate regarding the country’s future is still pending. The fact that Athens will need a new support program in mid-2015 is almost certain.”
The two articles referenced are not linked. One appears to be by Claus Hulverscheidt, Schäuble fürchtet sich nicht vor Euro-Austritt Griechenlands Süddeutsche Zeitung 15.04.2015. I was unable to locate the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung piece online under the title given. But it appears to be this article by Werner Mussler, which shows up in a Yahoo! search under the "Ad calendas Graecas" title, but online is entitled Und jeden Tag grüßt die Krise 17.04.2015, which contains the quote the Greek Reporter renders in English.

Schäuble is even more reactionary than Angie when it comes to austerity economics. Paul Krugman took him to task in the New York Times this week (That Old-Time Economics 04/17/2015):

The point is that it’s wrong to claim, as many do, that policy failed because economic theory didn’t provide the guidance policy makers needed. In reality, theory provided excellent guidance, if only policy makers had been willing to listen. Unfortunately, they weren’t.

And they still aren’t. If you want to feel really depressed about Europe’s future, read the Op-Ed article by Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, that was published Wednesday by The Times. It’s a flat-out rejection of everything we know about macroeconomics, of all the insights that European experience these past five years confirms. In Mr. Schäuble’s world, austerity leads to confidence, confidence creates growth, and, if it’s not working for your country, it’s because you’re not doing it right.
The article to which Krugman refers is Wolfgang Schäuble on German Priorities and Eurozone Myths 04/15/2015. Here's a sample:

My diagnosis of the crisis in Europe is that it was first and foremost a crisis of confidence, rooted in structural shortcomings.
He's invoking what Krugman has famously labeled the Confidence Fairy. Its actual function in any financial discussion pretty much means: you should do what business and financial lobbies want you to do. And a big part of what they want done is to fix those "structure shortcomings" through neoliberal reforms: privatizing government services, slash wages and pensions, get rid of unions, cut back public services of every sort while they are being privatized.

One thing Greece's standoff with Germany this year has illustrated is that two common features of the neoliberal "reform" litany, fighting corruption and ending tax avoidance, are just window dressing for people like Merkel and Schäuble and the One Percenters' Confidence Fairy they serve. When Greece proposed they would get aggressive on those two fronts in particular, Merkel and her EU toadies rejected it. Austerity and antilabor policies and privatization are the only "reforms" they care about.

Investors started to realize that the member countries of the eurozone were not as economically competitive or financially reliable as the uniform bond yields of the pre-crisis years had suggested. These investors began to treat the bonds of certain countries with much more caution, causing interest rates for those bonds to rise. The cure is targeted reforms to rebuild trust — in member states’ finances, in their economies and in the architecture of the European Union. Simply spending more public money would not have done the trick — nor can it now.
Merkel and Schäuble's confidence (fairy) game has produced measurable and impressive results. Though not impressive in a good way. Krugman:

America has yet to achieve a full recovery from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. Still, it seems fair to say that we’ve made up much, though by no means all, of the lost ground.

But you can’t say the same about the eurozone, where real G.D.P. per capita is still lower than it was in 2007, and 10 percent or more below where it was supposed to be by now. This is worse than Europe’s track record during the 1930s.
The huffing and puffing and bluffing around Greece is likely to continue until July-August. I don't think Merkel wants to have Greece leave the eurozone. But her negotiating style in the euro crisis, especially in the summer of 2012, has been to let things slide to the point of a crack-up and then do just enough to stop imminent disaster. If she miscalculates, events could spin out of her control rapidly. And a whole army of Confidence Fairies won't be able to fix things for her.

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 17: Cilil War and Reconstruction graphic novel

David Neiwert on Facebook flagged this excerpt from a graphic novel to be published this year: Revisiting Lincoln's Assassination and the War After the Civil War TPM 04/15/2015.

The book is Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War by Ari Kelman and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm. It's due to be published May 5.

As the TPM title indicates, the excerpt deals with the death of Lincoln and the aftermath of the war, including Southern white resistance to Reconstruction democracy.

Here is one panel:


Kelman's website has a portion of the book available for online viewing.

Slate has also published a portion in General Lee’s Sword 04/09/2015.

For such a broad sweep of events as the Civil War and Reconstruction, the graphic novel format has its obvious limits in terms of space. But it has the advantage of being able to use extensive imagery to help tell a big story in a relatively smaller space.

And if this excerpt at TPM is a measure, Kelman and Fetter-Vorm seem to be doing a great job in the effort!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 16: Civil rights and the Second World War (2)

John Hope Franklin and Alfred Moss, Jr. in From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans (8th edition; 2003) devote a chapter to African-Americans and the Second World War. They note that black Americans had taken a concerned interest in developments in Italy and Germany well before the war began.

African Americans watched events in other parts of the world with growing concern. When Italy invaded Ethiopia, they protested with all the means at their command. Almost overnight even the most provincial among black Americans became international-minded. Ethiopia was a black nation, and its destruction would symbolize the final victory of whites over blacks. In manyvcommunities funds were raised for the defense of the African kingdom, while in larger cities elaborate organizations were set up. In New York the International Council of Friends of Ethiopia was organized, with Willis N. Huggins as executive secretary. In 1935 Ethiopia Huggins pleaded for Ethiopia before the League of Nations. Other organizations, such as the United Aid to Ethiopia (later the Ethiopian World Federation), raised funds for the beleaguered African country. The Pittsburgh Courier sent its historian-news analyst, J. A. Rogers, to cover the war. Upon his return he issued a booklet, "The Real Facts about Ethiopia," and lectured to many black and white groups. (p. 476)

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote about Joel Augustus Rogers in J. A. Rogers’ 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro The Root 10/15/2012. The article's title is taken from another of Rogers' books. Gates writes:

Rogers was soon launched on a path that would make him one of the leading black journalists of his generation. Rogers wrote regularly for the Pittsburgh Courier, the New York Amsterdam News, and the Chicago Defender, and he contributed several important essays to A. Philip Randolph's radical-socialist Messenger Magazine during the Harlem Renaissance. (He also wrote the only essay on that emerging art form called "jazz" in Alain Locke's seminal 1925 anthology The New Negro.) But the triumph of his career as a journalist, without a doubt, was his coverage of events in Ethiopia. The Courier sent Rogers -- the only African-American journalist on the ground -- there to cover the Italian occupation of Ethiopia (1935-1936), including an interview with Emperor Haile Selassie, whose coronation Rogers had also attended in 1930.
Haile Selassie, 1942:


Franklin and Moss expand on this prewar background:

African Americans were among the earliest and most energetic Americans to condemn the fascism that was rising in Europe. They quickly learned to hate Nazism and its Aryan doctrines. Some had read Hitler's Mein Kampf and had resented its unfavorable comments about blacks. It had been claimed, moreover, that in 1936 Hitler had refused to treat the African-American Olympic stars Jess Owens and Ralph Metcalfe with civility in Berlin. When Max Schmeling knocked out the black idol, Joe Louis, in 1936, African Americans had little to say for Hitlerism. Not until Louis gained complete revenge in 1938 could the average black speak of Nazis without a feeling of personal antagonism. By that time, however, public opinion in America was generally censuring Hitler's tactics in overthrowing Austria and dismembering Czechoslovakia, and African Americans joined in the loud condemnation. (p. 476)
Louis and Schmeling, 1936:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015: Civil rights and the Second World War (1)

DECEMBER 7, 1941:

When Dorie Miller took gun in hand-
Jim Crow started his last stand.
Our battle yet is far from won
But when it is, Jim Crow'll be done.
We gonna bury that son-of-a-gun!

- from "Jim Crow's Last Stand" (1943) by Langston Hughes
Doris (Dorie) Miller was a black Navy cook who received the Navy Cross for his bravery at Pearl Harbor. This recuiting poster featured him:


The experience of both blacks and white in the Second World War in the United States was a decisive moment in the fight for recognition of African-American civil rights.

Dennis Mitchell in his A New History of Mississippi (2014) writes about the effects of the war in my native state:

The infusion of federal funds revolutionized the state. The military buildup began with the New Deal alphabet agencies still in place, and for a brief period funds continued to flow from those agencies and the military. During the war, Mississippians doubled their per capita incomes ...

Relative economic prosperity mattered, but perhaps more important, Mississippians met new people, traveled the world, and encountered an infinite variety of cultures. More Yankees came to train at the state's thirty-six military bases than invaded the state during the Civil War. Many of them took Mississippi wives home with them, forging new ties of kinship across the country. Hundreds of thousands of Mississippians served in the armed forces dispersed to every conceivable corner of the globe, where they encountered cultures very different from their own. Japanese American soldiers trained in the state, befuddling the caste system, which usually recognized only black and white. Northern, city-raised black troops also trained in Mississippi, generating conflict and confusion. Mississippi women worked in factories building ships and manufacturing ammunition. They learned auto mechanics when the men got drafted. They acquired new skills, such as shopping. Traditionally, farm men went to the general store and brought home the family's few store-bought goods, often including the material the wife asked for to make a new dress. The war emancipated women and provided a new independence as well as loneliness at times. (p. 350) [my emphasis]
American Imago recently published the presentations of four psychoanalysts recalling their experiences in the Second World War at a 1995 conference ("Future Psychoanalysts and Memories of the Second World War" Vol. 72/1 Spring 2015).One of them, M. Donald Coleman, talked briefly about his encounters with racial and other kinds of diversity in the Army:

While exact figures are not available, much of the act of fighting — certainly by enlisted men — was done by those aged eighteen, nineteen, and twenty. In many units a man of twenty-six or twenty-eight was likely to find himself called “Dad.” Those few enlisted men thirty to thirty-four [years] were of an age that defied comprehension by most of us, and their preoccupation with writing long letters to wives and family was observed but barely understood emotionally.
The youth of the soldiers presumably made them relatively open to new experiences, although they may also have brought more simplistic stereotypes than some of those more senior thirtysomethings.

But before bonding could take place each unit had to sort itself out and test the true value of each member against stereotypes of rank, education, and ethnic, regional, or religious groupings. In this process there were often conflicts, sometimes physical fights, but once the true worth of an individual was established, good or bad, the old stereotypes were of little use. Intelligence, honor, capability or the lack of it were discovered to reside in individuals not the group. It was an eye opener for many big-city-bred soldiers to discover that high native intelligence could reside with a southern backwards farmer or for that farmer to be disabused of some of his big-city stereotypes. Others found that some highly educated men from socially elevated backgrounds didn’t seem as smart or dependable as poorly educated, ethnic Americans.
And he gives this example:

To give a concrete example: for the surgery department of a great Boston teaching hospital to tell those who had worked beside Captain Howard Schlossman and others like him in the field that we don’t want Jewish surgical residents because they are not team players became unacceptable to the experiences of the generations who had returned, and after several postwar years such contentions were heard no more.
Of course, this doesn't mean that whites who made an adjustment to a light-skinned Jewish surgeon would easily extend the same level of acceptance to working-class blacks. But it does mean that many whites North and South were forced to deal with a wider variety of people on more equal basis than they would have at home. Coleman says: "Millions of such discoveries were made, so many that those twelve million servicemen who returned to civilian life after the war shaped a very different America, where previous exclusions in professions and workplace were no longer tenable."

And he recognized the bitter irony of African-Americans fighting for a country that deprived many of them of the basic rights of citizens:

A significant group in every company were Americans whose ethnic or religious background had made them subject to a degree of discrimination and contempt now almost erased from our social memory. Black Americans served in segregated units - and for a nation which enforced their segregation. Yet, when faced with the danger to a way of life that was for so many a dream still unfolding, this generation chose the dream as something worthy of all they had — even their lives.
And a lot of those black soldiers came back expecting to see that "dream" unfold much faster than it had.

Greece will default tomorrow! No, next week!! No, wait ...

Repeated panicky reports about Greece's immanent default may well be a regular occurrence every week or so through the summer.

If the intitutions-formerly-known-as-the-Troika (EU, ECB, IMF) don't reach some meaningful deal that allows Greece to get enough debt relief in some form or other, the one of these weeks the panic will be justified. Outside a relatively small group of people involved in the deal-making, though, it's very hard for anyone to know enough to make a more specific prediction.

Because the EU elite taking their marching orders from German Chancellor Angela Merkel applies pressure on Greece's SYRIZA-led government by telling their friends in the press that Greek default is imminent. That's a big part of this article from AFP, Deal or default? All bets are off on Greece's debt talks Global Post 04/15/2015. But the Greek government isn't facilitating the panic:

The first key date to come up following the euro zone talks is May 6, when about one billion euros is due for repayment to the IMF.

That is a small sum compared to the 9 billion due in July and August, this time to the ECB.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's government is putting on a brave front.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis insists that "we are ready to make all kinds of compromises, even if we have to pay a political price, but we will not compromise ourselves."

"I am very confident," Varoufakis said.

"We will find a compromise," added Employment Minister Panos Skourletis.

Pierce on what we know about Hillary's program

Charlie Pierce gives a good summary of what we actually know about Hillary Clinton as a Presidential candidate as of now:

If she is elected, she unequivocally will accept the science of anthropogenic climate change and treat it as a crisis. This cannot be said of any of the Republican candidates, real or potential.

If she is elected, she unequivocally will support marriage equality, and oppose discrimination against our fellow citizens based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This cannot be said of any of the Republican candidates, real or potential.

If she is elected, she will not destroy the Affordable Care Act, an article of faith among all the Republican candidates, real or potential.

If she is elected, and despite her closeness to certain Wall Street interests, she will not destroy the Dodd-Frank reforms, another article of faith among all the Republican candidates, real or potential.

If she is elected, the DREAMers will get to stay in the country.

If she is elected, she will not sign a bill to eliminate the estate tax. (More on this one later)

If she is elected, Janice Rogers Brown will stay right where she is in the judicial food chain.

To get elected, she does not have to wink at state's rights, up to and including incidents of armed resistance.

To get elected, she does not have to equivocate on the science behind the theory of evolution as does any Republican candidate who seeks the votes of Republicans in Iowa.

To get elected, she does not have to peddle the snake oil of supply-side economics, nor does she have to peddle scare stories about the oncoming caliphate, nor does she have to create bogeymen about jackboots coming to steal your guns.
I would prefer a more progressive nominee than Clinton. But the media and Republican craziness over the Clintons causes damage way beyond Democratic primary considerations. So even supporters of other candidates in the primaries need to be very aware of that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 13: the Tulsa shooting

I really hate these stories. But they are an important aspect of institutional white racism in the United States.

Ian Millhiser gives an account of the Oklahoma shooting of yet another unarmed black man in the back, with video, ‘Fuck Your Breath’ — Video Shows Cop Mocking Unarmed Man As He Dies From Police Bullet Think Progress 04/12/2015.

Cenk Uygur explains the case here, Elderly Volunteer Thinks Gun Is Taser, Kills Unarmed Black Man 04/13/2015:



One unusual feature of this case is that despite the Tulsa Sheriff's Department supporter the killer cop, the district attorney is charging him with a felony in the killing, as the Tulsa World reports, District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charges reserve deputy with second-degree manslaughter 04/13/2015:

“Mr. Bates is charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter involving culpable negligence. Oklahoma law defines culpable negligence as ‘the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions,’” District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said in the statement.

“The defendant is presumed to be innocent under the law, but we will be prepared to present evidence at future court hearings."
Shurff Stanley Glanz, on the other hand, was good buddies with the killer and said, in effect, oh, hail, boy, it was just an accident! With the undertone, of course, that it was just a n*****r who was killed. Black lives really don't seem to matter to Shurff Glanz.

Probably like most people, I'd like to believe that most cops are decent people who are actually committed to following the law. But when a cop stops you, unless you know the cop personally, how can anyone be sure he's not dealing with cops like this? While as a rule it's not a good idea to run from cops in such a situation, it's pretty obvious that the man who was shot genuinely had something to fear from this guy - who wasn't actually a regular cop at all but some wealthy guy playing cop with the city's approval!

An unusual twist in this story is that Bates, the reserve deputy who shot Harris, is not a full-time officer. He is a 73-year-old insurance executive and a wealthy donor to the sheriff’s department. The department includes 130 reserve deputies who are volunteers who donate their time to law enforcement. Bates is classified as "advanced reserve," the highest level of reserve deputy, a position that permits him to "do anything a full-time deputy can do."
For more on Bates' donations, see: Ziva Branstetter, Tulsa County reserve deputy bought cars, equipment for undercover unit Tulsa World 04/13/2015.

As we saw with Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Bates can also expect to receive donations from white supremacist admirers around the country. I haven't heard of a fundraising site being set up for him yet.

And given how the other presumably regular cops respond on the video, I'm not sure they qualify as the Good Cops either. And if the Good Cops aren't willing to enforce the law against the Bad Cops - well, it doesn't exactly generate a lot of trust in the police department.

The I-meant-to-use-my-Taser excuse may be true. That was the excuse for Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who murdered an unarmed young black man named Oscar Grant in 2009 by shooting him in the back while he was laying face down on the ground. That murder was the basis of the Fruitvale Station film. Mehserle's case was highly unusual in that he actually was tried and convicted of a felony, though he got only two years for an entirely unnecessary murder, and the Taser excuse helped him avoid a longer sentence.

But until the judicial system, including cops, prosecutors, judges and juries actually fix the culture of impunity for killer cops, we'll continue have a big problem. In this Oklahoma case, what kind of responsible officials of any kind let some old fart who donated stuff to the department go out with a loaded gun with the authority of a deputy? His only actual experience as a policeman was supposedly back in 1964-5. I'm also pretty dubious that cops yelling "f**k your breath" to a dying man that a 73-year-old honorary cop just shot in the back should be given the authority to carry a weapon on behalf of law enforcement. I'm guessing that shouting "Taser, Taser" the way this killer cop did may become standard practice for cops about to shoot somebody in the back.

Meyserle in the Oakland BART case did avoid a longer mandatory sentence because the jury thought his claim that he meant to use the Taser constituted reasonable doubt that he intended to murder the black guy he shot in the back while he was lying face down on the ground (also the Meyserle scenario). This blogger explains why there's a good chance that Michael Slager in South Carolina may walk: Why Slager Will Walk Zandar Against the Stupid 04/10/2015.

If trust between the community and the police is any part of a city's or county's goal, I don't see how it can happen in a department that tolerates things like this. And I know from the experience of San Jose and the City of Oakland around here that a department where serious misconduct has become accepted is very difficult for even responsible officials to clean up. Between the War on Drugs, the War or Terrorism and a culture of impunity for white cops who murder unarmed black people for no good reason, these are definitely not easy problems to fix. And, unfortunately, lots of white people see no need to fix them at all.

More from the Tulsa World:

Editorial, Time for a thorough review of Tulsa County reserve deputy program 04/12/2015:

So why was the reserve deputy involved in the first place?

The sheriff’s office says there is nothing odd about that.

Sheriff’s Maj. Shannon Clark said it’s not unusual for a reserve deputy to be on an assignment such as the Violent Crimes Task Force. They’re an important force extender for the department, he said.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark, who reviewed the incident independently for the sheriff’s office, said he has looked at the reserve program in the past and that it meets national standards.
Even more scary if that's true!

The reservists are typically unpaid volunteers who work other full-time jobs, but they go through the same although abbreviated training components as a normal deputy and have full powers and authority of a deputy while on duty.

Bates has received hundreds of hours of specialized training, including homicide investigation and meth lab investigation and decontamination. He also was chairman of and a $2,500 donor to Sheriff Stanley Glanz’s 2012 re-election campaign.

We respect Sgt. Clark, but we’re not convinced.

We think the sheriff’s reserve deputy program is a good idea. We encourage civic-minded people interested in helping law enforcement to join.

But reservists should be working in appropriate roles for what they are: concerned, dedicated volunteers.

Clark said TPD has used reservists in undercover operations, but a spokesman for the department said they are mostly used for traffic control and parking lot patrols during “safe shopper” operations.

There’s danger there too, but it’s a far less exposed position than being part of an undercover gun buy from a drug dealer. We want full-time, paid deputies doing the gritty work of policing the county. [my emphasis]

Monday, April 13, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 13: ideology of the non-ending white backlash (2 of 2)

I'm continuing here with looking some vintage "white backlash" arguments from Jim Sleeper's 1990 book The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York.

Like today's FOX News and hate radio talk about race-related issues, the villains of Sleeper's piece are consistently the Bad Negroes and Mean Libruls.

Here are some of the still-familiar tropes that he enunciates.

From the “Rights and Reciprocity” chapter:

As their demands [those of the “radical” activists] for immediate school and neighborhood integration engendered fierce resistance, they were drawn into courtroom battles over the law’s ability to shape American society in defiance of the popular will. (p. 159)
This is a favorite segregationist argument, that the evil integrationist Left is going to court to make sure the law and the Constitution is enforced are being anti-democratic in doing so.

Whether the conservative movement that is now also clearly segregationist actually believes in judicial restraint and opposes activist judgments can be reflected upon in light of several major Supreme Court cases such as Bush v. Gore (2000), Citizens United (2010), and Hobby Lobby (2014).

From the “Black Militants’ New End Game” chapter:

What really bothered me was that so many black ministers and civil rights movement veterans had gone along with these obvious offenses against the most elementary principles of morality and good political organizing. (p. 185)
Short version: those Bad Negroes just have no morals and are totally dishonest in politics.

That quote comes from Sleeper's account of the Howard Beach controversy over a racial incident in 1986. History.com, the History Channel’s website, summarizes the incident this way (n/d; accessed 04/09/2015):

On this day [December 20] in 1986, three black men are attacked by a group of white teenagers yelling racial slurs in Howard Beach, a predominately white, middle-class, Italian-American neighborhood in Queens, New York. Earlier that night, the men were driving from Brooklyn to Queens, when their car broke down near Howard Beach. They walked several miles to a pizza parlor in Howard Beach, where they asked to use a phone to call for assistance. After being told there was no phone available, they ordered some pizza. When the men left the pizzeria, they were confronted by the gang of teens. One of the men, Michael Griffith, 23, was chased into traffic on the Belt Parkway and died after being hit by a car. A second man, Cedric Sandiford, was severely beaten, while the third man, Timothy Grimes, outran the assailants and escaped without serious injury.

The attack stoked racial tensions in New York City and garnered national headlines. The two surviving victims, distrustful of police in Queens who they believed were treating them like perpetrators, refused to cooperate further with investigators and the district attorney’s office. Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton led a large group of demonstrators on a protest march through Howard Beach and was met by a smaller band of counter-demonstrators who shouted abuse. Sharpton and other black leaders believed the Queens District Attorney’s office was mishandling the case and called for the appointment of a special state prosecutor. New York Governor Mario Cuomo named Charles Hynes to the position. Sharpton was later accused of using the case to further his own political agenda and increase his national profile. In December 1987, after 12 days of jury deliberations, three teens were convicted of manslaughter in the death of Griffith.
As we’ve seen more recently in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin and Darren Wilson/Michael Brown cases, passions can run high and precise details on the incident in question may be disputed. And humans being who we are, pure pursuit of Truth and Justice may not be driving everyone involved. But Sleeper structures his account in such a way as to leave the impression that African-American activists concerned with the case were largely acting in cynical bad faith.

On the case, see also:

Joseph Friend, Youth Gets 5 to 15 Years For Howard Beach Attack New York Times 02/12/1988

Howard Beach; Not So Simple As A Lynching New York Times 12/28/2015 (This article deals with a controversy over the culpability of Dominick Blum, the driver of the car that actually killed Michael Griffith, which is what Sleeper tries to use to paint advocates for the victims as irresponsible and acting in bad faith.

Danielle Wright, Howard Beach Still Synonymous With Hate Crime 25 Years Later BET 12/19/2011

The chapter title of “Militants, ‘Professional Blacks,’ and the Culture of Schools” gives a very good idea of the tone and content. “Professional Blacks” refers to what conservatives also call names like “poverty pimps” or “race hustlers,” the latter a favorite of rightwing columnist Michelle Malkin. It’s basically a pejorative name for civil rights and antiracism activists.

In that chapter, Sleeper focuses on some controversial black-studies claims. “Principled or not, the [black] militants seem to have a mesmerizing effect not only on many blacks who are angry and afraid of being called system tools and Toms but also on guilt-ridden whites ...” (p. 221)

Translated into WhiteManSpeak: Ethnic studies is a plot by Bad Negroes and white race traitors to undermine the White Man.

A good faith and professional discussion of some of the issues around “Afrocentrism” in education from the same period can be found in Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s The Disuniting of America: Reflections On A Multicultural Society (1991), where he wrote:

The dean of black historians in America today is John Hope Franklin. "While a black scholar," Franklin writes, "has a clear responsibility to join in improving the society in which he lives, he must understand the difference between hard-hitting advocacy on the one hand and the highest standards of scholarship on the other." Serious black scholars like Henry Louis Gates of Duke regard Afrocentricity with skepticism. "I don't see any of those things as being peculiar to African-Americans. They sound like very vague attributes to me, and all kinds of cultures and societies have those same values .... I am certainly not in the same camp as Molefi Asante and all these guys."

"These guys" are advocates not of cultural pluralism but of black ethnocentrism. Nor do they make much effort to disguise political motives. Asa Hilliard deals with scholarly critics not by responding to their criticisms but by calling any attack on the Afrocentric curriculum "an attack on the study of African people generally."
But here again, Sleeper’s account seems less focused on clarifying real issues than on picturing African-American advocates for a position and their supporters as acting dishonestly and in bad faith.

The “Folly on the Left” chapter is basically a polemic against any efforts from the 1930s on to defend African-American civil rights or address economic injustices affecting them as dubious maneuvering by sinister characters. This gives a good idea of the tone: “Neither the left nor the black community has been quite able to let go of the other, then, but, oh, what a bruiser this marriage of class and color, of Marxism and black nationalism, has been, its noisy basement fights sending tremors through the edifice above!” (p. 240, my italics)

Because you know how Those People are.

White backlish, it seems, we have with us always.

And its intensity today is even greater than in 1990.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ukraine's American Finance Minister, Natalie Jaresko

This was the melodramatically titled lead story for Bloomberg Businessweek a few weeks ago, The American Woman Who Stands Between Putin and Ukraine by Brett Forrest, dated online 05-04-2015/Europe (April 5) but appearing in the 03/09-15-2015 print issue.

It's one of the oddities of the current pro-Western Ukrainian that an American was picked as the Finance Minister, Natalie Jaresko:

Three months ago, Jaresko, 49, left the private equity firm that she co-founded in Ukraine in 2006 to join the government of Petro Poroshenko. A billionaire chocolate and confectionery magnate, he was elected president after the uprising known as the Euromaidan Revolution. At the time, Jaresko didn’t even have Ukrainian citizenship. Now, as the country’s top economic official, she’s Ukraine’s liaison to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Tax reform is hers. So is the treasury. She must construct a national budget out of lint. “I can’t wait for the situation to be perfect,” Jaresko says.
Forrest notes:

Jaresko’s appointment, especially considering Horizon C apital’s ongoing relationship with USAID, provides fuel to conspiracy theorists, who depict Euromaidan as a Western plot aimed at luring Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence. The new finance minister is hardly the only target for the c onspiracy-minded. Jaresko joins two other foreigners in Ukraine’s cabinet: Aivaras Abromavicius, a 39-year-old Lithuanian, is the minister of economy and trade. The minister of health care, Alexander Kvitashvili, a Georgian, served in the same capacity in his home government. [my emphasis]

This is also a useful glimpse at Ukraine in the immediate post-Soviet years:

In the mid-1990s, Ukraine endured hyperinflation of 10,000 per cent. A few years later came the shock waves of Russia’s financial crisis. The Ukrainian economy showed its first signs of growth only in 2000, after almost a decade of decline. Then, in 2004, came the Orange Revolution. While the country entered a new period of uncertainty, international institutional investors began to arrive. Two years later, Jaresko and three partners opened investment management firm Horizon Capital. It managed the Western NIS Enterprise Fund and eventually raised two more. When she left last December, it had roughly $600 million of Ukrainian investments under management. (Jaresko and her husband, Ihor Figlus, divorced in 2011. He’s returned to the US. Their two school-age children live in Kiev with Jaresko).
Jaresko became a Ukrainian citizen in order to serve, which despite her career background, she claims she's doing for patriotic public service to her new country:

No matter their origin, these ministers— and the numerous Poles, Germans, Canadians, and other foreigners who’ve joined the government in senior and midlevel positions—are pulling the same oar. Jaresko is no longer a foreign national, President Poroshenko having granted her the citizenship necessary to serve. “I’ve always been a Ukrainian,” she says. “Now I’m a Ukrainian citizen.” By local statute, she’s prohibited from holding two passports, though she has a couple of years to relinquish her American one. It’s hard to imagine she’ll stay in the job that long, considering her government salary of 10,000 hryvnia per month, or about $300. “I’m doing this out of a sense of patriotism,” she says. “I have no other reason to do this, other than to make a difference. Ukraine must succeed. There is no room for any of us to fail.”
She became a Ukrainian citizen the day she began her job as Finance Minister. (Foreign technocrats given Ukrainian citizenship before cabinet vote Reuters 12/02/2014)

This is a brief report from the Financial Times featuring Jaresko, Ukraine’s plan to resuscitate the economy 03/23/2015:


Sometimes the judicial system works against white racist violence

As this federal court case fro Mississippi illustrates, sometimes the judicial system works against white racist violence: Therese Apel, Women get maximum sentences in hate crime death Clariom-Ledger 04/10/2015.

But that doesn't mean that the system always works, much less that it's free from white racist bias. That's a conclusion that defenders of racial discrimination in the justice system love to use cases like this to make.

And it certainly doesn't mean that there was nothing racial about the crime. In fact, these two defendants pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime in this case.

The partner of the man murdered in this case addressed the defendants at sentencing:

[James Craig] Anderson's partner, James Bradfield was emotional as he reiterated to the court how much different life is without Anderson.

"The days are never the same. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries... On a sunny day, all I can see is Craig out there working in the yard, trying to do everything he could for his family, and you took his life for no reason," he said. "And you didn't want to turn yourself in. You thought you'd get away with it."

He also let Richardson and Graves know he holds them just as responsible as Dedmon.

"You texted everyone that night, but you couldn't call 911? You are as much to blame as if you'd been behind the wheel," he said. "You're babies yourselves, but I don't feel sorry for you. You knew what you were doing."

Both women have admitted to riding in the truck with Dedmon when Anderson was killed. They also admitted to enlisting others to go with them to Jackson, which they called "Jafrica," to assault African Americans.

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 12: ideology of the non-ending white backlash (1 of 2)

The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York by Jim Sleeper (1990) is a book from a quarter century ago that uses still-enduring white-backlash arguments against civil rights to defend the ideology and psychology of systematic white racism.

Jim Sleeper’s attitude toward race and opposition to racial discrimination can be quickly ascertained from this piece, Letting Go of Race The Atlantic Online 08/21/1997.

He had given a previous elaboration of his view in The Closest of Strangers. I found it interesting in that it gives an elaboration of what we might as well call “white backlash” position circa 1990.

Violent crime was a major issue at the time. Ari Melber provided this graph in a tweet of 01/14/2015 based on Department of Justice information:


Law and order” had been a racially charged theme in American national politics since 1968. And Sleeper uses it extensively in his book. The fact that violent crime has significantly decreased since then, as the chart shows, has removed some of the national salience of the law-and-order issue. But it certainly has removed it from the political agenda, much less taken the racial-polemic aspect out of it. In some ways, response to crime problems since 1990 have racialized white perspectives on crime to an even greater degree.

Some other themes were coming to be common parts of the mix, including about Democrats who wanted to back away from a commitment to racial equality and justice. For of Sleeper’s chapter titles refer to them:

  • “Rights and Reciprocity”
  • “Black Militants’ New End Game”
  • “Militants, ‘Professional Blacks,’ and the Culture of Schools”
  • “Folly on the Left”

The general litany is very familiar to those who follow American politics. African-Americans are getting their rights recognized – an act of generosity rather than justice in the minds of many whites – but they aren’t stepping up to their reciprocal responsibilities. Just one of many ways of saying that black people are irresponsible, which many whites choose to think no matter what.

“Black militants” in Sleeper’s version are not the Black Panthers of the 1960s, or the Black Guerrilla Army of the 1970s. No, the “black militants” of Sleeper’s book are black leaders who protest or organize. Especially those still-iconic villains of the white Republican imagination, “Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.” The “professional blacks” are black people who whine about discrimination. And the “folly on the left” is, of course, the idea by liberals and Democrats that equal rights are worth defending.

One of the interesting things about the book in light of events of 2014-5 in the United States is that it deals with what I call the problem of the perfect case. Sleeper’s method in The Closest of Strangers is to describe events of the more distant past from 1990 as though he’s sympathetic to the struggle for equal rights. In this comment on an event from 1935, he even sounds somewhat sympathetic to Communist activism in that regard:

With the white proletarian majority intransigent on the labor front and the state assuming a greater role in black survival, impoverished Harlem's only recourse in the Depression was protest politics, punctuated by rioting. Overburdened church networks and other community institutions for mutual aid were drawn into the fray and politicized. In March 1935, a rumor swept the community that Lino Rivera, a young Puerto Rican boy, had been killed for shoplifting in a Kress department store. Rivera had been sent home unharmed, but, in what would become yet another familiar pattern in the city's race relations, understandable black suspicion - fanned by a misleading leaflet put out by the Young Communist League - drew angry crowds into the streets. As bottles flew and windows were smashed, police descended and violence escalated. Three people were killed and many wounded, and there was extensive looting of black as well as white stores. [my emphasis] (p. 47)
Despite his seemingly sympathetic tone, Sleeper is here setting up a theme he works heavily in the book: You can't trust black leaders! They lie to get people to protest!

He then goes on to describe how then-Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia’s response was to appoint a commission on race relations. “Reaction to the commission’s report brought the first sustained government funding and regulation to bear upon the plight of blacks.” (p. 48) In other words, something less than a Perfect Case led to constructive developments on the road to defending equal rights for minorities.

But the thrust of his arguments in the book is very different. He conjures up the menace of what FOX News fans and Rush Limbaugh listeners today would recognize as a scary alliance of Bad Negroes and Mean Libruls. Although in this 1990 book he wasn't simultaneously imagining them as allies of Muslim terrorists, too.

Historic Summit of the Americas in Panamá (Updated)

The big world news from the Summit of the Americas this weekend in Panamá was the unquestionably "historic" meeting between Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro.

The Buenos Aires Herald reports in VII Summit of the Americas features historic Cuban presence 04/10/2015:

"As we move towards the process of normalization, we'll have our differences government to government with Cuba on many issues. Just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas, just as we differ with our closest allies," Obama said today.

Apart from a couple of brief, informal encounters, the leaders of the United States and Cuba have not had any significant meetings since Castro's older brother Fidel Castro toppled US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in a 1959 revolution.

"The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past," Obama said.
One of the historical tidbits that Raúl Castro revealed in his speech was that John Kennedy had been scheduled to have a telephone conversation with just sent Fidel Castro a message asking to resume conversations around November 22, 1963. Which never occurred, for well-known reasons. (“Tenemos muchas diferencias pero vamos a avanzar” Página/12 12.04.2015) The English-language text in the Cuban paper Granma presents the statement from Raúl Castro's speech in an indirect quote, "President Kennedy was assassinated precisely at the moment when the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, had received a message from him looking to initiate a dialogue." It's not clear how close to the date of Kennedy's assassination this occurred. (Raúl: We came to fulfill the mandate of Martí with the freedom won by our own hands Granma 04/12/2015)

Argentine President Cristina Fernández also addressed the convention, V7inter - VII Cumbre de las Américas en Panamá: discurso de Cristina Fernández TV Pública argentina 11.04.2015:



The Spanish text is here, Cristina en la VII Cumbre de las Américas, en Panamá CFK Argentina 11.04.2015.

Her speeches are often substantial. But this one seemed to be a bit more reflective than others of hers I've read or heard.

She talked some about the historically bad behavior of the United States in Latin America, and more generally about the need to understand history to understand the presence. She expressed particular concern about the current fashion of "soft coups" (“los golpes suaves”) in which a wider variety of political and economic measures are used than with a more traditional military coup, of which Argentina has experienced several since 1955. The difference is a matter of emphasis, perhaps an emphasis which forms a qualitatively new approach. All military coups are to some extent military and civilian-political at the same time, a quality very much on display during the Pinochet coup of 1973 in Chile and the Argentine military coup of 1976.

Cristina notes of a golpes suave that they "siempre encuentran su origen en nuevas organizaciones bajo el nombre de ONGs" ("one always finds its origin in new organizations under the name of NGOs"), a reminder of the extent to which NGOs have been coopted by overtly political forces and governments to push for extra-constitutional regime change.

She called the Union's victory in the US Civil War "the basis of the greatness of the United States" because it resulted in freeing the slaves. She recalled "true patriots" like Lincoln, Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

And she talked about something basic in religious terrorism. She notes that when the "end of ideologies" was declared - apparently referring to post-Soviet end-of-history narratives but also echoing the ill-fated "end of ideology" phrase associated with Daniel Bell in the 1960s - fundamentalism appeared as an ascendant threat. She says that "with ideas, one can combat them with ideas. But when someone says they are killing in the name of God, it's much more difficult to give battle and combat him."

She concludes this portion of her speech by saying this means we have to face the specific challenges of the 21st century and we need new theoretical perspectives for understanding them. That's a very general statement, but in the context of her politics and foreign policy, she's defending the anti-neoliberal policies of "popular governments" like her own in Latin America. And more specifically her Left Peronista perspective.

"Left Peronista" is the construction I'm using in English to describe her approach, known as kirchnerismo, which is essentially assertive social-democracy of a kind major Social Democratic Parties in Europe no longer practice, besotted as they are with Angela Merkel's Herbert Hoover economics. Her Peronist Partido Justicialista (PJ), which is the original Peronist Party, is ideologically very diverse.

But, no, she did not say the United States is Exceptional. She did say we are "lucky."

Yanis Varoufakis and Joseph Stiglitz on Greece and the eurozone

Last week, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz did a presentation at a meeting of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) this past week, Yanis Varoufakis and Joseph Stiglitz INETeconomics 04/09/2015:



The presentation is in English. David Jolly reports on it here, Greek Finance Minister Steers Debt Talk His Way New York Times 04/09/2015:

On Thursday, at a conference of economic luminaries, Mr. Varoufakis was working hard to divert the discussion from Greece’s shrinking financial freedom and fears that it might default. (He had a bit of wind at his back with news that Greece on this same day had just met its deadline for repaying a €460 million, or $491 million, loan installment to the International Monetary Fund.)

Rather than concede any Greek missteps, Mr. Varoufakis wanted to assess the flaws of the eurozone that he said had been revealed by the 2008 global meltdown and its aftermath.
He indulges a bit in pop culture analogy here: "Mr. Varoufakis, 54, comes across as a sort of debonair Mr. Spock, a financial Vulcan of the eurozone. Dressed in a dark jacket with his trademark casual, open-collared shirt, he speaks clearly about the currency bloc’s awkward truths, avoiding the jargon and evasiveness that normally characterizes the region’s dreary politics."

I wonder why Varoufakis reminds him of Mr. Spock?


The confrontation between Greece and Angela Merkel's EU can be expected to continue until the summer, when Greece is likely to face the necessity to default on its debt. By all appearances, Merkel really believes in her Herbert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning austerity economics, "ordoliberalism" in the particular doctrine she follows.

Also, her style of dealing with the euro crisis has been to squeeze as many concessions as possible for her austerity position and wait until the last possible moment to take minimal short-term measures to avoid a collapse of the euro zone. It's a very high-risk approach.

Reuters reports, Greek finance ministry hits back at German newspaper report 04/12/2015:

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung cited participants at last week's meeting as saying that they were disappointed by Athens' lack of movement in its plans, adding that the Greek representative just asked where the money was "like a taxi driver" and insisted his country would soon be bankrupt.

"When the readers of FAS read the minutes of the Euro Working Group meeting the newspaper will have difficulty justifying its headline and the content of its article," the finance ministry said. "Such reports undermine the negotiation and Europe."
Which German conservatives will read as Varoufakis saying to Merkel and her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble: "Bite me, Germany reactionaries!"


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, Apri 11: "Color-blind" white racism

I'm returning to Chauncey DeVega and his commentary on the South Carolina "white thug cop Michael Slager" cop who shot a black man, Walter Scott, in the back and killed him. In his post, Colorblind White Racism and the Right-Wing Media's Response to the Killing of Walter Scott WARN 04/10/2015, he discusses some of the ways in which white racism in America is propagated with the pretense of color-blindness.

... white supremacy in the post civil rights era often works via a superficial condemnation of obvious racism and racially motivated violence against people of color as a means of advancing a type of White Racial Logic which deems racism and white supremacy as things of the past, outliers and aberrations in contemporary America.
He discusses this example from FOX News:

On The Five, panelist Greg Gutfeld suggested that when viewing the video recorded murder of Walter Scott by Michael Slager, he "doesn't see race" but rather one person being killed unjustly by another.

Gutfeld is delusional.

Unless he has a problem with his vision, Gutfeld most definitely sees a white cop shooting an unarmed black person in the back.

Here, the White Gaze and White Racial logic refuse to "see" or acknowledge race. In doing so, white supremacy is advanced and sustained because the social and political context of white on black violence and inequality is removed.

Fox News' Greg Gutfeld is also demonstrating a second component of colorblind racism: the theft and misappropriation of anti-racist language. [my emphasis]
This fits in with some of the things I've observed in a book from 1990 that I'll comment on in a couple of following posts in this series.

Dahlia Lithwick on the legal strategy behind Christian Right "religious freedom" laws

Dahlia Lithwick looks at the political/legal strategy behind the Christian Right's new favorite device to promote discrimination, the so-called "religious freedom" laws, in Complicit as Sin Slate 04/09/2015.

She explains laws that respect a person's right to their own religious beliefs are qualitatively different that laws that protect people from doing something that someone else might use to do something that the first party thinks is sinful. Thus, the title of the article.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence defended his state’s RFRA [religious freedom restoriation act] as recalibrating the balance of civil rights and “religious freedom.” But these are simply not your father’s religious liberty claims. As [Doug] Siegel and [Reva] NeJaime note, the claim here is not that a religious individual is being forced to do something that violates his religion, such as shaving his beard; it is that he must be free from endorsing or enabling the behavior of others who are engaging in what he sees as sinful behavior. This was the central claim of the employers who sued in Hobby Lobby. They argued that it was itself sinful to provide health coverage to employees who might then use those benefits to engage in ostensibly sinful conduct. This is the same argument as the business owner’s claim that frosting a cake or arranging the calla lilies for a same-sex wedding is an act of “complicity” in a union that the business owner deems sinful.

Why does this matter? Because as Siegel and NeJaime argue, the new religious objections affect bystanders, ordinary folks in the greater community. These “third parties” are just people (often marginalized people, like gay couples or women seeking birth control) whose beliefs and values are not shared by the religious claimant. The authors point out that these new complicity-based religious conscience claims may well be authentic and sincere, as were the religious freedom claims originally contemplated by Congress when it drafted and passed the RFRA in response to a Supreme Court decision that declined to protect the religious freedom of Native Americans seeking to use peyote in a religious ceremony. But the new RFRAs may hurt third parties in ways these earlier state and federal RFRAs never quite imagined. The intent of this new article is to consider why. [my emphasis]
The Seigel and NeJaime article she references is Conscience Wars: Complicity-Based Conscience Claims in Religion and Politics Yale Law Journal Vol. 124/2015 (02/08/2015).

Friday, April 10, 2015

Christian Right antigay attitudes: revenge of the small-town gossips?

Aimai offers an intriguing observation on the cultural roots of Christian Right antigay attitudes (Wrong, so very wrong. I Spy With My Little Eye 04/04/2015):

Providing a service to another person is a commercial transaction, not an endorsement. So why do evangelicals and their supporters keep insisting that it is? Because of a specific culture of busybody engagement. When the Pizza restaurant or the Baker sells a product to a gay person they are not, contra this guy, "lending" them anything. But the word is instructive--Evangelicals see engaging with, talking to, and selling things to gay people as "lending" support or "lending" one's good name to that person. I get it, it comes from an ethnotheory of small town religiosity in which everyone is implicated in everyone else's business. We are all damned or saved together--your bad behavior may drag me down, my upright virtue could elevate you. If we are seen together, or known to be associates, your evil rubs off on me and you are probably trying to take advantage of my good name. We are both providing "examples" to the community--yours bad, mine good. In this model failure to excoriate bad behavior, and failure of the evil ones to submit to instruction and punishment, is highly destructive, truly scary. No wonder these people are so hysterical--one gay marriage with catering, one floral arrangement--indicts the entire system of goodness, pollutes the entire community.
I think she's on to something there.

When rightists fall out

This is a post I wrote back in 2008 but wound up not posting. But I'm posting it know, with minor edits, because it gives some perspective on the "libertarian" position of which Rand Paul is currently the most prominent.

The reporting on the 2008 Ron Paul campaign kicked up a lot of information on the "libertarian" right.

The Libertarian Party split in 1988, after Paul's Presidential run on their ticket. The wing of the movement reflected by the Cato Institute and Reason magazine focuses on business deregulation but presents a friendly, personal-liberties face. Although since even that wing is generally opposed to anti-discrimination laws, their actual commitment to individuals' freedom from invidious discrimination is more than questionable. The Cato crowd also tends toward isolationist foreign policy.

The other wing centered around the Von Mises Institute, that wing probably best know to critics of the Cheney-Bush foreign policy through the Antiwar.com Web site. Prominent leaders in that wing of the movement were longtime Paul staffer and business associate Lew Rockwell and Old Right isolationist Murray Rothbard.

This article by Julian Sanchez and David Weigel, Who Wrote Ron Paul's Newsletters? Reason 01/16/08, gives their version of the split and an account of how the Rockwell-Rothbard "paleoconservatives", as they called themselves, begin pandering hard to racists and nativists. Sanchez and Weigel describe their strategy this way:

The [Ron Paul] newsletters' obsession with blacks and gays was of a piece with a conscious political strategy adopted at that same time by Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard. After breaking with the Libertarian Party following the 1988 presidential election, Rockwell and Rothbard formed a schismatic "paleolibertarian" movement, which rejected what they saw as the social libertinism and leftist tendencies of mainstream libertarians. In 1990, they launched the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, where they crafted a plan they hoped would midwife a broad new "paleo" coalition.

Rockwell explained the thrust of the idea in a 1990 Liberty essay entitled "The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism." To Rockwell, the LP was a "party of the stoned," a halfway house for libertines that had to be "de-loused." To grow, the movement had to embrace older conservative values. "State-enforced segregation," Rockwell wrote, "was wrong, but so is State-enforced integration. State-enforced segregation was not wrong because separateness is wrong, however. Wishing to associate with members of one's own race, nationality, religion, class, sex, or even political party is a natural and normal human impulse."

The most detailed description of the strategy came in an essay Rothbard wrote for the January 1992 Rothbard-Rockwell Report, titled "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement." Lamenting that mainstream intellectuals and opinion leaders were too invested in the status quo to be brought around to a libertarian view, Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an "Outreach to the Rednecks," which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes. (Duke, a former Klansman, was discussed in strikingly similar terms in a 1990 Ron Paul Political Report.) These groups could be mobilized to oppose an expansive state, Rothbard posited, by exposing an "unholy alliance of 'corporate liberal' Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America." (my emphasis)
See also, The Reckoning Over Ron Paul by Jamie Kirchick New Republic blog 01/15/08.

Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo, an adherent of the Rockwell-Rothbard school of "libertarianism", has written on his version of Old Right isolationist history at the online magazine Taki's Top Drawer:

The Real American Right: Part I 01/08/08

The Real American Right: Part II 01/09/08

The Real American Right: Part III 01/10/08

In the same publication, he defends the leading theorist of "national socialism" in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s: The Subversion of Lawrence Dennis 09/26/07

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 10: Southern slavery - capitalism or feudalism?

Harold Meyerson comments on the historical/economic question of to which extent Southern slavery was a capitalist institution, as distinct from some kind of quasi-feudal formation, in Today's GOP: The Party of Jefferson Davis -- Not Lincoln The American Proospect 04/10/2015

... one reason the race-based subjugation of labor was so resilient was that it was a linchpin not just of the Southern economy, but also of the entire U.S. economy. For much of the 20th century, the prevailing view of the North-South conflict was that it had pitted the increasingly advanced capitalist economy of the North against the pre-modern, quasi-feudal economy of the South. In recent years, however, a spate of new histories has placed the antebellum cotton economy of the South at the very center of 19th-century capitalism. Works such as Empire of Cotton, by Harvard historian Sven Beckert, and The Half Has Never Been Told, by Cornell University historian Edward E. Baptist, have documented how slave-produced cotton was the largest and most lucrative industry in America’s antebellum economy, the source of the fortunes of New York-based traders and investors and of British manufacturers. The rise in profitability, Baptist shows, resulted in large part from the increased brutalization of the slave work force.

Lincoln understood this—how could he not? The traders and investors in New York rendered that city a center of pro-Southern sentiment, so much so that its mayor, Fernando Wood, actually suggested that the city secede from the Union to preserve its ties to the Southern slaveholders. British commercial interests pressured their government to extend diplomatic recognition to the Confederacy. In his second inaugural address, Lincoln termed slavery not a Southern sin but an American one, for which both North and South were condemned to a form of blood-soaked, divine retribution. “If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come,” Lincoln said, “but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?”
If you're wondering about the Jefferson Davis title, Meyerson concludes with this:

Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 9 (2): "The Surrender" by Keith Rocco

The website of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park has this painting by Keith Rocco, "The Surrender" featured:


Today is the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 9: Appomattox advice to Lost Causers: git over it!

Brian Beutler caught some attention recently by ruffling the feathers of the sacred memory of the noble Confederacy in Make the Confederacy's Defeat a National Holiday New Republic 04/05/2015.

The notion sounds pretty cool to me. In line with V-E Day and and V-J Day, we could call it V-C day. Since the admirers of the Confederacy and its core principle of slavery and white supremacy would say that "V-C" Day sounds too much like the abbreviation for "Viet Cong," it makes me think that the debate in Congress over naming such an official commemoration would provide some marginally informative foaming at the mouth from Rush and the rest of hate radio and, of course, the nice white folks at FOX News. I think "Day to Celebrate the Victory of Democracy Over the Confederate Treason and the God-Hating System of Slavery and White Supremacy for Which It Stood" would be a nice name. Also the acroynm DCVDOCTGHSSWSWIS wouldn't exactly roll off the tongue: "div-doc-tigis-wiss"?

Beutler writes:

This week provides an occasion for the U.S. government to get real about history, as April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War. The generous terms of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House foreshadowed a multitude of real and symbolic compromises that the winners of the war would make with secessionists, slavery supporters, and each other to piece the country back together. It’s as appropriate an occasion as the Selma anniversary to reflect on the country’s struggle to improve itself. And to mark the occasion, the federal government should make two modest changes: It should make April 9 a federal holiday; and it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support.
It's worth noting that one of the failures of those surrender terms was to allow the Confederate soldiers to keep their weapons and take them back home. In the struggles to establish a biracial democracy during Reconstruction, the fact that the enemies of democracy had lots more guns than its supporters was a major factor in the ascendancy of the anti-democracy Redeemers.

[Update 04/09/2015: My comment about disarmament was too broad. Historian David Blight writes specifically of Lee's surrender of 21,000 soldiers at Appomattox 150 years ago today, "Line soldiers were required to stack their muskets and fold their flags as they delivered them to their foes, unit by unit, in an unforgettable six-hour ceremony of stern, quiet military honor." The Civil War Isn't Over The Atlantic 04/08/2015]

Beutler would like to see a sufficient national consensus against Confederate symbols and Lost Cause pseudohistory that "would also reject the romantic reimagining of the Civil War, and thus, the myriad totems to the Confederacy and its leaders that pockmark the South."

He sketches the failure of Reconstruction this way:

There was a real but inadequate constituency for crushing the Southern establishment after the Civil War, and reintegrating the country under an entirely different paradigm. Instead, the North enabled the South by giving it unusual influence over shaping the official mythology of the war. Yes, the South surrendered. The states ratified the 13th Amendment. The Union survived. These facts couldn’t be altered. But memorializing the rebellion as a tragedy of circumstance, or a bravely fought battle of principle - those narratives were adopted in part for the unspoken purpose of making the reunion stick. "You lost, we won, and we're all living in the USA," Talking Point Memo's Josh Marshall once wrote. "But we'll let you win in the battle of memory and valor and nostalgia."

People of good faith can argue over whether these kinds of symbolic concessions (as opposed to the concrete ones, which consigned emancipated slaves to a century of sanctioned depredations) were wise or necessary means to the end of preserving the Union. Some of them weren't concessions at all, so much as insufficient commitment on the part of Northerners to the livelihood of blacks in the South. "[A]s Northern Republican Party became more conservative," historian Eric Foner wrote recently, "Reconstruction came to be seen as a misguided attempt to uplift the lower classes of society." But 150 years on, we know that subjugation is a moral obscenity, and that there's no valid modern argument for spitshining the Confederacy.
Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory is critical of Beutler's proposal, Why Confederate Defeat Does Not Need to Be a National Holiday 04/07/2015. Kevin is still doing good work debunking Lost Cause pseudohistory, like the Black Confederates trope. But he's cautious about people like Ed Sebesta who highlight the links between the ritual and symbolic celebrations of the Confederacy and the politics of race today:

What Beutler seems oblivious to is the fact that memory of the Civil War among white Southerners has undergone a profound shift in recent decades. This blog has cataloged countless examples of this change just over the past few years alone as part of the sesquicentennial. White and black Southerners as well as others are in the midst of a rich regional discussion/negotiation over how the war is remembered in all kinds of public spaces, from the naming of buildings to the relevancy of monuments to the Confederacy.

These discussions are by their very nature messy and often divisive, but they are absolutely necessary in cases where communities acknowledge that their past remains relevant to the present. There is something naive and even dangerous about the way Beutler understands the politics of historical memory.

On Thursday the National Park Service is calling for communities around the country to ring bells in recognition of Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant and the end of the war. Brian Beutler will be happy to learn that many of those bells will be heard throughout the South. [my emphasis]
It's "naive and even dangerous" to object to honoring traitors who touched off the deadliest war by far (for Americans) in American history in defense of slavery? It's legitimate to ask, what is "dangerous" about it? That some white supremacist might have his tender fee-fees offended? Because part of being a white supremacist is a continuous state of griping about how your tender fee-fees are offended by something or other the Mean Libruls and Bad Negroes are doing.

I posed the question in a comment to Kevin's post as I was writing this. I'm guessing that he means that the kind of confrontive, anti-Confederate approach Beutler takes would cause some kind of backlash that could be avoided with a kinder, gentler approach. But I'm really just guessing here.

[Update 04/09/2015: Kevin responded to my comment on the post: "My concern is with what appears to be an unstated assumption that memory can be easily shaped by instituting a new holiday. The kind of fix that Beutler imagines functions to impose memory from the top-down rather than allowing it to evolve organically on the local level." So he was thinking more of ineffectiveness, not some kind of backlash concern. I noted in response that an Appomattox Day could fairly easily be coopted as an Honor Robert E. Lee Day by those so inclined.]

Beutler has a follow-up post, Southerners Shouldn't Take Attacks on the Confederacy Personally 04/07/2015. To the title, I'm inclined to think any Lost Cause advocate who claims to be personally offended by literate criticism of that viewpoint is most likely putting on a WATB act. But then, the whole kinder-gentler approach to this issue doesn't really work for me.

Ironically, Beutler concedes too much to the WATB pitch:

This isn’t entirely an artifact of white supremacy, or of secessionist sympathies. It’s also a matter of state and family pride. If you’re a proud Georgian and your great, great, great grandfather died fighting for the Confederacy, you might not take kindly to the federal government celebrating the day his death was rendered in vain - even if your general perspective on the war and the Cause is modern and progressive.
Oh, &!/#$@+*. Lost Cause advocates aren't defending the Confederacy out of respect for their long dead great-great-grandpappy. If you're an adult and can't have any perspective on the Civil War beyond, "Don't say nothin' bad about the Confederacy, 'cause mah daddy's Pappy Pap fought in that war against the damnyankees," don't expect me to pretend you're talking in good faith. Because ah know you ain't.

This means Brian Beutler is almost surely a Yankee. Yankees tend to be generous that way.

But I'm on board with him on the following:

In the Southern right’s mythical telling, the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery at all, but about governing principles that still define conservatism. Those principles took on enormous retrospective significance as a consequence of that historical revision, and thus contribute to the impoverishment of millions of Southern blacks to this day.

As [Ed] Kilgore explained, the reason for celebrating Appomattox, and not the abolition of slavery alone, is that “the same horrific ideas - the inferiority of people of color, the power of states to nullify and secede, the unconstitutional nature of democracy—keep coming back over and over again.”

And to the extent that the legacy of the Civil War still scars the South, or explains its economic history, a Reunion Day would serve as a reminder that the fathers of the Confederacy - who would stoop to anything, including treason, to preserve slavery - are the ones to blame.
And if hearing yore daddy's Pappy Pap described as fightin' fer treason and slavery jus' 'cause, y'know, he was fighin' fer treason and slavery bothers you, you should take the advice conservative whites love to give African-Americans about the history of slavery and Segregation 1.0: git over it!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2015, April 8: More on the case of accused killer cop Michael Slager

Yesterday I wrote about the arrest of white police officer Michael Slager in South Carolina on charges of bravely killing an unarmed black man in the back when the guy ran from a traffic stop after being electrocuted (tased), "when I first saw this was, since the accused is white and had on a police uniform when he allegedly bravely shot the guy in the back, he can and likely will collect a small fortune in online donations from white supremacists across the country."

Spocko reports that a fundraising site has gone up (Fundraisers for Officer Slager Go Live, Go Down, Pop Up Again Hullabaloo 04/08/2015):

At first I thought that the existence of the video would make a difference in the fund raising for Slager, but then I read the reasons they give for setting it up, "It's about being innocent until proven guilty." That's smart.

It's very important for the fundraisers to make it clear who is the real victim. Also, some people need an excuse to cover their support of racism, bad policing and out of control individual police officers. On the other hand, some people relish the chance to express their real opinions. Often they make the comment right in the donor page.

I see this new trend like buying a bumper sticker you know will piss off people you don't like.
On the fundraising site, see also: Christopher Zara, Michael Slager, Indiegogo Backlash: Site Says ‘We Don’t Judge’ Amid Criticism Of Fundraiser For Walter Scott’s Shooter International Business Times 04/08/2015. Zara reports:

... the same campaign was removed from GoFundMe, a competing crowdfunding site, which said it violated its terms of service. Last year, GoFundMe came under similar criticism when it allowed campaign organizers to raise more than $400,000 in support of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot Michael Brown. Wilson, unlike Slager, was not charged with a crime.
Charlie Pierce also weighs in on the charges against accused killer cop Slager (A Death In South Carolina: No Video, No Crime Esquire Politics Blog 04/08/2015):

The country has to decide what the function of its police forces actually is. Is it their function to protect and to serve all citizens, or is it to respond with overwhelming deadly force to placate the fears that one sector of the population nurses toward The Other? Are our police custodians of ordered liberty or some sort of Praetorian Guard of established privilege? I'm sympathetic enough to the average officer to believe that many of them want to be the former, but are trained too thoroughly in the techniques of the latter. I hope the villain of this piece doesn't turn out to be the guy who took the video, but I'm not sure that won't be the case. There shouldn't have to be video, is what I'm saying.
Judd Legum informs us in Everything The Police Said About Walter Scott’s Death Before A Video Showed What Really Happened Think Progress 04/07-08/2015 of how Slager's police department was approaching this murder case before the video surfaced.

But getting him convicted by a South Carolina court and jury may be a tough goal to accomplish. David Slade reports for The Post and Courier (Shocking video of killing, but criminal case more complicated, analysts say 04/08/2015):

“You’ve got eight shots fired at a guy who’s running away,” said Charleston School of Law Professor Miller W. Shealy Jr., a former prosecutor. “It is horrific footage and very difficult to watch, and there doesn’t appear to be any excuses.”

But despite the video, said Shealy, “Based on my experience I wouldn’t say any case is easy, or a slam dunk.”

If the case goes to trial, questions will likely be raised about what happened before the start of the video, he said.

“We don’t see the stop, we don’t see the car,” said Shealy. “For the prosecution, it’s a strong case based just on the video, unless some strange things happened before the video started.”
See also: Andrew Knapp, Day after officer’s arrest, video of shooting death sparks protests, more action The Post and Courier 04/07-08/2015. The shooting victim Walter Scott, "a Coast Guard veteran and father of four" also had legal issues in his life, which accused killer cop Slager's admirers will use to justify Slager's bravely and nobly shooting the 50-year-old Scott in the back:

At the time [of his being shot to death in the back by Slager], [Scott] was wanted for arrest on a Family Court warrant, Charleston County sheriff’s Maj. Eric Watson said Tuesday.

He had a history of arrests related to contempt of court charges for failing to pay child support. The only accusation of violence against Scott during his lifetime came through an assault and battery charge in 1987.
Knapp recounts the killing as it appears on the video:

The three-minute clip of Saturday morning’s shooting starts shaky, but it steadies as Slager and Scott appear to be grabbing at each other’s hands.

Slager has said through his attorney that Scott had wrested his Taser from him during a struggle.

The video appears to show Scott slapping at the officer’s hands as several objects fall to the ground. It’s not clear what the objects are.

Scott starts running away. Wires from Slager’s Taser stretch from Scott’s clothing to the officer’s hands.

With Scott more than 10 feet from Slager, the officer draws his pistol and fires seven times in rapid succession. After a brief pause, the officer fires one last time. Scott’s back bows, and he falls face first to the ground near a tree.

After the gunfire, Slager glances at the person taking the video, then talks into his radio.

The cameraman curses, and Slager yells at Scott as sirens wail.

“Put your hands behind your back,” the officer shouts before he handcuffs Scott as another lawman runs to Scott’s side.

Scott died there.

Slager soon jogs back to where he fired his gun and picks up something from the ground. He walks back to Scott’s body and drops the object.

Through the entire footage, it’s not clear whether Scott ever had control of the Taser.