June 27, 2015

More ppl think global warming is real ... but think scientists don't!

A fairly solid majority of Americans believe global warming is happening, per surveys from Yale University as reflected in the map at left that go from the state level to drill down to the Congressional District, then the county, level. (Hawaii is most convinced of this reality, whether due to partial isolation from the mainland, or seeing rising seas on smaller islands in the chain, or something else; West Virginians are least convinced, most likely due to Big Coal fearmongering.)

Yes, I didn't use "anthropogenic." Yet.

A solid plurality that would be a majority if we eliminated the "not sure" answers believe it's primarily manmade. Just the Yes-No gap is 48-35 percent. Weirdly, a much smaller plurality think that scientists think its primarily manmade. Per the likes of Naomi Oreskes in "Merchants of Doubt," perhaps far-right think tanks and the money they pay to denialist talking heads, plus media's general slowness in calling "skeptics" the denialists that they are, is probably having an effect.

As for answers?

Nationally, 74 percent want to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant; that remains at 70 percent in Texas. That said, Yale didn't apparently ask what regulations, and severity of enforcement, respondents might support. Or wait, it did.

Nationally, a 44-25 percent plurality support a carbon tax, if it's refunded to all Americans. Per my years-long support for tax + tariff on Chinese imports (not sure how easy it would be to refund that) maybe there's hope. And, again, in Texas, the numbers are similar, at 44-26. And, little old rural Falls County, Texas, isn't that much more "conservative" than the 17th District as a whole on these issues. Obviously, there's a lot of "not sure" answers, but ... I think combining tax and tariff, and noting this might bring some light manufacturing jobs back from China, might sway more people.
There are obviously conservatives, or at least, moderate conservatives who believe that anthropogenic global warming is happening and even moderate conservatives who support stringent actions. I mean, the 44 percent who support a carbon tax? That's higher than the vote percentage WendyDavis got, and slightly so some Republicans here in Texas support a carbon tax.

And, that is the "wedge" on these issues, along with telling moderates and moderate conservatives that the percentage of scientists who accept the reality of AGW is 98+, especially within the world of climate scientists. Rather than just demonize "everyday" people who quote prominent denialist websites, as a strategy, we instead need to point out that they're in a minority of "everyday" people.

#GayMarriage — from serious to teary to angry on #SSM

I offered several serious hot takes on the Supreme Court's ruling yesterday declaring gay marriage the law of the land.

First was my take on the actual ruling, and the clear fact that whatever faint hopes of "growth" Chief Justice John Roberts showed on Obamacare, they were clouds without water, shadows only.

Second was my wondering if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, with a major assist from state AG Ken Paxton, is prepared to play George Wallace, shouting "Straight today, straight tomorrow, straight forever." (Initial signs say that's a yes.

Third was my observation that four dissenting justices had four incredibly vacuous arguments, so vacuous they had to write four dissents because they couldn't agree what was the primary damage legalized gay marriage caused.

And now we're here. The emotions.

Who wouldn't, if you're not a homophobe, get teary-eyed at seeing two 80-somethings, Jack Evans and George Harris, get married after waiting 55 years?



Having seen gay friends and acquaintances struggle with coming out and more, who couldn't be teary-eyed as a loving, accepting straight person?

And, who couldn't be angry at the homophobia, or the political pandering of the likes of Paxton and Abbott, or a mix of both?

Who wouldn't be angry at religious institutions and self-appointed public faces and guardians of conservative Christian family values, already exposed as hypocrites, yet doubling down on their hypocrisy?

So, I call out two sets of hypocrites with these poster comments.

The first is obvious. Of course, that's not actually what Catholic bishops across the country said.

But it's what they might as well have said, given the Church's history on child sexual abuse at the altar.

The second?

Possibly short of Ann Coulter, what female wingnut is more grating as a defender of the far right? And short of nobody at all, what female wingnut is more hypocritical, along with her chip off the old block daughter, in pretending to be a moral guardian.

June 26, 2015

#GayMarriage: 4 #SCOTUS dissents, 0 new arguments

Four Justices, four vacuous opinions
Unfortunately, after writing the 6-3 majority decision yesterday on Obamacare exchange subsidies (and seeing fellow justice Kennedy join him, reversing his original vote opposition to Obamacare), Chief Justice John Roberts acted a bit like Antonin Scalia today.
Roberts from bench: "Today 5 lawyers have ordered every state to change their definition of marriage. Just who do we think we are?"

Gee, just yesterday, Scalia was saying that, in essence, "6 lawyers have ordered every state to change their definition of the word 'state.' Just who do we think we are?" 

On this case, each of the four dissenters — Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas — wrote his own dissent. They can't even agree what's wrong legally with gay marriage, just that they don't like it. (Yes, I know they concurred in each others' dissents, but the fact that four separate dissents were written still shows they disagree with each other on the primary reason gay marriage is wrong.) 

More parsing of the dissents, from the full opinion, reveals just how vacuous they are.

Roberts was partially joined by Scalia and Thomas. If "this Court is not a legislature" is the best opening argument you can find for tap-dancing around the 14th Amendment, and ignoring the obvious parallels to Loving, you're weak tea indeed. And, to extend that parallel and refute your next sentence, no, on Loving, and in many other cases, the Court has indeed said just what the law should be.

Later, his dissent tries to explain away Loving parallels, noting that previous gay/lesbian petitioners raised that and were rejected. Yeah, well Loving cases themselves were once rejected, both interracial marriage, and just interracial marriage. That's why Think Progress claiming that Roberts' dissent is more bad news for conservatives is tendentious at best.

Beyond the above, per Roberts, I could almost extend his argument to say stare decisis on Plessy v Ferguson. Of course, Brown vs Board of Education trumped Plessy.

Next, he goes to a traditionalist-presentist stance, invoking the old "marriage for conception" argument. This has repeatedly been refuted.

Scalia and Thomas then added their concurring dissent with the this claim gay marriage is a "threat to American democracy." For Scalia, at least, I get the feeling that this was more important. And, by his logic, then, the Supreme Court IS supposed to be a legislature, bowing to the tyranny of actual, or perceived, or finger-in-the-wind tested majoritarianism.

The final laugh is the pair them, especially Scalia, calling out Kennedy for "hubris."

Thomas, to whom Scalia concurred, then tried to pull an economics rabbit out of his hat, claiming that marriage is a "government benefit" that's neither a right nor entitlement, ignoring the IRS, state tax codes, etc. Fine, then, your actual argument should have been to overrule any government benefit for ANY marriage.

He then, without irony as a minority, chides people for reading too much into the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment.

He ends with the old "religious liberty" argument, as big a red herring as any.

Alito then brings in the "states rights argument," which in turn ignores the "full faith and credit" clause" of the Constitution itself. Like the Chief tap-dancing around Loving, Alito does the same here.

#GayMarriage in Texas: Is #GregAbbott going to play #GeorgeWallace?

I am of course referring to the late Alabama Gov. George Wallace and his famous 1963 inaugural statement, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

In light of today's Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, such a stance seems possible indeed.

Lite Gov Dan Patrick has already asked state AG Ken Paxton if county clerks can use an individual religious conscious claim to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians. (Survey says "no." Unlike pharmacists and birth control, each county has but one county clerk.)

And, our stellar, money-wasting governor, Greg Abbott, has already issued a press release hinting he might follow Patrick:
“Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected. No Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.

“The Texas Constitution guarantees that ‘[n]o human authority ought, in any case whatsoever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion.’ The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion; and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, combined with the newly enacted Pastor Protection Act, provide robust legal protections to Texans whose faith commands them to adhere to the traditional understanding of marriage.

“As I have done in the past, I will continue to defend the religious liberties of all Texans—including those whose conscience dictates that marriage is only the union of one man and one woman. Later today, I will be issuing a directive to state agencies instructing them to prioritize the protection of Texans’ religious liberties.”

He's being coy, yes, but he could be interpreted as agreeing with Patrick. Especially now that he's doubled down with a more official pronouncement saying department heads shouldn't pressure assistants under religious freedom. So, he's minimally saying that if one person in a county clerk's office doesn't want to issue a license to a gay or lesbian couple, the clerk shouldn't force him/her to do so. Let's see if he goes beyond that.

The big "tell" will be whether he adds anything to the "call" for a Texas Legislature special session.

Mark Phariss, a gay marriage plaintiff and law school classmate of Abbott, thinks he will NOT be Wallace.
Erm ... color me doubtful. Others, including a gay marriage plantiffs' lawyer, are also doubtful that Abbott will be this broad-minded.

Oh, and if you're a county clerk? Just like the blast I gave, both personally and professionally, to elected officials for considering unconstitutional action on Cecil Bell's proposed bill, you, too, have sworn an oath to "uphold the Constitution."

Do so.

#GayMarriage and the false hopes of John Roberts vs Anthony Kennedy

By now, everyone this side of Outer Mongolia with an Internet connection knows that the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that gay marriage is the law of the land.

And, Anthony Kennedy wrote a pretty broad opinion, per Scotusblog:
The opinion seems to go out of its way not to state a standard of scrutiny. Instead, it says, "It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality . . . Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry works a grave and continuing harm. The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry." That's page 22.

It elsewhere notes Kennedy's focus on "dignity" and "autonomy."

Unfortunately, after writing the 6-3 majority decision yesterday on Obamacare exchange subsidies (and seeing fellow justice Kennedy join him, reversing his original vote opposition to Obamacare), Chief Justice John Roberts acted a bit like Antonin Scalia today.
Roberts from bench: "Today 5 lawyers have ordered every state to change their definition of marriage. Just who do we think we are?"

Gee, just yesterday, Scalia was saying that, in essence, "6 lawyers have ordered every state to change their definition of the word 'state.' Just who do we think we are?" 

Per some blogging friends, his Obamacare rulings may simply be as a Big Biz Republican vs a Tea Party Republican.

On this case, each of the four dissenters — Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas — wrote his own dissent. They can't even agree what's wrong legally with gay marriage, just that they don't like it. And, I don't need to immediately read through each of the four dissents to note that four separate dissents is the main talking point.

Meanwhile, Texas' Lite Guv, Dan Patrick, has already contacted Texas "Attorney General" Ken Paxton to ask if county clerks can ask for personal religious exemptions in refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay or lesbian couples.

Back to SCOTUS and the main theme.

I should have known better on Roberts, though. Yesterday, as I blogged, while he kept the court on O-care, he refused to agree with Kennedy that "disparate impacts," even if not intentional, were grounds to sue on fair housing issues.

That said, a bit more parsing of the dissents, from the full opinion. Roberts was partially joined by Scalia and Thomas. If "this Court is not a legislature" is the best opening argument you can find for tap-dancing around the 14th Amendment, and ignoring the obvious parallels to Loving, you're weak tea indeed. And, to extend that parallel and refute your next sentence, no, on Loving, and in many other cases, the Court has indeed said just what the law should be.

Later, his dissent tries to explain away Loving parallels, noting that previous gay/lesbian petitioners raised that and were rejected. Yeah, well Loving cases themselves were once rejected, both interracial marriage, and just interracial marriage. That's why Think Progress claiming that Roberts' dissent is more bad news for conservatives is tendentious at best.

Beyond the above, per Roberts, I could almost extend his argument to say stare decisis on Plessy v Ferguson. Of course, Brown vs Board of Education trumped Plessy.

Next, he goes to a traditionalist-presentist stance, invoking the old "marriage for conception" argument. This has repeatedly been refuted.

Scalia and Thomas then added their concurring dissent with the this claim gay marriage is a "threat to American democracy." For Scalia, at least, I get the feeling that this was more important. And, by his logic, then, the Supreme Court IS supposed to be a legislature, bowing to the tyranny of actual, or perceived, or finger-in-the-wind tested majoritarianism.

The final laugh is the pair them, especially Scalia, calling out Kennedy for "hubris."

Thomas, to whom Scalia concurred, then tried to pull an economics rabbit out of his hat, claiming that marriage is a "government benefit" that's neither a right nor entitlement, ignoring the IRS, state tax codes, etc. Fine, then, your actual argument should have been to overrule any government benefit for ANY marriage.

He then, without irony as a minority, chides people for reading too much into the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment.

He ends with the old "religious liberty" argument, as big a red herring as any.

Alito then brings in the "states rights argument," which in turn ignores the "full faith and credit" clause" of the Constitution itself. Like the Chief tap-dancing around Loving, Alito does the same here.

Kennedy, on the other hand, IS evolving on some issues. Last week, in an under-the-radar issue, on a case about jury selection issues, he moved beyond that to raise major questions about solitary confinement in prisons. This is something that deserves more airplay:
In a powerful five-page concurrence in Davis v. Ayala, Kennedy criticized the widespread use of solitary confinement in American prisons, which he said affected at least 25,000 inmates in the United States. … 
 “Research still confirms what this Court suggested over a century ago: Years on end of near-total isolation exacts a terrible price,” he summarized. 
 Kennedy’s critique of solitary confinement in Davis came without warning or fanfare. Davis was not a case about solitary confinement at all; the Court had accepted it to address peremptory challenges during jury selection. … 
 Solitary confinement is a new battleground for the Court’s second-longest serving justice, but not a surprising one. Few justices on the Supreme Court have wielded the Eighth Amendment as expansively as Anthony Kennedy. … 
 Although Kennedy addressed solitary confinement specifically, he also invoked mass incarceration in general and the national debate surrounding it. “There are indications of a new and growing awareness in the broader public of the subject of corrections and of solitary confinement in particular,” he noted. Perhaps hoping to reach this broader public, Kennedy wrote without dense legal jargon. … 
 But Kennedy’s concurrence also seemed to be directed toward the American legal community, whose disengagement from prison issues he has previously lamented. “In law school, I never heard about corrections,” he told a congressional hearing on March 23, two weeks after the Davis oral arguments. “Lawyers are fascinated with the guilt/innocence adjudication process. Once [it] is over, we have no interest in corrections. Doctors and psychiatrists know more about the corrections system than we do.”
With people like Chelsea Manning put in solitary at the whim of our constitutional law scholar president, we need to talk about this more.

Now, tying this to another issue on radar screens: Abortion.

Kennedy, in my opinion, will never become more "liberal" on abortion issues. And, Hobby Lobby shows that he's still some kind of conservative Catholic on contraception.

However, I am halfway confident that he'll maintain "balance tests" so that he never supports going back before Roe.

And, him being the swing vote on a "Stay" saying Planned Parenthood et al can keep their clinics open pending SCOTUS hearing the case on Texas' abortion law may be a "tell" on what might be a bright line for him.

June 25, 2015

My totally unbiased rating of GOP Prez candidates' odds

The New York Times reports 13 officially declared and 3 likely Republican presidential candidates. Ignoring John Kasich among the not officials, who hasn't even made AA ball buzz, let's look at the other 15 and their odds for the GOP nomination.

Jeb Bush: About as likely as another Jeb, Jeb Stuart, surviving the Civil War.

Ted Cruz: About as likely as him stopping being Ted Cruz.

Rand Paul: About as likely as his dad, or about as likely as him pulling that dead squirrel off the top of his head. Take your pick.

Marco Rubio: About as likely as him getting past the Marco Polo swimming pool game gags.

Ben Carson: About as likely as a black Republican calling out racism among white Republicans.

Carly Fiorina: About as likely as Hewlett-Packard making a hot-selling computer.

Mike Huckabee: His gay wedding to Josh Duggar or another Duggar Family Values member is more likely.

Rick Santorum: His gay wedding to Mike Huckabee is more likely.

Lindsey Graham: About as likely as him NOT getting butthurt jealous if that above marriage happened.

George Pataki: About as likely as Mario Cuomo running for president.

Rick Perry: About as likely as him successfully counting to three.

Donald Trump: About as likely as him exchanging his combover for Rand Paul's squirrel hair.

Bobby Jindal: About as likely as people not looking at him, thinking his name is "Jenga," then laughing.

Chris Christie: About as likely as me finding a fast lane on a New Jersey bridge. And ...

Scott Walker: About as likely as him NOT remaining the Koch brothers' officially unofficial candidate of choice.

Abbott sues Obama again, loses again — #Obamacare #bigotry #SCOTUS

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who as the state's attorney general, non-jokingly described his work day as waking up and suing Obama, has made a history of losing more such cases than he's won.

Add in another direct loss, and an indirect one.

The indirect loss was over the "state" language and funding of exchanges in Obamacare. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the original 5-4 majority in rejecting a suit by four Virginia wingnuts.

Texas was not part of this suit, but Abbott is perhaps even a bigger Obamacare hater than his predecessor, Rick Perry, so he still felt the need to release a statement:

“The Supreme Court abandoned the Constitution to resuscitate a failing healthcare law. Today’s action underscores why it is now more important than ever to ensure we elect a President who will repeal Obamacare and enact real healthcare reforms.”
So much for some pundits wishing that tea partier types would drop this charade.

And, Greg, you want real health care reform? So do I. It's called a national health system.

Other than the lies about O-care failing, let's move on to a case Abbott directly lost.

Because, it does involve bigotry.

It involved whether or not discriminatory intent had to be proven in order to sue over fair housing claims, specifically whether discrimination suits could be launched over disparate impacts.

The case started with the city of Dallas and its' essentially segregation-producing distribution of housing vouchers. Now, Dallas, and Texas big cities, are in general not alone in doing this.

When the Fifth Circuit ruled disparate impacts were grounds for suit and sent the case back to district court, then the state of Texas, led by then-AG Abbott, jumped in.

And today, lost in the Supreme Court, as Kennedy authored a 5-4 majority that was by no means a given. "Surprisingly," Abbott has no press release about this.

That said, Kennedy, as the author of the opinion, made clear that "disparate impacts" weren't unlimited, including requiring the naming of specific policies causing such impact. Kennedy in general seemed to be using his opinion to offer hints to local housing authorities and others to make a best effort to self-check, and get community feedback, before going too far down the road of awards of new housing vouchers or projects in the first place. More thoughts on the case here.

But, given that disparate impacts have been allowed elsewhere, this was the correct ruling. And, his knee-jerk opposition is why Abbott is Texas' chief money waster.

And yes, given the link I posted about the fair housing case, it is fair to accuse Abbott of bigotry on this, given previous federal court rulings elsewhere on disparate impact issues.

Don't wave your Latina/ Mexican-American wife in my face, either.

This is a big issue. It is a tool to make sure people getting public housing assistance aren't ... "redlined," whether that's conscious intent or not. In light of Ferguson and Baltimore, this may not have immediate impact, but in decades ahead, it may be another part of reducing racial tension in metropolitan areas.

The #LostCause, the #ConfederateFlag, and myth-making

Tony Horwitz, award-winning author of Confederates in the Attic, a great book, brings these threads all together.

Although it's not at the top of the piece, he blows to smithereens the idea that the Civil War was about states' rights. Sadly (but by no means unexpectedly), I have family members who still believe this.

I've referenced the CSA constitution, and Confederate state articles of secession, before. He goes beyond that to quote CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens' in his Cornerstone speech, between Lincoln's inauguration and Fort Sumter:
The evidence is overwhelming that Southern states seceded and fought to maintain slavery. Don’t believe me; believe the words of secessionists and Confederate leaders. Among the most often cited is Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens who in 1861 declared the Founders “fundamentally wrong” in judging all humans equal. “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—the subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.”

 I want to go a bit further than Horwitz’s quote, per Wiki’s further quote of the speech:
Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature's laws.
Of course, this is not true.

In his own day, “poor whites,” if not actually called “white trash” per a previous blog post of mine, were called that. Or “mudsills” of Stephens' own day, a term applied to the likes of Andrew Johnson, who was just as racist as Alexander Stephens.

Horwitz next agrees with me that the likes of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and senior Senator and Presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, aka Huckleberry J. Butchmeup, are engaged in head fakes, messaging control, and ultimately, downright turd-polishing:
I’m not very optimistic that the debate over South Carolina’s flag will bring a deeper reckoning. Furling the statehouse flag may bring temporary relief to South Carolinians, but what we truly need to bury is the gauzy fiction that the antebellum South was in any way benign, or that slavery and white supremacy weren’t the cornerstone of the Confederacy. Only then, perhaps, will we be able to say that the murdered in Charleston didn’t die in vain, and that the Lost Cause, at last, is well and truly lost.
He’s right. If we can’t stop them from polishing turds, we can at least make sure that true scratch-and-sniff smells start emanating from those turds during their polishing.

From there, he gets to the last bastion of the Lost Cause, which is important since the Confederate (battle) flag at the South Carolina Capitol actually flies over a war memorial.

And, that’s the issue of “valor.”

Horwitz notes:
Most flag defenders, however, are sincere when they say they cherish the banner as a symbol of their ancestors’ valor. About 20 percent of white Southern males of military age died in the Civil War. In South Carolina the toll was even higher, and thousands more were left maimed, their farms and homes in ruins. For many descendants of Southern soldiers, the rebel flag recalls that sacrifice, and taking it down dishonors those who fought under the banner. No one wants to be asked to spit on their ancestors’ graves.
I don’t doubt their sincerity. Nor am I asking them to spit on their ancestors’ graves.

However, and to put it directly, with a blunt analogy?

Many Germans in the 1950s probably said the same about their dads and older brothers, not just the ones in the Wehrmacht, but those in the Waffen SS, too.

So, I’m not asking you to spit on your ancestors’ graves. I am asking you to be realistic about just what great-great-grandpa Clem fought for.

And, it wasn’t “states’ rights.”

As for the winning the war, but losing the narrative?

It didn't help that America was led by the worst president in its history from 1865-69. Sorry, modern Democrats, or other liberals, but Shrub Bush is not the bottom No. 1; he's not even in the bottom five in my ranking. Old Buck, James Buchanan, is the only real competitor to Andy Johnson. It didn't help much more that Johnson was followed by Useless Grant, along with his "let us have peace" campaign theme, who looked like a good Reconstruction president only by the light of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

But, part of this narrative could have been fixed, at least under Grant, per a bon mot I've uttered before.

If we had had 200,000 Bluecoats in the South for a generation, rather than 20,000 for a decade, Reconstruction might have been different. It couldn't have been a lot worse, could it?

(If you're looking for books on Reconstruction, Eric Foner's volume by that name is your starting point.)

June 24, 2015

#Slavery, the #ConfederateFlag, and symbols of racism

The severe whipping at left is, of course, a symbol of racism. So, too, is the whip at right, used to inflict wounds on the slave pictured at left.

Why pretend otherwise?

This was the reality of race-based slavery in the U.S. and elsewhere in the New World for centuries.



The iron mask and collar, at left, was also an image of slavery. It's an image of control, of a master's power over even a slave's voice.

And, if, per the above picture, a whip was not deemed sufficient to control slaves, something almost medieval, like this adaptation of a cotton screw press, was another instrument of punishment, and an image and symbol of slavery.

But there are more.

I suggest going to this page of images from the University of Virginia for more "enlightenment" on images related to slavery. Since U.S. slavery was race-based, and from there went on to a belief in the mental inferiority of an invented "race" called black, these are all also symbols of racism.
But, they're not the only ones.

This, too, is a symbol of slavery — the original Confederate battle flag at left. And, it didn't really appear out of nowhere — note its broad similarity to South Carolina's flag of secession, at right, and the rectangular version was proposed as a CSA flag.

The "St. Andrews Cross" or battle flag has 13 stars, for the 11 seceding states plus the attempts in Missouri and Kentucky; South Carolina's 15 are for all 1861 slave states.

This shows, first, that the Confederate battle flag, while created for battlefield visibility, and for more distinction from "Old Glory" than the original Confederate governmental flag, the "Stars and Bars," that it was already being adapted to politics early on. And, when it was decided to move on from the Stars and Bars, for a more Confederate-looking flag?

This, "The Stainless Banner," incorporating the battle flag, became a symbol of racism on May 1, 1863. It was followed by "The Blood-Stained Banner" on March 4, 1865.  (The Stainless Banner is an all-white union, if  it's hard to tell.)

Given that the constitution of the CSA, as well as documents of secession of several Confederate states (including Texas), explicitly mention slavery as a prime reason for secession, there you are.

And, that is seemingly that, is it not?

Well, if you're the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, there were other symbols of racism. Ditto if you're a critic of some Supreme Court cases, like Plessy v. Ferguson. Or, of certain presidents, like Woodrow Wilson.

One of those images of racism, at least for some, whether today or in the past, is at left. The other, whose text begins with "We The People," and then called people enslaved by race "three fifths of all other persons" for census and apportionment purposes, nothing more, and most of the First Peoples as "Indians not otherwise taxed" and excluded from citizenship, is at right.

Indeed, Garrison called that symbol at right "a covenant with death" and "an agreement with hell." While hyperbolic, he's at least partially right, and it's not just the constitution itself. As Lincoln knew, and as this book and others document, the North had its own share of racism, and its own share of profit off Southern slavery.

None of this is to "excuse" the Confederate flag, in any of its forms. Or the racism behind it.

It is, though, to invite us to reflect on Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, and his growth in recognizing that black people were people, even as he still had room to grow before his assassination.

Namely, this, reflecting on his version of "Divine Providence" affecting both sides in the Civil War. One need not be a theist to accept the broad outlines in this.
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? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.
Just as Booker T. Washington called his autobiography "Up from Slavery," an "autobiography" of the US must be the same.

Speaking of such issues, whether Lincoln would have done THAT much better than Andrew Johnson on Reconstruction, I don't know. I do know it would have been impossible for him to do worse.

"White trash," the #ConfederateFlag, and Southern culture and Southern heritage

A 10-15 second snippet from a segment on NPR's Morning Edition today, about the Confederate flag and Charleston, is the starting point here.

Actually, connotatively, it kind of is the CSA flag.
Officially, it became the canton of the actual CSA flag
that replaced the Stars and Bars in 1863, so, IMO,
this meme attempt isn't totally right either.
Connotatively again, it then became seen as "the flag"
of the Confederacy because of the racists behind the
rise of the Second Klan in the 1920s.
Plus, again connotatively, this meme attempt is itself
often used as an attempt to stifle larger questions
about "Southern culture," etc. with an "ignoramus" label.
A white kid, a college student at Catawba College says (not quite direct quote, but pretty close), says, about the Rebel (battle) flag: "No, it's not a symbol of racism for me, but the white trash made it that." (The "white trash" is actual words.)

The multiple layers of smug. The multiple layers of stratification in his comment.

And, as part of that, not a denial that he might be racist; just an attempt to put the flag of rebellion in a circumscribed box and attach it to other people.

Don’t be surprised to see if this gains traction in days ahead.

Don't be surprised if the South Carolina Legislature spins and frames its actions similarly, as part of what I already see as head fakefirst, in-depth action a distant second. Definitely don’t be surprised if that’s the next way Dylann Roof’s actions get spun by some, if the “attack on Christianity” and “mentally ill” angles don’t take hold.

That said, any “organized” attempt to go this route would definitely be playing with fire, wouldn’t it? Many tea party types, whether they are or are not what Southern “betters” would call “white trash,” probably identify in some way as such. After all, that’s part of how the Confederate flag spread beyond the old South in the 1950s.

As for the college student? There’s a grain of truth to his saying, that goes back before the Civil War. It certainly covers the likes of President Andrew Johnson, with his mix of a high degree of racism plus a hatred of “betters” that led to the disasters of Reconstruction. (Johnson made rich planters and Confederate officers grovel to him for pardons. Once the groveling satisfied his ego, he granted just about every pardon request he got while remaining as racist as ever.)

And, it seems to have been some part of Southern societal structure in general, with the “betters” letting everyday white people deal with more of the small, everyday confrontations with Southern blacks and the friction related to that. In return, it offered these everyday white people someone to kick whenever they felt down — and kick they often did, sometimes fatally during the peak of the civil rights movement.

(None of this is to say that all Southern whites of today participate in such cultural stratification, or course. Nor is it to say that there is no such stratification outside of the South.)

The “betters” got the smug satisfaction of remaining above the fray, of kicking poor whites, and of keeping Southern culture stratified.

Sociologists and economists want to blame a number of factors for the South’s poor post-Reconstruction economic development, which basically carried on its relatively poor pre-Reconstruction economic development. Unfortunately, I don’t think they look enough to this continuing social stratification.

I actually read a book on this issue, several years ago. It was not just about Southern cultural stratification, but it was about how, in general, especially in similar systems with definite stratification, groups low on the totem pole can be "encouraged" to kick groups even further down, as an attempt to reduce anxiety and anger, even though the result may often be to increase anxiety, unwarranted anger and other psychological issues.


And, it is continuing. Note how casually the college kid spoke about “white trash.” Note that that too is part of "Southern culture" and "Southern heritage" that the Rebel flag supposedly is so much about.

Finally, he didn't get that "white trash" idea from nowhere. Behind Mr. Catawba College are parents and a peer group with the same mindset, most likely. And, for illustrative juxtaposition, Catawba is a private, and religious, college. No, not Baptist — it's "loosely affiliated" with the United Church of Christ, theologically liberal enough to be quasi-Unitarian.

But, the NCAA has already given it a noogie for use of the generic "Indians" mascot.

It is theoretically the type of place that would attract Southern Protestant "betters" too freethinking to go to an Episcopalian or liberal Methodist school.

Final note, especially for my humanist friends: Here is a good guide on how to talk about racial issues.

June 23, 2015

Today the #ConfederateFlag, tomorrow the #Redskins

I still disagree, just as I did a week ago, with the Supreme Court's ruling that the state of Texas could stop making Sons of Confederate Veterans vanity plates. It's not "government speech," it is free speech and the government picking "winners and losers.

And, I also don't believe that two wrongs make a right.

That said, I do believe in silver linings. (And, I do believe in getting rid of the Confederate flag from most government spaces, and for real reasons, not Republicans trying to massage the worse out of symbolism.)

And, here's one.

A federal district court looks like it could cite that case as part of its hearing on the latest attempt to strip the Washington Hymies* of its "redskin" trademarks.

* Note — I do not normally use racial language. But, precisely because Redskins owner Dan Snyder is Jewish, I deliberately use it in referring to the team under his ownership until he accepts modern non-racist reality.

Dear PGA, golf writers, Spieth and McIlroy, yes, we have a rivalry

Jordan Spieth (corrected throughout), after winning the Masters, downplayed the idea that he was in Rory McIlroy's league.

Rory, the week before the just-passed U.S. Open, did a LeBron James and claimed to be the best in golf.

Well, Rory couldn't putt well and LeBron James couldn't carry a team forced to start Matthew Dellavedova and others.

That said, let's start with some 21st century golf history.

Since the turn of the calendar, five people have won back-to-back majors. Tiger Woods has done it multiple times, most recently at the 2006 Open and PGA. Phil did it before him once, with the 2005 PGA and 2006 Masters.

We've had three others, all since Tiger's last major.

The first is Padraig Harrington, with the 2008 Open and PGA.

And, in the last year, we've had the last four majors won with two back-to-backs.

And, both McIlroy and Spieth are, at a minimum, better than Harrington and at least as good as Philly Mick. Both of them.

We have a rivalry,  And, yes, per this Irish Times piece, it's what we've been waiting for. And, Spieth is still downplaying it somewhat, but not as much as two months ago. Whether it's true humility, a psychological control mechanism for himself, a bit of anti-Rory or a combo of all of the above and more, I don't know. But, Jordan? You're part of a rivalry now.

Further proof of that? Spieth has closed McIlroy's once-massive gap in the Overall World Golf Rankings to less than two points.

Everybody's been wondering if Rory is the next Tiger or Jack. What if, instead, he's the next Arnie, aka a step up from Phil, and Speith is the next Tiger or Jack? After all, after two early U.S. Open wins, a lot of people thought Ernie Els was the next wunderkind, and Tiger then blew his doors off.

Back to the current rivalry, and Rory's comments a week ago.

Golf is an individual, not a team sport. Rory's not lugging around Delly, the highly inconsistent J.R. Smith, or the players formerly known as Mike Miller and Shawn Marion. He's in this solo.

Sure, Rory's arguably got the best swing in the game today. But, maybe he's not as much a "grinder" as Spieth. Or he may let putting go by the wayside at times. In any case, maybe he needs the focus a real rivalry brings. And, maybe, per the last part of that last link, Jordan will have his own struggles in dealing with a new level of fame. Time's going to tell soon enough.

Spieth is already starting to enter the higher stratosphere, getting some free swag from Lions wideout Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, after a shout-out to him. (And giving a shout-out to Stephen Curry.)

Finally, Spieth has Michael Greller. Rory doesn't.

It's arguable that Steve Williams helped Tiger indeed on winning a couple of his closer majors. The same may be true now.

Obama on #SCOTUS? Not in my liberal dream world

Reaching an even stupider level of stupid and knee-jerk than normal, this meme from Occupy Democrats is now making the rounds.

Lemme see:

1. This is the guy who has expanded Bush's unconstitutional spying on Americans;

2. This is the guy who has assassinated American citizens with drones;

3. This is the guy who has refused to prosecute the unconstitutional war crimes of his predecessor.

I'd want him to be on the Supreme Court why, in light of all of this?

That's ignoring his penchant for Big National Security Government in general, prosecuting whistleblowers, secrecy on trade issues, and more. And I haven't even yet mentioned Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, James Risen or others. Nor the fact that, until today, he wanted to prosecute families who pay ransom to Middle Eastern kidnappers.

Occupy Democrats is in general not quite as bad as Democratic  Underground on stuff like this, but I think it's been getting worse recently. Not just worst than its previous self, but worse than DU.

The next Democratic, or Green, president, should repudiate much of what Obama did, find some balls or ovaries, and start prosecution cases on Bush and Cheney, and even cast eyeballs at Obama on that.

What makes this funnier yet is Democrats-only, Democrats-right-or-wrong presidential voters who, as part of scare tactics against third-party voting, will regularly talk about "Supreme Court nominees" as a shibboleth.

If I gave you the same of some Republican with those three strikes listed above, you'd reject him without a second glance. Even if I told you, "but he supports Obamacare and reproductive choice," you'd say, "can't we get somebody better?"

June 22, 2015

The #Confederate flag and the Dept. of Amazing S.C. coincidences

Nikki Haley,
breeze-swaying hypocrite
OK, so South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is calling for the Confederate flag at the state Capitol to come down. Sounds nice, no?

No, not totally. Per this.

UPDATE, June 23: A special caveat. Haley clearly just wants to hide symbols from what she claims is the wrong interpretation, saying that Dylann Roof had "a sick and twisted view of the flag." Actually, while it may seem to be that, since the flag stood for slavery, not states' rights, and slavery based on skin color, while it's a sick view, it's not that twisted at all, actually. It's "logical," if one is honest about the flag's full history.

A takeout from this must-read by Ta-Nehisi Coates, at that link just above:

Nikki Haley deserves credit for calling for the removal of the Confederate flag. She deserves criticism for couching that removal as matter of manners. At the present moment the effort to remove the flag is being cast as matter of politesse, a matter over which reasonable people may disagree.
Bingo. This is all about new massaging of symbols, not facing the reality behind them.

That said? Even to do new massaging of a hateful old symbol won't be so easy.

A few caveats.

One, it will take state legislative action for that to happen.

Two, it will take a 2/3 vote of each house of the South Carolina Legislature to put it the agenda of a recently-called special session.

Three, if that doesn't happen, Gov. Haley will have to call for another special session.

Tim Scott,
self-hating hypocrite?
Chris Tomlinson thinks that a "woman of color" could make no other call, noting that Haley is Indian-American. Really, Chris? South Carolina's junior Senator, Tim Scott, is black, and until three hours ago, he hadn't called for the flag to come down, either. He's now done so, though he has yet to rebuke Republican presidential candidates who have denied that racism motivated Dylann Roof to murder nine people at a Charleston church a week ago.

Lindsey Graham,
frothy hypocrite
Meanwhile, the senior senator from the Palmolive State, Lindsay Graham, who is also known around these quarters as Huckleberry J. Butchmeup and just happens to be running for president, has also now called for the flag to come down, which puts us in the Department of Amazing Coincidences.

I don't know if M. N. O'Butch asked for a move in this direction to help his campaign, or something else is at work. Until three hours ago, Scott and Haley had largely been silent, and three days ago, Huckleberry was saying this is "part of who we are." That said, if CNN is right that he was "quietly" calling for it to come down three days ago, while publicly still playing Dixie on his dogwhistle, he's quickly reached a high level of douchery.

He's got the most capital to lose, relatively speaking, running for prez and needing to not appear totally wingnut, even as other presidential candidates for the GOP appeared chickenshit about the flag. And, as senior senator, and South Carolina's GOP kingpin, he's also got the most weight to throw around. Add in that the man seen by many as the Koch Brothers' anointee, Scott Walker, called Dylann Roof's actions motivated by racism already on Friday, and the candidates that have played the "not racism" card are scrambling. That said, Walker, like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum, took past campaign money from Earl Holt's Council of Conservative Citizens. (Oh, there's a bunch of people on that list; feel free to give a few a Tweet.)

Back to Gov. Haley.

Given all I said, don't call me and don't wake me up until the flag is gone. Don't even think of calling me until it's on the agenda of an actual special session.

Oh, and beware of head fakes.

It's not totally true that the St. Andrew's Cross, was not the official flag of the Confederacy. Yes, originally, it was just a battle flag and the the "Stars and Bars" was the official CSA flag.

BUT, after May 1, 1863, the Rebel war flag was made the "canton" of the official CSA flag. Don't let anybody head-fake you on saying the Rebel war flag was not "really" a part of the Confederacy. This, too, is part of the full history.

This, in turn, is part of a larger claim that most people "don't really know what the flag is about." That, in turn, is usually accompanied by the claims that the Civil War wasn't "really" about slavery, and I've already crushed that one.

On Dylann Roof? Maybe "white trash" will be the next attempt to explain him away.

Oh, and speaking of "cantons," the Mississippi state flag still uses the Rebel flag for ITS canton. Today, Columbia, tomorrow, Jackson!