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AMERICA–LIKE AFGHANISTAN–HAS ITS OWN TALIBAN: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, RELIGION, Social commentary on September 9, 2021 at 12:06 am

Bernardo Gui was the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s). 

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

Here’s how such an interrogation might go:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.”

Interrogator: You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

Accused Heretic: (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

Interrogator: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

Accused Heretic: I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

Interrogator: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

Accused Heretic: I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

Interrogator: I know your tricks….But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Accused Heretic: I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

Accused Heretic: (Briskly) I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

Accused Heretic: Ought I not to believe this?

Interrogator: I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

Accused Heretic: I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

Inquisitor: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

Accused Heretic: I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

Inquisitor: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

Accused Heretic: (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

Interrogator: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

Accused Heretic: And you, sir, do you not believe it?

Interrogator: I believe it wholly.

Accused Heretic: I believe likewise.

Men like Bernard Gui—and Franklin Graham—do not seek a golden future. They crave to return to a “golden” past—which includes the power Christians once held to forcibly impose their religious beliefs on others.

Among those slated for forced conversions by the Religious Right:

  • Atheists
  • Jews
  • Women
  • Homosexuals
  • Lesbians
  • Non-Christians
  • Liberals

To gain absolute secular power over the lives of their fellow Americans, the Religious Right will support any candidate, no matter how morally despicable. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, evangelicals—and their leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.—fervently supported Donald Trump, despite:

  • His being twice divorced;
  • His multiple affairs (including one with porn star Stormy Daniels);
  • His documented ties to Russian oligarchs and Mafia chieftains;
  • His viciousness, greed, lying and egomania.

Related image

Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at Liberty University

And they continue to fervently support him.

They expect Trump to sponsor legislation that will—-by force of law—make their brand of Christianity supreme above all other religions. 

Legislation such as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This was signed into law on March 26, 2015, by Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana.

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to violate their religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons now has the legal right to refuse to do so.

And a hospital can legally turn away a gay patient if it wants to.

Islamic countries are notorious for their persecution of non-Muslims. Now the Religious Right wants to impose its own version of sharia law on American citizens.

AMERICA–LIKE AFGHANISTAN–HAS ITS OWN TALIBAN: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, RELIGION, Social commentary on September 8, 2021 at 12:06 am

American Right-wing elements relentlessly claimed that President Barack Obama was waging “a war on religion.”

GOP candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney intended to make this a major theme of their respective campaigns for President.

Obama supported a woman’s right

  • to obtain abortion—including in cases of rape and incest;
  • to obtain birth control; and
  • to obtain amniocentesis (pre-natal testing).

By promoting women’s rights, Obama was “waging a war against religion”—according to American fascists.”

Since access to such medical procedures as birth control and pre-natal testing has long been entirely legal, what’s all the fuss about?

It’s simple: The Right is not waging a “war for religious liberty.”

It’s waging a bitter struggle to establish a government that uses force or the threat of it to impose reactionary religious beliefs on religionists who do not share such religious beliefs.

And on atheists or agnostics, who share none at all.

These Rightists and their theocratic allies have less in common with Jesus Christ than with Tomas de Torquemada (1420 – 1498), the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

Christ never ordered the torture or death of anyone. Torquemada—claiming to act in “defense” of the Roman Catholic Church—presided over the deaths of at least 2,000 “heretics.”

Tomas de Torquemada

Nor did these unfortunate victims of religious fanaticism meet their death quickly or painlessly. They died by perhaps the cruelest means possible—by being burned alive at the stake.

Torquemada didn’t hesitate to pronounce someone a heretic. He “knew” who such people were. They were Jews, Muslims, atheists. They were “lapsed Catholics” who, in his view, failed to show fervent devotion to the religious authorities—like himself—who tyrannically ruled their lives.

For such people, Torquemada believed, the only road to salvation lay in being “cleansed” of their sins. And nothing burns away impurities like fire.

But before the fire-stakes came the fire-mindset: The arrogance of “knowing” who qualified as “saved” and who would be forever “damned.”

Unless, of course, his or her soul had been “purified” by fire.

“Heretic” burned at the stake

Fundamentalist Christians can no longer sentence “heretics” to the stake.

But the mindset that ruled the Spanish Inquisition has not disappeared. It has been vividly displayed by no less a religious authority than Franklin Graham, son of America’s most famous preacher, Billy Graham.

Franklin Graham

Appearing on the MSNBC program, “Morning Joe,” on February 21, 2012, Graham was asked if he thought that Barack Obama, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney qualified as Christians.

On Obama: “Islam sees him as a son of Islam… I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

On Santorum: “I think so. His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it… I think he’s a man of faith.”

On Gingrich: “I think Newt Gingrich is a Christian, at least he told me he is.”

On Romney: “Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith. They believe in Jesus Christ. They have a lot of other things they believe in too, that we don’t accept, theologically.”

Thus, Graham pronounced as “saved” a notorious multiple-adulterer like Gingrich. He also gave a pass to Santorum, who married a woman who had lived “in sin” with an abortionist for six years.

But he unhesitatingly damned a longtime churchgoer like Obama or a devout Mormon like Romney (whose faith, most evangelicals like Graham believe, is actually a non-Christian cult).

Six years later, in 2018, Graham defended President Donald Trump, a notorious womanizer and multiple-adulterer, against charges that, in 2006, he had slept with porn star Stormy Daniels.  

“I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. He is not President Perfect.”

This differs greatly from his position on President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky: “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

It’s easy to imagine Graham transported to the French city of Toulouse in the 14th century. And to imagine him wearing the robes of Bernardo Gui, the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s).

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

In this, he offered a vivid example of how such an interrogation might go. The following is taken from that manual:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.” 

This is not a dialogue between equals. The Inquisitor literally holds the power of life or agonizing death over the man or woman he is interrogating.

AMERICA–LIKE AFGHANISTAN–HAS ITS OWN TALIBAN: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, RELIGION, Social commentary on September 7, 2021 at 5:07 pm

Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old columnist in Saudi Arabia, decided to celebrate the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in a truly unique way.

Hamza Kashgar

In early February, 2012, he posted on Twitter a series of mock conversations between himself and Muhammad:

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

“No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.”

The tweets sparked some 30,000 infuriated responses. Many Islamic clerics demanded that he face execution for blasphemy.

Kashgari posted an apology tweet: “I deleted my previous tweets because…I realized that they may have been offensive to the Prophet and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand.”

Soon afterward, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, then King of Saudi Arabia, ordered his arrest.

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud January 2007.jpg

Saudi King King Abdullah 

Kashgari fled to Malaysia, another majority-Muslim country. He was quickly arrested by police as he passed through Kuala Lumpur international airport. Three days later, he was deported to Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups feared that he would be executed for blasphemy, a capitol offense in Saudi Arabia.

After nearly two years in prison, Kashgari was freed on October 29, 2013. Kashgari used Twitter to inform his supporters of his release.

Outrageous? By Western standards, absolutely.

Clearly there is no tolerence in Saudi Arabia for the freedoms of thought and expression that Americans take for granted.

Meanwhile, Right-wing American ayatollahs are working overtime to create just that sort of society—where theocratic despotism rules the most intimate aspects of our lives.

One of these is the former GOP Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. In early January, 2012, he said that states should have the right to outlaw birth control without the interference of the Supreme Court.

Rick Santorum

In an interview with ABC News, Santorum said he opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling that made birth control legal:

“The state has a right to do that [ban contraception]. I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a Constitutional right. The state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have.

“That’s the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court—they are creating rights, and it should be left up to the people to decide.”

In the landmark 1965 decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law that made it a crime to sell contraceptives to married couples. The Constitution, ruled the Justices, protected a right to privacy.

Two years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Court extended Griswold by striking down a law banning the sale of contraceptives to unmarried couples.

Santorum has left no doubt as to where he stands on contraception. On October 19, 2011, he said:

“One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘“Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’

“It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also…procreative.

“That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act….And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure.”

“How things are supposed to be”—according to Right-wing fanatics like Santorum and the evangelicals who support them.

Like the Saudi religious religious zealots who demand the death of a “blasphemer,” they demand that their religious views should govern everyone. That means Jews, Catholics, Islamics, atheists and agnostics.

American Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists fervently agree on the following:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

The important difference—for Americans who value their freedom—is this:

The United States has a Supreme Court that can—and does—overturn laws that threaten civil liberties. Laws that GOP Presidential candidates clearly want to revive and force on those who don’t share their peculiar religious views.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The same holds true—in a democracy—for candidates who seek dictatorial power over their fellow citizens. Don’t give them your consent.

THE DANGERS OF EGOTISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 11, 2021 at 12:08 am

It’s commonplace to read about the role sex plays in motivating behavior. But the power of ego to determine history is often ignored.

Consider the role that ego played in igniting the American Civil War (1861 – 1865).

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, it wasn’t the cause of “states’ rights” that led 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1860-61. It was their demand for “respect,” which, in reality, translates into “e-g-o.”

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it. But this was something that the North was less and less willing to do. 

Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery—and slaveholders—as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed. And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country.

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

The British author, Anthony Trollope, explained to his readers: “It is no light thing to be told daily, by our fellow citizens…that you are guilty of the one damning sin that cannot be forgiven.

“All this [Southerners] could partly moderate, partly rebuke and partly bear as long as political power remained in their hands. But they have gradually felt that this was going, and were prepared to cut the rope and run as soon as it was gone.”

Only 10% of Southerners owned slaves. The other 90% of the population “had no dog in this fight,” as Southerners liked to say.

Yet they so admired and aspired to be like their “gentleman betters” that they threw in their lot with them.

There were some Southerners who could see what was coming—and vainly warned their fellow citizens against it.

One of these was Sam Houston, the man who had won Texas independence at the 1836 battle of San Jacinto and later served as that state’s governor.

Sam Houston

On April 19, 1860, addressing a crowd in Galveston, he said: “Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you.

“But I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states’ rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates.

“But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.”

Four years later, on April 9, 1865, Houston’s warning became history.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Huge sections of the South had been laid waste by Union troops and more than 258,000 Southerners had been killed.

And slavery, the mainstay of Southern plantation life, had been ended forever.

The South had paid an expensive price for its fixation on ego.

Even more proved at risk a century later, when President John F. Kennedy faced off with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.  

Portrait of President Kennedy smiling

John F. Kennedy

That August, faced with the embarrassment of East Berliners fleeing by the thousands into West Germany, the Soviet leader backed off from his threat.In its place, he erected the infamous Berlin Wall, sealing off East and West Berlin.

Khrushchev pressed his advantage, threatening Kennedy with nuclear war unless the Americans abandoned their protection of West Berlin.

In April, Kennedy had been humiliated at the Bay of Pigs when a CIA-sponsored invasion failed to overthrow the Cuba’s Fidel Castro. So he was already on the defensive when he and Khrushchev met in Vienna.

Kennedy’s reaction: “That son of a bitch won’t pay any attention to words. He has to see you move.”

Then, most ominously: “If Khrushchev wants to rub my nose in the dirt, it’s all over.”

In short: Kennedy was prepared to incinerate the planet if he felt his almighty ego was about to get smacked.

Nuclear missile in silo

What has proved true for states and nations proves equally true for those leading every other type of institution.

Although most people like to believe they are guided by rationality and morality, all-too-often, what truly decides the course of events is their ego.

For pre-Civil War Southerners, it meant demanding that “Yankees” show respect for slave-owning society.  Otherwise, they would leave the Union.

For Kennedy, it meant playing a game of “chicken,” backed up with nuclear missiles, to show Khrushchev who Numero Uno really was. And during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October, 1962, humankind almost disappeared as Kennedy set out to make Khrushchev “blink.”

It is well to keep these lessons from history in mind when making our own major decisions.

THE IDEAL REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Humor, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 4, 2021 at 12:05 am

Many Republican strategists fear that, with the defeat of Donald Trump by Joe Biden in 2020, Democrats now have a lock on the White House for 2024.

And the base of the Republican Party continues to demand candidates who are increasingly Fascistic.

The top officials of the Republican Party have decided that science holds the answer: They will use cloning to create the perfect, unbeatable Presidential candidate.

They have directed scientists from the National Institute of Health to resurrect—via DNA samples—several past, hugely popular Republican leaders.

The first of these is Abraham Lincoln: Destroyer of slavery and defender of the Union.

The scientists then introduce him to a sample of Republican voters to gauge his current popularity.

The test audience erupts—but not in the way party officials expect.

“Race-mixer!”

“He’s the reason we have all these damn civil rights laws.”

“He invaded the South—and destroyed states’ rights!”

To head off a riot, the scientists rush the startled Lincoln-clone off the stage.

Then they introduce their next resurrected candidate: Theodore Roosevelt, the trust-busting conservationist. 

Again, the test-audience erupts:

“Tree-hugger!  Tree-hugger!”

“He’s the guy who broke up the big corporations—lousy Socialist!”

Startled Republican officials hustle the Roosevelt-clone out of the building.

Finally, they bring out their third choice for victory: A cloned Ronald Reagan.

For the test audience, this is simply too much:

“Not him!  He legalized abortion in California when he was Governor!”

“He let all those damn Mexicans come into California! We need someone who kicks them out!”

Desperate, Republican leaders go into a huddle.

“What are we going to do?” asks one. “Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan were our most popular Presidents.”

“Yeah, but that was in the past, before Donald Trump showed us the way,” says another. “We need a candidate who speaks to our base today.”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea. But there’s just one catch. The guy I have in mind wasn’t actually born in the United States.”

“So what?”

“That would violate the Constitution.”

“Screw the Constitution. You know what Donald Trump always said: Why spoil the beauty of the thing with legality?”

So the Republicans again order the scientists to return to work one last time.

When the last resurrected candidate is presented to the test-audience, the crowd rises as one, shouting: “That’s him!  That’s him!”

“The one we’ve been waiting for!”

“The one who really speaks for us!”

“He’s totally anti-abortion—and he hates uppity women!” 

“He makes even Trump look like a pussy!”

“Yeah—he hates Socialists, gays and nonwhites, and he really believes in a strong military!” 

Then the audience suddenly hushes as their cloned savior raises his hand for silence.

“All right, all right, I vill do it,” says the clone-candidate. “But the last time I led people to greatness, they proved unworthy of me.

“So I vill do it again—but only on von condition!”

“Yes, yes!” screams the test-audience.  “Anything you want!  What is it?”

“Ziss time….”

….no more Mister Nice Guy!”

MEXICO: A PAST VICTIM–AND NOW AN EXPORTER–OF UNCHECKED IMMIGRATION

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 9, 2021 at 12:04 am

On May 8, 2018, one year after Donald Trump became President, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that a “zero-tolerance” policy toward people illegally entering the United States might separate families while parents are prosecuted. 

“We don’t want to separate families, but we don’t want families to come to the border illegally and attempt to enter into this country improperly,” Sessions said. “The parents are subject to prosecution while children may not be. So, if we do our duty and prosecute those cases, then children inevitably for a period of time might be in different conditions.” 

Actually, the policy of family separations began a year before its public announcement.

Children who are separated from their parents would be put under supervision of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, Sessions said.

Jeff Sessions, official portrait.jpg

Jeff Sessions

Thomas Homan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director, backed up Sessions’ “get tough” policy change: “Every law enforcement agency in this country separates parents from children when they’re arrested for a crime. There is no new policy. This has always been the policy.”

So that policy went into effect. And it has generated widespread outrage from:

  1. Civil liberties organizations; and
  2. Those who believe the United States should not have—or enforce—its immigration laws.

“Criminalizing and stigmatizing parents who are only trying to keep their children from harm and give them a safe upbringing will cause untold damage to thousands of traumatized families who have already given up everything to flee terrible circumstances in their home countries,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director.

In fact, alien-smugglers have increasingly used children as a wedge against American immigration laws. Their strategy: “Surely, Americans won’t arrest innocent children—or the adults who bring children with them.

The Trump administration proved them wrong.

This is typical behavior for law enforcement agencies: When criminals devise new ways to defeat existing police measures, the police devise new ways to counter those methods.

Meanwhile, those who believe the United States should throw open its doors to everyone who wants to enter are missing—or ignoring—a vital historical lesson learned by Mexico.

Mexico knows even better than the United States the perils of unchecked illegal immigration. 

In 1821, Moses Austin sought a grant from Mexico to settle Texas. After he died in 1821, his son, Stephen, won recognition of the grant by Mexico.

The Mexican government had been unable to persuade large numbers of its own citizens to move to Texas, owing largely to raiding by such fierce Indian tribes as the Comanches.

The government saw the Anglo settlement of Texas as its best hope to tame an otherwise untamable frontier.

Stephen f austin.jpg

Stephen Austin

Austin convinced numerous American settlers to move to Texas, and by 1825 he had brought the first 300 American families into the territory.

Throughout the 1820s, Austin helped ensure the introduction of slavery into Texas, even though, under Mexican law, this was illegal. Tensions developed between unchecked numbers of Anglo settlers flooding into Texas and the Mexican authorities in charge there.

(“GTT”—“Gone to Texas”—was often carved on cabin doors by debt-ridden settlers who decided to seek their fortune in Texas. And some of the most notorious criminals on the frontier—such as land swindler and knife-fighter James Bowie—joined them.)

Three-quarter portrait of a young clean-shaven man with long sideburns and a widow's peak hairline. His arms are crossed.

James Bowie

Eventually, the irresistible force of unlimited Anglo illegal immigration rebelled against the immovable object of Mexican legal/military authority.

The result:

  • The battle of the Alamo: From February 23 to March 6, 1836, about 200 rebellious Texans withstood a 13-day siege in a former San Antonio mission, only to be slaughtered to the last man by an army of 2,000 Mexican soldiers commanded by President (actually, dictator) Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Among the victims: James Bowie and former Congressman David Crockett.  
  • The massacre at Goliad:  On March 27, 1836, 425-445 Texans captured after the battle of Coleto were shot en masse by Mexican soldiers.
  • The battle of San Jacinto:  On April 21, 1836, Texans led by General Sam Houston won a surprise Texas victory over Mexican forces who were caught in a mid-afternoon siesta. Santa Anna—who had fled—was captured the next day. 

Mexico was forced to give up all rights to Texas—which, 10 years after winning its independence, became a state.

But ongoing conflicts between Mexico and the United States over Texas led to the Mexican war in 1846.

This, in turn, led to a series of devastating American victories over the Mexican army, and the capture of Mexico City itself.

Territory (in white) that Mexico lost after the Mexican War

Mexico suffered the humiliation of both military defeat and the loss of its land holdings within the American Southwest—which, up to 1848, it had controlled.

This territory later became the states of California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and western Colorado. 

And the United States finally spread “from sea to shining sea.”

So Mexico knows what it’s doing when it unloads millions of its own citizens—and those of other Latin and Central American countries—on the United States.

Mexico, in short, is a textbook case of what happens to a country that is unable to enforce its own immigration laws.

MORE LESSONS FROM “LINCOLN”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 25, 2021 at 12:05 am

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln serves up a timely reminder that has long been obscured by past and current Southern lies that the Civil War was not about slavery.

From first to last, the cause of the Civil War was slavery. 

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, arguments over “states’ rights” or economic conflict between North and South didn’t lead 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1860-61. It was their demand for “respect” of their “peculiar institution”—i.e., slavery.

Lincoln (2012)

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

“It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it. But this was something that the North was increasingly unwilling to do.”

Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln as President in 1860. Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery—and slaveholders—as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed. And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country.

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

The Destructive War by Charles Royster: 9780679738787 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

The British author, Anthony Trollope, explained to his readers:

“It is no light thing to be told daily, by our fellow citizens…that you are guilty of the one damning sin that cannot be forgiven. All this [Southerners] could partly moderate, partly rebuke and partly bear as long as political power remained in their hands.”

It is to Spielberg’s credit that he forces his audience to look directly at the real cause of the bloodiest conflict on the North American continent.

At the heart of Spielberg’s film: Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to win ratification of what will be the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  An amendment that will forever ban slavery.

But, almost four years into the war, slavery still has powerful friends—-in both the North and South.

Many of those friends belong to the House of Representatives, which must ratify the amendment for it to become law. Some are hostile to Lincoln personally. One of them dubs him a dictator: “Abraham Africanus.” Another accuses him of shifting his positions for the sake of expediency.

Other members—white men all—are hostile to the idea of “equality between the races.

Supporter comment from Alijah Placide · Change.org

”To them, ending slavery means opening the door to interracial marriage—especially marriage between black men and white women. Perhaps even worse, it means possibly giving blacks—or women—the right to vote.

Members of Lincoln’s own Cabinet—such as Secretary of State William Seward—warn him: You can negotiate the end of the war immediately—if you’ll just let Southerners keep their slaves.

After the amendment wins ratification, Lincoln agrees to meet with a “peace delegation” from the Confederate States of America.

At the top of their list of concerns: If they persuade the seceded states to return to the Union, will those states be allowed to nullify the amendment?

No, says Lincoln. He’s willing to make peace with the South, and on highly generous terms. But not at the cost of allowing slavery to live on.

Too many men—North and South—have died in a conflict whose root cause is slavery. Those lives must count for more than simply reuniting the Union.

The South has lost thousands of men (260,000 is the generally accepted figure for its total casualties) and the war is clearly lost.  But for its die-hard leaders, parting with slavery is simply unthinkable.

Like Nazi Germany 80 years into the future, the high command of the South won’t surrender until their armies are too beaten down to fight any more.

The major difference between the defeated South of 1865 and the defeated Germany of 1945, is this: The South was allowed to build a beautiful myth of a glorious “Lost Cause,” epitomized by the Margaret Mitchell novel, Gone With the Wind.

Gone with the Wind Movie Poster Clark Gable Art Print Rare | Etsy

In that telling, dutiful slaves were well-treated by kindly masters. Southern aristocrats wore white suits and their slender-waisted ladies wore long dresses, carried parasols and said “fiddle-dee-dee” to young, handsome suitors.

One million people attended the premier of the movie version in Atlanta on December 15, 1939. The celebration featured stars from the film, receptions, thousands of Confederate flags, false antebellum fronts on stores and homes, and a costume ball.

In keeping with Southern racial tradition, Hattie McDaniel and the other black actors from the film were barred from attending the premiere.  Upon learning this, Clark Gable threatened to boycott the event. McDaniel convinced him to attend.

When today’s Southerners fly Confederate flags and speak of “preserving our traditions,” they are actually celebrating their long-banned “peculiar institution.”

By contrast, post-World War II Germany outlawed symbols from the Nazi-era, such as the swastika and the “Heil Hitler” salute, and made Holocaust denial punishable by imprisonment.

America has refused to confront its own shameful past so directly. But Americans can be grateful that Steven Spielberg has had the courage to serve up a long-overdue and much needed lesson in past–and still current–history.

LESSONS FROM “LINCOLN”–THE MOVIE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 22, 2021 at 12:10 am

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is more than a mesmerizing history lesson. It’s a timely reminder that racism and repression are not confined to any one period or political party.

At the heart of the film: Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to win ratification of what will be the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. An amendment that will forever ban slavery.  

True, Lincoln, in 1862, had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This—in theory—freed slaves held in the Confederate states that had seceded from the Union in 1861.  

But Lincoln regards this as a temporary wartime measure. He fears that once the war is over, the Supreme Court may rule the Proclamation unconstitutional. This might allow Southerners to continue practicing slavery, even after losing the war.

To prevent this, Congress must pass an anti-slavery amendment. But winning Congressional passage of such an amendment won’t be easy.

The Senate had ratified its passage in 1864. But the amendment must secure approval from the House of Representatives to become law.

And the House is filled with men—there are no women members during the 19th century—who seethe with hostility.

Some are hostile to Lincoln personally. One of them dubs him a dictator—“Abraham Africanus.” Another accuses him of shifting his positions for the sake of expediency.

Other members—white men all—are hostile to the idea of “equality between the races.” To them, ending slavery means opening the door to interracial marriage—especially marriage between black men and white women. 

Perhaps even worse, it means possibly giving blacks—or women—the the right to vote.

In fact, the possibility that blacks might win voting rights arises early in the movie.  Lincoln is speaking to a couple of black Union soldiers, and one of them is unafraid to voice his discontent. He’s upset that black soldiers are paid less than white ones—and that they’re led only by white officers.

He says that, in time, maybe this will change.  Maybe, in 100 years, he guesses, blacks will get the right to vote.

(To the shame of all Americans, that’s how long it will eventually take.  Not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will blacks be guaranteed legal protection against discriminatory voting practices.)

To understand the Congressional debate over the Thirteenth Amendment, it’s necessary to remember this: In Lincoln’s time, the Republicans were the party of progressives

The party was founded on an anti-slavery platform. Its members were thus reviled as “Black Republicans.” And until the 1960s, the South was solidly Democratic

Democrats were the ones defending the status quo—slavery—and opposing freed blacks in the South of Reconstruction and long afterward.

In short, in the 18th century, Democrats in the South acted as Republicans do now. The South went Republican only after a Democratic President—Lyndon B. Johnson—rammed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress.

Thus, the re-enactment of the 1865 debate in Lincoln casts an embarrassing light on the racial conflicts of our own time. The same mentalities are at work:

  • Those (in this case, slave-owners) who already have a great deal want to gain even more at the expense of others. 
  • Those (slaves and freed blacks) who have little strive to gain more or at least hang onto what they have. 
  • Those who defend the privileged wealthy refuse to allow their “social inferiors” to enjoy similar privileges (such as the right to vote). 

During the 2012 Presidential race, Republicans tried to bar those likely to vote for President Barack Obama from getting into the voting booth.  But their bogus “voter ID” restrictions were struck down in courts across the nation. 

Listening to those opposing the amendment, one is reminded of Mitt Romney’s infamous comments about the “47%”:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what….

“Who are dependent upon government, who believe that—that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.  But that’s—it’s an entitlement.  And the government should give it to them.” 

Put another way: “Who says people have a right to obtain medical care, food and housing? If they can’t inherit unearned wealth the way I did, screw them.” 

In the end, it’s Abraham Lincoln who has the final word—and leaves his nation the better for it. Through diplomacy and backroom dealings (trading political offices for votes) he wins passage of the anti-slavery amendment. 

The ownership of human chattel is finally an ugly memory of the American past. 

The movie closes with a historically-correct tribute to Lincoln’s generosity toward those who opposed him—in Congress and on the battlefield. It occurs during Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all….To bind up the nation’s wounds. To care for him who shall have bourne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan….”  

This ending presents a vivid philosophical contrast with the increasingly mean-spirited rhetoric and policies of today’s Republican Presidential candidates—and  Presidents.  

Watching Lincoln, you realize how incredibly lucky America was as a nation to have had such leadership when it was most urgently needed.

THE WHITE POOR: LOVING THOSE WHO DESPISE THEM: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2020 at 7:00 am

Republicans have long tried to prevent or eliminate programs that aid the poor and middle-class, including:

  • Social Security (since it began in 1935)
  • Medicare
  • National health insurance
  • Food stamps
  • WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

So why are so many poor Americans now flocking to this party’s banner?

Two reasons: Racism and greed. There are historical parallels for both.

First, race:

In 1999, historian Victor Davis Hanson noted the huge gap in wealth between the aristocratic, slave-owning minority of the pre-Civil War South and the vast majority of poor white Southerners.

Victor Davis Hanson (@VDHanson) | Twitter

Victor Davis Hanson

“Before the war in the counties [Union General William Tecumseh] Sherman would later ruin, the top 10% of the landowners controlled 40% of the assessed wealth.”

In contrast, “more than half of those who were lucky enough to own any property at all still possessed less than 15% of the area’s valuation.”

So Hanson asked: “Why did the millions of poor whites of the Confederacy fight at all?”

He supplied the answer in his brilliant work on military history, The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny.

Nonfiction Book Review: The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny by Victor Davis Hanson, Author Free Press $30 (496p) ISBN 978-0-684-84502-9

One of those liberators was General William Tecumseh Sherman, who led 62,000 Union troops in a victorious “March to the Sea” through the Confederacy in 1864.

So why did so many poor Southern whites literally lay down their lives for the wealthy planter class, which despised them?

According to Hanson: “Behind the entire social fabric of the South lay slavery.

“If slavery eroded the economic position of the poor free citizens, if slavery encouraged a society of haves and have-nots…then it alone offered one promise to the free white man–poor, ignorant and dispirited–that he was at least not black and not a slave.”

And the planter class and its allies in government easily fobbed off their poor white countrymen with cheap flattery. Said Georgia Governor Joseph Brown:

“Among us the poor white laborer is respected as an equal. His family is treated with kindness, consideration, and respect. He does not belong to the menial class. The negro is in no sense his equal. He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men.”

Related image

Arlington House and plantation, former home of Robert E. Lee

Similarly, poor whites now flock to the Republican Party–which holds them in equal contempt– in large part to protest the 2008 election of the first black President of the United States.

According to a Pew Research Center study released on July 22, 2011: “Notably, the GOP gains have occurred only among white voters; a 2-point Republican edge among whites in 2008 (46% to 44%) has widened to a 13-point lead today (52% to 39%).”

Since the 1960s, Republicans have pursued a campaign policy of “divide and rule”–divide the nation along racial lines and reap the benefits at election time.

  • Republicans opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Republicans opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • Republicans, with Richard Nixon as their Presidential candidate in 1968 and 1972, pursued what they called a “Southern strategy”: Use “code language” to stoke fear and hatred of blacks among whites.
  • Republicans have falsely identified welfare programs exclusively with non-whites. (Of the six million Americans receiving food stamps, about 42% are white, 32% are black, and 22% are Latino–with the growth fastest among whites during the recession.)

Thus, in voting Republican, many of these poor whites believe they are “striking a blow for the white race.”

And they can do so in a more socially acceptable way than joining a certified hate group such as the American Nazi Party or Ku Klux Klan.  

Since 2015, openly racist groups such as the Klan and the American Nazi Party have flocked to the banner of Presidential candidate Donald Trump. By enthusiastically courting their support, the real estate mogul has made it possible for Republican candidates to openly display their own racism.

Now greed:

In the hit play, 1776, on the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence, there is a telling exchange between John Dickinson and John Hancock. It comes during the song, “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men.”

Dickinson, the delegate from Pennsylvania, urges Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, “to join us in our minuet.” By “us” he means his fellow conservatives who fear losing their property and exalted status by supporting American independence from Great Britain.

John Dickinson

Hancock declines, saying: “Fortunately, there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy.”

To which Dickinson replies:  “Perhaps not. But don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.  And that is why they will follow us.”

Today,  poor whites generally identify with the CEOs of powerful corporations. They believe the Republican gospel that they can attain such wealth–if only the government will “get out of my way.”

They forget—or ignore—the truth that government, for all its imperfections, is sometimes all that stands between them and a wide range of predators.

In return, the CEOs despise them as the privileged have always despised their social and economic “inferiors.”

Unless the Democratic Party can find ways to directly address these bitter, Politically Incorrect truths, it will continue its decline into insignificance.

THE WHITE POOR: LOVING THOSE WHO DESPISE THEM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2020 at 12:35 am

On July 22, 2011, ABC News carried the following story:

The Pew Foundation, analyzing voter identification, found “the electorate’s partisan affiliations have shifted significantly” since Barack Obama won office in 2008.

The GOP had gained strength among white voters, most specifically “the young and poor.”

Whitehead Institute - News - 2011 - Whitehead Member Mary Gehring named a Pew Scholar

A seven-point Democratic advantage among whites under age 30 three years ago had turned into an 11-point GOP advantage. And a 15-point Democratic advantage among whites earning less than $30,000 annually had swung to a slim four-point Republican edge by 2011.

In addition:

  • The GOP gains had occurred only among white voters.
  • Republicans had made sizable gains among white voters since 2008. Fifty-two percent of white voters called themselves Republicans or leaned to the GOP, compared with 39% who affiliated with the Democratic Party or leaned Democratic.
  • Democrats had lost their edge among lower income white voters.
  • In 2008, Democrats had a 15 point lead among white voters with family incomes less than $30,000.  By 2011, Republicans had a four-point edge among this group.
  • The GOP’s lead among middle income white voters had grown since 2008, and Republicans held a substantial advantage with higher income white voters.
  • Republicans have made gains among whites with a high school education or less. The GOP’s advantage over Democrats had grown from one point in 2008 to 17 points in 2011 among less educated whites.
  • Republicans had made smaller gains among white voters who had college degrees.

Five years later, in 2016, these masses of disaffected white men would overwhelmingly vote for Donald Trump, a real estate mogul-turned-celebrity-TV-host of “The Apprentice.”

Trump had been born into a life of luxury. He began his real estate career at his father’s real estate and construction company. He rose to wealth and fame after his father, Fred, gave him control of the business in 1971.

Similarly, soon after acquiring the family business, Trump set out to build his own empire—hotels, golf courses, casinos and skyscrapers across North and South America, Europe and Asia. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them—52%—bear his last name. He often refers to his properties as “the swankiest,” “the most beautiful.” 

During the Vietnam war, his father reportedly paid a doctor to claim that Trump suffered from “bone spurs” in his foot—thus enabling him to escape the draft.

Donald Trump

In short, Trump has literally nothing in common with the masses of poor whites who worship him. 

Howard Stern, the notorious radio host, has known Trump many years. Commenting on the appeal Trump has for his followers, Stern says: “The oddity of all this is the people Trump despises most, love him the most.

“The people who are voting for Trump for the most part …he wouldn’t even let them in his fucking hotel. He’d be disgusted by them. Go to Mar-a-Lago. See if there’s any people who look like you. I’m talking to you in the audience.”

Yet, while the poor worship Trump and Republicans generally, there is a disconnect between them: Since 1980, Republicans have pursued a policy of gutting programs aimed at helping the poor—while repeatedly creating tax-breaks for the wealthiest 1% of the population.

For Republicans, the patron saint of this “love-the-rich-screw-the-poor” ideology remains Ronald Reagan–two-time governor of California and twice-elected President of the United States (1981-1989)

Ronald Reagan, who taught Americans to worship the wealthy

Among those charting Reagan’s legacy as President was former CBS Correspondent David Shoenbrum.

In his bestselling autobiography, America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan, he noted:

  • On January 28, 1981, keeping a pledge to his financial backers in the oil industry, Reagan abolished Federal controls on the price of oil.
  • Within a week, Exxon, Texaco and Shell raised gasoline prices and prices of home heating oil.
  • Reagan saw it as his duty to put a floor under prices, not a ceiling above them.
  • Reagan believed that when government helped business it wasn’t interfering. Loaning money to bail out a financially incompetent Chrysler was “supporting the free enterprise system.”
  • But putting a high-profits tax on price-gouging corporations or filing anti-trust suits against them was “Communistic” and therefore intolerable.
  • Tax-breaks for wealthy businesses meant helping America become stronger.
  • But welfare for the poor or the victims of a predatory marketplace economy weakened America by sapping its morale.

“In short, welfare for the rich is good for America. But welfare for the poor is bad for America, even for the poor themselves, for it encourages them to be shiftless and lazy.

“Somehow, loans to the inefficient management of American corporations would not similarly encourage them in their inefficient methods,” wrote Shoenbrun.

Republicans have sought to dismantle Social Security ever since that program began in 1935. And Republicans have furiously opposed other programs aiding the poor and middle-class—such as Medicare, food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, Children).

In short, this is not a political party with a history of rushing to the defense of those most in need.

So the question remains: Why are so many poor Americans flocking to its banner?

The answer lies in the history of the American South—and slavery.

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