Reparations for Everyone

reparationsTa-Nahesi Coates’ Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations” deals with repairing past wrongs by doing right now (HR 40). By discussing house discrimination in Chicago Coates demonstrates that far too many race issues have continued with both blindness and malice leading to an integrated balkanization of race and racial bigotry. It really doesn’t matter what you call it, bigotry, racism, prejudice, race issues today could be resolved by paying attention and providing support. Yet, no one in politics wants to deal with it.

But while the people advocating reparations have changed over time, the response from the country has remained virtually the same. “They have been taught to labor,” the Chicago Tribune editorialized in 1891. “They have been taught Christian civilization, and to speak the noble English language instead of some African gibberish. The account is square with the ex‑slaves.”

Not exactly. Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.

Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? But if the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution. For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for “appropriate remedies.”

I live on an antebellum house on a farm that had some 50 slaves at the time of the civil war. With a saw mill, grain mill nearby, and two roads intersecting the property over a creek ford. The farm would have looked like a small city. Now it’s idyllic pastures with a large house overlooking the creek, fields all around. The dam and mill long flooded away.

The slaves here were better educated than elsewhere I am told by their descendants and yet they were treated harshly–some descendants became lawyers, doctors, engineers, and others farmers, craftsmen, writers, activists. Family history has it that depending on the overseer slaves were treated better or worse. On the one hand a neighbor talks about how when the horses went lame the slaves “volunteered” to pull the equipment to get the field done on time. On the other hand descendants once stood on the back porch and told us how their name “Fox” came to be because a mother hid her children in the bushes to avoid having them taken away.

Jefferson said the best money to be made on a plantation was in breeding slaves. A slave sold for 5-10 years worth of paid labor. When we hear the dollar amounts in movies-books we forget just how little any labor was paid at the time.

The photo above is of two girls who lived here. I am not sure of their last name. We don’t know where they lived. We don’t know where the slave cemetery is. Almost nothing remains of their lives but what was most likely the overseer’s house, another house, and the Big House. I still stack wood in the same spot haunted by memories and ghosts of so many people who have come this way.

When the civil war began Lincoln promised to pay for the slaves taken from the farm; send a letter listing them. The letter and bill were sent but payment was never made. The letter is posted in an old mildewed room here–some family members still wait. Many southerners resent that many such promises had been made. It shows the disingenuousness of northerners to actually be concerned with the grave economic and cultural issues of the South. The North couldn’t physically whip the South but it could so severely economically devastate it that it has never recovered. No one gets out of here alive.

This was after all where families were divided and a brother might be trying to kill a brother in battle, both quoting the bible for support. John Brown was tried and hung near here. Harper’s Ferry is a short drive away. The farm changed sides some 70 times during the war. After the war the house was put up for tax sale like so many others. Past taxes were another means of punishing the South, providing land not for freed slaves but predatory white land grabbers. Belle paid the taxes. She paid again when the house burned and had to be rebuilt. The farm was saved at least three times by women who married into the family. The farm has never paid for itself since. I don’t think it ever paid for itself. It was such a grandiose vision of English aristocracy in the rough and tumble wild west (then) of the new world.

Talking to one of the descendants I expressed my discomfiture I often feel at living here (I married into the family). He said that it was important to never forget. That these relics serve as ongoing lessons of what war did, does, how it should never happen again, and how we must continue to build a better world. That our being here rather than abandoning the house to annual family reunions would allow people to visit and gain insight.

I can’t feel personally guilty about past actions of which I disapprove yet I can do everything possible to make the present and future better. I am embarrassed when Civil War buffs come with their blind enthusiasm for war devoid of the hurtful meaning to others. I am embarrassed when people of color come by and remove the portrait of Jeb Stuart from the wall.

Reparations are a problem for so many people. I worked with Native Americans for awhile and they deserve so much more, in spite of gambling profits with its accompanying corruption and inhumane service jobs. The Hispanic and Latinos of the Southeast, Southwest, and West, where California once tried to become independent and may again. Women and their too many hours of unpaid labor mocking the issue of complementarity. Abused children, females, males, and minority labor of the North and MidAtlantic states. Going even further the Native Americans who conquered each other such that land disputes still exist between tribes such as the Hopi and Navajo. Other minorities like LGBTQ and ethnics that have been occupationally disenfranchised since their being or arrival. Still. All still.

The answer to me is in restorative justice. Reparations for all. Vast efforts must be made to serve all of the disenfranchised, to enable them to do well, to rise above their history of oppression made real by current difficulties. Social justice issues are mocked as enabling entitlement yet the most entitlement is in the wealthy who built such vast amounts of capital they need never work again or their children, children’s children–they expect never be held accountable for how they gained their wealth. Economists may pick at data to show that capital gain is not so much greater than labor gain but it is never questioned that labor will always earn less, the fluidity between the two always low.

Coates raises important issues in an “enjoyable” yet difficult to read article. Let people gain from their reading the deep understanding of our fellow friends who still live their lives amuck because of the ruinous deeds of the past, still incapacitating all but a few who luckily escape in spite of contrary odds. That we can do so much more now, to mutual benefit, and because it is the moral thing to do.

Jim Newman, bright and well

ExMilitary, Governor, Business Executive Should Run for President

us militarismA PEW poll shows Americans would rather vote for a pot smoking philanderer than an atheist or so HP says.  I’m not surprised as we already did that and Bill Clinton is still as popular as ever.

While 35 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to support a presidential candidate who had an extramarital affair, 53 percent of Americans indicated that not believing in God — the trait viewed most negatively of the 16 tested — would make them unsupportive of a candidate.

Hillary Clinton is considered the most viable female candidate for president. Proving that between the Bushes and the Clintons Americans yearn for monarchies they claim to have dissed during our founding period. Maybe not?

A new national survey testing candidate traits finds that 30% would be less likely to support a candidate with “many years” of experience as an elected official in Washington, while 19% would be more likely to support such a candidate. About half (48%) say it would not matter if a candidate had long Washington experience.

By contrast, early in the 2008 presidential campaign, more than twice as many saw lengthy Washington experience as a positive than negative trait for a presidential candidate (35% more likely vs. 15% less likely).

The most positive attribute for presidency is military experience. I find this really scary. This issue alone is the most serious indicator of the dysfunctionality of the American people. Most Americans don’t want to change the world but conquer it?

The latest survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted April 23-27 among 1,501 adults, finds that military service continues to rank as the most valuable asset for a presidential candidate among 16 traits and characteristics tested. Overall, 43% say military experience would make them more likely to support a presidential candidate, while just 4% say it would make them less likely; 53% say it wouldn’t matter in their vote. Military service also was the top attribute for presidential candidates early in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

This fits perfectly with the love of business, governance, and religion. Create a theocracy, build wealth, rule the people, and conquer the world. That really does seem like America’s voting heartbeat now.

The results.

pew poll on presidencey

So, the ideal most populist president profile would be a 45 year old, hispanic, female, catholic, general, who had also been a business executive and attended a prestige university? There’s our person, go.

The survey is a little skimpy, rubbish, in parameters and scope. Still the military, governor, business crap scares the shit out of me but it’s to be expected.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Moderate Abrahamics Bluster but do Nothing

talk is cheapThe news is full of moderate Muslims and Christians, as well as backtracking radicals, deploring the assignment of harm by Boko Haram to Islam. “That’s not Islam. That’s not my Islam.”  That would be fine but what is Islam? They insist they know yet whenever any attribute is assigned to Islam some group somewhere says that’s not Islam. I’d really like to know what we’re talking about when we talk about Islam. Otherwise it’s just a ramshackle collection of sects and cults that just do as they please and call it Islam–Islam cannot even define itself other than banal and incoherent generalities meaning anything to anyone.

How many people, sects and countries, have to avow their abusive acts as religiously-based righteousness before moderates accept their religion is a problem, too easy to distort?

Catholicism isn’t much better as even the Vatican has said they have such loose control over their leaders and members they couldn’t have possibly done much better dealing with their flagrant sexual abuse issues, much less the many other abuses that no doubt occur, which we don’t even hear about since pedophilia is such sensational news and such caustic abuse. I mean laundering funds, pyramid schemes of donations, and just banal casual abuse typical from those having too much power. The new pope apologizes but also says he has no real power. How can he apologize unless he had some say in it? Just more hand wringing, pointless prayer, and verbal appeal.

These moderates of all abrahamic religious ilk and most others bluster but do little. They will send a few people, make a few threats, and go on with their own business. There’s no money in Nigeria, no one really cares. The  best thing that will come of it will be a good movie like the genocide in Rwanda inspired. Christian evangelicals will flock to Nigeria hoping to convert many sure that their religion is superior to Islam replacing outright abuse with hidden abuse as Christians are so want to do.

If the moderates deplore the extremists and fundamentalists so greatly why do they not control their members?

Seems like the point of a religion is to make people and the world better. From what I can see, what is evidenced, it allows renegades and petty dictators free reign under an umbrella of goodness and spiritual law. It has no means of policing itself. God or Allah certainly hasn’t shown up to help.

What will the moderate Islamics and Muslims do to stop the violence of their self-avowed members?

They can’t ostracize them as everyone must be a Muslim. Apostasy is worse than the worst infraction–death before apostasy. And leaving the group means there is no control whatsoever. They can’t seem to fight this as they fall all over themselves accommodating them thinking that tolerance of their abuse is righteous because peace is what they want and peace means ignoring violence but for exhortations. All of these religions need a new modern prophet, a new modern bible or koran, a new word of law that actually does good, is coherent. A canon of sacred text that isn’t so damned contradictory and vile that one can do anything and find literal and figurative support.

They have no interest in policing others because then they wold have to police themselves and that would be a criticism of Islam, other Muslims without authority–Christianity, the same. While the Hadith and local law are certainly used to allow near any deviation they are not used to stop near any deviation. The koran will be battered about in translation errors. The violence will continue. The moderates will pray and talk to the media  and like pissing into the wind it will only make them look more stupid and ineffectual.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Related articles.

Marijuana Legalization

Alcohol-vs-Marijuana-Does-Use-Contribute-To...I won’t repeat the many articles discussing how alcohol is worse than pot for the body or the temperament–yet alcohol is too big to control. Nor will I discuss the roots of pot illegalization as prejudice against minorities and bigotry against liberals. Nor the long suppot of legalization by nonusers. Finally, its acceptance by economic conservatives being  financial, not morality, and further an acceptance that the underemployed people need an attitude change to put up with declineg wealth and opportunity so they don’t revolt and religion ain’t it .Instead let’s watch a video, The Dangers of Marijuana.

Nice to see Christina Rad again and yep, it’s a sleep aid like Xanex or Ambien with more pleasant side effects. Sleep deprivation being such a huge health issue as well as anxiety and chronic low-leveld depression. Of course many people who have quit, don’t do it, quit because they did too much or because it does make some too stupid to bear for awhile. Not good reasons to make it as evil and punishable as manslaughter.

Perhaps the economists are finally getting that they have succeeded in eliminating jobs requiring expertise and a service economy needs a drug to keep bored people from going bat shit crazy.

Now what was that other political thing we don’t want to deal with while we are distracted about pot? Oh yeah, human-made climate change, overpopulation, income inequality.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Texas Discovers Heat Stroke Lowers Prison Population

hot-texas-heat-kills-prisoners-iTexas, the state of innovation. Privatization of prisons still costing too much? Prisons overcrowded? Over worked SWAT teams searching for pot and expired driver’s licenses from recidivists?  Texas discovers a brand new way to keep prison populations low and sheriffs still in the field spending that free, homeland security money. Don’t provide air conditioning and let mother nature take her course. 19 prisoners died from heat and the official reaction has been so what? They’re in prison aren’t they? Further that their protocols are sufficient.

We have significant protocols in place governing the movement of offenders early in the day for work assignments, we supply ice water and have fans and other equipment to increase air movement,” Livingston told the Houston Chronicle. “We believe the protocols are appropriate.”

Yep, 19 deaths is A OK by them. I think they’ve discovered something. Hey it was their choice to do the crime, now it’s time for consequences. It’s not like they happened all at once, just a few a year, for the most part. Clearly, they need to amp that up. You can see why prison officials don’t want to admit humans caused global warming and lose their god given justice that’s just gonna get better.

Population control used to include diseases, famine, floods, poor birthing environments, and wars. We can just use prisons to weed out those who shouldn’t have survived. You know rapists, murderers, drug users, drunk driving without a license, tax fraud–everything but not paying your grazing fees for 20 years. You know all of those crimes that prove their genes shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce. Give em a glimpse of hell.

It keeps the population down and then we won’t have any arguments over reproductive control because we’ll need every person we can get. What I don’t get is why bother with bringing them to prison. Just shoot em on arrest cuz you know they’re guilty, especially if they look poor or are a person of color.

Here’s Young Turks on it.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Step Off the Board or Be Killed, Chris Hedges & Dwayne Booth

dwayne_booth_usa_20131011_1909046903Chris Hedges has long reported on Wars from War. Now on Truthdig he posts on the beneficial myths of war, capitalism, and progress as evidenced by the decline of rights and equality for the sake of corporate profit.

The Decline of Peaceful Protest. Cecily McMillan—facing the possibility of seven years in prison for elbowing a plainclothes policeman in Zuccotti Park—is the latest victim of a cloaked offensive to destroy activist leaders. More.

The Rhetoric of Violence. The rage and nihilism that come from the frustrations of American life are expressed through violence. Our armed vigilantes and renegade gunmen are symptoms of a nation in terminal decline. To resist, we must build a revolutionary consciousness. Without one, random murder will become our national sport. More.

The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies. In “Moby Dick,” Herman Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. More.

The Crucible of Iraq. Fiction writer and poet Hassan Blasim in his new book burrows deeply into his homeland’s shattered culture. These riveting, lyrical short stories explicate the culture of war and give voice to the anguish of ordinary Iraqis. Blasim captures a surreal reality that eludes books about the war by journalists or military veterans. More.

Fighting the Militarized State. The government has asked the Supreme Court not to hear my appeal that challenges the right of the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely. More.

Suffering? Well, You Deserved it. An Oxford scholar warns that our outmoded economic model is a “warrant for inflicting pain” first on the poor and minorities and eventually on most of society. More.

In the talk “We are Either Gonna Step Off the Board or They’re Gonna Kill Us” Hedges discusses the culture of war.

  • The failure of War.
  • The suppressed ability of people to write about war in the last decade.
  • The 99% victimization of the people in War.
  • The blind murder of anyone beyond the perimeter in War.
  • The categorical difference in terrorism and oppression in war.
  • The inability of veterans to survive war intact.
  • The lack of the draft causing the murder of the poor.
  • The commodification of the soldier as mercenary.
  • The War on the planet as part of the War on each other.
  • The  unfettered expansion of capitalism causing the loss of humaneness, equality, and justice.
  • War as unimpeded income.
  • The forced sellout of Obama to corporate power, militarized civilian surveillance, and minority oppression.

It is a sobering and frightful exposure of just how much we have failed each other and the planet.

The second video with Dwayne Booth, who worked with Hedges, discusses himself as an artist and how art provides unique insight beyond the Getty Image bank.

Jim Newman, bright and well