Monday, February 28, 2011

A Facebook for the Fringe

I wasn't aware of this until I just saw it on the Fossicking blog, but the wingnuttery under the aegis of, who else, Glenn Beck, are fighting back with their own version of Facebook. It's called Freedom Connector, and it says you can "use FreedomConnector to connect with Tea Party activists and other conservatives taking action for less government and more freedom".

Check it out. Know thy enemy. Here's what Melissa of Fossicking has to say about it:

The site functions as a social network for like-minded Tea Party supporters/ members. From what I can gather, the site was launched on the 14th of February and is run by FreedomWorks – a conservative Astroturf organization.
According to Glenn Beck, he wants to take the tools that the socialists and communists and radical Muslims (progressives and terrorists) have been using, and in turn use them for good. FreedomConnector is the answer.
However, a peek at the Privacy Policy or Terms of Service and you’ll see that your “private” information is not so private, but owned by the website – including photos and activity carried out on the site.
The homepage of the site gives the first and last name of its members along with their geographical location. The site goes even more in depth by allowing a search for other members by issues, congressional district, state or county. You even have the option of directly linking your FreedomConnecter profile with Facebook or Twitter.
This is no different than most online services, but for a political organization with a platform of smaller government and less control over the lives of Americans – this is just plain weird.
I promise George Soros didn’t pay me, either directly or indirectly, to post this.
Okay, there you go. You can even check out what's happening in your own county and see who is your "enemy". I checked out the Thurston County page and saw a few people who say they had been facing us across the way at the Saturday rally. The people on the opposite side, the steps across the way, that you can see in the background of the photo, were "activists" from Glennbeckistan, teabaggers who are at least consistent: They don't taxes but they want all the services, and they don't want unions but they are perfectly happy to take the benefits that unions have provided them -- a working wage, the 40-hour week, etc. Check out some of the comments on their page.

Oh, and George Soros didn't pay me, either...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Forgotten Men" of Black History 4: Jermain Wesley Loguen

Today's Forgotten Man, Jermain Wesley Loguen was born in slavery in Davidson County, Tennessee, in 1813, the son of a white man and a black slave mother.

At the age of 21 he took his master's horse and made tracks north, eventually ending up in Canada. After working a series of jobs in Canada and the US, he eventually settled in Syracuse NY, which was a major stop on the Underground Railroad.

He became a popular abolitionist and was well known. He wrote an autobiography, The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman, a Narrative of Real Life.

When the book was published and word of his fame reached his former masters, the wife actually sent him a letter demanding his return or the payment of $1000.

Loguen's scathing reply, in the form of an open letter published in the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator, is a classic:

Mrs. Sarah Logue. .. . You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, "You know we raised you as we did our own children." Woman, did you raise your own children for the market? Did you raise them for the whipping post? Did you raise them to be driven off, bound to a coffle in chains? . .. Shame on you!
But you say I am a thief, because I took the old mare along with me. Have you got to learn that I had a better right to the old mare, as you call her, than Manasseth Logue had to me? Is it a greater sin for me to steal his horse, than it was for him to rob my mother's cradle, and steal me? . .. Have you got to learn that human rights are mutual and reciprocal, and if you take my liberty and life, you forfeit your own liberty and life? Before God and high heaven, is there a law for one man which is not a law for every other man?
If you or any other speculator on my body and rights, wish to know how I regard my rights, they need but come here, and lay their hands on me to enslave me.. . .
Yours, etc. J. W. Loguen
(As quoted in Howard K. Zinn's A People's History of the United States)

Rally in the Snow

Yesterday some of my friends and I spent much of the day outside in the snow with about 3500 other people in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.

As a rule, we don't get a whole lot of snow here in Western Washington, but we had our share yesterday. It was pretty cold, but not too cold to chant and sing and generally make ourselves obnoxious to the counter-demonstrators -- less than 100 from the looks of it -- across the way carrying signs about "Union Greed" and shit like that. You can see them on the steps of the legislative building in the background of this photo.

They were put up to it -- and bussed in from various rural parts of the county and the ultra-conservative county to the south of us -- by a pack of neofascists from the Orwellian-named "Evergreen Freedom Foundation", which is a rightwing "think" tank here in Olympia. It was pathetic and if that's all the counter-demonstration I could do, I'd slink away in shame.

Anyway, great day and then lunch and beer at my favorite pub afterwards. Mmmmmm.....

Friday, February 25, 2011

Outside Agitators = "Reds"

Outside agitators. Yeah, that's who to blame for the unrest in Wisconsin. Not those victimized-by-commies state employees who, up to now, were happy to just have a job...

Jesus, could it get any more blatant? Case in point: I grew up in Oklahoma in the 1950s, where "everyone" knew that the "negroes" were a bunch of happy-go-lucky-but-lazy chuckleheads who could barely manage to tie their own shoes, even while they were shining yours, and who were just fine with their second-class-citizen lot in life, until those goddam "outside agitators" (aka "Reds" -- e.g.., communists, socialists, liberals, voting rights reformers, civil rights activists, etc. etc.) got them all stirred up against their benign benefactors in the white race. After all, everyone knew that the "negroes" were just a shade above the animal level, and they were run basically by their lowest emotions. No wonder that they were easy prey for those goddam Red agitators...

Jesus, it would be funny if it weren't so fucking seriously pathetic. "Outside agitators"? Really, governor?

Here's an appropriate quote from The Grapes of Wrath:

[Tom Joad:] "Well, I was there. They wasn't no agitators. What they call reds. What the hell is these reds anyways?"
Timothy scraped a little hill level in the bottom of the ditch. The sun made his white bristle beard shine. "They's a lot of fellas wanta know what reds is." He laughed. "One of our boys foun' out." He patted the piled earth gently with his shovel. "Fella named Hines- got 'bout thirty thousand acres, peaches and grapes- got a cannery an' a winery. Well, he's all a time talkin' about 'them goddamn reds.' 'Goddamn reds is drivin' the country to ruin,' he says, an' 'We got to drive these here red bastards out.' Well, they were a young fella jus' come out west here, an' he's listenin' one day. He kinda scratched his head an' he says, 'Mr. Hines, I ain't been here long. What is these goddamn reds?' Well, sir, Hines says, 'A red is any son-of-a-bitch that wants thirty cents an hour when we're payin' twenty-five!' Well, this young fella he thinks about her, an' he scratches his head, an' he says, 'Well, Jesus, Mr. Hines. I ain't a son-of-a-bitch, but if that's what a red is- why, I want thirty cents an hour. Ever'body does. Hell, Mr. Hines, we're all reds.'" Timothy drove his shovel along the ditch bottom, and the solid earth shone where the shovel cut it.
Tom laughed. "Me too, I guess." His pick arced up and drove down, and the earth cracked under it. The sweat rolled down his forehead and down the sides of his nose, and it glistened on his neck. "Damn it," he said, "a pick is a nice tool ( umph ), if you don' fight it ( umph ). You an' the pick ( umph ) workin' together ( umph )."
Yeah, when it comes down to supporting the Working Man against the Corporations, we're all "Reds".

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Santorum: "Crusades Not Aggression, Smeared by The Left..."

Just when you thought that they couldn't get any fucking crazier, Rick "Man-On-Dog-Sex" Santorum comes out with a doozy:

Rick Santorum launched into a scathing attack on the left, charging during an appearance in South Carolina that the history of the Crusades has been corrupted by “the American left who hates Christendom ... The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical,” Santorum said in Spartanburg on Tuesday. “And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom.”
He added, “They hate Western civilization at the core. That's the problem.”
After asserting that Christianity had not shown any “aggression” to the Muslim world, the former Pennsylvania senator — who is considering a 2012 run for the White House — argued that American intervention in the Middle East helps promote “core American values.”
Anti-historical???!!!! As in when you raise an army of avaricious "Christians" and invade another culture's homeland which is thousands of miles away from your own and you do this repeatedly over the course of a couple of centuries and you do this in the name of your god and you slaughter not only those heathen and nasty adherents to a "different" god but also a bunch of adherents to your own god who look and dress and smell different, that's NOT aggression?????


I mean, you can actually look this up in a couple of seconds and see that Ricky is as full of shit as a Christmas goose.

Jesus, and just the fact that Little Ricky Dogsex Santorum can spew it right out of his mouth to a knuckledragging crowd of awe-struck true believers tells me that as a nation, as a culture, we are fucked. No one has a sense of history any more, so anything that anyone wants to say about historical events, regardless of how many lies they contain, is swallowed whole by the Moron-American Voting Bloc.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Little Help Here, Please...?

Bernie Weisz is not a Vietnam veteran, but he is a historian of the Vietnam War, and has written many detailed and coherent reviews of books that have come out of the war (uh, ahem, mine included...).

And now he has developed some temporary, but nevertheless severe and debilitating, medical problems ... and he also has lost his job. Which means he has no medical insurance and is facing the inevitable financial disasters that these events lead to.

He needs some help, so please, everyone, consider going to over PayPal and kicking a little dough into Bernie's account. Even just a few bucks will help him out immensely.

His PayPal account is (naturally) his email:

Thanks in advance to everyone who contributes. You will be helping out a good guy and someone who really needs the money.

Meeting Dennis Kucinich

I haven't posted much this week since I've been involved in the local Democratic Party politics all week:

That's me with former Presidential candidate and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, in case you didn't recognize the guy on the right.

And that's me on the left, and they say that if you are to the Left of Dennis Kucinich, then you are a card-carrying radical for certain-sure! Of course I am on his "picture-left", but in real life, he was the one on the left...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Forgotten Men" of Black History 3: George Washington Williams

George Washington Williams was a soldier, minister, writer and diplomat. His greatest feat is one that has been totally forgotten today. Read on.

George Washington Williams was born in Pennsylvania in 1849 and at the age of 14 he joined the Union Army under an assumed name, where he managed to get into some of the final battles of the Civil War. Following the war, he went to Mexico and joined the rebel army which was fighting to overthrow the Emperor Maximilian. He was commissioned a lieutenant, brushed up on his Spanish, and finally returned to the US in 1867.

He must have loved military service, since he immediately rejoined the army and was sent to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma), where he was wounded in 1868. After getting out of the army because of his wound, he attended Howard University and then the Newton Theological Institute; he became the first African-American to graduate from there.

He was ordained a Baptist minister, moved around the country, then studied law, and became the first African-American elected to the Ohio State Legislature. He was well-connected enough to be appointed Consul General to Haiti by President Chester A. Arthur, although he never served.

Williams was also the author of a sprawling and somewhat long-winded two-volume 1883 History of the Negro Race in America, which is available for download from Project Gutenberg at Volume 1 and Volume 2.

But what he is should be most noted for -- and sadly forgotten for -- was his journey to the so-called Congo Free State to investigate the conditions "on the ground" in King Leopold's personal African domain.

What he found shocked and appalled and sickened him: Brutality, repression, slavery, physical disfigurement (slaves who failed to meet production quotas lost their hands) and various other "crimes against humanity", for which he sent an accusatory open letter to King Leopold of Belgium, who owned and ran the Congo as his personal fiefdom -- there was no official Belgian colonization of the Congo; Leopold owned it outright and reaped the huge financial benefits of the reign of terror that was the Congo "Free" State.

It was Williams' report and this open letter that first revealed to the world the atrocities that had been hidden in Leopold's "heart of darkness". Finally with public opinion turned against him Leopold abandoned his personal stake in the Congo and the government of Belgium took it over as a colony in 1908.

Williams' trip to Africa and the worldwide effect his J'Accuse! had on Leopold is fascinatingly told in great detail in Adam Hochschild's highly-recommended book, King Leopold's Ghost.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's a Beckonspiracy!

I just discovered a terrific online application, the Glenn Beck Conspiracy Theory Generator:

It is, as it claims, Fair and Balanced Paranoia, Delivered on Demand.

Check it out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Birthers Love Palin

A recent poll shows that 51% of likely Rethug primary voters still believe, in the face of all of the evidence , that Obama was not born in the US and they still want to see the birth certificate.

Interestingly enough, this is the same group that puts Sarah "Caribou Barbie" Palin at the very top of their choices for president in 2012.

(Okay, I knew that this was supposed to be Palin-Free February, but come on...)

So I think it's a fair question, and one that gets asked on the always valuable and freely entertaining Palingates blog: Where is Trig's birth certificate?

And those of you who think it's somehow "not fair" to drag a politician's children into the debate, where were you when Rush Limbaugh called the then-12-year-old Chelsea Clinton the "White House dog"? Besides, Mama Grisly has been exploiting her children for political gain since day one; she's the one who dangled them out there over the balcony railing like Michael Jackson. As Palingates says, "We would love to leave them alone, but Sarah Palin keeps shoving them in our faces to market her Christian/real American family values..."

Sarah Palin's Alaska? Really, that was really all about Alaska and not all about furthering her own selfish political aspirations? Especially when, in numerous shots, from inside a moving vehicle, and neither she nor her daughter, Willow, are even pretending to wear seat belts? I call that child endangerment, and the laws of every state, including Alaska's, agree with me.

I also call that child exploitation for political gain -- after all, if that kid was sitting back in the seat with the belt fastened properly around her, she wouldn't be visible to the camera, and what would be the point of it all then? Sarah talking to herself? I'm sure she does enough of that as it is, but chances are she wouldn't want it caught on camera...

So, getting back to the topic. If that 51% of voters vote with their True Beliefs, then we can look forward to Sarah Palin being the GOP nominee.

Bring it on! If the Democrats can't beat Caribou Barbie*, then they deserve to be out of power.


[* In a fair election, that is. If she does win, it will be fraud at the polls in numbers so frightening that it will make the old Soviet Union elections look scrupulously honest by comparison.]

"Forgotten Men" of Black History 2: Henry Ossian Flipper

Today's Forgotten Man is Henry Ossian Flipper, the first African American to graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point.

Flipper was born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, in 1856. He attended Atlanta University (under the protection of the presence of the United States Army during the Reconstruction period) and while he was still a freshman he was appointed to West Point by Representative James Crawford Freeman (who, despite his last name, was not of African-American descent...).

Flipper, a member of the Class of 1877, joined four other
African-Americans at West Point. They were harassed and ostracized by the white cadets, to the point that the other four eventually dropped out. Flipper was left to eat his meals alone, study alone, and attend class with cadets who refused to speak to him.

Regardless of the hardhips he was forced to endure (Jackie Robinson's seem to pale by comparison), Flipper graduated West Point in 1877 and was commissioned a lieutenant in the US Army. He was assigned to the 10th Cavalry Regiment and was the first African-American to command a troop of Buffalo Soldiers.

Read the entire history of Flipper, and especially the part that the appropriately-named William Rufus Shafter (aka "Pecos Bill") played in kicking Flipper out of the Army with the officer-equivalent of a dishonorable discharge, which happened apparently only because Shafter hated seeing black officers. BTW, Fort Shafter in Hawaii is named for this racist pig of a general, as is the town of Shafter, California.

Anyway, Flipper spent the rest of his life trying to contest the charges brought against him on Shafter's behalf, and trying to overturn his discharge. Flipper died in 1940, but the battle was fought on by his descendants and others, who finally were successful only in 1999 when Bill Clinton finally pardoned Henry Flipper.

This pardon resulted in a bust of Flipper being on display at West Point, along with an annual award to the cadet who exhibits "leadership, self-discipline, and perseverance in the face of unusual difficulties." Indeed...

Fortunately for history, Henry Ossian Flipper was also an accomplished writer, and his autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point, is available for download in a variety of formats from Project Gutenberg.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Still I Rise: Our 2nd Book of the Month

In honor of Black History Month, I've decided to add a second Book of the Month. Still I Rise, by Roland Laird and Taneshie Nash Laird, illustrated by Elihu "Adofo" Bey, was originally published in 1997 with the subtitle A Cartoon History of African Americans.

This new, revised and updated version no longer has that subtitle; instead it's now subtitled A Graphic History of African Americans. My best guess is that "cartoon" has, over the ensuing years, taken on a tone that is not seen as "serious", and that "graphic" -- as in the "graphic novel" genre -- is the new descriptive buzzword for a serious story that is hand-illustrated in the classic comic book format.

Nevertheless, this is a valuable book for anyone who wants an "easy way" to learn about African-American history. I highly recommend that parents get this book for their children (minimum age, I would guess, would be about ten or so -- the concepts are probably too sophisticated for kids younger than that), since they mostly likely are not getting a good grounding in African American history in their schools.

Here's the Wikipedia article on the book. It's a bit critical of the illustrations, which are flat and not very inspiring, but we're not really looking at it for the pictures...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Media Whore Sells Out Electronic "Plantation"

I've always had my suspicions about Arianna Huffington. After all, she was a darling of the Right back in the day, calling for Clinton's resignation and hinting that an ambassador to somewhere-or-other died "mysteriously" after The Big Dog slept with his wife -- or that he was ineligibly buried in Arlington because of that, or something like that... She was even a member of Newt Gingrich's Orwellian-named "Progressive and Freedom Foundation".

Then she inexplicably appeared to move to the left, divorcing her fabulously-wealthy-but-also-fabulously-gay husband, got literally zillions in the divorce settlement, and started the Huffington Post. Which I read on a more-or-less regular basis, until it started skewing away from politics and turned into to a digital version of the National Tattler with breathless bits on who is sleeping with whom in Hollywood, etc.

Now she says that we have to somehow "get beyond" right and left, and proves it by selling HuffPo to, of all things, the rightwing AOL!

For a measly 30 pieces of silver. Okay, it was a little more, like 18 million bucks, but still.

I think it's unconscionable that she could build up that business -- and business it was -- on the backs of free labor (the leftwing bloggers that contributed their stuff -- for free -- turned out to be slave laborers on the Yassuh-Miz-Adrianna electronic plantation) to the point where she could sell it without a backward glance.

So here's to Adrianna Huffington. Media Whore of the Century (so far...)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Deifying Saint Ronald

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I am not a fan of Ronald Reagan.

But now with his 100th birthday in the offing (or has it already passed? I'm too lazy to look it up), there seems to be even more of the sainthood-politicking for RR, which is normally seen in the Vatican to promote to sainthood a particular "holy person" -- you don't have to look any further than the drumbeat to elevate to sainthood the most recent pope, whose post-mortem "miracles" defy all reason.

As Ann Davidow recently pointed out on Buzzflash:

As we take note of what would be Ronald Reagan's one hundredth birthday it remains a mystery why he is revered by so many Americans and held up as an icon by the Republican Party. Everyone in the GOP takes a crack at explaining why he is a splendid example of everything a leader should be and a patriot par excellence.
. . .
In the area of civil rights alone he trampled on basic values by using the "Southern Strategy" to promote his political fortunes. He kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign in Neshoba County where Cheney, Schwerner and Goodman had been lynched some years before as they worked to establish voting rights for black southerners - a despicable exercise in gutter politics. Asserting "I believe in states' rights before a "white, and at times, raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000" (Bob Herbert, the NY Times, 11/2007) Reagan shamelessly made the case for bigotry and exclusion in his pursuit of the White House. Everyone got the message, especially in the South, and as President he consistently vetoed programs that sought to level the playing field for minorities.
. . .
How is it that a man of such monumental failures is celebrated on the right as something of a political saint? Republicans and many others refuse to replace the myth with facts, and we are in danger of repeating many of the same deceptive practices in the conduct of our political life today.
Indeed. Even at the time I had a lot of trouble understanding the magnetic attraction of Ronald Reagan.

I still do. And I guess that there still is a movement to do a little "plastic surgery" on the face of Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore and turn him into Ronald Reagan. After all, who the fuck was Teddy Roosevelt, who became a traitor to his class and demand social justice and an end to the capitalist fuck-everyone-beneath-me-and-that-means-you system of trusts and monopolies?

I mean, really. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican??? Come on.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Today's One-Question Quiz: Will He Do It???

Seventy-four US Congressional representatives have signed a letter to Justice Clarence Thomas asking him to recuse himself from future deliberations over the health care law because his wife works for the Heritage Foundation, one of the most vocal -- and most wealthy -- of the organizations which are actively working to disable the law.

So guess what party the Reps belong to. That's right: The Democratic Party.

And if SCOTUS "House Boy" and Scalia Lapdog Clarence "Uncle" Thomas was shamelessly willing to try to hide his wife's income from even the fucking IRS, then what are the odds that he will actually recuse himself from those deliberations?

That's right: Zero.

Okay, I cheated and gave you two questions on today's quiz, but I know that you are all smart people and could get the answers right away. Unlike the wingnut readers of this blog (both of them), who probably couldn't count to ten if you spotted them nine numbers...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

"Forgotten Men" of Black History 1: Homer Plessy

He's not really "forgotten": His names lives on in a weird kind of "infamy" -- after all he was on the losing side in the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case which officially established the segregationist "Separate but Equal" doctrine of race relations in this country that held sway from 1896 until it was reversed and repudiated by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

But just who was Homer Plessy?

Home Plessy was born in New Orleans in 1862 and grew to adulthood in the Reconstruction Era, when black people could sit anywhere they wanted on the streetcars, marry whomever they pleased, and attend integrated schools. But that was with the protection of the US Army, which enforced on a reluctant defeated-but-unbowed South equal rights and protections for former slaves and blacks in general.

But with the Compromise of 1877 -- known forever after as the Corrupt Bargain -- that installed Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House despite the fact that he was the loser in the popular vote (sound familiar, anyone?), Reconstruction ended, the Yankee armies left, and the states of the former Confederacy were free to go back to their segregationist ways. It didn't take long to resegregate the schools, the marriage laws, and especially, in Plessy's case, the trains.

Home Plessy was, according to the official record, 7/8 white and 1/8 black, or, in the parlance of the day, an "octoroon". There is some disagreement over the exact percentages, but for this case, that doesn't matter. What does matter was that he had that infamous "one drop of Negro blood" and was therefore considered to be black. As in Not White. As in You Have to Sit in the Back of the Bus. Or, in Plessy's case, in a whole different train car.

In 1890 the City of New Orleans had, belatedly when considered with the rest of the south, instigated the separate train car rule. The Citizens Committee of New Orleans recruited Plessy to test the law. Because he looked white, he could purchase a ticket for the "whites only" car without any protest. He could even ride the whites only car without fear of being molested, because he looked white:

But of course under the law he was Not White. When the conductor asked him if he was "colored" he admitted that he was and allowed himself to be arrested and charged. The case was a cause célèbre at the time, and culminated in the Plessy v. Ferguson SCOTUS decision that enshrined in US law the racist doctrine of Separate but Equal. Only one justice, John Marshall Harlan of Kentucky, from ironically a slaveholding family, dissented from the majority. But man oh man, what a dissent:

The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved...
If evils will result from the commingling of the two races upon public highways established for the benefit of all, they will be infinitely less than those that will surely come from state legislation regulating the enjoyment of civil rights upon the basis of race. We boast of the freedom enjoyed by our people above all other peoples. But it is difficult to reconcile that boast with a state of the law which, practically, puts the brand of servitude and degradation upon a large class of our fellow-citizens, our equals before the law. The thin disguise of 'equal' accommodations for passengers in railroad coaches will not mislead any one, nor atone for the wrong this day done.
The problem as Harlan pointed out so eloquently, was that the separate facilities for black people were never, in any way, shape or form, equal to those of the whites. I grew up in rural Oklahoma, and attended segregated schools. The white kids had a nice one-story brick neo-colonial school while the black kids -- on the other side of the tracks, naturally -- had an old three-story firetrap that looked like it had already been condemned before the Civil War...

In a weird kind of synchronicity, John Marshall Harlan had a grandson and namesake, John Marshall Harlan II, who also served on the US Supreme Court, from 1955 to 1971. Illness forced him to retire from the court, which then allowed Richard Nixon to appoint William Rehnquist to the bench. And it was the same William Rehquist who had stated in a memo in 1952, when he was clerking for Justice Robert Jackson: "I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by 'liberal' colleagues but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.... To the argument ... that a majority may not deprive a minority of its constitutional right, the answer must be made that while this is sound in theory, in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minority are."

But enough digression. Let's get back to Plessy.

But actually, there isn't much left to tell. After the famous court case, he faded back into relative obscurity, and he lived out the remainder of his life in New Orleans. He died in 1925 at the age of 61. Finally, in 2009, a historical marker was erected at the site of his arrest:

Monday, February 07, 2011

Fighting Back

Cock-fighting -- not what you think, the kind with real roosters -- received a severe hit recently in Kern County, California.

It has been long derided as a cruelty-to-animals blood "sport", but finally there seems to have been some revenge on the part of the chickens.

An autopsy has shown that local cock-fighting entrepreneur-and-legend-in-his-own-mind Jose Luis Ochoa died as the result of being stabbed in the leg by ... his own rooster!

Okay, maybe not his own rooster, but Ochoa was definitely stabbed by a razor-spur-wearing bad-boy rooster and bled out about two hours later.

In the words of the rooster involved [translated]: "Take that, motherfucker!"

Gone but not Forgotten

So Baby Doc Bush had to cancel his trip to Switzerland, huh? "Security reasons" were cited as the reason for the trip cancellation.

Security reasons such as this?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Off Line for a Couple of Days

Apparently I've been offline for a couple of days. I didn't even know about it until I met some of my buddies for lunch and one of them mentioned in passing that he wasn't able to get in.

"Blog Suspended" is the message he got. This doesn't normally happen unless someone lodges a formal complaint.

Jeez, who could it be who would lodge a "formal complaint" against something on this blog...?

Let's just say that the person who doesn't know what a "practical joke" is will find out soon enough...

I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Just Two Years Later: Another Anthem

Just two years after Louie Louie was the Anthem for a Generation, we got another one:

This time it's not the beat -- it's the words: "The eastern world, it is explodin'..."

Yeah... Hard to believe it was 45 years ago. But you know the old saying, "Time's fun when you're having flies..."

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

John Boehner's Boner...

...has apparently led him astray, right into the arms of an evil temptress/minion of satan.

Okay, I'm not usually one to repeat unsubstantiated rumors, but this one is too good.

Allegedly Speaker of the House John Boehner, an upstanding Republican stalwart of good moral values, has been linked to a sexual "liaison" ... with a lobbyist.

First of all, if this is true ... eeeeeewwwwwwwwwww!!!!!! What is wrong with her???

And second of all, it ought to be easy enough to verify -- just look for something that looks like orange popsicle stains on certain parts of her anatomy... Again, eeeeeewwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!

But this is all for naught, since anything is okay as long as you are a Republican... Besides, lobbyists are like groupies: They are put on earth by a merciful god with the sole purpose of satisfying every need -- real or imagined -- of congressmen and senators.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Book of the Month: Roots

Since this is Black History month, I thought we'd kick it off with Roots: The Saga of An American Family by Alex Haley.

Roots was first published in 1976 and became a television "event" the next year, a miniseries that was broadcast over seven consecutive nights. I saw the television series, but somehow I had not managed to read the book at the time.

Now I have corrected that oversight, and that's why it's the book of the month, despite the controversies over parts of the book that may have been plagiarized from another author (a court case settled that portions of Roots were identical to some sections in another book) and the historical problems -- whether Haley actually found the ancestral village of Kunta Kinte, and whether his characters were "real" people.

Roots is a densely packed historical fiction that illustrates the basic evil -- but also the confusions, the complexity, and the complications -- of the slavery system. As Thomas Jefferson said, slavery was dehumanizing for both slave and master; even the "best" master was still a slaveholder, and even the "best" slave was still held in perpetual bondage.

There are always differences between books and the movies made from them, but one the major differences between Roots the book and Roots the miniseries was that, as best as I can recall anyway, not much if anything was made of Kunta Kinte's religion before he was kidnapped out of Africa. In the book he was a devout Muslim, and therefore his captivity and enslavement by the "infidels" (i.e., Christians) is seen to be even worse, especially when as punishment he is forced to work with the plantation's pigs.

Haley researched the book for nearly ten years, and it shows. The African segments especially -- which take up much more space in the book than they did on the screen -- seem to be right on the money, and they stack up well against the best of other African writers, such as South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer and her powerful July's People.

When it comes to the depiction of slavery in the United States, nothing else comes close to Roots ... with the possible exception of the actual stories told by the former slaves themselves. In the 1930s, as part of the Federal WPA Writers' Project, some 2500 Slave Narratives were gathered by interviewing the aging former slaves who had been freed by the 13th Amendment. Most of these slave narratives are available for free download from the Gutenberg project. They make for some pretty sobering reading, and they ought to be required for those in the government -- and out of it (are you listening, Toad?) -- who think that the constitutional three-fifths of a person for a slave was just fine and the 13th Amendment, along with the rest of the constitution, doesn't really mean what everyone thinks it means (are you listening, Scalia & Thomas, et al on SCOTUS?)...

Black History Month

February each year is Black History Month, and it's a time for reflection, remembrance and consideration of the African-American experience, to honor some of the pioneers of American History who just happened to be Black.

I know that some of my "fans" (The Toad and his moronic minion come to mind immediately, but there have been others) are already pissing and moaning and whining: "This is raciest [sic] ... there ain't no White History Month!"

But they don't get -- and will never understand -- that every goddamn month of the year is "White History Month". It's like that old saying, A fish is the last one that's going to understand the principles of water... So, short form, screw The Toad and his toadies. I'm gonna celebrate Black History Month.

BTW, on the other side, it's also been a staple of Black comedians for years: "It figures; they gave us the shortest month of the year..." But there are actually some solid historical reasons for the choice of February.

So watch for some more posts during the course of the month that will celebrate and bring to the fore some of the "forgotten men" of African-American history and their contributions to the world in which we live.