Sunday, June 28, 2015

Double Loser - Part II

I wrote about political violence being a losing a proposition for those who could not control the narrative (or "spin" to use a more contemporary phrase) of their violence. I had written this in the aftermath of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore where legitimate grievances over police brutality or local government using the poor as ATMs for their coffers would be obscured by burned-out stores and overturned police cars.

Well, if anyone had the phrase "Born to Lose" tattooed across his white face its Dylann Roof. He provided another example of political violence being a loser for those marked by history as losers with his terroristic massacre of nine black Christians in church in Charleston, S.C.

White Southerners, like the Irish and black Americans too, have suffered the bulk of defeats in U.S. history, often times because game is rigged against them but also sometimes through their own mistakes. The mistake Roof made was not to hide his tracks. Unlike another young, white mass killer Adam Lanza, Roof not only didn't destroy all his computer searches (and kill himself) to leave nothing behind but mystery for those wondering about his motives. Instead, he left behind a big fat manifesto and pictures of himself with a Confederate and other white-supremacist flags and burning a U.S flag to make sure his motives were quite clear. Had such things not existed, Roof could have copped a insanity plea given the evidence of his drug use. Instead he'll be remembered as a killer with cause and perhaps the one who drove old Dixie down.

For as we saw this past week, there was no way in the world Roof was going to be able to control his narrative and nor would those who still defend the Confederacy with something more than just remembrance. No, Roof smashed all that to itsy-bitsy pieces committing what he thought was an act of war. The church he targeted, how he planned the attack and the reasons he did so were all calculated for effect. The madness only lies in what he thought he could accomplish. But as Roof himself said, everyone else in white supremacy chat rooms and website just talk and fantasize. Roof actually did what they've always wanted to do but didn't have the guts to do it.

Still, he almost didn't either. He took almost an hour before he came to his moment of decision, It was probably an agonizing hour trying to decide who he really was. Was he a killer? Could he kill these "nice" people just attending a weekly Bible study that goes on at churches all over the country? What did they ever do to him as individual? Nothing. But it was at that point Roof lost his individuality, his own judgement, morality and conscience. Instead he became what he thought was a soldier in some mass army out there on Stormfront of the CCC. Maybe he thought he was one of those Confederates in uniform back in 1861 and this was his Ft. Sumter.  Whatever he thought he was at that moment it was better than what he was: an unemployed, drug-addicted, transient with a rap sheet living in his car or a friend's trailer. Maybe he wanted to impress his new online friends and not punk out when the moment came to make the charge into history, who knows? Yet, like the loser he is, instead of Ft. Sumter what he got was Pickett's Charge, the gallant but doomed attack of a people trying to reject modernity.

Ta-Neshi Coates said of the Southern plantation class in recent article that they justified slavery as a means of creating white equality. That's what they wanted the outside world to believe. In reality such planters held the "hillbilles" and the "crackers" in as much contempt and perhaps more so than the slaves, which were after all their "investment". In reality the existence of such hard-scrabble farmers and backwoodsmen were an embarrassment to them and a lie to the notion of widespread regional prosperity and equality because of cotton and slavery. Their idea of the South were having themselves in charge and only themselves ruling over everyone, slave or free, and who would have to accept their rule because they were left uneducated and could not vote due to poll taxes or literacy tests or because they were slaves. Their's was a feudalistic society where classically educated men, like European nobles and knights, were at the top and everyone else was below them the farthest below being the serfs themselves. Southern society wasn't entirely this way but it came close enough to where those making the decisions favored secession when the time came to largely protect their status. Viewed from this perspective, the split between John C. Calhoun and Andrew Jackson becomes clear. Calhoun represented the planter class because that's where his career grew out of and Jackson the farmer because he was like them, a backwoodsman. It's also why there was little support and enthusiasm for the Confederate cause in places like Eastern Kentucky or Eastern Tennessee, West Virginia, the mountain and hill areas of South and in places outside of the cotton economy like southern Florida south and central Texas. It why many Confederate soldiers had to be conscripted to the and why many of them deserted near the end of the war.

The Roman and Greek societies to which such planters look towards as models had slavery too but it was not a slavery based completely on race (although many Irish, Scots-Irish came to the New World as indentured servants they could at least work for their freedom). Thus for poor whites the fact they weren't black as thus not a slave was the only thing they had going for them. "If you isn't better than a nigger what is you better than?" was the line from the movie Mississippi Burning that Gene Hackman gave which tried to explain the vicious racism of his father. Instead of blaming his poverty on the powers that be, he blamed it on the Negro. This is not just a Southern problem. Northern whites from Chicago Poles to Boston Irishmen to New York Italians to Milwaukee Germans have acted in the same manner towards blacks as poor white Southerner for same the reason: that life at the bottom is a zero-sum game and if you're losing, it's not because those above you are keeping you down, it's the fellow next to you keeping you from rising up. That must be it! And its from such misplaced enmity comes fear and then hate then ultimately exploitation from those seeking your consent to maintain their power over you to make sure you don't look in their direction.

Thus the context of the life of one Dylann Roof. It can be asked, as Jon Stewart recently did, what Roof has to complain about since the Republicans i.e. the White Party runs almost everything in South Carolina. But that means nothing to him anymore than President Obama or the black police chief or the black mayor meant to the rioters of Baltimore. So what? Roof has no inherited wealth of generations of planters. He's not retired military living in a low tax state off his government benefits. He's not a businessman.  It doesn't seem at all that he's religious or that "culture wars" matter to him. The only connection Roof has to the GOP is his race, just as black are tied to the Democrats. And in that way and others Roof was no different than many of the rioters at Mondawin mall: unemployed or unemployable due to a lengthy rap sheet, struggles with substance abuse inadequately educated and quite angry. But Roof's anger was not directed at a power structure which has acted abusively in many cases to cause such grievance. Instead it's directed to a whole group of people he's been told again and again by the ignorant and the hateful they are the cause of his misery. Was it the loss of girl to a black man which finally brought his rage from inside the out? Does it matter? The fact that it was there and misdirected at the wrong people and for the wrong reasons is what matters.

A warning to those think persons like Roof have some sort "white privileges". You'll never convince unemployed people living rusting trailers of this. In fact, more than likely, you'll convince them they're being denied such "privileges" by blacks. As I've stated, the Dylann Roofs of the world have more in common with those dispossessed of West Baltimore and Ferguson than those who make up the power structure. Only their race separates them, which unfortunately has been used to keep them separate figuring out what truly ails them for hundreds of years. People who have nothing and never had anything to begin with have no "privileges" to share nor would know how to take advantage of them even if they did exist. Just giving people the opportunity just to dream of something better, if nothing else and the very least, will do more to "spread the wealth" than hectoring a powerless people. The First and Second Reconstructions failed or were of limited success because poor and lower middle class whites were never convinced or shown how they would or could benefit from a more equitable society and free for all people.  If what we're going through right now is a Third Reconstruction, then it better include all races and classes and regions otherwise those left behind will simply produce more Dylann Roofs to continue their struggle as they see it, not as reality has it.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Texting and the Constitution

Russ Feingold got a lot a of grief on the Left when he supported John Roberts' nomination as Chief Justice but I think he understood Roberts's better than most so-called conservative did.

Roberts may be a conservative but he's not an ideological one. Ergo his decisions are going to be made with best interest of the status quo and of the national government (which, coincidentally is the best interests of the business community). And as confirmed Republican, he's going to keep an eye as to what's best for the party (which why his court will never overturn Roe vs. Wade).

"Textualism"  or "strict constructionalism" is an ideology and one I'm sure Roberts probably laughs at. If by textualism one means most what is permitted by law in the country is un-Constitutional because it wasn't put down on paper back in 1787, then I would say then most of what the Federal Government permits by law is certainly unconstitutional. But since the law is made and interpreted in the reality of 2015, embracing such a narrow vision of the law is not something Roberts' is going to share. One could make the argument the Court has gone beyond its "textual" mandate since Chief Justice John Marshall ruled on Marbury v. Madison. Indeed, Roger Taney's "textualism" on slavery basically help to cause the War Between the States.

Instead, Roberts did exactly what the business community wanted in keeping Obamacare instead of creating chaos in the healthcare markets by overturning it. The ideologue may have wanted Obamacare gone, but Roberts the actual conservatives knew this would be folly, especially over a stupid wording mistake and voted once again (!) to uphold it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Socialist in name only

A friend of mine, Jack Ross, was traveling the country recently on a tour for his new book: The History of the Socialist Party of America and I attended his stop in St. Paul about a month ago. There, members of the Democratic Socialists of American (DSA) were signing up people who attended to work on Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign for President.

I applauded their efforts because it reminded me of the way non-major party activists were helping Ron Paul in the Republican Party presidential nominating process back in 2007. But the larger question is whether such efforts will make an impact upon the larger Democratic Party in the same fashion as Paul's campaigns did upon the GOP. The answer will only be found out whether Sanders has a great appreciation for the legacy of the old Socialist Party than he has displayed so far in his career.

Forget the arguments about Sanders being a socialist, whatever that means. We are all socialists, just to varying degrees, some less and some some more. This is true even of libertarians. The only ones who could be called true non-Socialists are Randians and they're devotion to utter selfishness and narcissism makes them so beyond the pale they're not worthy of much mention. No, what's important about Sanders' "socialism" as far as it goes is where he started from and where he is now and what can he say, if anything, which would challenge Hilary Clinton.

As Justin Raimondo of points out, Sanders started out on the hippie, localist antiwar left when he first came to Vermont from Brooklyn, then became more radical by supporting the Socialist Worker's Party in 1980 before steering himself back to the localist Left he abandoned in 1977 when he was first elected mayor of Burlington in 1981. But Sanders considered "socialism" differed greatly with local activists. As one of them pointed out: "At the very least, Sanders’ commitment to an industrially-based socialism was colliding with the community-based peace movement's commitment to ending foreign intervention and violence. The casualties were some mutual trust – and the workers who later lost their jobs as demand for GE’s Gatling guns waned."

Thus, it should come as no surprise (which was always to the ire of Vermont Independence supporters) that Sanders has no problem voting against certain wars like Iraq and yet supports the purchase of F-35 jets for Vermont Air National Guard. His views are fairly conventional mix as one would find on the far Left of Democratic Party but hardly more than that.  That he considers himself an “independent” is a merely a fig leaf for himself which say more about the politics of upper New England than what socialism means.

Which is too bad, because if there’s one issue Hilary Clinton would be vulnerable on in the context of a Democratic primary or caucus (especially in states of Iowa and New Hampshire) it’s her foreign policy views. They are views which could be exploited to give Sanders more traction and support among Democrats and which Clinton would have a hard time co-opping for herself, which she seems to be doing with every other issue Sanders brings up. He could attack her over Libya and Syria and denounce the Military-Industrial –Complex as being bad for democracy, self-government and person freedom.   

Indeed, this what the original and real Socialists back in the 19th and 20th centuries stood for. This is what Ross makes clear in his book. Unlike other socialist parties which split over World War I, the Socialist Party in America stayed true to anti-interventionism. Socialist Presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs even went to jail over it.  Sanders could adopt this legacy, and I believe his campaign would prosper or at least do better than give Clinton an excuse to celebrate every Tuesday early next year. We’ll see if he does but his past track record suggest a lot of doubt.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Realistic Rand returns to his roots

Sen. Rand Paul is starting to find his way back to the original Ron Paul Revolution, even if the journey is more about realism than a revelation.

It seems as though Rand is having a very hard time raising money for this Presidential campaign from the usual crowd of billionaires. Very few of them seem to be willing to give compared to the other candidates. It was my opinion the group running Rand's campaign saw the grassroots supporters which built the Paul movement from scratch as a nuisance and wanted to fund pretty much an "auto-campaign" with corporate money paying for robo-calls and TV ads. Thus I was shocked reading this article that not even the coal people wanted to give to see Rand run for President. If that's happening, where else is Rand going to turn to for money and support but the grassroots? Hopefully this shatters the illusions people have about big business and corporations if all they've learned comes from Ayn Rand novel. For all the supposed "anti-government" types in the business community, why all are these billionaires so down on Rand? Because he wears blue jeans? No! Because what the Revolution is about will change things, to the point where it upsets their cozy little words. They are the establishment and they are so for a reason. They are intimately connected with government through various means (M-I-C for example) even though they'll deny it to the hilt. They all want something from the Feds and Rand isn't campaigning to give them anything, ergo they don't support him. Not even the coal company fellow. They're all whores and that's why they waste their money on politicians and campaigns instead of doing some good with it.

In fact the waste is sickening. If they really don’t want government in people’s lives, they should donate money to building hospitals, libraries or schools or other institutions which would save the taxpayer money. They say it’s just the cost of doing business. In reality it is the cost of doing business according to political consultants and their companies and the media, especially local TV and radio stations, which make a killing every election season off these billionaires.

Rand’s money problems can be spun into something which helps him but you need skilled political people to do so. We'll see if that happens. But bottom line is this, Rand now needs the grassroots, the grassroots movement his father created. To me, that's what is important. And if that means we see him killing the Patriot Act and starting to fight back against the neocon vermin and their fellow travelers, hey I'm all up for the battle. That’s why I’m confident there will be no “deviations “ like signing the Iranian letter like he did with other Republicans. To keep the grassroots happy and giving money, Rand has hold forth to the ideals of the Revolution, or he’ll get nothing.

Now maybe it's not a "Come to Jesus" moment but it doesn't matter. What matters is that we still matter, those of us eight years ago who basically created the Revolution from scratch and that we will still embrace Rand so long as he embraces and doesn't run away from those concerns which helped us start the movement in the first place, things like the Patriot Act for example. If the campaign can't get the big bucks from the suits, then they either have to close-up shop or go to the people who created it and created Rand Paul, U.S. Senator. And if they do so, I'll welcome them back with open arms like a long, lost friend. If I'm going to be critical for Rand for the things I feel he's doing wrong, then I should praise him for what I believe he's doing right too. And others should too as well. Now I'm interested in 2016 again.