Category: Politics

The Uncivil War

The Battle

Sometimes, the nonsense that gets bruited about the internets just makes my ‘nads shrivel.  Since the uproar over the Confederate flag began, the tsunami of nonsense has inundated even the most sensible corners of the talk-i-verse.

I was a certifiable “Civil War buff” for many years. I’ve read everything from Mary Chesnut’s Civil War Diary1 to Allan Nevins’ 8-volume history2 to Emory Thomas’ The Confederate Nation 3 to McClellan’s autobiography4 in a first edition.  

I even discovered that a tiny local library where I lived at the time had its own Civil War memorabilia collection, donated to the library by a community member in his will; and I was able to look at actual field maps from some of the major battles. The librarians had the stuff locked up in a back room because they had no money to do anything with it.

These discussions about slavery and the CW are about as lame as one could get and still breathe without the aid of a machine. Are you kidding me? What is your point? That slavery wasn’t that big of a deal? Really? What? Could you repeat that?

States’ Rights?

The Constitution makes absolutely no allowance for states to withdraw from the union. Period. No textual evidence exists, not in the document, not in the Federalist Papers, nor in the known writings of its writers, that substantiates any claim on that score. Just stop with the “states’ rights” yak. The Constitution clearly delineates the lines between states’ rights and Federal rights, and secession is not among them.

Some states, motivated by the desire to maintain white supremacist governments, tested out the theory that they could just go off on their own. They were decisively defeated in the attempt. The Civil War put paid to that nonsense.

Love It or Leave It

Really, I’m not one of those über-patriotic yak monkeys, who like to make this grandiose assertion.  But, seriously, if your dislike of the USA is that great, use your passport. That’s what it is for.

  1. Chesnut, Mary Boykin Miller. Mary Chesnut’s Civil War. Ed. C. Vann Woodward. New Haven: Yale UP, 1981. Print. 
  2. Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union. 8 vols. New York: Scribners, 1975. Print. 
  3. Thomas, Emory M. The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865. New York: Harper Perennial, 2011. Print. Originally published 1979. 
  4. McClellan, George B. McClellan’s Own Story: The War for the Union; The Soldiers Who Fought It and the Civilians Who Directed It. New York: Kessinger, 2007. Print. Reprint of 1887 edition. 

Guns and R̶o̶s̶e̶s̶ People


Guns are more important than people in America. There’s no “here” here. Nobody is going to go first, and just do what is right for the country.

During the Civil War, when soldiers — who were not professional soldiers, but conscripts or volunteers who came to the battlefield as members of a state militia — when soldiers would step up to the skirmish line, they knew that the first row of soldiers to advance would almost certainly be killed in short order. They just did it. It’s impossible to overemphasize the courage of the Civil War soldier, North or South.

That kind of courage no longer exists in America, except for the isolated individual, here and there. And, especially, it doesn’t exist among gun owners. Those guys in France, who disarmed the nut ball. In America, the American gun owner would have said, “I wish I had my pistol,” and sat silent. Those guys gave a lesson that went unlearned: what is needed to maintain order without firearms is courage. The modern American gets courage from a gun, the way the coward in a Hollywood movie gets it from a bottle. So weakened has become the American citizen’s fortitude, that he needs to take his gun with him to buy a burger at Burger King.

Less than 30% of homicides are committed by strangers to the victims. 30%. Three out of four people murdered in America, will be murdered through violence by someone they know.

Of violent crimes committed by strangers to the victim, less than 10% involve the use of a firearm. The violent criminal with a gun is a scary monster with psychological impact, but no empirical validity. The person in possession of a firearm is more likely to use it against family or friend, or himself, than to use it in commission of a crime or in defence against a crime.


If gun owners decided to support background checks, regulation of the size of magazine clips, creation of a database to track gun sales, requirements for safe storage and transport, licensing for gun ownership, and insurance requirements, could we reduce the amount of homicides by firearm? Damn right, we could.

It’s not going to happen. The wife shot by her estranged husband, the bloody corpses of little children strewn about a school, the moviegoers lying in pools of their own blood, the neighbor girl shot in the head by the toddler who found Daddy’s gun under his pillow, — those deaths are the price gun owners are willing to pay, the suffering gun owners are willing to inflict on others, to maintain their right to keep and bear arms.

The Clinton-Sanders Axis

“He said – she said” is a piss-poor paradigm on which to make judgements about political candidates. Why should I care about what the candidate said, when I can look at what he or she has done?

Two qualities of Democrats and so-called progressives that I find particularly annoying are:

  • No loyalty, neither to the brand nor to the candidates
  • No patience, no willingness to work on a long plan to achieve goals

One reason conservatives can hold the line, even when they hold positions deeply unpopular within the public, is that they remain committed to the party brand, and to each other as bearers of the standard. The hidden benefit to the Tea Party rampage is that its members have broken the line; the brand loyalty, and the solidarity of shared sacrifice are breaking down on the right. However, because the Left is equally disloyal, and uncommitted to its brand, it can’t take advantage of the breaking apart of the enemy ship.

For as long as I have been voting, which is a pretty long time, the Democratic Party, and especially its liberal base, has focused on and looked to the national government as its base for implementing social change. This probably is an outcome of the civil rights struggle, the legal aspect of which had to be fought at the national level. But, the national victory was based on local struggle. The bus boycott, Selma, the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Riders, and the like, were the foundation on which the legal scaffolding was raised.

The conservatives regrouped after the losses of the 60s and early 70s. They looked for another way to get their policies into power. That other way was through local government. At the outset, they probably had no idea that liberals would simply roll over and take a nap, leaving the small potatoes to the conservatives because they thought owning the big potato would trump all that little stuff.

We are now 40 years into the process, and conservatives fairly well own the country. The only piece of the political pie which the Democrats have been able to contest successfully in the past 30 years is the Presidency. And that may be on the brink, what with so-called progressives in the Democratic Party again playing the old “I’ll take the ball and go home, if you don’t make me QB” theme.

Tired of compromise? You’re tired of government. The essence of government is that you don’t get your own way all the time. I’ll tell you what. The other side is tired of compromise, too. And they’d like nothing better than for you to forfeit the game, and let them have complete control of the government. Which will then rapidly cease to be government and become the state of fear and repression.

Democrats have been, for four decades, the gold medal champions of Own Goal sports. The rights and liberties of the whole nation have been dribbled away by single issue voters, behaving for all the world like old men with weak streams, pissing on their own shoes and down the legs of their trousers. On the right, the single issue voter has nothing to lose. He will gladly surrender to theocracy, or any system that will reserve rights to his own particular group. On the left, ostensibly, the single issue voter has been contending for the rights and liberties of all Americans. Events have shown us that such is not the case — and that the contention is for the top spot, the QB, the Big Chair — who gets to decide what’s important, and who is left to ask politely for favors.

I don’t know that the party, and what it stands for, can be saved. The ability to work together, as a team, to accomplish concrete and recognizable goals, is key to the success of any political and social movement — just as it is to any other undertaking. The ability to see the connections between all the disparate members of a set of goals, and work them into your plan for success, is key to the leadership of the team. Even Hillary Clinton, who to my mind is far and away the most capable candidate on the floor today, has the vision to see the goals, and at least some of the connections; but not the vision to communicate the connections to the party.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

— Theodore Roethke

Hillary Clinton Gets My Vote – I

I admire Hillary Clinton.

Tough-minded, ambitious women are not popular in America. Even so-called progressives don’t like them. Hillary Clinton is one of those women.

When she was still an undergraduate student at Wellesley, classmates remarked that she would be America’s first woman President. Before she was out of her teens, she was already off the road of conventional bourgeois life. She was chosen by her classmates to be the first student in the history of the college to give the commencement address. That speech, in which she criticized then-Senator Edward Brooke, who was on the platform with her, received huge acclamation from her audience and led to Life Magazine featuring a profile of her.

From the very beginnings of her legal career, families and children were the focus of Clinton’s work. She worked at the Yale Child Study Center while a student at Yale Law School. She worked on child custody cases as an intern at Treuhaft, Walker and Bernstein, a law firm that specialized in Constitutional issues, and which was founded by two former members of the Communist Party known for their “radical left” views. While still at the school, she wrote the article “Children and the Law” for Harvard Law Review. In that article, she surveyed the legal precedents and case law for children, and advanced the view that children were “powerless individuals” under the law, who should not be (as they were at the time) regarded as being legally incompetent for the entire period of their minor status. Rather, she wrote, they should be considered as becoming gradually more competent as they grew up. This article became one of the foundations for modern legal opinion of children under the law.

Fresh out of law school, she went to work for the newly founded Children’s Defense Fund as its first staff attorney, and she provided legal consulting to the Carnegie Council on Children.

This focus on legal issues for families and children continued throughout the next twenty years. She co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She chaired the Arkansas Rural Health Advisory Committee and the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee. She created the Arkansas Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth to help families get their preschoolers ready for school.

During those years, she also found time to become the first woman to chair the board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation, the first woman on the Walmart board, the first woman to be made full partner at Rose Law Firm, one of only two women on the faculty at the Law School, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She chaired the board at the Children’s Defense Fund and the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession. She continued to write scholarly articles on children and the law. She served on the board of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Legal Services. Twice, she was recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the top one hundred most influential attorneys in the United States.

What’s wrong with this career? Hillary Clinton is not a man. Such an intensity of purpose, such ambition, would cause no remark if its owner was male. For most of the Clinton marriage, Hillary Clinton was the principal breadwinner. Oh, no you don’t, uh-uh, this is Murica.

After she left private life in 1992, to become First Lady, she did not stop being an advocate for families and children. Throughout the long years of being pilloried as a veritable Satan, accused of murder, denounced as scum for not abandoning her philandering husband, with every aspect of her personal life turned into some kind of conspiracy of evil, — through all that, she continued to work on issues for children and families. Elected to office for the first time at age 53, she established herself in short order as one of the more effective Senators in the national legislature. She got things done. Her ability to lead, and create legislation that would be successful and that would become law, put her in the top half of the Senate by the end of her first term.

I watched the video of her “confrontation” with the Black Lives Matter activists. Toward the end, after she listens calmly to the guy berating her, she says, “Okay, what do you want me to do?” He’s stumped. She goes straight to the point — all these things he says are true, now what do we do about it? And he doesn’t have an answer; for which, later, he blames her.

Well, she says, you can fill Yankee Stadium with white people, and a million more besides, and they all say, “I hear you, I’ll try to be better,” and it will accomplish nothing. You have to change laws, and processes. Apparently, that’s not what he wanted to hear, and it pissed him off. But, that is exactly what I wanted to hear. Because that’s what I want from the leader of my country: someone who will go straight at the problem, someone who will focus on changing the laws and processes.

The end of segregated schools; the Voting Rights Act; the Civil Rights Act; the Fair Housing Act; did not come about because we waited for white people to wake up and decide to get moral. They didn’t come about because people burped out two-sentence sound bites about “income inequality” and published them on campaign photographs on the internet. They didn’t come about because career politicians gave good speech, or looked good in a suit. They came about because people like Hillary Clinton were willing to step into the scrum and move the ball forward.

She has my respect, and she gets my vote.

Hillary Clinton’s Career Prior to 1992

The following is just a list of career stops and positions held by Hillary Rodham Clinton from her law school days through the Presidential election of 1992.

I put together this list to see and show the trends and/or focuses of her career as an attorney.

  • 1973 Harvard Law Review, feature article, “Children Under the Law”
  • 1973 First staff attorney for Children’s Defense Fund (founded by Marian Wright Edelman)
  • 1973 Consultant to the Carnegie Council on Children
  • 1974 One of only two female faculty at the School of Law, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville
  • 1975 Married Bill Clinton, but did not change her name
  • 1976 campaign director of field operations for Jimmy Carter campaign in Indiana
  • 1977 Joined Rose Law Firm
  • 1977 Rodham, Hillary; Steiner, Gilbert Y. (June 1977). “Children’s Policies: Abandonment and Neglect”. Yale Law Journal 68 (7): 1522–1531. doi:10.2307/795794. JSTOR 795794.
  • 1977 Co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
  • 1978-1981 BoD, Legal Services Corporation (first woman to chair the board)
  • 1979 Rodham, Hillary (1979). “Children’s Rights: A Legal Perspective”. In Patricia A. Vardin, Ilene N. Brody (eds.). Children’s Rights: Contemporary Perspectives. New York: Teachers College Press. pp. 21–36.
  • 1979 chair of the Arkansas Rural Health Advisory Committee (appt by Bill)
  • 1979 first woman to be made a full partner of Rose Law Firm
  • 1982-1988 BoD and chair, New World Foundation
  • 1983 chair of the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee
  • 1983 Arkansas Woman of the Year
  • 1984 Arkansas Mother of the Year
  • 1985 Created Arkansas’s Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth
  • 1985-1992 BoD, TCBY
  • 1986-1992 BoD, Wal-Mart Stores (first female board member)
  • 1986-1992 Chair, BoD Children’s Defense Fund
  • 1987-1991 Chair, American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession
  • 1988 & 1991 Rated one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America, National Law Journal
  • 1988-1992 BoD Arkansas Children’s Hospital Legal Services
  • 1990-1992 BoD, Lafarge

I’m Sick of It All

I have been intensely involved in the political debate in this country for over 45 years.  Protesting the Vietnam war, supporting Dr. King, siding against injustice whenever I could.

I’m sick of it.

I was inspired by JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” I tried.  I failed.

I’m old, and tired, and I just want some peace and quiet.  This is a country that is built on the principle of not giving a damn about anybody but yourself.  And it has all the broken qualities one would expect from that attitude.  Violence, poverty, homelessness, shame.

We have prosperity theology, the assertion that God wants us to be greedy and grasping, pile up earthly treasure, and ignore the needs of those who have less than we do.

We have Christians who preach hate, who defend the wealthy and deny the poor.  We have women who are raped and beaten, who are blamed; and men who rape and abuse, who are excused. An unarmed black man walking down the street is shot dead, for the capital crime of not cringing before a police officer. We have white men, armed to the nines, who laugh and joke with the same police officer who did the shooting.  We have violence paraded as the answer to all social problems; and anti-violence ridiculed as weakness.  We have capital punishment for those too poor to afford a good lawyer.

We have global warming, denied; evolution, denied; equality of rights for all citizens, denied.  We have school text books rewritten, to pretend that slavery was no big deal, and not the cause of the Civil War.  We have the Confederate battle flag, the flag of traitors who tried to destroy America, celebrated as “heritage.”

The most basic elements of human decency, — empathy, sharing, loving, helping, — are ridiculed. Cruelty, avarice, selfishness, are held aloft as virtues.

Earlier today, my younger daughter’s boyfriend was watching the History Channel series, “Vietnam in HD,” which is built around documentary footage and interviews of combatants.  I watched some of it; as always, the old, bad memories resurface. 58,000 dead, 158,000 wounded, 2 million Vietnamese dead. Savagery. Horror. Brutality. Slaughter.

We are no better today, than when I was a teen, listening to Dr. King’s soaring speech on my primitive clock radio.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have learned nothing. The vault is empty, the check is uncashed.