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“Take Down The Confederate Flag—Now”: The Heritage Of White Supremacy Endorsing Violence

Last night, Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston church, sat for an hour, and then killed nine people. Roof’s crime cannot be divorced from the ideology of white supremacy which long animated his state nor from its potent symbol—the Confederate flag. Visitors to Charleston have long been treated to South Carolina’s attempt to clean its history and depict its secession as something other than a war to guarantee the enslavement of the majority of its residents. This notion is belied by any serious interrogation of the Civil War and the primary documents of its instigators. Yet the Confederate battle flag—the flag of Dylann Roof—still flies on the Capitol grounds in Columbia.

The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it. That the Confederate flag is the symbol of of white supremacists is evidenced by the very words of those who birthed it:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…

This moral truth—“that the negro is not equal to the white man”—is exactly what animated Dylann Roof. More than any individual actor, in recent history, Roof honored his flag in exactly the manner it always demanded—with human sacrifice.

Surely the flag’s defenders will proffer other, muddier, interpretations which allow them the luxury of looking away. In this way they honor their ancestors. Cowardice, too, is heritage. When white supremacist John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, Booth’s fellow travelers did all they could to disassociate themselves. “Our disgust for the dastardly wretch can scarcely be uttered,” fumed a former governor of South Carolina, the state where secession began. Robert E. Lee’s armies took special care to enslave free blacks during their Northern campaign. But Lee claimed the assassination of the Great Emancipator was “deplorable.” Jefferson Davis believed that “it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South,” and angrily denied rumors that he had greeted the news with exultation.

Villain though he was, Booth was a man who understood the logical conclusion of Confederate rhetoric:

“TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN”:

Right or wrong. God judge me, not man. For be my motive good or bad, of one thing I am sure, the lasting condemnation of the North.

I love peace more than life. Have loved the Union beyond expression. For four years have I waited, hoped and prayed for the dark clouds to break, and for a restoration of our former sunshine. To wait longer would be a crime. All hope for peace is dead. My prayers have proved as idle as my hopes. God’s will be done. I go to see and share the bitter end….

I have ever held the South were right. The very nomination of ABRAHAM LINCOLN, four years ago, spoke plainly, war—war upon Southern rights and institutions….

This country was formed for the white, not for the black man. And looking upon African Slavery from the same stand-point held by the noble framers of our constitution. I for one, have ever considered if one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us,) that God has ever bestowed upon a favored nation. Witness heretofore our wealth and power; witness their elevation and enlightenment above their race elsewhere. I have lived among it most of my life, and have seen less harsh treatment from master to man than I have beheld in the North from father to son. Yet, Heaven knows, no one would be willing to do more for the negro race than I, could I but see a way to still better their condition.

By 1865, the Civil War had morphed into a war against slavery—the “cornerstone” of Confederate society. Booth absorbed his lesson too well. He did not violate some implicit rule of Confederate chivalry or politesse. He accurately interpreted the cause of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, men who were too weak to truthfully address that cause’s natural end.

Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. Here is another choice.

Take down the flag. Take it down now.

Put it in a museum. Inscribe beneath it the years 1861-2015. Move forward. Abandon this charlatanism. Drive out this cult of death and chains. Save your lovely souls. Move forward. Do it now.

 

By: Ta-Nehist Coates, The Atlantic, June 18, 2015

June 19, 2015 Posted by | Civil War, Confederacy, White Supremacy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s Time To Amend The Constitution”: Orrin Hatch Is Third In Line To The Presidency!

The swearing-in of a new Congress is often marked by precipitous climbs and sudden tumbles. Last week, former Senate Minority Obstructionist Mitch McConnell realized his lifelong ambition of becoming majority leader; his rival Harry Reid backslid to his old role in the minority (though not before a less figurative fall sprinkled a little injury over the insult); and more than a dozen Republican senators took over as committee chairs, which contributed such marvelous ironies as global warming skeptic James Inhofe becoming America’s top gatekeeper for environmental legislation.

One of the most consequential changes, however, has passed virtually without comment. Coinciding with the rise of the new Republican majority in the upper chamber, Utah’s archconservative Senator Orrin Hatch is now the Senate president pro tempore. That means that he’s been transformed overnight from a minority-party graybeard to third in line to the presidency.

Most Americans probably didn’t realize that the good people of Beaver, Daggett, and Juab Counties had selected a possible future president for the rest of the country back in 2012, when they reelected Hatch to a seventh term. He is now the second Republican, behind Speaker John Boehner, in line to succeed the Democratic president and vice president in the event of their deaths, incapacitations, or resignations. Here is convincing proof, even more than the vice presidencies of Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle were, that the voters, our political parties, and America’s entire system of government don’t really take the issue of presidential succession seriously.

It almost never matters who the Senate president pro tempore is. The position is basically a constitutional quirk arising from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the body occasionally had to call on a designated lawmaker to substitute for its normal presiding officer, the vice president. That function declined in importance over the last 60 years as veeps began to embrace a larger role outside the Senate. Thereafter a tradition arose to entrust the meager duties of the office (you get to sign legislation and administer oaths) to the longest-serving member of the majority party. That practice has frequentlyone might even argue necessarilyresulted in the appointment of enfeebled old men from small states, often not of the president’s own party, to a position just a few heartbeats away from the big office.

Hatch is 80 years old, and he takes over the job from the comparatively spry Pat Leahy, a 74-year-old from Vermont. The two presidents pro tempore before Leahy were Hawaii’s Daniel Inuoye and West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, both of whom died in office at the ages of 92 and 86, respectively. Keep in mind that the oldest president in history, Ronald Reagan, left the White House at 77 already showing signs of the Alzheimer’s disease that would swiftly put an end to his public life. It’s flatly dangerous to put men of such advanced years anywhere near the Oval Office without the kind of rigorous medical vetting that presidential candidates receive during campaigns; if they assumed control over the government, it would almost certainly occur during a time of national crisis that would tax their abilities to the extreme.

Even if Hatch’s health and faculties could be guaranteed, his ascent would still mean the retroactive disenfranchisement of tens of millions of Democratic voters nationwide in favor of a vastly smaller group of some 600,000 Hatch voters from his home statethis at a time when national unity would be of paramount importance. This is doubly true of Boehner, a perfectly capable man whose entire congressional district consists of less than 800,000 people.

It may seem fanciful (or morose) to speculate on the subject of succession. After all, no Speakers outside of The West Wing have risen to replace a fallen president, let alone Senate presidents pro tempore. But we’ve lived far more dangerously than we ought to be comfortable with. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln originated in a plot to decapitate the government by also killing the vice president and secretary of stateone that very nearly succeeded. To pick an example of more recent vintage, United Airlines Flight 93 came within a forty-minute flight delay of wrecking the United States Capitol or White House. After 9/11, the joint Brookings/AEI Continuity of Government Commission issued a set of recommendations to help our succession process better reflect an age of global threats that strike without warning. Its counselto cut congressional and more junior cabinet secretaries out of the picture, as well as establish protocols for the appointment of temporary members of Congress and the judiciaryhas gone thus far unheeded.

The group’s best suggestion was its most provocative: Instead of concentrating our entire crop of possible successors within the small area around Washington, where they are clearly vulnerable to a devastating act of terrorism, the president should select a small group of prominent Americans around the country who could be regularly briefed and prepared to step into power should the need arise. These figuresstate governors, former cabinet officials, or other successful government administratorscould even be put forward by candidates during a presidential election, giving the public the partial opportunity to review and approve the choices (and providing political reporters and strategists with even more fodder). In the name of prudence, democracy, and a better news cycle, we should implement this planand for the same reasons, we should get elderly, out-party members of Congress some other ceremonial job.

 

By: Kevin Mahnken, The New Republic, January 16, 2015

January 17, 2015 Posted by | Orrin Hatch, Presidential Succession, Senate President Pro Tempore | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Imagine; The Democratic States Of America”: Is It Finally Time For Us Northeners To Encourage The South To Go Its Own Way?

I have a confession to make: I’m prejudiced against the South. You might even call me an anti-Southern bigot.

I’m not proud of it. It’s just a fact. I grew up a liberal, secular Jew in New York City and southern Connecticut — a Yankee through and through. The thought of “my” America being yoked together with a region that fought a bloody, traitorous war to defend the institution of slavery and a way of life based upon it — well, it just felt morally grotesque. That this same region persisted in de jure racism (backed up by brutal violence) right up through the decade prior to my birth in 1969 only made it more galling.

I became more conservative in my 20s. But it was the conservatism of the urbane, formerly left-liberal, mostly Jewish neocons, which is (or at least used to be) the furthest thing from the Southern, populist wing of the Republican Party that, in our time, sets the tone and agenda for the party as a whole. And as I’ve moved a few clicks back in the direction of my youthful liberalism over the past decade and become an unapologetic anti-Republican, my distaste for the South hasn’t diminished.

That’s why I get a little kick out of it any time I hear someone make an argument in favor of Southern secession — whether it’s a Southerner who wants to get the hell out of Obama’s godless Euro-socialist dystopia or a Northern liberal wishing the yokels would do exactly that.

Sure, Lincoln was willing to sacrifice vast quantities of blood and treasure to keep the South from bolting for the exits. But that was eons ago. And some days — like today, less than a week from the likely seizure of the Senate by the Southern-dominated GOP — I find myself wishing the South would make another go of it.

Today, the Democrats control the Senate by a margin of 53 to 45. Two senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, call themselves independents but caucus with the Democrats, bringing their effective total up to 55 seats. The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is held by the Republican Party by a margin of 233-199.

But without the 11 states of the Confederacy? Whoa boy. By my calculations, Democrats (with Sanders and King) would control the Senate by a wildly lopsided margin of 49 to 29 seats. And the House — entrenched power-base of the post-Gingrich GOP backed up by jimmy-rigged gerrymandering? Without the South, Democrats would hold the House easily, 160-135.

Then there’s the White House, where even with the South the Democrats hold an electoral edge rooted in ideology and demographics. If the 2012 election had been held in a post-secession America, Barack Obama’s 332-206 Electoral College romp would have become a monumental wipeout of 290-88. As for 2004, it would have gone from a relatively narrow win (286-251) for George W. Bush to a John Kerry landslide of 251-133.

Without the South, the country could very well be renamed the Democratic States of America.

Secession would have numerous policy implications. The deficit would likely shrink, since despite the South’s fondness for anti-government rhetoric and ideology, the region benefits substantially more from federal programs than it pays into the federal treasury. Serious gun control legislation might actually make it through Congress. ObamaCare would probably work better (the South has led the way in refusing to expand Medicaid), but it might also be possible to pass the kind of sweeping reform of the health-care system (single payer) that proved impossible for Obama.

In sum, the U.S. without the South would look an awful lot more like Canada and Europe than it currently does — while the newly independent Confederate States of America would likely look like, well, nowhere else in the civilized world. Rates of poverty, already among the highest in the nation, would probably leap higher still. Guns would be ubiquitous. Without a meddlesome Supreme Court to uphold reproductive rights, women in the New Confederacy might find it impossible to obtain abortions. Something similar would probably hold for gay rights (not just with regard to marriage, but even including sexual activity itself) and, of course, for African American voting rights. (Ten out of 11 states in the South have passed voting restrictions in the past four years. Imagine what would happen without what remains of the Voting Rights Act and the oversight of federal courts?)

So what do you say? Is it finally time for us Northeners to encourage the South to go its own way?

I’d be inclined to say yes, except for one thing. I have family members in the Midwest who hold views as conservative as those that prevail across wide swaths of the South. If it’s ideology and culture (rather than region) that divides us, then shouldn’t these Fox News aficionados join in the exodus? And come to think of it, my neighbor down the street in the Philadelphia suburbs has a Tea Party bumper sticker on his pickup truck. Maybe he’d be better off relocating somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, too.

You get the idea.

The dysfunction of our public institutions and the ideological polarization and self-segregation of our culture can easily convince us that we lack any common ground with those on opposite sides of the various conflicts that divide us. And yet here we are, sharing the same soil, the same history, the same democratic norms and ideals. If we don’t want to set a centrifugal precedent that states and even smaller groups of citizens are free to break off from the country and set out on their own at the first sign of tension — a precedent that if acted on with any regularity could easily lead to the dissolution of the nation itself — we need to accept that we’re stuck with each other and have no responsible choice but to learn, somehow, to get along.

Maybe that Lincoln fellow was onto something after all.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, October 29, 2014

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Confederacy, Republicans, The South | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The ‘Lawless’ Presidencies Of Barack Obama And Ronald Reagan”: Consistency Must Count For Something, Otherwise It’s Hypocrisy

The headline emerging from last week’s SOTU address continues to be the President’s stated intent to go around Congress, where necessary, to effectuate elements of his agenda through the use of the executive order.

So grave is the situation—according to conservative leaders and pundits—Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) took to the airwaves this weekend to warn one and all that we now have “an increasingly lawless presidency.”

Tea Party firebrand, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, could not agree more.

Indeed, so concerned is King with Obama’s decision to order up a raise for those employed by federal contractors, he referred to the executive action granting the wage increase as a “constitutional violation”, adding “we’ve never had a president with that level of audacity and that level of contempt for his own oath of office.” 

Still, a highly placed White House aide noted that there are a number of things “the President can unilaterally do,” stating that “With a hostile Congress that doesn’t show much sign of coming toward us on some of these issues, it behooves us to take the initiative when we can take it.”

There is, however, one thing I should point out regarding the sequencing of events set forth above.

While Paul Ryan and Steve King are certainly functioning in today’s highly charged political environment, the White House aide who made the statements regarding the President’s ability to do many a thing unilaterally—particularly when a hostile Congress is not cooperating with the president’s agenda—was none other than Gary L. Bauer, chief domestic policy advisor to President Ronald W. Reagan. What’s more, the statements were made in August of 1987 and were the direct result of the years of frustration Reagan had experienced at the hands of a Congress that simply would not get with his program.

Sound familiar?

Of course, nothing President Reagan did through the use of his executive order power could possibly match the severity of Obama’s attempt to get around an obstructionist Congress in order to accomplish his own agenda, right?

Not so much.

Do the words ‘National Security Agency’ ring a bell?

The NSA, of course, is the government body that has been collecting our phone and Internet data while spying on Americans and foreigners (including foreign leaders) in ways that have infuriated the very Republicans—along with just about everyone else—who hold Ronald Wilson Reagan up to be the icon of modern day conservatism.

As a result, you might be surprised to learn the following bit of history:

It was President Reagan’s infamous Executive Order 12333 (referred to as “twelve-triple-three”) that established and handed to the NSA virtually all of the powers under which the agency  operates to this day—allowing the agency to collect the data that so many now find to be so offensive.

McClatchy describes Executive Order 12333 as follows:

“It is a sweeping mandate that outlines the duties and foreign intelligence collection for the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies. It is not governed by Congress, and critics say it has little privacy protection and many loopholes.”

If you view Reagan’s actions as an appropriate use of the executive order, Tea Party/GOP Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) would beg to differ.

Speaking at a gathering hosted by the Cato Institute, Amash described Congressional hearings into the actions of the NSA as follows:

“Amash describes those briefings as a farce. Many times, he says, they focused on information that was available from reading newspapers or public statutes. And his account of trying to get details out of those giving the briefings sounds like an exercise in frustration:”

“So you don’t know what questions to ask because you don’t know what the baseline is. You don’t have any idea what kind of things are going on. So you have to start just spitting off random questions: Does the government have a moon base? Does the government have a talking bear? Does the government have a cyborg army? If you don’t know what kind of things the government might have, you just have to guess and it becomes a totally ridiculous game of 20 questions.”

Congressman Amash’s displeasure over Congress’ neutered role when it comes to the NSA does not stop him from frequently quoting the words of Ronald Reagan—despite Reagan’s responsibility for supplanting Congress in this regard—particularly when it comes to The Gipper’s declaration that “libertarianism is the heart and soul of conservatism.”

The use of the Executive Order has long been controversial, dating back to President Abraham Lincoln’s use of the device to suspend habeas corpus along the Philadelphia to Washington line in response to the assault on Union troops in Baltimore.

What made Lincoln’s move so dramatic is that the suspension of habeas corpus is placed by the Founding Fathers in Article I of the Constitution—the section that lays out the powers reserved for Congress.

However, as Jennifer Weber of the New York Times notes in her excellent piece on Lincoln’s use and abuse of power, the Founders “muddied the water” on just who could order a suspension of habeas corpus by writing, “the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

Whether you view Lincoln’s actions as a proper exercise of power by the Commander-In-Chief during a time of emergency, or blatant defiance of the Constitution by the President of the United States, I don’t recall too many modern Americans—Democrat, Republican or otherwise—referring to Abraham Lincoln as a “lawless” president.

Nor do I recall many of the Republicans who worship at alter of Ronald Wilson Reagan referring to him as a “lawless” president.

None of this is to say that Presidents Lincoln, Reagan, Obama—or the many other American presidents who have relied upon the executive order—are acting in obedience to our Constitution or that they are not. That is up to the Courts to decide.

What it is to say is that, once again, consistency must count for something.

If you disagree with what President Obama might have in mind to do through the use of the executive order, you may have constitutional authority to back you up. Indeed, I acknowledge my own concerns about presidents who go around Congress’ lawmaking authority by using the executive order, no matter how much I may disapprove of our current and recent incarnations of Congress.

However, to take the tact of accusing Mr. Obama of a “lawless presidency”, while lauding previous presidents who did the identical thing, is just so much more hypocrisy on the part of leaders like Congressman Ryan who are far more wedded to the process of scoring political points than they are to remaining true to history or governing with good intent.

Or could it be that people like Paul Ryan—a man who holds a great deal of power and responsibility in our government—are simply ignorant of our history and the subject matter upon which they deign to expound?

Either way, there is little comfort to be gained when our system is so disgustingly politicized that a president is accused of lawlessness when following in the very same footsteps of previous presidents hailed as some of the greatest heroes of the nation.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, February 3, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Executive Orders | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Freedom’s Just Another Word For Guns”: Honor Lincoln And MLK By Getting Yourself An AR-15

Let’s say you’re a local Republican party organization in a Democratic state, and you want to think creatively about how to get media attention. You could put up a “Kiss a Capitalist” booth at the county fair, or hire a local graffiti artist to spray-paint portraits of Ronald Reagan on the homes of poor people in order to inspire them to take a firm hold of those bootstraps and pull. Or, in honor of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, two liberals who got assassinated with guns, you could raffle off an AR-15. That’s what the Multnomah county GOP is doing, and you have to give them credit: people are noticing! Here’s part of their press release:

Multnomah County Republicans recognize the incredible time of year we are in. In successive months to start the year, we celebrate the legacy of two great Republicans who demonstrated leadership and courage that all of us still lean on today: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. In celebrating these two men, and the denial of the rights they fought so hard against, the Multnomah County Republican Party announces that we have started our third raffle for an AR-15 rifle (or handgun of the winner’s choice).

For the record, Martin Luther King was not a Republican, and Abraham Lincoln’s Republican party was the liberal party of its day; just ask yourself what side the average Tea Party Republican of today would have been on had they been alive in 1864. And let’s try to unpack that last sentence: “In celebrating these two men, and the denial of the rights they fought so hard against…” So wait, are you celebrating the denial of rights? And which rights did they fight against? I’m confused.

Grammatical puzzlers aside, this is some high-grade, industrial-strength trolling. For some people, freedom’s just another word for … guns. That’s really all it’s a word for. Freedom is guns, and guns is freedom, and if a historical figure sought to correct injustice, then obviously he would have been opposed to the worst injustice of all, which is when you have three AR-15s and you want to get a fourth one, but you have to get a background check to get it instead of just buying it out of some dude’s trunk at three in the morning in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly like James Madison intended.

And here’s the best part of that article about the raffle: “The winner will be given a background check before receiving the weapon.” Wouldn’t want any nuts getting their hands on it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 15, 2014

January 16, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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