Saturday, July 4, 2015

Best Fireworks Today

I looked out the window this morning down to the east, where there's a field and then woods, and at the top a little garden spot that Libby has flowers growing in. Last summer I'd driven a tall pipe into the fence line of that garden so as to hang a flower basket on it, as back here in the woods there's never quite enough light for those flower baskets they sell at the grocery store when spring is upon us to thrive. So on top of that post today was a big red-tailed hawk. I'd seen him flash away a few times before this year, when I was walking out to the truck. He (or she) is always well on the wing before I ever think to look up, so although I've thought I was seeing a hawk, it might have I thought been one of the owls that also frequent the woods here. This is most definitely a hawk. I hope the hawk can coexist ok with the owls. There's plenty of squirrel stew for all, plus snakes (I see from looking at google that hawks seem to love snakes, including copperheads), mice, voles, rabbits. Have at it, boys. The cats live inside, they can watch the adventure.

Last time I saw a red-tail this close was way back when I had some bantam chickens for pets. I did eat the eggs. I had a small variety, including a couple of Cornish, who looked a little like a red tail. One day I was splitting wood in the yard, and the chickens were out ranging as they did, and I noticed there was an extra chicken! A red-tail had landed amongst the flock, possibly one of the bantams had just jumped aside at the last second. Chickens are always scanning the sky above them for danger. I hollered at the hawk and he reluctantly flew up to a branch. He gave up and went on since I didn't leave. The chickens survived that day, although they didn't really thrive out here. Too many predators, and too little attention from me. Libby planted some flowers they tore up too--that didn't put them in her good graces. It was one of those things: you moved out to the country and you tried to live like your grammaw did, without really having a clue of why grammaw's chickens were always a thriving flock. (Hint, she was always there, there was a good yard dog.) Grammaw did give me a good anatomy lesson concerning chickens one Saturday or Sunday. We'd eat one of those chickens on Sundays. She killed it privately, plucked it, then laid it out on the kitchen table and showed me what was inside. The craw was full of corn she'd fed the chickens that morning. She cut it open and put the corn aside. Later she tossed the corn back out on the ground, for the chickens. The ground was bare. There were no ticks.

I'm not going to spend much more time on poor Ben Jones. He's making the rounds of the Fox morning shows now. A friend of mine sent me a link of Ben and Steve Doucey talking flag, and how the Dukes of Hazzard was actually the greatest blow for freedom and humanity since Wonder discovered the formula for white bread written by a finger of flame on the very walls of Plato's cave. I'd imagine someone in the Hazzard cast might have sent Ben a note by now. "Will you please STFU!" If they've taken the show down from whatever cable network was running it, it's likely because Ben has made such a huge noise that they've had to. Who was paying attention before Ben? Dukes of Hazzard was ubiquitous on the endless list of shows you have to pay for to get the tiny number of channels you want to watch. If it was listed in a block of time I was scrolling through, it was a certainty that I was not going to click there. I have no problem with it's existence, and it will exist. So will Mayberry, and Amos 'n' Andy. It's the fodder of bored Saturday mornings, particularly in the drear winter, the tv in the living room, the endless laugh track, the little round heads sitting in front of it, silhouettes against the flickering, the house smelling of washing clothes, washing dishes, baking bread or boiling cabbage. We will not manage to erase history, nor should we. All we need to do is develop a more accurate knowledge of our history, of what the flag stands for, of where it shouldn't out of decency ever be seen. If NASCAR can really make banning it stick, a great step in this direction will have been made.

The Dukes are a clueless bunch. That's their humor, such as it is. The show needed Mr. T for balance. "Take a right, Fool. Don't drive through that feed store."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

On the Cusp of the 4th of July

This piece by Mr. Coates should be read and probably printed out. Stick it on your Christmas cards too:

We are actually witnessing a bit of national progress this week, with two great Supreme Court decisions and Mr. Obama's Pinkney Eulogy to close out the work week. I watched the whole service when I got home from work, then Rachel Maddow ran the actual Obama speech as a part of her show. Later in the night, thunderstorms came through and although the power went off, it got cooler and we could let the little window airconditioner which has been toiling all week have a little Saturday respite. The, to make matters even nicer, the power came back on just in time to get up.

My old friend Ben Jones has decided to take a big stand against removing the Confederate Flag from public places, or at least so would seem the implication of his maintaining that he will "nevah" stop selling the flag at his various Cooter Stores. Why he's felt the need to take such a public position I'm not entirely sure of. Possibly he feels the hot breath of a business issue breathing down his neck. But he might have just said nothing. It seems unlikely that anyone is going to tell him to stop selling the flags. I think even the hoped for removal of the flag from the grounds of the Columbia, SC capitol is not a sure thing. There are quite a number of SC legislators who've been vocal in their support for the presence of the flag. Ms Haley's light touch of oblique criticism was countered in her usual sledge-hammer way by Ann Coulter: "she ain't from around here."

Meanwhile, the two Duke boys lived in a Hazzard in no state, and just down the road from Mayberry. There was, as Ben says, no racism in this Hazzard Never Never Land. Also, the boys never got killed in their Charger as they lept it around the countryside as though it was Traveler himself. These days the elderly dudes might lose their current car commercial, or maybe not. None of that has much to do with anything. We already knew Ben's show was a sit-com from a by-gone era. Nobody this side of Saturday Night Live ever thought to question the politics of the show. It had no politics at all. Which one could say is the magic of white privilege, but that magic is so much more in evidence every night on Fox News, where it is proclaimed to be the gawd's no spin truth ad nauseum to the angry and fearful rubes who keep up the ratings. (I should note, here, that the musical life of Jesse James, "Diamond Studs," that put the Red Clay Ramblers on the national map in 1975, suffered from the same privileged magic. Jesse James was a racist irregular who continued his depredations for fifteen years after the end of the Civil War until he was assassinated by a government agent. He wasn't a fun lovin' good-ole boy, never meanin' no harm. That's how he was played, to full houses.)

But as you can read in Mr. Coates' piece, the Confederate Flag was always about slavery and white supremacy. It stood for that American tragedy when the war was started by South Carolina. It stood for resistance when Bedford Forrest mounted the terrorist Klan after the war. And it stood for resistance yet again when it was rehung in 1962 from the Capitol flagpole in Columbia, by the old Southern Democratic politicians who fought the Civil Rights Movement tooth and nail and who, after the various Civil Rights laws were passed in the mid-'60s, switched pretty much en masse to the Republican Party as a measure of the success of Nixon's "Southern Strategy."

You can take your pick of eras with regard to ending at a minimum the publicly sanctioned display of the damned old rag. It's all of a piece. Here's an image that puts the lie to Mr. Jones:

And cudos to the Alabama Governor who, Thursday, decided on his own and with no particular pressure, to voluntarily remove the four rebel flags from the Montgomery State grounds. Equal cudos to Dale Earnhardt Junior, by the way. It certainly is necessary and sufficient reason enough that the flag offends millions of our fellow citizens. We ought to all be offended by that. But historical amnesia is never a good idea, and in the case of the Civil War, it's really embarassing. Yes, the foot soldiers on the Southern side in that conflict mostly had not even the "hope" of owning slaves, and were probably fighting for their friends in arms and their sense of place. Same as it ever was, in all wars. But Stonewall Jackson shot deserters, which will give a man impetus to charge up the hill.

Like our recent two-week scorcher, perhaps a fever has broken.


Wednesday Update: Ben Jones' has chosen to pursue a "southern strategy," expanding the shelves at his Cooter Stores to include a vast new array of confederate flag gear. You can click over there for a look:

This is exactly Nixon's original southern strategy: you don't want the racist vote, well we'll take it. But as with the Republican Party, there are consequences. When you next drive past the lil country store that time forgot, expect to see a parking lot full of choppers and gun racked pickups. As I suggested elsewhere, Ben could expand his merchandise to include replicas of Lester Maddox axe handles, which can no doubt be produced for next to nothing in any third world sweatshop. As for the flag flip flops, you'd think there's a modicum of disrespect in there somewheres or other. One of my wife's ancestors walked home from Appomattox, and ate a dog along the way to survive. He didn't wear no confederate flag flip flops I don't think.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

In Plain Sight

You've heard the one about the guy smuggling bicycles, right? Comes across the border every day riding a red bicycle. Guards check him out but that's the deal, just a guy on a bike. He carries a little paper sack with a sandwich and a bottle of water. This is just during the week. He has some kind of job somewhere up in the hills, in the fancy part of town. So the guards speculate. Gardener. Cook. Maybe even a nanny. He's a nice man, in his late '30s. Finally after months they take him aside. What are you sneaking in, man? Hell, we don't care, we just work here. It's just hard to believe you're not bringing in something. “Bicycles,” the guy says, with a wry smile.

Clementa Pinkney was a remarkable leader by all accounts. He was a State Senator. He had the ability to convince his cohort, mostly very right wing folks the state being South Carolina, that police body cameras were a good idea. This was just after the policeman in North Charleston who'd shot and killed a black man who ran after a traffic stop for a broken tail light. We all saw that. Shot at him eight times as he ran, in the back. Then handcuffed the body, no interest in even checking to see if he was dead or might be saved. Pinkney took the tack of arguing via Doubting Thomas. Sometimes we must put our hand into the wound. It was effective.

Reverend Pinkney was a man who stayed humble. He drove home from Columbia to Charleston to lead a prayer meeting in the most historic black church in the whole South, his church. His attendees were all community leaders, solid folks. They probably got a lot out of the cool drink of water that was Reverend Pinkney. He was showing the world how to live righteous. He was the absolute opposite of, for example, Donald Trump. And in a different way, of his Governor of the moment, Nikki Haley. There were testimonials about him from white Republican senate colleagues. It's possible that his murder will have the result of finally getting the odious Confederate Battle Flag off the Capitol grounds in Columbia. The affront of the damn thing—someone called it the American Nazi Flag on a blog I read—still flying high when both the state and American flags were at half-mast the day after the massacre in the church was possibly too much for whoever still imagines themselves in South Carolina to still be within the pale of civilized society. Some Southern Baptist leader called for its removal yesterday, the day after the murders. This was some step forward from Chris Hayes' interview with former Governor and now Congressman Sanford, who said “I didn't have anything to do with it, I was in Washington.” A brave stand, that, from the former Lothar of the Pampas. Sanford would be a great running mate for Gov. Perry. I'd laugh at that ticket all the way to the bank.

Pinkney was a significant black leader in South Carolina. He had national promise surely, although whether he was interested in such a path is not clear. He stayed connected to people, real people. But he was an elected leader, he was articulate and capable, and could bring different factions together such as on that camera bill. That's a skill. That's a force to be reckoned with.

Why is it that in every one of these cases, from John F. Kennedy forward, the press and the powerful always run immediately to the “lone nut” theory? That's all I've been hearing since the massacre happened. That and “he was pure evil.” Pure evil is actually a cypher, a place-marker for “we have nothing at the present time.” There are already public calls for his execution, from Gov. Haley, from Senator Graham, who also suspected the guy was out to kill Christians. That was another theme from the Right wing media. He was a Lone Wolf said David Brooks last night to Judy Woodruff. We have a societal problem with these young men, unconnected, living in trailers, no job. I waited to hear “let's bring back the Draft,” but Brooks cannot bring himself to offer any real policy. Lone Wolves must assuredly be of both parties, or none. Another one of those things that comes with the decline of the apogee of American Civilization that happened, in retrospect, at the end of Dwight Eisenhower's first term, same year Mantle hit 56 untainted homers and Larsen pitched that perfect game in the Series. This was like Shakespearean comets, we just didn't know it then, it takes Brooks' hindsight.

Someone on a comedy show said, well if he wanted to kill Christians he drove by a lot of churches to get to Charleston, 100 miles of churches. And if he wanted to kill black people, he drove by plenty of black people. It amazes me that no one can manage to put any of these dots together, at least on the media coverage. One hopes that behind the scenes some real investigation is going on, that someone is actually sitting in a quiet friendly room with Mr. Roof and talking gently and quietly to him about what he was doing. Dostoyevsky's insight is still true.

Because it's pretty obvious that Mr. Roof might as well have been a guy with a dynamite vest on, or a guy with a sword and a black hood. He was an arrow, that's surely the case isn't it. How would he even know the remarkable history of that particular AME Church, to pick it out and go to the trouble. But he knew that church, and he knew Rev. Pinkney was there. According to one witness, he asked for Reverend Pinkney, and sat near him for an hour before starting the murdering.

I'm sorry. Mr. Roof was an assassin, first and foremost. He hid his assassination amongst the bodies and the very understandable emotions elicited by such horror. But he must have gone to that church, on that night, to kill Mr. Pinkney. The task of the authorities is to find out who sent him. Someone did. Maybe they're on line, in some racist chat room on the IRC network. Maybe they're somewhere else, with a murky website full of nazi gear or Rhodesian gear. Roof was a lost boy and he found a cause somewhere, and we have to know about that. He will talk to the right person too, and not some monkey with a water board. He will talk to a friendly voice. We need to know who sent Roof, and we should be very happy to trade him his life behind bars for that information. The victims' families, in this regard, are way ahead of the people who are, in effect, screaming for all of it to be covered up, to be buried and never spoken of again. ISIL isn't the only group who recruits lost boys.

Maybe the right wing lives so deeply in denial that that's all they can do. O'Reilly last night was nearly hysterical, shouting over and over again, “Roof was psychotic.” The calls for the death penalty resound. I hope they keep him safe in custody. Jack Ruby heard those calls and acted straight away. Ruby was a better assassin than Oswald. The Lone Wolf moniker seems to work endlessly, like a hall of mirrors. But it's not reality.

We had better learn from the past, even if that's not what the media wants from us.


A few years back Juan Cole published the following list( ):

1. White terrorists are called “gunmen.” What does that even mean? A person with a gun? Wouldn’t that be, like, everyone in the US? Other terrorists are called, like, “terrorists.”

2. White terrorists are “troubled loners.” Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.

3. Doing a study on the danger of white terrorists at the Department of Homeland Security will get you sidelined by angry white Congressmen. Doing studies on other kinds of terrorists is a guaranteed promotion.

4. The family of a white terrorist is interviewed, weeping as they wonder where he went wrong. The families of other terrorists are almost never interviewed.

5. White terrorists are part of a “fringe.” Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.

6. White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies.

7. White terrorists are never called “white.” But other terrorists are given ethnic affiliations.

8. Nobody thinks white terrorists are typical of white people. But other terrorists are considered paragons of their societies.

9. White terrorists are alcoholics, addicts or mentally ill. Other terrorists are apparently clean-living and perfectly sane.

10. There is nothing you can do about white terrorists. Gun control won’t stop them. No policy you could make, no government program, could possibly have an impact on them. But hundreds of billions of dollars must be spent on police and on the Department of Defense, and on TSA, which must virtually strip search 60 million people a year, to deal with other terrorists.

The media coverage of the Charleston massacre follows this list of dicta with remarkable accuracy.

Update the 2nd:

Sunday Update: