Why Do Republicans Insist On Behaving Exactly Like Slave Masters?

Never mind permanent minority rule, if the Republican Party could really have its way with America? They’d bring back slavery. That’s even more than they already have. In a number of disturbing ways, slavery really never ended in America. It shape shifted. Slavery, at its core, is stolen labor. The whole point of having a slave is they work for free. The slave master gets one hundred percent of the slave’s work output for nada. The only thing the slave master has to cover – to keep that work product coming – is whatever it costs to clothe, house and feed their slave. It’s simple business math: product minus costs equals profits. In America, in the agrarian South, they had three big cash crops: tobacco, sugar cane and cotton. All are labor intensive to farm. From a pure “cost-benefit” point of view, slavery asks “Hey, what if we could get all that farm labor (plus a little extra labor around the house) for nothing?” In a moral world, the response would have been “But, of course, slavery is wrong!” whereas, in America, the response was “Hey, so long as we can get away with it…”.

And that’s what happened. The American South – its business interests – got away with stealing the labor output of virtually all its essential farm labor. Not only did the slave economy not pay for that farm labor, it prevented those workers from ever building up the wealth they would have acquired HAD THEY been fairly paid for their work product. This is why reparations aren’t a “nicety”, they are demanded by any standard of decency.

What if the South hadn’t had the luxury of enslaving its farm work force? What if circumstances had compelled the South to pay a fair wage to every single person previously enslaved? There would never have been a Southern economy and, consequently, no Confederacy. Instead, who knows, a fairly paid work force producing those agricultural products may have been the basis for a worker’s paradise that would have shut Karl Marx’s mouth.

Alas, no such thing happened. Slavery did.

Are white Europeans more racist than anyone else? Hard to say. But they have been more successful than anyone else at spreading their racism across the planet and at profiting from it. The white, land-owning, Christian, European men who founded America’s government had a smashing idea in their collective heads: democratic self government. A hard thing to imagine, but even harder to keep (as Benjamin Franklin noted). What made the idea harder to keep than perhaps it should have been was piss poor execution of this smashing idea. Hey – just because white guys did it doesn’t mean the white guys got it right. In the case of founding America, they got it partially right. Either you mean “all people are created equal under the rule of law” or you mean “All men are created equal” by which you literally mean just “men” and by “men” you mean men who look exactly like you.

Sorry, but we’ll have to split that grade. “A” for the idea, “F” for the execution.

Originalism, you understand, is white men pointing at “All men are created equal” and insisting that THAT is how WE must understand the country today. That is all sorts of nasty-assed, liquid excrement.

This is conservatism’s goal however. The thing conservatives want to conserve is America the way it was. They’re terrified of America the way it’s about to be – where white people are a minority of the population – and, so, are doing everything they can think of (none of it legal, moral or ethical) to hold onto political power for as long as possible – hopefully forever. Conservatives don’t want to share power with the rest of us; in their minds, they’ve already shared too much – and look what it’s brought them!

It’s hard to say if race relations would be different in America had Restoration been allowed to happen in the South. Perversely, having forced Black people into slavery to begin with – the thing that brought the Civil War and the South’s ruin – after the war, white southerners blamed Black people for causing their economic collapse. Bitter at losing a war they maybe could have won, simmering with resentment, they saw everything in “zero sum game” terms. Whatever Black people had was at some white person’s expense. Few things enraged racists as much as Black success and Black wealth – especially if those enraged white people were failing because of their own woeful ignorance, profound laziness and copious inadequacies.

Want to know what really scares a racist more than anything? Having to compete in any way, shape or form.

Let’s go back to slavery. After the Civil War, one couldn’t literally enslave people anymore. Restoration’s failure (thanks, Andrew Johnson – if only he’d been convicted in the Senate!) disrupted the balance of power in the South. Black political power was truncated before it could even take root. Still, Black businesses and communities thrived, in part because of their insularity. That insularity enraged racists. That raged burned out Black Wall Street in Tulsa in June 1921 and Colfax, Louisiana in 1873,. It burned through Wilmington, NC in 1898 and through both Washington, DC and Elaine, AK in 1919. Racism took out the thriving Black community in Ococe, FL in 1920, and took out Rosewood, FL’s Black community in 1923. This was the white South reminding its Black inhabitants that they were nowhere near as free as they thought they were; nowhere near as free as the Constitution was attempting to make them.

Off to the side of this deeply embedded racism, sat “the money”. As Calvin Coolidge put it, “The business of America is business”. Capitalism is neither good nor evil. It’s an idea that can be good or evil. It depends how it’s executed and by whom. Socialized capitalism – like they have in Sweden and Denmark for instance (where wealth is spread as fairly as possible so as to not only reward hard work but to encourage constant innovation – produces a happy, healthy, innovative citizenry. Crony capitalism on the other hand is capitalism corrupted. There’s nothing good or worthwhile about it. Everything crony capitalism touches dies. Especially innovation.

We’ve all known bosses who tried to get us to work for nothing because they were short-sighted, greedy and stupid, and bosses who understood that compensating us fairly would get the best possible work from us – to their ultimate benefit. It’s just a fact: some people can only see value in money. They don’t see value in anything else – like good will or good faith or good relationships – even where their customers are concerned. They want every penny they can get in their pocket and no one else’s. To them, all workers are interchangeable and replaceable. They’re an expense that reduces the business’s profitability. Robots work cheaper (they’re practically slaves by design). That is precisely why so many businesses automate over hiring if possible.

For now however, our captains of industry must hire humans to do as much thankless work as possible for as long as possible for the least amount of pay possible.

It may not be literal slavery, but it can see slavery from its house. Can we call this condition “Slavery Adjacent”?

Republicans despise having a minimum wage because it conflicts with enslaving people. They hate any sort of social safety net because those people-empowering policies conflict with enslaving people. They can’t stand the idea of universal basic income because UBI especially undermines slavery (people can wait for work that suits them rather than take any job because they need the money). Republicans hate social security, medicare, free community college, free pre-school and even food for the hungry because all those things get in the way of re-enslaving Americans by turning America into a giant, corrupt, broken-to-its-core company town..

It’s just a stone cold fact. If we strip away all the pretense in virtually every Republican economic argument, what every Republican is really arguing for is either a return to slavery or a subtle variation on slavery’s theme.

There – I’ve answered my own question. Why do Republicans insist on behaving exactly like slave masters? Because that is what they are in their hearts and aspire to be out here in reality. Just like the Republicans remain hell bent on getting their coup d’etat right, they ache to get slavery right this time.

And they know, these Republicans, that if they score the one (permanent political power), the other (a return to slavery even if not by name) will come right along with it.

Our News Media Reports Corruption The Way Corruption Wants

Yesterday, Lawrence O’Donnell focused a segment of his show “The Last Word” on a tweet thread published by former Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times editor Mark Jacob. Having left the field of “official” journalism — the bubble in which most American journalists live, breathe and work — Jacob has come to see that the neutrality he thought was a hallmark of American journalism was actually a trap. Each and every time a reporter “balanced” something a Democrat said with something a Republican said, they weren’t actually presenting two equally valid points. The mistake “both sides do it” brand journalism makes automatically is in assuming that any two points of view — regardless of what they are — are equally valid even if one is based entirely on facts and the other entirely on feelings. It’s not for the journalist to judge validity, says the “both sides do it” school. That’s for their readers or viewers to decide!

Not a revelation: if you automatically give credence to bullshit, then bullshit instantly becomes credible when credible is the last thing bullshit is. But, if the news media is doing it, bullshit instantly gains at least a patina of Truth. So long as bullshit “could” be true, we’re all doomed. The moment you give bullshit the benefit of the doubt, doubt becomes the core operating principle and doubt is meat & potatoes to a fascist. Fascists, having created the doubt, step forward as its only real cure. That is precisely what the Republican Party is doing right here, right now.

For better or worse, Americans have short memories when it comes to history. At least, white Americans do. Our news media has always serviced white America’s short memory while insisting no other group’s memories (or stories) have equal validity or value. How many white Americans had ever heard of “Black Wall Street” before Black Lives Matter began to matter? Prior to the internet, the only people holding a megaphone were the media companies. They alone had the means to broadcast information far and wide. While there was less competition, at least most of the messages were relatively consistent and kept to a consistent narrative.

The advent of the twenty-four hour news cycle created both a new market for information and a monster. Filling that maw twenty-four-seven is a challenge. Or, at least it was until Donald Trump forced his way into the conversation and hijacked it. Our news media adore Trump. He’s driven their ratings to record levels. He’s made them richer than they were. And, as we all know, success teaches us only that our shit doesn’t stink when, in fact, it does. The word Jacob uses is “lazy”. Success makes people lazy. When you walk in the door lazy — as too many American journalists do, their laziness exacerbated by “both sides do it” thinking — you’re only going to get more lazy with time, as our news media has.

Donald Trump was demonstrably unethical in virtually everything he did and said. Hell, Trump’s projected most if not all of his criminality onto everyone else — a standard bully tactic. According to the Washington Post, Trump lied (or, in the WaPo’s softened version “mislead”) 30,573 times (as of January 24, 2021). You’d think after three or four times, journalists would “catch on” that Trump is “an unreliable witness” even to his own life. If you had even a modicum of analytical skills, surely you’d start connecting dots — adding verifiable information together to form a picture upon which you build an evolving narrative. After about five thousand lies, say, you’d stop giving this liar any sort of benefit of the doubt because the data says odds are, whatever just tumbled from Trump’s mouth, it’s not true. Rather than repeating everything Trump says verbatim — because he’s the POTUS — you’d contextualize this POTUS before any reporting began.

“While most presidents tell something like the truth most of the time, Donald Trump never tells the truth ever — even when confronted with it and — with that in mind — here’s what the liar-in-chief said today…”. Over the top, you think? Maybe in the olden days when Saint Ronnie Reagan was doing the lying. Today? It’s an understatement. Our news media set itself (and us) up for failure the moment they took up the “both sides do it” mantle. But it’s “both sides do it” thinking that caused our news media to quickly normalize “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy-grabbing” because “But her emails!”

Stone cold fact: no one — no one — in the Republican Party (with two exceptions perhaps) is an honest actor. As I’ve squawked here time and time again, the GOP knew even before they nominated Trump in 2016 that he was owned by Russia. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said so out loud as he entered a meeting of GOP leaders on June 15, 2016 (the meeting was recorded and the recording played for Washington Post reporter Adam Entous a year later): “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one in the room questioned the statement. No one rushed to Trump’s defense. No one doubt the statement’s veracity. No one called the FBI. Instead, per then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan’s demand, they all agreed to keep this secret a secret. “That’s how we know we’re family,” said Ryan.

Though this conversation was reported first by the Washington Post in 2017, virtually no one in the press has gone back to it — even with the perspective of everything that followed it (including Trump’s “odd” relationship with Putin). The one time the press did ask McCarthy about it, McCarthy issued the standard response: “I was joking”.

Take this to the bank and prepare to get rich: no, he wasn’t.

Not everyone has a sense of humor. That’s a fact. What marks the presence of a sense of humor in people is their ability to laugh at themselves. For real! If you can’t laugh at yourself (but can only laugh at others), that’s not having a “sense of humor”, it’s being a bully. Not the same thing, right? Bullies laugh plenty — but only at other people and at other peoples’ expense. Having no sense of humor, a person like Donald Trump can’t see irony. Literally. It’s like the rest of us trying to see x-ray and gamma ray light with our eyeballs — they’re not equipped to see those kinds of light. So, when a bully like Kevin McCarthy says “I was joking”, he’s not.

Ah, but when our news media assumes everyone’s doing it — and everyone has a sense of humor — then we get cruelty reported as “humor” in the interest of “fairness”. When our news media refuses to discern truth tellers from bullshit artists, we get the distorted view of ourselves the news media presents and calls “truth”.

How one frames a story IS the story. Journalism is storytelling in real time. It’s goal should be exactly the same: to get at the core “why” inside every human action. Even if someone can’t articulate why they do something, there is a very real “why”; no one ever does anything “just because”. Our news media — incapable of adding information to a narrative (especially if it contradicts “conventional wisdom”) keeps returning to a bizarre “square one” every day. Whereas the framing of the story we’re living through should START with Republican corruption front and center — with Donald Trump’s treasonous behavior in the middle of it — our news media starts each day scratching their heads about the perverse hold Trump has over the Republican Party.

Yeah, yeah — Trump’s base plays a part. But that’s only if you discount the possibility that people might do things for the right reasons and not the expedient ones. To understand Trump and his presidency, you must remove your “normalcy bias blinders”. You have to appreciate what Fusion GPS appreciated when — after doing their due diligence prior to beginning their oppo research on Trump (initially for the conservative owners of the Washington Free Beacon) — they became convinced that Trump had used his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money (for which Trump was repeatedly fined!) That’s a crime!

Fusion subcontracted their research into Trump’s Russian connections out to Orbis, the company run by respected, former MI6 Russia Desk jockey Christopher Steele because Steele had solid connections inside Russia — the context being that we’re talking about the “secret world” where you have to discern any smoking guns through the fog of deception. If our news media had done the same due diligence Fusion did — if they had aggregated the Trump story (especially their own reporting!) — our picture of Trump would be entirely different from what it is right now. For sure we wouldn’t be asking if Trump’s a racist or a rapist — the facts say “yes, he absolutely is, stop asking about it!”

We wouldn’t wonder “is Trump corrupt?” or “Is the GOP?” We wouldn’t ask why Putin and Russia still have such a grip on Trump and the GOP. We wouldn’t ask “will Trump run in 2024?” like he was some “normal” presidential candidate. Instead — because our news media had been fulfilling its Constitutionally mandated role as our final check on power’s corrupting influence — we’d already be at the part where a treasonous POTUS and his equally treasonous political party were being called out for who and what they really are by our press, while our Department of Justice was actively prosecuting them for same — because what they’re doing is criminal (for a political purpose), not political.

Reparations For Slavery Are Actually “Back Pay” That’s Long, LONG Overdue

Slavery, understandably, is one of those words that juices our emotions. Anyone with a history of being enslaved understands on a deep, subcutaneous level how that hangs on one’s sense of self. And that’s without ever having been a slave oneself. Slavery isn’t just one thing of course. It’s a lot of things, none of them good. It’s a whole system in fact. But, it’s a system built upon one key, essential foundation: stolen labor. The whole point of enslaving someone — of making them your slave — is to force them to work for YOU for nothing. You get their labor gratis. Now, consider slavery from the point of view of work. If a person works for free, they can never acquire any wealth — or power, a thing that comes with wealth. Money talks, right? If you haven’t got any — and no way to acquire any — you don’t exist. As an individual, that is. Your work however DOES exist — and you, the slave, working for free, improve the slave master’s bottom line like literally nothing else. The bulk of the profits derived from slavery derive directly from the fact that the LABOR itself cost zero.

Now, to be fair, slavery didn’t provide completely free labor. The slave owner still had to house, feed and clothe his slaves. That’s cash OUT. The cost of a slave was seen as the difference between what it cost to keep a slave and whatever that slave’s maximum productivity could be. Since they were viewed as property, slaves could be sold as needed for cash or because they were “too much trouble” (meaning expensive) to hold onto. Killing slaves wasn’t a good option; that was understood as “destroying one’s own property”. Who in their right mind would do that?

Slavery’s apologists insist that the southern states could never have become viable without slavery’s almost free labor costs — as if white peoples’ need to make a buck transcended everything else in the discussion — including other human beings’ freedom. During slavery’s reign, plenty of apologists pointed to the Bible as justification for maintaining the institution as if the backwardness of iron age scribes excused contemporary immorality.

Want to measure what “fair” is? Ask yourself, if the shoes had all been on the opposite feet and white people had experienced CENTURIES of wage theft — and all the other devious ways white people stole Black peoples’ wealth in America — would white people go along to get along? Surely, you jest. White people in America have a terrible habit of changing rules on the fly for their benefit. This is one of them — but one we’re going to change because fairness demands it.

Though the founders couldn’t bring themselves to include ALL PEOPL;E in “All men are created equal”, still, some of them recognized the true super power lurking inside the American Experiment: diversity. In 1793, those Americans insisted that the words “E Pluribus Unum” become America’s motto and placed it on our “Great Seal”. How to sum up America in three words? From many, ONE.

The many, it’s understood, aren’t going to come here because they were kidnapped from their lives somewhere else, brutalized, transported and dehumanized so that others could get rich off your hard work. The many will come here for the opportunities that exist nowhere else on the planet. E Pluribus Unum is a great sales tool. Come Work For Free? Not so much.

The Confederacy, like the cotton, tobacco and sugar cane it relied on for cash flow, was literally BUILT on the free labor of slaves. Every single slave — or their descendant — has a legitimate claim against both the individuals who forced them to work for free and the government itself that falsely justified laws that permitted such egregious, wrong behavior. This was a conspiracy to deny a particular class of Americans (whether or not they were correctly called “Americans” the wages due them. Government conspired with private industry for their mutual benefit. They even went to war to protect this evil conspiracy to deny Black people the compensation to which they were entitled then and still are entitled.

Statues of limitations are a convenient way for those guilty to run out the clock on their culpability. A thing stolen remains stolen until its return to its true owner. Time can’t actually “forgive” anyone or anything. That’s the guilty party whistling past the graveyard of discovery . The wage theft inherent to slavery was just the most obvious of the thefts. Every time white people destroyed a thriving Black neighborhood like Greenwood — Black Wall Street — as they did in Tulsa in 1921 — they’re not just “burning out” and tearing down a thriving Black neighborhood. They’re stealing that neighborhood’s wealth. They’re taking its property — and that, too, DEMANDS reparation.

Hey — would the Carnegies or Rockefellers or Kochs or Mercers put up with this kind of thing? Ask a “hard” question, why don’tcha…

“Both Sides Do It” Is Racist Claptrap, Not Journalism

Both sides “doing it”…

There are two sides to every political situation: power and resistance. One either HAS the power or one is resisting the guy who does. By definition, by purpose, both sides are not doing “it”. They’re not doing the same thing. They’re doing the opposite for very specific purposes. “Ah, yes!” says the “Both Sides Do It” practitioner, “But if the resistance were to GET power, THEN they’d ‘do the same thing’!” Which means… exercise power? Abuse power? Is that the accusation? WHEN both sides get power they DO the exact same thing? Sorry, American Journalism, but you’re going to have to back that up with receipts — which you absolutely do not have. In America, Black people have NEVER had power. They’ve ALWAYS been the resistance. We don’t know how they’d behave if or when they ever became “THE” power because it’s never happened before. There’s not precedent to use as a basis for “both sides do it”.

To say Republicans and Democrats behave the same is cynicism on steroids. It’s not intellectually lazy, it’s intellectually inert. It ascribes motives to human behaviors that don’t add up, that don’t describe reality. Republicans are far better at marching in lock step than Democrats. The press is always jumping on how “divided the Democrats are” as if that’s never been the case before. No, that’s how Democrats are (that’s modern Democrats, not the Democrats of the 1800’s which became the Dixiecrats which became the modern Republican Party – per Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party“). Modern Democrats began in the 1920’s. Will Rogers nailed our spirit: “I’m not the member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. That spirit endures. It’s kinda what happens when your tent really is open to anyone and everyone. Diversity is messy. It demands constant compromise as the group accommodates new immigrants. But the deal is, new immigrants into our system rejuvenates it with new energy, new aspirations and new ideas. It always, always, ALWAYS pays for itself.

Both sides do not use voter suppression of the other side’s voters as a campaign tactic. Democrats aren’t afraid of the marketplace of ideas because they have new ideas to solve old problems that the old ideas didn’t. A lot of those old problems were CAUSED by those old ideas. Both sides, for instance, do not and did not approve of slavery. Slavery isn’t a dead issue here in America. It’s still painfully alive. There are two parts to this monster. We see the racist part — of course we do! But there’s an economic part to the monster. It’s the economic part that birthed the monster in the first place — stolen labor. Slaves work for free.

Colonial America relied heavily on cotton, sugar cane and rice to cash flow its economy. All three crops are labor intensive. If one had to pay all the labor required a fair wage, one might not make any money growing and selling those crops. Or one might not make enough (whatever that is). But, if one could get all the labor required for free? Suddenly slavery’s on the table. The expenses of housing, clothing and feeding the slaves needs to be figured into the accounting, but you have to figure it penciled out positively for slavery. The free labor made all the expenses of slavery worthwhile.

Now, ask yourself — how do we feel about people who work for free? Who have no choice in the matter? If we’re the power, we like them. We’d like more of them. If we’re the resistance…

Though we made literal slavery illegal, we’ve done nothing to make theoretical slavery a part of our architecture. Even when Black people have been paid for their work — and allowed to accumulate earned wealth — white people found ways to take it from them. Jim Crow laws, for instance. Poll taxes that made voting extremely difficult. Sometimes, as with Black Wall Street, the Black section of Tulsa, teeming with luxury shops, restaurants, movie theaters, a library, pool halls and nightclubs that a white mob burned to the ground in a race riot that started on May 31, 1921, the “taking” was as literal as literal can be.

Both sides do not do that. Both sides don’t even think that way. Only one side does — and they’ve left behind copious receipts that any journalist can eyeball.

Of course, the trick is, you have to WANT to eyeball those racist receipts. You have to WANT to find them if they’re there. But, first, you have acknowledge that they could be there! And once you open your mind to that fact? Suddenly, that racism appears everywhere. It’s not the racism that suddenly appeared, it’s your capacity to SEE the racism — that it indeed IS there. And once your mind opens to that fact, you can’t help asking “how’d it get there?” And the answer to that is — it didn’t have to “get there” because it always WAS THERE.

“Both sides do it” is the grossest kind of generalization. It assumes that the slave and the slave master are equally culpable for the slave’s situation. It asserts that because the slave master HAS a point of view that therefore that point of view (just because it exists) must be valid — equally valid, in fact, to the slave’s point of view. Ummmmmmm, no. The slave master may have a point of view but they most definitely do not have a “point” — justification for their vile point of view.

Oh, right — I forgot — they have “economics” to back them up. If they don’t pay their labor nothing (or a ludicrous “minimum wage”), they won’t make enough money for their stockholders. And if the stockholders don’t get the return on their investment they want, they’ll take their investment dollars elsewhere — so, whatever we do, let’s not raise the minimum wage! No one can live on the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour!) and no one will be able to live on the $12 an hour Republicans and dishonest Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin insist is “all we can afford”. Horse shit. We can’t afford NOT to pay people a fair, sustainable wage.

One side in this debate wants as many Americans as possible to have the best lives they possibly can, to be as healthy as they can be, to educate their children without bankrupting their futures, to have every opportunity every other American has, to vote because it’s their right. The other side — plenty of receipts to pick through — DOES NOT!