It Ain’t Black People That Need To “Get Over Slavery”, It’s The White People Who Keep Trying To Bring It Back!

Slavery is a terrible thing on every conceivable level. Its persistence is a permanent stain on humanity (and it’s lack of same). But, let’s be clear, it does persist. The desire of one group of people to enslave another group of people in this country did not end with the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. Let’s be equally clear about what slavery is in its most literal sense: stolen labor. That’s the whole point of enslaving another human (or an animal for that matter): to get their labor for free (minus the cost of housing, feeding and — if they’re a human — clothing them). If the numbers pencil out, the slave’s free labor is worth far, far more than the costs of keeping them in squalor. The southern colonies (before they became states) grew three cash crops — rice, sugar and cotton. Prior to industrialized farming, all three needed massive amounts of laborers to get them from field to marketplace. Capitalism preaches minimizing costs to maximize profit — if one of those minimized costs can be labor, well, you see where this went. The southern states institutionalized slavery (and some still justify this!) because otherwise, they couldn’t have afforded to be in business.

Profit over people is what motivates slavery. If money in your pocket means more than your humanity — for instance, how exactly that money got into your pocket — then slavery becomes acceptable in whatever form it takes, even if it isn’t literal slavery. In this country, we used to have “company towns” where a big corporation would employ pretty much everyone around. They’d use that fact to create an economic bubble where most of their employees couldn’t really afford to leave, couldn’t really afford to complain (or ask for a raise) and couldn’t really afford to even question anything. Voila — the modern slave. It all comes from underpaying people for their labor. A minimum wage of $7.25 is as close to the slavery bone as one could cut it. A person working a 40 hour week at the minimum wage will clear just a bit over $15,000 over the course of a year. Working a 40 hour work week. Hey — if they’re a restaurant worker — supposedly getting tipped — they only get $2/hour because the public is meant to make up the difference in their wages.

Slavery by any other name is still slavery. The objective is still the same. It starts with the pocketbook and goes on from there.

Take note of those objecting to raising the federal minimum wage to $15. Now, to (try to) be fair, it would be a hardship in many rural areas for small businesses to pay $15/hour. If we were to jump immediately to an across-the-country minimum of $15/hour, about one and a half million people would lose their jobs today. But — and here’s the part where we have to think a little more Big Picture (and there are ways to mitigate the job losses those million and a half rural Americans will suffer including UBI!) — on the other side of that hardship to one group of people is tremendous benefit for an overwhelming majority of Americans whose economic situations will all rise exponentially. In a very short time, even the million-and-a-half who lost their jobs initially would be swept up into the rising tide. And — if we had been compensating them via universal basic income until that happened, they, too, would benefit more quickly and to greater long term effect.

Greed inspires the shortest of short term thinking. All one can see is one’s own bank account, one’s own creature comforts, one’s own economic future. It’s a survival instinct. Same as tribalism. But the trick in living as successful social animals is to learn (and it’s not easy) to moderate these instincts appropriately — to deny them entirely when they’re counter-productive. Those instincts are all quite malleable. We can learn to compromise. But compromise can only happen between equally honest actors. If one side is using a compromise to gain an advantage then, in time, all compromise will break down because it’s all game-playing. One has to look at the Bigger Picture and be willing to sacrifice a little to get a lot.

Sounds hard to teach, I know. But it’s not.

If we began to teach kids civic pride (as opposed to blind nationalism) from the get-go (as some countries do!), we can raise more conscientious humans and Americans. Of course, we’ll have to divorce ourselves from the fiction of “the rugged individualist” who “alone can fix it!” That is pure, unadulterated, self-satisfied, only-white-people-could-possibly-imagine-it, Libertarian twaddle. The fact is, it takes a village to do anything successfully beginning with child-rearing. And the more diverse that village is, the more dynamic the child-rearing and everything the village does will be. Diversity is what makes America exceptional. It ain’t white people and their money — scheming ways to pay their diverse work force slave wages.

It’s the fact that slavery is stolen labor that makes reparations necessary. The entire Confederate economy was built on stolen labor — and that labor still needs to be paid for somehow. It just does. Thieves should NEVER get away with their thievery — especially when those thieves wear the mantle of power. To not compensate every descendant of slavery for the wealth stolen from their families would be to perpetuate the crime committed against them! But, hey — that’s only if we want to be “fair”. And slavers couldn’t give a rat’s ass about “fair”. They’re focused on “the bottom line”.

Profits over people. We know where this leads and we do not want to be here. Good thing there’s still time to get out of this vile, racist rabbit hole. Repeat — it ain’t Black people who need to get over slavery; they can’t “get over it” fast enough and get on with living the happy, successful, productive lives they’re entitled to live. It’s white people who keep the idea of slavery alive because that’s the America they want — the America where slavery kept everyone NOT white in their place. And it guaranteed to keep them there because no one could ever afford to escape from it.

“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!

The Senate — With Its Weird Rules — Was The WRONG Place To “Try” Donald Trump; A 9-11 Style “Truth Commission” Will Be More Satisfying & Productive

Politics and Justice don’t play nicely together. Politics rarely plays by “the rules”. Justice, on the other hand, is a kind of “prisoner” of them. For a moment, we told ourselves yesterday, when it appeared the House Managers would call witnesses before Donald Trump’s Senate trial, that the Truth would, at long, long last, have its day in court. Then, after negotiations with the Senate and Trump’s defense, the House Managers backed off that call. They entered Jaimie Herrera Beutler’s statement — relating GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s desperate call to Trump to stop the riot — into the record and let it stand there. In that moment, it certainly felt like, again, Democrats were letting Republicans get away with their corruption. That wasn’t what happened. We need to appreciate the perspective the House Managers had when they sought witnesses (it was their right to demand so they demanded it) and when they chose NOT to actually call any. Perspective is the thing we’ve lost sight of over the last four years. Perspective says that what the House Managers did yesterday was as spot on as pretty much everything else they did.

Trust them, America. TRUST THEM. Trump’s Senate trial was entirely POLITICAL. That’s a vital distinction. Being a political process, Truth was not the goal; appearances — THAT was the goal for Republicans. The appearance of loyalty to Donald Trump. The fact that Trump’s defense could spew so many blatant lies on the Senate floor with zero fear of repercussions speaks volumes. For starters, even when you’re certain you know what a witness will say on the stand — under oath — you cannot control it one hundred percent. The recorded, written statement will not change. For the moment, that sufficed. Appearances and politics were satisfied. But not Justice — because Justice doesn’t live in the Senate. It never has, never will and wasn’t going to start yesterday.

Keep this in mind: the Democrats in the Senate represent 45 million more Americans than the Republicans in the Senate do. The Senate is a variation on the Electoral College theme — where white men get over-represented and everyone else gets under-represented. Ask yourself — why are there TWO Dakotas? Is it because there were way too many Dakotans for ONE Dakota? Or is it because TWO Dakotas adds TWO conservative, white, Christian Senators to the mix. Between the TWO Dakotas there aren’t two million people. 1.7 million Dakotans (North & South) have 4 Senators to represent them. Here in California just south of 40 MILLION AMERICANS get just 2 Senators. See how that gives way more political power to rural Dakotans and their desires over literally every single Angeleno? That’s not a level playing field — and it’s by design. It’s also why it’s essential that we make DC, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands ALL separate states with two senators each and the right to vote for president.

The Electoral College is slavery voting in our elections. The filibuster is slavery interfering with the Congress actually governing America.

Had the House Managers gone down the “witnesses” road, the Senate trial would have gone into a period of recess while the process to interview witnesses began. While the truth would have gotten out into the public record, it would have taken a while to get there — and the Republicans would have used the time to take every bit of wind from the Democrats’ sails, add to the chaos, spew more lies and all without ever opening their minds. The Senate remains a minefield — too unpredictable, too political.

A better idea — and this was the House Managers’ thinking: don’t do this “here”, form a 9-11 style “Truth Commission” give it ample power and oversight. Having a functional Department of Justice with Merrick Garland at its helm will help make it happen. And — an important distinction — while the newly formed and empowered Truth Commission is doing its work, Merrick Garland also will be doing what We The People are paying him to do — seek, prosecute and deliver JUSTICE. Ignore Garland’s well-known moderation. He’s a prosecutor. All we want from AG Garland is for him to FOLLOW the rule of law and FOLLOW the Constitution. If he does that? The Republicans and Donald Trump are screwed.

Even if he sucked as a prosecutor, once Garland pulled the first Republican corruption thread he saw, Republican corruption is so massive, so pervasive, so unavoidable that Garland couldn’t help stumbling over it. We have to stop thinking that four years of Trumpian Justice are “justice”. They aren’t — and bet the ranch that all those dedicated DoJ-ers who hung on for dear life while Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein and Bill Barr ran the department are just aching to set their ship aright. That will mean cleaning house of Trumpian corruption both within their department and everywhere they find it.

The State of Georgia is going to prosecute Trump for election fraud. The SDNY is going to prosecute Trump for HIS role in the same case that sent Michael Cohen to prison. All they have to do there is flip Trump’s status from “POTUS” to “Former-POTUS” and indict away. He’s already on their books as “Unindicted co-conspirator #1”. Then there’s E. Jean Carroll’s civil suit. And all the other civil suits about to rain down on Trump, his company, his former charity, his everything.

And, hey — remember that counter-intelligence investigation we all thought was happening? The one Rod Rosenstein told Team Mueller the FBI was doing but also told the FBI that Team Mueller was doing but that, in reality, NO ONE WAS DOING? That’s back on the menu — and that is the bottomest line there is here. Russia. Russia, Russia, RUSSIA.

It all comes down to Russia. “But for Trump”, there wouldn’t have been an insurrection. “But for RUSSIA”, Donald Trump would NEVER have become POTUS.

Deep breath, everyone. Now, take another. And another. Let go of your cynicism — it’s not serving you. Instead, embrace skepticism. Embrace perspective. Embrace Justice — REAL Justice, not the kind of “justice” the US Senate can “deliver”. Until we use REAL Justice to clean every bit of Republican corruption from the Senate, any trial’s a show trial.

Patience is always a virtue. Just a teensy bit more patience on our part and that virtue will begin to feel deeply satisfying too.

The GOP Is Soooooo Pro-Slavery, They’re Actively Trying To Bring It BACK!

Wanna talk the bitterest of irony? “The Party of Lincoln” isn’t just some “fellow traveler” with slavery. The Republicans are the Bond Villain convinced he can make it rain. The GOP makes no bones about how racist it is. The overwhelming whiteness of its membership isn’t a bug, it’s the whole point. The Right White money — think the Kochs & Mercers — have steered their party toward a visible horizon — permanent minority rule. Between gerrymandering and massive voter suppression tactics, Republicans have created a host of bizarre “looking glass worlds” like Michigan and Pennsylvania where the structure of government has been so perverted that Democrats have to vote in far larger numbers than Republicans (more than twice Republican turnout) just to level the playing field. Can anyone say “poll tax”? Seen as a whole (hell, seen even in parts!), the Republican Party is actively engaged in a project that — had they succeeded (they won’t now) — would have returned America to a country where slavery exists. This time though, it wouldn’t just be Black people in chains. What America did to Black people was a perverse dry run for what the GOP STILL has in mind — the enslavement of everyone not them IN America.

Being Jewish, I know what it’s like to be looked at as if I was a cockroach. What do I mean by that? The first step in legitimizing the idea of genocide in someone’s head is you stop seeing the people you want to genocide as “people”. I use the word “cockroach” because — except from people who study cockroaches — we all understand that visceral feeling produced at the mere idea of “cockroach”. That’s how racists feel about Black people — and brown people and “yellow” people (a color descriptor I honestly do not get) and Jewish people. They are one thing, all the rest of us are quite another. We can be useful. We can even be profitable. But we are always, always, ALWAYS expendable.

At its bottom line, slavery is stolen labor. Forcing people — against their will — to work for free — doing work they do not want to do: slavery. Here in America, cotton and sugar cane became cash crops. Problem: both were labor intensive to farm and harvest. If one had to pay all the laborers a fair wage, one might not make a whole lot of money growing those crops. BUT — if one could get all that expensive labor for FREE, well then — one COULD farm those crops and make a shitload of money. Of course, nothing’s entirely free — one still has to house, clothe and feed slaves. That’s cash out. So — business being just math — one needs to cost-benefit analyze what it costs to have a slave versus the money one can make from that slave. Judging by how slavery proliferated in America — and how vociferously slavers fought to KEEP slavery in America — slavery must have been one rock solid business model.

America justified slavery — to itself — because it was good for business. That’s a stone cold fact. Some Americans even held up their Bibles to back up how righteous it was, too. Slavery was good for business AND sanctified by God. Anyone NOT wanting slavery, was… well — cockroaches come to mind.

As historian Heather Cox Richardson has pointed out in her book “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party”, with America, you have to be careful about political labeling. Something strange happened in America — but then, racism makes strange things happen. The Republican Party Abraham Lincoln felt kinship with and joined because it was anti-slavery — has switched places with the party it opposed: the Democrats. Forget labels! Back then, people calling themselves “Southern Democrats” were pro-slavery. When the country split apart to engage in civil war with itself, the Republicans were understood to be anti-slavery and the Democrats pro-slavery.

Woodrow Wilson — one of the most racist presidents we’ve ever had (though we consider him “New Jersey” because he was at Princeton, Wilson was born in Alabama) — was a Democrat. By contrast, one of Wilson’s predecessors — Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican — was progressive in myriad ways (he was an early environmentalist). By the time Warren Harding became POTUS, the Republican Party was no longer the set of ideals the party was founded on. Perversely, they were now officially the party they used to run against.

When Richard Nixon adopted his “southern strategy”, he was simply formalizing what everyone already knew: Republican success in the future needed to tie itself to racism. The longer Republicans could keep racism alive, the longer they could hold onto power. That’s the “southern strategy”. It all hinges on the lingering embers of Confederate sympathy — and we all know what the Confederacy’s founding principle was: SLAVERY. If you get weepy in any way, shape or form when you see a Confederate flag? It means you like slavery.

Now, “liking slavery” is one thing. Doing something about it — like fomenting an insurrection? That’s a whole lot of lines crossed where there’s no going back.

It’s not a coincidence that, historically, southern Democrats (modern Republicans) worked diligently to keep Black people from voting. Hey, remember that “3/5 of a man” idea — it’s because Southerners knew sorta-kinda how many Black slaves they held. If those people were counted as “citizens”, white southerners would soon be shit outta luck and in the minority! Doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, as they say — or a racist to see himself in the minority. The Civil Was was all about keeping slaves slaves.

The South may have lost the war but, damn if they didn’t win the peace that followed. The South literally rewrote the narrative. Look at every seceding state’s “Here’s why we’re seceding!” document. Not a single one mentions “states’ rights”. Not a one. But slavery? C’mon now — if you can read, you can see The Truth. The southern states rebelled and left the union over slavery. When the war ended, their desire for slavery did not. Southern sympathy killed Reconstruction dead. America might be a very different country today if Reconstruction had rolled out as intended. Instead, the sons of the Confederacy legitimized their lingering racism by changing the narrative completely. Suddenly, their treason wasn’t about slavery, it was about something fundamental to the American ideal: rights — states’ rights!

Suddenly, traitors like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were being celebrated by America — as heroes FFS! We got it into our heads that a murderous, rebellious battle cry — the “Rebel yell” — was fun, funny, profitable. Oy, America — OY!

The New South just announced itself in Georgia. The Democrats won there because Black people have returned. They will not be bamboozled or cheated out of their rights and their wealth this time. The South will be better for it. It already is.

Make no mistake — Republican racism won’t stop of its own accord. We will have to physically stop it. We will have to remain vigilant. These embers of hate can rekindle just like that. We need to see the Republicans clearly for what they are and what their mission is. When the Biden Administration and the Democrats put forward their $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, they arrived at the number by putting pencil to paper and calculating what We The People would NEED. As Joe Biden himself has put it it — we shouldn’t be afraid of spending too much, we should be afraid of spending too little.

And yet — the 10 Republicans who approached Biden with their own proposal didn’t have that problem in mind. They pitched a package one-third as big. We KNOW why Team Biden pitched their number — math. Why did the Republicans pitch the number they pitched? Careful — if you get too close, you’ll find that number smells oddly like shit — because the Republicans pulled it from their asses. There WAS and IS no basis for the Republicans’ number. It’s just a number that’s less than what the Democrats want — and what the Democrats want is to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Americans.

What do the Republicans want? If we had anything like a “news media”, they’d be circling that question like sharks drawn to fresh blood. Surely the GOP has a particular reason for denying so many Americans help. Surely they have some “organizing principle” around which they’re drawing their wagons… They don’t actually. That’s the point. They don’t have a point!

The reason not to give people the relief they need is the same reason you want to keep the minimum wage at — say it together — “slave wages”. People too poor to adequately feed themselves should have just enough energy to work for their next paycheck. Whether they live or die — not relevant — because every one of those cogs is replaceable. Cogs or cockroaches — it’s all the same thing. The closer you can get those working for you to work for nothing — and that is how Republicans would love to have it — the closer you get back to literal slavery.

But, let’s be real — the dynamics of a “company town” are the dynamics of slavery. It’s feudalism. It’s a practice conservative business owners have pined for. Not-so-funny funny thing? The Black Death killed half of Europe. It also killed feudalism. Pandemics can change things on a fundamental level. Bubonic plague created a labor vacuum. Too few workers made work more valuable. Vassals, formerly obligated to till their masters’ fields now had a choice. They “could” do what their masters needed — but they could also tend the fields of the lord next door — because he was willing to pay a cash premium to make sure his crops didn’t rot in his fields before they could be harvested.

The plague empowered workers and economic change by disempowering the slavers. This pandemic’s empowering the perennial political underclass — but also by disempowering slavers.

This time, America could get it right. Because Black people are taking so much more of the political power (power long overdue them!) alongside women in general and other people of color, we have the will to finally level this playing field the way it should have been leveled at the start. Slavery cannot produce greatness of any kind because it automatically disrespects the labor required to produce work. Only by treating labor fairly — paying it what it deserves to be paid — can we achieve the freedom we talk about. Freedom after all isn’t just everyone getting to do whatever the hell they want.

That’s a silly, ten year old’s idea of freedom — “You’re not the boss of me” — you know, “Libertarianism”. Freedom comes with awesome responsibilities. It’s a package deal, sorry. Don’t want the responsibilities? Don’t take the benefits. Part of being free is making sure EVERYONE has the same level of freedom. That requires everyone having the same opportunity. That requires everyone gets the same access to a good education, the same good, comprehensive health CARE (not insurance, care), the same treatment under the law. That takes work and vigilance.

The Republican Party now freely admits: they have no interest in democracy. Not enough people want to vote for their “ideas” (such as they are) to make democracy practical for them. Now, cheating, on the other hand — that’s just necessity now. America simply does not want the Republicans’ vision for America — or for them. Who wants to be a slave?

Dear RW-ers: No, Freedom Is NOT Free; It Comes With Responsibilities

Listening to most RW-ers defend their ideals is starting to sound like a ten year old bully defending himself. “You’re not the boss of me” is what “freedom” sounds like in his ears. That might work as freedom if you live alone on an island. Put one other person there and “you’re not the boss of me” will cause problems almost immediately. Politics begins the instant two people have to negotiate with each other just so they can get through the day. Even two people trying to decide what to have for dinner are engaged in a political conversation. If both those people have “you’re not the boss of me” in their heads? They’ll never make good decisions together. They’ll never be happy. The fact is, they’ll never be free.

Freedom is imaginary to begin with. So is democracy. So are rights.

Each and every one is a human invention. No deity has bestowed any of this upon us. Trust me, if there IS a deity and that deity (with a whole freakin’ cosmos to worry about!) is worrying about piddly stuff like this? This universe needs a new deity with more deity-like priorities. Geez, whose mediocre idea of a god is this anyway? While we’re at it, unless anyone can demonstrably prove otherwise, God or gods are all human creations, too. The proof? That we think a deity with a whole freakin’ cosmos to worry about would worry about whether or a bunch of little, tiny humans “believe” in him. That’s not a deity, that’s a male in need of psychotherapy.

We have rights because we finally realized that we could give them to ourselves — that we didn’t need a god-appointed king to grant them. Like maintaining a republic (as Franklin said “If we can keep it”), maintaining our rights will demand vigilance, grit and resolve. There were forces then that sought to shut down what had just been created. The slavers always hated democracy because democracy and slavery are mutually exclusive propositions. Slavery cannot exist in a democracy. It can’t. That it did wasn’t a reflection on democracy, it’s a reflection on us — and our continuing willingness to compromise with evil.

America is still fighting about slavery. That’s a stone cold fact. Cotton and sugar cane were labor intensive businesses. They were all the south had to run their economy. The most expensive component? Labor — but only if you’re forced to pay for it.

Hey, what if you could get all that expensive labor “for free”? Okay, so the labor costs you nothing, but you’ll have to feed and clothe and house your free labor. Considering as you can feed them garbage, clothe them in rags and house them in squalor, the costs will be negligible compared to the profits. And that’s why slavery exists. Free labor. All the rest — the inhumanity, the families and lives destroyed, the murder and mayhem — those are all ripple effects. Stuff that “happens”.

The slaver sits on his verandah, believing he is living the “dream of democracy”, a free man making money. He’s confused. No, he’s wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. Being a pig or a bully isn’t freedom. It’s being a pig or a bully. Being a slave owner is the opposite of freedom — because everything the slave owner does contradicts other peoples’ freedom. That’s the problem — right there.

We have rights because we gave them to ourselves (well, white men, at first, gave them to other white men. Fortunately, we’ve begun to wise up to the scam the white men have been running. The genius of America is the thing that makes it unique among nations. Aside from Native Americans, America was not formed by tribes that lived here for a thousand years like the countries of Europe were. We are the product of all those European tribes — plus tribes from EVERYWHERE ELSE on the planet. THAT’S what makes America exceptional — we’re the only country that was formed from all the other countries. It is unfortunate (but fixable) that white people commandeered this country for its first 240+ years. White people are very clever — but they’re not the only clever people on earth. Pretty much every other tribe? They’re clever, too. And when you put all that multi-cultural, approach-problems-from-every-conceivable-angle kind of thinking to work — as we have, here in America? The results are like nothing else humans have created. As experiments in human self-government go? We’re worth preserving — but, adjustments are needed, urgently.

Already the idea of “civic education” is finding purchase. Good. America needs that. We need to stop thinking that flag-waving is patriotism. No, knowing and understanding how the Constitution works — THAT’S patriotism. Under Trump, we could have turned into a fascist shithole just like that — without changing our flag. The Constitution would have ceased to be despite the stars n stripes’ endurance. See how that works? The piece of colored cloth is actually quite meaningless whereas the Constitution…

Among the first things we’ll need to teach the generations of Americans to follow is how valuable their rights are — how special. But, we’ll also need to teach them that those rights do NOT come without caveats. Everything costs something. Nothing is truly “free”. Just as rank has its privileges and obligations, so do rights.

The right to vote demands that you exercise it. Voting is every American’s OBLIGATION, not just their right. I kinda like Australia’s approach. You cannot be made to actually vote and Australians don’t have to vote come election day. BUT, Australians do have to show up. Regardless of whether or not they actually vote, Australians are obligated by law to at least go to their polling place.

Americans are equally responsible for paying for our democracy and freedoms. These things do cost money. Living costs money. Unless we all revert to being hunter-gatherers, feeding ourselves costs money. Our problem in America is that we see taxes as a black hole of inefficiency and corruption. It’s money out and virtually nothing back. Of course Americans see the tax man as the enemy!

What if Americans received a yearly statement though — an accurate accounting of exactly how the govt spends every single dollar it collects? What if Americans could see, every year, what their money bought them (bought the country), what it should have bought them and what it could never buy them? What if Americans — instead of seeing their taxes as money lost forever — saw them as a fair, accurate accounting of what their tax dollars are buying for them?

If Americans got something they could point — like guaranteed health CARE (as opposed to health INSURANCE — which is the focus of our debate) that could never bankrupt them or their families, they might look at those tax dollars (plus the out-of-pocket savings) a little differently. If Americans could point at the good public university or skills training education their children could have — again just because they pay taxes here — they might look at those tax dollars a little more open-mindedly. If Americans viewed their government as theirs, as their elected intermediary tasked with getting their collective problems solved, they might not see government as “the enemy”.

Again, this is framing — how we think of things (and how we don’t). This is entirely up to us.

If everyone in a family insisted they had to do things their way, the family would collapse in less than a heartbeat. Even relatively happy families have their issues. Welcome to being human and living at cross purposes with each other. Successful families learn to negotiate with each other. If they want something, they’ll probably have to give something to get it. Hello, politics.

A country like ours is just a giant family with a giant closet filled with giant skeletons. Families that don’t acknowledge their skeletons devolve into chaos. Families that at least try? They can’t do worse than chaos. Just like surviving a family takes work, so, too, does surviving a country. Balancing conflicting needs isn’t easy but the alternative is authoritarianism. For what it’s worth, living in an authoritarian state — provided you follow the rules — is a hell of a lot easier than living in a democracy.

That’s part of fascism’s appeal — you don’t have to think. The state does that for you. All you have to do is march neatly in lock step.

In November 1947, Winston Churchill put it this way: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. Democracy is hard, bloody work. The alternatives may be “easier” but only on the surface.

That is, if your idea of freedom isn’t a ten year old’s.

Above All, The Whole Point Of Slavery Is Stolen Labor

At its bottom line, slavery steals labor. That is, it refuses to PAY FOR labor, choosing to TAKE IT from the laborer instead. Yeah, sure — the slaver may have to feed, clothe and house his slaves, but these are all just the “costs of doing business”. At the end of the (working) day, the slaver’s savings on labor will far, far outweigh any hard costs of keeping his slaves. The proof? Slavery proliferated in America.

Two crops grew in the American south that made slavery especially “attractive” to cost-conscious Southern farmers: sugar cane and cotton. Prior to mechanization, both were unusually labor-intensive. If cotton plantations had had to pay a living wage to its workers — instead of stealing their slaves’ labor — they would, in theory, never have become successful. Or, economic success would have been harder to achieve and maintain. That’s from a white, monied perspective.

From the perspective of the person taken from their home and homeland and shipped halfway across the globe to forcibly pick a stranger’s cotton for twelve hours a day for literally no money? This is monstrous. It’s criminal. It’s deeply, irredeemably immoral.

Though formal slavery ended, we’ve always allowed an informal kind of slavery to exist here in America. Every time we give money more credence than human beings, we keep slavery alive. Same token? Every time we, as consumers, go hunting for a cheap pair of socks? We’re doing the exact same thing.

The whole point of moving production from, say, America to, say, Bangladesh is because the laws in Bangladesh allow companies to treat and pay their employees even more poorly than here in America. In some places, literal slave or prison labor makes the goods we buy. Why doesn’t that disturb America to its core? Because America still empowers slavery. We still give slavery a political voice via the Electoral College. The EC is literally slavery voting.

To be fair, America was a commercial enterprise first, an experiment in human self-government second. While the Pilgrims may be emigrated to these shores in search of “religious freedom, once here, they behaved as exploitatively as everyone else. They just justified their exploitation a little differently.

The fact that Mitch McConnell and the GOP don’t want to put money directly into Americans’ pockets — even as we all struggle under the crushing weight the pandemic has placed on our economy — is just the latest iteration of Republicans being slavery-minded. In Marxist thinking, “surplus value” is the value of work minus what it costs the worker to produce it. The question: who gets to profit from a worker’s “surplus value”? The worker or the the worker’s boss?

Of course, the fairest answer would be something both feel respects their input. It’s just a fact — conservatives value money way more than the human beings who actually did the work to create that money. Conservative thinking believes in the right (and might) of kings. If you’re rich, it’s because God wants you to BE rich. It’s just a fact: an awful lot of those theists actually believe THEY personally are God so, of course “God” wants them to “be rich”.

Conservative money despises the whole idea of Universal Basic Income because it would completely destroy slavery. If no one has to work for crap money — if UBI allows them to wait for work more suited to their temperament, skill set and future — as hard data already demonstrates, those people end up getting better jobs that pay better wages, give them greater financial security and — bonus points — causes them to PAY MORE IN TAXES BACK TO THE SYSTEM. Whereas trickle down hands money to rich people — in the hopes that they’ll buy things or pay people (how the trickle would eventually “get down”), UBI cash flows the economy from the bottom up.

What do people receiving UBI do with their money? Do they hoard it like banks do (or did after the 2008 bailout)? No — THEY SPEND IT: on their rent, on food, on clothing, on their education. On their children and families. The cash FLOWS INTO the economy at a local level which then floods the whole system with cash.

But, if — like a republican — down deep, you secretly long for the return of literal slavery — the idea of workers doing what they want (even if it makes everyone and everything more productive)? Apparently, that’s a bridge too far. It’s not head-scratchingly hard to figure out.

Look at the past. Listen to everything Republicans insist they want. Look at how hard Republicans have fought to enslave as many Americans as they can via economic hardship.

It’s not a coincidence. To every Republican, slavery isn’t just a blast from the past, it’s what Republicans want to have for breakfast every day. More to the point, slavery is what Republicans want every American to have for breakfast — every damned day.

Oh, The Irony — It Will Be Corrupt Conservatives Who Turn America Into A “Socialist Paradise”

The only thing that scares a conservative more than “socialism” (their idea of it anyway) is diversity. Oh, they’ll tolerate diversity in the business they own. At the end of the day, they’ll happily pay minimum wage to whomever. But will they tolerate diversity in their country club — or worse, their neighborhood?

Surely, you jest!

That Black family may be able to afford to live in the rich, white conservative’s gated community, but they were never supposed to be able to afford it. And that’s the point. Conservatism’s real mission is to keep everyone in their “proper” place in the pecking order — as it was in the 50’s — the 1850’s.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with capitalism — private ownership of the means of production — for profit. In theory, capitalism is color blind. The money doesn’t care who’s profiting from it. It turns toxic however when it becomes crony capitalism that excludes most everyone else from access to that money and the means of production. Crony capitalism is greed run amok. It moves capitalism from the “apolitical” pile to the “immoral” pile. Also — crony capitalists are distinctly political because politics are always required if the crony capitalists are going to hold onto the unchecked power that keeps crony capitalism afloat.

Slavery was the epitome of crony capitalism. It was immoral and highly political. Connect all the dots of conservatism and a picture of crony capitalism emerges. One hand needs to wash the other.

Donald Trump is the epitome of the crony capitalist. He epitomizes its deep down corruption. That’s conservatism’s real problem. We’ve now seen first hand what crony capitalism aspires to. It’s very, very good for a percentage of the 1%. It frankly sucks for pretty much everyone else.

The deep hole we’re in was dug by crony capitalists practicing crony capitalism. We can keep digging — that’s what crony capitalists would want us to do (instead of decking them and climbing out of that hole). It’s just a fact (we live inside the data set): no conservative solution to the mess conservatism caused exists. All conservatism can do now is make the hole bigger, deeper, danker.

America, we now realize, does not have a health CARE system, it has a health INSURANCE system — not the same thing. When people walk in our door, the first question we ask isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” No other industrialized, first world country has profit incentive at the heart of its health care system because health care and profit are mutually exclusive propositions.

A publicly traded company has a fiduciary responsibilities to its shareholders to maximize the returns they’ve made on their investment in said company. They care about profits not patients. Patients, remember, are cash out. The more an insurance company or for profit hospital spends on patient care, the less they’ll make in profits — and the less happy the board of directors and shareholders will be with them.

Any of us needing an expensive procedure to save our lives is going to have to be more worthwhile than the Maserati the insurance company’s chairman of the board has his jaundiced eye on. The coronavirus pandemic has made it crystal clear that we can only be as healthy as the least healthy among us. It only takes one person afraid to reveal their illness to set another pandemic off and running.

People unable to afford health care — unable to take the time off from work to seek the care — are perfectly primed to infect everyone and everyone they meet. And it’s not their fault. They’re being exploited. Universal single payer health CARE is coming to America.

There’s no stopping it now. There’ll be no stopping guaranteed public university education (or comparable technical training). Think of it as something we’d be doing for ourselves. I also believe public service is vital. Every high school graduate should owe a minimum of 18 months of public service. They can join the military, man polling stations, teach kids to read or get food to the hungry and homeless. They can use whatever their skill sets are to make their country a better place for all Americans.

We could even pay for medical school educations with one caveat. We The People will pay to make you a doctor — but you will have to invest some time in public health as the means to pay We The People back. You get, you give. Yeah — it’s socialized. But it’s still democratic.

Andrew Yang’s presidential run didn’t just put universal basic income on the table. The pandemic shutting down the world’s economies made UBI downright respectable. UBI became the only comprehensive way to keep the economy from completely tanking. All the data on UBI says the same thing — it improves peoples’ lives considerably. Rather than leaping at the first job offered because they’re desperate, people receiving UBI tend to wait for the right job to come along — the one that utilizes their skill sets best and makes them happiest. Being happy makes them more productive.

And the money people get via UBI? They don’t hoard it like a bank would. They spend it — on their rent, their utilities, their food and gym membership. They put that money right back into the economy. The taxes paid all down the line help cash flow the UBI all over again. The reason Republicans like Mitch McConnell despise UBI is because it proves them to be liars, pirates and thieves. It works while their policies don’t.

There will be no way out of this crashed economy except by progressive means. When we find ourselves eventually on the upside of this tragedy, progressive policies like universal single payer health care and UBI will have been mainstreamed. Not only will they NOT have brought down Western Civilization, they will have actually benefited more Americans.

I look forward to toasting all my conservative “friends” one day. As awful as many (not all) have been in this period, it will be conservatism as a whole that finally brought America to its senses — by making America a democratic socialist paradise. Let’s be real. Even if we never made it to “paradise”? Whatever progressives do will be a thousand times better and more popular than anything Donald Trump might ever do.

Dear Regulation-Hating Republicans: Get Ready To Be Regulated Into Extinction

It’s simple. If the playing field was automatically level for all Americans — and if everyone behaved honorably, respecting the rule of law, we could probably dispense with most regulations. Alas, that’s not the case.

Some people — okay, Republicans, it seems — cannot imagine walking past a pot of money without wanting to take it all for themselves. Having all the money means having all the power — which is really what it’s all about anyway. Yes, an over-zealous government can become tyrannical via over-use of rules and regs. But then over-zealous criminals can become tyrannical via UNDER-use of the rule of law.

There’s no middle ground unfortunately. We thought there was. Right now, our problems all flow from the unequal enforcement of the rule of law. We punish Black and brown people harshly while letting rich white people skate. The rule of law eventually breaks down when it’s applied piecemeal. It’s like integrity — it is or it isn’t. You really can’t have 99% of your integrity. It’s the dubious 1% that immediately defines you.

It’s a fact — in response to Donald Trump, Trumpism, Republican corruption and the RW’s naked greed, we will over-regulate ourselves. At least, that’s how it will feel to some people — Republicans. Having the rule of law applied to them will feel like over-regulation. Think of it from the criminal’s point of view — one moment, they’re breaking the law with impunity. The next, they’re in handcuffs. See? Over-regulation.

And handcuffs will be what plenty of Republicans are wearing come 2021. Handcuffs and prison orange will be the new Republican “look”. It’s hard to think of many Republicans who won’t be rocking that look hard. They’ve all — at the very least — conspired to commit a whole host of crimes. Republicans knew even during their 2016 convention — when they formally nominated Trump — that he was breaking the rule of law.

Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously (it was reported on!) entered a meeting of Republican head honchos and said out loud: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. Then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan famously replied “Let’s keep this in the family”. Everyone agreed to keep secret the fact that they were breaking the law.

The rule of law will insist that every single Republican who had even the faintest inkling that something was amiss with their party was OBLIGATED to pick up a phone and call the authorities. See something, say something. See something, say nothing? We need to ask WHY? Rather, the rule of law needs to ask “why?”

America started with an impossible contradiction — the statement “All men are created equal” cannot co-exist with slavery. And “all men” needs to be “all people — regardless of their gender — are equal before the rule of law”. That applies to them, of course, regardless of who they love. Making the playing field truly level for everyone will take time and effort and focus. It won’t happen by itself — but then, that’s how the rule of law works. We The People will have to make it happen.

And, despite all the awkwardness and inconvenience that applying the rule of law will cause, the indisputable fact is — it will be worth it.

Republicans won’t think so. Their lawyers will write angry letters demanding we release their clients from long federal prison sentences.

The rule of law will read their letters and refuse to budge. It didn’t condemn them to extinction, they themselves did that. The rule of law was simply the road they took to get there.

Are Republicans Hard Wired To Be Mediocre?

There’s a moment at the end of the movie “Amadeus” where the character Salieri — the court composer to the Hapsburg Empire — looks to the priest weeping in front of him. The priest had come to hear Salieri’s confession but got way more than that.

Salieri has just confessed to, more or less, murdering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — a thing Salieri claims he did because God had implanted such incredible talent inside Mozart instead of him. Mozart’s remarkable abilities have made it clear to Salieri just how mediocre he is.

Salieri looks to the speechless priest, tears running down his cheeks. “I will speak for you, Father,” says Salieri, “I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint.”

Salieri is the institutionalist. The inside-the-box guy whose imagination ends where the box does. Mozart, on the other hand, lives outside the box — where genius can take flight and flourish.

Republicans are a lot like Salieri. They’re rich and privileged. They’re connected to power. They haven’t an original idea in their heads — because original ideas, they know, are dangerous. To them.

Look at the lineup of Congresspeople working either to investigate or defend Trump. On the Democratic side you have Adam Schiff and Kamala Harris and Katie Porter and Val Demmings and Stacy Abrams — outside-the-box problem solvers and thinkers.

On the Republican side? Matt Gaetz… Jim Jordan… Devin Nunes…

Is there a more mediocre person on the planet than sexual-assault enabler Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan? Piss ants laugh at Jim for being so useless.

It shouldn’t be a mystery why Republican excel at not excelling. At being mediocre. It’s a function of being conservative. Conservatives — as their name implies — want to conserve. Since you can’t conserve the future (it doesn’t exist), you focus on conserving the present because it contains the past — and the past, really, is every conservative’s goal: conservatives want to conserve the past. They want to regress the country back to how it was when everyone understood that white, male Christians were the alpha dogs of American politics.

Those mediocrities will tell you that those alpha dogs made America. Hog wash. Manifest Destiny was thievery. Slavery should have been criminalized, not institutionalized. America has been way better at preaching democracy than practicing it. How mediocre of us.

The one thing we can definitely say about Donald Trump is that, for everything he is, he ain’t mediocre. When it comes to being corrupt or treasonous or racist or misogynist or bigoted or greedy or ignorant or just plain awful, Donald Trump is exceptional.

When it comes to being a human being?

He ain’t even mediocre.

First & Foremost, Slavery Was Stolen Labor

If I steal your car, I’ve stolen something you bought using money you made from the sweat of your brow. If I enslave you, I cut out the middle man as it were. I don’t have to steal your car to get what was yours, I steal your labor directly. It’s more efficient. More ruthless.

In America, slavery belonged to the south where it worked the fields mostly. Picking cotton and cutting sugar cane were labor intensive work back before machinery showed up. If a plantation owner had to pay for labor (never mind a fair wage for that labor), their profits would have been wafer thin if they’d had any at all. The whole point of slavery is you get the work done — and you make your money — without having to worry about the cost of labor. Sure, sure — you still have to feed and house that labor but, since they’re slaves anyway, it’s not like you have to make their food or housing decent.

Since slaves aren’t technically human to the slaver (even calling slaves three-fifths of a regular white person was an over-statement to them made solely to cut the Electoral College deal), he can not only steal their labor but every other facet of their lives too. The slaver can see the slave’s children like calves or lambs to be separated from their parents and sold off individually.

If I steal your labor, I steal a big part of you — of who you are and why you’re here. You may think your purpose in life is to live happily. I think your purpose is to pick my cotton and keep the mint juleps flowing — for free. If I win that fight and force you to work for me, for nothing, you will have no way even to earn your way to freedom. I will know that you will be my slave forever.

The fact is, slavery was very good for the Confederacy’s agrarian economy. “If the Confederacy had been a separate nation, it would have ranked as the fourth richest in the world at the start of the Civil War.” Without slavery, the south couldn’t produce cotton cheaply. That is no justification for slavery. But it was to the south.

Ironically, when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1794, they thought the gin’s ability to comb cotton seeds from cotton bolls would reduce the need for slavery. The opposite happened. While a slave “could pick the seeds out of 10 pounds of cotton in a day. The cotton gin could process 100 pounds in the same time.” The white guys running things planted more cotton. Rather, they had their slaves plant more cotton.

America has always lived with an impossibility at its core — the idea that “all men are created equal” except the ones who are slaves. Not only did we not actually believe that all men were created equal, we did not believe their work was equal either. We’ve always believed that white peoples’ work was worth more than black peoples’ work — even if it was the same damned work.

Once I steal your productivity, your happiness is easy to pick off and destroy. It’s stolen labor that makes slavery “slavery”.