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    Charlottesville, Salem Witch Trials and Historic Monuments

    In the winter of 1692, Massachusetts Bay Colony was rocked by allegations of witchcraft. In January, a group of young girls from Salem Village claimed to be possessed by the devil. The girls were taken to a doctor who determined they had been “bewitched”. The girls aged 9 and 11 accused a local slave named Tituba of witchcraft.

     

     

    In early February Tituba was arrested and admitted to being a witch. During her confession, she accused other women in the village of being witches. By May of 1692 governor William Phips established a special court to handle the trials of those accused of witchcraft. On June 2nd, Bridget Bishop was convicted of witchcraft and hanged eight days later. This was the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials.

     

    If you travel to Salem, Massachusetts you can visit the Victim’s Memorial, take tours of the jail and visit several preserved structures in Danvers and Salem. What you won’t find are monuments built to honor the brave men who had to hang and torture the women and men accused of witchcraft. This bothers me. They were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. They did what they had to do to protect their way of life. They are part of history. Where are their statues?

     

    The Man Myth

    Ah yes, another firing of an idiot who stated what much of the world believes, that "men are more charismatic performers? ... they work harder? ... they are more driven? Possibly a bit of each."

    Having spent part of the weekend listening to drunken "charismatic performers" at 5 am and the last 1 1/2 years horrified by the latest batch of "more driven" men, I'm still bewildered that people think of this as a plus, as a feature, rather than a grave disqualification, or at minimum a toss-up among other useful measures, such as efficiency, quality of work, consistency, team inspiration & enablement, etc.

    Four Tumors

    John McCain came out of the hospital this week yet again a hero, with all of America cheering him on. Never mind that he was off to do battle against the type of health care that had just saved his life - the free health care that had made his life livable for 50 years since his horrid Vietnam days, while so many other lives slump by.

    But it was 10 months ago that America went ballistic on Hillary Clinton for supposedly hiding something sinister - presumably a tumor tied to a blod clot a few years back, or maybe just maybe Parkinsons, or something else, Wikileaks even going as far as to offer a poll to guess. The Media was hardly down with sympathy at her moment - why hadn't she said she had pneumonia, gasp!?!? why had she covered things up? and lots of bets on when, not if, her demise would come.

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    Blacks Only?

    The only space we can truly make Black-only is the space between our ears and that’s much more difficult than segregating an auditorium for a few hours.

    The absence of White bodies doesn’t make a space Black-only. People of color have been consciously and unconsciously conditioned to see themselves as less than. Physically separating oneself from White bodies does nothing to deal with the psychological damage that comes from being inculcated with the myth of white supremacy. In every Black-only setting lives the remnants of an ideology that formed the desire to meet outside of the White gaze.

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    Who Will Be The Next #_________?

    Acquittals for killing unarmed people of color will be to this generation what stock footage of police using water hoses and siccing dogs on protesters was to the 1960’s. Almost 54 years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, unemployment in many black communities is twice the national average, and law enforcement continues to disproportionately use lethal force against people of color. For all of America’s talk about racial progress the underlying disparities that necessitated the original gathering remain in place.

    Man Made of Clay

    Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of Ali's passing, and I happened to catch an old 1970 documentary on him a week ago, a.k.a. Cassius Clay. Not only did it bring home how little I knew or remembered of him, it brought home how modern he was - how he would have been perfect in our times, not just the convoluted 60's.

    Ali was articulate. That's usually a pseudo-insult when ascribed to black men, but when juxtaposing a young poor nearly illiterate southern black kid turned boxer vs. a New Yorker raised in riches and supposedly Wharton-educated, it's amazing to see the deftness with which Clay-then-Ali could run circles around his opponents and the press outside the ring as inside. He'd shout, he'd sing, he'd rhyme, he'd talk, God would he talk, making up stuff on the spot, or spouting stuff in tandem with his buddies in his entourage, and he'd get in your head till you couldn't get him out.

    He had that psychological thing worked out. He could have easily outplayed that cast of 16 loser Republicans on the stage last year, messing with them, out-bragging them, laying out in plain detail why he's the champ and they're all chumps, but without Trump's weird hand signals and slow repetition and unbelievable braggadocio.

    On Being a Dick - the Artist's Way

    They told me if I voted for Hillary, there'd be corruption, war and economic collapse. They were right - I voted for Hillary, and sure enough, that's where we're headed.

    It was bound to happen - just as the 2008 election led to immediate disappointment in any supposed draining of the swamp, the successive policies were oddly similar to the candidates' who'd been rejected. Jon Stewart noted the candidate's "she's likeable enough" comment "he sounds like a dickish boyfriend".

    This time of course it's more intentionally galling - the stalking on stage & "nasty woman" in the debates and "Parkinson's Disease" & "lock her up" outside were just foreshadowing. In every way that's possible (and not even as hyperbole), the new president is both making a mockery of his own promises and doing exactly what he attacked his opponent for doing - $100 million in Saudi money for his daughter's still-not-formed non-profit is just the latest.

    Let's try that again - on the same day that Jared picked up the phone to "bargain down" a $110 billion jet sale, the Saudis "donated" $100 million to Ivanka's "non-profit" "women's fund". Where's the MSM screaming of quid-pro-quo? Crickets.

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    Yes, Confederate Statues Are Racist Symbols

    Photo Courtesy of Allison Wrabel

    If you live in the Commonwealth of Virginia and were able to enjoy Mother's Day without having to engage in a serious dialog about the white supremacists, Alt-Right Fascists, Neo-Nazis, and the Klan carrying torches in Charlottesville then you were the beneficiary of a gift many people of color didn't receive. The torch lighting ceremony happened the same day the president, who emboldened many them, gave the commencement address at Liberty University- less than 100 miles away. People think I'm talking about a historical period when I tell them I live in the heart of the Confederacy, but since the murder of the AME Emmanuel 9, and the subsequent removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house, there's been a pronounced increase in Confederate flag regalia and white aggression. This weekend in Virginia was indicative of the advantageous societal predisposition white skin affords. Some people miss the point in discussions about privilege because they think there's a big tangible purchase they haven't received, but too often they ignore, or take for granted, the daily subtleties afforded to them.

    Fashionistas in our time: an anti-review

    In B School, there's a classic tale of unbalanced industry influence in Vlasic Pickles v Wal-Mart only a decade ago, where Wal-Mart got Vlasic to offer a gallon of pickles at bargain basement prices, and then wouldn't let them stop til bankrupt - a variant of Sinbad's Old Man of the Sea.

    A similar case of riding it to the bottom is portrayed in Andrew Morgan's The True Cost, an expose on the effects of "Fast Fashion", when a Bangladeshi sweatshop manager notes the pressure to lower his cost per shirt from ridiculous to subridiculous, all to allow the US shop to sell a shirt for $3.

    One of the claims of international trade is that the low pay of workers will eventually rise to pull people out of poverty, that a rising tide lifts all boats. This is true in the case of China, which has seen wages rise hugely over the last 3 decades. But it's arguably a fantasy or missing context in the case of the Bengal shop where a female seamstress starts at $10 per month and even after years is forced to send her daughter to live with her mother, seeing her twice a year, in order to afford the cost of living, all the fees from child care to school to food. It's a fantasy in the Cambodian factory where workers asking for $160 a month are locked in a room and beaten. 

    Abortion: Unifying Issue

    There are some who focus on class and economic issues, others who look at social fairness and identity politics. Abortion rights are critical to both.

    A UCSF study notes "Women who attempted to get abortions but were denied are three times as likely to fall into poverty than those whose efforts were not blocked," adding " one of the main reasons women sought abortions in the first place was monetary: 45 percent were on some form of public assistance and two-thirds had incomes below the federal poverty line".

    So cutting access to abortion is an attack on the poorest classes,and a direct cause of increased poverty, "statistically more likely to wind up unemployed, on public assistance, and below the poverty line" as well as more likely to stay in an abusive relationships.

    Views on abortion have become a litmus test for the Supreme Court, 31 abortion clinics closed in 2016, as have 75% of clinics open in 1990, especially accelerating since the 2009 assassination of George TIller and the GOP's full-court press 3 years later.

    Interview with the Umpire

    Having put off reading Michael Wolraich's "Unreasonable Men" on the Roosevelt/La Follette saga for almost 3 years, the following exchange sprung from my wish to snapshot my reactions before I forgot, as well as take advantage of having the author in our midst. Being historical but somewhat akin to our times, the book provides the opportunity to look at a more crystallized version of today's issues, institutions and personalities. Rather than trying to keep the cross-hairs on a confusing, ever-moving target, we can evaluate these events more leisurely, with the luxury of hindsight and room to contemplate, without getting mired down in too much "he said, she said", thus avoiding the trap of “having a dog in that fight”. Sometimes our emotional attachment to events seems to be our biggest hindrance to grasping them.

    This "Entrevista" took place over email on Michael's return from Mexico ("don't destroy Dagblog while I'm gone!") largely as a single block of questions focused on the book's events and a couple followups. Many thanks to Michael for playing along and giving us a chance to play hookie from the exhausting current political chaos. A followup installment is expected to dig more into contemporary parallels.

    For readability, my questions and comments are in bold or brackets, Michael's in normal type.

     – Peracles Please

    Unrisible Irrascible Men

    Michael Wolraich's Unreasonable Men is an engaging exercise in political map making, following the fashions of the times with the entrenched interests of every year. The period in this case is the turn to the 20th century up to pre-WWI America, when her social development lagged significantly behind her economic success, but I found myself wishing for similar vignettes in other ages and historical climes. It's not the most weighty of tomes - finished in 1 day - but I'm not alone in not having time for say Carl Sandburg's 6-volume set on Lincoln - Unreasonable Men is more in the spirit of Hamilton, the Musical - a theater piece you can enjoy and put down, though revert to and contemplate with pleasure.

    Dissipating Power

    I remember it well, the heated 2008 campaign, and one of the vaunted risers in the party - scratch that, *conscience* of the party - Samantha Power - had just called Hillary a "monster". In this case it was for "deceit", saying anything to win, but it might as well have been for Powers' forte, foreign policy - poking holes in US reactions in Bosnia and Rwanda and elsewhere.

    9 years later, Powers goes out like a vanquished lion - braying in futility in her last moments as UN rep against Russia's transgressions in Syria. But what happened in-between? Where did these outspoken values go in the Obama years with a largely reactive, not pro-active stance on human rights and threading our way through more Mideast engagements and muddied mushy responses? Seth Mandel provides a comprehensive summary of this transition from Lion Queen to largely defanged kitten.

    This is not a post of schadenfreude - I'm saddened and confused and disheartened. It's symbolic of the real world as we know it, the demise of optimism and righteous fury, and where we get tripped up time and time again. The other side's busy ignoring that world, running red lights, hitting pedestrians on the sidewalk - but still, careful driving doesn't make you a good driver. But it's a helluva lot easier to tell if someone's a good driver than whether they're doing the right thing in foreign politics.

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    Black History Month > American Exceptionalism

    The myth of American Exceptionalism starts with the Christian belief that God chose to bless this land and “our” forefathers more than the rest of creation. This myth asks us to believe that a loving God smiled down on the massacre of indigenous peoples, the brutal enslavement and murder of Africans, and the subjugation of women. History is full of dissent against this belief and the systems that dehumanized people for the sake of our “Manifest Destiny”.

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    Pushed Out Of The Tent?

    Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

    -- Frederick Douglass

    This is my favorite quote from Frederick Douglass. It’s a divine truth; its wisdom is applicable to any epoch. Every person will have to deal with questions of justice, poverty, ignorance, and class. Douglass knew firsthand that Justice, in the form of basic freedom, ranked higher than issues connected to poverty, ignorance, or class. I struggle trying to find new ways to explain this to some of our allies on the left. The election of Donald Trump has caused some to question whether the Democratic party should continue to advocate for people who have “identities” that are problematic to electoral success. If the Democratic party is willing to eschew Justice for the sake of victory in 2018 and 2020 it will end up more fractured than it is now, and I promise, there will be no victories to show for the effort.

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    Diane Nash: Still Fighting

    In an era where the left seems more occupied with being right about their technocratic arguments than engaging meaningful causes related to life and death, it was refreshing to travel from my little corner of the Confederacy amid the throngs of Confederate flags and Trump Minions to meet someone who risked it all. Diane Nash's humility was the only thing that topped her quick wit and intellect. She wrote her will at 19! To put that in context, most of the new left (some twice her age then) won't stand up to their boss and ask for a raise. The new left expects people to follow them into battles over the environment or trade deals,but then turn their back when it comes time to address police brutality and our fraudulent criminal justice system.

    The Unchangeable Hopelessness of Being

    [To Terry]. Eight years ago midnight New Year's Eve, I watched fireworks flying across the remote mountains with a queasiness in my belly as the world's economies melted down and Obama prepared to assume the presidency, and I meditated and prayed for his success as only an atheist can do, feeling that if the elements could pull together in some kind of Shakespearean concoction, we'd find a way out of this madness.

    It's been a maddening 8 years with occasional somewhat neutered success. The bailout that extended the tax breaks "stimulus" madness, retaining trader bonuses, forked stimulus cash straight to banks that never got used, diverged into largely unpunished mortgage theft after the dust had settled, and as a side-show had Washington bean counters combing over Detroit business trying to understand cars only in terms of cashflow, investors (gotta give the previous owners 100 cents on the dollar), and retirement plans. The health care that'd been derived from Hillary's campaign turned into an industry-friendly mixed cocktail, only after 2 years of favors and invites to all the objectors that never quite showed up in the end. That Nebraskan Senator who helped shove the no-abortion-benefits into the package and then got voted out of office anyway - all those Blue Dogs are gone now, but Obama still played the deficit scold compromise game with the Republicans that they largely won, tying hands for greater social programs. Rahm made it clear that unions no longer had a sure place at the table.

    Bring on the Lepers

    I stopped by an exhibit in the station this eve, a nice large format profile of dozens of homeless and the sheltered, their stories - the guy who finds out he's adopted when he finally gets his various documents on leaving high school, the woman who manages to free herself from an abusive husband only to lose her leg to disease and get thrown out of guest work in England, another who can't manage to stay off the juice, one's a mechanic who works hard but always finds himself on the wrong end of some scam or people who don't pay the bills. They describe their day, how they survive and pass the time. I see similar folks in front of the station, handing out their magazines trying to earn a few coins of respectable money in return for their soup and sandwich. Some have started giving tours to tourists and locals, showing the city from the homeless point of view, even though one's a struggling male prostitute with AIDS, others have different impediments that make it unusual for them to mingle and present their world.

    "There are a million stories in the naked city - this has been a few of them". A few that cut through.

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    The Hug Heard Round America

    On December 15th 79-year-old John Franklin McGraw plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of assault that stemmed from the well-timed forearm shiver he delivered to 26-year-old Rakeem Jones at a Trump rally in March. He was charged with a misdemeanor for a crime that had felonious intent. North Carolina state law allows such offenses to be classified as misdemeanors, so I can’t blame him, but let’s be honest: he was sentenced to unsupervised probation for committing an assault captured on video. If you're reading this and believe Rakeem Jones would have received such a lenient sentence had their roles been reversed you should do a quick Google search of this continent's history.

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    What Colin Kaepernick Learned From James Blake and Jesse Williams

    I was standing there doing nothing — not running, not resisting, in fact smiling… the officer picked me up and body slammed me and put me on the ground and told me to turn over and shut my mouth, and put the cuffs on me.”

    James Blake

     

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