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  • September 7, 2017
    Trump, GOP Demand Blue State Payback

    In recent years, "red state socialism" has become the hallmark of American federalism. That is, even as supposed GOP budget hawks loudly (and wrongly) decry "out of control" spending by Uncle Sam, less well-off Republican-controlled states generally benefit from a one-way flow of federal tax dollars made possible by wealthier blue states usually dominated by Democrats. But that is as it should be. After all, Americans everywhere should want Americans anywhere to have the resources for the education, health care, and anti-poverty programs they deserve and may badly need. Patriotism, civic duty, community, and compassion don't end at the state line.

    That's especially true in times of war, crisis, and natural disaster. When Americans anywhere are in danger, there is no "red" or "blue," but only Red, White and Blue. With the staggering calamity from Hurricane Harvey still unfolding in Texas and Louisiana, first responders and volunteers, charities and church groups, and millions of people from every state and every faith all reaffirmed that shared American ethos.

    But back in Washington, the president and some of his GOP allies on Capitol Hill provided a stark contrast to that spirit of selflessness and unity. Gulf state members of Congress, led by Texas Republicans Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, called for billions of dollars in federal aid they voted to deny their blue state brethren after Superstorm Sandy in 2013. At the same time, Donald Trump launched his push for a massive tax cut windfall for the wealthy, a giveaway he and GOP leaders hope to pay for in part by punishing taxpayers and breaking budgets in traditionally Democratic states. Meanwhile, in areas as diverse as health care, immigration, and possibly infrastructure, GOP policymakers are seeking blue state payback as a means of retribution--or just out of pure spite.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    September 4, 2017
    The Capitol's Missing Mural of Lee's Surrender to Grant at Appomattox

    The neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville has spurred calls around the nation for the removal of public statues, monuments and symbols venerating white supremacy and the "lost cause" of the Confederacy. Those sites include Capitol Hill, where eight statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Alexander Stephens and five other traitors to the United States were added between 1909 and 1931 at the behest of their home states. But while Democrats including Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have urged their Republican colleagues to "remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately," Vice President Mike Pence echoed Donald Trump's charge that "they" were attempting "to take away our history and our heritage."
    "Obviously, I think that should always be a local decision. And with regard to the US Capitol, should be a state decision. I'm someone who believes in more monuments, not less monuments."

    If he is to be taken at his word that "more monuments" help us "remember our history," then Vice President Pence would surely support the installation in the Capitol rotunda of a massive mural depicting Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. That never-completed tribute has been missing from Congress for 148 years due to the obstruction on one man.

    President Ulysses S. Grant.

    That's right. As Mark Neely, Jr., Harold Holzer and Gabor S. Boritt explained in The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause, Grant "wholly disapproved of the artists' enterprise" in capturing Lee's capitulation on canvas.

    When a Congressional commission approach the Northern conqueror soon after the Civil War to propose a painting of Lee's surrender for the Capitol rotunda, Grant refused. He said he would never take part in producing a picture that commemorated a victory in which his fellow countrymen were losers.

    In 1885, James Grant Wilson documented Grant's deference to Southern sensitivities this way:

    In 1869, some members of Congress wanted to put a massive painting of Lee surrendering to Grant in the Rotunda of the Capitol. They visited Grant, who was President-elect, to gain his approval. Grant, who was usually calm, got upset and said, "No, gentlemen, it won't do. No power on earth will make me agree to your proposal. I will not humiliate General Lee or our Southern friends in depicting their humiliation and then celebrating the event in the nation's capitol." This immediately ended any discussion of the painting. [Emphasis mine.]

    This was hardly the only example of Grant's generosity and compassion towards his former enemies. By the time the Army of Northern Virginia laid down its arms at Appomattox, General U.S. Grant had already embraced Lincoln's admonition during the Second Inaugural to offer "malice toward none, with charity for all." By offering such generous terms to Robert E. Lee and his soldiers, Grant begun to "bind up the nation's wounds" and "to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." And to be sure, the respect and dignity Grant accorded Robert E. Lee and his surrendering Army of Northern Virginia was offered despite his disdain for their cause of slavery and secession. As he prepared to accept their capitulation, Grant later wrote of that moment in April 1865:

    "I felt sad and depressed at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though their cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought."

    One of the worst causes for a which a people ever fought, indeed. Nevertheless, even after his submission Robert E. Lee, the man who more than any extended the bloody life of the Confederacy, insisted on the rightness of that cause. Not long before his death in 1870, Lee explained:

    "Everyone should do all in his power to collect and disseminate the truth, in the hope that it may find a place in history and descend to posterity. History is not the relation of campaigns and battles and generals or other individuals, but that which shows the principles for which the South contended and which justified her struggle for those principles."

    But if Lee sought to propagate Southern mythology, he was opposed to the hagiography of its leaders. "I think it wiser," he wrote in 1869, "not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered."

    On that point, Lee's conqueror Ulysses Grant fully agreed. That's why there is no enormous mural in the Capitol rotunda commemorating the Union general's glorious victory. And it's also why all of the Confederate monuments there, elsewhere on Capitol Hill and on public spaces around the United States of America must go.

    Perrspective 8:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    August 28, 2017
    GOP's top priority? Giving the Trump clan a multi-billion dollar tax cut

    Republican leaders in Congress may not be ready to abandon Donald Trump, but there's little doubt about their growing discomfort with the president of the United States. Supposedly shocked by Trump's coddling of white supremacists in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker questioned Trump's ability to either the "demonstrate the stability" or "competence" required of presidents. A sheepish House Speaker Paul Ryan told a CNN town hall that Trump "messed up" in his handling of the neo-Nazi thuggery in Virginia and proclaimed, "This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, under assault from Trump after the GOP failure to repeal Obamacare, hasn't spoken to the president in weeks and, according to the New York Times, "privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises."

    With the summer Congressional recess about to end, the GOP's best and brightest are planning a post-Labor Day payback for the president. His punishment? A massive tax cut windfall for the wealthy that will redirect billions of dollars from the United States Treasury to Donald Trump and his children.

    As it turns out, that outcome would represent another broken promise for Donald Trump. Two years ago, candidate Trump unveiled the first of three versions of what would become his tax reform program. (According to analysts, that budget-busting blueprint would generate up to $12 trillion in new national debt in the ensuing decade.) On Sept. 28, 2015, he made this pledge to the American people:

    "It reduces or eliminates most of the deductions and loopholes available to special interests and to the very rich. In other words, it's going to cost me a fortune -- which is actually true -- while preserving charitable giving and mortgage interest deductions, very importantly." [Emphasis mine.]

    Now even without access to Donald Trump's tax returns, then as now it was impossible for his guarantee to be true. As we'll see below, Trump's is a Four-Pinocchio Lie both because of the way he makes his money and the changes he's proposing to the tax code.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 7:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    August 25, 2017
    Trump's Willing Supremacists

    In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Republicans were shocked--SHOCKED--to find that President Trump was providing air cover for neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

    Declaring "there can be no moral ambiguity," House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted, "White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for." Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 failed presidential nominee, decried Trump's both-siderism, "One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry." Nevada Sen. Dean Heller hit the keyboard to "condemn the outrageous racism, violence and hatred," calling it "unacceptable and shameful." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham branded the white supremacists behind the murder of Heather Heyer "un-American" and "domestic terrorists" before pledging to "fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world." And Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, still recovering from the severe wounds he sustained in the terror attack against the Congressional Republican baseball team, announced "we must defeat white supremacy and all forms of hatred."

    But before rushing to credit these and other Donald Trump allies for standing up to the real racist-in-chief, bear in mind that this is a textbook case of too little, too late. Laudable though these statements are, talk is cheap. After all, in recent years each of the five Republicans listed above had ample opportunities to denounce right-wing terrorism, reject casual race-baiting, and eject white supremacists from the ranks of their party. Yet it was no accident that they were silent and seated when it mattered most. That's because for more than 50 years, the GOP has relied on its "Southern Strategy" combining incendiary racial rhetoric, zealous xenophobia, and even Confederate idolatry to manufacture a terrified and furious white majority, and not just in the Solid South. Until today's "concerned" Republicans cast out Donald Trump and cast off the politics of white resentment, they should get no credit where none is due.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 4:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    August 16, 2017
    The Confederate Statues Speak for Themselves

    Defending the indefensible on Tuesday, President Donald Trump traveled back in time to deploy the "both sides do it" talking point to explain the Civil War. Providing air cover for white supremacists, Trump declared "you had some very fine people on both sides," apparently including "many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee."

    But as I first documented after Dylann Roof slaughtered 9 innocents at Mother Emanuel AME Church in that cradle of secession Charleston, South Carolina, the leaders of the Confederacy were not "fine people." And we know this, because they told us so.

    The 54th Massachusetts or Davis, Lee and Jackson? For patriotic Americans, there's only one choice.

    There's no mystery as to why we're not discussing whether a banner of slavery, secession, treason and racial supremacy should ever be displayed over public buildings, parks, cemeteries and other sites. The Southern whitewashing of American history--aided by dubious text books and an army of Confederate monuments built at an accelerating pace during the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's--has been sadly successful in transforming their fight to own humans into a noble "heritage." To remove the Confederate flag, its supporters still argue, would be a "Stalinist purge" and an act of "cultural genocide" because, after all, that banner simply represents "a heritage thing, and we're all proud of our heritage."

    If so, what better way to understand the Confederate heritage than consulting with some of the people who created it?

    South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun, defending the "positive good" of slavery, 1837:

    "If we do not defend ourselves none will defend us; if we yield we will be more and more pressed as we recede; and if we submit we will be trampled under foot. Be assured that emancipation itself would not satisfy these fanatics: -that gained, the next step would be to raise the negroes to a social and political equality with the whites; and that being effected, we would soon find the present condition of the two races reversed."

    Resolution of separation by North Carolina delegates to the 1844 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church:

    "We believe an immediate division of the Methodist Episcopal Church is indispensable to the peace, prosperity, and honor of the Southern portion thereof, if not essential to her continued existence we regard the officious, and unwarranted interference of the Northern portion of the Church with the subject of slavery alone, a sufficient cause for a division of our Church."

    Southern Baptist Convention, explaining its separation from the American Baptist church, May 1845:

    An evil hour has arrived...In December last, the acting Board of Convention, at Boston, adopted a new qualification for missionaries, a new rule viz, that: "If anyone who shall offer himself for a missionary, having slaves, should insist on retaining them as his property, they could not appoint him." "One thing is certain," they continue, "we could never be a party to any arrangement which applies approbation of slavery."

    Mississippi Declaration of Causes for Secession, 1861:

    Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin...we do not overstate the dangers to our institution...

    Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America, in his "Cornerstone Speech" of March 21, 1861:

    The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution...

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

    Constitution of the Confederate States of America, Article I, Section 9, (4):

    No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

    Constitution of the Confederate States of America, Article IV, Section 2, (1) and (3):

    The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.

    No slave or other person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the Confederate States, under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs, or to whom such service or labor may be due.

    Constitution of the Confederate States of America, Article IV, Section 3, (3):

    The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several Sates; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.

    Mississippi Senator Albert Gallatin Brown, 1858:

    "I want Cuba, and I know that sooner or later we must have it. If the worm-eaten throne of Spain is willing to give it for a fair equivalent, well--if not, we must take it. I want Tamaulipas, Potosi, and one or two other Mexican Stats; and I want them all for the same reason--for the planting and spreading of slavery."

    Southern Punch, 1864:

    "'The people of the South,' says a contemporary, 'are not fighting for slavery but for independence.' Let us look into this matter. It is an easy task, we think, to show up this new-fangled heresy -- a heresy calculated to do us no good, for it cannot deceive foreign statesmen nor peoples, nor mislead any one here nor in Yankeeland. . . Our doctrine is this: WE ARE FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENCE THAT OUR GREAT AND NECESSARY DOMESTIC INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY SHALL BE PRESERVED, and for the preservation of other institutions of which slavery is the groundwork."

    Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, after the slaughter of hundreds of surrendering black Union troops at Fort Pillow n Tennessee, April 1864:

    "It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners."

    Chant of Confederate troops at the Battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864:

    "'Spare the white man, kill the nigger!"

    General John Bell Hood, refusing Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's request for the evacuation of civilians from Atlanta, September 12, 1864:

    You came into our country with your army avowedly for the purpose of subjugating free white men, women, and children, and not only intend to rule over them, but you make negroes your allies and desire to place over us an inferior race, which we have raised from barbarism to its present position, which is the highest ever attained by that race in any country in all time. I must, therefore, decline to accept your statements in reference to your kindness toward the people of Atlanta, and your willingness to sacrifice everything for the peace and honor of the South, and refuse to be governed by your decision in regard to matters between myself, my country, and my God. You say, "let us fight it out like men." To this my reply is, for myself, and, I believe, for all the true men, aye, and women and children, in my country, we will fight you to the death. Better die a thousand deaths than submit to live under you or your Government and your negro allies.

    Howell Cobb, President of the Confederate Provisional Congress and Major General, on Robert E. Lee's request to arm slaves for the Southern armies:

    "You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers. The day you make a soldier of them is the beginning of the end of the Revolution. And if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong."

    Confederate General Robert E. Lee, 1870:

    "Everyone should do all in his power to collect and disseminate the truth, in the hope that it may find a place in history and descend to posterity. History is not the relation of campaigns and battles and generals or other individuals, but that which shows the principles for which the South contended and which justified her struggle for those principles."

    Confederate Colonel John Mosby, the officer most cited in Lee's dispatches, 1894:

    "I've always understood that we went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about. I've never heard of any other cause than slavery."

    Former Confederate President Jefferson Davis, 1881:

    "Nothing fills me with deeper sadness than to see a Southern man apologizing for the defense we made of our inheritance. Our cause was so just, so sacred, that had I known all that has come to pass, had I known what was to be inflicted upon me, all that my country was to suffer, all that our posterity was to endure, I would do it all over again.''
    Perrspective 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    August 15, 2017
    "Freedmen" Is An Alternative to HBO's Alternative History, "Confederate"

    What if the South had won the Civil War? Hardly a new question, and it's doubtless one of the most common counterfactual thought exercises in American history. It's also already been recently asked--though not answered seriously--in the 2004 mockumentary, CSA: The Confederate States of America.

    Nevertheless, HBO is turning to some of the folks who brought you Game of Thrones to develop a new series titled Confederate. The show imagines "an alternative timeline," the network's press release explained, "where the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution." And that's not all:

    The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone -- freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.

    HBO has chosen a particularly infelicitous time to unveil this project. After all, in the wake of the bitterly contested 2016 presidential election in large part waged and won on racial resentment and xenophobia, feelings are still raw over Americans' ideological and partisan divide. Donald Trump's triumph is not an aberration but the culmination of 50 years of Republican politics. So while some have called on HBO to abandon the series, one Trump supporter joked "they're afraid that maybe the Confederacy will be shown in a good light."

    Depending how you change the outcome of the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, you get a different HBO series.

    Yet the biggest problem with the hypothetical question behind Confederate is that it's not so hypothetical at all. By all indications the show, as Ta-Nehisi Coates explained, "takes as its premise an ugly truth that black Americans are forced to live every day." In a very real sense, the North won the war, but the South won the peace. Southern "Redemption" swamped national Reconstruction as an ivory curtain of white supremacy, intimidation, and violence soon enveloped the states of the former Confederacy. Northern exhaustion, complicity in the Johnson White House, and the entrenchment of a racist, conservative Supreme Court undermined the clear meaning and intent of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. In less than a generation, the institutionalization of segregation was complete. As W.E.B. Dubois lamented, "The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery." It took 100 years after Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox for the civil rights movement to begin the demolition of the edifice of Jim Crow and with it, make possible the liberation of all Americans for all time.

    All of which is why a far more powerful question for HBO to explore might be this: What if the North had won the Civil War much faster--and more completely?

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 10:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

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    Trump, GOP Demand Blue State Payback
    September 7, 2017
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    The Capitol's Missing Mural of Lee's Surrender to Grant at Appomattox
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    Trump's Willing Supremacists
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    The Confederate Statues Speak for Themselves
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