The Watering Hole, Monday, July 13, 2015: What Should Be Done About The Confederate Flag?

Charleston Conservative Examiner Kyle Rogers posted a column claiming Lynyrd Skynard fans were “outraged” after the band’s sole remaining original member, Gary Rossington, announced they would no longer display the Confederate Flag at their performances saying that they didn’t want to offend anyone. Since the author of that article referenced a CNN appearance by Rossington it’s safe to assume that part of the story is accurate. As for the rest? Well, it’s clear the author is not a journalist. He writes, “However, there is a growing outrage among fans. Many say they have attended Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts for decades, but will never buy a ticket again. Twitter and Facebook have exploded with condemnation. Many are now calling the band a “fake,” who just own the right’s to the original band’s name.” He does not include any examples, however. Nor does he provide any links to this so-called “outrage.” Nor does he know the difference between plurals and possessives or how to use the apostrophe correctly. But he is clearly upset that the Confederate Flag is being rejected once again.

And why shouldn’t it be? I’ve been trying to find what the justification for continuing to fly that flag is. I read a lot that it represents “Southern Pride” and “Southern Heritage,” but I’ve been having a hard time finding reliable definitions of those terms. I found this from a Texas Progressive who claims that this heritage is based on white supremacy. And considering that it took a century for black people to even have civil rights because of opposition from the former states of the Confederacy, and considering that many Southern states STILL don’t want black people to vote and have said as much, it’s hard to see anything noble about the Southern Cause. A pro-General Lee Civil War buff, Joe Ryan, opened his excellent timeline of debates in Congress that led to the Civil War with teh assertion that it was caused by Racism, “plain and simple.” I have not had the opportunity to research this further, but the author of this article says that many Northerners did not feel it was possible to live with black people, and actually wanted the slaves to be free but to stay in the South. He says that had more Northern Members of Congress supported the Abolitionists and spoken up about how to resolve the issue of ending Slavery, the war might have been avoided. I honestly don’t know what the truth is on that subject. But one thing that is indisputable is that the Confederate States of America fired upon the United States of America, and their flag is the flag of Traitors. It does not belong on the public property of the United States of America. Despite all the hysteria from the right (including Conservative Democrats), we are not looking to ban the flag outright. Our primary goal at this point is to eliminate the Confederate Flag from public property, except inside museums. I’m conflicted on allowing an exception to any actual Confederacy Museums our govt maintains. If there are any, a small replica of it on the front yard sign would be okay. But not an actual flag flying from a pole. Not on public property.

As for flying it on private property, I’ll fully support your right to do so when you admit to me that it stands for White Supremacy and Enslavement of Black People, because that is historically undeniable. I’m not at all sure what the “pride” and “heritage” of the South is that the flag is supposed to represent. If it’s all about manners and hospitality then, yeah, but only toward white people. Jim Webb, who wants to be the Democratic nominee for President, but who will likely get no further than the short list of VP running mates, thinks the talk of taking down the flag is an attack on “Southern White culture.” Some wavers of the Rebel Flag, like the KKK and Neo-Nazi groups, freely admit that’s why they fly it. I just want any other citizen who flies it to publicly admit they’re doing it for the same reason. Then I’ll exercise my First Amendment rights and tell them what idiotic assholes they are. And, yes, I’m prepared to die for saying it. As a nation, we need to stop treating every opinion as if it’s a valid one, worthy of respect. Even mine if you find no factual basis in it. But an opinion on what to do with the Confederate Flag (General Robert E. Lee said it belongs in a museum) means nothing if the person holding it believes Slavery had little or nothing to do with the Civil War, or that it was just a side issue. Because that is not an opinion based on facts.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to ridicule racist assholes who still fly the Confederate Flag, or anything you else you wish to discuss.

Sunday Roast: Confederate Flag Removed in SC

That’s what I call an excellent start.

I’m sure some you out there in the Land of the Interwebs are wondering to yourselves and others, “Why all the pomp and circumstance around removing the heinous Confederate flag?”

I’ll tell you why:  Because we were brought up with manners, and it’s best to remember that — always.

Wait…what?  Yeah, you heard me — manners.

Had the horrible, shameful Confederate flag been removed from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse by the on-duty maintenance man, who promptly tucked it under his arm, walked to the nearest garbage bin, deposited said horrible flag, and then kicked over the bin — the way we all wish it had been done (or worse) — the ENTIRE story in the media would be the weeping and wailing over the lack of respect given to an important part of our history.  Which would give rise to us missing the damn point.  AGAIN.  STILL.

The Confederate flag is a part of U.S. history — like it or not.  History that is not kind or good, nothing to be proud of, nor is it remotely humane — like much of our history.  But like so much of our history, a story was built up around the Confederate flag and the Civil War, and it became romanticized through novels, movies, television series, and even our history books.  We found a way to live with ourselves — to generously forgive ourselves — for perpetrating the unforgivable crime of enslaving our fellow human beings to lay the foundation of our promising new nation, and enrich ourselves in the process.

The flag became a fanciful imaginary symbol of “Southern Pride,” whatever that is, and Southern “heritage,” which is claimed to be in no way racist or hateful.  But here’s the problem with such notions:  They. Are. Not. Reality.  The Confederate flag was created and acknowledged as a symbol of the Confederate States of America, whose purpose was to continue slavery and enforce white supremacy, along with other treasonous ideas.  More info in this article on Vox.

So the shameful Confederate flag has had more than its fair share of exposure and misplaced pride/nostalgia, and it’s time to put it in the Smithsonian museum with all the other relics, where we’ll teach and learn (re-learn, if necessary) the facts about one of the most terrible times in our history and the fall-out that continues to this very day.

If it takes remembering our manners and a bit of pomp and circumstance to achieve that with a minimum of fuss (or what counts as a lack of fuss these days), I can live with it — because it’s an excellent start.

This is our daily open thread — Let’s brace ourselves for the backlash…

Sunday Roast: #KeepItDown

Saturday morning, Bree Newsome took matters into her own hands and removed the Confederate flag — a flag that celebrates a heritage of racism, slavery, and treason — from in front of the South Carolina State House.

Newsome and others calling themselves “concerned citizens” released a statement explaining, “Deciding to do what the SC Legislature has thus far neglected to do, the group took down the symbol of white supremacy that inspired the massacre, continued to fly at full mast in defiance of South Carolina’s grief, and flew in defiance of everyone working to actualize a more equitable Carolinian future.”

The flag was soon replaced, but the image of Newsome climbing that pole and removing it is indelible.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 20, 2015: Blame Anything But Racism

By 1852, the State of South Carolina was fed up with the Government of the United States and voted to secede from the Union. They forbore exercising the right of secession they claimed “in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States.” That was from the first sentence of South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession. They felt that Slavery was one of their “domestic institutions” and that the refusal of the Northern States to return runaway slaves, as actually required by the Constitution, constituted a breach of the agreement of the original thirteen colonies to be governed under it. So they declared their Independence in much the same manner (and at times quoting) as the Colonies did in our famous Declaration of Independence. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Nicholas Cage stole it once and pinned the theft on another guy.) There is no question that Slavery was a part of the Southern Heritage they defend to this day. And to defend Slavery is to defend the idea that some people, in particular black people, are less than human and can be treated morally and legally as property. That heritage is represented to this day by the Confederate Flag, in one form or another. (The “Stars and bars” come in various forms. One was the official National Flag, while another variation formed the Battle Flag.) To many of us, when you proudly display the Confederate Flag, you are insisting that the South was right on Slavery and the North was wrong. This is why the South has the reputation it does for being the home of racists. That does not mean, nor does anyone in the North truly believe, that everybody in the South is a dyed-in-the-wool racist. It does mean that racists can live in the South and not be bothered over their views.

So when a young white supremacist decided to callously murder nine unsuspecting, unarmed black citizens in one of the most famous landmark black churches in American history just because they were black, and for no other reason, the conversation ought to include the subject of racism, and why it is so acceptable to so many people in the South. (Whether or not examples of racism can be found in other parts of the country is completely irrelevant and beside the point. The discussion needs to be about the openly accepted racism in the South.) But conservatives are trying to divert from that topic and blame anything but racism as the reason Dylann Storm Roof killed all those people. People who hadn’t done a thing wrong to him. People who let him sit among them before he told them, “You have to go.” Once pictures of him wearing flags of the white-ruled nations of South Africa and Rhodesia went public, there was no doubt in any right-thinking person’s mind that this massacre was motivated by racial hatred. So it should come as no surprise that Conservatives reject the racism motivation and cling to their guns and bibles, to borrow a phrase.

[NOTE: FTR, what I am about to write I fully intended to write before I sat down to watch Friday night’s Bill Maher show. I didn’t get the idea from him any more than he got his idea from me.]

“We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” [President Obama] said at the White House. Besides the clearly displayed racism shown in the massacre, guns are another issue the Right Wing refuses to discuss openly and fairly. But we can get to what the National Rifle Association (NAMBLA) has to say another time.

And quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after four black girls were killed in the bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Ala., 52 years ago, he said the lessons of this tragedy must extend beyond one city and one church. He cited Dr. King’s words that their deaths were a demand to “substitute courage for caution,” and urging people to ask not just who did the killing but “about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”

It seems Dr. Martin Luther King’s niece and Fox News Channel contributor, Alveda King, would disagree. [NOTE: Full disclosure/confession/cry-for-help. For reasons surpassing all logical thought, Alveda King decided to follow me on The Twitter. I’m guessing after I questioned her there she’ll be re-thinking that decision. Cool.] She made a truly bizarre leap of logic to conclude that the Charleston Massacre was linked to abortion. You heard me right. Abortion. Okay, maybe you didn’t hear me. Maybe you heard a voice in your head you thought was mine. You should get that checked. And Alveda King should get hers checked, too. Is there something they’re serving in the green rooms at Fox that makes their contributors come out and say bat shit crazy things on live television?

There is no doubt at all that this massacre was motivated solely by racism. None. Zero. But Rick Perry cautions us to wait, we don’t have all the facts. It may turn out drugs were involved. You heard me right. Drugs. (Maybe the drugs are why you can hear me. I know that’s why I can hear you.) That’s after he “misspoke” and called the massacre an “accident”.

Sweater vest aficionado and Presidential Delusions-Filled former Senator Rick Santorum believed it was an attack on our religious liberty, even though at the time he said that it was known this was a purely race-motivated attack. US Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham, currently running for First Lady, sat down with other women on The View to stress the shooting was an attack on Christianity (it most certainly was not), though he seemed to express doubts about whether or not race had anything to do with it (it most certainly did).

Fox & Friends invited Bishop E.W. Jackson who jumped to the conclusion that because this happened in a church, it’s clearly an attack on Christianity. They completely ignore the comments the killer made prior to opening fire on almost everyone in the church (reloading several times) and cold-bloodedly telling one survivor that he was letting her live so she could tell everyone what happened. Which she did. And she said he did it because they were black, and for no other reason.

Also believing the motivation was unknown, SC Gov Nikki Haley emphasized the fact that the shooting took place in a house of worship, without mentioning the racism openly displayed by the killer. NRA Board Member Charles Cotton even went so far as to blame Pastor and SC State Senator Clementa Pinckney for the dead saying his opposition to guns prevented them from being saved. The leaders of Gun Owners of America, father-son duo Larry and Erich Pratt, also blamed Rev Pinckney.

But none of these people on the right want to blame the murders on Racism. Some allow that it may or may not have been a factor (Yes. It clearly was. The killer himself said so to the person he let live so she could tell us why he did it.), but they always reach for something else to blame. And the only logical reason I can think of for why they do it, is because deep down, they don’t want to admit they feel the same way Dylann Storm Roof did. They sympathize with Roof’s racist rantings, but they can never say so publicly. Others probably will. (I’m guessing Rush Limbaugh is going to cross the line on this one sooner or later.) Because they don’t want the South’s history with Slavery and their undying support of it, their view of it as one of their domestic institutions, to come under scrutiny again.

South Carolina still proudly flies the battle flag their army followed when they killed more US Soldiers than any other army in our nation’s history. Maybe we should reconsider our decision to stop them from seceding. And they can take all those people who think racism isn’t a problem with them. The United States will recognize the birthright citizenship of any SC citizen who wishes to remain here in the states. Racists need not apply.

UPDATE: The Perry campaign insists that from the context, it’s clear Governor Perry meant to say “incident,” not “accident.”

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about Racism or any other topic you want, in case that one is a little too uncomfortable for you.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday: Hump Day, November 19, 2014

Welcome to deregulation  2.0. Republicans are giddy at the prospects of controlling both houses of Congress. Only one thing is certain, come January 2015: Congressional gridlock will be a thing of the past. Staffers and aids will be working overtime this Christmas season, drafting bills to deregulate everything from the workplace to how many peanuts must go into a jar of peanut butter.

That makes this next bit of news even more alarming. Yet, as serious as this is, it has gotten no mention in the mainstream media. So, once again, we at The Zoo bring you this exclusive.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. (Amendment XIII to the Constitution of the United States of America)

Thanks to three-strikes laws and drug laws falling disproportionately on the poor and minorities, the for-profit prison industry thrives on slave labor. [note: since this post was wrintten on Sunday, this story broke about prison labor in California.] But come January, there will be a seismic shift, as the Republican-led Congress moves to rid the nation of all laws that enforce the 13th Amendment. Not only will owning a slave no longer be a criminal offense, Republicans plan on stripping the jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear cases where someone claims a violation of constitutional rights under the 13th Amendment.

The move is expected to be hearalded as a major blow to terrorism. “They hate us for our freedoms” President Bush observed. By deregulating slavery, terrorists will no longer have a reason to hate us.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, November 27, 2013: Is it time to repeal the 13th Amendment?

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. (Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified 1865)

Now, over a hundred years later, perhaps it is time to ask, “is it time to repeal the 13th Amendment?”

From a purely corporate, profit-driven motive, the answer must be a resounding “NO”!

Here’s why:

The Average Cost of Living in the U.S. is $20,194 per person per year according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour; a person working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, makes $15,080.00.

Minimum wage is less than the cost of living.

Now, perhaps, one can understand why Republicans are seeking to eliminate the minumum wage: it’s cheaper than owning slaves.

Open
Thread

In all likelihood…Your tomatoes are picked by slaves

Yes, I’m talking about the United States.  In Florida, since 1997, there have been seven slavery rings that have been prosecuted by the Department of Justice, freeing over 1,000 workers.  These employers are guilty of beating their workers, chaining them, keeping them in debt and imprisoning workers in U-Hauls for being sick or unable to work.

We still have a ways to go, in Immokalee, Florida, the tomato capital, between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida.

According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: It is “ground zero for modern slavery.”

The beige stucco house at 209 South Seventh Street is remarkable only because it is in better repair than most Immokalee dwellings.  For two and a half years, beginning in April 2005, Mariano Lucas Domingo, along with several other men, was held as a slave at that address. At first, the deal must have seemed reasonable. Lucas, a Guatemalan in his thirties, had slipped across the border to make money to send home for the care of an ailing parent. He expected to earn about $200 a week in the fields. Cesar Navarrete, then a 23-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, agreed to provide room and board at his family’s home on South Seventh Street and extend credit to cover the periods when there were no tomatoes to pick.

Lucas’s “room” turned out to be the back of a box truck in the junk-strewn yard, shared with two or three other workers. It lacked running water and a toilet, so occupants urinated and defecated in a corner. For that, Navarrete docked Lucas’s pay by $20 a week. According to court papers, he also charged Lucas for two meager meals a day: eggs, beans, rice, tortillas, and, occasionally, some sort of meat. Cold showers from a garden hose in the backyard were $5 each. Everything had a price. Lucas was soon $300 in debt. After a month of ten-hour workdays, he figured he should have paid that debt off.

But when Lucas-slightly built and standing less than five and a half feet tall-inquired about the balance, Navarrete threatened to beat him should he ever try to leave. Instead of providing an accounting, Navarrete took Lucas’s paychecks, cashed them, and randomly doled out pocket money, $20 some weeks, other weeks $50. Over the years, Navarrete and members of his extended family deprived Lucas of $55,000.

To put their back-breaking labor into prospective, for every 32 pound basket of tomatoes workers get approximately 40 to 50 cents, this rate has not risen much from what workers were paid 30 years ago. On a good day you could possibly make $50 if you picked a ton of tomatoes, that’s only if you work very fast.  But there are many pitfalls in achieving that goal.

If it rains, you can’t pick. If the dew is heavy, you sit and wait until it evaporates. If trucks aren’t available to transport the harvest, you’re out of luck. You receive neither overtime nor benefits. If you are injured (a common occurrence, given the pace of the job), you have to pay for your own medical care.

The fast food industry contributed greatly to the poor wages paid to workers for the tomatoes that were bought by Burger King & McDonald’s to name a few.  It wasn’t til last year that Burger King finally caved to a salary increase.

Astonishingly, Burger King, until May 29, 2008, refused to go along with a deal that will cost them less than $300,000 annually; last year, the corporation raked in $2.23 billion in revenues.

The Campaign for Fair Food, has put pressure for the past four years on YUM! Brands, owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver’s, and A&W. Yum! agreed to the one-cent raise in 2005 and, importantly, pledged to make sure that no worker who picked its tomatoes was being exploited.

But the program faces a major obstacle. Claiming that the farmers are not party to the arrangement, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, an agricultural cooperative that represents some 90 percent of the state’s producers, has refused to be a conduit for the raise, citing legal concerns.

The only way to ensure you are buying slave-free tomatoes is to buy them locally or from Whole Foods, which is the only grocery chain that has signed on to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Campaign for Fair Food, which means that it has promised not to deal with growers who tolerate serious worker abuses and, when buying tomatoes, to a pay a price that supports a living wage.  The tomatoes picked in Mexico, laborers have even worse conditions than our workers face here in the US.

It’s hard to believe in this day and age we are still prosecuting people for slavery.