Sunday, April 28, 2013

Presidental Character: Week Fifteen, What DO You Say About a Man Who Did Nothing For the Office?

I just want to note that last week's entry on Franklin Pierce was introduced by noting he had to have been the unhappiest man to ever enter the White House.  However, I never got around to explaining why: my reasoning was not only because his personal life had a massive tragedy - his son died right in front of him during a terrible train wreck on the ride to the inauguration - but because Pierce's Passive-Positive need to be loved had to have suffered during the growing outrage between North and South of the 1850s.  Thing was, I never found an appropriate place to say anything about the personal loss Pierce felt and it felt hollow and tasteless to compare political wants to an emotional tragedy.  Even writing it here doesn't sit well with me.

The guy up for Week Fifteen doesn't present that problem: partly because James Buchanan didn't suffer the way Pierce did, but mostly because Buchanan didn't do much to generate much sympathy for what he did - worse, what he failed to do - while serving as President.

You can argue that the way the nation was going - dividing into increasingly violent groups between North and South, abolition and slavery - there was little anybody could do.  Hindsight is always 20/20 after all and people in the moment couldn't see how things were getting worse (or, even more horrifying, some wanted it to get worse to profit from it).  Note: the argument over whether the Civil War was inevitable can be shelved for another time.

I would argue that the right man with the right character - mostly an Active-Positive to my measure - could have found solutions or made better arguments for more sensible compromises.  Or at least figured out a way to arrest every slave-owning secessionist before they could organize.

Into this mess came Buchanan, a politically ambitious man who lucked into the role as Presidential nominee by 1856 by virtue of being literally out of the country as the fighting over "Bleeding Kansas" dominated the political scene.  The Democrats were ostensibly the sole nation party but the newly formed Republicans were giving them a run for the money.  Dems needed a candidate to convince Northerner moderates to stay aligned with them.  What the Northern voters didn't pay much attention to was the fact that Buchanan was an ardent pro-slavery supporter even from the North.

Buchanan was also as close to being Active-Negative in his character as can be determined from his track record and performance in office.  This created a huge disadvantage for him and for the nation: Buchanan wanted to do things, but was Uncompromising in his nature and fixed on a particular course.  And given his track record on slavery, it was for the expansion of slavery, something that only made the pro-slavery forces in places like Missouri and Kansas even more aggressive.

It didn't help that right out the gate Buchanan's pro-slavery agenda ticked off Northerners when the Southern-leaning Supreme Court under Taney passed the Dred Scott decision.  As big a breach of judicial activism ever seen, the Justices not only resolved that Scott had no right to petition for freedom as a slave, but that ALL African-Americans even the freed and free-born were not citizens under the law.  The Taney court also ruled that, under the established Property rights under the Constitution (with slaves as property) the federal government had no authority to ban slavery in any territories (an issue that wasn't even being discussed in Scott's case).  The ruling was broad over-reach, an obvious attempt to settle the slavery issue once and for all in favor of the slave-owners and to the detriment of Free states (especially states where since the Revolutionary War black men COULD vote and hold office as citizens).

And Buchanan had a hand it in.  While it didn't become well-known until later, Buchanan used his influence to get a wavering Northern judge to join Taney's ruling to give it a more bipartisan appearance.  By today's standard he committed a clear breach of ex parte communication: while it wasn't illegal by the standards of 1857 it was improper for the Executive to put pressure on the Judiciary like that.  Even though it wasn't public knowledge the Republicans documented Buchanan's whispered dealings with Justices during his own inauguration and put two and two together.

Buchanan's administration never had a positive day afterward.  Instead of silencing the issue it made Southern radicals more arrogant and openly claiming to have slavery in every state; it angered even more Northerners who once viewed slavery as a state issue but now saw it as a national crisis; and it divided Buchanan's own party even further between ardent pro-slavery types like himself against more moderate "let the people not the politicians decide" types like Stephen A. Douglas (whose own attempts to placate slave-owners with "popular sovereignty" saw his plans dashed by the Dred Scott ruling).

Buchanan's A-N nature to not compromise stymied his attempts to calm the nation, mostly because he refused to compromise with the anti-slavery forces and because he refused to bring his pro-slavery allies to heel.  His backing of the Lecompton Constitution - one of two brought before Congress to admit Kansas as a state - was a serious political defeat: Lecompton was passed by slave-owners in opposition to the majority residents of the territory, and there were serious glaring voting errors that got it introduced into Congress; yet Buchanan openly backed it.  Douglas openly opposed it (it violated his tenant of popular sovereignty, he knew it was illegally passed, and despite his political opportunism Douglas was honestly committed to good government) and used his clout in Congress to kill it.

There was almost nothing else to Buchanan's Presidential record.  In terms of foreign policy endeavors, nothing to write about other than the continued attempts (following his predecessors) to purchase Cuba as more slave territory.  In terms of the economy, there was a Panic of 1857 where Buchanan pushed for "reform not relief" (another A-N belief similar to Van Buren's).  And then there was how Buchanan handled the post-election crisis of 1860.

Buchanan had promised at his inauguration to not run again, leaving 1860 wide open.  Douglas, ambitious as ever, ran for the office but battled the Southern Democrats over the party platform causing the final breach splitting the party in two.  Breckinridge ran as the Southern Democrat, openly pushing for "all slavery everywhere", and a third party called Constitutional Union formed out of Southern Whigs remnants that advocated Union and compromise above all.  Oh, and the Republicans - this time dominating Northern states to such a degree that even with the Southern states refusing to even put a Republican on the ballot the GOP would win the Electoral count - nominated this guy Abraham Lincoln, a political rival and friend of Douglas who ran on an anti-slavery platform but with a moderated message advocating containment and not outright abolition.

Lincoln won the Electoral count in a cakewalk.  He got over 39 percent of the vote as well, given the four-way race was as close a mandate win as could be given: except for the fact he didn't win a state south of the Ohio River.  Douglas, pro-Union and the first man to actively campaign for President - previous candidates felt it unbecoming the office: Douglas honestly wanted to petition Southerners and Northerners to keep the Union together - got 29 percent of the vote but only won Missouri (how, I still don't know: I'd figured most Missourians would hate him for his stance on Kansas).  Breckinridge won most of the South except for the three states - Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee - that went to Bell, but Breckinridge got only 18 percent of the vote and Bell only 12.  (South Carolina didn't even have a popular vote: they went and gave their Electorals to Breckinridge).

Lincoln's election was the breaking point.  Despite Douglas' efforts - and the fact that combining Douglas' and Bell's pro-Union support was strong across the upper South - a wave of pro-slavery Southern states seceded.  The greatest constitutional crisis - a breaking of the Constitution itself - was at hand.  And for five months - November 1860 to March 1861 - Buchanan was still the President and had to do something to preserve the Union.

Buchanan pretty much did nothing.  While pro-slavery he was also pro-Union and openly opposed talk of secession.  But he did nothing about it: his Active-Negative view against overstepping Constitutional authority prevented him from doing little more than re-arranging troop deployments between forts, many of which were abandoned or seized by seceding states.  Even Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor would have done something against the secessionists (knowing Jackson he would have personally led the army into South Carolina and hanged every conventioneer in Charleston before Christmas).  Most of Buchanan's Cabinet resigned: some to serve in the new Confederacy, some out of frustration that Buchanan refused to act.  And Buchanan was caught flat-footed when Major Anderson made the tactical decision to move his troops to a more defensible position in Charleston Harbor at Fort Sumter.

Buchanan's lack of action gave the secessionists time to organize, supply themselves (off Federal supplies no less), and prepare for a fight.  It was this inaction more than anything else that makes a lot of historians label Buchanan one of the worst Presidents of all time.

The tides of history were flowing towards conflict.  Buchanan's fault was that he did nothing about it, neither to stop it as best he could nor to avert the scope of the damage it could cause.

Next up: A melancholic, moody man can still make for an Active-Positive President.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Re-Designing The Horde's Lost Battalion Logo

To all the Ta-Nehisi followers on this thin raft...  I am looking to update the Lost Battalion of Platonic Conversationalists' logo for the swag getting sold on

To that end I am working on the next Font to use for the logo design (the artwork will take longer...unless I can get a graphic artist who's good with drawing Elves' Tools (DAMN YOU DISQUS!)).

These are the fonts I've chosen for the moment.  They are in order from top to bottom:

  • AntiGrav
  • Autodestruct
  • LibertyD
  • RedFive
  • ThirteenOClock
  • VillageIdiot
  • WinterInGotham

If anyone's got a better Font to use as the "For the Horde!" battlecry, please name it and let me know if it's free downloadable somewhere.

And hey, Mr. Coates, would it hurt to have an Open Thread at Noon again?  Just for... old times' sake?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Update On Third Craziest Week Ever: The Elvis Ricin Thing. Turns Out Elvis Didn't Do It

He was caught in a trap... okay I'll stop.

For more on the story:

On Tuesday, the federal prosecutors dismissed all charges against Mississippi Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis in the case of ricin-tainted letters that were sent to President Barack Obama and other officials. After he was released from jail, Curtis and his attorneys held a gonzo press conference outside the federal courthouse in Oxford that included allusions to their theory that he was framed by another man, a promise of mass foot massages, and the tale of a dog named “Moo Cow.”
Curtis kicked off the press conference by saying he spent the time since his arrest last Wednesday in a “state of overwhelm” while “staring at four grey walls … not really knowing what’s happening, not having a clue why I’m there.” He also described the reaction he had when officials informed him he was being charged with mailing ricin-tainted letters to politicians.
“I thought they said rice, so I said, ‘I don’t even eat rice,’” Curtis told reporters.
Though she said she doesn’t know “specifics,” Curtis attorney Christi McCoy said she believed investigators dismissed the charges against her client because they identified another person they believe was responsible for the attempted poisonings.
“The government was able to basically find another suspect who they believe is the true perpetrator of this heinous crime,” said McCoy.
She went on to note that she believed investigators were still at the home of Everett Dutschke, a man she suggested earlier this week was interested in framing Curtis for the crime because of a long-running feud between the two men. Local news reports confirmed that the FBI was searching Dutschke’s home Tuesday afternoon.
That's right: the Elvis Impersonator has an arch-nemesis.
It's a good thing nobody died from the ricin attack: makes it easier to just laugh at this whole crazy story.  'Course I'm sure Curtis isn't laughing much - his life got railroaded in the craziest way during one of the craziest weeks - but still for everyone else... man... it's another week and we're still working out the crazy from Crazy Week.
That is all.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Richie's Got a Telephone in His Bosom And He Can Call HIM Up From His Heart

As a student of history and a student of the Sixties, I do my bit to write about the '69 Woodstock Festival once every year on its Anniversary in August.

Today's an exception, and a sad one at that:  Richie Havens, the opening act of the Woodstock, has passed on.

Havens was an important reason for why the festival turned out the way it did: all the disasters and accidents that made the opening hours a near catastrophe were dispelled once the performers got on stage and worked the growing crowds.

He was only meant to play about a half-hour's worth of stuff.  But due to traffic snafus and such many of the bands hadn't gotten to Max Yasgur's farm, so the organizers kept asking Havens to add a few more encores.  When he ran out of material, he went to calling up a blues spiritual "Motherless Child" and mixing his own improvised lyrics to it.  He came up with "Freedom" right there on the spot.

His signature moment.

There's not much else to say but he's at home now.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Meanwhile In Other News From the Crazy Week: This Is What We Get When We Deregulate, People

That other bad tragic event from last week - the massive explosion of a fertilizer factory in West, TX - has this not-so-shocking revelation:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires fertilizer plants and depots to disclose amounts of ammonium nitrate, which can be used to make a bomb, above 400 lbs. The West, Texas plant, West Fertilizer, reportedly held 270 tons of the substance, 1,350 times that limit.
"This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up,"  Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Considering that the factory caught on fire when we were told there weren't supposed to be any flammable chemicals there... Considering that the factory EXPLODED with a force knocking out the surrounding schools and nursing home and apartments... This isn't shocking.  There were clearly flammable stuff there: there were clearly too much nitrate/explosive compounds there.

The reason this all happened was very simple: our nation's system of safety and regulation protocols surrounding dangerous chemicals has fallen apart.  Due to a combination of relaxed laws and serious budget cuts and failure to fully staff our agencies to ensure regulations are upheld, this disaster and other fatal accidents elsewhere have happened.


There is a very good reason why we have regulations: to make sure those laws are enforced.  To make sure the people we are trying to protect - workers, emergency responders, neighbors, entire communities - stay safe.

The arguments for deregulation - they're too expensive, they punish free enterprise, businesses can self-regulate - fall apart after each coal mine disaster, each crashed airplane, each exploding factory, each worker killed.  Every excuse or alternative can't explain away the facts that if we had stricter enforcement of factory safety with chemicals, if that company truly played by the rules, if our regulators like OSHA or the Chemical Safety Board had more budget and more staff, we wouldn't have had that explosion killing people.

And our Republican overlords want to cut even further into our government budgets, weakening our ability to regulate and ensure public safety even further as well.  All because they hate government regulations, and all because they hate raising taxes on the uber-rich to pay for sh-t our nation desperately needs.

What I Wrote Earlier About a Terrorist's Ethnicity Is Still Appropriate

When I wrote this earlier, it might look like I'm saying we should hate Angry White Guys because they're as much a terrorist threat as any foreign ethnic.  Well, that's only half-right.  There are Angry White Guys out there and they should be viewed as terrorists when they strike at the American population, but what I was trying to convey is that there was - still is - a double-standard.  When an Angry White Guy commits a terror act - shooting up a movie theater, shooting up a church, piloting a plane into the IRS building, shooting up a school - they get treated like individual whack-jobs and "oh we must not blame their background or environment or their easy access to guns or etc": when an Angry Ethnic/Religious Guy commits a terror act, they get treated like there's a VAST ARMY OF FANATICS WE'RE AT WAR THEY HATE US FER OUR FREEDOMS BOMB IRAN NOW (especially when it's a Muslim doing it).

I was railing against the Far Right who take terror attacks - and will most likely use this terror attack to do so again - as an excuse to bring out The Hate for The Other.

Now that the identity of the Boston Marathon bombers are known - two brothers born of Chechnya but raised in Kyrgyzstan and actually raised most of their lives here in the U.S. - it's practically expected to watch the Far Right explode in a flurry of "we told you so" and "it's a JIHAD WE'RE AT WAR BOMB EM ALL".

But let me refer to Charles King here about this:

...In fact, any “Chechnya angle” to the story is overshadowed by the American one. The Tsarnaevs look much more like other homegrown terrorists—animal-rights extremists, white supremacists, anarchists, and lone-wolf ideologues—than like religious warriors fighting on a faraway and exotic frontier.
First, there is as yet no evidence that the Tsarnaev brothers were part of a network of insurgents connected with Chechnya or other areas of Russia’s North Caucasus region. That area—a land of rugged valleys and plains lying north of the Caucasus mountain range between the Black and Caspian seas—has long been a source of instability and concern for the Russian government...  But connecting the Tsarnaevs with this past—at least at this stage—is like wondering about Timothy McVeigh’s Scotch-Irishness: a true but ultimately irrelevant part of the background of the Oklahoma City bomber...
Second, it is unclear whether the Tsarnaev brothers were even from Chechnya itself. Their family ties, at least in the lifetimes of the two brothers themselves, seem to have been stronger to another north Caucasus republic, Dagestan...
Third, the Tsarnaevs were reportedly naturalized American citizens. The real question at the moment is how they became radicalized, what motivated them to launch the attack in Boston, and whether they are part of any larger conspiracy in the United States or abroad...
The family itself is reportedly of Sunni Islamic faith, but outside of early reports about the older brother Tamerlan talking more radically over the past year there isn't a lot of evidence pointing that way.  There's stronger evidence of Tamerlan being a domestic abuser - he was charged with a domestic assault, which blocked his attempt at getting the naturalized status his younger brother achieved last year - than an active member of a terror cell.  He's got more in common with Angry Guys in general.
But that won't stop the Far Right from railing about Jihad, will it?
Here's what I'm trying to say: not every Muslim is a Jihadist.  Just because there's a handful of them - and yes there's handfuls, at most 10 at a time, not 10,000 - doesn't mean the entire culture/faith is at war with Western culture.  Here's a stat: as of 2009 there's 1.57 billion Muslims.  If they were ALL at war with the West we'd be seeing 1.57 billion Muslims rampaging across the globe.  BUT WE DON'T.  The vast majority of Muslims are more focused on these things - getting steady work, keeping a roof over their heads, feeding and clothing their kids - than on blowing up a Coca-Cola vending machine.  There's roughly 20,000 members of Al Qaeda, the primary terror group obsessed with jihad.  Divide 20,000 by 1.57 billion.  You're not even getting 1 percent of the Islamic faith there.  So painting the entire Islamic faith as being violent?  It's not only racist, it's STUPID.
When we get an Angry White Guy rampaging or committing a crime based on an obvious Hate or bias forged of their religious and cultural background, do we paint their entire religious/cultural identity with the same "THEY'RE ALL TERRORISTS" brush?  The guy who shot up a Unitarian church in Tennessee, he was a Angry White Guy but did we blame the culture or religion he came from?  The guy who shot up a Sikh temple thinking they were Muslims - hint: Sikhs are HINDUS, you morans - was a wingnut supremacist, but did we round up all such supremacists as enemy combatants to be shipped off to Gitmo? 
One of the things the media wingnuts like to do is group all of the feared ethnic group - in this case, Muslims - and lump them all into one stereotype: for example, all Muslims are violent.  Their faith preaches violence.  They're not peace-loving like us Christians...
To that I ask: "How many Muslims were involved in the St. Bartholomew Massacre?"  I also ask "How many legions of Islamic troops marched through the Germanic kingdoms of the Thirty Years War?" Actually, the answer is about 60,000 Ottoman cavalry supporting Bohemia during the Polish-Ottoman War, one of the side-wars of the main war: but this is out of millions of Christian combatants leaving behind about 8 million casualties in a roughly Protestant vs. Catholic war.  And it's not exactly viewed as part of a jihadist movement.  And then let's also look at the religious pogroms of the Spanish Inquisition under Torquemada that killed and tortured thousands of Jews and Moors (Muslims).  
As for the Christian faith being peaceful... our first Testament (I don't like calling it the "Old" Testament anymore, I think calling it the "Hebrew" Testament is more appropriate: thusly the "New" Testament should be called the "Christian" Testament) is filled with battles and persecutions and bloodshed aplenty, from which a lot of Christian sermonizing about "just" warfare gets derived.  The Christian Testament itself contains contradictory symbols to where violence in defense of the faith could be justified.  Christianity does NOT come to this argument with clean hands, people.
For every mad zealot of one faith or culture being disparaged I can easily point out a mad zealot of the culture that's disparaging that other faith.  For every extremist of violence claiming to be Muslim or a persecuted nation, there's an extremist of violence claiming to be Christian and persecuted themselves.  Think of the man who killed Yitzhak Rabin: an extremist Israeli killing another Israeli, an Angry Guy killing someone he felt was the source of all his anger.

Screw the ethnicity of the terrorist.  Screw the religion of the terrorist.  The key cause of terrorist action: they're Angry (insert skin color or religion here) Guys, killing to make themselves powerful in their wrath.

Let's rail against that, shall we?  The threat here isn't the skin color or the religion: the threat here is the Angry.  This IS what I'm trying to say.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I'm Calling It: Third Craziest Week In American History

UPDATE: The second bomber reportedly captured alive.  This is important.  Alive means we get answers.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE (9:35 pm EDT): Andrew Sullivan at his Dish site linked an Onion article that is 5000 times funnier than what I wrote here but yeah, the sentiment's about the same.  Oh man, the Onion got that article out yesterday... Lord knows what Friday's crazy would have made that article...

As a student of history, moments like these stir the need to look back at other times to compare and contrast.  To be fair, there's been a lot of crazy days, and there's been weeks and months of bad/good/violent/weird things happening, but narrowing it down to the Craziest of the Crazy takes some doing.

For this week of April 15 - April 20 2013, this is the evidence at hand.

Monday April 15: the tragedy of the Boston Marathon Bombings.  The media and social media - Twitter and Reddit especially - go into overdrive covering this all week long.  It builds up in the background until late Thursday night.

Tuesday April 16: A Senator gets mailed a letter laced with ricin, a lethal poison that's favored by low-grade extremists, usually militia types.  Other letters - especially one to President Obama - get intercepted with ricin as well.  Authorities are quick to point out this has nothing to do with the bombings in Boston.

Wednesday April 17: A fertilizer plant in West, Texas (the comma is not a misprint) catches on fire and explodes, killing at least 14 (most of them volunteer firefighters).  Rumors of arrests or imminent arrest buzz about Boston.  An attempt to get a gun control measure setting near-universal background checks fails to clear a Cloture vote.  An arrest is made on the ricin letters: the suspect is a third-rate Elvis Impersonator with a conspiracy obsession.  (What does it tell you when a Elvis Impersonator attempting ricin terror attacks is the THIRD-most talked about story of the week?!)

Thursday April 18: Boston remains on edge as reports get louder that enough pictures and video have been found of the suspected bomber(s).  Obama comes to town to join in memorial services for the three killed on Monday.  That afternoon law enforcement releases official photos of the two men they suspect planting the bombs.  By 10:30 pm there's a shooting at the MIT campus, the bombers rob a 7-11, they carjack somebody, get chased out to Watertown - a suburban town west of Boston - where a prolonged shoot-out ends with one of the bombers dead and the other fleeing into the night.

Friday April 19: The entire nation is abuzz.  Boston goes into lockdown mode - people advised to "stay in shelter" - as a massive man-hunt for the second bomber gets underway.  News about the bombers get out: they're brothers, immigrated nationals from Kyrgyzstan but with Chechnya parentage, the oldest (the one shot) a wanna-be Golden Glove/Olympic boxer the other (19) a college student.  They'd been in the United States legally since 2002 when they moved here with their parents, having gained permanent resident/naturalized status.  As of 7:45 pm EDT, the 19-year old is still on the loose.  EDIT: Just as I post this, there's a shoot-out at a boat on the river in Watertown which may involve the second bomber.  May.  News is breaking constantly right about now...

So there you have it for this being the Third Craziest Week in U.S. History.  There's still Saturday to go...

My Number Two candidate is the week of October 14 to 19th in 1987: although it starts Wednesday and goes into Monday, it's long enough to count.  During which we had the Baby Jessica "down a well" saga, an increase in hostile action between the United States and Iran where the US Navy blows up two Iranian oil platforms, and the stock market crashes on one of its worst Black Mondays ever.

For the Number One... I have to go with the craziness that started on Tuesday September 11 2001, but in some respects that was one huge day and everything else that came after - invading Afghanistan, occupying Iraq, the use of torture and prolonged detention - one big ongoing thing.

I've had a fellow Horder on Anibundel's site - efgoldman - suggest the week of March 31 to April 6 1968, during which LBJ announced he will not seek a second elected term as President, Reverend King is assassinated which stirred nationwide riots, and a sporting goods gunpowder explosion killed 51 in Indiana.  Got to admit, that's a lot of stuff.  It might be Number One.

There's also the time period between July 1 to July 4th in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, when Vicksburg fell and the Union army stood at Gettysburg.  But as part of a massive event like the Civil War itself it might not count: and such events are intense, but not truly crazy (albeit war itself a crazy and messy deal on its own).

I'd put it to all seven of my readers here: which week truly deserves the Craziest Week in US History title?  Is there another contender?  Please comment.  Seriously.  I live for commentary... :whimper:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is The Skin Color Of Our Terrorists Important?

(UPDATE 4/19: Read below)

Because if anything it gives us the right to tell the racist morons - most often the shrieking fear-mongers on the Far Right - jumping to conclusions about the Boston attack and the Ricin Mail attack that they are SO VERY GODDAMN WRONG.

Lessee... in the last 20 years or so, our terror attacks/mass murders have been for the most part - I'd say 92 percent of the time - committed by Angry White Guys lashing out at any the best convenient targets - innocent people who had nothing to do with those Angry White Guys being angry.

I'm with Sirota on this:

...This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.
Likewise, in the context of terrorist attacks, such privilege means white non-Islamic terrorists are typically portrayed not as representative of whole groups or ideologies, but as “lone wolf” threats to be dealt with as isolated law enforcement matters. Meanwhile, non-white or developing-world terrorism suspects are often reflexively portrayed as representative of larger conspiracies, ideologies and religions that must be dealt with as systemic threats — the kind potentially requiring everything from law enforcement action to military operations to civil liberties legislation to foreign policy shifts.
“White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for your group to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening or threatened with deportation,” writes author Tim Wise. “White privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Dublin. And if he’s an Italian-American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.”
Because of these undeniable and pervasive double standards, the specific identity of the Boston Marathon bomber (or bombers) is not some minor detail — it will almost certainly dictate what kind of governmental, political and societal response we see in the coming weeks. That means regardless of your particular party affiliation, if you care about everything from stopping war to reducing the defense budget to protecting civil liberties to passing immigration reform, you should hope the bomber was a white domestic terrorist. Why? Because only in that case will privilege work to prevent the Boston attack from potentially undermining progress on those other issues.
To know that’s true is to simply consider how America reacts to different kinds of terrorism.
Though FBI data show fewer terrorist plots involving Muslims than terrorist plots involving non-Muslims, America has mobilized a full-on war effort exclusively against the prospect of Islamic terrorism. Indeed, the moniker “War on Terrorism” has come to specifically mean “War on Islamic Terrorism,” involving everything from new laws like the Patriot Act, to a new torture regime, to new federal agencies like the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security, to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to mass surveillance of Muslim communities.
By contrast, even though America has seen a consistent barrage of attacks from domestic non-Islamic terrorists, the privilege and double standards baked into our national security ideologies means those attacks have resulted in no systemic action of the scope marshaled against foreign terrorists. In fact, it has been quite the opposite — according to Darryl Johnson, the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, the conservative movement backlash to merely reporting the rising threat of such domestic terrorism resulted in DHS seriously curtailing its initiatives against that particular threat... 
We have a terrorist organization in the United States.  It's called Angry White Guys.  It is not a rock band.  It's a loose coalition of Anglo-European descended males feeling privileged and authorized to hate and hurt anybody they want.  And they attack sometimes solo, sometimes in teams, using such methods as shooting up malls and schools and movie theaters, or driving armored bulldozers through a town, or piloting planes into the nearest IRS building, or killing corrections supervisors and court prosecutors, or blowing up federal office buildings in Oklahoma City.  And worse of all they tend to blend in, except for when their neighbors and co-workers get interviewed after the rampaging and they all say "Well, there was always something off about that guy..."

And don't worry: I don't fit the profile for Angry White Guy.  Oh, sure, I'm of Anglo-Irish-Germanic descent... and male... and over 40... and sexually frustrated... and occasionally railing against the oligarchy that's killing our jobs market... and... and...  why are you on the phone to the FBI?!  Wait!  Relax!  I'm trying to tell you I'm UNITARIAN!  I don't fit the full profile!  I'm clean, I SWEAR...

Here's the Update: Law enforcement released the photos of the two guys - White Ballcap and Black Ballcap - and within the next 12 hours located them on the MIT campus, they tried robbing a 7-11 gas station, got involved in a shootout with grenades getting thrown about, the Black Ballcap guy got shot and died from the wounds, and right now (6:52 am EDT) White Ballcap is on the loose in one of the outlying towns of Boston (apparently not a "suburb", they hate being called "suburbs" to Boston).  The two suspects were/are apparently brothers and foreigners on student visas - although not sure yet if they were MIT students.  Current report has them as Chechnyans where there's an ongoing insurgency after Russia re-took control after a second civil war there in 2009.  As there's a Islamic influence in the Chechen fighting, we're gonna get hit with the Evil Mooslums crap some more...  I still stand by my Angry White Guy rant, though.  And considering, like I said, that the wingnuts are gonna go crazy about these bombers possibly being Sunni Chechens still proves Sirota's point: when it's foreign ethnics, the entire ethnicity (or their religion) gets blamed, but when it's an Angry White Guy ohhhh it's just an individual the whole group doesn't deserve blame.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Off-Topic: Summer Movies

When there's a mash-up of trailer clips put to a hard-rocking Fall Out Boy song, it makes you wanna go see all of them even the crappy ones you know are gonna suck:
Okay, the Iron Man and Star Trek and Pacific Rim and Man of Steel and Wolverine ones are no-brainers for me and I'm kinda thinking Kick-Ass as well, but I was planning on avoiding Oblivion and Lone Ranger and World War Z and Fast/Furious.  But now: I can't!  Damn you, video mixer guy...!

Monday, April 15, 2013

In Boston

Tragedy on the streets of Boston today, echoing across the nation and the globe.

Why this happens, we've already figured out: there's a small group of assh-les on the planet either working in unison or individually who want to make themselves feel powerful by killing innocent people who have nothing to do with why said assh-les are truly powerless.

The trick is figuring out the How we can stop this madness from happening again.  Welcome to the sad truth of the eternal struggle of good people to stop evil from flourishing.

Take care of you and yours tonight, all.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Fourteen, A Dark Time For the Republic

One ongoing argument among historians is the Great Man vs Social Forces debate.  The argument goes like this: history is shaped by individuals (sometimes heroic sometimes villainous) - think Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Napoleon, Churchill, FDR, Hitler, the Beatles, and maybe even Vince Lombardi - who rise up out of various societies to lead them into a newer age of prosperity or improvement.  Or history has been a slow continuous wave of events within societies that influence those leaders when they rise to some authority and they are merely puppets of historical inevitability.

I find to my philosophical truth - I'd like to think the facts bear it out - that it's a combination of forces: that yes societies of influence trend a certain way but that it takes a Great Man (now increasingly also Woman) to make sure history plays out the way it ought to.  The will of the masses funneled through the will of a great leader at the right time.  Have the wrong leader at the wrong time, you get Charles I of England making a mess of things or worse a Hitler taking the worst impulses of the masses and directing them into dark madness.  Get the right leader at the moment of crisis where societal trends conflict, you get a Saladin or a George Washington.

Sometimes you get a muddle: the historical flow of society is going in one direction but you get someone who fails to or refuses to recognize the moment at hand.  Say for an example a growing majority of a nation's population recognizing the inherent injustice of an economic system based on slavery existing in a nation priding itself on liberty and fairness, rubbing against an ever-shrinking group of political and economic elites who thrive on that slave economy yet refusing to moderate their stance in the face of growing opposition.

Into this comes the example of Franklin Pierce.  Our fourteenth President was one of the more successful politicians of the day: had never lost an election, was politically ambitious - to the horror of his wife who hated Washington DC - and got himself elected President in 1852.

This was not a good time in United States history.  The forces at conflict ever since the founding - between state and federal authority, between agrarian and industrial economies, between geographic regions - had settled on a final decisive issue: slavery.  By 1852 what had meant to be a dying institution by the Founders - they limited slavery's expansion and some had expressed the belief the institution was too expensive to endure - was still alive (thanks to cotton) and kicking... and by kicking I mean "the slave-owner oligarchy wanted to expand slavery west of the Mississippi and north of the Missouri line as much as possible."

The abolition movement had up until the 1840s been a vocal but small minority even among Northerners who for the most part preferred a status quo, no-rocking-the-boat social order.  But the Mexican-American War under Polk - viewed by more Northerners as an land grab for slaveowners - and the Compromise of 1850 forcing average civilians by pain of fine (and prison!) to help round up fugitive slaves - viewed by more Northerners as rife for abuse of kidnapping free-born Blacks - created more boat-rocking... just now by the increasingly arrogant (and fearful) Southerners, forcing a reaction out of their fellow Americans they weren't expecting.

This was a time crying for leadership: someone who could temper the angers of both sides and find resolution, or at worst pick a side and fight the good fight.  A moderating figure who could revisit the Founders' intent of manumission or gradual emancipation to where Southerners could still make money on the cotton industry but at least with a freed, reasonably paid employee base.  (This does, of course, overlook the growing racial hostility of Southern Whites... and growing racial FEARS of Southern Whites.  Then again, there's not wrong with trying to appeal to the better angels of our nature.)

Pierce was not the leader we needed: whatever skills he had as a politician did not match the mood of the time.  While Pierce's Democratic Party was still intact compared to the fractured Whigs, the Dems were themselves dividing along North and South interests and making it harder to get any legislation done.  Making it worse was the one major bit of legislation that did pass during that time: the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  Argued along the lines of "Popular Sovereignty" it officially ended the legal limitations of slavery into territories, making it possible for two territories from the Louisiana Purchase - Kansas and Nebraska - to be either Free or Slave State based on the territorial residents when they petition for statehood.  If Pierce, who signed off on the Act, thought this would placate the abolitionists or slave-owners he was dead wrong.  It brought out their worst instincts to compete for the new territories, which led to violence.

He wanted to rule akin to the righteousness of Polk, but instead he looked to be treading water.  He was a man who could make many friends - his Cabinet was the only one to stay intact his short tenure, the only administration to ever do so - but was unable to convert such friendship into action on the national stage.

From all of this I can glean a Presidential character: Pierce was a Passive-Positive.  He showed some Uncompromising traits - his steadfast implementation of the Fugitive Slave Act, for example - and his political ambition bordered on being an Active, but his personal Affability is one of his primary traits and that is the signature trait of a Pass-Pos.

One could argue that Pierce wasn't so much an Uncompromising figure as it was his political party, dominated by Southerners and pro-slavery leaders, creating the environment of arrogance and refusal to compromise that Pierce found himself as President.  Pass-Pos leaders need (not a want, a genuine need) to be liked, meaning they behave and support actions according to what their circle of friends accept.  And Pierce was surrounded by politicians who either profited from slavery or profited from the status quo.  As a result he couldn't conceive past that small circle just how the rest of the nation was tilting against slavery, and his reacting against that made the situation worse.  I would also argue Pierce isn't the only Passive-Positive in our nation's history to be stuck in this kind of environment... but that would be another review of Presidential Character yet to come.

When Pierce left the White House by 1856, he was a hated figure, having added to the accelerated historical trend in our nation's history towards civil war.  If he could find solace in anything - and if you read up on his post-Presidential life, he didn't find much solace in anything at all - it would have been the fact his successor is rated much worse than Pierce by most historians...

Next Week: Not a Know-Nothing but certainly a Do-Nothing.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Presidential Character: Week Thirteen, It's Millard Fillmore, B-tches!

I can't recuse myself from writing about this next guy, even though I wrote a favorable review of the bibliographic reference Millard Fillmore: A Bibliography by John Crawford for the Summer 2003 edition of Reference and User Services Quarterly and thus I have a more... forgiving view of Millard Fillmore's tenure as replacement President upon Zachary Taylor's passing.

Although I can't forgive much.  Fillmore is the one who signed the odious bills that formed the Compromise of 1850.

In Fillmore's defense, his Active-Positive worldview made him do it.

The Compromise was the one thing standing against the serious threats of secession and civil war.  The results of the Mexican-American War had angered up Northerner abolitionists: the sudden population boom of California filling up with Free-State backers - threatening the possibility that all those new Western territories could turn anti-slavery - had angered up Southerners.  Fearing disunion, key Senators - Clay, Webster and Calhoun (that bastard) - offered up a series of bills that would attempt to placate both sides by letting California go Free but also requiring federal marshals to arrest any suspected runaway slaves and ship them South under a Fugitive Slave Act.

Fillmore's predecessor Zachary Taylor would have none of it.  He didn't want compromise and he didn't want Southern states ignoring federal authority.  If Taylor hadn't died, our nation could well have fought its civil war in 1850, not 1860.

Instead it fell to Fillmore, a long-time political figure from New York.  In many ways the polar opposite of Taylor: Where Taylor was a novice politician, Fillmore was experienced.  Where Taylor was Uncompromising (the trait of an Active-Negative), Fillmore was open to the idea of Compromise due to his days as Congressman.

To Fillmore, the Compromise package was a present solution to what he viewed as a current problem, so he signed off on all the Compromise bills Congress sent him.  In his mind, the passage of that compromise would settle passions and let things go back to a status-quo.

In one respect he was right: the Compromise did settle passions.  Abolitionists up North found it particularly frustrating to get more people to join them in protest, because most of the citizenry - North AND South - simply didn't want to fight.

But in every other way, Fillmore was very much wrong, and again the sin of an A-P President - the failure to see the consequences of their actions - made itself plain within a few years.  That Compromise settled passions only for the issues - the disposition of California and New Mexico - of that moment.  Newer issues would arise - such as the disposition of Kansas and Nebraska - that brought those passions back.  And Fillmore failed to recognize how much of a poison pill that Fugitive Slave Act would be to abolitionists who feared it would - and did - create abuse where slave-owners would claim legitimate freedmen - so easy to "identify" from their skin color - as slaves, in effect kidnapping innocent Blacks.  Worse, it forced people upon pain of a $1000 fine (back then a steep price) to join any effort to round up Blacks.  At the time (1850) most Northerners didn't care much for it: but once the Act was being enforced - and people getting prosecuted for it - the outrage grew.

And that was the Northerners.  The Southern slave-owning politicians also refused to let the Compromise settle their passions.  They wanted to end the Missouri Compromise and get the chance to spread slavery everywhere they could (even into Free states).  Rather than tread lightly on the use of the Fugitive Slave Act, they quickly abused it by doing nothing to stop slave-owners from claiming any and all Blacks within view as "escaped slaves" (easier to commit when there was no penalty of false affidavits).

Fillmore didn't get his wish about cooling passions.  By the time was facing an election cycle to stand as his own candidate, he was hated well enough within the Whigs to force a deadlocked convention and denied him a chance to run for his own administration.  Fillmore was still able to push a platform upholding his Compromise, which hurt the eventual candidate Winfield Scott's campaign.  The slavery issue shattered the Whigs that season, the pieces of the party floating for a banner until the anti-slavery Republicans formed 4 years later.

Fillmore's Active tendencies pushed him to run again for office in 1856 for another Third Party - the Know-Nothings - but won little.  As such, his foreign policy successes - forcing a trade mission on isolationist Japan that actually profited both nations in the long term, dealing with Great Britain over a potential conflict regarding the UK's hold in the hemisphere, and avoiding an international incident involving Hungary - get overlooked.

Unfortunately, the foreign policies successes get overlooked for a very good reason: his domestic policies kept the United States marching relentlessly towards an unforgiving war.

Next week: Quite honestly the unhappiest person to ever sit in the White House.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

And What Does All That Money Buy?

Just to get you up-to-date about an election cycle that's still half-a-year away.  Rick "All I Need Are Rich Friends" Scott may be down in the polls but he's raking in record contribution funds:

Scott's political machine, Let's Get to Work, raised a whopping $4.6 million in the first three months of 2013, raking in cash at the rate of $50,000 every day while chasing a goal of up to $100 million to fund his 2014 re-election campaign.  It's an unheard of sum even in Florida politics, where money has always been critical.
Individual checks of $10,000 or more flood Scott's campaign daily, many from businesses and individuals with a heavy stake in legislation, from Blue Cross Blue Shield to U.S. Sugar to an array of law firms with rosters of lobbying clients at the Capitol...
So you see, it doesn't matter to Rick "What Part of Medicare Fraud Will Voters Forget Again in 2014" Scott if he's polling about as popular as Marlins' owner Jeff Loria in Miami/Dade (which is about as popular as bird flu).  All that matters is that there's a ton of deep-pocket corporations and financial entities plugging in enough money for Scott to buy every TV ad spot, enough radio air time, enough campaigners to swamp every voter in Florida into thinking he's the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan.

...Governors typically raise money for their political parties between elections, but Scott is the first Florida governor to keep his personal campaign apparatus permanently up and running...
Dear Florida voters: please try to recognize that anyone getting campaign support from Donald Trump isn't working in the best interests of the state of Florida.  At all.  EVER.

...Driving Scott's need to stockpile millions is the expected candidacy of Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat who has a big lead over Scott in early polling and who is known as a highly effective fundraiser.
Scott can accept checks in unlimited amounts because his campaign fund is an electioneering communications organization, or ECO, that's not subject to the $500 contribution limit that typically applies to candidates. The only limitation on activities by Let's Get to Work is that it can't "expressly advocate" Scott's re-election by using words such as "vote for" or "elect."
Edwards, a Treasure Island businessman and entertainment mogul who operates St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater, recently wrote Scott's campaign its largest single check, for $500,000. That's nearly as much as the $600,000 Edwards paid last year to erect a vertical gateway sign on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg...
And what do you think all that money is buying?  This isn't campaign fundraising: this is legalized bribery.  The ultimate quid pro quo racket, because they don't even need to hide it anymore.
While the current polling shows Crist thumping Scott in a 2014 match-up with numbers at 50 - 34 (at 34 percent he's bound to be losing even Republican voters), never underestimate Money's power to buy enough negative ad time and buy enough bullsh-t for the media to consume to get those numbers in favor of Scott.  I'm terrified of the possibility that there's enough money to create an ad that has Scott hugging rabbits and painting rainbows and getting enough out-of-state actors to smile while standing next to him, rather than in-state residents being forcibly prevented from punching him in the nose.
The only solution is to defeat Rick "HE'S A CROOK" Scott.  Make all those millions of dollars get wasted for nothing.  Stop making elections about those who can raise the most money and make it about those who honestly will do the right things in office.
Saying it now: Vote Crist for Governor.  Don't Vote for Scott.  For the love of GOD do NOT VOTE Republican.  Not for the next ten generations.

Monday, April 01, 2013

You Might Notice

Just in time for April Fools Day, a change in the patterns.

This blog was originally started up to throw out amendment and reform ideas, but quickly devolved into personal rantings about the sorry state of political affairs in A) Florida B) the United States C) Iran, Libya and other places in the Middle East, and D) Massive Multiplayer games (DAMN YOU NCSOFT! BRING ME BACK MY CITY OF HEROES).

So, ergo ipso, I changed the blog title to something more relevant.

Just not Wartenblog.  Okay.  Just... no.

So, what will be this blog's stated goals and objectives?

1) Post about the craziness in Florida
2) Rail about the craziness in the United States political forum
3) Mock the Far Right Wingnuts
4) Eat cheese
5) Profit!

Some things that will continue on are the weekly reviews of Presidential Character - so far the one I did on James Monroe has been massively popular - and my occasional forays into biased humor and snarkery.

Hmm, my link to the World Party video went bad. Is there an expiration stamp on YouTube clips?

Welcome to Post 400.  It gets easier from here.