When I have described the well-considered, coherent political and economic strategies of the conservative white South, as I have done here, here and here, I am sometimes been accused of being a “conspiracy theorist.” But one need not believe that white-hooded Dragons and Wizards are secretly coordinating the actions of Southern conservative politicians from a bunker underneath Stone Mountain in Georgia to believe that a number of contemporary policies — from race-to-the-bottom economic policies to voter disfranchisement and attempts to decentralize or privatize federal social insurance entitlements — serve the interests of those who promote them, who tend to be white Southern conservatives.
Just as a strategy is not a conspiracy, so it is not insanity. Ironically, American progressives, centrists and some Northern conservatives are only deluding themselves, when they insist that the kind of right-wing Southerners behind the government shutdown are “crazy.” Crazy, yes — crazy like a fox.
Another mistake is the failure to recognize that the Southern elite strategy, though bound up with white supremacy throughout history, is primarily about cheap and powerless labor, not about race. If the South and the U.S. as a whole through some magical transformation became racially homogeneous tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that the Southern business and political class would suddenly embrace a new model of political economy based on high wages, high taxes and centralized government, rather than pursue its historical model of a low-wage, low-tax, decentralized system, even though all workers, employers and investors now shared a common skin color.
So the struggle is not one to convert Southern Baptists to Darwinism or to get racists to celebrate diversity. The on-going power struggle between the local elites of the former Confederacy and their allies in other regions and the rest of the United States is not primarily about personal attitudes. It is about power and wealth.
For some time, the initiative has rested with the Southern power elite, which knows what it wants and has a plan to get it. The strategy of the conservative South, as a nation-within-a nation and in the global economy, combines an economic strategy and a political strategy.
The economic strategy is to maximize the attractiveness of the former Confederacy to external investors, by allowing Southern states to out-compete other states in the U.S., as well as other countries if possible, in a race to the bottom by means of low wages, stingy government welfare (which if generous increases the bargaining power of poor workers by decreasing their desperation) and low levels of environmental regulation.
The political strategy of the Southern elite is to prevent the Southern victims of these local economic policies from teaming up with allies in other parts of the U.S. to impose federal-level reforms on the Southern states. Voter suppression seeks to prevent voting by lower-income Southerners of all races who are hostile to the Southern power elite. Partisan gerrymandering of the U.S. House of Representatives by conservatives in Southern state legislatures weakens the votes of anti-conservative Southerners, if they are allowed to vote.
If voter suppression and vote dilution strategies fail, the Southern conservatives can still try to ward off unwelcome federally-imposed reforms that might weaken control of the Southern workforce by Southern employers and their political agents, by policies of devolving federal programs to the states, privatizing federal programs like Social Security and Medicare, blocking the implementation of new federal entitlements like Obamacare or a combination of these strategies.
To date the response of progressives and centrists, as well as moderate conservatives in the North (who have a quite different tradition) to what might be called the Southern Autonomy Project has been feeble and reactive. The South acts, the rest of the country reacts.
Here Midwestern Republican legislatures or governors try to copy the South’s anti-labor “right-to-work” legislation, and labor activists and liberals react. The legislatures in the South and their allies elsewhere pass voter suppression laws, and civil rights groups scramble to counteract them. Now the Southern-dominated Tea Party in the House shuts down the government and threatens to force the federal government into default. In this game of “Whack-a-mole,” the Southern right and its neo-Jacksonian allies in other parts of the country always has the initiative.
Instead of waiting for the next Southern conservative outrage, and treating it as a single, isolated example of inexplicable craziness, the rest of America from center-left to center-right should recognize that it is dealing with different aspects of a single strategy by a regional elite — the Southern Autonomy Project. It is time for the non-Southern American majority, in alliance with many non-elite Southerners of all races, to target and attack every element of the Southern Autonomy Project simultaneously. If the neo-Confederates want to wage political and economic war, their fellow Americans should choose to respond with political and economic war on all fronts, not on the terms and in the places the Southern conservatives choose.
Setting political difficulty aside, it is intellectually easy to set forth a grand national strategy that consists of coordinated federal policies to defeat the Southern Autonomy Project.
A federal living wage. At one blow, a much higher federal minimum wage would cripple the ability of Southern states to lure companies from more generous states which supplement the too-low present federal minimum wage with higher local state or urban minimum wages. (Strong national unions could do the same, but that is not a realistic option at present.)
Nationalization of social insurance. Social insurance programs with both federal and state components, like Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), allow Southern states to be stingier than many other states, creating more desperate workers who are more dependent on the mercy of employers and elite-dominated charities. Completely federalizing Medicaid (as President Ronald Reagan suggested!) and other hybrid federal-state social insurance programs would cripple the Southern Autonomy Project further.
Real voting rights. Using the authority of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Congress should completely federalize voting requirements for all federal, state and local elections, making it as easy as possible for U.S. citizens to vote — over the objections of kicking and screaming neo-Confederates.
Nonpartisan redistricting. Partisan redistricting by majorities in state legislatures should be replaced by nonpartisan redistricting commissions, as in California, New Jersey and other states. The redistricting commissions should be truly nonpartisan, not “bipartisan” arrangements in which incumbent Republicans and incumbent Democrats cut deals to protect their safe seats from competition. (Electoral reforms like instant run-off voting and proportional representation are struggles for a more distant future).
Abolish the Senate filibuster. The filibuster is not part of the U.S. constitution. It has been used by Southern white conservatives from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first to preserve Southern white power and economic privilege. This relic of premodern British parliamentary politics should be abolished. Democracy means majority rule. If the Southern Right loses a battle in Congress, it can try to round up allies and win next time. It should no longer be able to paralyze the Senate, the Congress or the federal government as a whole.
Abolish the federal debt ceiling completely. The federal debt ceiling is another institution like the filibuster which has now been ruined by being abused by Southern conservatives. Now that the Southern right is trying to turn it into a recurrent tool of hostage-taking when it loses votes in Congress, the federal debt ceiling should be abolished. The federal government should be authorized to borrow any amount necessary to fund spending appropriated or authorized by Congress, if there is any shortfall in tax revenues.
Put all these policies and perhaps others together, and you have a National Majority Rule Project capable of thwarting the Southern Autonomy Project. The best defense is a good offense.
Does saying this make me, a white Southerner, a traitor to the South? Among the beneficiaries of a National Majority Rule Project, if it succeeded, would be middle- and low-income white Southerners, whose interests have never been identical with those of the local oligarchs. Particularly among the Scots-Irish of Appalachia and the Ozarks, there have always been many Southern white populists and radicals — from the West Virginian and Kentucky Unionists of the Civil War to New Deal liberals in Texas — who have understood the need to ally ourselves with non-Southerners in national politics to defeat the local Nabobs, Bourbons and Big Mules. The true Southern patriots are those of us who want to liberate the diverse population of the South from being exploited as wage earners and from being disfranchised or manipulated as voters. Another term for the National Majority Rule Project might be the Southern Liberation Movement.
Will the initiative remain with aggressive Southern reactionaries, as their fellow Americans try to appease them or react on a case-by-case basis against a feint here or a diversion there? Or will an aroused national majority, tired of being pushed around by a selfish Southern minority of the shrinking American white majority, finally fight back?
When George Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin the night of Feb. 26, 2012, he ignored an admonition not to do so from the police dispatcher. The request for his arrest, written by the lead detective, noted that Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon could have been avoided if he’d remained in his vehicle or identified himself “as a concerned citizen.” Just what in Zimmerman’s past might have led him to take these actions and kill an unarmed teenager with a gunshot to the chest is relevant in this case.
What is not relevant is Trayvon’s past. And Judge Debra Nelson made that clear today when shedenied several motions by Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara to introduce the 17-year-old’s suspension from school, past marijuana use and his participation in fights. There’s a possibility that such evidence could make it to trial, but by releasing all the information last week, O’Mara ensured that everyone, including potential jurors, knows what lurked in his client’s victim’s past. But thanks to Florida’s incredible sunshine laws, we know a few relevant things about Zimmerman.
In July 2005, he was arrested for“resisting officer with violence.” The neighborhood watch volunteer who wanted to be a cop got into a scuffle with cops who were questioning a friend for alleged underage drinking. The charges were reduced and then waived after he entered an alcohol education program. Then in August 2005, Zimmerman’s former fiance sought a restraining order against him because of domestic violence. Zimmerman sought a restraining order against her in return. Both were granted. Meanwhile, over the course of eight years, Zimmerman made at least 46 calls to the Sanford (Fla.) Police Department reporting suspicious activity involving black males.
We also know that Witness No. 9 accused Zimmerman of molesting her when they were children. The relative’s revelation is appalling but irrelevant. What most folks don’t know is that Witness No. 9 made an explosive allegation against her cousin. “I know George. And I know that he does not like black people,” she told a Sanford police officer during a telephone call in which she pleaded for anonymity. “He would start something. He’s a very confrontational person. It’s in his blood. Let’s just say that. I don’t want this poor kid and his family to just be overlooked.” At the end of the call, Witness No. 9 urged the officer to “get character reports from other people and see if he’s ever said anything about black people, about being racist or anything like that because I guarantee you there’s somebody out there who will say it.”
That phone call was significant because it was placed two days after Zimmerman killed Trayvon and a couple of weeks before the case drew national attention. Witness No. 9 wasn’t seeking attention. “I’m a mom,” she told police. “I can’t stand seeing that some kid got shot and killed over a stupid fight, especially one that my [redacted] … because I know who he is.”
George Zimmerman is the one who stands accused of second-degree murder. He, not Trayvon Martin, is the one on trial starting June 10. And who Zimmerman is more relevant to the proceedings than who Trayvon was.
Authorities in Ohio say they aren’t sure what motivated a 42-year-old man to jump out of his car during a traffic stop in March and suddenly fire 37 rounds at two police officers. What seems clear, however, is the case is yet another example of the danger posed to unsuspecting officers who confront individuals steeped in extremist antigovernment ideas.
James L. Gilkerson had a library of antigovernment, homemade munitions and firearms books in his vehicle — along with an AK-47 assault rifle, five loaded 40-round magazines for the weapon, knives, five pounds of gunpowder and a black mask and gloves, authorities say. He was unemployed, spent his time caring for his ill mother, and apparently had no history of mental illness.
One of his books, Resistance to Tyranny, espouses a lone-wolf “underground movement of secret freedom fighters, each acting individually and independently to ignore, evade, resist and thwart the increasingly heavy hand of government power.”
When his car was stopped after running a stop sign on March 10 — a quiet Sunday in Middlefield, Ohio — Gilkerson exited through his driver’s side door and began firing his assault rifle before officers could even get out of their police cruiser.
Gilkerson fired 37 shots at officers Erin Thomas and Brandon Savage, who both returned fire, shooting 54 rounds at Gilkerson as he shouted, “Kill me.” He died at the scene. The unnerving gunfight, captured on a dash cam in the officers’ bullet-riddled patrol car, is now a high-hit posting on YouTube.
“I don’t know what he had planned or where he was going,” the chief said. “I just know he got out of his car intending to kill my officers. The AK-47 rounds he was firing would go right through a policeman’s bulletproof vest.”
Both officers were wounded. Thomas lost the index finger of her left hand, and has not returned to duty. Savage had minor injuries to his left thigh and has returned to patrol work, the chief said.
After an investigation involving the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office, the officers’ actions were found to be justified.
“When you see what he had, how much ammunition he had, these officers may have prevented a tragedy down the road,” Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz told Cleveland television stationWKYC-TV.
The investigation showed that Gilkerson, who authorities described as a “loner,” had no known connections with extremist or antigovernment groups and had no criminal record. But he apparently did have an appetite for reading, particularly books about bombs, firearms and antigovernment activism.
I'm in a bad mood. There was some blather on Facebook by a pro-gun group which someone reposted.
Tuesday someone very close to my girlfriend was murdered by a gun. It was a random event. It was his day off. He'd taken his dad to the doctor, had dropped him off and was going home. Stopped at a traffic light, when someone in the next car got out and shot him. Quinn tried to get away but rolled into a ravine.
It appears to have been a robbery attempt.
Sorry, people don't drive with one hand on the wheel and one hand on their gun. You can't live your life presuming that everyone is trying to kill you.
I'm angry. I don't need to hear paranoids talk about how Obama is coming to take your guns away. The more guns, the fewer ways to check who's buying them, the more guns that fall into the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable. The more husbands kill their wives and families. The more suicides.
There's a new widow in this world. There are parents and friends of the family whose lives are permanently touched with sadness.
People learn to accept the death of loved ones. I almost feel guilty intruding on others' sadness. I wonder about the killer. What happened to him to make him capable of killing a stranger for... well, nothing.
The utter insanity of some Americans and their fears and their embrace of killing machines.
Here’s what 8th graders in Louisiana know, for sure, about the 1960s rabble-rousers better known as hippies (emphasis mine):
They went to Canada or European countries to escape being drafted into military service.
They went without bathing, wore dirty, ragged, unconventional clothing, and deliberately broke all codes of politeness or manners. Rock music played an important part in the hippie movement and had great influence over the hippies. Many of the rock musicians they followed belonged to Eastern religious cults or practiced Satan worship.
How do they know it? Because their history textbook — “America: Land I Love” — told them so!
Dirty hippie-gate is just one of many reasons the quality of the Louisiana school system’s voucher program has been called into question. Other schools involved in the program have taught students that dragons are real and that, except for the whole owning human beings as property thing, slave owners were actually pretty nice guys.
There is no valid scientific basis for denying same-sex couples the right to legal marriage, or to deprive them of considerable benefits of the institution, according to legal briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by the American Psychological Association and other leading mental health associations.
"Empirical research demonstrates that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners largely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships," the briefs state. "Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments. Heterosexual and same-sex couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, equity, loyalty and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues."
Denying recognition to legally married same-sex couples stigmatizes them, according to the "friend of the court" briefs filed in the cases of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges California's Proposition 8, and U.S. v. Windsor, which challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Perry is slated to be argued before the court on March 26; Windsor will be argued on March 27.
The briefs cite empirical scientific evidence that demonstrate that "homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality, is generally not chosen and is highly resistant to change." Likewise, "there is no scientific basis for concluding that gay and lesbian parents are any less fit or capable than heterosexual parents, or that their children are any less psychologically healthy and well-adjusted," according to the briefs.
"In drawing conclusions, we rely on the best empirical research available, focusing on general patterns rather than any single study," the briefs state. All the studies cited in the brief were critically evaluated to assess their methodology, including the reliability and validity of the measures and tests employed, and the quality of data-collection procedures and statistical analyses.
APA President Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD, noted that the association has a long history of supporting equal access to legal marriage based on years of scientific research. "There is no scientific basis for denying marriage to same-sex couples particularly when research indicates that marriage provides many important benefits," Bersoff said. "The research shows that same-sex couples are similar to heterosexual couples in essential ways and that they are as likely as opposite-sex couples to raise mentally healthy, well-adjusted children."
Joining APA in filing the Windsor and Perry briefs were: the American Academy of Pediatrics; American Medical Association; California Medical Association; American Psychiatric Association; American Psychoanalytic Association; and National Association of Social Workers. Also joining the Windsor brief were: the New York City and New York state chapters of the National Association of Social Workers and the New York State Psychological Association. Also joining the Perry brief were the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy; the California Chapter of NASW and the California Psychological Association.
Police in Clarkstown, New York have confiscated a cache of high-powered weapons and body armor from a man who was arrested for posting death threats against against many Democratic politicians and every liberal supporter of President Barack Obama.
According to WCBS, 49-year-old Larry Mulqueen was arraigned on Thursday on charges of “making terroristic threats, illegally possessing weapons and harassment.”
Mulqueen’s landlady had tipped off police after she found a “hit list” posted on Facebook that threatened Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and all members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The Facebook posting said that all of the president’s follower were “traitor scum” and promised “death to them all.”
Nyack-Piermont Patchreported that police searched Mulqueen’s home and found two high-powered rifles, two bayonets, a sword, a knuckle knife, body armor and ammunition. Included in the 100 rounds of ammunition were 27 so-called “tank buster” .50 caliber armor-piercing shells.
Previous criminal convictions meant that it was illegal for Mulqueen to possess the weapons.
“We didn’t want a situation where something did happen and we looked back and it was said ‘well, that law enforcement agency had information and warnings, why did they do nothing about it?” Clarkstown Police Sgt. Glenn Cummings explained to WCBS.
“I think what may have particularly have gotten his ire in the past month or two were the various legislation enacted with respect to the rights to possess a firearm. I think that was particularly upsetting to him,” Cummings added. “One posting which was posted about a month ago said that if anybody ever came to take the arms, they would suffer the consequences.”
Police said that Mulqueen would remain behind bars at least until his court appearance on Monday.
This guy had a hit list too.
A convicted felon and alleged neo-Nazi amassed 40,000 rounds of ammunition and planned to kill black and Jewish community leaders in Detroit as part of a “hit list,” WXYZ-TV reported on Thursday.
Federal authorities said this week that a search of 47-year-old federal suspect Richard Schmidt’s home revealed the list and apparent plans to kill Scott Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“You have to realize it is the world we live in,” said Kaufman after being notified of the list. “There are people who don’t like us and would just as soon have us not exist, but you can’t dwell on it.”
According to NBC News, Schmidt was indicted in January 2013 on federal charges of possessing firearms, ammunition and body armor, all of which violated his parole. Schmidt was released from prison in 2003, after 13 years of incarceration in Ohio following a homicide conviction for shooting and killing a man during a traffic stop. Schmidt also wounded two others during that attack.
Investigators then found 18 weapons inside Schmidt’s home in Ohio in December 2012, including various types of shotguns and high-caliber rifles, including two different AR-15 assault weapons.
U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, who represents Ohio’s northern district, said investigators have concluded that Schmidt acquired his arsenal at gun shows or via private firearms sales, which currently do not require a background check.
“It’s scary,” Dettelback said about the amount of weaponry found at the suspect’s home, adding that while he would say where Schmidt bought the guns if he knew, “It’s that sitting here today as a senior federal law enforcement official in northern Ohio, I can’t say.”
Schmidt, who owns a sporting good store, is also accused of selling knock-offs of popular brands like Nike, Reebok and Louis Vuitton.
Like being in a hole in your backyard is where you want to fight off the power of the United States. Happy revolution.
According to an official in the Dale County, Ala. sheriff’s department, the man who took a child hostage after shooting a bus driver on Tuesday is a “survivalist” with “anti-America” views.
“His friends and his neighbors stated that he did not trust the government, that he was a Vietnam vet, and that he had PTSD,” Tim Byrd, chief investigator with the Dale County Sheriff’s Department, told The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog on Wednesday. “He was standoffish, didn’t socialize or have any contact with anybody. He was a survivalist type.”
Authorities first responded after receiving a call of a shooting in Midland City, Ala. involving a Dale County school bus at 3:36 p.m. local time on Tuesday. Authorities later said the bus driver had died and that a child was involved in what they described as an “ongoing incident.” They identified the bus driver as Charles Albert Poland Jr., who had worked for Dale County since 2009.
Authorities have not, however, officially confirmed the hostage situation or the name of the suspect, which has widely been reported as Jimmy Lee Dykes. Dykes reportedly boarded the bus on Tuesday and shot Poland several times, then took a 6-year-old boy from the bus to a bunker near Dykes’ home, where they have remained.
According to al.com, authorities have been negotiating with Dykes through a PVC pipe leading into the bunker. The 6-year-old boy is reportedly autistic, and requires medication, which has been delivered. Dykes reportedly has no ties to the boy. Sources also told al.com that Dykes is looking for attention to “air his grievances.”
Dykes’ motives remain unclear. Al.com reported that Dykes was charged with menacing in December, after pointing a gun at a neighbor. Dykes was scheduled to have a bench trial related to the charge on Wednesday.
Michael Creel, Dykes’ neighbor, told The Dothan Eagle he went outside Tuesday after his sister heard gun shots, and Creel then attempted to run Dykes down.
“He’s 67 years old, so I figured I could catch him,” Creel told the paper. “Apparently he didn’t go through the field like I thought. He’s got a four-foot-wide, about six-foot-long, eight-foot-deep homemade bomb shelter. It’s got about three to four feet of sand on top of it. If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t (notice it).”
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at The Southern Poverty Law Center, told TPM in an email Wednesday that the center was not aware of Dykes prior to speaking with Byrd. A spokesperson with the sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to a request to confirm Byrd’s account.