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?
A local cake shop refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. In Oregon you can't refuse service based on sexual orientation, so we've got a violation of law. The owners claim it's because of their religious beliefs. They shut down their shop rather than violate the Bible. Except that they'll violate the Bible in every way except gay.
Sugar, flour, eggs and water are now munitions in America’s culture war. Or so you’d think from two Oregon bakeries that recently got national attention for declining to make cakes for same-sex weddings.
The first incident, in February, involved Gresham’s Sweet Cakes by Melissa, whose owner told a lesbian couple that “we don’t do same-sex marriages.” Earlier this month, Pam Regentin, who operates Fleur Cakes out of her home in the Hood River area, also refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding.
Both bakeries cited their religious beliefs as the reason they would not make the cakes. Both describe themselves as Christian.
Jesus, of course, never commented on gay people, but did tell his followers to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Instead, the widely cited Bible verse condemning homosexuality comes from Leviticus, a book that also prohibits getting tattooed or eating rabbit.
“I believe I have the liberty to live by my principles,” Regentin told KATU in a May 15 newscast.
By law, that may not be true. Oregon statute makes it illegal for businesses to turn away customers based on race, religion or sexual orientation. A lawyer for the couple turned away by Sweet Cakes says they are exploring their options.
We wondered what other requests these cakemakers would decline to honor. So last week fiveWW reporters called these two bakeries anonymously to get price quotes for other occasions frowned upon by some Christians. Surprisingly, the people who answered the phone at each bakery were quite willing to provide baked goods for celebrations of divorces, unmarried parents, stem-cell research, non-kosher barbecues and pagan solstice parties.
We later contacted both bakeries to ask about these inconsistencies. Regentin declined to comment beyond asking whether she had been taped (she had not).
Sweet Cakes owners Melissa and Aaron Klein were upset that we “would even try to entrap a business” and contacted conservative talk-show host Lars Larson.
Baby Out of Wedlock
WW Asks - I’m shopping around for a nice baby shower cake for my friend. It’s her second baby with her boyfriend so I’m not looking for anything too big or fancy—probably enough to serve 15 to 20 people.
Sweet Cake says - “We have a sheet cake that will feed 30, or a 10-inch cake that would feed 30 people. The 10-inch cake is $50 and the sheet cake is $52. Or we have an 8-inch cake that would feed 15 for $40.”
Fleur says - Prices vary based on decoration and frosting, but a basic cake is $3 per serving.
WW Asks - My friend is getting divorced and we’d like to throw her a little party to mark the start of her new life. Do you ever write messages on those—we’d want it to say “congratulations!”—and how much would it be for a cake that could serve about eight people?
Sweet Cake says - “A 10-inch is $29.99. That should probably do it....We can definitely do something like that.”
Fleur says - “The price for a 10-inch cheesecake is $36 and up. So it’ll be between $36 and $45, but you’re going to have to call in advance because my schedule for June and July is very busy.”
WW Asks - I was wondering if you could do two little cakes. My friend is a researcher at OHSU and she just got a grant for cloning human stem cells, so I thought I’d get her two identical cakes—basically, two little clone cakes. How much would they cost?
Sweet Cake says - “Ha. All right. When are you looking to do it? It’ll be $25.99 each, so about $50 to start.”
Fleur says - Did not pick up phone or return messages. Acknowledged receiving requests by email but refused to comment.
WW Asks - I’m looking to get a special cake for a barbecue we’re having next week. Our cow just died of old age and we’re planning to grill some steaks along with lobster and pulled-pork sandwiches—what size would we need for 10 people and how much would it be?
Sweet Cake says - “A 6-inch cake serves about eight to 10 people at $25.99. The apple goes really good with pork, and the caramel will complement the lobster. For a barbecue, it’s all really good.”
Fleur says - Did not pick up phone or return messages. Acknowledged receiving requests by email but refused to comment.
Pagan Solstice Party
WW Asks - I was calling to get a quote on a cake for a midsummer solstice party. My coven is celebrating on Friday, June 21. The decoration would be very simple: just a green pentagram. We’d like to pick it up sometime that afternoon, before the bonfire. It’ll be for about 30 people.
Sweet Cake says - “For 30 poeople we have a couple options... We have two kind of cakes you could have. About the diagram you want on the cake, I’m not sure how much extra that would be.”
Fleur says - Did not pick up phone or return messages. Acknowledged receiving requests by email but refused to comment.
A relative of mine on a social media site linked to a very racist, ignorant webpage. It's embarrassing. Here's a sample:
Apparently, there are still people, I'm presuming mostly older white people living in the former Confederacy, who think that Obama was born in Kenya. Many think he is an anti-Christ (although at the site there was some disagreement on when the end times were coming), that he wants to take away their guns and all sorts of other crazy things. For example, Paula Deen didn't get fired from the Food Network because she was oblivious to events of the last fifty years regarding race and society and was saying offensive things that hurt the network's ratings, but rather because her high-calorie recipes offended the First Lady. Actually, the website didn't use "First Lady" but an offensive term which I won't repeat here.
When I was in the army at the end of the Vietnam War I was stationed at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. I was a clerk but was temporarily assigned to the Headquarters on base to help with a race relations program the army was instituting then. Racial tensions were boiling in the military and someone in Washington decided it would be a good idea to spread some sensitivity and understanding among the troops. When I returned to my job in personnel the warrant officer in charge of my unit was extremely cool to me. He wouldn't release me to work full-time for race relations because I was "too valuable" but as soon as he saw the opportunity he moved me to an engineering battalion to be their company clerk. The base commander plucked me up within a week and assigned me as an instructor with the race relations program.
During the week I was in the engineering company I had to pull CQ duty one Saturday. CQ means "charge of quarters" and by definition means defending the base or something, but it really meant that I sat in the battalion headquarters and answered the phone while everyone was off for the weekend. Someone must have known of my teaching role because the desk where I was assigned was covered with racist literature. I moved it all to the side and did my shift. A week later I was reassigned to the base headquarters and finished my active duty in the army as an instructor in race relations.
That was forty years ago, in 1973.
1973 was the last of George W. Bush's six years he contracted to serve in the Air Force National Guard. While I was in Fort Devens George W. Bush was in Harvard's Business School forty miles to the east. He wasn't attending National Guard meetings. He hadn't done that for quite awhile. He wasn't excused from his commitment. No, he was AWOL. Actually, when you're AWOL over thirty days you're considered a deserter, but when your dad is a rich man with powerful political connections someone somewhere papers over that kind of thing.
At some point during his time in the National Guard, before he stopped going to meetings and doing his service commitment, he was relieved of flying. Why? There's some evidence that he had lost his nerve. Then again, there was some evidence that he couldn't pass the drug test. There is no evidence that Obama ate a dog while he was growing up.
So what do I do? Do I ignore the racism and ignorance this relative is spreading around? Mostly, that's what I do. But sometimes I can't. I'm embarrassed for my relative. But at this late stage in our lives there is nothing I can do to change her.
It's too bad because there are plenty of things to discuss politically. I've got plenty of complaints about the Obama Administration, but when my relative deals in fantastic, insane fear-mongering instead of what's actually happening in Washington, D.C. there really is no point of engaging in a dialogue. The shame of it all is that she is now at an age where she is dependent on things like Social Security and she keeps voting for the same people who keep voting to cut it. (Really, look at Paul Ryan's budget that the Republicans passed in the House.)
These two illustrations, and many more, were at that website. It's not just the "media" that calls Obama the President. It is a majority of the voters, the Electoral College, and it's the rest of the world. Except for those living in the Confederacy of the Mind.
For decades now, I’ve seen the aftermath of botched drug raids; early morning mayhem in which police, using mauls and wearing body armor, smash through the front doors of ghetto homes, guns drawn, shouting for sleeping residents to drop to the ground. I’ve seen raids of sixteen or eighteen addresses come up empty for drugs and weapons at more than half of those locations. And of course, I’ve seen raiding officers drop a copy of the signed, documented and perfectly legal probable cause on the rowhouse floor, gather equipment, and walk out of homes from which they recovered no evidence of criminality.
“Are you gonna fix my door?” is always a stunned resident’s first question.
“You need to call the city for that,” is always the ready, ambiguous reply.
What poor and working-class communities routinely endure within the very constitutional construct of our drug war makes the wails of indignation over this NSA data-mining astonishing and embarrassing to me. And no, before you get wound up prematurely and choose the too-easy, I-didn’t-read-deep-enough argument, I am not saying that overreach in other realms of the criminal justice system justifies overreach anywhere else.
After all, no one is suggesting that we do away with court-approved search warrants for domestic crime suppression. Or dialed-numbered recorders. Or interrogation rooms. Or informants. Or just about any other law enforcement asset that can be used properly and misused egregiously. Oh, more people are now complaining about the excesses of the drug war, to be sure. But all of us understand that the existing legal weapons and strategies are there for all crimes — for murder, for rape, for robbery, for burglary. Hell, if a crew of detectives were pulling cell numbers off a tower to identify and arrest a rampaging serial rapist — and traipsing through the phone metadata of ten thousand other citizens to do it — we’d do more than applaud; we’d buy the film rights. We are comfortable with a certain level of intrusion involving all previous weapons of law enforcement, and even the use of phone metadata as it can be utilized. Why, I wonder. And why has this particular law enforcement intervention– no less legal as it was proposed to the FISA court — engaged the worst fears of many.
So as the House Agriculture Committee debated this week over how much to cut from SNAP, it was not surprising that Representative Juan Vargas, a California Democrat, would remind the committee to follow the example set forth by Jesus, who said that how we treat the least among us is how we treat him. Of course, not to be out-Bibled, Representative Stephen Fincher, a Tennessee Republican, came back with his own Bible verse, quoting the Old Testament when he said, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
Really? Is that how we see the least fortunate among us? As lazy? Last I checked, there were laws against child labor in this country, and children make up almost half of all SNAP beneficiaries. Further, since many of the jobs that have been created since the economic recovery began are low wage jobs, it is to be expected that many of the families on the program are what are called ‘working poor’; families that do work but do not make a living wage.
But Rep. Fincher certainly doesn’t fall under this category. The Fincher family owns a 2500 acre farm in western Tennessee that brings in MILLIONS of dollars in Federal farm subsidies from the very bill he says needs to be targeted for its food stamps benefits. Make no mistake, this is no small family farm. Not one to miss out on any free government money, Fincher also took a grant from the state of Tennessee, as did his father, that allowed for taxpayers to buy them new farm equipment. That’s free to them. Free work related materials. FREE.
But free is only okay if it benefits him, evidently. Free is no longer okay when it comes to giving poor children, disabled, and elderly enough food to barely keep them from starving. Fact is that the amount of benefits granted by the SNAP program is very low, $668 for a family of four. If your family of four makes more than $1,921 a month, you do not qualify. To give perspective, the USDA says a modest food budget for a family of four with children between the ages of 6 to 11 years old is about $1,024.70. That is $356.70 higher than the allowance received through SNAP. For this reason, most benefits run out before the month is over.
Rep. Fincher has already been hearing from angry voters after bragging about the passage of the proposed cuts to SNAP benefits (all while keeping government farm subsidies in tact). On his Facebook page, people are letting him know what they think of his politics with comments such as:
Looks like you haven’t missed any meals lately…do you even know how it feels to be hungry? You are a dumbass!
“The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” ~Fincher Guess you better tighten your belt, parasite.
Did you mention what benefits Fincher Farms will get put of this and how many more 8th dist kids will starve as you reduced the USDA SNAP benefits in favor of your financial supporters. Sounds like something the Devil would do.
With politics like his, it’s only fitting that Rep. Fincher would now be feeling the heat that his un-weatherbeaten skin has obviously never experienced in his career as a “farmer.”
Representative Stephen Fincher (R-TN) is a first-term member of Congress, representingTennessee’s 8th congressional district. Rep. Fincher’s ethics issues stem from concealing thesource of a campaign loan and his failure to accurately disclose his income, assets, and liabilities on his personal financial disclosure forms.
On October 29, 2009, Rep. Fincher, then a candidate for Congress, filed a requiredpersonal financial disclosure statement with the House Ethics Committee covering the periodfrom January 1, 2009 to September 29, 2009. On the form, Rep. Fincher reported his 2008earned income from his family farm as $59,245. He also estimated his total earned income for 2009 would be $60,000. Rep. Fincher reported no liabilities and only one asset – his farm,though he did not include a value for the property. Notably, he reported no other assets such as savings accounts, money market accounts, stocks, or bonds. Rep. Fincher filed another required personal financial disclosure statement on May 17, 2010, covering the period from January 1,2009 to May 15, 2010. This time, he listed his 2009 earned income as $124,016 – more thandouble his earlier estimate. Again, he reported the farm as his only asset.
This is how the 20 Republican congressmen voted regarding government aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:
• Joe Barton- No • Kevin Brady- No • Michael Burgess- No • John Carter- No • Michael Conaway- No • John Culberson- Yes • Blake Farenthold- No • Bill Flores- No • Louie Gohmert- No • Kay Granger- No • Ralph Hall- No • Jeb Hensarling- No • Sam Johnson- No • Kenny Marchant- No • Michael McCaul- No • Randy Neugebauer- No • Pete Olson- No • Ted Poe- No • Pete Sessions- No • Lamar Smith- No • Steve Stockman- No • Mac Thornberry- No • Randy Weber- No • Roger Williams- No
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas voted against Sandy aid three times, calling it "pork".
What do you think their positions are for federal aid to West, Texas, where a fertilizer plant which hadn't been inspected for years, blew up and wiped out the local volunteer firemen and a lot of other folks?
In this case, it's Rand Paul and and his "Personhood At Conception Act".
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Friday introduced so-called “fetal personhood” legislation that would completely outlaw abortion in the United States.
The Life at Conception Act would declare that human life began at conception, providing fertilized eggs with the same legal status as born persons.
“The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known – that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward,” Paul said in a statement. “ The right to life is guaranteed to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence and ensuring this is upheld is the Constitutional duty of all Members of Congress.”
In a fundraising video for the National Pro-Life Alliance last year, the Republican senator explained that the bill would outlaw abortion without contradicting the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Citing the ruling, Paul claimed Congress had the power to define when human life began under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
“The Court then admitted that if the personhood of an unborn baby is established, the right to abort ‘collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the  Amendment,’” he said.
Pro-life activists have pushed to amend the constitutions of several states with “fetal personhood” language, but have so far been rejected by voters.
Have you seen little sperms? They're alive. They wiggle and swim and either get to the egg or they die. You can't die unless you are alive.
As are the little eggs. They're not dead. At least not until they die.
So what's this fine demarcation between life and death? An overwhelming majority of fertilized eggs are naturally aborted, most before a woman even knows she's pregnant. That would be about 75%. That would make God the Great Abortionist In The Sky.
It's particularly Senator Paul wants to grant personhood to every fertilized egg. First, that's not when life starts. Second, most fertilized eggs die naturally before anyone knows of the pregnancy. And a fertilized egg is a part of the pregnant woman, not a separate person.
I realize these arguments have zero affect on the right-wing religious zealots, despite no specific Biblical definition. And it's particularly embarrassing that someone who claims to a libertarian, who is supposed to support keeping government out of its citizens' lives, would support such an incredibly intrusive and stupid policy. At best, it's a political ploy.
However, this is a great way for Republicans to alienate even more women. Perhaps at some point they'll get the message. But then if Republicans didn't have these ridiculous things to distract the hoi polloi from the continuous plundering the Republicans wage on the bottom ninety-nine percent then they'd lose everyone.