. . . was evidently not well-regulated. The justices of the Supreme Court evidently cannot read.
Tuesday, July 05, 2022
Monday, July 04, 2022
Frederick Douglass famously asked "What, to the slave, is the fourth of July?" I think most people have heard of this speech, but few have actually read it. Click on the link, if you're interested -- it is quite long. I'm going to pull an excerpt:
My subject, then fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery—the great sin and shame of America!
Note, however, that in the quite lengthy first part of the speech Douglass acknowledged the importance of the date to full citizens of the nation, and the audacity and courage that the Declaration of Independence represented and demanded in order to be brought to fruition. His main idea was that the same revolutionary daring and commitment was necessary at that moment. At this moment we face the same urgency.
Remember that for all their high flown rhetoric about equality and human rights, the authors of the Declaration were the profoundest, most egregious hypocrites. Thomas Jefferson's hypocrisy was far more monumental than his memorial. The new nation and its rhetoric were made for white, Christian men of property -- that property including human beings. Jefferson availed himself of his own property for sexual gratification as well as toiling on his farm. Women were not citizens, no for that matter were poor men of any race, and the indigenous people of the continent were not even people.
We've come some distance since then, at terrible but necessary cost. But now we are on the brink of falling back 150 years, indeed of finding ourselves in an even worse place than that. Most Americans, today, do not want to undo the centuries long struggle for equality, justice and inclusion; but the minority who do are scheming to seize power, abolish the republic, and impose their cruel will on people who they irrationally despise. We must recognize our peril, name it, and conquer it.
That, to me, is this fourth of July.
Sunday, July 03, 2022
As you may recall, Jezebel was the daughter of a Phoenician king, who married Ahab and introduced the worship of Baal to the northern kingdom. Elijah and then Elisha have been fighting a sort of guerilla war against Ahab's successors and the worship of Baal, but for some reason Yahweh has mostly been putting up with it until now. Yahweh finally had Elisha appoint Jehu as king, to impose the final solution. So here it is. First Jehu orders the Samarians to kill all 70 of Ahab's sons and send him their heads, which they do. Then Jehu massacres the rest of Ahab's family and his priests. Then Jehu goes to Samaria and meets with relatives of the late king Ahazia of Judah, who Jehu had previously murdered. He takes them prisoner and murders them all. Jehu then meets a guy named Jehonadab and invites him to join in the fun. So they go to Samaria and murder the rest of Ahab's family. Then Jehu summons all the priests of Baal claiming that Jehu intends to worship Baal and he's going to stage a great sacrifice. But he's lying. When the priests of Baal show up, Jehu has them all murdered. Mission accomplished.
10 Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samar′ia. So Jehu wrote letters, and sent them to Samar′ia, to the rulers of the city,[a] to the elders, and to the guardians of the sons of Ahab, saying, 2 “Now then, as soon as this letter comes to you, seeing your master’s sons are with you, and there are with you chariots and horses, fortified cities also, and weapons, 3 select the best and fittest of your master’s sons and set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.” 4 But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, “Behold, the two kings could not stand before him; how then can we stand?” 5 So he who was over the palace, and he who was over the city, together with the elders and the guardians, sent to Jehu, saying, “We are your servants, and we will do all that you bid us. We will not make any one king; do whatever is good in your eyes.” 6 Then he wrote to them a second letter, saying, “If you are on my side, and if you are ready to obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel tomorrow at this time.” Now the king’s sons, seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who were bringing them up. 7 And when the letter came to them, they took the king’s sons, and slew them, seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent them to him at Jezreel. 8 When the messenger came and told him, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons,” he said, “Lay them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning.” 9 Then in the morning, when he went out, he stood, and said to all the people, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master, and slew him; but who struck down all these? 10 Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab; for the Lord has done what he said by his servant Eli′jah.” 11 So Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his great men, and his familiar friends, and his priests, until he left him none remaining.
12 Then he set out and went to Samar′ia. On the way, when he was at Beth-eked of the Shepherds, 13 Jehu met the kinsmen of Ahazi′ah king of Judah, and he said, “Who are you?” And they answered, “We are the kinsmen of Ahazi′ah, and we came down to visit the royal princes and the sons of the queen mother.” 14 He said, “Take them alive.” And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of Beth-eked, forty-two persons, and he spared none of them.
15 And when he departed from there, he met Jehon′adab the son of Rechab coming to meet him; and he greeted him, and said to him, “Is your heart true to my heart as mine is to yours?”[b] And Jehon′adab answered, “It is.” Jehu said,[c] “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand. And Jehu took him up with him into the chariot. 16 And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.” So he[d] had him ride in his chariot. 17 And when he came to Samar′ia, he slew all that remained to Ahab in Samar′ia, till he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke to Eli′jah.
Slaughter of Worshipers of Baal
18 Then Jehu assembled all the people, and said to them, “Ahab served Ba′al a little; but Jehu will serve him much. 19 Now therefore call to me all the prophets of Ba′al, all his worshipers and all his priests; let none be missing, for I have a great sacrifice to offer to Ba′al; whoever is missing shall not live.” But Jehu did it with cunning in order to destroy the worshipers of Ba′al. 20 And Jehu ordered, “Sanctify a solemn assembly for Ba′al.” So they proclaimed it. 21 And Jehu sent throughout all Israel; and all the worshipers of Ba′al came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. And they entered the house of Ba′al, and the house of Ba′al was filled from one end to the other. 22 He said to him who was in charge of the wardrobe, “Bring out the vestments for all the worshipers of Ba′al.” So he brought out the vestments for them. 23 Then Jehu went into the house of Ba′al with Jehon′adab the son of Rechab; and he said to the worshipers of Ba′al, “Search, and see that there is no servant of the Lord here among you, but only the worshipers of Ba′al.” 24 Then he[e] went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings.
Now Jehu had stationed eighty men outside, and said, “The man who allows any of those whom I give into your hands to escape shall forfeit his life.” 25 So as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, Jehu said to the guard and to the officers, “Go in and slay them; let not a man escape.” So when they put them to the sword, the guard and the officers cast them out and went into the inner room[f] of the house of Ba′al 26 and they brought out the pillar that was in the house of Ba′al, and burned it. 27 And they demolished the pillar of Ba′al, and demolished the house of Ba′al, and made it a latrine to this day.
28 Thus Jehu wiped out Ba′al from Israel. 29 But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and in Dan. 30 And the Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord the God of Israel with all his heart; he did not turn from the sins of Jerobo′am, which he made Israel to sin.
Death of Jehu
32 In those days the Lord began to cut off parts of Israel. Haz′ael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel: 33 from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manas′sites, from Aro′er, which is by the valley of the Arnon, that is, Gilead and Bashan. 34 Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 35 So Jehu slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samar′ia. And Jeho′ahaz his son reigned in his stead. 36 The time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samar′ia was twenty-eight years.
Friday, July 01, 2022
Following up on yesterday's post about how rich yet unequal we are, it's very important to debunk the common idea that Republican voters are somehow responding to "economic anxiety" or the relative decline in income of people with limited formal education. In the first place, the median income of Republican voters is higher than the average median income. They are mostly skilled tradespeople, small business owners, and even very affluent people who work in financial services or technology industries. Yes, there is an urban/rural divide, but most of these voters aren't people living in shacks down in the hollow, they're more likely to live in suburban or exurban communities.
In fact, Ronald T. Dump did promise to stop immigration, but only from relatively low income and predominantly Muslim countries; and to impose tariffs on Chinese goods. He did those things but that obviously did nothing to improve the economic prospects of his voters. On the contrary, all he did was give a huge tax cut to very wealthy people and put justices on the Supreme Court who have ended the right to abortion, allowed public school teachers to lead students in Christian prayer on school property (but just wait till a non-Christian teacher tries it), limited the rights of criminal defendants, and restricted access to the ballot. The Republican party doesn't have any economic agenda to help middle income people. None whatsoever. They want to drive gay people back into the closet, rewrite history to eliminate discussion of slavery and racism, and end democracy.
That last statement is obviously objectively correct. Their candidate lost the 2020 election by almost 8 million votes but in order to be a member of the party in good standing you have to lie and say that isn't so, and support an attempted coup to overthrow the duly elected government. And it also requires unwavering fealty to a malignant narcissist, sadistic sociopath, pathological liar, ignorant idiot, vulgar, rapist and bully. None of this has anything to do with economic anxiety, it is nothing but depravity, bigotry, and ignorance. They don't actually want anything for themselves from public policy, they just want to hurt the people they don't like.
Thursday, June 30, 2022
From economic historian Brad DeLong, a brief summary of the extreme weirdness of our time. He presents the table below without giving any source, and the seemingly precise quantification is certainly questionable, but the basic idea is undoubtedly correct.
What's important is not the numbers, but the idea. Right now the income per capita of all humanity is almost 13 times what it was in 1500. Another way of looking at this is that it took 20 workers in 1870 to produce what one worker can today.
And yet, we still have billions of people living in abject poverty. Even in a wealthy country like the U.S., while even most of the people we consider to be impoverished have a material standard of living and a life expectancy that vastly exceeds that of even the average person in 1870, their quality of life is probably little better. Relative and concentrated disadvantage is deeply stressful and painful, as are lack of meaningful and rewarding work and purpose, and constant insecurity. It's also very important to note that the bulk of that per capita income is going to a very small subset of the population, who are growing ever more obscenely wealthy.
Still, for most people, this is the best time to live there has ever been. Even European kings in 1500 had much shorter lives, more disease and pain, and more stress than an average American today. Yet life expectancy in the U.S. has recently made an unprecedented downward turn, mostly because of white people in non-urban areas who have experienced an epidemic of alcohol misuse, opioid addiction, and suicide. This has not, however, come close to erasing the pre-existing disadvantage of African American, Latino and indigenous people. Even a slight loss of relative privilege was apparently enough to drive some people to despair.
The point is, there is now plenty for everybody. We don't need to be quarreling over the crumbs, or fearing that we will be "replaced," or fearing we can't afford to make the investment necessary to save us from climate catastrophe. When that happens our unprecedented material wealth will go away! We can fix our problems and take care of everybody and there is plenty to go around. The problem is those obscenely wealthy greedheads who are investing a small part of their trillions into convincing the world that isn't true and distracting us with manufactured moral panics and ridiculous bullshit.
Maybe tomorrow I'll have something to say specifically about the Supreme Court and the Republican Party.