Posts Tagged With: Supreme Court

FROM SLAVERY TO FERGUSON AND BEYOND

To better understand the tumultuous riots taking place in many American cities due to the recent killings of young black men by white cops, one needs to go back in time, to almost 400 years ago, and the beginnings of slavery in the Americas. Because what happened in Ferguson, and Staten Island, and Cleveland, (where the black victim was only 12) can be directly linked to decisions and actions initiated by by our earliest settlers in North America. Historians place the origins of slavery in the North American territories as beginning in 1619, or not long after the first pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. It was the discovery of tobacco in Virginia and Kentucky, and what a valuable commodity it turned out to be, especially for export back to England and the rest of Europe, that set the whole process in motion. That’s when people of European descent, whose skin color was pinkish-beige, decided that great profit could be gained by enslaving people of African descent, whose skin color was ebony-toned, to grow and harvest this commodity. Free labor enabled those early settlers to charge rock bottom prices for tobacco and still make a handsome profit. Huge profit was also made by ship owners willing to sail to Africa and round up defenseless natives and return them to the Americas for sale at auctions. If some potential slaves died during the voyage back, due to being confined in the most squalid and filthiest quarters, and thereby contracting various diseases, well, that was just part of the cost of doing business. Charge it off to overhead.

With the discovery of the cotton gin, early in the 18th century, growing and marketing cotton turned out to be an even more profitable venture than tobacco, and the demand for slave labor increased significantly. Cotton was largely grown on Southern plantations where the weather was almost always hot an humid, similar to conditions in Africa. The slave trade mushroomed, and would not be discontinued until the early 19th century. By then there were so many millions of slaves in the U.S., that there was little need to import any more from Africa. Slaves on the cotton plantations usually worked from sun-up to sundown, at least 6 days a week. They were housed in tiny shacks with dirt floors, and fed barely edible slop that no plantation owner would allow his wife to put on his own dinner table. Their work in the hot, humid cotton fields was usually overseen by a white foreman, who would not spare the whip if he felt they weren’t working hard enough. They could be shot and slaughtered like cattle, if they somehow displeased the foreman or plantation owner, with no legal consequences. So if you ever wonder why there is still so much residual anger among so many black citizens, you might give a thought back to those wondrous days of yesteryear, when slavery was in full bloom.

And it didn’t just exist in the United States. England had a thriving slave market for working the sugar plantations on British colonies in the Americas, such as in Jamaica and British Honduras, (known today as Belize.) Finally, toward the middle of the 19th century, movements began forming in this country, that denounced the practice of slavery as being so morally reprehensible, that it must be totally abolished. The Abolitionist movement began growing in strength, and it resulted in the nullification of slavery in all Northern states. But the South refused to budge on this issue; and it was backed up by our Supreme Court in the infamous Dredd Scott decision in the 1850s, which ruled that the practice of slavery was permitted by the state’s rights clause of our constitution. We all know what ensued after that. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 resulted in a massive Civil War between the North and South with hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides. The Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln in 1862, and later codified by passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 finally freed blacks from the horrors and degradation of slavery forever in this country, after almost 250 years. But did it really? Well, not so much, as we shall see.

Lincoln made one fatal mistake, regarding this issue when he decided to run for re-election in 1864. He picked as his Vice-Presidential running mate, a Senator from Tennessee named Andrew Johnson. This man was a racial bigot in every conceivable way; but Lincoln chose him because he was one of the few prominent Southerners who opposed the South from seceding from the Union. Remember that Lincoln’s primary objective was to hold the Union together, and the abolition of slavery was secondary. When Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, Johnson, of course, ascended to the Presidency. Under Johnson’s regime, white Southern politicians were allowed to establish a series of race-based segregation laws known as Jim Crowism. Schools, factories, restaurants, lunch-counters, housing, public bathrooms and water fountains, etc. were all strictly segregated. Poll taxes and other discriminatory laws made it virtually impossible for blacks to vote in national or local elections. If any “uppity” black person sought to challenge these laws and customs, the was always the Ku Klux Klan to act as enforcers, usually through public lynchings. Because he had allowed all this to transpire, the House approved articles of impeachment against Andrew Johnson; but the Senate, by one vote, refused to convict and remove him from office. Hence, blacks in the U.S., if not technically enchained by formal slavery, were forced to live in a state of semi-slavery, or Jim Crowism,  for the next 100 years.

It wasn’t until the tumultuous 1960s that massive protests against Jim Cow laws and customs began to take place. In the 1950s that the Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, finally outlawed segregated schools. But schools did, in in fact remain mostly segregated, until the 1960s; when led by a young Reverend out of Alabama named Martin Luther King, passive resistance and peaceful protest marches against Jim Crow laws and customs began occurring. King had actually adopted the passive resistance methods used by Ghandi to free India from British shackles in the 1940s. After huge peaceful and sometimes violent demonstrations during the 1960s the walls of segregation and Jim Crowism finally began to come tumbling down. Civil rights legislation was passed affecting voting rights, employment and housing practices, and many other areas where blacks had been denied equal opportunities by Jim Crow. The President pushing for these civil rights for blacks was, ironically, another Southerner named Johnson. This time it was Lyndon Johnson from Texas. So it seemed that blacks were on their way to achieving the same equal rights and opportunities as whites and other minorities. Somewhere along the way, however, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Because of 350 years of slavery and semi-slavery, most blacks were ill-prepared to mesh seamlessly into a mostly-white dominated society. Today, inner-city slums that are rife with drugs, prostitution, and crime are almost totally populated by the black and Latino communities. Black household income is, on the average, 40% lower than comparable white households. Blacks, although comprising about 12% of the U.S.population, make up about 38% of the U.S. prison population.Unemployment for young black men is more than double what is for young white men. Black on black crime, especially in the inner cities, is at horrific levels. I believe that all the anger and rage emanating from the white police killings of black men has a lot to do with the feelings that many blacks have of being second class citizens. They’re fed up and refuse to take it any longer.

The election of a black President in 2008 was supposed to have healed most racial wounds and scars that have occurred over the past 400 years. Instead race relations in this country have been frozen into prior and current recriminations. Since Barack Obama was elected, there has been a steady stream of invective and vitriol hurled on a daily basis at the first black President and the first black Attorney-General of the U.S. by the right-wing of the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh, on talk radio that I wrote about previously, bellowed on his program that “I WANT HIM TO FAIL” before Obama was actually sworn into office. Now, who could possibly infer that there has been anything racist going on.

I won’t pass judgement on the Grand Jury findings in the cases of the 3 killings of black men by white police. Except to say that I’m still naive enough to believe that all the evidence was carefully weighed, without racial bias, in reaching their conclusions not to prosecute the individual cops. I could be wrong. But in any case, if you’re ever stopped by the police for anything, whether you’re white or black, no matter how wrong you think it is, never, ever resist arrest. If, in fact, the police did make a wrongful arrest, you can always hire a lawyer after, and sue their asses off.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

HOLIER-THAN-THOU

Some years back there was a highly amusing Broadway musical called “Nunsense.” It was about a group of nuns affiliated with a certain church group performing all kinds of silly actions. The closing number in the show was called Holier-Than-Thou and had each nun singing about some supposedly godly act she had undertaken and was therefore holier than the other nuns. As I’ve said, quite amusing when done on-stage; not so amusing when exhibited in real life. Nevertheless, some people feel compelled to display in public the vast amount of homage they give obsessively to the invisible man. Public displays of their religious beliefs becomes a daily necessity. Some call it wearing their religion on their sleeves. Others, like myself, might simply term it religious lunacy.

A good example of this occurred about 2 summers ago. Dan Cathy, the CEO of a chain of fried chicken joints called Chick-fil-A, located mainly in the South and Midwest, revealed his family’s bias toward anything homosexual, and especially toward gay marriage, during a radio interview. He stated that: “As it relates to society in general, I think we’re inviting God’s judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” So there you have it. If we, in this country, allow marriage between 2 consenting adults of the same sex, God is going to crush us like a bug. He will stomp all over us as if we were ants trying to build an earthen colony. How sad that people even think along those lines. It had to take a lot of bible-thumping when they were young to get them so thoroughly brainwashed.

Sadder still is the tens of thousands of mostly Baptists that turned out to support Chick-fil-A’s religious fundamentalism. They picked a sweltering Saturday in July to line up at various Chick-fil-A outlets in order to stuff their bellies with greasy fried chicken sandwiches. Some of the lines at the restaurants were supposedly over an hour long as people sweated in the broiling sun. A small price to pay, however, if one is out to prove that they’re holier-than-thou, as well as to stave off God’s wrath and vengeance. I don’t know about you, but I sure hate the idea of having to put up with another 40 days and nights of hard rain.

Tim Tebow is another example of wearing one’s religion on his sleeve. An all-star quarterback in college, he was drafted into the pros with high expectations. But Tim liked show his religious devotion by going down on one knee when he was on the sidelines. I assume he was praying for Jesus to allow him to score more touchdowns, but it didn’t quite work that way. Despite all of Tim’s knee-bending, his quarterbacking skills in the pros just didn’t to pan out. Jesus would somehow not intervene to allow Tim to achieve more pass completions. After 2 years he was cut from the pros, and now, I believe, he does sports broadcasting.

In any event, this was kind of a long way around to discuss today”s Supreme Court verdict regarding birth control pills. It’s considered a big win for the bible thumpers, but it really amounts to much ado about nothing. An outfit called Hobby Lobby, which is almost identical in its religious fundamentalist views of life as the crowd running Chick-fil-A, sued all the way to the Supreme Court, so they wouldn’t have to pay for birth control pills in healthcare plans they provide to their female employees. It seems that providing such contraception is one of the requirements of ObamaCare. By a 5-4 vote the Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor. No big surprise since there are 5 conservative and 4 liberal judges on the Court. But it’s considered a twofer for those on the religious right. Not only don’t they have to be a party to “killing” babies (even before they are conceived), but they get to stick it to President Obama. Anytime that occurs, it cause for celebration on the religious right. Break out the crates of apple cider.

As I’ve said, this is not a big deal. Birth control pills are usually pretty cheap, going for about $10 for a month’s supply. Almost any woman can afford to buy them on their own. Or they can insist that the men in their lives use condoms which are also sold at cheap prices over the counter. Either way there’s ample access to inexpensive birth control. But the bible thumpers in looney-tunes-ville desperately needed a win after a series of setbacks in the courts regarding same-sex marriage. Like a series of falling dominoes, court after court in state after state, has been overturning local laws regarding existing prohibitions against same-sex marriage. As Dan Cathy might have put it, the courts have been shaking their fists at God’s natural laws. And boy, are we going to have to pay for such secular shenanigans.

Religious fundamentalism predates Christianity, and goes back to the days of paganism when men worshipped idols and craven images. It seems that that there has always been a portion of the population steeped in deep paranoia. People who believe that if they don’t strictly obey all their god’s whims, he will strike them dead. Usually by crashing a bolt of lightening down on them. So with all this ancient history I’m not taking any chances. From now on, to show my devotion and humility to God, I’m going to walk around with a shawl covering my head and body, even in the Las Vegas heat. (It’s supposed to be over 110 degrees today.) I’ll show all those other nambie-pambies around here who’s holier-than-thou.

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

LEGALISTICS

Many moons ago when I was still working, I had a close friend whose brother suffered from multiple illnesses. Unfortunately the brother, who was in his forties at the time, was also poor and could not afford health insurance. So he decided to gamble everything and move to Canada, which had, and still has universal health care. That simply means that if you’re sick, you go see a doctor, and the Government picks up the ensuing costs. The only hitch to this scheme, however, was that you had to be a Canadian citizen to use their health care system, and in order to become that, you had to reside in Canada for at least 18 months. So taking a shot that his health could hold up for a year and a half, he moved to Toronto and hoped for the best. The last I heard, he had made it through the 18-month period, and was being treated by Canadian doctors.

I find it fascinating that we are the only first-world country on the planet that does not provide universal health care. It exists through most of North and South America(even Cuba, as poor as they are), throughout Europe, Japan and the rest of Asia, and so on. France has one of the best health care systems in the world, where all medical and dental bills are paid for by the state. The French plan also includes in-home nursing care for mothers of new-borns, or people whose health has deteriorated to a terminal status. Yet somehow, the most affluent country the world has ever seen cannot put together a system, where rich or poor, everyone could receive adequate medical treatment. Yes it’s true that if your poor and come down with an illness, you can visit any hospital emergency room, and they can’t turn you away for lack of insurance. But you can wait hours to see a doctor, and if you’re lucky enough to where the only thing wrong with you is a sore throat that can be treated with a bottle of anti-biotic pills, or a broken ankle that can be put in a cast, you will receive adequate care. But if your unlucky and have something far more serious like pancreatic cancer, you can bet that the hospital in question will not want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, to try to save your life, if health insurance is lacking.

All this came to mind this past week as the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, more fondly known as Obamacare, was argued before the Supreme Court for 3 days. The most contentious provision for opponents of the Act is the individual mandate that requires everyone to purchase health insurance by 2013. Of course, since all things political in this country these days are done with monumental irrationality if not stupidity, it’s helpful to look at the facts and leave the emotions at the front door. The Act provides that if you don’t purchase health insurance, the Government can assess you a fairly small penalty especially in comparison to the cost of health insurance. But if you don’t pay the penalty fee, then what. The answer is …Nothing. They don’t slap the cuffs on you, they don’t throw you in jail, they don’t even make you go to re-hab. The individual mandate is a clause without teeth since in the end, if you don’t accept it, nothing will happen to you. Yet opponents of Obamacare become apoplectic just at the mention of it. Democracy in this country will cease to exist, capitalism will be gone, and the country will become a Marxist, Socialist, Communist (choose one) dictatorship.

Now it’s true that the Act is a 2700 hundred page behemoth that would be cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment for anyone to have to read and understand it, as Justice Scalia asserted. The Democrats, in their full ineptitude mode, spent nearly 2 years putting together this Frankenstein of a bill, in an attempt to achieve universal health care. With commanding majorities in both houses of Congress, Democrats chose total incompetency and let a golden opportunity slip away, as opposition to this Act continued to build up and resulted in voters turning to Republicans in 2010. All the Democrats had to do was extend Medicare to everyone, and put those that couldn’t afford the Medicare premiums on Medicaid, and then pay for the whole thing through a 3-5% national sales tax. The bill could have been written in less than 10 pages and passed within 6 months before widespread opposition was allowed to build up. But, as I said, the Democrats chose to let supreme incompetence rule the day, and thus, suffered the consequences.

As convoluted as Obamacare is, it’s still a serious attempt to allow 30-45 million uninsured people to gain decent medical treatment when the need arises. However, out of the 9 justices on the Supreme Court, 4 are rock solid conservatives, and 4 generally vote along liberal lines. The ninth justice, Anthony Kennedy, is also a conservative, appointed by Ronald Reagan, but once in awhile takes an opposing view in his decisions from the other 4 conservatives. Through all the legalistic machinations that went on this week in both sides’ arguments, there is no question that 4 justices will rule Obamacare unconstitutional while the other 4 will likely say that it does pass muster. Thus the fate of the Affordable Health Care Act then comes down to Justice Kennedy’s decision. The early betting is that, at a minimum, the individual mandate will be ruled unconstitutional. Also from Justice Kennedy’s line of questioning and his comments, it appears that he, along with his 4 conservative brethren, are ready to rule the entire Act is unconstitutional. Thus, by a 5 to 4 vote, an attempt at universal health care in this country will fade away. The Justices will twist themselves into legalistic pretzels, writing lengthy opinions justifying their decisions, but in the end there is nothing in the Constitution that even remotely discusses this subject.

In the end everything is politics and everything depends on which side of the aisle you sit on. And if the Act is declared unconstitutional we’re back to square one, with sharply rising medical costs and insurance premiums, and millions of people unable to obtain decent medical treatment when needed.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.