Category Archives: Black & White & Other Colors

Blue Wave? Red Wave? How about the Carolina Brown Wave (aka Big Poop)??

Have any news media mentioned in your hearing that southeast  North Carolina, in the wake of Florence, is due not only for “major hurricane flooding” post-Flo, but along with it will face a Great Brown Wave of toxic, stinking liquid Pig Poop (&  Pee).

Down here, they have mentioned it. Like yesterday.

And today.

And probably tomorrow.)  . . . .

Yes, that region of NC is the second largest center of industrial hog raising in the country (looking at YOU, Iowa). The NC industry is 8 million hogs strong, and it features, in Smithfield Packing,  the biggest hog slaughterhouse in the world.

And Big Poop also dumps many millions of gallons of the brown stuff into thousands of NON-industrial strength open air lagoons. (Which stink a lot, even if the wind & rain are in abeyance.)

Is it an accident? The region where these industrial hog farms are concentrated today is the region which had the highest population percentage of enslaved people. Many local black residents are involved in lawsuits against the giant international corporations who run these industrial farms, charging that the smells and toxics have made them sick, and are especially dangerous when the lagoons spill or break down — such as when hurricanes strike.

These lagoons sorta work (sorta), except when it, you know, rains a lot. Add some wind to that & OMFG!

Inside: thousands of pigs (in floods BTW, many of these hogs drown; so add mounds of decaying carcasses to the Brown Wave stuff.) Outside: the Brown Wave mixes with already toxic floodwater . . .

Now imagine the (formerly) lovely city of Wilmington NC, now cut off from roads & its harbor closed, a sudden island. And it’s stuck downriver from the gathering Monster Brown Wave.

Wilmington NC, marooned.

Locally, none of this is news.  Carolina Greenies have been hollering about it for years.

The hog industry’s PR agencies cultivate a wholesome, (white) family-friendly image. But most of the hogs and the farms are really owned by massive international corporations; and the biggest is Chinese. (That ginormous Smithfield plant? Chinese-owned.)

Big Poop can also play hardball, in that vast battleground, the front lawn. No surprise: the Republican NC legislature is comfortably stashed in the pocket of their newest jeans.

So, back to our current plight:  first, Florence: the rain & the wind. Then the floods. And with it, The  Brown Wave.

Plus, coal ash toxics. But forgive me, I couldn’t bear to talk about them today.

Lord have mercy. (At least, they’ll be able to smell it coming.)

And once again, thank god for bottled water, which I drink all the time here.

After all, Florence came and went. Big Poop and Big Coal Ash are around all the time.

Kavanaugh Wrap-Up: The Wheat from the Chaff

Too many media people around this past week’s supreme Court hearings wasted their energy doing horse race and atmosphere coverage. Political sportscasters, I call them; and pretty bush league at that.

Their frame was: the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh (hereafter “K“) is a done deal, so all that matters is the hullabaloo, that and the shadow horse race preview of the 2020 Democratic presidential contest. Which meant excessive attention to whether aspirants Kamala Harris or Cory Booker managed to draw some blood and get a boost from a bombshell revelation.

Senators Cory Booker,left, and Kamala Harris, right, peering over the parapet.

But the pair, it was reported, didn’t bring any real ordnance, and neither came out with a 2020 home run. That’s true enough, and for the media political sportscasters, this was all that mattered. And that’s utterly mistaken.

The New York Times’s Saturday postmortem reflected this outlook:

“Boorish. Rude. Disrespectful. Insulting. Grandstanding. Hyperventilating. Deranged. Ridiculous. Drivel.

Those were among the words angry Senate Republicans used this week to assail the conduct of Democrats at a Supreme Court hearing that was often tense and sometimes toxic. . . .

With little power to stop a nominee they saw as a conservative partisan, a Republican-imposed process they considered grossly unfair and a demanding political base spoiling for a fight, they decided it was time to sow disorder over the court.

For me such reportage was mainly stale baloney. Its superficiality is a disgrace to their profession. It only reports one superficial level of the debate that went on there.

I experienced a very different set of hearings. They began when I tuned in Tuesday morning, and heard Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse’s begin his opening statement.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, into the breach.

It was stunning: clear, specific, cogent, passionate, judiciously profane, and set out a well-researched yet concise list of propositions about the likely negative effects of K’s elevation.

The sportscasters basically ignored it, probably because Whitehouse is from a small state — and he isn’t  running for president.

Yet over the next three days I heard a lot of testimony that corroborated Whitehouse’s arguments. On one side, I listened to K set what seemed like a record in spewing non-answers, fouling off just about every concrete issue Whitehouse and then other Dems  threw at him, which they did by the bushel. No surprise there; K has coached others in this drill, and Dems have done it in their turn. Nevertheless, as the hours passed, patterns and themes emerged.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, at the hearing.

The Republicans also scripted the next part of their campaign well: filling hours with gushing testimonials that became painful earworms, declaring that K is really such a nice guy, kind to kids, coaching girls basketball teams (where;’s he called “Coach K) for the Catholic Youth Organization, yada yada, yada yada, yada yada.

Okay, already; if I was hiring a male nanny, he’d top the list.

Then there came a battalion of former students and clerks to repeat that he’s a highly-regarded law professor, and good at mentoring students and clerks. I don’t doubt it. So if I needed a tutor . . . .

It was soon clear that the GOP goal here was not simply to prove K was a swell fellow, but also to put the sportscasters into a deep sleep  by chanting the same mantra over and over; and at this it was a smashing success. After all, in this era of scandal upon scandal, what is more boring than a certified wholesome Catholic family man. (Especially one who has the votes in his pocket, right next to his visibly dogeared copy of the Constitution).

After a day of this, the sportscasters were squirmingly ready to bolt this snooze-a-thon. The New York Times‘s anonymous inside-the-white-house “resistance” OpEd piece gave them, or at least their editors, the opening:  by Thursday, even if they were still stuck in the hearing room, many were chasing the will-of-the-wisp author (still nameless as of this writing).

Cartoon by Darrin Bell.

So that left Friday, when the Dems were to have their chance with outside witnesses. By then, the sportscasters couldn’t have cared less, and many reports I’ve seen don’t mention them except in passing.

But in fact, the day was full of substance. For one thing, it became clear to me that while K is definitely a total law geek, he’s also full of law shtick.  He has pretty much mastered the legal arcana for the major issues the Democrats brought up, and can riff on them on cue, in whatever length and degree of technicality seems needful to fend off ever committing himself on what he believes or how he might rule on any of them.

While these cases are all above my pay grade, after several hours of this, even I could begin to  discern what Whitehouse had called the key patterns in K‘s thought and decisions. These became more evident when the Dems’  outside witnesses finally alined up on Friday and took their turns at the mike. They included lawyers and professors, plus Parkland survivors, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, and persons with chronic diseases for whom Obamacare is a matter of life or death. About the only ones missing were detainees at Gitmo, but they had other commitments.

One after another, the Dems’ outside witnesses crisply and expertly picked K‘s arguments apart, showing how in one area of litigation after another, amid K‘s thick weeds of legalese, were decisions and dissents that have reliably favored the rich, comforted the corporate, put the knives into abortion, Obamacare, affirmative action and voting rights; and promoted an all-but unchallengeable “unitary” presidency, in peace or especially in war.

This last was particularly eye-opening. K’s president would be free, among other things, to ignore pesky laws (such as the one John McCain authored against torture) with imperial “signing statements”; to squash upstart federal environmental and consumer advocates like so many bugs ; to mock international law, spy on citizens, and torture or imprison suspects (including U. S. citizens) without charge or trial, for life, under the all-purpose rubrics of “national security” and “originalism.”

John Dean, at the hearing.

The Friday session even featured a living ghost and a ghoul. The ghost was John Dean, onetime lawyer to Richard Nixon, whose surprise 1973 testimony against his former boss started the avalanche that swept Nixon out of the White House.

Dean’s message was stark. “If Judge Kavanaugh joins that court, it will be the most pro-presidential powers-friendly Court in the modern era,” he said.

“Under Judge Kavanaugh’s recommendation, if a President shot somebody in cold blood on 5th Avenue, that President could not be prosecuted while in office.”

Senator John Kennedy, R-LA. A Bayou good ole boy, by way of Oxford & Vanderbilt.

The ghoul came in the person of Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, off the JV bench, subbing for Committee chair Charles Grassley. Despite his first class law degree from Oxford, Kennedy has cultivated in the senate a deep-in-the-bayou persona and accent, and he picked up the gavel at the session with an old score to  settle: he called Dean a “rat” for testifying against Nixon, and accused him of harming the country thereby.

Dean has heard worse, and was ready. He parried smoothly, replying that he had published a book on Watergate (actually he’s written several such), explaining why he had turned against Nixon, and would send Kennedy a copy to assist his understanding.

Kennedy, who had likely been waiting forty-five years to launch this public sneer at Dean, only managed to show that an Oxford degree is no bar to its holder making a ghoulish fool of himself.

The upshot of these last hours was a cascade of confirmations of the many-counts of Sheldon Whitehouse’s neglected opening indictment. This bookend, as far as I can see, was ignored by the sportscasters, who had to catch up with the latest tweets, or push off for a weekend at the beach.

But at least one non-sportscaster observer did keep up. Adam Serwer of the Atlantic had just posted thus:

“The Roberts Court is poised to shape American society in Trump’s image for decades to come. All three branches of the federal government are now committed to the Trump agenda: the restoration of America’s traditional racial, religious, and gender hierarchies; the enrichment of party patrons; the unencumbered pursuit of corporate profit; the impoverishment and disenfranchisement of the rival party’s constituencies; and the protection of the president and his allies from prosecution by any means available. Not since the end of Reconstruction has the U.S. government been so firmly committed to a single, coherent program uniting a politics of ethnonationalism with unfettered corporate power. As with Redemption, as the end of Reconstruction is known, the consequences could last for generations.”

I believe Serwer is quite right that we subjects of this impending legal rollback face a multi-generational agenda of resistance and recovery. And for me, listening with one ear through these grueling days, his and Sheldon Whitehouse’s frame for the week was much more useful than the sophomoric sportscasters’ blather about jockeying by Booker vs Harris. Instead, Whitehouse, Serwer  and the public witness pierced K’s smokescreen. They may not have changed the vote count, but they have laid out the signs of the time.

And for those with eyes to see, and hands willing for the plough, these signs could be invaluable in finding our way into the long journey and multiple struggles ahead.

Illustrated Thursday Thoughts on Kavanaugh

If one picture is worth a thousand words,  then this ought to be a long read. But it really isn’t.

Kavanaugh is expected to finish his testimony on Thursday. But it won’t be over.

Torture connections? Senators Leahy & Durbin confronted him about hard evidence contradicting earlier denials:

I learned a new phrase on Tuesday: “The Roberts Five,” which I won’t forget.  I also learned more about how “The Roberts Five” overwhelmingly favors the Rich, the Right, and the Aggressively “Christian” (Male) White. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, we’ll probably ALL know this phrase, too well.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was the hero of the opening round, blowing the cover off “The Roberts Five.” He’s since been joined by others: Cory Booker,  Amy Klobuchar, Pat Leahy & more.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, showing data that the public is wise to “The Roberts Five’s” blatant bias toward the super-wealthy and religious right.
Has anyone grilled Kavanaugh on the same sex marriage decision? (If so, I haven’t heard it.) Am I right that LGBT issues are being neglected so far?) Kavanaugh’s responses about Roe v Wade sounded like pure smokescreen gobbledygook.
I also haven’t heard much talk about unions; but there seems no question, Kavanaugh would weaken them further, probably drastically.

Here are a few more images, reflecting my strong concern about torture, indefinite detention and untrammeled executive power under cover of war or “national security.” Kavanaugh sounds like he’s on the side of power in all this areas:


In sum:

Please pass this on. There could be more to come . . .

Dog Days Meditation: Bartram Faces a Murderer

Friend William Bartram traveled, mainly alone, through much of the American southeast, between 1773 and 1777, looking for collecting, and drawing plants, wildlife, and the occasional Indian. His book based on these journeys was published in 1791. Here is another excerpt:

IT may be proper to observe, that I had now passed the utmost frontier of the white settlements on that border.

It was drawing on towards the close of day, the skies serene and calm, the air temperately cool, and gentle zephyrs breathing through the fragrant pines; the prospect around enchantingly varied and beautiful; endless green savannas, checquered with coppices of fragrant shrubs, filled the air with the richest perfume.

The gaily attired plants which enamelled the green had begun to imbibe the pearly dew of evening; nature seemed silent, and nothing appeared to ruffle the happy moments of evening contemplation: when, on a sudden, an Indian appeared crossing the path, at a considerable distance before me. Continue reading Dog Days Meditation: Bartram Faces a Murderer

1791: When America Had a Real King – William Bartram Met Him

Bartram & The Seminole King From Bartram’s Travels, published 1791 Alachua Indians

AFTER crossing over this point or branch of the marshes, we entered a noble forest, the land level, and the soil fertile, being a loose, dark brown, coarse sandy loam, on a clay or marley foundation; the forests were Orange groves, overtoped by grand Magnolias, Palms, Live Oaks . . . with various kinds of shrubs and herbacious plants . . . .

Alachua Savana — in Florida, the land of the “Siminoles” (Seminoles), sketched by Bartram

We were chearfully received in this hospitable shade, by various tribes of birds,

Continue reading 1791: When America Had a Real King – William Bartram Met Him

Aretha, Her Father & Her Music: Not Far From The Tree

Where did Aretha Franklin’s unforgettable vocal power come from?
I glimpsed a big part of the answer one summer night in 1968.

It was Friday, June 21, in Washington DC: Leaders of the Poor Peoples Campaign, trying to fulfill Dr. King’s last dream, had built a shantytown, called Resurrection City, on the national mall. But the camp, and the campaign, were mired in various difficulties. Yet on that Friday evening, some participants got a welcome, memorable spell of relief. I was there with a tape recorder, and this is the heart of what I saw and heard:

From Uncertain Resurrection, the Poor Peoples Washington Campaign;

Rev. C. L. Franklin, preaching

Friday night a Campaign mass meeting was held at St. Stephen’s Baptist Church, where the church was full and the crowd unusually boisterous. The featured preacher of the evening was Rev. C. L. Franklin of Detroit. Rev. Franklin is the father of Miss Aretha Franklin, a very successful soul singer, and he was an old friend of Dr. King.

“I hope I can get somebody to pray with me tonight,” he began, warming them up, “because you know, I’m a Negro preacher, and I like to talk to people, and have people talk back to me.”  Continue reading Aretha, Her Father & Her Music: Not Far From The Tree

Shooting Holes In Justice: Emmett Till & Jimmie Lee Jackson Memorials

Some Folks aren’t satisfied with killing people of color; they want to kill the memory of these murders too.

Take Emmett Till, Kidnapped & murdered in Mississippi in 1955,  after someone said the 14 year-old may have whistled at a white woman. His tortured and body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River days later; it took a jury one hour to acquit the men charged with the killing.  Outrage generated by the case gave a boost to civil rights struggles.

In 2007, county leaders established the Emmett Till Interpretive Center to memorialize Till and remember the case and what it represented. The center erected a sign in a rural area near the bank of the river where Till’s body was recovered. But that sign was soon stolen and never recovered.

A second sign was put up. before long, it was full of bullet holes.

This sign was eventually moved inside the Center, itself becoming an object for reflection. And not long ago, a new sign was put up.

The new sign is now collecting bullet holes. This image is only a few days old.

Such posthumous assaults are not limited to Mississippi. In February, 1965, Jimmie Lee Jackson of Marion, Alabama, who was unarmed, was shot by a state trooper in an attack on a night march during the  historic voting rights campaign based in nearby Selma,.

Jimmie Lee Jackson’s funeral service, March 3, 1965. His death sparked the Selma-Montgomery march, which helped win the Voting Rights act.

Jackson was buried in a small cemetery near Alabama Highway 14 on the outskirts of Marion. His large headstone is impressively carved with a figure of Jesus keeping vigil.

It too has been hit  by numerous bullets. One knocked a chunk off the top, and seven or eight more are visible on close examination, in this 2015 photo.

Emmett Till’s killers walked completely free. The Alabama trooper who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Fowler, shot and killed a second unarmed young black man in 1966. But forty-five years later, Fowler was convicted of manslaughter, and served several months in jail, before being released due to ill health.

Jimmie Lee Jackson, left. James Fowler, right.

The Emmett Till Interpretive Center, located in Sumner, Mississippi, has plans to expand its facility and programs, and upgrade security.

Memories aren’t bulletproof. But they don’t die easily.


Dandruff on the Boss’s shoulder: Friends Central School Strikes Back

The boss has landed the key appointment with the Big Man. He’s almost ready, wearing his special suit.

Just before the Big Man’s secretary opens the office door, the Boss’s assistant notices a tiny white speck on the Boss’s shoulder. The assistant moves fast, raising a hand, ready to brush–

But the Boss is already walking through the door. The assistant sees him reach out to shake the hand of the Big Man–

Dominance behavior: flicking dandruff of an inferior’s clothing.

And then–OMG!–the Big Man is raising his hand, and flicking the speck of dandruff off the Boss’s suit himself.

Oh, the shame. the humiliation. The assistant stands frozen. Of course the instant has been recorded by cameras that will flash it all over the world in minutes. The assistant imagines his career crumbing right before his eyes.

Yeah, this is a clumsy parable of the next round in the Friends Central School (FCS) discrimination lawsuit. Continue reading Dandruff on the Boss’s shoulder: Friends Central School Strikes Back

Frederick Douglass on the Fourth of July

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birth day of your National Independence, and of your political freedom.

This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day.

This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. l am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands.

According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. Continue reading Frederick Douglass on the Fourth of July

Civility, Schmivility: A Quaker Dialectic, Then & Now

Debates over “civility” are nothing new for Quakers. And other people.

The last time I was thrown out of a retail establishment, it was a screen printing shop in Fayetteville NC, near Fort Bragg. I came in on a  warm day in 2007, wanting some tee shirts made for a conference being planned by Quaker House. The shirts were to be black, and the wording something like this:

I handed over a CD with the image on it, and the guy at the desk put down his cigarette & slid it into a computer. I couldn’t see the screen when the image came up; but his widened eyes told me.

He stood up as the CD slid back out of the slot. “Hey, Sarge,” he called, and carried it into a back room.

“Sarge” was out in a couple moments; likely retired Army. He didn’t throw the CD at me, but dropped it on the counter and made clear in a loud voice that anybody at Guantanamo or what we were just learning to call “black sites” was a goddam terrorist who deserved whatever they got, and that he was not about to print such treason as this on any of his shirts.

I didn’t quibble. But I called the next shop on my list before I went in, to see if they too had any objection. The shirts got done. And I didn’t think til later about how the issue of who was being uncivil here could be fitted into the “It’s Complicated” category:

Was it “Sarge,” who at best might have considered my image some very bad joke that didn’t play; or was it I, who brought such a patently offensive message into his patriotic establishment?

Or consider this image: Continue reading Civility, Schmivility: A Quaker Dialectic, Then & Now