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The Senate Will Really Miss Its Modern Cato

[ 92 ] August 20, 2016 |


Ron Johnson has some ideas about history education.

JOHNSON: We’ve got the internet ― you have so much information available. Why do you have to keep paying differently lecturers to teach the same course? You get one solid lecturer and put it up online and have everybody available to that knowledge for a whole lot cheaper? But that doesn’t play very well to tenured professors in the higher education cartel. So again, we need destructive technology for our higher education system.

WISPOLITICS: But online education is missing some facet of a good ―

JOHNSON: Of course, it’s a combination, but prior to my doing this crazy thing [of being in the Senate] … I was really involved on a volunteer basis in an education system in Oshkosh. And one of things we did in the Catholic school system was we had something called the “academic excellence initiative.” How do you teach more, better, easier?

One of the examples I always used ― if you want to teach the Civil War across the country, are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers that kind of know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns Civil War tape and then have those teachers proctor based on that excellent video production already done? You keep duplicating that over all these different subject areas.

We shouldn’t have art in schools anyway because that’s for queers and communists, but if we do, let’s just show Bob Ross shows.

The Senate is really going to go downhill when Russ Feingold replaces Johnson.


Are Naked Trump Statues Evil?

[ 252 ] August 20, 2016 |


Personally, I was bummed that I was in Seattle yesterday and didn’t hear about the Naked Trump until it was already gone. My whole life, I’ve never been a trendsetter. What a tragedy. But am I a horrible person for thinking that the statues are amusing and serve a purpose? Are there sections of the left that simply have no sense of humor? What does solidarity even mean? I have no good answers to these questions.

The joke itself is in poor taste. It’s a tired and abusive trope that not only fails to push back on Trump’s political power, but also promotes the evilness that is fatphobia, body-­shaming, and transphobia itself.

Progressives in particular “going for the low hanging fruit”—attacking someone whose politics have dangerous implications on personal, oppressive grounds rather than political grounds—felt eerily familiar. It felt like the kind of personal attacks, in fact, that are often lobbed at his base; that they are “dumb,” “uneducated,” and “poor.” It felt like the classist and elitist remarks that are often used to ridicule the far right. It felt like a conversation amongst privileged white folks, where calling out the Right is more about positioning oneself as the “good white folks” than it is about actively resisting the political system that is, for one, killing Black and marginalized folks every day.

If Trump is so awful and progressives are so upstanding, then why would you rely on hurtful and damaging punch­lines to fight back against a man whose behavior terrifies even his own party? What could possibly be more important than sticking to your progressive values around fatness and body positivity and trans-­inclusivity in the face of his genuine offensiveness?

I roll my eyes. But maybe I am a reactionary, setting myself to be shot after the revolution. Really, there’s no way I don’t get shot after the revolution given the personal vendettas that leftist members always engage in, so whatever, I guess I should just laugh at naked Trump.

American Genocide

[ 163 ] August 19, 2016 |


The esteemed historian Richard White reviews Benjamin Hadley’s new book on the organized American genocide against California Indians and reiterates the utter brutality behind American expansion, a history Americans are simply not willing to deal with at a time when they are happy to, fairly, condemn actions overseas that, once again, American helped create (see, ISIS today, the Khmer Rouge 40 years ago).

 The initial American motive for slaughter arose in the first months of the conquest and occupation of California, and it produced a kind of killing that Madley appropriately calls “pedagogic,” which would persist long afterward. Its rationale was a 19th-century version of shock and awe: At the slightest hint of a threat, Americans would inflict indiscriminate violence. Indians did not have to attack; Americans had only to feel threatened. In a mirror image of the way some Germans, Hungarians, and Americans feel threatened by the presence of Muslim asylum seekers in their countries today, Americans felt threatened by Indians. John C. Frémont began the bloodshed in 1846 by killing Wintus in Northern California because Americans feared the Wintus would attack them. The Americans were armed with Hawken rifles that could kill from 200 yards; the Wintus had bows. The result, as Americans described it, was the “slaughter” of 120 to 175 Indians. Frémont intended this as exemplary violence meant to terrify Indians and inoculate whites against attack.

The justification of exemplary violence was (and still is) that it eliminates the need for further violence. In California, the justification was empty: All that Americans really offered Indians were different ways to die. As gold miners wrecked the salmon streams and drove off game, as cattle and swine fed on the grasses and acorn crops that formed the basis of Native subsistence, exemplary violence forced Indians to choose between slaughter and starvation. When desperate Indians killed cattle and swine, they opened themselves up to disproportionate retaliatory violence. Americans held Indians collectively responsible for any injury suffered by whites. And they were relentless: When Indians tried to prevent Americans’ entry into their territory, they were attacked. Indians who took up gold mining and tried to defend their lands were slaughtered. When Indians retaliated against white violence, Oregonians (among the first of the forty-niners) shot them on sight, hunting them like animals and instituting a practice that would last for years.

Americans also deployed violence to secure forced labor. Inside and outside the gold-mining region, miners and ranchers sought to imitate and improve on Mexican labor practices by forcing Indians to work for them. The California constitutional convention denied Indians citizenship and condoned what amounted to permanent indenture. California’s Orwellian Act for the Government and Protection of Indians anticipated the Southern black codes that followed the Civil War. Having stripped them of their legal rights and provided for their arrest as vagrants, officials could auction off Indian “convicts” to pay their fines. Indian children could be taken from their parents and indentured until age 15 for females, 18 for males.

The law also formalized existing practices. Among the more horrible stories told by Madley is the one involving Charles Stone and Andrew Kelsey. They raised large amounts of livestock on lands they had appropriated from the Eastern Pomo and Clear Lake Wappo, whom they’d reduced to servile labor under threat of violence. They confiscated the Indians’ weapons, allowed them only meager rations, prohibited them from hunting, and punished them viciously when they killed cattle. Sexual violence against Indian women became routine; those who resisted were tortured. Against this and more, the Indians rebelled, killing Stone and Kelsey in 1849.

The slayings brought the US Dragoons down upon them. The soldiers killed any Indians they found, regardless of their involvement in the deaths. Vigilantes followed in the soldiers’ wake, driving the Indians off their lands in Napa, Sonoma, and around Santa Rosa. Many of the refugees were soon starving. The killings reached their peak when detachments from the US Dragoons and Artillery attacked Pomos on Bloody Island in Clear Lake. They shot the men and bayoneted and clubbed the women and children. As usual in such massacres, there was no careful counting of the dead; between 200 and 400 people were killed. The army followed this up with an attack on a village on the Russian River. The soldiers killed everyone they could find, from 75 to 100 people. (Two soldiers were wounded.) More killings followed. And so it would go, spreading across a very large state for nearly 25 straight years.

California’s laws, having created a system that encouraged slaving raids and the kidnapping of children, allowed slavers to act with impunity. Indians couldn’t testify against whites, and even when whites were willing to testify, the courts wouldn’t convict. Slaving existed throughout the period, but the practice reached its peak, ironically, when the Republicans—who rose to national power on the basis of their objections to black slavery—won the election in California under Leland Stanford during the Civil War.

The participation of federal troops and state militia in the violence, and the passage of laws that allowed Indian enslavement to flourish, emphasized the active participation of both the state and federal governments in the genocide. There is some truth in the older narrative about federal attempts to protect the Indians, but those efforts were feeble and ineffective. The Senate rejected the original treaties negotiated in California because of opposition from Californians who wanted nothing valuable reserved for Indians. The federal government did establish reservations at Round Valley and elsewhere, but it refused to protect the Indians who were removed there or to provide them with adequate supplies and rations. J. Ross Browne, a federal official sent to Round Valley to investigate conditions, reported that in the winter of 1858–59, whites slaughtered “a hundred and fifty peaceable Indians,” including nursing mothers and small children. Slavers and white squatters invaded the reservations. Indians often fled, preferring the dangers of starvation and attack outside the reservations to the hunger, disease, and assaults they suffered within them. It was no wonder they came to look on Round Valley “rather as a hell than as a home.”

It was not just the federal sins of omission that matter here; the funding that the US government provided for California’s militia expeditions made attacking Indians possible and profitable. When the government expended funds to pay for past assaults on Indians, it encouraged new ones. Fighting Indians became a source of profit; men enlisted for the pay, and the government provided it. During the Civil War, the federal government recruited the California Volunteers, who existed largely to fight Indians. The Volunteers continued their carnage over much of California and expanded it into the state’s deserts to the southeast. Congress proved far more generous appropriating money for killing Indians than for feeding them—and even when it knew that Indians on the reservations were starving, Congress cut the funding for their rations.

By the time of the Civil War, the killing had become the backdrop for California politics, and condoning it the price of public office. Nearly 20 years into the slaughter, Stanford rationalized the calling out of troops and a bill to supplement the pay of the California Volunteers as self-defense. He demanded “absolute protection to our citizens from these repeated incursions of hostile Indians.” The result? Still more indiscriminate killing of Indians.

Americans, these are the foundational actions of our nation. Yet even within liberal racial thought and guilt (not to mention conservatives’ open celebration of white nationalist America) such actions are completely unknown or totally forgotten about. We as a nation have done nothing to deal with this legacy. We’ve done less than nothing about the genocide of native peoples, plus they aren’t even considered equal with other racial groups in contemporary American racial problems and dilemmas.

The Goat Schlepper

[ 69 ] August 19, 2016 |


I’m not sure if I should laugh more over the fact that Breitbart brought Mickey Kaus on for a series of “essays” in July or whether it evidently decided he wasn’t worthy of their high, high standards, as it’s now been almost a month since they published something he puked up.

Forest History

[ 22 ] August 19, 2016 |

Full Page (Labor Day Ed.)--Sept. 2, 1942--p.1.1200w

I know that nothing is as sexy in the entire world as forest history. But there has been interest in my book Empire of Timber, now available for the moment at the low, low price of $45. Which is actually pretty cheap given its regular price of $99. But someday it will come out in paperback! Anyway, for those of you who are curious, my article in the Western Historical Quarterly on the International Woodworkers of America’s environmental program of the late 30s and early 40s, adapted from Chapter 3 of the book, won an award from the Forest History Society and thus is now available for free. So any of you can get a little taste of the book and its argument about how timber workers used their unions to press for their own environmental agenda.

Show Down at Aspen

[ 60 ] August 17, 2016 |

Many years ago, a historian friend showed me a copy of the British documentary “Show Down at Aspen,” on Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 campaign for mayor of Aspen. Finally, I have found it online. This is really fantastic and very much worth your time. It’s NSFW, both because of hippie nudity and drug use. The best part is between about minutes 5 and 10, which begins with a young cop descending on a hippie gathering and smoking some joints with them, followed by some old people talking about the evils of drugs while getting loaded on their drug of choice, booze. Throughout the film, there are surprises, with older people supporting Thompson and younger people who one might even call hippies are voting for the incumbent because they recognize Thompson is unstable and that no one is really getting busted for drugs in Aspen under the current sheriff.

This is a really great document of 1970. Enjoy.


[ 35 ] August 17, 2016 |

Rhode Island’s own:

This is a bit misleading, as McLaughlin was already well on his way to becoming a war supporter when he ran for the Senate in 1970. When John Pastore defeated him, McLaughlin used his good friend Pat Buchanan to get a job in the Nixon administration. He left the Jesuits in 1974.

Been a tough year for Providence’s famous citizens, with first Buddy Cianci and now John McLaughlin dying. A.O. Scott had better watch his back in film screenings.

Chicken Minced Meat

[ 31 ] August 16, 2016 |

I am soon returning to East Coast Exile, reality, and regular blogging. Until then, this.

This Day in Labor History: August 16, 1819

[ 35 ] August 16, 2016 |


On August 16, 1819, British cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000-80,000 workers in a field in Manchester, England who had gathered to demand parliamentary representation and the repeal of laws making food more expensive. Approximately 15 people died and between 400 and 700 people were injured. This movement of working class radicalism was deeply intertwined with conditions of British workers during the Industrial Revolution and the early manifestations of political radicalism this created.

In the early 19th century, democratic participation was nearly non-existent in Britain. That nation had resisted the move toward democracy spawned out of the American Revolution and French Revolution, even as those nations were also dealing with the implications of it. Meanwhile, after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Britain fell into an economic depression. Unemployment rose and hordes of the new industrial workers lost their jobs and had nowhere to go. By 1819, industry was deeply affected at the same time that food prices had risen dramatically. The region’s textile mills, the core of the Industrial Revolution, had a brief boom after the war ended, but that quickly collapsed. Free-market industrialists said there was nothing they could do but lay people off and cut wages. At the same time, they publicly opposed any form of public relief for the urban poor. Moreover, the British government instituted the first Corn Law, which imposed tariffs on imported grain, creating food shortages and near-famine conditions for the poor, particularly in the aftermath of the legendary 1816 summer that never happened after Mount Tambora exploded.

Economic-based organizing began in 1817 with a movement called the Blanketeers. They started in Manchester that March, hoping to spawn a march of textile weavers to London to present petitions demanding that the government take steps to improve the cotton trade so they could go back to work. Magistrates responded by reading the marchers the Riot Act and arresting 27 of them. Organizing for both political and economic reforms continued. Henry Hunt became the leader of this new movement. Hunt became the most famous popular radical of his day, a sort of Eugene Debs for the early 19th century, promoting broad-based political and economic reforms. He argued for universal male suffrage and Parliament held every year, without the rotten boroughs that ensured government stayed in the hands of conservatives. He was a big believer in mass rallies, believing that if large enough crowds gathered, it would place pressure on government to transform without having to engage in bloody insurrection.

For the British elite, these combined political and economic protests meant Jacobinism had crossed the Channel. Hunt began leading mass rallies in Manchester. In January 1819, one rally attracted 10,000 people. Manchester’s leaders wrote to London, fearing a general insurrection and complaining of their lack of power to shut down the rallies or repress the press reporting on these conditions and encouraging action. When Hunt decided to lead a mass rally on August 9 in St. Peter’s Fields in Manchester, the police attempted to intervene. Declaring it illegal preemptively, Hunt and the other leaders delayed it for a week, but were determined to hold the meeting. When that rally achieved an unprecedented crowd of 60,000, the police acted. As far as is known, the 60,000 protestors were completely unarmed, as Hunt and others hoped to preempt intervention by banning weapons. They also encouraged workers to wear their Sunday best clothing to present an atmosphere of respectability. Groups carried banners with slogans such as “No Corn Laws” and “Vote by Ballot.”

There was no violence from the marchers reported. The magistrates however ordered the speakers arrested. The yeomanry ordered to arrest the speakers were untrained and they panicked. Moreover, the head of the British army in the area figured that not much would happen at the rally and instead decided to go see his horses race nearby. But instead of arresting the speakers, they unsheathed their swords and charged into the crowd. The magistrates then ordered the 15th Hussars and Cheshire Volunteers to assist and a general bloodbath ensued. The Hussars especially were just seeking to kill as many people as they could. It’s surprising that only 15 or so people were killed, especially given the injury totals of probably over 500. Among the dead were Mary Heys, a pregnant mother of six run down by the charging horses, causing the baby to begin birthing. She died in childbirth. Sarah Jones, a mother of seven, was killed by being beaten in the head. John Ashton was one of the movement’s political leaders who carried a banner reading “Taxation without representation is unjust and tyrannical. NO CORN LAWS.” He was sabred and then trampled. Many of the wounded actually hid their injuries in order to escape arrest and prosecution. Riots then occurred in Manchester and nearby towns for the rest of the day, but all the violence ended a few days later, although one constable was killed by a mob on August 18.

The British government responded by cracking down on the political reform. It expressed its support for the massacre. Conservatives feared uprisings around the country. It passed the Six Acts that clamped down on public meetings, newspaper opposition, and gun ownership. Hunt was not hurt in the protest although his hat was stabbed through. In 1820, Hunt was convicted on a charge of sedition for his radical views and spent two years in prison. While there, he wrote a book exposing the horrible conditions of the prison. Eventually, Hunt’s movement and the sacrifice of the dead at Peterloo led to the parliamentary reforms of 1832. It would take much more than that to fix the poverty of the British working class. The Corn Laws were not eliminated until 1846, when the Irish famine managed to convince enough lawmakers that they should do something to alleviate it that they once again allowed for cheap imported grain. Conservatives were, of course, outraged.

This is the 187th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.


[ 22 ] August 16, 2016 |


I am pleasantly shocked that the NFL Seniors Committee named former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley their finalist for the Hall of Fame. Easley’s career ended at the age of 28 because of a kidney injury but he was as good as his contemporary Ronnie Lott during his shortened career. Easley absolutely deserves to be elected and if he isn’t, I may have to burn down Canton. He was a truly dominant player. This is also a good sign for the future that players whose careers were shortened by injury and who may not get in through the main committee could thanks to the senior committee. The name that of course comes to my mind is Terrell Davis, who also should be in the HOF.

The Seniors Committee has also been so focused on the 60s over the years that this is their first nominee who I actually remember playing. I may just be getting old. But if we are in the semi-modern era, Ken Anderson should be next.

Union Weed

[ 24 ] August 14, 2016 |

union pot

If you are in Washington and you want to buy marijuana with the union label, you can thanks to UFCW Local 367, who represents workers at a processing plant. Union Yes!

I Might Lie to You

[ 90 ] August 14, 2016 |

Trump is telling the truth for once!

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