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The Jobless Future is Going to Be Great

[ 182 ] July 25, 2017 |

If Democrats are going to start articulating pro-worker policies again as central platform planks, they need to get on board real fast to the problems that automation is already causing, problems that will grow rapidly.

Robot developers say they are close to a breakthrough—getting a machine to pick up a toy and put it in a box.

It is a simple task for a child, but for retailers it has been a big hurdle to automating one of the most labor-intensive aspects of e-commerce: grabbing items off shelves and packing them for shipping.

Several companies, including Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay Co. HBC +0.82% and Chinese online-retail giant Inc., JD +1.79% have recently begun testing robotic “pickers” in their distribution centers. Some robotics companies say their machines can move gadgets, toys and consumer products 50% faster than human workers.

Retailers and logistics companies are counting on the new advances to help them keep pace with explosive growth in online sales and pressure to ship faster. U.S. e-commerce revenues hit $390 billion last year, nearly twice as much as in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales are rising even faster in China, India and other developing countries.

That is propelling a global hiring spree to find people to process those orders. U.S. warehouses added 262,000 jobs over the past five years, with nearly 950,000 people working in the sector, according to the Labor Department. Labor shortages are becoming more common, particularly during the holiday rush, and wages are climbing.

Throwing nearly a million people out of work sounds pretty great! Hard to see any down side. Democrats should just offer some tax credits for employers to train workers. That will pretty much solve the problem!

Seriously, the real answer for this is going to need to be the right to a job, guaranteed by the government as an employer of last resort. I have no real problem with part of the solution being universal basic income, but again, I am extremely skeptical of Americans approving a welfare program that is not based upon work, as it files in the face of everything about American culture and history. Just the federally guaranteed job isn’t enough–free college tuition and the forgiveness of debt, a real industrial policy, the building of a green economy, and federal subsidies of everything from working in a farmers’ market to your local hipster bicycle shop are going to have to be pieces of the puzzle. People need work of some kind, even if self-defined. And they need a decent income and path to dignity. In a fully automated economy, they aren’t going to get it. And before someone says, “Derp, Luddite, Derp,” let me remind you that previous generations’ technological advancements worked because the increased jobs they created in an expanding economy absorbed those job losses. Today, we don’t create jobs to replace those lost through automation. They are just totally lost jobs, except for robot designers. Not solving this problem means massive social upheaval, no doubt channeled through racial violence, xenophobia, misogyny, and religious nationalism.

I have almost no faith that we will solve any of these problems.


Finally, White People are Outraged about Police Violence

[ 93 ] July 25, 2017 |

There’s no question that the killing of the Australian woman by a police officer in Minneapolis is a terrible thing. It goes once again to show that one of the nation’s biggest problems is that the police carry weapons on all occasions. Stripping the police of their guns is one of the biggest moves toward public safety we could take, second perhaps only to repealing the Second Amendment and making it much harder to own a gun.

That said, the white response to this killing as opposed to the response to the routine killing of black people by white cops is grotesque. That’s especially true considering the Minneapolis police murdered Philando Castile a mere year ago. He we have a full page profile on the attractive white woman killed by a Somali-American cop. And now, racist white people are attacking police violence by saying the cop was a “diversity hire” and only if our society wasn’t overrun by POLITICAL CORRECTNESS and all jobs just automatically went to white people except for porters and mammies, that everything would be great.

When victims of police shootings are black, many pundits demand patience, withhold judgment of the officer’s actions, and start looking for dirt on the person killed. Damond isn’t targeted with the same prejudicial scrutiny, and Noor isn’t getting the same wait-and-see defense.

The hypocritical nature of conservative media reactions here overshadows a bigger problem: the tendency to treat every police shooting as a case of bad individuals, rather than emblematic of a systemic problem in U.S. law enforcement.

Take the argument pioneered by ex-cop turned right-wing radio host John Cardillo, which has since jumped to Infowars, WorldNetDaily, and other far-right online spaces. Cardillo argues that Noor, who is Somali American, was a “diversity hire” pushed by a class of politically correct administrators. If they wouldn’t have pushed for Noor’s hiring in the first place, the argument goes, Damond would still be alive today. Minneapolis gave deadly force to someone unqualified to wield it, these voices claim, because it made people feel good to have a more diverse police force.

A second, similar reaction has spread along the internet’s right edge, exemplified in notorious Islamophobe Pam Gellar’s coverage of the story. Gellar focuses on Noor’s religious affiliation and points to the specter of “Islamic supremacism,” asking readers to believe that Noor killed Damond because that is simply what Somali Americans do.

These reactions are astonishing in their racism, but the problem goes far beyond that. They also exonerate the police institutions that trained Noor, the conduct regulations that governed his behavior, and the political environment in which he and all other police currently operate.

In these renderings of the case, the important details are all about identity. Instead of a white cop killing an unarmed black man, it’s a black cop killing an unarmed white woman. Noor killed a woman who’d sought his help because something was wrong with him, not because anything is wrong with how the institution of policing conditions officers to behave, think, and react to situations.

If Noor is just one faulty piece in a perfectly fine system, fixing things is as simple as plucking him off the chessboard. No further questions need to be asked about how our public institutions hand out badges and guns; the probe stops at the supposed ills of inclusive hiring and religious tolerance.

I’ll tell you what, I’m just amazed that right-wing responses to police violence are entirely framed by the race of the shooter and victim. Amazed.

The difference in the official response between this and the routine murders of blacks by white cops is striking.

Reality did not disappoint the cynics. Within six days of Damond’s death, an attorney for her family had called her “the most innocent victim” of a police shooting he’d ever seen, and the mayor of Minneapolis had asked for and received the resignation of police chief Janeé Harteau. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a story pointing out that Bob Kroll, the leader of the local police union—who once referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a “terrorist organization”—was being uncharacteristically silent when it came to the culpability of the Somali American Noor. When pressed on why he had been willing to defend the officers involved in Clark’s death but unwilling to defend Noor, Kroll told the Star-Tribune that he hadn’t yet spoken to Noor’s lawyer and therefore didn’t have enough information to comment. “In this case, I don’t know the facts of it,” Kroll told a reporter in a series of text messages. “His attorney is handling and the Federation is remaining silent. This is how our board and attorney decided to handle this one.”

I suppose watching white people begin to realize that maybe police violence is a problem because one of there’s died is a not terrible thing. It would be great if the upshot of this was that white people realized that Black Lives Matter is a real set of complaints about police violence, as well as many other ways black people are discriminated against, and then united with them in a broader fight against police violence. The chances of that happening is approximately the same as John McCain flying back to Washington from brain cancer surgery to save health care for the poor instead of stripping it from them.

Women, Water, and Labor

[ 18 ] July 25, 2017 |

In thinking about both labor issues and global development, the connection between women’s work and water supplies must be central. In much of the world, women work incredibly hard hauling water from often distant sources to homes. In the United States, this was the case into the 1940s, at least in rural America (Caro’s The Path of Power is wonderful on this in describing the Texas hill country and how LBJ was moved by his knowledge of the brutality of this work to fight hard for dams that would bring electricity to his district). It’s not that way today, but because women are so often unequally tasked with reproductive labor, even if they hold paid jobs, that water remains central to their lives. This is a good overview of the issue and why we need to take this problem more seriously.

Collecting water takes time. Simply to get water for drinking, bathing, cooking and other household needs, millions of women and girls spend hours every day traveling to water sources, waiting in line and carrying heavy loads — often several times a day.

The new UNICEF/WHO report states that 263 million people worldwide have access to water sources that are considered safe, but need to spend at least 30 minutes walking or queuing to collect their water. Another 159 million get their water from surface sources that are considered to be the most unsafe, such as rivers, streams, and ponds. Water from these sources is even more likely to require over 30 minutes to collect.

In a study of 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, UNICEF estimated that women there spent 16 million hours collecting water each day. Women in a recent study in Kenya reported spending an average of 4.5 hours fetching water per week, causing 77 percent to worry about their safety while fetching and preventing 24 percent from caring for their children.

When children or other family members get sick from consuming poor-quality water, which can happen even if the water is initially clean when collected, women spend their time providing care. These responsibilities represent lost opportunities for women’s employment, education, leisure, or sleep.

Water is heavy. The World Health Organization recommends 20-50 liters of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and washing. That amounts to hauling between 44 and 110 pounds of water daily for use by each household member.

And in many places, water sources are far from homes. In Asia and Africa, women walk an average of six kilometers (3.7 miles) per day collecting water. Carrying such loads over long distances can result in strained backs, shoulders, and necks, and other injuries if women have to walk over uneven and steep terrain or on busy roads.

Of course, there are many issues getting in the way of ensuring clean water supplies and the author suggests the exclusion of women from decision making is a real problem.

When communities initiate programs to improve access to water, it is critical to ask women about their needs and experiences. Although women and girls play key roles in obtaining and managing water globally, they are rarely offered roles in water improvement programs or on local water committees. They need to be included as a right and as a practical matter. Numerous water projects in developing countries have failed because they did not include women.

And women should play meaningful roles. A study in northern Kenya found that although women served on local water management committees, conflict with men at water points persisted because the women often were not invited to meetings or were not allowed to speak.

Women who raise their voices about water concerns need to be heard. In Flint, Michigan, women were critical to revealing the city’s water crisis and continue to push for changes.

We also need broader strategies to reduce gender disparities in water access. First we need to collect more data on women’s water burden and how it affects their their health, well-being, and personal development. Second, women must be involved in creating and managing targeted programs to mitigate these risks. Third, these programs should be evaluated to determine whether they are truly improving women’s lives. And finally, social messaging affirming the idea that water work belongs only to women must be abandoned.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called empowerment of the world’s women “a global imperative.” To attain that goal, we must reduce the weight of water on women’s shoulders.

And who knows, maybe someday we will live in a country that once again values making sure even our own citizens have clean water, not to mention the rest of the world.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 112

[ 115 ] July 25, 2017 |

This is the grave of Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Wilbur Wright was born in 1867 in Indiana and his younger brother Orville was born four years later in Dayton. Neither finished high school, which was hardly uncommon at the time. They got involved in the printing business in Dayton, publishing a series of short-lived newspapers, including Paul Laurence Dunbar’s paper for Dayton’s black community, and other publications. None of these were particularly successful, but, again, there was nothing unusual about newspapers coming and going in the Gilded Age. They became interested in the new phenomenon of bicycling and opened a bike shop in Dayton in 1892. By 1896, they were making their own bicycles. At the same time, they became interested in flight, as it seemed increasingly possible that humans could cross this frontier. They paid attention to the continued advancements toward flight in Europe and began to experiment themselves. As early as 1900, the Wright Brothers began traveling to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for flight experiments. They of course succeeded in 1903, making them first people to fly. Wilbur was the first because he won the coin toss. It was only 3 seconds, but flight it was. They had more success 3 days later, once flying for 12 seconds and, more importantly, getting a picture of it. Of course, people wondered if this was even flying. The Dayton Journal refused to write a story about it, believing that this was not long enough to count.

The next couple of years saw the continuation of sort of flying. They continued building early airplanes and having very limited success. But by the fall of 1905, they flew for as long as 38 minutes. This was real flight and finally people began paying attention. Part of the reason they had trouble attracting attention is that this was a strictly entrepreneurial enterprise. They wouldn’t fly for reporters because they feared people stealing their ideas and they wanted to sell the technology to a company. People openly declared they were lying, especially in Europe. In 1906 and 1907, they made no flights at all because of their obsession of selling a technology no one had seen in action. The U.S. military blew them off entirely. Finally, in 1908, they convinced the military to open a contract to build a flyer, which they won, and also agreed to a contract with a French company. Before securing the contracts though, they had to fly with a passenger. The media heard about it and finally the lid was blown off the invention. At that point, they went to France and did several public demonstrations, becoming stars of the day. Of course, these planes were tremendously unstable. At the first demonstration for the military, the plane crashed. Orville was seriously injured, the military officer died of a skull fracture. Still, they managed to succeed in building the planes they contracted for and they became successful, with President Taft inviting them for dinner at the White House.

Typically however, they became involved in all sorts of conflicting patent claims. All of this undermined Wilbur’s health. Instead of dying in a plane accident, which I always assumed was the cause for his early death, he died of exhaustion and typhoid fever in 1912, at the age of 45. Orville, not a very good businessman but knowing that, sold the company in 1915 and moved back to Dayton. He made his last flight as a pilot in 1918 and then retired. Both brothers were close to their sister Katharine, also buried here, but when she finally married in 1926, the only sibling to do so, Orville felt personally betrayed and refused to attend the wedding. She died three years of later pneumonia and he only saw her once before then. Orville also had a lot of regrets later in life over the use of airplanes in war, especially after the horrors of World War II. He didn’t regret inventing it however. He died in 1948.

The continuing battle between Ohio and North Carolina on license plates and the back of quarters to claim the home of flight is largely a pissing match between two states with very little else to offer and should be made fun of by everyone from better states.

Orville and Wilbur Wright are buried in Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.

Surprise Scheduling

[ 30 ] July 24, 2017 |

One of the many indignities low wage workers suffer is with their schedules. Whether the constant shift of their schedules week to week, reporting to work and being sent home after an hour if business is slow, and surprise scheduling are all practices that should be banned. They seriously interfere with the ability of an individual to live a dignified life. New York City at least is moving in the right direction on this issue.

The text message came as Flavia Cabral walked to a McDonald’s restaurant in Manhattan for her 6 p.m. shift on a May evening. It was from her manager. Business was slow and she was not needed.

Cabral said she was not too surprised. Her work hours fluctuate almost weekly, though losing an entire shift at the last minute happens only once every few months. This time the canceled shift took a $63 bite out of her average $350 gross weekly earnings from two part-time jobs.

“Every week you’re guessing how much money you’re going to get and how many days you’re going to work,” said Cabral, 53, who has been employed at McDonald’s for four years.But a measure of relief is coming for Cabral and 65,000 other New York City fast-food workers whose schedules and incomes often change with little or no notice.

New York recently became the largest U.S. city to require fast-food restaurants to schedule workers at least two weeks in advance, or pay them extra for changes.

The law, which the restaurant industry vigorously opposed, also requires employers to allow 11-hour breaks between shifts, offer part-time staff additional work before hiring new employees, and pay retail workers to be “on call.” It takes effect late this year.

Great work by SEIU on this, which continues to support the fast food workers movement even if they don’t get dues money from new members.

This sort of thing should be a central part in a Democratic Party’s new agenda of basic rights for workers. By itself, advocating for such a federal law would not be all that compelling in terms of GOTV, but as part of a larger package that included the $15 minimum wage, a new law placing the Obama overtime regulatory standards into the legal code, a federally guaranteed job, and other pro-worker planks that would reset corporate power in this country, they would go far to rejuvenating their appeal among the working classes of all races.

Possibly the Last Act in the Most Overrated Career in Recent Political History

[ 110 ] July 24, 2017 |

I hope John McCain can muster one last expression of concern before returning to Washington cast a critical vote to deny tens of millions of Americans the health care they need while he attempts to recover thanks to his great health care plan.

Extra mavericky!

Finally, Economics Departments Will Teach Free Market Capitalism

[ 45 ] July 24, 2017 |

For whatever reason, the University of Utah was a long resister in the dominance of the free market fundamentalism that has made the field of Economics a joke. Luckily, there has been some meaningful pushback against this new orthodoxy in the last decade, but many Economics departments are still dominated by right-wing hacks. That was never the case at Utah. That’s why the Beehive State became a center of global Marxism in its governance and voting preferences. Anyway, the Koch Brothers have finally solved this problem by funding an entirely new Economics department devoted explicitly to full 100% hackdom. In supporting this, the Deseret News provides arguably the worst newspaper editor op-ed I’ve ever read.

The newly established Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business will provide some philosophical balance to the university’s educational offerings and scholarship on economics, and it will further position the university to produce what Utah needs — an educated workforce.

The institute, which was made possible by gifts from the Eccles family and Koch foundations, is an unequivocal win for students, the state and the University of Utah’s burgeoning world-class business reputation.

For the better part of a century, Castro’s Cuba and the University of Utah’s economics department seemed like the last bastions of Marxist thought in North America — with the latter being subsidized by local tax dollars.

Teaching Keynesianism is basically Castro. And anything left of that, well, those people were basically advising Pol Pot.

In recent years, prominent Marxist scholars such as Emery Kay Hunt and Hans G. Ehrbar have defined the ethos of the university’s unorthodox department. Even today, the University of Utah remains one of the few universities to still offer some economics courses from a Marxian perspective.

Oh. My. God. Marxian economics. How will 19 year old kids from the Salt Lake suburbs survive this onslaught on their common sense?

Now, thanks to a generous $10 million gift from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Marriner S. Eccles Foundation, along with a matching $10 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation, local students will be exposed to a more academically vibrant suite of economic ideas.

The plutocrats, riding to our rescue like the Mormons to the wagon train at the Mountain Meadows Massacre! Oh wait…

Major Utah employers such as Goldman Sachs, Qualtrics and many others now thrive on well-tuned data analytics. Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business, explained that in the process of designing its new major, the business school researched what skills students would need to remain competitive in the local workforce. The research is reflected in the degree’s pragmatic, economics-oriented curriculum.

With the involvement of the Koch Foundation, there will undoubtedly be some who claim that the new institute is now ideologically beholden to the well-known conservative brothers Charles and David Koch. For example, after the Koch Foundation announced a separate gift at Utah State University earlier this year, protesters projected an image of the billionaire brothers on the side of the school’s building with text, reading: “SOLD! Utah State University Respected research institution! $25,000,000.” But, that ignores the commitment to education and gifts to 300 institutions, including Stanford, Harvard and Brown, that the Koch Foundation has provided.

Yes, the fact that the Koch Brothers are buying influence across the nation clearly demonstrates that they aren’t buying influence in Utah? Sounds like our editors need courses in logic as much as they do economics.

The NRA: America’s Second Largest White Supremacist Organization

[ 105 ] July 24, 2017 |

The Republican Party is of course the nation’s largest white supremacist organization. But the NRA is second. And in case you thought the goal of this organization was to protect gun rights, let’s be clear that it is only part of the answer. The goal is to give white people lots of guns to “protect” themselves from scary black people.

Grant Stinchfield, a host at the NRA’s online television network, made more incendiary comments about Black Lives Matter activists allegedly stoking “racial hatred” against white people.

Via Media Matters, Stinchfield began a segment on his show by noting that “race relations are strained here in America after eight years of Barack Obama,” although he conceded that they are “nowhere is near as bad as it is in South Africa where white families are being tortured and killed almost every day in racist violence.”

That said, Stinchfield’s guest, Chuck Holton, cautioned viewers to remain vigilant because Black Lives Matter activists could stoke enough animosity to inspire similar violence against white people in the United States.

“Right, you know the parallels between what’s happening in South Africa and the blatant racism and violence we’re seeing from people like the Black Lives Matter crowd,” he said. “If we continue to let this get out of control, to go down this path of this racial tension, this racial hatred that is being forced on the American culture by the Black Lives Matter crowd.”

If you want to argue that the NRA’s real ideology is scaring white people so that gun manufacturers can make more money, that’s fine too, but there’s no fundamental difference except for the level of cynicism involved.

Greatest Albums by Women

[ 196 ] July 24, 2017 |

Normally, I would save this for one of my occasional Saturday night music posts, but this is worth a stand alone conversation. Usually, when someone tries to rank music, it ends up a disaster, either too orthodox or too contrarian or just hackish. But this NPR attempt to rank the best 150 albums by women since 1964 is really well done. Not that I per se agree with every choice, but rather that they did the hard work to include a wide swathe of music from around the world, from the past and the present, and from both well-known and obscure artists. Sure, they missed some. Millie Jackson’s “Caught Up” and Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” are two pretty clear ones for me. Some contemporary non-pop music would be good too–say an album by Mary Halvorson. But the inclusion of someone like Pauline Oliveros is pretty great. Plus there is Miriam Makeba, Celia Cruz, Alice Coltrane, Umm Kulthum, Mercedes Sosa. Sure, by the last 30 or so albums, it gets pretty predictable. But as far as these sorts of lists go, it’s pretty first-rate.

But just to complain, there’s no way that the only Sleater-Kinney choice (Dig Me Out, correct) is #81. Maybe #8 would be OK. If not higher.

The Better Deal: How Far the Democrats Have Moved and How Far They Need to Go

[ 259 ] July 24, 2017 |

As the Democrats move forward to articulate a set of policies for the Trump era, Chuck Schumer’s initial op-ed demonstrates both how far to the left the Democratic Party has moved and how far it still has to go. While “A Better Deal” is a pretty uninspiring slogan, there’s a lot in here that would have been unimaginable in 2004. What I don’t get about the reaction to Chait’s neoliberalism piece is how people could deny the power neoliberals held in the Democratic Party a decade ago and how far they have had to retreat today. I think you see that in some of these policy points.

Over the next several months, Democrats will lay out a series of policies that, if enacted, will make these three things a reality. We’ve already proposed creating jobs with a $1 trillion infrastructure plan; increasing workers’ incomes by lifting the minimum wage to $15; and lowering household costs by providing paid family and sick leave.

Positive! A $15 minimum wage is a really good thing! That’s an extremely progressive policy that would move the nation very much in the right direction.

Much of the rest of this though is a mixed bag.

Right now, there is nothing to stop vulture capitalists from egregiously raising the price of lifesaving drugs without justification. We’re going to fight for rules to stop prescription drug price gouging and demand that drug companies justify price increases to the public. And we’re going to push for empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for older Americans.

Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care. We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they’re hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition.

Right now millions of unemployed or underemployed people, particularly those without a college degree, could be brought back into the labor force or retrained to secure full-time, higher-paying work. We propose giving employers, particularly small businesses, a large tax credit to train workers for unfilled jobs. This will have particular resonance in smaller cities and rural areas, which have experienced an exodus of young people who aren’t trained for the jobs in those areas.

The first of these is fine. Here’s a better policy: Medicare for All. This sort of tinkering around health care is alright, but it doesn’t get at any fundamental problems. It doesn’t inspire and it doesn’t motivate. No one is going to say “I voted for Trump but I think I will vote for Democrats in 2018 because they hope to eventually maybe make drug companies articulate some lies to justify their prices.”

The antitrust bit is completely acceptable, but it’s very vague in terms of motivating people.

The employment stuff is more problematic. Giving employers huge tax breaks for doing basic job training is a bad idea. This is the sort of pro-employer tweaks that have defined the Democratic Party for a long time. Like the health care stuff, there is a better way to go here: “Employment is a fundamental right. We propose a federally guaranteed jobs program that would put every American to work who wants a job.” Schumer is right in recognizing that something has to be done for the hundreds of millions of Americans who do not have a college degree. A giant giveaway to companies for doing what they should be doing anyway is not going to solve that problem. I just read Tom Geoghegan’s Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Labor Movement. As a whole, I was pretty mixed on the book, but Geoghegan is absolutely right that we need to give up on the idea that sending people to college is the solution to employment and class problems. Here’s an image from the book:

The United States is indeed a high school nation. Until Democrats have a real jobs program for people who will never go to college, the fascists have a huge advantage. I don’t just mean that it will be easier for working class whites to vote for Trump and the like, though that is a piece of the problem. It’s also that Democrats aren’t giving the masses of black and Latino working class people a reason to come out and vote for them. That 200 million Americans are being left behind in this economy is a pretty huge problem! The Republicans’ response is to appeal to white identity while destroying the remnants of the social and economic safety net. To counter that, since Democrats are not going to embrace white identity, Democrats have to articulate a real set of economic alternatives that aren’t technocratic tweaks but rather appeal to broad masses of people. Whatever that is–$15 minimum wage, federally guaranteed job, universal basic income, free college tuition, etc–it has to be a big, bold policy.

I will also note that there is not word one about unions or organizing in any of this.

To say the least, getting Democrats to move toward embracing a $15 wage is a sign of how far the rejuvenated left has pushed the party. But the rest of this platform demonstrates that it’s not only policy where Democrats need a push, but, perhaps even more importantly, messaging.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 111

[ 47 ] July 24, 2017 |

This is the grave of Phil Sheridan.

Born in 1831 in Albany, New York, Sheridan’s family moved to Ohio when he was young. He was a very lucky young man. He worked as a bookkeeper as a teenager but got to know his local congressman, who set him up with an appointment at West Point, only after the congressman’s first choice was rejected by the Military Academy. He was pretty mediocre at West Point and was nearly kicked out for threatening to bayonet a classmate. During the 1850s, he was mostly assigned in the Pacific Northwest, dealing with genocide against Native Americans there, especially the wars against native peoples in Washington in the mid-1850s. He would learn valuable lessons there and later would become one of the people most responsible for the post-Civil War genocidal campaigns.

Sheridan was a first lieutenant when the Civil War began but he rose very fast. He served as a staff officer for Henry Halleck where he proved very capable in cleaning up the mess left by John C. Frémont’s disastrous term in Missouri. He longed for combat however. Luckily, he got to know William Tecumseh Sherman and impressed by the young officer, Sherman got him appointed as colonel in the 2nd Michigan Cavalry in 1862. He performed so well in his first battle, the Battle of Booneville in Mississippi, that General William Rosecrans had him promoted to brigadier general. Also impressing at the Battle of Perryville and the Battle of Stones River, Sheridan was promoted to major general in April 1863, six months after his initial promotion to captain. Such was the Civil War. He sent his troops farther forward and more effectively at the Battle of Chattanooga than any other general and this very much impressed Ulysses S. Grant. When Grant was called to Virginia, he brought Sheridan with him. He was originally hamstrung by George Meade’s general incompetency, but Grant spoke up for him and Sheridan played a key role through much of the Overland Campaign. Grant gave Sheridan command of the Army of the Shenandoah in 1864 over the objections of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. There, he stopped the armies of Jubal Early at Cedar Creek. In doing so, he engaged in the total war tactics Sherman was making famous in Georgia. Finally, Sheridan’s troops captured 20 percent of the traitor Lee’s remaining army on the road of Appomattox, helping to seal the fate of the treasonous South.

After the war, Sheridan was appointed military governor of Texas and Louisiana, where he vigorously pursued Reconstruction policies. But his real postwar significance was his role in the genocide against Native Americans on the Plains. Sheridan and Sherman, believing in the efficacy of their total warfare developed in the Civil War, used the same tactics to defeat the last resisting tribes. That made sense from a military perspective. The difference between the tribes and the South is that the tribes were seen as subhuman by many Americans, especially on the frontier and that included Sheridan. Also, whereas the Civil War had developed into a war for the freedom of African-Americans, these were wars to pacify and exterminate people of color. Sheridan helped pioneer the military strategy of exterminating the bison; in fact, when Texas considered ending that policy and conserving some bison, Sherman personally testified against it. In 1868 and 1869, he led attacks on the winter quarters of the Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche, killing anyone who resisted, as well as their livestock and horses, effectively destroying their ability to resist and even survive. Following the 1870 Marias Massacre, when Sheridan sent troops to punish group of Blackfeet that ended up attacking a completely different group of Blackfeet and massacring over 200 people, there was serious outrage against the inhumanity of the wars Sheridan was pursuing. When Grant instituted his Peace Policy as a response, it was Sheridan and Sherman’s turn to be infuriated. Neither could understand why the tactics that made them so popular in 1864 and 1865 were seen as outrageous in 1870. But at least some Americans, mostly in northeastern cities, felt that the nation should not exterminate indigenous peoples. Cucks.

Sheridan also took it upon himself to fight for the protection of Yellowstone National Park from development, testifying against an 1882 plan to give a railroad the chance to develop a bunch of the park for tourism. When poachers (both white for the market and indigenous for food) kept killing the last big game in the park, Sheridan ordered the 1st U.S. Cavalry to patrol the park, where it remained until the creation of the National Park Service in 1916.

A short and tubby man, Sheridan was 5’5 and weighed 200 pounds. This was not good. He suffered a series of heart attacks in 1888 and died that summer.

Phil Sheridan is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Even better, his is the grave right in front of the traitor’s mansion, a tomb that emphatically states Sheridan’s role in the conquest of the South.

Erik Visits as American Grave, Part 110

[ 17 ] July 23, 2017 |

This is the grave of John Smilie.

Born in 1741 in Ireland, Smilie immigrated to Pennsylvania around 1760. He became involved with the Patriots in Lancaster County, fighting as a volunteer in 1776 and 1777. Beginning in 1778, and served in the Pennsylvania legislature. He was a very small government guy, opposing any kind of centralizing power in the state, such as a state bank, which he believed would undermine small farmers in the state and promote the interests of Philadelphia bankers. Naturally, he opposed the Constitution as giving the federal government too much power. He became a leading anti-Federalist in Pennsylvania. His greatest fear was the use of a strong government against the press. He saw a future where anti-government opponents would be prosecuted for libel by a strong state. Of course, the Constitution was ratified and Smilie was elected to Congress from 1793-95 and again from 1797-1812. He was a strong Jeffersonian, but, demonstrating where politics would go as the 19th century went on, began to turn against the South by taking a very harsh stance against the international slave trade. He became particularly known for demanding the death penalty for those who smuggled slaves into the United States after 1807, when the Constitution disallowed the practice. Smilie died in Washington in 1812.

John Smilie is buried in Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

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