". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, August 29, 2013

We Remember

The tables on the sidewalks outside the restaurants are as crowded with people from other places paying no mind to anything today as they were in 2005. The weather's nice today too as it was in 2005.

We have so many images. in our minds's eyes. We have so many stories from so many people.  So many personal photos in the aftermath. All those pictures and footage that rolled around the globe, are available to everyone.

I am not putting up images today. It's in my heart and my guts.

It's still personal, though not as personal as for thousands.

Here we've got 9/11 and Sandy anniversaries coming soon.

Thomas Jefferson: Shirker and Coward

Shirker and coward, ruminates John Quincy, more severe in his old age on Thomas Jefferson than was his father, John Adams, on the man who consciously betrayed and frequently harmed him. It comes up frequently in JQA's Memoirs, how much he resents TJ's behaviors, not only on behalf of the wrongs TJ did to President Adams, but how much harm he did to the nation, by both omission and commission. It is invigorating to read the entries about the latter, but it is touching to read his resentments of TJ on behalf of President Adams.

How close this father and son were, so close that the bonds of tenderness hold decades after John Adams had gone to his reward. The same can be said of J. Q. Adams and his son, Charles Francis Adams, who edited and published John Quincy Adams's Memoirs. From the papers of Charles Francis Adams's own sons, those tender generational bonds between Adams fathers and their sons continued. 

What  the PBS John and Abigail Adams and the HBO John Adams series emphasize, as do popular audience books such as My Dearest Friend and First Family, is John Adams's iracible, impatient personality, in combination with many long absences, as part of his parental failures. Which were true, at least as regarding his oldest son, George Washington Adams, who committed suicide at 28 years of age. Yet, then how to reconcile this tenderness of attitude and memory, as well as admiration of John Adams by John Quincy, other than to understand that this wasn't the entire story? 

John Adams demanded as much from everyone as he did from himself -- as did John Quincy Adams. Not everyone in their circles of family and friends could live up to these demands, and it seems that George Washington Adams was so intimidated he not only didn't try, he went in the other direction. One gets the sense that John Quincy Adams understood both his brother and his father, because, in his Memoirs, we see him striving still to live up to his father's expectations, even as death came more near every day. Which makes even more understandable President John Quincy Adams's disdain for Thomas Jefferson, who never strove to do anything but at the expense of others.

As a nation we don't emphasize loving, positive and productive father-son relationships in our political history, yet there were many. Politics have always been a dynastic profession. This remained as true for the U.S. as in, say, Britain, even though the Revolution abolished primogeniture and entail (along with an established religion and church).

Founding Father, President John Adams
From Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Vol. 8:294-96

[January] 25th [1831]. 
Read a few stanzas of Childe Harold, and further in the correspondence of Jefferson, till the letter of 28th May, 1781, to General Washington, announcing his long-declared resolution of retiring from the oppression of his office as Governor of Virginia to private life. He says he shall relinquish it to abler hands ; and from that time there is a gap in the correspondence of nearly three years, the next letter being again to General Washington, and dated at Annapolis, 16th April, 1784. A note of the editor says that during the interval he preserved only memoranda of the contents of the letters written by him.
It is very evident that this period of his life brought to him no pleasing recollections. He withdrew from his office at the very agonizing moment of his country's struggle. He thought a military Governor would be at that time more useful to the State. Why was he not himself a military Governor? He was ex-officio commander-in-chief of the armies of the State. What was Joseph Warren? What was Nathanael Greene? What was Benjamin Lincoln? What was Henry Knox ? It is the necessary nature of civil wars to make military men out of lawyers and farmers, physicians and booksellers, ay, and out of ministers of the Word of God. The condition of Virginia at the moment when he abandoned the helm of state was such as should have created soldiers under the ribs of death.
His correspondence for a year before is languid and desponding. He complains of the discovery of extensive disaffection, speaks with terror of the enemy's successes, and broadly intimates that the minds of the people may be led to acquiescence under those events which they see no human power prepared to ward off. And this is the moment which Mr. Jefferson selects to retire from the responsible office of Governor of the State. And within four months from that day Cornwallis surrenders his arms and his army at Yorktown. Not a line of congratulation upon this great and sudden turn of the tide of success is found in his correspondence ; not a word about it in the memoir of his life. This silence is expressive.
Where was he from June, 178 1, to the close of the war ? No mortal can tell from the memoir or the correspondence. In that very June, 1 781, at the moment when he resigned his office as Governor of Virginia, he was appointed one of the Ministers for negotiating peace with Great Britain, then, he says, expected to be effected through the mediation of the Empress of Russia.
He declined this appointment, he says, for the same reasons for which he had declined in 1776 And what were they ? Take his words : "Such was the state of my family that I could not leave it, nor could I expose it to the dangers of the sea, and of capture by the British ships, then covering the ocean. I saw, too, that the laboring oar was really at home, where much was to be done of the most permanent interest, in new-modelling our Governments, and much to defend our fanes and firesides from the desolations of an invading enemy, pressing on our country on every point." 
The first of these reasons are mere private considerations. He could not leave his family, and would not expose his family to capture by British ships. John Adams three times exposed himself and two boys to capture by British ships during the war. He left his wife, daughter, and one infant son to the protection of his country. John Jay's wife and children went with him. Dr. Franklin went safe in 1776, as Jefferson would have gone if he had been with him. Henry Laurens was taken and sent to the Tower, and harshly treated; but his son was not even imprisoned, and was allowed to visit him ; and so might it have been with Mr. Jefferson if he had gone, with or without his family, and been taken.
There are dangers which a high-souled man engaged in a sacred cause must encounter and not flinch from. To assign them as reasons for declining the post of honor savors more of the Sybarite than of the Spartan. They remind one of the certain lord, neat, trimly dressed, who but for those vile guns would himself have been a soldier.
As to the other reason, of staying at home to defend our fanes and firesides, it certainly did not apply to Mr. Jefferson either in 1776, when there was neither actual nor threatened invasion of Virginia, or in June, 1781, when Mr. Jefferson had slunk from that very defence into the inactive safety of a private citizen.
Perhaps Mr. Jefferson was sufficiently punished for his dereliction of the cause by the humiliating necessity under which he has been of drawing a veil over this portion of his life . . . how much more illustrious would his name have been if his portrait could have appeared in Trumbull's picture of the Surrender of Cornwallis as conspicuous as in that of the Declaration of Independence! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Archfiend Haunting Bloody Andy - John Quincy Adams

Just to be clear as to where Henry Adams got the habit of biting wit and subtle sarcasm for his own histories -- from his grandfather.

John Quincy Adams As His Grandsons Would Have Known Him
I've been wanting to read JQA's Memoirs for a long time now, but I don't have time for the many volumes that they are.  However, I am looking into the volume of the 1830's -- Holy Cow!  This stuff is not only historically revelatory, but fabulously entertaining.   He deliberately worked to annoy the slavers' Gag Rule (imposed by Jackson and the southerns that JQA refers to simply as "the slavers," to keep abolition and emancipation from being discussed in the House or Senate), to tie up at least an hour, hour and a half,  of every session by forcing "the slavers" to shut him up about slavery and their censorship of even mentioning the issue.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For Reading Wednesday - Good Man Friday

I actually have something for Reading Wednesday!  A book that is not non-fiction related to The American Slave Coast!

As other writers will say, it's hard to find a novel that one can read when so deeply involved making one's own book, particularly a novel that might be dealing with the matters you as writer are also dealing with.  Hambly's Good Man Friday was perfect for me: filled with matters I think about everyday, yet it is fiction, and she's got the precise touch for these matters -- she does not patronize or denigrate the historical issues or the readers, and she does not sensationalize or preach either.  As well, her research does not overhang the narrative, it does not draw any attention to itself. Instead, her research impeccably supports the story, the location and the characters. In contrast, too often, there are novelists whose endless research appears to be about world building, rather than supporting either the story or the characters. In other words these are novelists who are in love with the world they've built, rather than creating fiction. Their research, their characters and story serve the world building rather than what makes a novel a good one, one entirely immersive.

 No one would ever accuse Hambly of this.

In two nights of recreational reading (between after dinner reading of William Dusinberre's Slavemaster President: The Double Career of James Polk, and the lights out period of reading aloud to each other from Henry Adams and the Madison administrations) gulped Barbara Hambly's latest January mystery, Good Many Friday.  This one's set in Washington D.C. during the Panic of 1837, when the nation's credit and capital had collapsed, as in a domino line, Andrew Jackson's pet banks failed, in the wake of his destruction of the United States Bank.

The simplest background to this is to say that Andrew Jackson waged a war on the USB because he hated banks and believed only in hard money. Thus Jackson vetoed the the Bank of the U.S. charter, renewed by Congress. All the specie deposits were pulled out of the central USB and given to new, local banks quickly chartered, without sufficient capital on hand to support their charter. The oversight of capital and lending that the USB was entrusted to perform, was over. These banks issued credit and loans far beyond any specie holdings they possessed, and issued their own paper without anything backing them -- except the mortgages they took on land and chattel -- particularly slaves.  It was an economic disaster of biblical proportion, and now-POTUS, Mattie Van Buren, Jackson's chosen successor, was left holding the bag with not the faintest idea of what to do. The price of cotton simultaneously dipped. So did the price of slaves -- for a time, though only for a short while, as Texas became a Republic, and further, those lands cleared of Indians by Jackson came online and slaves were needed to build the new plantations. Thus the brutal abduction of slaves and free people of color got accelerated because it was a good way for poor white people to make a living.

But more importantly for the story in Hambly's novel is the U.S.'s concurrent troubles with Canada, including Upper Canada's rebellion against Britain and a secret plan in Michigan and environs then, to invade and annex Canada for the U.S.  Thus -- spies, thus Hambly's novel. About which no more.

I did have a couple of quibbles.

The first is that Henry Clay is described as handsome, which by all accounts, and his portraits, he was anything but handsome. But his personality and character and social graces were such that women adored him anyway, so yes, he is handsome in the eyes of these beholders, you could say.*  You, hostess, wish a successful social event, you want Henry Clay present. Thus this quibble is irrelevant.

The second quibble is that for no reason at all, we are told a woman on a Louisiana plantation is a Yoruba. This is highly unlikely for all kinds of historic reasons. This is the kind of thing that unpleasantly does throw a reader like me out of immersion, wondering what this woman's story is, since Yorubas did not come to North America -- or Louisiana before or after the American era -- in any numbers that register in either African American culture or genetics. And then -- which Yoruba group would she be from? Moreover, she wouldn't have called herself Yoruba.  The people whose origins were in the Oyo Kingdoms, Ife and so on, did not begin to be called collectively Yoruba until after the second half of the 19th century, by, of course, an Anglican missionary bishop. She would have more likely characterized herself as Lucumi, but that didn't happen until after the 1860's either.  And why are we told this at all, since she never appears in the novel except in that sentence. 

This is one of Hambly's best, most tightly plotted January novels. We have more access to the other characters than in previous books in this series, and Hambly, as novelist, is splendid with insight into their situation and condition -- and there's a wide variety of characters, particularly of color. Another of the reason can be expressed in a single word: baseball.

That's all I'm going to say about Good Man Friday. I'd hate to spoil this reading experience for anyone. It would be especially poor form to inadvertently or advertently spoil Good Many Friday, because it still feels so wrong that the novelist spends a year at the least, working to write the best novel she possibly can, getting every detail as correct as possible, and then the reader comes along and just gobbles it up in no time at all.


* Sometimes el V will (playfully) accuse me of having fallen in love with both Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson, which would mean their flaws -- and particularly with Jackson, his monstrosity -- is taken too lightly on my part, as I enumerate all the ways in which they embodied, shaped and were the giants of that national era then filled with giants (like Napoleon).  My rebuttal is: Calhoun. I cannot view Calhoun with even slight wonder.

Low Winter Sun 2

I called this one right. Doesn't this look bleak, depressing and boring as heck?

At least with The Sopranos you get beautiful tables of food the viewer wants to dive into, glass after glass of damned good wine. Nobody whacked or got whacked, without a satisfying meal (unless she was an anorexic girlfriend who didn't deserve it, but whatya gonna do?).

The Bad Cop Who Wants to Be Good in Detroit series, Low Winter Sun, has failed already, after two episodes, according to the reports.  The commentators bring up some of the reasons they believe the viewers rejected the series out of hand, including:
The problem is that there has been too much of this "anti hero cop drama set in a bleak environment" that by now I'm pretty sure everyone is tired of. Three recent examples being Top of the Lake, Broadchurch, and the Bridge, This type of tv show is saturated.
Though no one mentioned the title -- a very bad title for a television series.  Maybe it would be OK for a play, but not for tv.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Butler - History and Hollywood

Against all Hollywood's expectations, The Butler is this weekend's number one box office draw.  Everyone passed on this Lee Daniel - Danny Strong project about the Civil Rights Movement.  It had to be independently funded.  Today, with the news still so fresh, that their struggle to bring their vision to the theaters was a winning struggle, Daniels and Strong are on the local public radio flag station, on its anchor mid-day variety talk show.

Among what matters the most to them about the success of The Butler is that all sorts of people had said things like, "It's not possible that a black man could be murdered in 1927 and the police, nobody, even bothered to look into it, nobody arrested, nobody going to trial."  They would assure these people that this happened, and happened all the time, and this is why there was a Civil Rights movement.

And this was the response in Hollywood: "That never happened.  I never saw it in a movie." *

So now it's in a movie, a movie made by a black man who lived through the Civil Rights movement.

As I've quoted previously from el V, in the growing up in Louisiana chapters in The Year Before the Flood, "Movies told me lies. Music told me the truth" about the history of the country, of white and black.


* Rest in Peace, Treyvon Martin.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Revolution - The Monroe Republic

Two of the pillars of politics are history and geography.  History is also formed in large degree by geography.  Thus, the Monroe Republic of NBC's Revolution doesn't make sense.  For that matter, neither does the rest of Revolution's Central North America's map.  This really screws with the watcher's immersion into the series.

From the Revolution Wiki:
As indicated by a map in Monroe's office, the Monroe Republic controls the northeastern United States, with its northern border at the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River, its western border on the Mississippi River, its eastern border at the Atlantic Ocean, and its southern border at the Ohio, Tug and Roanoke Rivers.
The Monroe Republic consists of the entirety of the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Connecticut, West Virgina, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland, most of Virginia and part of North Carolina north of the Roanoke River. The Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec south of the St. Lawrence River are also part of the Republic.
The capital is located at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The walls around the city are thirty feet high, with machine gun emplacements. The only other entrance is through the old SEPTA tunnels, but they are heavily mined. Monroe's main research and development center is at Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, where he keeps a fleet of at least six UH-1 Iroquois helicopters. It seems Monroe has another base in Boston as mentioned by Neville.

In terms of internal commerce, trade and communications, it would be the Mississippi River that any so-called expansionist Republic located in the Northwest would be concentrating on -- not the South.  In any case, this sort of military dictatorship seems far more likely to have grown out of South Carolina -- which you damned well know would have given its name to its "state" -- at least calling it the Palmetto Republic. South Carolina and the associated heart of the former Confederacy has deep background in all these matters, including militias -- see "well-regulated militia" going back to early colonial times, which were all about keeping the enslaved down on the plantations and not plotting revolution.

All the big military bases and armories are located outside of the northeast, which for obvious reasons was always heavier on shipping than army or air force (though it does have West Point -- but Bass and Miles are marines): U.S. navy, including particularly subs, merchant marine, Annapolis, Game & Fish, fishing fleets, ye olden whalers, cargo ships, packets and so on.  The northeast made its living from manufacturing, agriculture, the carrying trade, which the antebellum south so resented (see Erie Canal's great $ucce$$) and finance. In later eras add communications and media.  Virginia and South Carolina in particular always sucked off Big Defense for their economy, i.e. other region's taxes.

Without electricity now, no planes to drop bombs, so all those muchly deserted forts and naval bases all along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf would matter again. Weren't all the google whizzes living in California?  South Carolina is where Bass and Miles were when the Big Dark rolled over the globe.  Why would they go up north to make their own country, when they were in the middle of everything they needed to dominate their world, including their men already used to obeying them? In the very first ep, as they return to base, Bass already has the Monroe brand on his wrist, which lets him on base even though he was off it without his papers. (A mystery, unless the Unquitable Duo had already been planning some sort of coup?)

The more you look at the premises the more they make no sense.  Especially as this 'northeast' looks so southern -- because, hey-ho! -- that's where the series is shot, in North Carolina.  This could so easily make sense though, if the writers and show runners had basic economic historical and geographical information on how our nation came into being and what it did in all those decades before the Big Dark.  It would have made the series so much stronger, and a lot more interesting.
But no, all we want is a lot of blowing up stuff, particularly helicopters.  You really think the audience will buy that those notoriously crashy machines could just be expertly flown and operated after 15 years of no maintenance, no pilot maneuvers -- and all that ammo would just so easily work?

And -- what about climate change?  Just because it all went dark, doesn't mean that tornadoes, wildfires, droughts and floods, blinding blizzards and hurricanes stopped happening.

But it's television folks, so all we need is big blowups, shootouts and smashing each other in the face, along with ridiculous prolonged faux emotional dialogues between figures who never change how they look, who can't quit each other.
And really, who thought that naming states "The Plains Nation" and "The Wasteland" -- regions chock a block with military bases -- were good ideas?  It's also likely that Canada and Mexico have some ideas about all this too ....

Thursday, August 15, 2013

NBC's Revolution

The 2012 television series has begun streaming on Netflix.

Initial thoughts:

Sets, fight scenes, etc. are generally cheesy, indicating this has a small production budget.

This is Illinois?  It sure looks like the South to me, judging by the vegetation and trees.

Swords: is it a good idea, really, to make the hilt of your blade be a brass knuckles, meaning your fingers are imprisoned in those holes, so you can't drop the blade or whatever if your enemy is turning the blade against your body?

Judging by what supposedly is going on when the lights go out, should there be powerful ministers and other religious figures everywhere?

Fifteen years since the world's power supply died, and everything is so very well organized already, particularly for agriculture, which is mostly mono-culture and doubtless infected with the one growing season only Big Agribiz genetically modified grains and cereals?  Where are the wild dog packs and feral hogs attacking your domestic animals and tearing up your fields (as wild hogs are doing even now)?  That everyone remains so well dressed is potentially plausible because there should be so much stock around, while the population must have precipitously dropped -- at least it is implied the population has dropped so much. (But really?  That AC / DC t-shirt has survived 15 years of hard wearing and washing?  Did men who never have dealt with laundry and buying clothes dress these characters?)  Same with hair products, and surely hair stylists survived so they can do hair cuttery in their spare time from growing food.  But dental and optical corrections don't seem as likely since these are so dependent on very high tech all run by electricity.

While we learn enormous amounts about weaponry, warlords, militias and division of territories, what is the economy?  What is passing for money?  With whom and where do we trade?  Why are we told that Europe doesn't exist .... surely if we can get the technology together to successfully raise, train and equip horses for soldiers, we can build ocean going ships?  Or -- is it we've destroyed the forests long ago that provide the sort of lumber that you need for ocean going ships? Yet they've got the big boats necessary for Great Lakes fishing.

OK, this is Illinois.  How come there are only white people and black people?  No Native Americans, no Asians of any background? Where the gay members of the community?

Why is this post-apocalypse so danged healthy and homogenous?  Where are the members who have lost their legs or have received or been born with various physical challenges? Where the children born with Downs Syndrome or Aspergers?

Also, revolution, secession and civil wars don't happen by accident.  In the U.S. very powerful, very wealthy people made all three, so surely the same is the case here. (In this way the San Domingue Slave Revolution, and,for another example, the Vietnamese Revolution, were unlike the U.S. revolution.) Who are these people -- or, in other words, what was in it for them?  One must ask these questions because they are thrown in our face, with the terminology of 'rebels' and 'patriots,' with the U.S. flag, rather than the stars and bars as representing the rebels, and the militias' uniforms right out of the U.S. Civil War.  (And who makes these uniforms and out of what?  Military uniforms made by hand, which many were in the Civil War, were hard to do, and also very lucrative contracts -- government contracts.  The competition for them was great, as former slave Elizabeth Keckley

describes in her book, Behind the Scenes, when she and brother achieve one of those contracts.

There are many episodes still ahead  for this watcher in the first season of Revolution. * Though obviously I've got lots of problems with the series, I'm willing to continue. Doubtless there are better informed viewers who know the answers to all these questions too. Still, it seems to this viewer, if somehow some of this could have been overtly included in the limited screen time, even such a low-budget series would overall be a lot more interesting with rather more content.  Instead, they've opted for including at least one prolonged fight-it-out scene in each episode to eat up what time they've got.  Grrr.


 *  Is this going to be another Lost or X-Files?  If so, then they've lost me for certain.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Meet the Clintons: Card-Carrying Members of the Plutocratic Global Corporate Oligarchy

The Clinton Foundation has been renamed as the Bill, Hilary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, in preparation for being the organization center of Hilary Clinton's run (again!) to be POTUS in 2016.
For all of its successes, the Clinton Foundation had become a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest. It ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in. ....
... efforts to insulate the foundation from potential conflicts have highlighted just how difficult it can be to disentangle the Clintons’ charity work from Mr. Clinton’s moneymaking ventures and Mrs. Clinton’s political future, according to interviews with more than two dozen former and current foundation employees, donors and advisers to the family. Nearly all of them declined to speak for attribution, citing their unwillingness to alienate the Clinton family. ....
Today, big-name companies vie to buy sponsorships at prices of $250,000 and up, money that has helped subsidize the foundation’s annual operating costs. Last year, the foundation and two subsidiaries had revenues of more than $214 million. ....
Yet the foundation’s expansion has also been accompanied by financial problems. In 2007 and 2008, the foundation also found itself competing against Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign for donors amid a recession. Millions of dollars in contributions intended to seed an endowment were diverted to other programs, creating tension between Mr. Magaziner and Mr. Band. The foundation piled up a $40 million deficit during those two years, according to tax returns. Last year, it ran more than $8 million in the red.
Amid those shortfalls, the foundation has sometimes catered to donors and celebrities who gave money in ways that raised eyebrows in the low-key nonprofit world. In 2009, during a Clinton Global Initiative gathering at the University of Texas at Austin, the foundation purchased a first-class ticket for the actress Natalie Portman, a special guest, who brought her beloved Yorkie, according to two former foundation employees. ....
Far more here.  The link is to the single page view.

Having seen and heard first hand what the Clinton Global Initiative -- partnered with many corporate oligarchs such as Coca Cola to has done to Haiti -- all of which keep the their wages the established wage floor as the bench for labor not only throughout the hemisphere but the globally --  the planet cannot survive such aid and assistance.

The Atlantic also weighs in on the Clintons' Foundation here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why Europe Would Not Ally With the CSA: Repudiation of Bond Investment Debt

What is impossible to understand is why the five states that flat out repudiated that debt to European investors, the heart of secession and the CS, seemed to have no memory of doing this.  So, until the very bitter end, they still expected that Europe would come in on their side against the Union.  Now European nations were not, and did not, recognize the CSA as a nation for many reasons, but this debt repudiation, which directly did great damage to many banks and families in England and Europe, had not been forgotten. This is what they could expect from a want to be nation like the secessionist states. Yet,  DeBow even, with all his spewing of numbers and facts and stats never ever mentioned this huge Southern scandal of the 1840's, to which Mississippi was central.

There are many articles and books on the Mississippi Repudiation of the 1840's, but for some reason not many Civil War historians bring it up.

The primary reason Mississippi refused to repay her debt was that it would mean a tax; at the time Mississippi was the wealthiest state, but most of the white population were slave owning planters -- an enormous part of the population was made up of slaves, who did not own anything.  Mississippi was not going to tax her own.  Let the feds -- i.e. other tax payers -- pay for her debt or the hell with it.

An entertaining account is here.
In 1840, the state of Mississippi defaulted on interest payments on $2 million of Planters Bank bonds and $5 million of Mississippi Union Bank bonds. About the same time, seven other states and one territory (later granted statehood) defaulted on their debts, as did the Republic of Texas (later annexed as a state).
Most states later reconciled with their creditors; for example, they resumed interest payments and funded interest arrears. Not Mississippi.
Mississippi proceeded to repudiate both issues of bonds, and, further, to undermine the private debts owed to its state-chartered banks.
Back then, nations that defaulted on their international debts put themselves at the risk of invasion. In the sovereign debt-repayment literature, such invasions, and threats to invade, are called gunboat diplomacy.
In an 1843 debate between a probond Mississippi Democrat and an antibond Democrat, the antibond Democrat spoke of British cruisers off the state's shore. At this point, a member of the audience spoke:
Sir, in that event I join my countryman who opposes the payment of the bonds. My sword … sir, the last drop of my blood, shall be spent in resisting the demand. My state, sir, may she be always right, but, right or wrong, the state, sacred, intangible and profane, forever.
In the United States, states are sovereign. They are the final authority when it comes to their debts. So, states seemed immune to invasion for nonpayment, since the US Constitution requires the federal government to defend the states. But, again, in 1843, a Whig and former president, John Quincy Adams, offered a resolution in the US Congress that would deny Mississippi the protection of the federal government if the state was invaded by its creditors.
In the event of such a war, the State involving herself therein will cease thereby to be a State of this Union, and will have no right to aid in her defense from the United States, or any one of them.
A hundred years later some of the European creditors were attempting to collect what was owned them.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I Lived There; And There; And There, Other Places and Here Too

I moved to Albuquerque in the first year of my first adult decade, and stayed until that initial adulthood turned into what should have been the opening of my maturity (it wasn't though -- alas, I matured late ....)

In connection with the final season of Breaking Bad* (a series for which the numbers of non-interested viewers barely break into double digits, and among which I am one), The New Yorker has run an accolade to the city and the state here.

Yes, I miss New Mexico sometimes, because I'm been among the U.S. population attracted to the place for the reasons so many others are, as quoted in the New Yorker article:

Early on, New Mexico’s allure was its exoticism, a patch of America that didn’t feel American.

Which is why, like I did with Albuquerque, I love -- and fear -- New Orleans, why I feel so at home in the Caribbean, particularly the Spanish speaking Caribbean (for which latter I can particularly thank the Albuquerque decade, in which Spanish became a natural language, not a 'foreign' language), and love Europe and South America.  It's also why I love whole parts of the South, starting with the Chesapeake's English Eastern Shore.


*  The article confirms that the tax incentives New Mexico provides is likely the reason the Longmire series is shot there instead of Wyoming, where it supposedly is located.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Orphan Black

For many viewers the initial reaction we have to science fiction thriller Orphan Black's first episode, is confusion.  Where the eff are we?  Sarah Manning, who we will learn, quickly, is the central, organizing clone of many, is on a train platform that looks quite like England, but we hear out of the station speakers, something about the next train to New York. This is confusion is most affecting in the early episodes, as we constantly ask ourselves: "Are we in England, Canada or the U.S.?"  While searching for geographic clues, we get over the confusion, or get beyond it, deciding this must be Canada.

So it is, Canada. As this is a BBC America series, Orphan Black appropriately enough is shot and located in Toronto, though the show runners are on record that they didn't want to broadcast any specific locale, rather be so non-anywhere to be anywhere.  I, personally, like watching series set in Canadian cities rather than the default U.S. cities (not that I won't watch a show because it is in the U.S. -- or supposed to be). But two other Canadian shows, Continuum and Lost Girl, are favorites, and now Orphan Black has joined them on the Favorites List. So this is the first thing about this series that reels me in.

The second element that captures me for the entire series is Tatiana Maslany, who plays Sarah Manning:

Sarah Manning, Punk & Grifter
The third:

Alison Hendrix, Soccer Mom
The fourth:

Cosima Niehaus, Ph.d. Candidate in Experimental Evolutionary Developmental Biology

And there are more: more clones -- all played by Tatiana Maslany, and more characters, such as Sarah's foster brother, artist and hustler, Felix 'Fe' Dawkins:

Even more -- the brilliant actress, Maria Doyle Kennedy -- as Mrs. S., foster mother to Sarah and Fe, caretaker of Sarah's daughter:

Then there are the writers. It's jaw dropping to watch the Alison-centered episodes, in which there is very much at stake, yet the eps are actually played as traditional comedy, dating back at least to Roman theater -- characters moving through one door after another, all just missing each other by a moment, mistaken identities, deliberate impersonation, while we in the midst of life-and-death-and-perpetual corporate ownership of one's body, the search for self and autonomy and a life of one's own.  All the time we're on the edge of our seats.

The opening credit sequences are creatively evocative of what Orphan Black is, but some of us at least (me!) need to have watched some episodes in to realize how very well they emerge out of the show itself.  The kaleidoscope design is clean, sophisticated, yet lush and gorgeous as are the molecular divisions that are the foundation of life and creation.

There are the issues of nurture vs. nature, as Sarah herself keeps bringing up in connection with assassin Helena, her twin.  Alison too, contrasting her mother with Sarah's foster mother.

Where the series tends to fall down to a degree, is with the obligatory sex-romance relationships, especially Sarah's -- as if the writers and even Sarah herself, aren't really interested -- as Sarah uses sex to distract one lover - minder from getting too close. The clones, like the writers, seem vastly interested in the young women's other kinds of relationships, including discovery of their own identities, and what it means to be part of a clone cluster.  Of which, then, I approve because I, as a viewer, agree.  It's as if they are on a trajectory to not make the errors of two other recent identity series which failed miserably: Dollhouse and Ringer.

Some of us may be a bit disappointed that the central fact of identity here, in this women centered series, is motherhood -- where do I come from?  I'm not among them, because there are still so many people who identify women, and value them only with their reproduction capacity. As in the days of slavery, for instance, no matter how skilled a woman was, her real value was how many children she could produce, i.e how fast and how much she could increase by her 'natural increase' her owner's wealth.  Here we are confronting the potential, maybe probability of a new neo-slavery for women and their natural or unnatural increase, their genetic material, owned in perpetuity by the corporation that manufactured their existence for its own purposes, financial and beyond.  These are basic issues of contemporary bio-ethics.

Alas we're in culture that laughs at the very idea of ethics. This bodes very badly for women, children, animals, plants and the planet.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Testosterone Poison: Hell on Wheels + Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series + Hatari!

Hell On Wheels, season 2, concludes with with hoary cliche:  Girl Kisses Guy; Girl Dies.

So the blonde widow and our anti-hero Protagonist on his way to Redemption, after hot-eyeing each other for most of two seasons, get it on.  More, they are in love! She's killed by a religious nutwinger -- a Lutheran Swede, no less, who also hoped to be Angel of Death for the Souix as a White Indian.  She was killed because she was evil slut -- or really, to punish Our Protagonist whose wife and children were killed in the Waw by Union soldiers -- or, more likely, just because he wanted to, because he's a crazy Swede on the prairie.
Actually, the love interest was fridged* to keep Protagonist free of those pesky inconvenient to plot attachments (particularly if attachment be female, because, as you know bhob, We Have No Idea What To Do With A Female except to make her be evile, holy, pregnant and / or a whore) and to provide yet another round of Hunt For Evile Bastards Who Killed My Wife - Mistress - Love of My Life, i.e. story = quest-movement.  How non-creative and lazy writing is that?  Plus Hell on Wheels bites continually from Deadwood in every way, including the music -- not original at all.

Starting with the confederate anti-hero protagonist, with whom we're to identify.
This whole set-up is so manufactured as opposed to growing out real history. And even worse, the characters are always leaving and then they're back!  Again!  And again!  And yet again!  How much failure of imagination can you have in a room of writers?

Though I don't find a lot of good in Hell on Wheels, it does have magnificent landscape shots, some of which are as poetical as anything Terrence Malick did in Days of Heaven. I always get a jolt of delight from scene in which the horses are left to themselves in the lush (Canadian) prairie grass,  while their riders posture and bluster at each other, and plunge ear deep into the delicious stuff, biting and chewing, tails swishing, the very picture of contented equines. And -- it is a western. I do like a good western.

Last couple of weeks my workouts have been accomplished to the audio accompaniment of  Philip Kerr's first Bernie Gunther novel, March Violets (1989), set in 1936 Berlin. Under cover of cynicism (which is certainly a plausible characteristic of a Berliner with a brain during those eras) Bernie despises everyone, particularly gay people and women, interrupted by brief hiatuses when his dick runs him, and when it is over he humiliates the gorgeous female too, because she deserves it.

As well, these attitudes come through as the author's deliberate choices,rather than rising organically from the narrative. Instead they rise organically out of the author's sense of superiority as self-identified with his first person protagonist narrator.

A naked demonstration of plot as men waving their dicks in each others' faces for no reason at all, is the Howard Hawks - John Wayne movie, Hatari, big game trappers.  In the course of the opening scenes, they beat down a rhino in their jeep, followed by a new guy entering a room, and all the men within seconds insult each other and start swinging.  And the girl? What else can writers do with a girl in a John Wayne movie, even if she's Elsa Martinelli?

Testosterone poisoning!  Like Hell On Wheels (and so many more such as the relentlessly ugly masculine grey Boss), the Bernie Gunther Berliner private dick series, this movie is suffocating in the Sea of Testosterone -- and the writers have no idea what to do with women if they aren't being f&cked, f&cked up, f&cked over, or killed


* Or could it have been the actress, tired of having nothing to do on this series except quiver posture weakly, decided to move on?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Low Winter Sun -- Another Form of Disaster Capitalism Looting Our Cities

What David Simon wrought -- not that he is to be blamed, for he burned with the holy fire of first-hand, personal outrage. With The Wire and Treme  He cared, he cares passionately, he cared, some might say too much. His templates have been taken over by others, who are not interested in the horror of corrupted morality but in all the sensationalism they can squeeze out of it, the cheap thrill of seeing people behave really badly without consequences -- the expected privilege of  ever-growing numbers -- because, why not?
A dark story in a city falling in on itself might present some audience problems, but Mr. Stillerman noted that the show was opening immediately following the final season premiere of “Breaking Bad,” which has thrived on exploring human pathology.
But now our cities destroyed by neglect and design are golden opportunities for looting and pillaging via showrunner career-building opportunism on all fronts, as this New York Times article on the AMC premiere of Low Winter Sun  * tell us, though perhaps not by design. In order that we don't miss the opportunism here, one of the characters is played by David Costabile, who was in the cast of both The Wire and Breaking Bad.  Additionally, a thug is played by Jay Ransone from The Wire's second season, and who also appeared in a season of Treme ( and Simon's Generation Kill too; at least the actors are getting work, even if the residents of the cities where the series are shot aren't. That's something.) This is about men doing bad things to each other. Surely they do bad things to women, children, animals and plants as well, but women and how they hold things together as best they can when the men don't bother will not be the focus. The focus is Men, choking within their claustrophobic manufactured atmosphere of testosterone poison.

The show is closely focused on Agnew and his partner, Joe Geddes (Lennie James), two homicide cops who commit that signature crime on a deeply crooked fellow detective and then spend time trying to unsolve the crime.
To be sure we don't miss this is about the baddest, meanest, ugliest men in a city, the article is titled "Broken Men, Broken Place."  Besides the adored Albuquerque's Breaking Bad, another recent television series example of this relentless miserable, masculine grey  bleakness of corruption which so often is mistaken for depth and gravity, was Chicago's Boss. One feels confident of what to expect without seeing it first. This isn't a comment on whether the series will be good bad or indifferent, just what the series is planned to be. 

There's no mistaking the relationship between what has happened in New Orleans, and continues to happen, with what is going on with Detroit, as this same New Orleans blogger describes here.  The 'best' of New Orleans is Disney World tacky faux -- the rest can go to hell until they get out and leave it all safe and easy for the corporate looters.  Even the schools and hospitals, ever our first targets in dismantling a decent culture and economy that serves the whole community, not merely the oligarchy of plutocrats.

But it's all service economy now: all the rest of us live to serve the rich, and are to be grated for it.  Mayor Billionaire didn't even bother to disguise telling us so.
"You know, the yelling and screaming about the rich - we want rich from around this country to move here. We love the rich people," he said on his WOR-AM radio show.
"People say, 'Oh, well, you know, if the income were redistributed throughout the system more fairly,' " Bloomberg continued.
"I don't know what fair means. You can argue that if you make more money, you deserve more money."
Rich people generate jobs and taxes with the expensive things they buy and the fancy restaurants where they eat, Bloomberg said - but they aren't making much money as the stock market collapses, and raising taxes on them will just drive them away.
The stock market is having record profits, Mayor Mikey, and we all know it. But that's how much contempt you have for us: you lie to our faces and tell us to suck up your lies. You can't even quite control the laughing in our faces as you pronounced that the only jobs the rest of us can ever expect is servicing the wealthy for less than a living wage, while be taxed at a vastly higher rate, while receiving nothing in return in terms of education, health care or food and home.

Recall, how it was in the glorious days of the ancíen régime, when in France all work was in service to the wealthy, such as lace making (which was one of the businesses controlled by the king)?  You ruined your eyes and your general health, while malnourished and ill-housed, making the rivers of lace that festooned the aristocracy, lace you never wore for you could not afford decent food, much less the luxury product you created, and when you couldn't make it any longer, you were out of a job, left to your own devices to die hopefully sooner and quietly, rather than later, making another burden on the overburdened  malnourished country to dispose of a diseased stinking body.

This, folks, is the economy to which we are returning, at ever accelerating pace, as the global plutocratic oligarchy gobbles everything that generates value.

But in the meantime we have the bread-and-circuses thrill of progressive degradation to make up the loss of our future, all while expressing ourselves in baby talk, pretending to be other creatures, anything other than adult human beings confronting our too terrible to admit realities.

* One does rather expect, that with such a stupid, impossible to remember title, Low Dark Sun  -- ooops! Low -- what it is it? look it up again --  Winter -- Winter! Sun will not go on for long.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

N.B. F. -- Slave Trader, Butcher of Fort Pillow, KKK Grand Wizard

Yesterday, the FB Papers yielded a folder of correspondence between FB and a Memphis lawyer, a close, personal, life-long friend of Forrest, since they were five-year-old boys.

FB asked his correspondent many questions about Forrest the slave trader.  It went fine for a few exchanges, though from the beginning the lawyer objected to FB's interest in Forrest's slave trading.  It was unfair and ungentlemanly to bring up what this man had overcome by his own bootstraps (nevermind that his bootstraps was getting rich by selling human beings -- and by all accounts, perhaps due to his horrid temper, cruelty to his possessions).  Morever this man was in every respect an excellent citizen and valued member of his community.  But soon the correspondence closed acrimoniously on the lawyer's side and snarkily on FB's, over the KKK and Fort Pillow. The lawyer, however, did, no matter how reluctantly, confirm that FB was correct in the details of Forrest the slave trader, right down to the description of where, and how and why he lynched African Americans who earned his fiery ire.

Interesting, that PBS's Antique's Road Show doesn't see slave trading as a stain upon the man's character.* It's not even mentioned. However, Antiques Road Show decrees:
The reputation of General Forrest, under whom Ellen's great-grandfather served during the latter half of the war, has come to be defined by two infamous, yet brief, chapters in his life: his controversial assault on the Union-held Fort Pillow in 1864; and his post-war involvement with the first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan. So closely is Forrest's name associated with the Klan, in fact, that he is sometimes incorrectly referred to as its founder. If not for these two black marks on his reputation, the ribbons and regalia appraised by Christopher Mitchell at around $10,000 would undoubtedly be quite a bit more valuable. 
It was fairly exciting to run into this sequence of letters.  The whole folder is filled with FB's research correspondence with southerners who were there for it all: the trade, the auctions, the owners, the overseers, the emancipated and participants in the Civil War.

Bruin's Slave Jail
The letter that perhaps most spoke to me, wasn't a letter at all, but an interview FB conducted with a now elderly gentleman in New Orleans, who gave an account of his progressive sales, first from his original Virginia plantation owner, sold again in Richmond, the journey by sea around the Gulf to New Orleans, sale to the jail on Esplanade, to a brick yard owner, and from the owner to his brother-in-law, the whippings, the treatment and all of it, until Emancipation.  There was not a single ray of golden glow to be found in this terrible tale, repeated countless times by numberless people.

But then -- that's what Frederick Bancroft was doing: he was putting numbers to the centuries of this economic system, the numbers of human beings, not the number of sacks of cotton their hands could fill in a single hour.


*  Another instance that demonstrates television, like movies, is absolutely unreliable when it comes to historical truth, accuracy or facts.  Or as el V's put it in The Year Before the Flood: "Movies told me lies, music told me the truth."