Archive for June, 2015


The Supremes just now legitimated Arizona’s redistricting commission. Their decision allows other states to remove the power to create legislative districts from legislatures, on the ground that these bodies are too political to do the job fairly.

The political advantage to ordinary people is obvious and enormous. The practice of using independent commissions to draw legislative boundaries may mean the end of the gerrymandering that has consolidated Rethug strangleholds on conservative-leaning states like Arizona. Independent commissions may also be able to ease the grip of Rethug ownership on the United States House of Representatives and return ownership of political decision-making to ordinary citizens who vote.

This won’t happen overnight–so far only a few states have authorized the use of redistricting commissions, and most states rewrite the boundaries of voting districts only after the national census that take places every ten years (the next one will occur in 2020). But now, at least, the process of transferring this work to politically independent bodies can begin. So far the work of Arizona’s redistricting commission has been stymied over and over by legal challenges to its work made by Rethugs who want to own the place. But this bullshit will now end, thanks to RBG and her colleagues.

I haven’t had a chance to read the opinion yet, but I look forward to doing so. Ginsburg knows how to work a subtle zinger.

This has been a good few days for democracy.


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This morning I listened to a choral group sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the steps of the Supreme Court building. They were celebrating the latest decision from the court, which granted the constitutional right of marriage to gay people.

I cried, because it was a moving moment.

Yesterday the same court upheld the Affordable Care Act. Dread Justice Roberts signed on to this decision because he is principled enough to realize that the case before the court was crap. So all those millions of people who can now afford health care will continue to do so.

As a lefty I often despair about my country. But not today.

Goddess bless America.

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Sunday morning irritation:  listening to white southerners lie to TV commentators about white racism, about the southern past, about the shooter (he wasn’t from here, you know) while, behind them, black people mourn their dead in a church that has been burned to the ground and shot full of bullet holes many many times in its long history.

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I’ve been mulling over the words reportedly said by the shooter in the AME church in Charleston to the people he was about to murder:  “you are taking over our country.”

One of the people killed in that massacre was the reverend and state senator Clementa Pinckney. His last name rang a bell for me, and I’ve spent a good chunk of this morning doing research on the Pinckneys of South Carolina.

Thomas Pinckney, who was born in England in 1668, emigrated to South Carolina as a young man and was apparently first of his name in that state. He soon owned a plantation that he handed down to his sons, who expanded their holdings such that the Pinckneys became a first family in South Carolina. Pinckneys fought in the Revolutionary War;  others were governors of South Carolina and served in its legislature. Two Pinckneys were signers of the Constitution of the United States.

No small potatoes there.

The really interesting thing about my research, though, was that a Google search for “images: Pinckneys” turns up photos of black as well as white faces (try it and see for yourself). Now those of us who have read about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings are not surprised to learn that there might be black Pinckneys about.  And see also Edward Ball’s Slaves in the Family for a detailed study of the entangled lives of the black and white people who built plantations together during the early days of Southern expansion.

So I suspect that ole Tom Pinckney hisself fathered black children, and his sons no doubt carried on the family tradition. I have to speculate here, of course, because no black wives or mothers are pictured on the many many geneological websites devoted to the (white) Thomas Pinckney family history.  And I must admit that Henry Louis Gates disappointed me when he did nothing to further my suspicions about Clementa Pinckney’s heritage in his moving tribute in the Times  (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/19/opinion/henry-louis-gates-if-clementa-pinckney-had-lived.html?_r=0). But then Gates has to exercise the caution of a professional historian, whereas I am just a lonesome blogger, tapping away in the wilderness of the ethernet.  So, onward.

Some interesting stuff cropped up in my rudimentary search.  Take this fellow, for example:


This yere is Pinckney Stewart Benton Pinchback, who was the governor of Louisiana during Reconstruction. His mother was a slave. I wonder where she got his first name? Surely her careful attention to ol’ Pinckney’s given names suggests his mother’s awareness of her own ancestry–naming was one of the few ways available to slaves to keep their family histories alive. Given this, I’m guessing that by the time of Reconstruction there were black Pinckneys all over South Carolina, if not across the larger South. I’d even go so far as to bet there were Pinkneys hiding in Denmark Vesey’s church when the white citizens of Charleston came to burn it down in 1822.  Maybe there were even Pinckney cousins among the arsonists.

My point:  the killer’s assumption that the country is “ours,” meaning that it belongs to white people, is just untenable.  And he should have been taught as much in school. But of course much less attention is paid to African-American history in school than is given to white histories of early movers and shakers.

And now we have a graphic illustration of just where that sort of ignorance leaves us.

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Lindsey Effing Graham thinks the people at the AME church in Charleston were killed because they are Christians. As if the killer’s explicitly stated intention to kill black people covered over a desire to enact religious persecution. In order to say/believe such a thing, Lindsey F. Graham has to disregard the probability that the killer, if he professes religion at all, is no doubt as Christian as your average white Southerner. Which is to say, a lot. Surely even Lindsey remembers those burning crosses.

Allow me to draw an analogy from Jason Sokol’s There Goes My Everything, which is a study of how white Southerners reacted to the Civil Right movement of the ‘sixties. According to Sokol, whites simply could not believe that black people were rebelling against the virtual apartheid that whites had erected;  as the facts of the civil rights movement sunk in, many whites “were gripped with shock and fear as they gradually realized ‘their Negroes’ were no more; others denied what their senses told them, unwilling to abandon teaching of a lifetime;  still more exhibited ways of thinking that combined fragments of a romanticized past with pieces of a perceptible future” (57).

Could it be that, sixty years later, white Southerners like Graham are still in the grip of a mythology that denies the existence of white racism? Sokol observes that stereotypes die hard:  “Myths thrive on worlds of their own creation, where beliefs can persist in the face of occurrences that seem to dispel them” (63).

The confederate flag that flew at full mast (unlike the American and state flags, which were at half-mast) over the capital of South Carolina today provides stark proof of Sokol’s point, as do repeated denials by white politicians that its very purpose is to support and further white supremacy (see, for example, Mark Sanford on Chris Hayes’ show this evening).  For some truly righteous anger about this obscenity, see TaNehisi Coates, writing over at The Atlantic.

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Last night a white guy killed nine people at a church. The church houses Charleston Emanuel, which is one of the oldest AME congregations in America, founded in 1787.

According to an eyewitness, worshipers sat with this guy for several hours, trying to talk him out of the murders he contemplated. He finally told them:  “you rape our women, you’ve taken over our country, and it has to be stopped.”  Then he opened fire.

He looks to be about 19 years old in the surveillance photos.

Of course the “you rape our women” trope is as old as Mother Emanuel–older, even. During the early nineteenth-century, though, it emerged as a literal club with which to beat African and African-American men into submission. The trope is still part of the furniture of some white male minds, and is probably projection, to boot, given the regularity with which white men rape(d) black women.

You know, so-called “primitive” cultures developed mens’ houses, where boys, once they reached puberty, spent lots of time closeted with men of the tribe learning how to hunt and do men’s work and be disciplined into productive members of the group. Perhaps we should bring back men’s societies.

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Whither Weather?

Goddess but it’s hot. According to my weather app, as of now (5 am) the temp is 87 degrees.  Yesterday I drove into Tempe, and according to the thermometer on Big Red Prius, the outdoor temp was 108 degrees. And it won’t quit for awhile:  there’s a severe warm weather warning in place for the Valley of the Morlocks running from today until Sunday.  Times like this I miss Pennsyvania.

I never thought I’d praise a pope, but it has to be said:  if Francis can make a persuasive moral argument about climate change that forces the world’s one billion Catholics to pay attention, he’s on the road to sainthood in my book.

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