Sunday, July 31, 2011

Barack Hussein Buchanan


The first-term Democratic president faced a dilemma. A radicalized political faction had threatened to wreck the whole nation if he did not accede to its surrender-or-else political demands.

Facing a choice between the merely catastrophic and Armageddon, the president caved. Political terrorism had triumphed.

Barack Obama vs. the Tea Party in the 2011 debt-limit crisis?

No, James Buchanan vs. the Southern secessionists, 1857. The Kansas Territory had just, in a sham vote by a small band of hoodlums, approved a pro-slavery constitution in defiance of the president's demands for a free, fair and representative political process.

Here's how Columbia University history professor Allan Nevins described the scene in the August 1956 issue of
American Heritage:

For a brief space in the spring of 1857 Buchanan seemed to stand firm. In his instructions to Governor Walker he engaged that the new constitution would be laid before the people: and “they must be protected in the exercise of their right of voting for or against that instrument, and the lair expression of the popular will must not be interrupted by fraud or violence.”

It is not strange that the rash proslavery gamesters in Kansas prosecuted their designs despite all Buchanan’s lair words and Walker’s desperate efforts to stay them. They knew that with four fifths of the people already against them, and the odds growing greater every year, only bra/en trickery could effect their end. They were aware that the South, which believed that a fair division would give Kansas to slavery and Nebraska to freedom, expected them to stand firm. They were egged on by the two reckless southern Cabinet members, Howell Cobb and Thompson, who sent an agent, H. L. Martin of Mississippi, out to the Kansas convention. This gathering in Lecompton, with 48 of the 60 members hailing from slave states, was the shabbiest conclave of its kind ever held on American soil. One of Buchanan’s Kansas correspondents wrote that he had not supposed such a wild set could be found. The Kansas News termed them a body of “broken-down political hacks, demagogues, fire-eaters, perjurers, ruffians, ballot-box stuffers, and loafers.” But before it broke up with the shout, “Now, boys, let’s come and take a drink!” it had written a constitution.

This constitution, the work of a totally unrepresentative body, was a devious repudiation of all the principles Buchanan and Douglas had laid down. Although it contained numerous controversial provisions, such as a limitation of banking to one institution and a bar against free Negroes, the main document was not to be submitted to general vote at all. A nominal reference of the great cardinal question was indeed provided. Voters might cast their ballots for the “constitution with slavery” or the “constitution without slavery.” But when closely examined this was seen to be actually a piece of chicanery. Whichever form was adopted, the 200 slaves in Kansas would remain, with a constitutional guarantee against interference. Whenever the proslavery party in Kansas could get control of the legislature, they might open the door wide for more slaves. The rigged convention had put its handiwork before the people with a rigged choice: “Heads I win, tails you lose.”

Would Buchanan lay this impudent contrivance before Congress, and ask it to vote the admission of Kansas as a state? Or would he contemptuously spurn it? An intrepid man would not have hesitated an instant to take the honest course; he would not have needed the indignant outcry of the northern press, the outraged roar of Douglas, to inspirit him. But Buchanan quailed before the storm of passion into which proslavery extremists had worked themselves.

The hot blood of the South was now up. That section, grossly misinformed upon events in Kansas, believed that it was being cheated. The northern freesoilers had vowed that no new slave state (save by a partition of Texas) should ever be admitted. Southerners thought that in pursuance of this resolve, the Yankees had made unscrupulous use of their wealth and numbers to lay hands on Kansas. Did the North think itself entitled to every piece on the board—to take Kansas as well as California, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon—to give southerners nothing? The Lecompton delegates, from this point of view, were dauntless champions of a wronged section. What if they did use sharp tactics? That was but a necessary response to northern arrogance. Jefferson Davis declared that his section trembled under a sense of insecurity. “You have made it a political war. We are on the defensive. How far are you to push us?” Sharp threats of secession and battle mingled with the southern denunciations. “Sir,” Senator Alfred Iverson of Georgia was soon to assert, “I believe that the time will come when the slave States will be compelled, in vindication of their rights, interests, and honor, to separate from the free States, and erect an independent confederacy; and I am not sure, sir, that the time is not at hand.”

Three southern members of the Cabinet, Cobb, Thompson, and John B. Floyd, had taken the measure of Buchanan’s pusillanimity. They, with one northern sympathizer, Jeremiah Black, and several White House habitués like John Slidell of Louisiana, constituted a virtual Directory exercising control over the tremulous President. They played on Buchanan’s fierce partisan hatred of Republicans, and his jealous dislike of Douglas. They played also on his legalistic cast of mind; after all, the Lecompton constitution was a legal instrument by a legal convention—outwardly. Above all, they played on his fears, his morbid sensitiveness, and his responsiveness to immediate pressures. They could do this the more easily because the threats of disruption and violence were real. Henry S. Foote, a former senator from Mississippi and an enemy of Jefferson Davis, who saw Lecompton in its true light and hurried to Washington to advise the President, writes: “It was unfortunately of no avail that these efforts to reassure Mr. Buchanan were at that time essayed by myself and others; he had already become thoroughly panic-stricken; the howlings of the bulldog of secession had fairly frightened him out of his wits, and he ingloriously resolved to yield without further resistance to the decrial and villification to which he had been so acrimoniously subjected.”

And the well-informed Washington correspondent of the New Orleans Picayune a little later told just how aggressively the Chief Executive was bludgeoned into submission: “The President was informed in November, 1857, that the States of Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina, and perhaps others, would hold conventions and secede from the Union if the Lecompton Constitution, which established slavery, should not be accepted by Congress. The reason was that these States, supposing that the South had been cheated out of Kansas, were, whether right or wrong, determined to revolt. The President believed this. Senator Hunter, of Virginia, to rny knowledge, believed it. Many other eminent men did, and perhaps not without reason.”

Buchanan, without imagination as without nerve, began to yield to this southern storm in midsummer, and by November, 1857, he was surrendering completely. When Congress met in December his message upheld the Lecompton Constitution with a tissue of false and evasive statements. Seldom in American history has a chief magistrate made a greater error, or missed a larger opportunity. The astute secretary of his predecessor, Franklin Pierce, wrote: “I had considerable hopes of Mr. Buchanan—I really thought he was a statesman—but I have now come to the settled conclusion that he is just the damndest old fool that has ever occupied the presidential chair. He has deliberately walked overboard with his eyes open—let him drown, for he must.”

As Buchanan shrank from the lists, Douglas entered them with that gaudium certaminis which was one of his greatest qualities. The finest chapters of his life, his last great contests for the Union, were opening. Obviously he would have had to act under political necessity even if deaf to principle, for had he let popular sovereignty be torn to pieces, Illinois would not have sent him back to the Senate the following year; but he was not the man to turn his back on principle. His struggle against Lecompton was an exhibition of iron determination. The drama of that battle has given it an almost unique place in the record of our party controversies. “By God, sir!” he exclaimed, “I made James Buchanan, and by God, sir, I will unmake him!” Friends told him that the southern Democrats meant to ruin him. “I have taken a through ticket,” rejoined Douglas, “and checked my baggage.” He lost no time in facing Buchanan in the White House and denouncing the Lecompton policy. When the President reminded him how Jackson had crushed two party rebels, he was ready with a stinging retort. Douglas was not to be overawed by a man he despised as a weakling. “Mr. President,” he snorted, “I wish you to remember that General Jackson is dead.”

As for the southern leaders, Douglas’ scorn for the extremists who had coerced Buchanan was unbounded. He told the Washington correspondent of the Chicago Journal that he had begun his fight as a contest against a single bad measure. But his blow at Lecompton was a blow against slavery extension, and he at once had the whole “slave power” down on him like a pack of wolves. He added: “In making the fight against this power, I was enabled to stand off and view the men with whom I had been acting; I was ashamed I had ever been caught in such company; they are a set of unprincipled demagogues, bent upon perpetuating slavery, and by the exercise of that unequal and unfair power, to control the government or break up the Union; and I intend to prevent their doing either.”

After a long, close, and acrid contest, on April i, 1858, Lecompton was defeated. A coalition of Republicans, Douglasite Democrats, and Know-Nothings struck down the fraudulent constitution in the House, 120 to 112. When the vote was announced, a wild cheer rolled through the galleries. Old Francis P. Blair, Jackson’s friend, carried the news to the dying Thomas Hart Benton, who had been intensely aroused by the crisis. Benton could barely speak, but his exultation was unbounded. “In energetic whispers,” records Blair, “he told his visitor that the same men who had sought to destroy the republic in 1850 were at the bottom of this accursed Lecompton business. Among the greatest of his consolations in dying was the consciousness that the House of Representatives had baffled these treasonable schemes and put the heels of the people on the neck of the traitors.”

The Administration covered its retreat by a hastily concocted measure, the English Bill, under which Kansas was kept waiting on the doorstep—sure in the end to enter a free state. The Kansas plotters, the CobbThompson-Floyd clique in the Cabinet, and Buchanan had all been worsted. But the damage had been done. Southern secessionists had gained fresh strength and greater boldness from their success in coercing the Administration.

The Lecompton struggle left a varied and interesting set of aftereffects. It lifted Stephen A. Douglas to a new plane; he had been a fighting Democratic strategist, but now he became a true national leader, thinking far less of party and more of country. It sharpened the issues which that summer and fall were to form the staple of the memorable Lincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois. At the same time, it deepened the schism which had been growing for some years between southern Democrats and northwestern Democrats, and helped pave the way to that disruption of the party which preceded and facilitated the disruption of the nation. It planted new seeds of dissension in Kansas—seeds which resulted in fresh conflicts between Kansas free-soilers or jayhawkers on one side and Missouri invaders or border ruffians on the other, and in a spirit of border lawlessness which was to give the Civil War some of its darkest pages. The Lecompton battle discredited Buchanan in the eyes of most decent northerners, strengthened southern conviction of his weakness, and left the Administration materially and morally weaker in dealing with the problems of the next two and a half critical years.

For the full measure of Buchanan’s failure, however, we must go deeper. Had he shown the courage that to an Adams, a Jackson, a Polk, or a Cleveland would have been second nature, the courage that springs from a deep integrity, he might have done the republic an immeasurable service by grappling with disunion when it was yet weak and unprepared. Ex-Senator Foote wrote later that he knew well that a scheme for destroying the Union “had long been on foot in the South.” He knew that its leaders “were only waiting for the enfeebling of the Democratic Party in the North, and the general triumph of Free-soilism as a consequence thereof, to alarm the whole South into acquiescence in their policy.” Buchanan’s support of the unwise and corrupt Lecompton constitution thus played into the plotters’ hands.

The same view was taken yet more emphatically by Douglas. He had inside information in 1857, he later told the Senate, that four states were threatening Buchanan with secession. Had that threat been met in the right Jacksonian spirit, had the bluff been called—for the four states were unprepared for secession and war—the leaders of the movement would have been utterly discredited. Their conspiracy would have collapsed, and they would have been so routed and humiliated in 1857 that the Democratic party schism in 1860 might never have taken place, and if it had, secession in 1861 would have been impossible.


BAD THINGS HAPPEN when American presidents get bullied by political extremists up to no good.

For good reason, the U.S. government, as a matter of policy, refuses to negotiate with terrorists, much less acquiesce to their demands. The theory behind that is as simple as it is obvious -- if terrorists' extortionist tactics prove successful, they'll keep doing what works.

Give us what we want, or the little lady . . . the children in the schoolhouse . . . the jetliner full of passengers . . . the hostages in the American embassy . . . the city of New York . . . the economy and government of the United States of America gets it.

Look where caving into the politics of extortion led us a century and a half ago. Over the past day, several national commentators have rightly noted the bloody obvious -- it's back. They have stared the obvious in the face and acknowledged what cannot be denied, that President Obama's monumental collapse in the face of legislative terrorism will lead to the repeated use of a tactic as effective as it is despicable.

If it's true that war "is the continuation of politics by other means," the safety is now off.

We suspect we now are a nation as divided as we've been since 1861. We know what happened then and how we got there. Historians look at James Buchanan's actions, and inaction, in the runup to the Civil War and proclaim him one of the worst presidents in American history -- likely the worst.

SO . . . what do we do? Naturally, we do exactly as Buchanan did.

You do know what the definition of insanity is, right?

Friday, July 29, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Music. End. Wits.


In a democracy, we generally get the government we deserve.

Now look at what's going on in Washington, D.C., right now and be afraid. Be very afraid.

As Congress lurches toward Debtpocalyse and we lurch toward the poorhouse, we find the American empire lurching toward an end. And as I reflect on these years of doing 3 Chords & the Truth, it occurred to me that the Big Show is what historians call "primary source material."

In other words, future generations could pull up these things called "MP3s" of the program, cobble together something to read such an obsolete format, and then get an idea of how we reacted to the mayhem around us.

How we dealt with decline and "interesting times."


MAYBE they'll listen to this episode of 3 Chords & the Truth and tag it "Music for the End of Their Wits." Heck, I'll beat those future historians and archaeologists to it. I'll call this episode of the Big Show "Music for the End of Our Wits."

I know, looking at the news every day, I'm at the end of mine -- and I'll bet you're near the end of yours, too.

So, this week's episode of the Big Show will feature exactly that -- music for the end of our wits.

My first take on it was "the Hair-Pullin', Teeth-Gnashin', Congressional Debt-Limitin' Blues," but I think the present title is much more elegant.

And that's the deal with the Big Show this week. Venting through music, and then some sweet jazz to calm us down.

AFTER ALL, we're going to need all the serenity we can muster for the foreseeable future.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Headline of the year

I'm thinking up tons of dirty jokes and bon mots right now. Unfortunately, I can't use any of them.

I'll bet Channel 8 in New Orleans posted this item using Internet Explorer 6.

Look away, look away, look away, Teabagland


You know what John Boehner's problem is in getting his debt-ceiling bill through the U.S. House? Pell Grants.

Tea Party lunatic leges are furious, saying there's too much money set aside for helping poor kids attend college. Pell Grants, to a certain subset of the Republican Party, are this decade's "welfare Cadillac."

Now we know why the speaker of the House often needs a drink and a smoke.

Me, I'm pretty much just speechless. This takes some doing, and the Tea Party jihadists just did it.

I'll merely say the whole thing
really reminds me of this.


I'M TURNING it over to The Hill newspaper now:
Legislation crafted by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to raise the debt limit by $900 billion would directly appropriate $9 billion for Pell Grants in 2012 and another $8 billion in 2013.

This has shocked some conservative House freshmen who say they were elected to cut spending, not increase it. Some House Republicans think of it as being akin to welfare.

“I really don’t understand why we’re increasing spending in a bill supposed to be cutting spending,” said Rep. Andy Harris, a freshman Republican from Maryland. “It was negotiated without the input of a lot of members.”

Harris has indicated to The Baltimore Sun that he will vote no.

House Republican leaders say they included concessions to Democrats in efforts to forge a compromise that could pass both chambers.

(snip)

The inclusion of the extra money for Pell Grants could cost Republican votes.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) has compared Pell Grants to “welfare”.

"So you can go to college on Pell Grants — maybe I should not be telling anybody this because it’s turning out to be the welfare of the 21st century," Rehberg told Blog Talk Radio in April. "You can go to school, collect your Pell Grants, get food stamps, low-income energy assistance, Section 8 housing, and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people that don’t have to graduate from college.”
DEAR LORD, we humbly beseech Thee . . . HELLLLLLLLP!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

From the More $$$ Than Sense department. . . .


Never, ever pay $999,900 for a creepy mask of some notorious person whose name we won't remember in 20 years. And whose name I won't mention now.

Given the way things are going in Washington, I'd think you'd want to place that kind of money in a safe place, not on a gigantic bet that fools bigger than oneself will have money from which they can be parted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Death by irony


Just in to the newsroom, this important message for all Louisianians living south of Baton Rouge.

Move.

This was made necessary by a bit of mutual exclusivity not easily grasped in a state where lots and lots of people don't even make it through high school -- a state unusually dependent on the kindness of strangers that tends to go whole-hog for politicians who just aren't all that generous. In 2010, Louisiana voters turned out whole-hog for whole-hog.


Now their congressmen are part of the charge to pauperize Uncle Sam by cutting up his credit cards, which House Republicans already had been hiding from him. All this has left the Whole-Hog State -- the one with the vanishing coastline and hurricane-ravaged city -- doing its Blanche DuBois routine to a fusillade of rotten tomatoes and tea bags.


WVUE television reports from New Orleans:
Near the heart of the city, where a cypress forest once thrived, a visitor will find only skeletal remains-- the trunks of hundreds of dead trees jutting from the water bottom like tombstones.

The central wetlands of New Orleans' lower ninth ward are dead, but only miles away the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built some of the world's most elaborate flood defenses.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Washington lavished $14 billion dollars on Greater New Orleans-- new flood walls, levees, barriers and storm gates designed to provide the city 100-year storm protection.

Four years ago, Congress also authorized $6-$8 billion in coastal restoration projects, only to leave the projects unfunded dreams on paper.

"Leaving folks in a vulnerable situation is simply not an option," said Garret Graves, Chairman of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Twice in the month of July, Congress has shot down money aimed at rebuilding Louisiana's coastline.

First, the House rejected $36 million in restoration money that had been included in President Barack Obama's original budget proposal.

Then, last Thursday, a Senate Committee debated a proposal to grant Louisiana and other coastal states 37.5% of royalties from offshore oil and gas wells in federal waters.

The plan never came up for a vote after supporters, realizing they lacked the required votes for passage, bolted the room and denied the committee a quorum.

"All we're asking for is our fair share," said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal at a gathering last week in Thibodaux, where he announced a series of small projects designed to bridge some of the funding gap.
WELL, BOBBY, the Tea Party manufactured a debt crisis, and now Washington is throwing your "fair share" into the rising waters. They can't help themselves -- it's what lunatics do, with the full support of yourself and most of your subjects constituents.

So, is Bobby Jindal
that cynical, or is he the dumbest Brown graduate ever?

Now excuse me while I explain to the Louisiana electorate that the last sentence was referencing Jindal's alma mater and not his skin color.
Natural selection, you see, is a bitch.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The tea du jour is hemlock

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


It's official. I am nostalgic for the Carter Administration.

You have to go back about that far to find someone -- in this case, then-National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski -- who can quickly cut to the chase in calling out the tea-party insanity gripping Washington . . . and the laissez-faire raping of the poor and middle class that we now mistake for mainstream Americanism.

And he does so brilliantly (with agreement from conservative Republican Joe Scarborough) on MSNBC's Morning Joe, as seen above.

This, as reported elsewhere on MSNBC, is the kind of society in which we now live, and which Brzezinski rightfully decries:
As Congress and the White House wrestle whether to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans, a new analysis of Census data shows that the wealth gaps between whites and blacks and Hispanics widened dramatically during the recession.

The analysis by the Pew Research Center, released on Tuesday, found that from 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth fell 66 percent among Hispanic households and 53 percent a
mong black households, compared with a 16 percent decline among white households.

Those declines increased the wealth gap between white and minority households to the largest since the census began collecting such data in 1984. The ratio of wealth for whites to blacks, for instance, is now roughly 20 to 1, compared to 12 to 1 in the first survey 25 years ago and 7 to 1 in 1995, when a booming economy lifted many low-income Americans into the middle class
.

The wealth ratio for whites to Hispanics was 18 to 1 in 2009, also up from 7 to 1 in 1995, the Pew analysis found.

The declines from the recession left the median black household with $5,677 in wealth (assets minus debts, where assets include items like a car, a home, savings, retirement funds, etc.) and
the typical Hispanic household with $6,325. White households, by comparison, had $113,149, the study found.

Sliced another way, the data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), showed that 35 percent of black households and 31 percent of Hispanic households had zero or negative net worth in 2009. The comparable rate for white households was 15 percent.

The SIPP income questionnaire is considered to provide the most comprehensive snapshot of household wealth by race and ethnicity.
THE REMEDY for this kind of inequity -- obviously -- would be as complex as it would be elusive and drawn out.

Failure to pursue a remedy, however, is to put our seal of approval on a society not of free men and women but, instead, one of haves and have-nots -- of masters and serfs.

Tea Party America not only chooses not to endorse a society where the downtrodden are lifted up, but also abjectly repudiates Jesus' injunction that "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

Let me put it thus: What part of Matthew 25 don't these so-called "God and country" types get?

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: 32 and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

IF THIS, for individuals, is a non-negotiable condition for avoiding eternal hellfire, why then would it be any less binding upon communities of individuals -- the context in which we either do what we're told . . . or don't?

Are not nations judged just as readily as men? Is not the Bible of America's "God and country" crowd -- which is the same one upon which members of Congress take their oaths of office -- replete with the sad fates of nations tried and found wanting by the Almighty?

Did not President Lincoln -- a Republican, by the way -- believe the Civil War to be a divine judgment upon this land for the abomination of slavery?

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it. While the inaugeral [sic] address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissole [sic] the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."

ONCE AGAIN, we are becoming a society of master and slave, though we haven't the stomach to call it what it is. In this, we have one political party that cheers on this abomination -- some within it more heartily than others -- and another so compromised by "do what thou wilt" as to be morally and politically self-neutering.

It is in this context that we have the congressional spectacle so aptly described Monday night on CNN by Democratic strategist James Carville:
"The Democrats ... keep trying to surrender. They're saying, 'We'll cut Social Security, we'll cut Medicare, we'll cut Medicaid, we'll give you a plan that doesn't have any tax increases,' ... and (Republicans) keep rejecting it. This thing is a rout. The Republicans are winning this thing in a rout in terms of getting what they want.

"And poor Speaker Boehner came up with a plan today, and ... the Tea Party didn't even want that. So I think that you can't negotiate if one side is not interested in negotiating. This is like Napoleon and Moscow in 1812. 'I don't want to negotiate. There's nothing to talk about here.' So I don't know where this is going to end up. Maybe the Democrats can find somebody to take the white flag. So far, they haven't been able to do it."

WHY AM I not surprised?

And why am I not surprised that America's original sin comes back to haunt us in slightly altered form, or that we're so willing to accommodate it and perpetuate it for the love of money -- another Top-7 smash hit on the cardinal-sin survey?

Don't you be surprised if our love of money above all else -- especially social justice and human dignity -- takes away what we have left of it, through the actions of the self-styled "God's Official Party."

Judgment's not only a bitch -- assuming now be its moment -- it's also exquisitely ironic.

Dear kids: Die. Love, the Tea Party


You know, if poor kids had had the decency to stay in their mamas' wombs, conservative Republicans at least could have pretended that their lives had some value.

Now feeding them costs federal dollars that otherwise could be living the high life in rich men's bank accounts. That kind of foolishness will have to stop.

Nothing to see here in this story from
Channel 7 in Omaha. Nothing to consider as tea-party extortionists conspire to blow up the whole government to gain the right to budget-cut the food out of underprivileged kids' mouths.
About 55,000 children in Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie counties qualify for free and reduced school lunches. Now that school is out, those lunches are served in parks where program organizers were overwhelmed with attendance.

The Salvation Army’s Kids Cruzin Kitchen is expected to feed about 350 children per week. Instead, in some cases, they’re seeing 1,000. So far, the kitchen has fed more than 4,000 children.

For 14-year-old Katie Glessman, sometimes a free meal is the only meal.

“I like it because sometimes my mom can't afford to buy food,” Glessman said.

Glessman and her friends who usually eat lunch at school said getting food in the summer can be a struggle.

“You have to figure out how to cook something or just go without,” Glessman said.
AMERICA IS a country with plenty enough money for guns all around the world. Certain factions in Washington, taking advantage of the deadened conscience of a country given over to mammon, want to make sure there's damned little in the piggy bank for butter.

Or bread.

Or Medicaid.

Or Medicare.

Or Social Security.

Or poor children who have survived long enough to emerge from the womb and begin to trouble their betters.

IT MAY BE little comfort for "the least of these" in the short term, but in the long term, we can be sure of at least one thing.

God don't sleep. And vengeance is His.

Countdown to clusterf***

"Reasonable people, once they've looked the devil in the face, aren't going to shake hands with him."

It was a day of legislative chess moves, back-to-back party caucuses and closed-door meetings that ended with a nationally televised presidential address and a rebuttal by the House speaker, John A. Boehner. Their separate speeches reflected that the two sides are farther apart than ever — just a week ago, the two men were in private negotiations on a “grand bargain” of spending cuts and additional revenue, what Mr. Obama called “a balanced approach.”

“The only reason this balanced approach isn’t on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a different approach, a cuts-only approach — an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all,” Mr. Obama said in his address. “And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scales, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about — cuts that place a greater burden on working families.”

Even as he sought to set Republicans up for blame for any crisis, Mr. Obama offered assurance that a crisis would be averted. He called on Americans to contact their lawmakers in support of a compromise. “We would risk sparking a deep economic crisis — this one caused almost entirely by Washington,” he said. “Defaulting on our obligations is a reckless and irresponsible outcome to this debate.”

In response to Mr. Obama, Mr. Boehner said: “The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. That is just not going to happen.”

NUCLEAR WAR . . . civil war by the usual means . . . civil war by extraordinary means . . . self-induced economic collapse . . . it's all the same, isn't it? Fools wielding great power amid this vale of tears, with predictable results.

A reasonable person, having looked the devil in the face, and seeing a serpent, wouldn't have eaten that apple against the Creator's direct orders. But Adam and Eve did, and we haven't gotten any more reasonable since The Fall.

May God have mercy on us, because our children will not.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Draper wept


It takes a real douche to come up with an advertising campaign like this.

Pundits have commented on the cultural insensitivity of these Summer's Eve ads but, frankly, I was too focused of the tawdriness of it all to even start thinking about racial and ethnic stereotyping. Sorry, couldn't get past the EWWWW!

And then there's this one. . . .



TRUST ME, if the missus for a second thought the only thing I saw in her was her V, I'd quickly be missing a P. Unfortunately, Western popular culture -- and the advertising subset thereof -- has staked everything on enough consumers, male and female, buying into The Big Sexist Lie for lots of its purveyors to make a tidy profit.

Which they are.


AFTER ALL, before there was "Hail to the V," we had years of "Hail to the D."

And when you take your hailing of the V and add your obsession with the D, what possibly could go wrong for society?

Friday, July 22, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Debtpocalypse Now


Call me Nero -- I don't care.

Yes, the tea party is nuts, and insanity is totally a contagious thing in Washington.

Yes, because of this -- and because of America's political dysfunction being turned up to 11 -- we have become the Dysfunctional States of America.

Yes, we're pretty much screwed, and we're sitting here in the studio waiting on Debtpocalypse Now.

And, yes, we at 3 Chords & the Truth are going to -- so to speak -- fiddle while Washington burns. What the hell else are we supposed to do?


APART, of course, from sending the cast of Swamp People to the District and having them set lines all around the Capitol, baiting the hooks with $100 bills.

Unfortunately, we here at the Big Show have no sway over Louisiana alligator hunters (And that John Boehner kinda looks like a "tree shaker," doesn't he?) despite having hailed from the Gret Stet. So there we are, back at Square One.

With the music . . . and you.

And we're just going to have to make the best of it, cheering ourselves up with some excellent tunage. It's the American Way.

Or something.

SO I'M rosining up the bow, boys, and we'll march off to the poor house with a song in our hearts. And with the swampers doing that voodoo that they do among the reptiles on Capitol Hill.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

When radio was an art form


Computer chips are boring square blocks with a porcupine fetish.

Transistors are little blocks of plastic, metal and minerals.

Vacuum tubes are Dale Chihuly masterpieces of glass and wonder. The older they are, the more spectacular, these little jars of fire and light that bring the world wondrous sounds.


I WAS THINKING about that after our little video demonstration Wednesday of my 1928 Radiola 18 console. Really, that radio is so old, it was made when RCA was an American company.

A big American company at the forefront of an exciting modern world of sound . . . and eventually sight.

Magic waves flying through the ether.

An entire world flooding your parlor at the flick of a switch.

It was the birth of the first "golden age" of mass entertainment. The birth of the "network." The birth of a truly mass culture.


THIS OLD Radiola represents an age of technology that looked a lot more like art. It represents an age, too, where life was more Chihuly and less commodity.


I WAS born into the last echoes of that age -- the age of wooden cabinets and shiny metal trim and tail fins. The age of RCA and Zenith and Philco and Silvertone. The age of flying by the seat of your pants and artistic statements.

The age where radios meant a warm, orange glow in a darkened room, a certain "ethereal" aroma and friendly voices from far away on a summer's night.

I was born into the age of vacuum tubes. And I miss it so.

First, you choot 'em. Then you make a roux.


If Julia Child weren't already dead, she'd have to kill herself in protest.

Why?

That Swamp People cookbook that master alligator hunter Troy Landry is writing. I could lapse into full snark mode at this juncture, but decided to leave that to TMZ. You know, the website that causes serious journalists to kill themselves in protest.

According to Landry -- the guy who basically cooks everything on the show -- SEVERAL publishers have already approached him about a book deal since "SP" premiered last year ... but he's still weighing his options.

Landry tells us, he's currently compiling a master list of all his recipes -- which includes his most famous dish called "Nutria Sauce Piquante" ... a gumbo made from a semiaquatic rodent called a nutria ... basically an over-sized rat.
DEM TMZ PEOPLE horrified at dem "rodent stew," cher.

Meanwhile, Louisiana chef John Folse is set to kill himself in protest of TMZ's failure to appreciate the difference between gumbo and sauce piquante. Me, I'm just wondering why it's OK for Hollywood people to wear extremely expensive coats made of rat pelts (a.k.a., nutria and mink) but it's not OK to eat what's left after you skin it.

That's what you call a conundrum. What's not a conundrum is knowing what the first step will be in each of Mr. Landry's recipes.

"CHOOT 'EM! CHOOT 'EM!"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dancing the Charleston to heavy metal


When this radio was new, Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States.

The Jazz Age was in full swing.

Flappers were flapping in speakeasies, and everybody was swilling bathtub gin. Wall Street was still flying high, and brother most certainly could spare a dime.

Not that you'd need him to.
Yet.

This is an RCA Radiola 18, most likely in a custom cabinet. This is what you call heavy metal.

If you love vacuum tubes, this is your radio. See the big tube in the back? That's the rectifier, and it appears to be original to the set, manufactured sometime between summer 1927 and 1929. It's one of the earliest radio sets to run on "lamp current" --
that's 120 volts AC to you and me.

IN 1927, the norm was for your home radio (assuming you could afford one) to operate off of a couple of batteries -- one of them a big wet-cell not so different from what's under the hood of your car. That changed with the Radiola 17 and Radiola 18.

In 2011, this Radiola 18 still works just fine. A little arthritic, maybe . . . but aren't we all?

If you're not duly impressed
(and I add that, as far as I know, this old girl has never been restored), let me ask you something.

Do you think your iPod will still be functional in 2095?

Do you think you will?

Philco, my Philco


Seven decades ago this summer, Philco rolled out the new radios for the 1942 model year.

This was one of them.

Oh, the things it's heard -- Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt, D-Day, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, peace, war again, the space race and everything from swing to rock.

And 70 years later, it still has its antenna perked . . . listening for the next big thing. For it endures.

Let's see how your iPod's faring in 2081.

Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.



UPDATE: OK, here's a fancy, studio-ish photo of the old girl, taken just a while ago for your further edification.

Ode to a heat index

Glibby gloop gloopy Nibby Nabby Noopy
La La La Lo Lo
Sabba Sibby Sabba Nooby abba Nabba
Le Le Lo Lo
Tooby ooby walla nooby abba nabba
Just another heat-stroke song

-- Apologies to 'Hair'
. . . and Oliver, too

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Well, it's OK if you like big towns

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


So, the Today show thinks a one-man town in Wyoming is small.

In the realm of Population: 1, however, Buford is a freakin' metropolis. It even has a skyline . . . sort of.

And it's on the dadgum
interstate highway. It has traffic. The store there is full of people pulling off I-80 for gas and sundries.

When is a town of Population: 1 not really all that small? Look at Buford, Wyo.


Unfortunately, the folks at NBC News didn't look much farther than an interstate exit . . . much less its own archives. In the NBC archives, and on the 'Net, is a 2005 piece about a one-woman town in Boyd County, Neb.


MONOWI, by God, Nebraska puts the Population: 1 back into Population: 1.

Not that you can tell that -- again -- to them slicksters in
New York City.


READ that last sentence like this.

Not exactly a tree-shaker


Looky what you just might find when mowing the lawn in south Omaha.

After seeing this picture on the Nebraska Humane Society's Facebook feed, I had visions of animal-control officers struggling with the little alligator and yelling "Choot 'im! Choot 'im, Elizabeth! Choot 'im!"


ALAS, this is Nebraska and not Louisiana, we're not Swamp People, and we don't play them on the History channel, either. Besides, baby gators are cute little things and, according to the Omaha World-Herald, we seem to have a soft spot for 'em.

Once, of course, we decide we're not hallucinating in the brutal heat.

Noland, 63, spotted the alligator, still alive but lethargic, about 9 a.m. behind the Alano Club at 1523 Vinton St.

Mark Langan with the Nebraska Humane Society said the alligator was most likely a pet that got away or was set loose when it got too big.

Noland choked up and grew teary-eyed as he recalled his first glimpse of the gator. "His sad little eyes just tore me up ... It was unique. I'll never forget that little fella."

The gator's rescuer plopped him in a container of water and massaged the cool liquid into its skin.

"He was feisty once he cooled down ... He had life and his eyes sparkled up," Noland said. "He was ready to rock on somebody and I was glad to see that ... because I thought he was going to die."

AWWWWWWWWWWW. And, for God's sake, keep Troy Landry away from the little feller.



UPDATE: I blame Troy Landry for this. Somehow.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

There is no 'USA' in 'class'


"Japs"? "Pearl Harbor"? Really?

Americans rarely miss an opportunity to make profound jackasses of themselves.

The Women's World Cup ended up being no exception.

I had been thinking that Team USA's heartbreaking loss to Japan was somehow metaphorical. On the other hand, recent American history doesn't really jibe with a hard-working team that plays its heart out and loses a close one to a superior opponent.


It jibes more closely with a backbiting, infighting, hapless bunch of losers that finishes last in its NBA division.


WHEN LOSING a soccer game results in enough American jingoism, meanness and outright racism on Twitter that it all starts to "trend," you start thinking more along the lines of "bad omen," not metaphor. You also start thinking, as you let your mind start wandering to the debt standoff and the political dysfunction reigning in Washington, that probably we have the government we so richly deserve.

Politicians utterly devoid of class and eager to hurl invective (and worse) at The Other are guilty primarily of mirroring their constituents -- and American sports "fans" -- a little too closely.

I reckon the right team won the World Cup. And judging by recent history in matters small and large, the predictable country is about to lose the future.