‘Stimulating a War Economy’




To view the original art, please travel to ‘Stimulating a War Economy’

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

We’re at war and our economy is a mess – and our leaders don’t seem to realize there is a connection between the two.  Mainstream media reports now put the cost of the war in Iraq at around $5,000 per second. That’s per second!  And unlike previous wars, there’s been no attempt to pay for at least part of this boondoggle as we go.  In fact, current leaders have gone to the opposite extreme with massive tax cuts for the rich and a pair of tax-rebate pittances for us working folk.  This week’s toon, “Stimulating a War Economy” [Archive No. 0817], pokes at this issue.

References . . .

Please Peruse Further.  An “Off the Wahl” audience widens . . .

A Pair of Interviews

In other news, I’ve recently done interviews with two print publications: 1.  my hometown newspaper, the Douglas County Empire Press, and 2.  Blend, a national magazine about student journalism.  Neither publication has an online edition, so the editors have been kind enough to let me reprint the features on the Off the Wahl Perspective Blog.  If you’re interested in reading more about the craft of editorial cartooning, or my views on politics (like you don’t get enough of that each week), you can check them out here:

Empire Press feature

Off the Wahl toons, interview featured in Empire Press

Blend magazine Q&A interview

Off the Wahl toons, interview featured in Blend Magazine

Black History: Southerners Contemplate Manual Labor

© copyright 2008 Storm Bear.  Town Called Dobson


To view the original, travel to a Town Called Dobson.  Black History: Southerners Contemplate Manual Labor

At the beginning of 1864, Lincoln made Grant commander of all Union armies. Grant made his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, and put Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in command of most of the western armies. Grant understood the concept of total war and believed, along with Lincoln and Sherman, that only the utter defeat of Confederate forces and their economic base would bring an end to the war. This was total war not in terms of killing civilians but rather in terms of destroying homes, farms and railroad tracks. Grant devised a coordinated strategy that would strike at the entire Confederacy from multiple directions: Generals George Meade and Benjamin Butler were ordered to move against Lee near Richmond; General Franz Sigel (and later Philip Sheridan) were to attack the Shenandoah Valley; General Sherman was to capture Atlanta and march to the sea (the Atlantic Ocean); Generals George Crook and William W. Averell were to operate against railroad supply lines in West Virginia; and Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks was to capture Mobile, Alabama.

Union forces in the East attempted to maneuver past Lee and fought several battles during that phase (“Grant’s Overland Campaign”) of the Eastern campaign. Grant’s battles of attrition at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor resulted in heavy Union losses, but forced Lee’s Confederates to fall back again and again. An attempt to outflank Lee from the south failed under Butler, who was trapped inside the Bermuda Hundred river bend. Grant was tenacious and, despite astonishing losses (over 65,000 casualties in seven weeks), kept pressing Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia back to Richmond. He pinned down the Confederate army in the Siege of Petersburg, where the two armies engaged in trench warfare for over nine months.

Grant finally found a commander, General Philip Sheridan, aggressive enough to prevail in the Valley Campaigns of 1864. Sheridan defeated Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early in a series of battles, including a final decisive defeat at the Battle of Cedar Creek. Sheridan then proceeded to destroy the agricultural base of the Shenandoah Valley, a strategy similar to the tactics Sherman later employed in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Sherman marched from Chattanooga to Atlanta, defeating Confederate Generals Joseph E. Johnston and John Bell Hood along the way. The fall of Atlanta, on September 2, 1864, was a significant factor in the reelection of Lincoln as president. Hood left the Atlanta area to menace Sherman’s supply lines and invade Tennessee in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign. Union Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield defeated Hood at the Battle of Franklin, and George H. Thomas dealt Hood a massive defeat at the Battle of Nashville, effectively destroying Hood’s army.

Leaving Atlanta, and his base of supplies, Sherman’s army marched with an unknown destination, laying waste to about 20% of the farms in Georgia in his “March to the Sea”. He reached the Atlantic Ocean at Savannah, Georgia in December 1864. Sherman’s army was followed by thousands of freed slaves; there were no major battles along the March. Sherman turned north through South Carolina and North Carolina to approach the Confederate Virginia lines from the south, increasing the pressure on Lee’s army.

Lee’s army, thinned by desertion and casualties, was now much smaller than Grant’s. Union forces won a decisive victory at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, forcing Lee to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond. The Confederate capital fell to the Union XXV Corps, composed of black troops. The remaining Confederate units fled west and after a defeat at Sayler’s Creek, it became clear to Robert E. Lee that continued fighting against the United States was both tactically and logistically impossible.

Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House. In an untraditional gesture and as a sign of Grant’s respect and anticipation of folding the Confederacy back into the Union with dignity and peace, Lee was permitted to keep his officer’s saber and his horse, Traveller. Johnston surrendered his troops to Sherman on April 26, 1865, in Durham, North Carolina. On June 23, 1865, at Fort Towson in the Choctaw Nations’ area of the Oklahoma Territory, Stand Watie signed a cease-fire agreement with Union representatives, becoming the last Confederate general in the field to stand down. The last Confederate naval force to surrender was the CSS Shenandoah on November 4, 1865, in Liverpool, England.

Entry into the war by Britain and France on behalf of the Confederacy would have greatly increased the South’s chances of winning independence from the Union. The Union, under Lincoln and Secretary of State William Henry Seward worked to block this, and threatened war if any country officially recognized the existence of the Confederate States of America (none ever did). In 1861, Southerners voluntarily embargoed cotton shipments, hoping to start an economic depression in Europe that would force Britain to enter the war in order to get cotton. Cotton diplomacy proved a failure as Europe had a surplus of cotton, while the 1860-62 crop failures in Europe made the North’s grain exports of critical importance. It was said that “King Corn was more powerful than King Cotton”, as US grain went from a quarter of the British import trade to almost half.

When the UK did face a cotton shortage, it was temporary, being replaced by increased cultivation in Egypt and India. Meanwhile, the war created employment for arms makers, iron workers, and British ships to transport weapons.

Charles Francis Adams proved particularly adept as minister to Britain for the Union, and Britain was reluctant to boldly challenge the Union’s blockade. The Confederacy purchased several warships from commercial ship builders in Britain. The most famous, the CSS Alabama, did considerable damage and led to serious postwar disputes. However, public opinion against slavery created a political liability for European politicians, especially in Britain. War loomed in late 1861 between the U.S. and Britain over the Trent Affair, involving the Union boarding of a British mail steamer to seize two Confederate diplomats. However, London and Washington were able to smooth over the problem after Lincoln released the two.

In 1862, the British considered mediation-though even such an offer would have risked war with the U.S. Lord Palmerston reportedly read Uncle Tom’s Cabin three times when deciding on this. The Union victory in the Battle of Antietam caused them to delay this decision. The Emancipation Proclamation further reinforced the political liability of supporting the Confederacy. Despite sympathy for the Confederacy, France’s own seizure of Mexico ultimately deterred them from war with the Union. Confederate offers late in the war to end slavery in return for diplomatic recognition were not seriously considered by London or Paris.

Since the war’s end, whether the South could have really won the war has been debated. A significant number of scholars believe that the Union held an insurmountable advantage over the Confederacy in terms of industrial strength and population. Confederate actions, they argue, could only delay defeat. This view is part of the Lost Cause historiography of the war. Southern historian Shelby Foote expressed this view succinctly in Ken Burns’s television series on the Civil War: “I think that the North fought that war with one hand behind its back…. If there had been more Southern victories, and a lot more, the North simply would have brought that other hand out from behind its back. I don’t think the South ever had a chance to win that War.” The Confederacy sought to win independence by out-lasting Lincoln. However, after Atlanta fell and Lincoln defeated McClellan in the election of 1864, the hope for a political victory for the South ended. At that point, Lincoln had succeeded in getting the support of the border states, War Democrats, emancipated slaves and Britain and France. By defeating the Democrats and McClellan, he also defeated the Copperheads and their peace platform. Lincoln had also found military leaders like Grant and Sherman who would press the Union’s numerical advantage in battle over the Confederate Armies. Generals who did not shy from bloodshed won the war, and from the end of 1864 onward there was no hope for the South.

On the other hand, James McPherson has argued that the North’s advantage in population and resources made Northern victory possible, but not inevitable. The American War of Independence and the Vietnam War are examples of wars won by the side with fewer numbers. Confederates did not need to invade and hold enemy territory in order to win, but only needed to fight a defensive war to convince the North that the cost of winning was too high. The North needed to conquer and hold vast stretches of enemy territory and defeat Confederate armies in order to win.

Also important were Lincoln’s eloquence in rationalizing the national purpose and his skill in keeping the border states committed to the Union cause. Although Lincoln’s approach to emancipation was slow, the Emancipation Proclamation was an effective use of the President’s war powers.

The more industrialized economy of the North aided in the production of arms, munitions and supplies, as well as finances, and transportation. The table shows the relative advantage of the Union over the Confederate States of America (CSA) at the start of the war. The advantages widened rapidly during the war, as the Northern economy grew, and Confederate territory shrank and its economy weakened. The Union population was 22 million and the South 9 million in 1861; the Southern population included more than 3.5 million slaves and about 5.5 million whites, thus leaving the South’s white population outnumbered by a ratio of more than four to one compared with that of the North. The disparity grew as the Union controlled more and more southern territory with garrisons, and cut off the trans-Mississippi part of the Confederacy. The Union at the start controlled over 80% of the shipyards, steamships, river boats, and the Navy. It augmented these by a massive shipbuilding program. This enabled the Union to control the river systems and to blockade the entire southern coastline. Excellent railroad links between Union cities allowed for the quick and cheap movement of troops and supplies. Transportation was much slower and more difficult in the South which was unable to augment its much smaller rail system, repair damage, or even perform routine maintenance. The failure of Davis to maintain positive and productive relationships with state governors (especially governor Joseph E. Brown of Georgia and governor Zebulon Vance of North Carolina) damaged his ability to draw on regional resources. The Confederacy’s “King Cotton” misperception of the world economy led to bad diplomacy, such as the refusal to ship cotton before the blockade started. The Emancipation Proclamation enabled African-Americans, both free blacks and escaped slaves, to join the Union Army. About 190,000 volunteered,  further enhancing the numerical advantage the Union armies enjoyed over the Confederates, who did not dare emulate the equivalent manpower source for fear of fundamentally undermining the legitimacy of slavery. Emancipated slaves fought in several key battles in the last two years of the war. European immigrants joined the Union Army in large numbers too. 23.4% of all Union soldiers were German-Americans; about 216,000 were born in Germany.

Northern leaders agreed that victory would require more than the end of fighting. It had to encompass the two war goals: Secession had to be totally repudiated, and all forms of slavery had to be eliminated. They disagreed sharply on the criteria for these goals. They also disagreed on the degree of federal control that should be imposed on the South, and the process by which Southern states should be reintegrated into the Union.

Reconstruction, which began early in the war and ended in 1877, involved a complex and rapidly changing series of federal and state policies. The long-term result came in the three “Civil War” amendments to the Constitution: the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment, which extended federal legal protections equally to citizens regardless of race; and the Fifteenth Amendment, which abolished racial restrictions on voting.

Birth Of A Notion Disclaimer

Special Request to Town Called Dobson Fans: The San Francisco Chronicle is pondering the addition of new cartoons for their paper – a process that seems to be initiated by Darren Bell, creator of Candorville (one of my daily reads – highly recommended). You can read the Chronicle article here and please add your thoughts to the comments if you wish. If anything, put in a good word for Darren and Candorville.

I am submitting Town Called Dobson to the paper for their consideration. They seem to have given great weight to receiving 200 messages considering Candorville. I am asking TCD fans to try to surpass that amount. (I get more than that many hate mails a day, surely fans can do better?)

This is not a race between Darren and I, it is a hope that more progressive strips can be represented in the printed press of America.

So if you read the San Francisco Chronicle or live in the Bay Area (Google Analytics tell me there are a lot of you), please send your kind comments (or naked, straining outrage) to David Wiegand at his published addresses below. If you are a subscriber, cut out your mailing label and staple it to a TCD strip and include it in your letter.

candorcomment@sfchronicle.com

or

David Wiegand

Executive Datebook Editor

The San Francisco Chronicle

901 Mission St.

San Francisco, CA 94103

Barack Obama Venerates, Separates Self From Reverend Jeremiah Wright



Barack Obama Repudiates Rev. Jeremiah Wright

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

At times, what is true for us, is not valid for those we cherish.  The individuals we love most, who may have guided us through our life travel, do not experience the world as we do.  People, even Pastors, are not always [W]right; nor are they necessarily wrong.  People have perspectives, perceptions, and pain.  Sadly, we humans, breakable beings that we are, are easily hurt.  We rant and rage as we fight to survive.  Souls are fragile.  No one can save us, not G-d, or self.  The enemy is within.  The Almighty may give us tools. However, he cannot lead us from the temptation to defend ourselves when we believe we are wounded.  Nor can the Lord help us to understand how, when we harm one, we injure many.  Barack Obama understands this to his core.  The hopeful Presidential aspirant addressed this truth.

When a person, such as Doctor Pastor Reverend Wright is lambasted, he can and will either lay down and die or he will attack those who he believes attempted to mortally mutilate him.  Few will simply remain silent when they feel as though they have been repeatedly stabbed.  As serene as a man of the church may think himself to be, he too is human.  Jeremiah Wright, in recent days, has offended many.  He  damaged the reputation of friend and foe.  The learned scholar, wise as he may be, is as flawed as we all are.

It is difficult to watch a man fall from grace and perchance it is more of a challenge to criticize one intent on self-preservation.  This has been the dynamic for Presidential hopeful Barack Obama.  How do we denounce the words of a man we have long respected without demeaning the character of a tragic hero.  Today, the potential Commander-In-Chief did so in a speech.

I invite your review, reflection, and responses.  If we as a nation are ever to heal all that divides us, we must speak of what our shared concerns.  Barack Obama has done this.

The full transcript is offered.  Please peruse the speech.

Obama’s Remarks on Wright

The following is a transcript of a press conference held by Senator Barack Obama in response to recent statements by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as provided by Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign.

Senator Barack Obama: Before I start taking questions I want to open it up with a couple of comments about what we saw and heard yesterday. I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That’s in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That’s who I am. That’s what I believe. That’s what this campaign has been about.

Yesterday we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that’s political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn’t know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

Now, I’ve already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church, he’s built a wonderful congregation, the people of Trinity are wonderful people, and what attracted me has always been their ministry’s reach beyond the church walls. But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the United States’ wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me, they rightly offend all Americans, and they should be denounced. And that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

Let me just close by saying this, I — we started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided; that, in fact, all across America people are hungry to get out of the old, divisive politics of the past. I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the country; that the only way we can deal with critical issues like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism is if we are joined together. And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we had moved beyond these old arguments. What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of those old divisions.

Whatever his intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign, it is antithetical to what I am about, it is not what I think America stands for, and I want to be very clear that moving forward Reverend Wright does not speak for me, he does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I’m about and who I am. And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign’s about, I think will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

Last point, I’m particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me. It’s never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain. It’s not about Reverend Wright. People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children, and that’s what we should be talking about. And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me.

May we each hold those who we most revere in our hearts and remember, it is hard to be human.  While we may be made in G-d’s image, we are certainly not as close to perfection as we envision the Lord to be, no matter our calling.

Barack Obama, Reverend Wright, and References . . .

Divisive or Descriptive?

copyright © 2008 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright spoke at the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP’s annual fundraising event over the weekend. The speech was carried by CNN live and allowed Reverend Wright to speak to his critics while at the same time speaking to the larger theme of the event which was, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Like so much of what occurs in American society the speech will be evaluated based on the listener’s frame of reference. For many in the black community the speech will be hailed as brilliant and will demonstrate Reverend’s Wright superior intellect and skilled articulation talents. For some in the white community it will be misconstrued and reinforce their views of him as being divisive. How is it possible that so many people can hear the same speech and yet reach so many different conclusions?

Are we so divided and so different that we can’t even acknowledge our differences. And having once acknowledged those differences can we not celebrate them or are we so tribal that anyone who is not exactly like us we view as deficient? In rhetoric and language befitting a leader in the black Church, Dr. Wright attempted to characterize the differences we share and their history to depict why there are those who are either unable or unwilling to understand his past characterizations of the country that he served. Let’s be clear, many of those who are questioning the patriotism of Reverend Wright have themselves chosen for whatever reasons not to serve their country, except as Mitt Romney so aptly described by campaigning for their fathers. Reverend Wright served this country as not only a Marine, but also as a member of the US Navy.

I am no expert in democracy or in Constitutional law, but I believe that if someone chooses to place his life on the line in defense of this nation, a nation that for a long time refused to apply equal protection for all of its citizens, has a right to criticize that same nation. I am so sick and tired of this false wing-nut narrative that anyone who criticizes America is anti-America or anyone who does not wear a flag lapel pin is giving aid and comfort to terrorists. As if to say that anything and everything that has been done in America and by America has been right. Forgive me, but my take on the Freedom of Speech clause is that as members of a democracy we have the right to criticize or to praise our nation as we see fit. Whether you agree with his views or not, Reverend Wright has every right to express them. Why is it that we have to display our war stance when it comes to surrendering our civil rights, but we do not have to display it when it comes to making actual sacrifices for the effort?

While I agree with the basic premise of Reverend Wright’s speech which is, why must everything and everyone be placed under “the white man’s burden?” For those who are not aware the white man’s burden is to elevate the blacks, reds, browns, and yellows of this world to the grand standard of Western European culture, as if to say no other culture has brought anything to the world but them. Just because you are a bully that doesn’t make you right, it just makes you a bully. If it were not for the Native American culture, those great European settlers would have never survived in this hemisphere. There are those who expect those of us who have received the brunt of American discrimination and racism to quietly accept our fate and anyone who “describes” those atrocities are being divisive. Are we to believe that those perpetrating these atrocities are doing so with the purpose of unifying us as a Nation?

Where I take exception with Reverend Wright and any other spokesman of God, is that while it is important to speak out against injustice and all the other deficiencies in human character, one must do so in a different forum than the Church. I understand that for many years in the black community the Church was the only release for the frustration and anger many felt with their conditions; however one must separate the worldly from the spiritual.

In other words, it is a sin to steal yet there maybe extenuating circumstances to mitigate the stealing. Those mitigating circumstances cannot be a part of the message of the Church against stealing, that message must be delivered outside of the Holy proclamation. Social causes while important must not be allowed to interfere with the true message of the Church. The Apostle Paul only preached one sermon repeatedly; “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”*

Representatives of God should not use the altar to assail their brothers no matter how large their shortcomings. One can acknowledge evil and injustice in a way that does not cast aspersions on any one group. Evil and inhumanity knows no color or race. The recent blood-letting in Africa can attest to that fact. In my opinion pointing out the ills of a government should not be done from the pulpit, but from the soap box in the public square. Ministers should separate the Church from social commentary, just as we have separation of Church and state for the protection of the Church, we also need it for the protection of the Republic. While it is becoming increasingly difficult in our society to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to give to God what is God’s, it is a distinction we must maintain at all costs.

* 1 Corinthians 2:2

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic ~ John F. Kennedy

Black History: Sing your way to a Contraband Camp

© copyright 2008 Storm Bear.  Town Called Dobson


To view the original, travel to a Town Called Dobson.  Black History: Sing your way to a Contraband Camp

At the beginning of the war some Union commanders thought they were supposed to return escaped slaves to their masters. By 1862, when it became clear that this would be a long war, the question of what to do about slavery became more general. The Southern economy and military effort depended on slave labor. It began to seem unreasonable to protect slavery while blockading Southern commerce and destroying Southern production. As one Congressman put it, the slaves “…cannot be neutral. As laborers, if not as soldiers, they will be allies of the rebels, or of the Union.” The same Congressman-and his fellow Radical Republicans-put pressure on Lincoln to rapidly emancipate the slaves, whereas moderate Republicans came to accept gradual, compensated emancipation and colonization. Copperheads, the border states and War Democrats opposed emancipation, although the border states and War Democrats eventually accepted it as part of total war needed to save the Union.

In 1861, Lincoln expressed the fear that premature attempts at emancipation would mean the loss of the border states, and that “to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game.” At first, Lincoln reversed attempts at emancipation by Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Generals John C. Fremont (in Missouri) and David Hunter (in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) in order to keep the loyalty of the border states and the War Democrats.

Lincoln mentioned his Emancipation Proclamation to members of his cabinet on July 21, 1862. Secretary of State William H. Seward told Lincoln to wait for a victory before issuing the proclamation, as to do otherwise would seem like “our last shriek on the retreat”. In September 1862 the Battle of Antietam provided this opportunity, and the subsequent War Governors’ Conference added support for the proclamation. Lincoln had already published a letter encouraging the border states especially to accept emancipation as necessary to save the Union. Lincoln later said that slavery was “somehow the cause of the war”. Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, and said that a final proclamation would be issued if his gradual plan based on compensated emancipation and voluntary colonization was rejected. Only the District of Columbia accepted Lincoln’s gradual plan, and Lincoln issued his final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. In his letter to Hodges, Lincoln explained his belief that “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong … And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling … I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”

Since the Emancipation Proclamation was based on the President’s war powers, it only included territory held by Confederates at the time. However, the Proclamation became a symbol of the Union’s growing commitment to add emancipation to the Union’s definition of liberty. Lincoln also played a leading role in getting Congress to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment, which made emancipation universal and permanent.

Confederates enslaved captured black Union soldiers, and black soldiers especially were shot when trying to surrender at the Fort Pillow Massacre. This led to a breakdown of the prisoner exchange program, and the growth of prison camps such as Andersonville prison in Georgia where almost 13,000 Union prisoners of war died of starvation and disease.

In spite of the South’s shortage of manpower, until 1865, most Southern leaders opposed arming slaves as soldiers. They used them as laborers to support the war effort. As Howell Cobb said, “If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” Confederate generals Patrick Cleburne and Robert E. Lee argued in favor of arming blacks late in the war, and Jefferson Davis was eventually persuaded to support plans for arming slaves to avoid military defeat. The Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox before this plan could be implemented.

A few Confederates discussed arming slaves since the early stages of the war, and some free blacks had even offered to fight for the South. In 1862 Georgian Congressman Warren Akin supported the enrolling of slaves with the promise of emancipation, as did the Alabama legislature. Support for doing so also grew in other Southern states. A few all black Confederate militia units, most notably the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, were formed in Louisiana at the start of the war, but were disbanded in 1862. In early March, 1865, Virginia endorsed a bill to enlist black soldiers, and on March 13 the Confederate Congress did the same.

The Emancipation Proclamation greatly reduced the Confederacy’s hope of getting aid from Britain or France. Lincoln’s moderate approach succeeded in getting border states, War Democrats and emancipated slaves fighting on the same side for the Union. The Union-controlled border states (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia) were not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation. All abolished slavery on their own, except Kentucky and Delaware. The great majority of the 4 million slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, as Union armies moved South. The 13th amendment, ratified December 6, 1865, finally freed the remaining slaves in Kentucky, Delaware, and New Jersey, that numbered 225,000 for Kentucky, 1,800 in Delaware, and 18 in New Jersey as of 1860.

At Fort Monroe in southeastern Virginia, Brigadier General Benjamin Butler, commander, came into the custody of three slaves who had made their way across Hampton Roads from Confederate-occupied Norfolk County, Virginia and presented themselves at Union-held Fort Monroe. General Butler refused to return escaped slaves to masters supporting the Confederacy, which amounted to classifying them as “contraband,” although credit for first use of that terminology occurred elsewhere.

Three slaves, Frank Baker, James Townsend and Sheppard Mallory had been contracted by their owners to the Confederate Army to help construct defense batteries at Sewell’s Point across the mouth of Hampton Roads from Union-held Fort Monroe. They escaped at night and rowed a skiff to Old Point Comfort, where they sought asylum at the adjacent Fort Monroe.

Prior to the War, the owners of the slaves would have been legally entitled to request their return (as property) and this would have in all likelihood have occurred. However, Virginia had just declared (by secession) that it no longer considered itself part of the United States. General Butler, who was educated as an attorney, took the position that, if Virginia considered itself a foreign power to the U.S., then he was under no obligation to return the 3 men; he would instead hold them as “contraband of war.” Thus, when Confederate Major John B. Cary made the request for their return as Butler had anticipated, it was denied on the above basis. While not truly free men (yet), the three men undoubtedly were much satisfied to have their new status as “contraband” rather than slaves.

Gen. Butler paid the escaped slaves nothing, and kept them as slaves, as he so termed them. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells issued a directive, September 25, 1861 which gave “persons of color, commonly known as contrabands,” in the employment of the Union Navy pay at the rate of $10 and a full day’s ration. It was not until three weeks later the Union Army followed suit, paying male ‘contrabands’ $8 a month and females $4, at Fort Monroe, and only specific to that command.

The Confiscation Act of 1861 declared that August that any property used by the Confederate military, including slaves, could be confiscated by Union forces. The next March, the Act Prohibiting the Return of Slaves forbade the restoring of such human seizures.

The word spread quickly among southeastern Virginia’s slave communities. While becoming a “contraband” did not mean full freedom, it was apparently seen by many slaves as at least a step in that direction. The day after Butler’s decision, many more escaped slaves also found their way to Fort Monroe appealing to become contraband. As the number of former slaves grew too large to be housed inside the Fort, from the burned ruins of the City of Hampton the Confederates had left behind, the contrabands erected housing outside the crowded base. They called their new settlement Grand Contraband Camp (which they nicknamed “Slabtown”). By the end of the war in April 1865, less than 4 years later, an estimated 10,000 had applied to gain “contraband” status, many living nearby.

Near Fort Monroe, but outside its protective walls in Elizabeth City County, in an area which later became part of the campus of Hampton University, both adult and child contrabands were taught to read and write by pioneering teacher Mrs. Mary S. Peake and others. Defying a Virginia law against educating slaves, classes were held outdoors under a certain large oak tree. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was read to the contrabands and free blacks there, giving the tree its name and claim to fame as the Emancipation Oak. However, due to some political considerations when drafting the Proclamation, for most of the contrabands, true emancipation did not come until the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery was ratified in late 1865.

In modern times, the Contraband Historical Society was organized by their descendants, to honor and perpetuate their story. Authors such as Phyllis Haislip have written about the plight of contraband slaves as well.

Enslaved African Americans did not wait for Lincoln’s action before escaping and seeking freedom behind Union lines. From early years of the war, hundreds of thousands of African Americans escaped to Union lines, especially in occupied areas like Norfolk and the Hampton Roads region in 1862, Tennessee from 1862 on, the line of Sherman’s march, etc. So many African Americans fled to Union lines that commanders created camps (called contraband camps) and schools for them, where both adults and children learned to read and write. The American Missionary Association entered the war effort by sending teachers south to such contraband camps, for instance establishing schools in Norfolk and on nearby plantations. In addition, nearly 200,000 African-American men served with distinction as soldiers and sailors with Union troops. Most of those were escaped slaves.

Once the slaves felt free, they began to sing spirituals as the walked the long distances up the Underground Railroad or to the Union controlled contraband camps. The term spiritual is derived from spiritual song. The King James Bible’s translation of Ephesians V.19 is: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Negro spiritual first appears in print in the 1860’s, where slaves are described as using the noun “spiritual”for religious songs sung sitting or standing in place, and spiritual shouts for more dance-like music.

Although numerous rhythmically and sonic elements of spirituals can be traced to African sources, nonetheless it is a fact that spirituals are a musical form that is indigenous and specific to the religious experience in the United States of Africans transported from Africa. They are a result of the interaction of African religious elements with music and religion derived from Europe. Further, this interaction occurred only in the United States. Africans converted to Christianity in other parts of the world, even in the Caribbean and Latin American, did not evolve this form.

Negro spirituals were primarily expressions of religious faith. They may also have served as socio-political protests veiled as assimilation to white American culture. They were originated by enslaved African-Americans in the United States. Slavery was introduced to the British colonies in the early seventeenth century, and enslaved people largely replaced indentured servants as an economic labor force during the 17th century. These people would remain in bondage for the entire 18th century and much of the 19th century. Most were not fully emancipated until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

During slavery in the United States, there were systematic efforts to de-Africanize the captive Black workforce. Enslaved people were forbidden from speaking their native languages.

Restrictions were placed on the religious expression of slaves. Rows of benches in places of worship discouraged congregants from spontaneously jumping to their feet and dancing. The use of musical instruments of any kind often was forbidden, and slaves were ordered to desist from the “paganism” of the practice of spiritual possession. Nonetheless, the Christian principles that teach those who suffer on earth hold a special place with God in heaven undoubtedly spoke to the enslaved who saw this as hope and could certainly relate to the suffering of Jesus. For this reason many slaves genuinely embraced Christianity.

Because they were unable to express themselves freely in ways that were spiritually meaningful to them, enslaved Africans often held secret religious services. During these “bush meetings,” worshippers were free to engage in African religious rituals such as spiritual possession, speaking in tongues and shuffling in counterclockwise ring shouts to communal shouts and chants. It was there also that enslaved Africans further crafted the impromptu musical expression of field songs into the so-called “line singing” and intricate, multi-part harmonies of struggle and overcoming, faith, forbearance and hope that have come to be known as “Black Spirituals.”

While slaveowners used Christianity to teach enslaved Africans to be long-suffering, forgiving and obedient to their masters, as practiced by the enslaved, it became something of a liberation theology. The story of Moses and The Exodus of the “children of Israel” and the idea of an Old Testament God who struck down the enemies of His “chosen people” resonated deeply with the enslaved (“He’s a battleaxe in time of war and a shelter in a time of storm”). In Black hands and hearts, Christian theology became an instrument of liberation.

So, too, in many instances did the spirituals themselves. Spirituals sometimes provided comfort and eased the boredom of daily tasks, but above all, they were an expression of spiritual devotion and a yearning for freedom from bondage. Songs like “Steal Away (to Jesus)”, or “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” raised unexpectedly in a dusty field, or sung softly in the dark of night, signaled that the coast was clear and the time to escape had come. The River Jordan became the Ohio River, or the Mississippi, or another body of water that had to be crossed on the journey to freedom. “Wade in the Water” contained explicit instructions to fugitive slaves on how to avoid capture and the route to take to successfully make their way to freedom. Leaving dry land and taking to the water was a common strategy to throw pursuing bloodhounds off one’s trail. “The Gospel Train”, and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” all contained veiled references to the Underground Railroad, and Follow the Drinking Gourd contained a coded map to the Underground Railroad. The title itself was an Africanized reference to the Big Dipper, which pointed the way to the North Star and freedom in Canada.

In the 1850s, Reverend Alexander Reid, superintendent of the Spencer Academy in the old Choctaw Nation, hired some enslaved Africans from the Indians for some work around the school. He heard two of them, “Uncle Wallace” and “Aunt Minerva” Willis, singing religious songs they had composed. Among these songs were Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Steal Away to Jesus, The Angels are Coming, I’m a Rolling, and Roll Jordan Roll. Later, Reid, who left Indian Territory at the beginning of the Civil War, attended a musical program put on by a group of Negro singers from Fisk University. Although they were singing mostly popular music of the day, Reid thought the songs he remembered from his time in the Choctaw Nation would be appropriate. He and his wife transcribed the songs of the Willises as they remembered them and sent them to Fisk University. The Jubilee Singers put on their first performance singing the old captives’ songs at a religious conference in 1871. The songs were first published in 1872 in a book titled Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, by Thomas F. Steward. Later these religious songs became known as “Black spirituals” to distinguish this music from the spiritual music of other peoples. Wallace Willis died in 1883 or 84.

Over time the pieces the Jubilee Singers performed came to be arranged and performed by trained musicians. In 1873, Mark Twain, whose father had owned slaves, found Fisk singing to be “in the genuine old way” he remembered from childhood, but an 1881 performance review said that “they have lost the wild rhythms, the barbarity, the passion.” Fifty years on, Zora Neale Hurston in her 1938 book The Sanctified Church criticized Fisk singers, and similar groups at Tuskegee and Hampton, as using a “Glee Club style” that was “full of musicians’ tricks” not to be found in the original spirituals, urging readers to visit an “unfashionable Negro church” to experience real spirituals.

A second important early collection of lyrics is Slave Songs of the United States by William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison (1867).

A group of lyrics to “Negro spirituals” was published by Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who served as the commander of a regiment of former slaves in the Civil War, in an article in The Atlantic Monthly and subsequently included in his 1869 memoir Army Life in a Black Regiment (1869).

Musicologist George Pullen Jackson extended the term to a wider range of folk hymnody, as in his 1938 book White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands, but this does not appear to have been widespread usage previously. “Spiritual song” was often used in the white Christian community through the 19th century (and indeed much earlier), but not “spiritual.”

But those slaves who didn’t escape to a contraband camp or via the Underground Railroad, were still considered as property by the Confederate States. The spirituals offered them no solace.

Birth Of A Notion Disclaimer

Special Request for Town Called Dobson Fans: The San Francisco Chronicle is pondering the addition of new cartoons for their paper – a process that seems to be initiated by Darren Bell, creator of Candorville (one of my daily reads – highly recommended). You can read the Chronicle article here and please add your thoughts to the comments if you wish. If anything, put in a good word for Darren and Candorville.

I am submitting Town Called Dobson to the paper for their consideration. They seem to have given great weight to receiving 200 messages considering Candorville. I am asking TCD fans to try to surpass that amount. (I get more than that many hate mails a day, surely fans can do better?)

This is not a race between Darren and I, it is a hope that more progressive strips can be represented in the printed press of America.

So if you read the San Francisco Chronicle or live in the Bay Area (Google Analytics tell me there are a lot of you), please send your kind comments (or naked, straining outrage) to David Wiegand at his published addresses below. If you are a subscriber, cut out your mailing label and staple it to a TCD strip and include it in your letter.

candorcomment@sfchronicle.com

or

David Wiegand

Executive Datebook Editor

The San Francisco Chronicle

901 Mission St.

San Francisco, CA 94103

What recruiters will not tell you?



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Iraq war veteran, Herold Noel; homeless.

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The truth about military ‘opportunities’

Employment opportunities are a pillar of military recruitment.  Recruiters focus much of their efforts on low-income schools and communities, promising that the military provides valuable skills and job training.

Television commercials for the Army often show soldiers transitioning into the professional world, depicting military service as a guaranteed stepping-stone to success.  The Army airs television commercials showing soldiers in uniform transforming into professionals in suits and lab coats.

The idea that one can serve a short term in the military and emerge a valued, marketable worker attracts youth fearful of life after high school, as well as older workers who struggle under capitalism.  While many join the military hoping for a better life for themselves and their families, the reality is that veterans actually experience a dramatically higher rate of unemployment.

A recent study by consulting firm Abt Associates Inc. discovered that a staggering 18 percent of veterans who sought work within one and three years of their discharge were unemployed.  The current unemployment rate in the United States is 4.9 percent, showing that veterans are far more likely to suffer unemployment than civilians.

Of the veterans who do find employment, 25 percent earn less than $21,840 annually.  The study said that the reasons veterans are denied jobs are the very things they hoped to overcome when they joined the military-lack of technological skills and poor education.

The issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been a difficult obstacle for veterans trying to return to civilian life.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers severely inadequate assistance.  The study also revealed that employers are less likely to hire veterans because they fear a mental condition.  Veterans with PTSD not only have to struggle with their own inner demons and the effect it has on their families; they are also discriminated against by employers for their condition.

The reserves uses the potential for quality employment as a recruiting tool much more than the active-duty military, promoting the idea of a “citizen soldier” who is in the military for only one weekend a month.  Reservists are convinced that they will receive job training and education, and have the freedom to pursue a career while serving a small obligation to the military.

As it turns out, reservists are finding themselves locked into active-duty status and being sent on repeated deployments.  Moreover, they are also being denied their jobs when they return.  The Labor Department has reported high rates of formal job complaints filed by reservists.  In 2006, 1,357 reservists filed formal complaints after being refused their old jobs upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

While thousands of veterans struggle to find employment after leaving the military, many cannot even find a place to live.  The VA refuses to track the number of homeless veterans.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates hundreds, perhaps thousands, of soldiers who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan are homeless or living in shelters.  Over 1,200 homeless veterans have received help from NCHV.  However, groups aiding homeless veterans assert that this number reflects only a fraction of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are homeless.

When compared with the rate of homeless veterans following the Vietnam War, the future of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan looks very grim.  Vietnam veterans who became homeless did so after spending five to 10 years trying to readjust to civilian life.  Veterans of the current wars are ending up with no place to live after only 18 months.

The problems veterans face upon separating from the military-lack of jobs, alcohol and drug abuse, denial of benefits, suicide, homelessness-all stem from the same root cause.  The military-industrial complex has one goal in mind: profit.

The U.S. government spends millions on a single bomb, but will not spend an adequate amount establishing support systems for veterans once they return from combat.  The massive military budget is used to increase the wealth of the capitalists, while the veterans of their imperialist wars are tossed into poverty.

The deteriorating conditions for veterans and the increasing number of problems they must face reveal the true nature of this war: profits over people.

Michael Prysner is an Iraq war veteran running for Congress (22nd District – Florida.) as a candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.  For more on his campaign click here.

Black History: First Shots of the Civil War

© copyright 2008 Storm Bear.  Town Called Dobson


To view the original, travel to a Town Called Dobson.  Black History: First Shots of the Civil War

Six days after South Carolina seceded, U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie and secretly relocated the 85 men under his command, who comprised two companies of the 1st U.S. Artillery, to Fort Sumter. Anderson had been appointed to command the Charleston garrison that Fall because of rising tensions. Anderson had been a protégé of Winfield Scott, the senior general in the U.S. Army at the time, and was thought more capable of handling a crisis than the garrison’s previous commander. Throughout the autumn, South Carolina authorities considered both secession and the expropriation of Federal property in the harbor to be inevitable. As tensions mounted, the environment around the fort-which was located in what was still technically a constituent U.S. state-increasingly resembled a siege, to the point that the South Carolina authorities placed picket ships to observe the movements of the troops and threatened violence when forty rifles were transferred to one of the harbor forts from the U.S. arsenal in the city.

Several forts had been constructed in the harbor, including Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie. Fort Moultrie was the oldest and was the headquarters of the garrison. However, it had been designed essentially as a gun platform for defending the harbor, and its defenses against land-based attacks were feeble; during the crisis, the Charleston newspapers commented that sand dunes had grown up against the walls in such a way that the wall could easily be scaled. When the garrison began clearing away the dunes, the papers objected. Fort Sumter, by contrast, dominated the entrance to Charleston Harbor and was thought to be one of the strongest fortresses in the world once its construction was completed; in the autumn of 1860 work was nearly done, but the fortress was thus far garrisoned by a single soldier, who functioned as a lighthouse keeper. However, it was considerably stronger than Fort Moultrie, and its location on a sandbar prevented the sort of land assault to which Fort Moultrie was so vulnerable.

Under the cover of darkness on December 26, 1860, Anderson spiked the cannons at Fort Moultrie and moved his command to Fort Sumter. South Carolina authorities considered this a breach of faith and demanded that the fort be evacuated. At that time President James Buchanan was still in office, pending Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861. Buchanan refused their demand and mounted a relief expedition in January 1861, but shore batteries fired on and repulsed the unarmed merchant ship, Star of the West. The battery that fired was manned by cadets from The Citadel, who were the only trained artillerists in the service of South Carolina at the time.

Following the formation of the Confederacy in early February, there was some internal debate among the secessionists as to whether the capture of the fort was rightly a matter for the State of South Carolina or the newly declared national government in Montgomery, Alabama. South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens was among the states’ rights advocates who felt that all of the property in Charleston harbor had reverted to South Carolina upon that state’s secession as an independent commonwealth. This debate ran alongside another discussion as to how aggressively the properties-including Forts Sumter and Pickens-should be obtained. Jefferson Davis, like his counterpart in Washington, D.C., preferred that his side not be seen as the aggressor. Both sides believed that the first side to use force would lose precious political support in the border states, whose allegiance was undetermined; prior to Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, five states had voted against secession, including Virginia, and Lincoln openly offered to evacuate Fort Sumter if it would guarantee Virginia’s loyalty.

In March, Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard took command of South Carolina forces in Charleston; on March 1, Davis had appointed him the first general officer in the armed forces of the new Confederacy, specifically to take command of the siege. Beauregard made repeated demands that the Union force either surrender or withdraw and took steps to ensure that no supplies from the city were available to the defenders, whose food was running out. He also increased drills amongst the South Carolina militia, training them to operate the guns they manned. Ironically enough, Anderson had been Beauregard’s artillery instructor at West Point; the two had been especially close, and Beauregard had become Anderson’s assistant after graduation. Both sides spent the month of March drilling and improving their fortifications to the best of their abilities.

By April 4, President Lincoln, discovering that supplies in the fort were shorter than he had previously known, and believing a relief expedition to be feasible, ordered merchant vessels escorted by the United States Navy to Charleston. On April 6, 1861, Lincoln notified South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens that “an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only, and that if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made without further notice, [except] in case of an attack on the fort.”

In response, the Confederate cabinet, meeting in Montgomery, decided on April 9 to open fire on Fort Sumter in an attempt to force its surrender before the relief fleet arrived. Only Secretary of State Robert Toombs opposed this decision: he reportedly told Jefferson Davis the attack “will lose us every friend at the North. You will wantonly strike a hornet’s nest. … Legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.”

The Confederate Secretary of War telegraphed Beauregard that if he were certain that the fort was to be supplied by force, “You will at once demand its evacuation, and if this is refused proceed, in such a manner as you may determine, to reduce it.” Beauregard dispatched aides to Fort Sumter on April 11 and issued their ultimatum. Anderson refused, though he reportedly commented, “Gentlemen, if you do not batter the fort to pieces about us, we shall be starved out in a few days.”

Further discussions after midnight proved futile. At 3:20 a.m., April 12, 1861, the Confederates informed Anderson that they would open fire in one hour. At 4:30 a.m., a single mortar round fired from Fort Johnson exploded over Fort Sumter, signaling the start of the bombardment from 43 guns and mortars at Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson, and Cummings Point. Edmund Ruffin, a notable secessionist, had traveled to Charleston in order to be present for the beginning of the war, and was present to fire the first shot at Sumter after the signal round. Anderson withheld his fire until 7:00 a.m., when Capt. Abner Doubleday fired a shot at the Ironclad Battery at Cummings Point. But there was little Anderson could do with his 60 guns; he deliberately avoided using guns that were situated in the fort where casualties were likely. Unfortunately, the fort’s best cannons were mounted on the uppermost of its three tiers, where his troops were most exposed to enemy fire.

The fort had been designed to hold out against a naval assault, and naval warships of the time did not mount guns capable of elevating to fire over the walls of the fort; however, the land-based cannons manned by the South Carolina militia were capable of landing such indirect fire on Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter’s garrison could only safely fire the guns on the lower levels, which themselves, by virtue of being in stone emplacements, were largely incapable of indirect fire that could seriously threaten Fort Moultrie. Moreover, although the Federals had moved as much of their supplies to Fort Sumter as they could manage, the fort was quite low on ammunition, and was nearly out at the end of the 34-hour bombardment. The shelling of Fort Sumter from the batteries ringing the harbor awakened Charleston’s residents (including diarist Mary Chesnut), who rushed out into the predawn darkness to watch the shells arc over the water and burst inside the fort. The bombardment lasted through the night until the next morning, when a shell hit the officers’ quarters, starting a serious fire that threatened the main powder magazine.

The fort’s central flagpole also fell. During the period the flag was down, before the garrison could improvise a replacement, several Confederate envoys arrived to inquire whether the flag had been lowered in surrender. Anderson agreed to a truce at 2:00 p.m., April 13, 1861.

Terms for the garrison’s withdrawal were settled by that evening and the Union garrison surrendered the fort to Confederate personnel at 2:30 p.m., April 14. The soldiers were safely transported back to Union territory by the U.S. Navy squadron whose anticipated arrival as a relief fleet had prompted the barrage. No one from either side was killed during the bombardment, with only five Union and four Confederate soldiers severely injured. During the 100-gun salute to the U.S. flag-Anderson’s one condition for withdrawal-a pile of cartridges blew up from a spark, killing one soldier (Private Daniel Hough) and seriously injuring the rest of the gun crew, one mortally (Private Edward Galloway); these were the first fatalities of the war. The salute was stopped at fifty shots. Anderson lowered the Fort Sumter Flag and took it with him to the North, where it became a widely known symbol of the battle, and a rallying point for supporters of the Union.

The bombardment of Fort Sumter was the first military action of the American Civil War. Following the surrender, Northerners rallied behind Lincoln’s call for all of the states to send troops to recapture the forts and to preserve the Union. With the scale of the rebellion apparently small so far, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers for 90 days. For months before that, several Northern governors had discreetly readied their state militias; they began to move forces the next day. The ensuing war lasted four years, effectively ending in April 1865, with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Charleston Harbor was completely in Confederate hands for the four-year duration of the war, a hole in the Union naval blockade. Union forces retook the fort just days after Lee’s surrender and the collapse of the Confederacy. On April 14, 1865, four years to the day after lowering the Fort Sumter Flag in surrender, Anderson (by then a major general, although ill and in retired status) raised it over the fort again.

Two of the cannons used at Fort Sumter were later presented to Louisiana State University by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who was president of the university before the war began.

Birth Of A Notion Disclaimer

Special Request to Town Called Dobson Fans The San Francisco Chronicle is pondering the addition of new cartoons for their paper – a process that seems to be initiated by Darren Bell, creator of Candorville (one of my daily reads – highly recommended). You can read the Chronicle article here and please add your thoughts to the comments if you wish. If anything, put in a good word for Darren and Candorville.

I am submitting Town Called Dobson to the paper for their consideration. They seem to have given great weight to receiving 200 messages considering Candorville. I am asking TCD fans to try to surpass that amount. (I get more than that many hate mails a day, surely fans can do better?)

This is not a race between Darren and I, it is a hope that more progressive strips can be represented in the printed press of America.

So if you read the San Francisco Chronicle or live in the Bay Area (Google Analytics tell me there are a lot of you), please send your kind comments (or naked, straining outrage) to David Wiegand at his published addresses below. If you are a subscriber, cut out your mailing label and staple it to a TCD strip and include it in your letter.

candorcomment@sfchronicle.com

or

David Wiegand

Executive Datebook Editor

The San Francisco Chronicle

901 Mission St.

San Francisco, CA 94103

Hillary Clinton; The Campaign Crisis and Elizabeth Edwards’ Choice



Elizabeth Edwards – Morning Joe – Full Interview 4/2/08

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Democrats are divided.  Progressives once certain that they would support the Party nominee, are now, no longer sure that they can.  People on the Left for the first time in their lives are looking to the “Right.”  Staunch Liberals state they will vote Republican in 2008 if the candidate of their choice is not the Party’s nominee.  Many Democrats say they will not vote at all.  Much damage has been done.  The political process has become a play for power or an attempt to create chaos.

Persons devout to the Grand Old Party purposely become “Democrats for a Day” just to alter the outcome in primary elections.  Some individuals wear elephant and flag pins on their lapel; yet, they cast a vote for Hillary Clinton.  These Conservatives think if the Senator from New York is selected to represent the Progressives in the general election, Republicans will be assured a win.

Prior to the primaries, Hillary Clinton was defined as polarizing.  However, the former First Lady felt certain she could and had changed her image.  Perhaps, for a time, this was thought to be true.  Senator Clinton showed herself strong.  She was a formidable force in Congress.  Military leaders learned to trust that she could indeed be a hawk.  

Women were elated.  The thought that they might be able to elect someone they relate to, suited those who frequently felt oppressed in a male dominated culture just fine.

Persons of color, grateful for what seemed to be a more secure life, when husband Bill was President turned to candidate Hillary Clinton for reassurance.  People, early on, believed the former First Lady was their last and best hope.  As the Presidential aspirant often mused, “It did take a Clinton to clean (up) after the first Bush, and I think it might take a second one to clean up after the second Bush.”  In January 2008, the Editors from the esteemed New York Times offered their endorsements.  The prominent periodical proposed the Primary Choice: [was] Hillary Clinton

Yet, more recently, after weeks and weeks, months and months of mean and malicious statements from the candidate, her husband, and the entire Clinton Clan, some within the Progressive Party no longer think Senator Clinton sincere or suitable.  Indeed, some say she would not be a superb Commander-In-Chief.  Hillary may be too intent on conquest.

Many, among those who lean left, look, and see what they think wrong.  This week, a top House Democrat denounced Clinton campaign tactics.

House Democratic Whip James Clyburn, of South Carolina and the highest ranking black in Congress, also said he has heard speculation that Clinton is staying in the race only to try to derail Obama and pave the way for her to make another White House run in 2012.

“I heard something, the first time yesterday (in South Carolina), and I heard it on the (House) floor today, which is telling me there are African Americans who have reached the decision that the Clintons know that she can’t win this.  But they’re hell-bound to make it impossible for Obama to win” in November, Clyburn told Reuters in an interview.

Race is not the only issue that separates, or segregates supporters.  Patriotism, patronage, and parishes are also seen as partitions.  In this recent round of debates, candidate[s] and correspondents made it known if a flag pin was not worn on a man’s lapel, the gentleman would be classified as un-American.  This standard apparently, does not apply to women who condemn the chaps.  Guilt by association was also a reason to denounce and divide the electorate.  Political advertisements delivered in Pennsylvania were full of venom directed at victims of circumstance.  Any person who was casually, or closely connected to one candidate, was castigated, as though they were the Presidential hopeful, himself.  The electorate was encouraged to take sides.  

Americans witnessed what one woman and her advocates will do for a win.  The stakes are high; the slams and damnation higher.  Condemnation for the smallest slight caused a “bitter” feud.  One candidate was intentionally crippled.  Barack Obama was forced to defend a concept.  Even a quote from the scriptures could not save a man who is not only of the Christian faith, but Christian in his actions.

The man of faith spoke of how the sacred passages in the Bible speak of the need to “cling” to what is good.  Yet, in a climate of constant criticism from the Clinton Camp, Democrats seem to only cling to a fight.

Such brutal battles have spurred the Editors of The New York Times to question their own earlier call.  The current stance of those in charge of the illustrious publication is New York Senator Clinton is not a superior choice for President.  She has adopted The Low Road to Victory.  Those charged to inform the broader community write . . .

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work.  It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party, and the 2008 election.

If nothing else, self-interest should push her in that direction.  Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race.  . . .

On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11.  A Clinton television ad – torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook – evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden.  “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.

If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”

By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy, and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning.  She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.

The Washington Post also asked readers to call into question the posture of the Presidential candidate.  Former contributors to the Clinton campaign offered testimonials and expressed trepidation for what Hillary Clinton and husband Bill think best.

More than 70 top Clinton donors wrote their first checks to Obama in March, campaign records show.  Clinton’s lead among superdelegates, a collection of almost 800 party leaders and elected officials, has slipped from 106 in December to 23 now, according to an Associated Press tally. . . .

Campaign finance records released this week show that a growing number of Clinton’s early supporters migrated to Obama in March, after he achieved 11 straight victories.  Of those who had previously made maximum contributions to Clinton, 73 wrote their first checks to Obama in March.  The reverse was not true: Of those who had made large contributions to Obama last year, none wrote checks to Clinton in March.

“I think she is destroying the Democratic Party,” said New York lawyer Daniel Berger, who had backed Clinton with the maximum allowable donation of $2,300.  “That there’s no way for her to win this election except by destroying [Obama], I just don’t like it.  So in my own little way, I’m trying to send her a message.”

The message came in the form of a $2,300 contribution to Obama.

Donors are not the only ones who have made the leap.  Gabriel Guerra-Mondragón served as an ambassador to Chile during Bill Clinton’s presidency, considered himself a close friend of Sen. Clinton, and became a “Hill-raiser” by bringing in about $500,000 for her presidential bid.

Yet, while many express distress and a desire to distance themselves from the Clinton Camp, a few think Hillary or her Health Care plan makes her the best choice.  For months now, Americans have anxiously awaited word of an endorsement from the popular, populace, and once Presidential candidate, John Edwards and his beloved wife, Elizabeth.  In interviews, Elizabeth Edwards expresses the Clinton Health Care Plan is her preferred “Choice.”  Once heard, I personally felt a need to pen a letter to the lovely Elizabeth Edwards, a person I sincerely hold in high esteem.

Dear Reader, I invite your review, reflections, and perchance you may wish to write a correspondence of your own.  Your communiqué may be to me, to Senator Clinton, to the Edwards family, I know not.  I only trust that whatever we wish to say, it is vital we honor the words of a great philosopher.

Be Kind.

For everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.


~ Plato


I desire to write with reverence.  My wish is that my words will be received as intended.  Benevolence, I believe is beautiful.  Empathy, I think, essential if we are ever to be universally insured or ensure that we care for our fellow man, woman, and child.

Dearest Elizabeth Edwards . . .

I hope you, your children, and John, are well.  I know all too well how cancer can devastate a family.  Weeks ago, I heard you speak of how the financial strain on a family without adequate medical coverage can lead to bankruptcy and death.  Sadly, for too many, the lack of a comprehensive health care plan is the cause of economic, emotional, and perhaps physical heartbreak.  Your words prompt me to write.

Now, as the nation turns to you and your neighborhood, as the primary in North Carolina approaches, I feel a need to share my distress.  

Last August, in 2007, I attended the breakout session your husband John held at the Yearly Kos Convention.  While I was fortunate to speak with him for a moment as he exited the room, I was among those who did not have an opportunity to offer a formal question.  As John proposed, I submitted my query in electronic mail.  The issue on my mind, then and now is the same subject you discussed, Health Care.

Elizabeth, I recall when you spoke of how Hillary Clinton’s plan was as John’s.  At the time, you expressed much angst that the New York Senator delayed to present a proposal and then copied John’s program.  While I have no argument with those contentions; nor do I quarrel with the notion that Barack Obama’s plan is deficient, I think an endorsement of Senator Clinton’s her Health Care Choice program is troublesome.  I recall the words of your husband John.  In November 2007, as a Presidential challenger john Edwards declared . . .

“Senator Clinton’s plan, which came out in September, is very similar to the plan I announced in February.  But I haven’t seen any specifics about how her mandate would work or how she would enforce the mandate.

Time has not helped to enlighten the electorate.  Hillary Clinton is consistently evasive.  The former First Lady, who failed to secure a workable system near two decades ago, walks a fine line, for she has reason to fear if she slips the people may not place her into the Oval Office.

In Health Debate, Clinton Remains Vague on Penalties

By Kevin Sack

New York Times

February 1, 2008

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton inched closer Sunday to explaining how she would enforce her proposal that everyone have health insurance, but declined to specify – as she has throughout the campaign – how she would penalize those who refuse.

Mrs. Clinton, who did not answer Senator Barack Obama’s question on the topic in a debate, last Thursday, was pressed repeatedly to do so Sunday by George Stephanopoulos on the ABC program “This Week.”  When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked a third time whether she would garnish people’s wages, Mrs. Clinton responded, “George, we will have an enforcement mechanism, whether it’s that or it’s some other mechanism through the tax system or automatic enrollments.”

The former First Lady has shown herself to be extremely disingenuous in the past, and the present.  The future unfolds; and many individuals demonstrate that they do not feel there is reason to believe that her words will be less mendacious.  Stories of how deceitful she can be fill the airwaves and the periodicals.  The press, those who were close political affiliates of the Clinton’s, while polite, hint at how Hillary treats those who go against her.  In very hushed tones, event organizers shared stories with me.  While I was a strong Clinton supporter and active contributor in the 1990s, recent revelations, comments made by the Clinton’s, and the harsh rhetoric Hillary espoused leaves me beyond disillusioned.

The public, I believe has infinite reason to distrust the Presidential aspirant.  I have no faith that she will follow through with worthy programs.  As I assess her record in the Senate, I realize there is reason to doubt.  We need only consider the change in her policy position on Iraq.  When Senator Clinton thought she could safely say she would not commit to exit Iraq until after her first term, that was her stance.  Only the threat that she might lose votes was the catalyst for other considerations.

Elizabeth, I think few, if any, can question the Clinton campaign is divisive.  While some think this strategy is fine, I believe as your husband John voiced.  We must be united and work together as one.

It is apparent to me; Hillary Clinton is flexible only when it suits her needs.  I recall John wrote and spoke of how he hoped his health care proposal would, over time, give way to a Single Payer, Not For Profit Plan.  Barack Obama has expressed a similar sentiment.  Each, your husband, and Presidential hopeful Obama, has addressed the notion that their plans were but starting points.

When I did chat with your husband, I thanked him for his mention of how Hillary Clinton was indebted to Insurers and Pharmaceuticals.  Elizabeth, months ago your husband gave us reason to believe that Hillary Clinton is well connected to those who profit off of our physical and financial loss when we are most in need.  As a professional, well educated, white woman, who learned through experience that many Faculty Lecturer’s, at major Universities, are among the uninsured, I invite you to ponder the veracity, a position does not tell the full tale.  The quality of a candidate is not necessarily evident in a Health Care plan.

Please, please, please consider Barack Obama has a life history of bringing people together for a common cause.  Senator Obama uses his expertise as a community organizer to unite us, citizens of the United States of America.  [You may have read the cover story, A New Hope, in the March 20, 2008, Rolling Stone.]  Presidential aspirant, Obama is eager, and has demonstrated he does care about the American people.  Barack Obama has helped many common folk understand that we the people make a difference.  Change comes when the average American is part of the solution.  

Senator Clinton may believe without Lyndon Johnson the Civil Rights Act 1964 would not have come into being.  I recall those years.  People were out on the streets in protest.  The community concluded it was time for a change.  The President merely signed the papers.  

Personally, I prefer to support a President who believes and acts on the democratic principle that he represents me, and not her personal interests.  

Elizabeth, I hope you and your husband John will be as profoundly reflective as I believe you both to be.  America needs a person in the White House who is truly connected to the American experience.  Barack Obama’s mother, ill with ovarian cancer, feared her financial obligation to pay for health care.  Cancer can be the cause of bankruptcy even when people are insured.  The issue is complex.  A ten-point plan cannot begin to relate to the real life circumstances of millions; nor can a candidate who thinks more of her win than a unified Party.

I invite an endorsement for Barack Obama.  I can only hope you will consider my heartfelt plea.  Please extend this request to your husband John.

I thank you for your time, and for reading this reflection.  Please take good care of you.  I wish you and your family the best.

Sincerely . . .

Betsy L. Angert

References and Remedies . . .

Black History: Prison for teaching slaves to read

© copyright 2008 Storm Bear.  Town Called Dobson


To view the original, travel to a Town Called Dobson.  Black History: Prison for teaching slaves to read

Special Request for Town Called Dobson Fans: The San Francisco Chronicle is pondering the addition of new cartoons for their paper – a process that seems to be initiated by Darren Bell, creator of Candorville (one of my daily reads – highly recommended). You can read the Chronicle article here and please add your thoughts to the comments if you wish. If anything, put in a good word for Darren and Candorville.

I am submitting Town Called Dobson to the paper for their consideration. They seem to have given great weight to receiving 200 messages considering Candorville. I am asking TCD fans to try to surpass that amount. (I get more than that many hate mails a day, surely fans can do better?)

This is not a race between Darren and I, it is a hope that more progressive strips can be represented in the printed press of America.

So if you read the San Francisco Chronicle or live in the Bay Area (Google Analytics tell me there are a lot of you), please send your kind comments (or naked, straining outrage) to David Wiegand at his published addresses below. If you are a subscriber, cut out your mailing label and staple it to a TCD strip and include it in your letter.

candorcomment@sfchronicle.com

or

David Wiegand

Executive Datebook Editor

The San Francisco Chronicle

901 Mission St.

San Francisco, CA 94103

Strip Essay:

In 1831, a bloody slave rebellion took place in Southampton County, Virginia. A slave named Nat Turner who was able to read and write and had “visions”, led what became known as Nat Turner’s Rebellion or the Southampton Insurrection. On a crusade with the goal of freeing himself and others, Turner and his followers killed approximately fifty men, women and children, but were eventually subdued by the white militia.

Nat Turner was hanged and skinned. His fellow freedom fighters were also hanged. In addition to killing Turner and his fellow insurrectionists, more than a hundred innocent slaves who had nothing to do with the rebellion were also murdered by the white militia. Across the South, harsh new laws were enacted in the aftermath of the 1831 Turner Rebellion to curtail the already limited rights of African Americans. Typical was the Virginia law against educating slaves, free blacks and children of whites and blacks. These laws were often defied by individuals, among whom was noted future Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.

In mid-century, at the same time that religious instruction was waning as the primary goal of education — at least among reformers — religious instruction of free and enslaved blacks in the South appeared to take on a renewed urgency. The slave rebellions, especially Nat Turner’s, had underscored for whites the need to maintain tight control over the literacy of blacks and the tenor of their religious beliefs. Although every southern state had outlawed the teaching of reading and writing to enslaved blacks (and in some cases, free blacks as well), there is considerable evidence that some whites defied the law.

For example, in 1853, a Mrs. Margaret Douglass of Norfolk, Virginia, “being greatly interested in the religious and moral instruction of colored children and finding that the Sunday school where they were allowed to attend was not sufficient,” began teaching free black children to read and write in her home. Mrs. Douglass pleaded ignorance of the law, having believed that it applied only to the teaching of slaves, and the mayor announced his intention to dismiss the charge; however, the Grand Jury chose to indict her. In her defense, she demonstrated that teaching free black children to read had been a common practice in the city’s Sunday schools for years. The jury’s penalty of one dollar was overturned by a Judge Baker, who imposed a month-long prison sentence, “as an example to all others in like cases.”

In rendering judgement, Baker spoke at length about the importance of religious instruction of blacks and its role in making slaves moral and happy, but stressed that it should be kept separate from “intellectual” instruction. He blamed this prohibition against black education on “abolition pamphlets and inflammatory documents” intended “to be distributed among our Southern negroes to induce them to cut our throats.”

The Verdict & Judgement

November 13 [1853]

The Jury this morning returned into court with a verdict of Guilty, and fixing the penalty at a fine of one dollar. The Court then adjourned for the term.

January 10, 1854

After the adjournment of the Court on November 13, Mrs. Douglass obtained permission from the Judge and the Sheriff to visit New York, where she remained several weeks, returning to Norfolk with her daughter. She appeared today for sentence.

Judge Baker . . .

There are persons, I believe, in our community, opposed to the policy of the law in question. They profess to believe that universal intellectual culture is necessary to religious instruction and education, and that such culture is suitable to a state of slavery; and there can be no misapprehension as to your opinions on this subject, judging from the indiscreet freedom with which you spoke of your regard for the colored race in general. Such opinions in the present state of our society I regard as manifestly mischievous. It is not true that our slaves cannot be taught religious and moral duty, without being able to read the Bible and use the pen. Intellectual and religious instruction often go hand in hand, but the latter may well be exist without the former; and the truth of this is abundantly vindicated by the well-known fact in many parts of our own Commonwealth, as in other parts of the county in which among the whites one-fouth or more are entirely without a knowledge of letters, respect for the law, and for moral and religious conduct and behavior, are justly and propely appreciated and practiced.

A valuable report or document recently published in the city of New York by the Southern Aid Society sets forth many valuable and important truths upon the condition of Southern slaves, and the utility of moral and religious instruction, apart from a knowledge of books. I recommend the careful perusal of it to all whose opinions concur with your own. It shows that a system of catechetical instruction, with a clear and simple exposition of Scripture, has been employed with gratifying success; that the slave population. of the South are peculiarly susceptible of good religious influences. Their mere residence among a Christian people has wrought a great and happy change in their condition: they have been raised from the night of heathenism to the light of Christianity, and thousands of them have been brought to a saving knowledge of the Gospel.

Of the one hundred millions of the negro race, there cannot be found another so large a body as the three millions of slaves in the United States, at once so intelligent, so inclined to the Gospel, and so blessed by the elevating influence of civilization and Christianity. Occasional instances of cruelty and oppression, it is true, may sometimes occur, and probably will ever continue to take place under any system of laws: but this is not confined to wrongs committed upon the negro; wrongs are committed and cruelly practiced in a like degree by the lawless white man upon his own color; and while the negroes of our town and State are known to be surrounded by most of the substantial comforts of life, and invited both by precept and example to participate in proper, moral and religious duties, it argues, it seems to me, a sickly sensibility towards them to say their persons, and feelings, and interests are not sufficiently respected by our laws, which, in effect, tend to nullify the act of our Legislature passed for the security and protection of their masters.

The law under which you have been tried and found guilty is not to be found among the original enactments of our Legislature. The first legislative provision upon this subject was introduced in the year 1831, immediately succeeding the bloody scenes of the memorable Southampton insurrection; and that law being found not sufficiently penal to check the wrongs complained of, was re-enacted with additional penalties in the year 1848, which last mentioned act, after several years’ trial and experience, has been re-affirmed by adoption, and incorporated into our present code. After these several and repeated recognitions of the wisdom and propriety of the said act, it may well be said that bold and open opposition to it is a matter not to be slightly regarded, especially as we have reason to believe that every Southern slave state in our country, as a measure of self-preservation and protection, has deemed it wise and just to adopt laws with similar provisions.

There might have been no occasion for such enactments in Virginia, or elsewhere, on the subject of negro education, but as a matter of self-defense against the schemes of Northern incendiaries, and the outcry against holding our sIaves in bondage. Many now living well remember how, and when, and why, the anti-slavery fury began, and by what means its manifestations were made public. Our mails were clogged with abolition pamphlets and inflammatory documents, to be distributed among our Southern negroes to induce them to cut our throats. Sometimes, it may be, these libelous documents were distributed by Northern citizens professing Southern feelings, and at other times, by Southern people professing Northern feelings. These, however, were not the only means resorted to by the Northern fanatics to stir up insubordination among our slaves. They scattered far and near pocket handkerchiefs, and other similar articles, with frightful engravings, and printed over with anti-slavery nonsense, with the view to work upon the feeling and ignorance of our negroes, who otherwise would have remained comfortable and happy. Under such circumstances there was but one measure of protection for the South, and that was adopted. . . .

For these reasons, as an example to all others in like cases disposed to offend, and in vindication of the policy and justness of our laws, which every individual should be taught to respect, the judgement of the Court is, in addition to the proper fine and costs, that you be imprisoned for the period of one month in the jail of this city.

The situation was better in the North and the first African Free School was opened in New York City in 1787. This school and six others in the city began receiving public funding in 1824. People who graduated from these schools included Henry Highland Garnet and Ira Aldridge.

When Prudence Crandall, a Quaker, opened a school for black girls in Canterbury, Connecticut, attempts were made by local white people to burn the building down. Despite attempts to prevent the school receiving essential supplies, Crandall school continued and began to attract girls from Boston and Philadelphia. The local authorities then began using a vagrancy law against these students. These girls could now be given ten lashes of the whip for attending the school. William Lloyd Garrison reported the case in the Liberator and with the support of the Anti-Slavery Society Crandall continued to run the school.

In 1834 Connecticut passed a law making it illegal to provide a free education for black students. When Prudence Crandall refused to obey the law she was arrested and imprisoned. Crandall was convicted but won the case on appeal. When news of the court decision reached Canterbury, a white mob attacked the school and threatened the lives of Crandall and her students. Afraid that the children would be killed or badly injured, Crandall decided to close her school down.

In 1849 Charles Sumner helped Sarah C. Roberts to sue the city of Boston for refusing to admit black children to its schools. Their case was lost but in 1855 Massachusetts legislature changed its policy and declared that “no person shall be excluded from a Public School on account of race, colour or prejudice.”

Birth Of A Notion Disclaimer

Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story

A soldier’s story is our story.  On this April afternoon, I attended a memorial.  Americans in my local community, as well as those in every other region of the country, mourned the recession. People pondered the reality; this war affects our daily lives and our fiscal stability.  In my neighborhood, Michael Prysner, an Iraq War veteran offered his theory on the theme, Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story.  I share an introduction to his tale and an invitation.  Please peruse the musings of Michael Prysner.

Twas the day before any other day in the lives of average Americans.  It was April 24, 2008.  Countless people traveled about in late model luxury automobiles.  A few could not afford such finery.  Still, those of lesser means were able to retain a vehicle of sorts.  In the United States, a motorized metal chariot is considered a must.  In many nations, car ownership is thought lavish.  Certainly, those with money enough to drive from place to place have not a care in the world.  Yet, here most individuals in carriages are stressed.  

In every neighborhood, numerous persons are now out on the street.  Some only have a car to count on.  They do not have the money to purchase the petroleum needed to run the vehicle.  The price of fuel is high and steadily climbing.  Rates of unemployment have increased.  Job security decreased.  The value of homes has dropped.  However, few citizens can afford to remain in what was once their shelter.  Foreclosures are frequent.  Mortgage brokers and a lack of reasonable banking regulations have helped to create a meltdown within the marketplace.

In America, there is an economic crisis.  The government cannot assist the common folk.  All available funds are spent on wars in the Middle East.  Residents in the richest country in the world are worried.  Will they survive?

This was the question asked at vigils throughout the nation.  In conjunction with MoveOn.org people in this country spoke of how the Persian Gulf wars have affected the economy.  Recession and the Iraq War were the themes.  In Boca Raton, Florida Mike Prysner, an Iraq war veteran spoke of his experience in country and how those relate to the fiscal calamity Americans face.

May I introduce Michael Prysner and his Winter Soldier testimony.  With permission from the informed, informative, and inspirational author, it is my great honor to present  . . .



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1

A soldier’s story?

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally published on Friday, March 21, 2008

Michael Prysner’s Winter Soldier testimony

The following statement was delivered at the Winter Soldier event, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, and held in Washington, D.C. from March 13 through March 16. The event featured the testimony of numerous Iraq war veterans about their personal experiences. The author is an Iraq war veteran and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s congressional candidate in Florida’s 22nd District.

When I first joined the army, we were told that racism no longer existed in the military. A legacy of inequality and discrimination was suddenly washed away by something called “Equal Opportunity.” We would sit through mandatory classes, ensuring us that racism had been eliminated from the ranks, and every unit had its own EO representative to ensure no elements of racism could resurface. The Army seemed firmly dedicated to smashing any hint of racism.

And then Sept. 11 happened. I began to hear new words like “towel head,” “camel jockey” and-the most disturbing-“sand n*gg*r.” These words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers, but from my superiors-my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, my battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command, viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable.

I noticed that the most overt racism came from veterans of the first Gulf War. Those were the words they used when they were incinerating civilian convoys. Those were the words they used when this government deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure, bombing water supplies knowing that it would kill hundreds of thousands of children. Those were the words the American people used when they allowed this government to sanction Iraq-and this is something many people forget. We’ve just learned that we’ve killed over 1 million Iraqis since the invasion; we had already killed a million Iraqis before the invasion throughout the 90s through bombings and sanctions.

‘Haji’ was the enemy

When I got to Iraq in 2003, I learned a new word-“Haji.” Haji was the enemy. Haji was every Iraqi. He was not a person, or a father, or a teacher, or a worker. But where does this word come from? Every Muslim strives to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, called a Haj. A Muslim who has completed that pilgrimage is a Haji. It is something that, in traditional Islam, is the highest calling in the religion-essentially, the best thing for a Muslim made into the worst thing.

But history did not start with us. Since the creation of this country, racism has been used to justify expansion and oppression. The Native Americans were called savages. The Africans were called all sorts of things to excuse slavery. A multitude of names were used during Vietnam to justify that imperialist war.

So Haji was the word we used on this mission. We’ve heard a lot about raids during Winter Soldier, kicking down people’s doors and ransacking their homes. But this mission was a different kind of raid. We never got any explanation for these orders, we were only told that this group of five or six houses were now property of the U.S. military. We had to go in and make those people leave those houses.

So we went to these houses and told the people that their homes were no longer their homes. We provided them no alternative, no place to go, no compensation. They were very confused and scared, and would not leave-so we had to remove them from their houses.

There was one family in particular that stands out: a woman with two young daughters, an elderly man who was bed-ridden and two middle-aged men. We dragged them from their houses and threw them onto the street. We arrested the men for not leaving and sent them to prison with the Iraqi police.

At that time I didn’t know what happened to Iraqis when we put a sandbag over their head and tied their hands behind their back; unfortunately, a couple months later, I had to find out. Our unit was short interrogators, so I was tasked to assist with interrogations.

A detainee’s ordeal

First, I’d like to point out that the vast majority of detainees I encountered had done nothing wrong. They were arrested for things as simple as being in the area when an IED went off, or living in a village where a suspected insurgent lived.

I witness and participated in many interrogations; one in particular I’d like to share. It was a moment for me that helped me realize the nature of our occupation.

This detainee who I was sent to interrogate was stripped down to his underwear, hands bound behind his back and a sandbag on his head-and I never actually saw his face. My job was to take a metal folding chair, and as he was standing face-first against the wall, I was to smash the chair next to his head every time he was asked a question. A fellow soldier would yell the same question over and over, and no matter what he answered, I would smash the chair next to his head.

We did this until we got tired, then I was told to make sure he stayed standing facing the wall. By this time he was in an extremely broken state-he was shaking uncontrollably, he was crying, and he was covered in his own urine.

I was guarding him, but something was wrong with his leg-he was injured and kept falling to the ground. My sergeant told me to make sure he stayed standing, so I would have to pick him up and slam him against the wall. He kept falling down so I’d have to keep picking him up and forcefully putting him against the wall.

My sergeant came by, and was upset that he was on the ground again, so he picked him up and slammed him against the wall several times-and when the man fell to the ground again I noticed blood pouring down from under the sandbag.

So I let him sit, and whenever my sergeant starting coming I would warn the man and tell him to stand. It was then that I realized that I was supposed to be guarding my unit from this detainee, but what I was doing was guarding this detainee from my unit.

I tried hard to be proud of my service. All I could feel was shame.

Face of occupation is laid bare

Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I have since been plagued by guilt-anytime I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn’t walk, who we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt anytime I see a mother with her children, like the one who cried hysterically, and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt anytime I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.

We were told we were fighting terrorists. The real terrorist was me. The real terrorism is this occupation.

Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. It has long been used to justify the killing, subjugation, and torture of another people. Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon that a rifle, or a tank, or a bomber, or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell, or a bunker buster, or a tomahawk missile.

While all those weapons are created and owned by this government, they are harmless without people willing to use them. Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round; they don’t have to fight the war, they merely have to sell us the war. They need a public who is willing to send their soldiers into harm’s way, and they need soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed, without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb-but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow the orders to use it. They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth, but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight.

The ruling class-the billionaires who profit from human suffering, who care only about expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy-understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation is in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to die and kill is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior.

Soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have nothing to gain from this war. The vast majority of people living in the United States have nothing to gain from this war. In fact, not only do soldiers and workers gain nothing from this occupation, but we suffer more because of it. We lose the limbs, endure the trauma, and give our lives. Our families have to watch flag-draped coffins lowered into the earth. Millions in this country without health care, jobs, or access to education must watch this government squander over $400 million a day on this war.

The real enemy is here

Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country, to make the rich richer. Without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war. I threw people onto the street in Iraq, only to come home and find families here thrown onto the street in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis that is already leaving hundreds of Iraq war veterans homeless.

We need to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land; they’re not people whose names we don’t know and whose cultures we don’t understand. The enemy is people we know well and people we can identify-the enemy is the system that sends us to war when it’s profitable; the enemies are the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when its profitable; they’re the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable; they’re the banks that take away our homes when it’s profitable.

Our enemies are not 5,000 miles away. They are right here at home, and if we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war, stop this government, and create a better world.



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt2