David V. Hawpe: Fancy Farm, Mitch McConnell and Blackdamp

david hawpeAlison Grimes ought to remind the Crowd of Fancy Farm that Mitch McConnell is choking the U.S. Senate with blackdamp.

Given what McConnell knows about coal mining, aides may have to explain to him that blackdamp is a mixture of debilitating gases – as one dictionary puts it, a miasma “incapable of supporting life or flame.”

Fancy Farm is, of course, the political picnic in Graves County on the first Saturday in August that traditionally opens the Kentucky political season. St. Jerome’s Parish bills the event as the “World’s Largest One Day BBQ,” where you can get the “best barbequed pork and mutton you’ll ever enjoy.”

At the 134th renewal there will be plenty of ridicule on the menu. In recent years the jeers and the taunts have made it increasingly difficult to hear what the politicians are saying, but nobody seems to mind.

The only violence you can expect at Fancy Farm is the violence that a candidate occasionally and unintentionally does to his or her own campaign. I have in mind two of my favorite politicians. One ranted in front of the picnic crowd as if prepping a Nuremberg rally for the appearance of the main speaker. The other claimed he was one tough son-of-a-you-know-what, when in fact he’s too fine a fellow to qualify as, say, a latter-day Louie Nunn.

I said nobody minds the Fancy Farm faceoffs and dustups, but in fact the Goo Goos don’t like them. Good Government zealots think jeers and catcalls are a threat to political civility. They condemn all the mocking and heckling as if it endangers the democratic process.

I have to smile. If anything, our politics are too polite.

I’m reading a new book by Frederick Brown, “The Embrace of Unreason.” (No, it’s not about what McConnell has done to the Senate.) It’s about France in the period 1914-1940, where civic life was a bit rougher. Opposing groups once turned up at a Paris showing of an ideologically-charged 1930s film called L’Age d’Or, to find the theater lobby decorated in Surrealist art. As Brown describes it, angry right wingers “trashed the premises, splattering ink over the screen, destroying the projector, hurling stink bombs, attacking spectators with blackjacks, damaging the art, and tearing up copies of “Surrealism in the Service of the Revolution” (that were) on sale.”

In America these days we’re much tamer.

A Democratic congressional candidate in conservative Central Washington recently got into trouble merely for airing an online commercial in which he fired a pump-action shotgun at an elephantpiñata . The politically correct folks at Americans for Responsible Solutions condemned Estakio Beltran’s video as “irresponsible and offensive.” As it ends, Beltran rides off toward Washington on a burro.

This is a country where Fox News calls out the Muppets for being“anti-oil” and “anti-corporate.”

The worst damage politically active Americans suffer is Rush Limbaugh boring them to tears or Chris Matthews hurting their ears.

If you make it to Fancy Farm you might hurt yourself, by gorging on pig, but glut and heatstroke are about the only real dangers you’re likely to face. Nobody is going to grab a barbecued mutton shank and thwack you for wrong thought. The stink bombs at this event are likely to be verbal, and thrown from the stage, not at it.

Somebody ought to thwack the McConnell campaign if the senator uses this occasion to once again claim that coal miners need him in Washington. How many miners has he put back to work?

Jobs have plummeted at mines and prep plants in Eastern Kentucky since he was re-elected in 2008 – from 15,418 to 7,332. When he was first elected way back there in 1984, the number of miners working in Kentucky’s mountain coalfields was almost 30,000.

If Kentucky voters send Alison Grimes to Washington, she won’t fix the problem. But she won’t be silent about it either. I expect her to tell both Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take their anti-coal attitude and shove it – politely, of course.

I’m certain she will join West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin in the Senate’s pro-miner caucus.

Manchin explained his view rather reasonably last year: “It is only common sense to use all our domestic resources, and that includes our coal. Let’s make sure that government works as our partner, not our adversary, to create a secure and affordable energy future, and let’s invest in technology which will have the ability to burn coal with almost zero emissions.” Senator McConnell has been a little more theatrical, charging the President with a “jihad” against coal.

It’s a shame the EPA can’t do anything about partisan emissions.

In the old days, miners took canaries with them underground. They knew they had to run from black damp if the canary died

The Democratic leadership also bears its share of the responsibility, but in Mitch McConnell’s gassy Senate, it’s functional governance that died.

David Hawpe, a native of Pike County who grew up in Louisville, has written about coal and Appalachia for more than four decades. This article was crossposted, with the permission of the author, from The Mountain Eagle.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Fancy Farm Redux

jyb_musingsNext Saturday, on what we hope is a sunny and inviting Kentucky summer afternoon, our state will be host to an annual political tradition we call Fancy Farm. 

Fancy Farm is Kentucky’s political equivalent of the ancient legal practice of trial by ordeal–where the accused is set on fire or tied up and thrown into a river to determine guilt or innocence. If the accused survives, they would be presumed innocent. In Kentucky’s political version, a politician who survives Fancy Farm, is presumed politically viable and allowed to continue to pursue their political aspirations. But like the survivors of the ancient legal trial, the Fancy Farm politician will never forget the ordeal endured.

Fancy Farm is probably America’s last vestige of pre-modern political theater. To succeed you need two parts talent; three parts ambition; one part courage; and two and a half parts temporary insanity.

Beyond all the tales about Fancy Farm, and beyond the sound and fury that occur during each year’s big political event, Fancy Farm does signify something. But what exactly that is, no one is quite sure.

So we keep coming back in hopes of finding out.

Maybe we will unravel the Fancy Farm mystery this year. Or maybe not. Most likely Fancy Farm 2014 will again be another irresistible spectacle combining good will and good cheer; characters and charisma; courage and calculation; pleasing food and harsh partisanship; high political drama and low brow political tactics all swirling simultaneously within the context of nothing less than a political orgy sponsored by St Jerome’s Catholic church. All located In the deep recesses of Western Kentucky where real politicians picnicking and politicking face to face with real constituents still matters. At least for a short weekend.

Fancy Farm was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s largest picnic.” Fancy Farm is worthy of Guinness status, no doubt about it. For something. But calling Fancy Farm merely an annual picnic is like calling Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls an annual tour through the city of Pamplona. Perhaps the main attraction of both events is getting to see the people who participate –voluntarily– in these curious historic events that attempt to test and celebrate the human spirit.

Fancy Farm is something to see and should be seen at least once in the lifetime of every Kentuckian. And at least once by every American who is a non-Kentuckian but is a political junkie. Because vestiges of former times don’t last for long. And are painfully missed when finally gone.

So…Happy Fancy Farm 2014!!

May 2014′s political picnic live up to its grand and gaudy tradition –.and just a little bit more than usual this year. Because this year, the nation’s most defining political race may well hang in the balance. Making 2014′s Fancy Farm even fancier than usual. And that is saying a lot.

(Note: This link is to a piece I wrote last year about my political trial by ordeal in 1995, listed by the C-J as one of the more memorable Fancy Farm moments. It not really about me as much as my attempt to capture, the best I could, the essence of experiencing Fancy Farm. It is a flawed human attempt, I might add, to describe a near mythic event. But I tried. Which, in the end, is all that any of the participants at Fancy Farm can do.)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Wendell Ford

jyb_musingsA very special evening.I attended the annual Wendell Ford dinner tonight.But someone was missing, the honored guest himself, who is home tonight battling lung cancer courageously and magnanimously. Even cancer, as sinsiter and destructive a force as it is, must be ashamed to find itself hosting someone so beloved and beneficient as Wendell Ford. (And, yes, someone also so ornery and determined.)

Wendell may not have been in attendance but no figure has ever– in my experience– been more present in his absence than Sen Ford was at tonight’s event attended by at least 700 friends and political supporters.

Story after story about the iconic Kentucky politician was told by the various speakers, but none were really about politics. The stories all seemed to hew to the personal instead. They were about Wendell Ford the man, who just happened to be a great political leader at the time these memorable and meaningful personal interactions occurred.

The stories could easily have been about great legislative heroics or profiles in political leadership. But each and every one centered instead around little acts of kindness observed and experienced from Wendell Ford when nobody else was watching. Because, it seems, that is what stands out about Wendell Ford’s legacy most profoundly.

I chose this picture of Wendell to post –an action picture of Wendell with sleeves rolled up engaging with others while smiling broadly and contagiously rather than a blow dryed head shot behind his senate desk. The latter would be a picture Wendell just posed for. And Wendell was never a poser himself–or had patience with those who were.

wendell fordHe was, as a friend of the family would say, “The Real McCoy” and “the genuine article.” He is obviously still with us tonight and hopefully for a good while longer. And that is important to note because we may not see another quite like him again. Politics has changed…yet didn’t change Wendell.

Wendell Ford, it is true, is a Kentuckian who has walked with kings. But he is perhaps best described by the elevator man at our nation’s Capitol who proudly boasts that Wendell Ford is “the kindest human being to ever walk these Capitol floors.”

And that is an awfully fine legacy for 700 friends and supporters to celebrate tonight.

 

Jay Steinmetz:

Jay SteinmetzAmerica is at a crossroads.  We sit here on the edge of a fiscal cliff fighting to determine if tax hikes or entitlement reform is going to lead the day.  As we fight to raise our debt ceiling critical questions are not being answered and seem to be ignored time and time again.  How did we get here?  Why did we get here?  And how do we avoid getting here again?

When we rescued two of the three American car companies we did so by removing huge debt and the liabilities of their underfunded pension liabilities.  Did we address why they were all failing to begin with?  Were VW, BMW, and Mercedes in Germany rescued?  Did Japan step in to support Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Subaru or Mitsubishi.   There are concrete reasons why two thirds of the American auto industry was failing.  The truth is that America’s other smaller industries are just as affected but don’t have the glitter and prestige of the auto industry.  Many have already disappeared.

Unfortunately, the hidden statistic that never reaches the lips of leaders in Washington is that the United States of America has had 38 years of consecutive trade deficits.  Our current account deficit is 10 times worse than the worst country in Europe.  The EU as a whole carries a $32 billion trade gap with the world which sounds large until you realize that the United States of America has a trade deficit of $600 billion annually.  So the question needs to be asked, how is it that a continent stocked full of high cost socialist governments, scarce natural resources, expensive energy prices, speaking 23 languages, and with a 200 year history of intra-continental war, can out-produce and out-ship the United States of America.   Aren’t we the most innovative entrepreneurial land on earth?  Are we not the land of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Under Armour?

If you ask many of today’s leaders they will tell you that the new order of the day is an economy based on services, or they may tell you that manufacturing has left and will never come back.  Some will say the cost of manufacturing in this country is just simply too high.  Has anyone told LEGO’s, made in Portugal, or Playmobile, made in Germany that costs are too high?  With 300 million people in this country why was it considered impossible to find a few hundred willing to work for reasonable wages so we could outfit our Olympic athletes in clothes made in the USA?

It is time for a reset.  As a country we need to reflect upon the structure of how we operate and then begin to make the necessary structural changes – regardless of the blow-back from those seeking to benefit from the status quo.  There are many things that need changing as America’s issues are not the result of just one or two burdening policies, but many small issues that together can seem overwhelming. The Chinese call this death by 1000 cuts and we can’t allow this paralysis to threaten the future of our country.

Complicated tax rebates, loans, grants, and special incentive programs while well intentioned, are actually a burden to business, especially small businesses that don’t have the resources to handle them.  A business that is losing money cannot use a tax deduction when it is already losing money.  What business in America needs are not specialized manufacturing technology centers and special start-up technology programs, what a thriving economy needs is simplification.

An entrepreneur to be successful must focus.  They cannot be distracted with complicated tax codes, layers upon layers of insurance protections, human resource processes, burdensome licensing and environmental regulations, and complicated legal contracts. When an organization reduces operational processes it increases efficiencies which in turn creates the necessary focus on providing a better product or service.

Starting a business with core knowledge is not as difficult as some may think.  However, growing a business to any substantial size is exponentially harder.  Once a business grows to $40 million or 100 people it becomes subject to a bevy of interstate and intrastate rules and regulations that don’t affect smaller businesses.  Most companies are completely unprepared both financially and operationally to handle the overwhelming onslaught of regulatory obligations that come when a company achieves these new milestones.  It is my opinion that this is one reason you rarely see new small manufacturers opening production plants in the US.  The labor regulations, the environment regulations, and necessary permits are just the beginning.

If none of these regulations stunt the growth of a new manufacturer, the product and worker liability burden will surely take a huge bite out of any potential profits.  For in America, where companies are not reimbursed for successfully defending themselves in court, the cost of unwarranted litigation is a serious threat.  With over 1.2 million licensed legal professionals in America, frivolous litigation is rampant.

We need to be able to stop pandering to the entrenched interests and start creating visibility to the obstacles of business then remove them one at a time.  This is not as difficult as it sounds.  What is difficult is finding those with the courage to get this done.

Jay Steinmetz, CEO of Barcoding Inc. is a Member of the Maryland Small Business Commission

Arturr Davis: Falling Off the RP Wagon?

From AL.com:

davis_artur-11Let me get the news-making information out of the way:  On Aug. 25, an exact year before the election, I will be setting up a Davis for Mayor exploratory committee. If it reports that the resources and grassroots support are there, I am in.

I don’t underestimate the obstacles. While I was born on McKinney Street; while Dannelly, Montgomery Academy, Cloverdale and Jeff Davis gave me the foundation to make the Ivy League; while I cut my professional teeth trying cases in the old courthouse on Lee Street; and while I spent the first 31 years of my life in Montgomery, and married a Montgomery girl, none of that will spare me the carpetbagger attack. I know I will have to explain to African Americans just what this party switching business was about, and why being a Republican doesn’t mean that I have lost my heart for struggling people who can’t catch a break.

But let me talk for a moment about the city that shaped me.  I have watched Montgomery emerge from its comfortably slow past to become the hub of the largest foreign car manufacturer in America. Downtown is alive again after hours, and not just when the Biscuits play. There is a new vibrancy on the riverfront. East Montgomery is the home of a thriving, and thankfully multiracial, class of professional families.

But only part of the capitol city shares in this progress. West and Southwest Montgomery have more in common with Selma’s entrenched stagnation than Wynlakes’ or Brighton’s manicured lawns. LAMP glimmers as a national model of excellence while virtually every non-magnet public school languishes. One out of five Montgomerians lives at the poverty level; tens of thousands more live on thin ice because their small wages barely keep pace with the cost of raising a family.

And think of this tantalizing detail: had Montgomery gained the same number of residents the last two years that it ended up losing, it would be the largest city in Alabama right now. That is a picture perfect measure of the fine line between advancing and slipping backwards.

It has occurred to me that what will determine Montgomery’s destiny are exactly the themes that motivated me toward political life 15 years ago.  Just how does a community generate affluence and protect its vulnerable at the same time? How do schools build a foundation between 8 am and 3 pm that withstands the wreckage some youngsters face when they get home? How does a city lure jobs that are good enough to transform lives, and then how to prepare its young people to do the work when it comes? How does leadership convince blacks and conservative whites that their interests are really aligned and not at odds with each other?

The familiar left versus right debate is too exhausted, too stale to manage any of these problems. The last thing we need is to import the false choices in Washington into a Montgomery election.

So, my campaign won’t rehash what federal policies have and haven’t worked. Instead, my agenda will be solutions that answer to the test of effectiveness rather than ideological purity. I will explore whether Montgomery needs to design its own city school district in order to take ownership of the best weapon to target high paying jobs, the quality and accountability of its schools. I won’t shy away from the urgent need to draw investment into West Montgomery, or the imperative of saving damaged young offenders before they harden into career criminals. I will talk in concrete terms about the economy Montgomery ought to pursue: there is no reason why Montgomery can’t go the path of Charleston, S.C., a much smaller community that has still found a way to become a top 10 center for high tech jobs; why the home of a gem like Maxwell Air Force Base can’t compete for the defense industries that Huntsville and Mobile win routinely; or why a city 45 minutes from Auburn’s landmark research in alternative energy couldn’t become a national leader in the new energy marketplace.

This focus on issues and details is not the typical Alabama political strategy. But when my hometown is the only metro area in Alabama that is shrinking, when some of its lost children are killing people, when Montgomery is starting to get stuck again, it’s time for an election to focus on what it means to do better. That is what should decide the next mayoral race, and it is why I am ready to take a stand for the city that raised me.

Roy Herron: The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Roy HerronFifty years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I was in elementary school and had no clue about the law that would drastically change daily life for African-Americans. I surely had no idea how it would improve life for white Americans like me.

This historic legislation outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin at “places of public accommodation.” The movie theater I frequented had to discard its “coloreds only” entrance and the segregated balcony. Restaurants where we ate had to let African-Americans out of the kitchens and into the dining areas. My future friends, like state Sen. Reggie Tate of Memphis, were no longer excluded from admission to the Mid-South Fair six days a week.

The new law gave the U.S. attorney general authority to seek redress when school boards deprived students “of the equal protection of the laws.” Two years later, my school in Weakley County, Tennessee, was desegregated. And for the first time, I began to spend time daily with African-American children. I had new friends in the classrooms, and the lessons went beyond reading and writing.

After signing the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson said to an aide, “We (Democrats) have lost the South for a generation.” The president underestimated the political impact, which continues now two generations later.

In 1966, just two years later, the people of Tennessee for the first time popularly elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate.

In 1968, in Memphis, the sanitation workers went on strike and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was struck down. In Nashville the Republicans took control of the state House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction.  Then in 1970, Tennessee elected a second Republican to the U.S. Senate, throwing out Democratic Sen. Albert Gore Sr.

Despite the backlash, the Civil Rights Act changed customs and changed society. With those changes, what could not have been imagined in 1964 became reality in 2008: An African-American was elected president.

Yet some Republicans responded to this historic progress with crude jokes and racist appeals to fellow bigots. In just one of many examples, a Tennessee Republican state legislative aide sent e-mails caricaturing President Barack Obama’s official portrait as two cartoon eyes peering from a black background.

When in 2010 I ran for Congress, racism was too easy to find. I can still see the angry face of the man at the duck supper who responded to my handshake with “Lemme talk with you about your (N-word) president.” And the scowling man at the rodeo who snarled, “I don’t shake hands with darkies or Democrats — and they’re often the same.”

Thankfully, most Republicans are not racists. But while most Republicans would never discriminate, degrade or demean, their leaders’ legislative actions still repress voters and reverse progress.

All over the country, Republicans are pushing new impediments to discourage and decrease voting by minorities and low-income citizens. While Republicans say they oppose big and oppressive government, they rammed through Tennessee’s government ID law, now notorious as one of the nation’s most burdensome. Only certain government cards now are acceptable at the polls, after Republicans outlawed using a Social Security card or even photo ID cards from the Memphis public library or the University of Memphis. Those without a driver’s license – nationally, 25% of African-Americans – now must go to a driver’s license station, but fewer than half of our counties even have such a station.

Republicans claim these laws fight voter fraud, but instances of persons trying to vote while using someone else’s identity are almost nonexistent. And researchers at the University of Southern California showed strong evidence that “discriminatory intent underlies legislative support for (these new) voter identification laws.”

The first book of the Bible teaches, “So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” God’s image does not have a color, but it does have a creed. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Galatians 3: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Our American ideals long have taught that we are one. The Great Seal of the United States proclaims “E pluribus unum” — from many, one.

But it was just 50 years ago today that statesmen and idealists and people of a deep faith in Almighty God and in America together created the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Let us celebrate their good work for justice and freedom. And let us carry on their good work, so all God’s children can live in peace and love in truth.

Roy Herron is chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. Communications director Rick Herron and interns Garrett Jennings and Hannah Oakley of the state Democratic Party assisted in researching and writing this column.  This piece was cross-posted, with the permission of the author, in the Commercial Appeal.

Lauren Mayer: How Many Lawsuits Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

Lawyer jokes are low-hanging-fruit – everyone knows at least a few, and it’s far too easy to make fun of ambulance-chasing caricatures or frivolous lawsuits against fast food outlets when people spill things on themselves.  (Although I do have one favorite:  A priest, a rabbi, a nun and a lawyer walk into a bar, and the bartender says, “What is this, some kind of a joke?”    But I digress . . . )

Some of my best friends really are lawyers, and they do everything from defending homeowners against wrongful evictions to the mind-numbingly-dull paperwork on which most small businesses depend.  (Admission: My father was a small business contract lawyer, and when I was trying to decide whether to go into law or show business, he informed me that while law was a noble profession, “what separates humans from animals is our ability to appreciate art.”  He then added “plus you don’t get applause in court.”)

Suffice to say, while I didn’t end up going to law school, I firmly believe in the power of law to protect people, and I understand the vital role played by lawsuits.  However, John Boehner’s threat to sue President Obama for some yet-to-be-specified-disregard-of-something-he-hasn’t-figured-out-yet bears no resemblance to a valid lawsuit – instead, it sounds like when a 10-year-old threatens to run away from home because his parents are so mean, they won’t let him do, uh, whatever it was he wanted to do but forgot.

So this week’s song combines my general understanding of law with the show business career toward which my lawyer father pointed me . . .

Note: Show Lauren we need more entertainers and fewer lawyers by supporting her new CD, a compilation of greatest hits from these videos. You can hear clips and learn more here.

Lauren Mayer: The Sky Is Falling! No, Really! No, I Mean It This Time!

Over-reaction is becoming so common on the political scene these days, things have to go pretty far before they qualify as genuinely surprising over-reaction. But the furor over last week’s primary defeat of Eric Cantor definitely qualifies.

To put it in perspective, Cantor lost by 36,000 votes, which is about 5% of his voting-eligible constituents, which is about .002% of the 150 million eligible voters in the country. But that didn’t stop pundits from gasping in shock and declaring that this was a political game-changer, with miscalculation like “Dewey Defeats Truman” combined with “Real Housewives”-style national fascination. (Not to mention the fun of seeing Cantor’s opponent, an economics professor who advocates something called “Christian Capitalism,” unable to answer basic questions about the minimum wage . . . but I digress.)

This one low-turnout race has apparently led to everything from a resurgence of the Tea Party to the end of any hope for immigration reform to the realization that Democrats should just give up on 2014 unless turnout is boosted by major hurricanes in November that have female names (which apparently are viewed as less scary, so people don’t evacuate as quickly). Hello, people – it’s only one tiny district!

On the other hand, there is a Through-The-Looking-Glass surreal quality about one of the most obstructionist right-wing Majority Leaders in history losing a primary for being too liberal. So who knows, maybe the over-reactors are on to something . . .

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The News

jyb_musingsIf you listen carefully to the news every morning you can’t help but notice it sounds about the same every day.

Some sports scores, somebody goes to jail, a corporate acquisition, some political races, an overcast outlook with temperatures going up and then down, an odd fact and a human interest story about someone we don’t know getting a nice break. 

I don’t even need to listen. 

If we can put a man on the moon, you would think the people making our daily news could mix it up a little with what they do each day that is newsworthy.

Lauren Mayer: Revenge Of The (Political) Nerds

Many of the most interesting, accomplished adults I know were nerds in high school, high achievers with inversely proportionate low social status.  Revenge for us usually comes in the form of high school reunions – you know, seeing the head cheerleader who snubbed you suddenly be impressed by your business success.  (Or in my case, I ran into the object of my freshman year crush – at a school dance, I’d summoned up all my early feminist initiatve and asked him if he wanted to dance, and his response was “Yes, but not with you.”  When I reminded him of this exchange 30 years after the fact, he apologized and said he’d been an idiot, and I barely restrained my urge to shout from the rooftop, “Unhappy teenage girls everywhere, sometimes dreams DO come true!”)

Sometimes ‘good student revenge’ comes in the political arena.  While I acknowledge that there are two sides to every story, and that political fanatacism and narrow-mindedness come both right- and left-flavored, it has seemed lately that the far right has gotten intellectually lazy, ignoring facts that contradict dogma, and not bothering to check into the stories about voter fraud, welfare cheats, and the complete eradication of racism that fit their agenda.  So it’s been pretty amusing to watch the pundits and politicians who championed rancher Cliven Bundy suddenly stampede away from him once his racist views came to light (on the national stage those same right-wingers had created for him).  As Rachel Maddow and other liberals have pointed out, Bundy’s statements about only acknowledging sheriffs but not federal government officials was a hallmark of the ‘posse comitatus’ movement, which was based on southern racist resistence to integration, beginning after the Civil War and continuing through Jim Crow laws up to the present day.  This doesn’t mean that every rightwinger who defies the federal government is a racist, but it does point out the importance of doing a little background work.  (Confession: I learned this myself after voting for John Edwards in the 2008 primary, because he advocated a single payer health system, but before I’d bothered to look into a few of his personal issues.  However, I like to think that I would have been a little more thorough if I’d been championing him on national television.)

Therefore, liberals have been indulging in some delicious schadenfreude (look it up if you’ve never seen Avenue Q), and in my case, I set that gloating to music so I could have the ultimate nerd revenge – using “posse comitatus” in a song lyric.

Many of the most interesting, accomplished adults I know were nerds in high school, high achievers with inversely proportionate low social status. Revenge for us usually comes in the form of high school reunions – you know, seeing the head cheerleader who snubbed you suddenly be impressed by your business success. (Or in my case, I ran into the object of my freshman year crush – at a school dance, I’d summoned up all my early feminist initiatve and asked him if he wanted to dance, and his response was “Yes, but not with you.” When I reminded him of this exchange 30 years after the fact, he apologized and said he’d been an idiot, and I barely restrained my urge to shout from the rooftop, “Unhappy teenage girls everywhere, sometimes dreams DO come true!”)

Sometimes ‘good student revenge’ comes in the political arena. While I acknowledge that there are two sides to every story, and that political fanatacism and narrow-mindedness come both right- and left-flavored, it has seemed lately that the far right has gotten intellectually lazy, ignoring facts that contradict dogma, and not bothering to check into the stories about voter fraud, welfare cheats, and the complete eradication of racism that fit their agenda. So it’s been pretty amusing to watch the pundits and politicians who championed rancher Cliven Bundy suddenly stampede away from him once his racist views came to light (on the national stage those same right-wingers had created for him). As Rachel Maddow and other liberals have pointed out, Bundy’s statements about only acknowledging sheriffs but not federal government officials was a hallmark of the ‘posse comitatus’ movement, which was based on southern racist resistence to integration, beginning after the Civil War and continuing through Jim Crow laws up to the present day. This doesn’t mean that every rightwinger who defies the federal government is a racist, but it does point out the importance of doing a little background work. (Confession: I learned this myself after voting for John Edwards in the 2008 primary, because he advocated a single payer health system, but before I’d bothered to look into a few of his personal issues. However, I like to think that I would have been a little more thorough if I’d been championing him on national television.)

Therefore, liberals have been indulging in some delicious schadenfreude (look it up if you’ve never seen Avenue Q), and in my case, I set that gloating to music so I could have the ultimate nerd revenge – using “posse comitatus” in a song lyric.

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