mushroom cloud nuclear

“You Lie!”

U.S. Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina listens to President Obama's speech after yelling out This paunchy middle-aged man is South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson.

You may remember Joe as the guy who, in 2000, was one of only 7 State Senators who voted to keep the Confederate Flag flying over the State Capitol.  At the time he stated:  “The Southern heritage, the Confederate heritage is very honorable.”

Joe, the South lost.  It backed slavery.  It backed segregation.  It backed Jim Crow.  And South Carolina was the first state to leave the Union.

And, if that history was so “honorable,” you wouldn’t whitewash it.

I suppose I could say “You lie!” but that’s your line.

Remember, Joe?  Remember in 2009, when you shouted that line at President Barack Obama during a Joint Session of Congress?

Here,  I’ll remind you:

I’d be shocked that someone from South Carolina shows so little respect for the Federal Government but, well, see above about South Carolina’s dishonorable role in the Civil War.

But, you did call it as you see it, Joe.  Tonight, you will get to hear Republican President Donald Trump.  In the past, this man has claimed

  • President Barack Obama was not born in the United States (he was)
  • His inauguration drew the largest crowds (it didn’t and it wasn’t even in the few)
  • Millions of illegal immigrants committed voter fraud and voted against him (there’s no evidence of this)
  • He’d “drain the swamp” (he didn’t – instead giving inside White House access to vehement white supremacists and Cabinet posts to wealthy billionaires intent on dismantling national safeguards)
  • He’ll release his taxes if elected (he won’t, and you backed him on this)

The list is a bit longer but since he’s only been in office 5 weeks now, I think it’s safe to say this is a reasonable pattern.

So I hope you listen carefully tonight.  You wanted to make sure Presidents tell the truth during their speeches.  I expect you to do the same tonight and shout “You lie!” whenever it happens.  If Republican President Trump’s speech tonight is like those of the past, you might wake up tomorrow quite hoarse from all your shouting.

In the meantime, kudos for introducing a bill to restrict US funding to the UN organization that monitors and helps prevent Nuclear Weapons Testing.  Because if we haven’t had a nuclear war yet, why spend money to enforce a test ban treaty?  Meanwhile, go right ahead and posture about North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons.

I might call you to thank you for this piece of legislative insight.  Which of your numbers:

  • (803) 642-6416 (SC)
  • (803) 939-0041 (SC)
  • (202) 225-2452 (Washington, DC)

is the best one to reach you?


Spilled American Blood: Jogging Our National Memory

Battlefield at Antietam (Sharpsburg)

September 17, 1862 — the bloodiest day in United States history

[try to remember]
Six days ago was the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Nearly 3000 people died that day when terrorists took over four jet airliners for the purpose of using them as ad hoc guided missiles.  Numerous media reports commemorated the anniversary; the two most popular phrases of the day were “We Remember” or “Never Forget”.

We Americans are a forgetful people.  Part of our national mythos is our ability to re-invent ourselves and throw off the past.  Active forgetting is a crucial part of the American experience and its blending of immigrant cultures.  So, perhaps, it is not surprising that we need reminders to remember.

And yet, if one assumes that active memories don’t form until about the age of 5, anyone under the age of 16 barely has a memory of the 9/11 event if at all.  That’s presently about 20% of the population — and it’s growing all the time. Like the tide eroding the shore, constantly reshaping it, time erodes the national conscience.

Will people, for example, take to Facebook on December 7th, and recall the previous foreign invasion on American soil?  Only those born prior to 1936 would have any direct memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  They are now 76 years old or older, about 6% of the population and shrinking all the time.  After all, life expectancy is presently at 78 years.

I doubt we will see the same activity on Facebook on 12/7 as we did on 9/11.  This despite 3800 casualties, with about 2500 killed, on that Sunday in 1941.

We are constantly being told to remember.  Remember the Maine!  Remember the Alamo!

So much to remember!  Yet, we forget.

Just as most people forget what today is.  Today is the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest day in US history:  the US Civil War Battle of Antietam.  (At least named that in the North, the South refers to it as the Battle of Sharpsburg.)  On September, 17 1862, a total of 3650 Americans died, with casualties at 22,700.

22,700 casualties.  3650 dead.

In a single day.

These absolute numbers exceed all the other numbers we’ve talked about so far.  They exceed the dead on 9/11.  They exceed both the American dead (2500) and casualties (6600) on D-Day.  In absolute terms, September 17, 1862 is the bloodiest day in American history.

But it’s worse than that.

America’s population in 1862 was about 1/10 the size of what it is presently.  So to truly wrap our heads around these numbers, we need to multiply them by 10.  Imagine a tragedy in present day US history where 36,500 Americans died, with 227,000 casualties.  Having that many Americans casualties in a single day would be something like dropping a neutron bomb on Reno, Nevada — the 90th largest city in the US.

How long would it take to forget such an event?

Apparently less than 150 years.

But this day is special in our nation’s history not just for death, but for life.  It is the day that the United States re-invented itself. Antietam was the first battle of the US Civil War which took place on Union soil.  The Confederacy’s idea was to use the battle as a political statement. By successfully waging war inside the Union, the Confederacy hoped to gain official recognition as an independent country by both Britain and France.  Had that happened, the United States, as we know it, would have been over.

By pure coincidence, the battle was politically important to the Union as well.  President Lincoln had already penned the Emancipation Proclamation and was looking for a Union victory to release it (so the statement wouldn’t be seen as an act of desperation).  The fact that the Union drove the Confederate Army out of the North was enough to convince people that the North had won, at least strategically, and Lincoln released the Proclamation within a week.  The Union victory also effectively ended any hope of the Confederacy finding European backing for a negotiated settlement of splitting off from the United States.

150 years ago, September 17, 1862, the US Civil War was elevated at Antietam from a political to a moral battle. The War became a thorough re-construction of what the American experiment in self-government meant.  Our national character today is not defined by its founding with the Revolutionary War but out of the horrific bloodbath at Antietam.  Today, 150 year ago, the United States — in the largest national tragedy ever — reinvented itself and gave itself over to “a new birth of freedom.”

We remember.  Let us always remember.

antietam confederate dead (sharpsburg)


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The Un-American Amendment: when 32 is greater than 68

Abraham Lincoln with Pinkerton and McClernand - 1862

President Abraham Lincoln led a nation to fight a war for Federal unity – only to have his own party try to dismantle it 150 years later.

[if 6 was 9]
Remember when the Republicans wanted to save the Union?

I don’t.  Because the last time they focused on it was about 150 years ago.  These days, the Republicans seem to be against any sort of Federalism.  Which is odd because the Republican Party was begotten by the Whigs and the Whigs were begotten by the Federalist Party which was formed by Alexander Hamilton who wrote the Federalist papers.

Need proof that the GOP has strayed from its Federalist roots?

Today, bills will be introduced to both the House and the Senate for a constitutional amendment to allow states to veto any federal laws they don’t like.  Who are the sponsors of these bills?   In the Senate:  Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Barrasso (R-WY), and  Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  In the House: Representatives Rob Bishop (R-UT) , H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Paul Broun (R-GA).

Note the R’s after the names.  And not a D in the bunch.

Rep. Bishop even published an Op-Ed piece yesterday to explain the reasoning behind the bills.  Of course his piece is laden with bold – and meaningless – statements about “founders’ intent”.  And that intent is apparently “more state power” despite the GOP being the grandson of the party founded by Federalist supreme Hamilton.

The basic idea of the amendment is that if 2/3 of the states don’t like a federal law, they can toss it.  This totally undermines Continue Reading

United States Civil War: A Warning from History

William Sherman as photographed by Matthew Brady

General William T. Sherman, photographed in 1865 with a black armband for the recently assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Today he reminds us the consequences of pushing extremism.

[…those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out…]
Today, April 12, many will be talking about the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s orbital mission into space.  It is also, however, the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy’s attack on the federal garrison on Fort Sumter – the action that required President Abraham Lincoln to finally act decisively on the rebel states.

Thus began a Civil War, that in many ways has not ceased today.  As then, today conservative forces (this time Republican, not Democratic as 150 years ago) complain of an intrusive Federal government and speak of a trampling of “states’ rights”.  Ironically, these same conservative forces claim a love of God, Constitution, and Country – though their political actions hardly show such love or empathy. “No compromise” is the rallying theme of these extreme forces. Then… and now.

Three and a half years after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, during his famous “March to the Sea”, Continue Reading