Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Slave Labor

A couple of years ago, Annie and i were traveling up highway 287 and were southeast of Crockett, Texas by about 15 miles when we decided to see what the next roadside historical marker had to tell us. We arbitrarily pick one every once in a while just for grins and to break the monotony of our travel. They usually bring pretty much unexciting information about a church that used to be on that site and the name of the landowner who donated the land and maybe the long gone circuit riding preacher that was involved. Or else it might be tell of a graveyard located 2 miles from the marker. This time we got lucky.

The marker told us a brief story of how in 1847 twenty eight year old Albert Holley was setting up a homestead in East Texas. He was arriving from Alabama with his group of 137 slaves. The rest of his family was coming to Texas from Alabama by boat.

Southern Slave
I was stunned to think of the responsibility of having to care for that many people. Slaves in 1850 were selling at various prices, depending on their age, sex and physical condition, but a primo slave, 23 years old, could bring around 1,200 dollars to the seller. So it was quite an investment in 1850 and Holley was a large slave owner as few owned so many and about 75% of the white population owned none. The slaves were of different ages, and sexes I would suppose, detail is not available, but it would seem reasonable that anyone with that many slaves traded in human beings to a substantial degree. Anyone with 137 slaves was definitely in the slave breeding business. Marriage was outlawed between slaves and most were kept dumbed down as they needed to be jussmartenuf to do what was needed of them, and no more. Dumb was good. It was all legal.

Today it seems that the same is being applied to the rank and file of American citizenry by most of our titans of industry and finance and our media. Of course there has been a class war going on for not only decades but generations. There is nothing wrong with making a million dollars. As Reverend Ike used to say, "The best thing we can do for the poor is not be one of them." But even though it is not illegal and is even admirable to make a ton of money, there is something immoral when it is done through the exploitation of the underprivileged.

Today's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which projects to $15,080 per year, working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks of the year. It does not include benefits of any sort. Some politicians and pundits say this is too much money and should be reduced or that the minimum wage should be abolished altogether. Think about this, based on the same formula, Rush Limbaugh makes $27,885 per hour.*

I know the argument; this is usually for entry-level people, often teenage workers or people will little or no skills, but surely some are single mothers needing to feed their children. Nevertheless, that person is faced with the same problems we all encounter daily: the need for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, transportation and all on $15,080 per year, that's gross and if you think that is a living wage, you don't know Jack. With the recent Obama reduction in Social Security tax for the worker to .042% and the other payroll tax deduction of Medicare, which is .0145%, the net comes down to $14,228 or $38.98 per day, further reduced by the fact that in Texas the state adds an .0825% tax to all purchases except medical care or for food bought in a grocery store. Don't we all remember Rachael Ray's show about her being able to miraculously buy three meals a day for just $40.00? (Just an aside: when Rachael came to do Dallas on $40.00 a day she stayed in the pricey ZaZa boutique hotel where prices start at around $600 per night for the cheap rooms. Their server is down so i cannot confirm actual prices at this time.)

We can extrapolate further. You can take exception that McDonald's has a dollar burger, but don't you get my drift? Minimum wage is not even a living wage for one person, let alone someone with a dependent. You can expect to see this person lined up at the emergency room for medical care as it is improbable that they have access to a personal physician for preventive care.

Today Albert Holley would not have to concern himself with the care and feeding of 137 slaves, many of whom would be unproductive as they would be too young or too old or too ill. He would not have to clothe or feed or shelter his help. He would not have to concern himself with their well-being when the workload slacked, such as in the dead of winter. All he would need to do is to draw on the millions of Americans today that are looking for work, any work. All they need to do to qualify is to be jussmartenuf.

*$58 million divided by 2080 working hours per year.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chapter one: becoming jussmartenuf

Riley lived in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. He was a horse man all his life, in fact he died from a stroke he suffered chasing a horse across the pasture. He made his living and raised a family as a small business man, he had an automobile body repair shop a few miles north in Tulsa.

I never knew too much about horses, and after i got to know them a bit i didn't want to know too much about horses, having learned that, like people, they sometimes had disagreeable dispositions. Also, it seemed when riding, every time my posterior was coming down the hard saddle was coming up to meet me, giving my back an uncomfortable jar. It always looked so easy when Shane rode into the sunset.
Strawberry Roan

Riley had a Strawberry Roan that was an exception to this rule. She was a sweet horse, a gaited Tennessee Walker that was smooth riding and always seemed to put her foot exactly where i wanted her to step. Riley could get her to stand perfectly still when salving an ear or checking her eyes.

"Horses are just smart enough" Riley told me, "if they were any smarter it wouldn't work and if they were any dumber it wouldn't work". That's me; just smart enough.

Now i like to read commentaries by learned journalists and am always a bit dismayed with some of the words they find to express themselves, words like casuistry and sophism. They send me to the dictionary and for years i would kind of gloss over them, thinking i could guess what they meant in the context of what i was reading rather than get out the seven pound dictionary and page alphabetically to their definition. When i guessed, i often guessed wrong. The computer has simplified all that for me, but i still don't necessarily retain their meaning and often have to look them up the second and third time before it all soaks in.

Casuistry, by the way, means the use of clever but unsound reasoning and sophism means an untrue or fallacious argument meant to deceive. I sometimes find myself reading articles that contain casuistry and sophism, the problem being i have to be just smart enough to recognize it, because at first glance they are plausible and reasonable but actually they are misleading and they are wrong. Specious is the word i want you to remember because a specious statement is a wrongful statement that sounds reasonable and is told with the objective of deceiving us and getting us to believe it. We just have to have enough horse sense to figure it out or be left with the wrong impression, and worse still, maybe passing it on as the gospel truth.

Politicians become pretty good at putting together specious statements. Things like if we don't give the ultra (i like uber) rich special tax breaks allowing them to pay less taxes then you or I do, they will be forced to fire people (kind of a threat in that, isn't there?). Conversely, if we give them those preferred tax positions everything will be wonderful and they will hire more people; hire more people to do what? It all sounds a little specious to me, doesn't it to you? It would seem if Rush Limbaugh were made to pay taxes on his $58 million dollars per year he should have enough left over so he would not have to fire any gardeners or dishwashers, ( I just can't get a picture in my mind of Rush washing dirty pans or vacuuming under the bed) or even the person who keeps his Rolexes wound. In fact just the opposite seems plausible, maybe we could hire some teachers or policemen or maybe even save the life of a child through research or rehab if those taxes were put to use in a proper manner.

You see, new words can really be enlightening, if we are jussmartenuf to put two and two together and get four.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Obama killing Christians? - What next?

Each morning it has become my habit to scan the news on the Internet. I usually do this before dawn with a large cup of coffee. I try to get an overview of what is going on in the world by looking at several sources of information and this morning that included the RedState blog which is posted by Erick Erickson. RedState is just what it sounds like. It is a right wing Republican oriented blog.

 As you may have noticed in the news recently, President Obama has ordered about 100 special forces troops into Uganda, a landlocked country in Africa, to track down the leaders of an organization known as the Lord's Resistance Army, or the LRA. The US goal is to take the leaders of this group out of control.

Murderous Lord's Resistance Army
leader, Joseph Kony
Washington Post Photo
The LRA is a murderous lot, led by a criminal that has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The leader's name is Joseph Kony. Kony has ruled by terror, rape, mutilation and murder. He has recruited child soldiers that are sometimes murdered when they do not comply. The girls are sometimes used as sex slaves. According to Erickson and the Washington post, The LRA gets their message straight from God and their goal is to take over Uganda and set up a theocratic regime with Kony as their prophet.

Anyway, it seems Erickson at RedState has been flooded by emails from concerned Redstate readers that Obama is sending troops into Africa to kill Christians who are fighting radical Islamists. Oh my, shades of Donald (just because you are rich, that does not make you smart) Trump, how some do jump to conclusions. US forces are there to assist local authorities and to take out Kony and his henchmen who have been terrorizing Uganda for more than 20 years.

To Erickson's credit, he advised these misguided people that killing Christians is not the case, in fact the Bush administration also hunted members of the LRA. I suspect these are some of the same people who thought Obama is not an American. It is unfortunate that others did not step forward to straighten these people out at that time also, maybe some of this misdirected anger and energy could have been put to use on more productive, and might I say, progressive, not regressive, issues.
Erickson could have let this pass and fester and many would have been focused on nonsensical information as they were when Sarah Palin told her whopper of a lie that there would be "death panels" created to determine who would live and who would die if a universal health plan was adopted. This was a major distraction, enhanced even by at least one United States Senator, Charles Grassley from Iowa, who stated there was reason to worry. Grassley would have better served his constituents with the truth by stating that issue was a canard (an unfounded rumor), rather then allowing the wrongfully skeptical to remain that way. It seems Grassley (and others) was more interested in wrongful information being in circulation if the confusion could buy him just one wrongful vote.

Rush (just because you are rich, that does not mean you are honest) Limbaugh, it appears, is the source of this recent foul information about Obama sending troops to Uganda to kill Christians. It is not the first time his listeners have heard misleading rhetoric. He has a knack for dropping innuendo with the apparent goal of disrupting the truth with lies and distortions, specious information. I consider any person who wants our president to fail is a traitor of the first degree and Limbaugh has stated publicly that is his wish. Limbaugh is an Ugly American who is full of hate. One who for the incredible sums of money he makes, $58 million dollars last year, is grossly overpaid to be negative. It matters not to him if the truth is not involved, but it matters greatly that others are mislead by his quest to demonize everything & anyone who does not agree with his selfish agenda.

If we the American people choose to replace our current president in the fall of 2012, let's do it with the correct information, not because of distortions of the truth or outright lies, and let's hope that if Donald Trump gets news of all these goings on in Uganda, he gets it from the correct source, not the kids on the corner.