States’ Rights and Drowning

Just a few years ago I heard quite a few southerners claiming in sincere and strongly felt terms that the US Civil War wasn’t about slavery. They claimed it was not started by the southern states to protect their lucrative way of life made possible solely through the use of free, involuntary labor. it was, rather, a highly principled fight for states’ rights. Any limitations coming from the federal government, they were certain, constituted tyranny.

Georgia Senator Alexander Stephens was the provisional vice president of the Confederacy in 1861 and he gave what was labeled the Cornerstone Speech. Apparently, those claiming today that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery were absent from school and missed the field trip to learn about Sen. Stephens.

Here’s how history Professor Heather Cox Richardson reports Stephens’s comments:

“Stephens spoke in Savannah, Georgia, to explain the difference between the United States and the fledgling Confederacy. That difference, he said, was slavery. The American Constitution was defective because it based the government on the principle that all men were created equal. Confederate leaders had corrected the Founding Fathers’ error by basing the Confederate government on the idea that some people were better than others.

“In contrast to the government the Founding Fathers had created, the Confederacy rested on the ‘great truth’ that ‘the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.’”

Click me to buy one.

Stephens himself pretty much put the BS sticker on any claims that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, but instead was about states’ rights. After all, he was there and helping to lead that treasonous insurrection, so I’m confident he knew what he was saying. Sure, anyone can claim that there was a huge component of “You can’t tell me what to do – or not do – federal government!” and that is surely true. But at the end of that argument, the Civil War was about,

greed, control and power over others and the abhorrent belief that some people are naturally superior to others.

And we’re still having that argument.

Today, 19 states, each with a dominant Republican legislature, have passed onerous, discriminatory voting restrictions designed to prevent from voting every citizen who doesn’t look like their ancestors came from Europe, like Black people and Brown people. They also happily extend their discrimination to young citizens of voting age and to poor people. These laws and the over 100 additional proposed laws in those 19 and other states are about,

greed, control and power over others and the abhorrent belief that some people are naturally superior to others.

Building on the morally repugnant foundation of Sen. Stephens, these Republican controlled states aren’t content with simply preventing citizens from voting. It may be fairly claimed that they have perfected their quest for greed, control and power over others by enacting legislation that gives Republican dominated state legislatures the power to ignore the will of the people. They get to claim that a Republican loser of any election has won.

So much for majority rule, democracy, rule of law, integrity, all men are created equal and a bunch of other things we commonly call fair, moral and honest.

Which is why it is critical that the Senate passes the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act. These will have the power to stop the Republican states’ decapitation of democracy. They are the the true “Stop the Steal” acts.

Professor Cox Richardson goes from Sen. Stephens’s immoral Confederate rant to the importance of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson being confirmed and sent to the Supreme Court. Read her essay and note the similarity of today’s efforts at human suppression to that of the 19th century.


The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings regarding the appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court were what we should have anticipated. The Republicans spewed demagoguery, false accusations and hypocrisy so thick you could drown in it.

This is how we now vet candidates for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. It’s a confidence builder, but not confidence for what is best for our nation. It’s confidence that yet worse toxic tribalism and threats to democracy are on the way, and we’re already drowning in those, too.

Be sure to send a note to the mothers of Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton, advising each of them that their son tells huge whoppers that disrespect and demean others and that he is very rude, interrupting other people when it’s their turn to talk. Let her know that her son is focused on creating sound bites in order to get on Hannity’s show, instead of doing his proper job. Suggest to them that they wash out their son’s vile mouth with laundry soap to clean out the dirty lies and that they once again teach them to take turns.

In contrast, send Sen. Cory Booker’s mom a note of thanks for raising a clear, bright, heartfelt son who hangs out in public what he knows to be right and good. True, he didn’t interrogate Jackson – he gave fawning praise. Still, if you didn’t hear his remarks to KBJ, watch here. If you did, watch again. He speaks to America about being America, about a more perfect union. And if your eyes stay dry as you listen, see your cardiologist immediately.


Have a look at this. It’s a Les Misérables flash mob in Adelaide, Australia. It’s all wonderful, but more important, consider the second song the anthem of Ukraine today.


The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. There are lots of smart, well-informed people. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we don’t. Search for others’ views and decide for yourself.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  5. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What’s Going On?

First, Something Personal

Parkinson’s Disease is a miserable critter. It strikes famous people like Michael J. Fox, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Diamond and it hits we little folk as well. Nobody knows what causes it, so nobody knows how to prevent it. It’s progressive (it gets worse over time), so all that can be done now for those stricken with Parkinson’s is to manage symptoms. There’s no cure – yet.

There are ongoing medical trials and much research happening, so hope continues, The research and trials take a long time and are very expensive. That’s why son Scott and Wendy and the boys have dedicated their hike of the John Muir Trail this month to raising money for the cause. If you click on their picture you’ll find a donation page for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Your joining in this battle in any amount will be greatly appreciated by my family, others who suffer from this disease now and for the millions in the future who will have more hope because of your help. Thanks.

And please pass this along to folks you know. Post on FB, Twitter  .  .  .  you get the idea.

Kudos to all who make the extra effort to raise funds for worthy causes. We’re way proud of this particular extraordinary help-the-cause people. You rock, kids!

Now, On To What’s Going On

I reported last Wednesday about the State of Texas proudly committing itself to denial of facts and reality and ever more firmly embracing Texas myths. The governor himself tweeted proudly that Texas children should be taught that those who died at the Alamo are heroes. No facts need be presented to impressionable minds about the real motivation of these men to fight. We wouldn’t want them to learn that Mexico prohibited slavery, so the actual (not mythical) truth about the battle at the Alamo was that Texas independence from Mexico meant free labor in Texas cotton fields.

And that’s why Texans wanted independence from Mexico. Now I get it!

But Governor Greg Abbott doesn’t want Texas school children to get it, so he’s stifling education. Pay no attention to the fact that those heroes were only heroes to slave owners. Ignore that this is the state that took two extra years to tell its slaves that they were free. Nothing to see here. Move along.

The governor also doesn’t want to allow today’s Texans to be free. He’s promised to arrest all the Democratic state legislators who left Texas to prevent a vote on his draconian voter suppression laws. There is no law that those Democrats have violated by leaving the state, but Abbott wants to arrest them anyway. He intends to incarcerate them in the state Capitol Building until the end of this special session of the legislature.

And he did more.

Abbott dictatorially vetoed funding for the legislature the first time Democrats fled his inquisition to prevent his voter suppression from becoming law. That stiffing of legislators is being challenged in court, but what can’t be challenged is that Abbott is a dictator wannabe. He thinks he’s a candidate for the presidency in 2024. If so, he’s heading the Anti-Democracy ticket.


This was part of the TN Department Of Health Covid vaccine promotion. It’s gone now.

“The Tennessee Department of Health will halt all adolescent vaccine outreach – not just for coronavirus, but for all diseases – amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers,” reports the Tennessean. The geniuses in the state legislature are also stopping all Covid-19 vaccine events on school property. Plus they’re ending mailed vaccination reminders to teens. All that and only 38% of Tennesseans have been vaccinated. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, and they also fired Michelle Fiscus, the state’s top vaccination official. The hollow heads in Nashville are even talking about eliminating the state Department of Health altogether. Yes, really.

Vaccine hostility at CPAC, a brain-free hate fest. Click me.

Halting outreach for ALL vaccines means that the State of Tennessee is now allowing – even encouraging – the elimination of vaccines for measles, chicken pox, smallpox, hepatitis, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, HPV  and more. Who cares about epidemics that maim and kill children? Apparently, not the Republicans in the Tennessee state house and in the governor’s mansion.*

Perhaps they think we should revert to the medicine practices of hundreds of years ago, like leeches, blood letting, driving out evil spirits and purification by fire. Remember, this is the state that refused to allow children to be taught evolution. It looks like they’re on the way back there again. Maybe they can burn some witches and thereby Make America Great Again.


As reported last Wednesday, the new members of the library board in Niles, IL want to cut back hours, programs and pay for librarians by 23%. I guess the Enlightenment is so far back in our rear view mirror that we can now ignore its teachings and proudly go back to mass ignorance. Maybe the new library trustees will burn books and smash printing presses. Then they can cut the library budget by 100%.

As said about Nazis by Dr. Jones, Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,Goose stepping morons.”


Tying It Together

All of this is being led by Republicans, who seem to be engaged in a frantic race for us to become mentally medieval. They are appealing to our most base animal instincts and would dumb us down to pounding drums in the forest. At the same time, they are scrambling for power in the most dishonest, anti-democracy ways possible. Here’s what happens when we put those two things together.

We get minority rule by autocrats – despots – dictators – leading an ignorant, uniformed public that can be manipulated into anything. We get theocracy and all its vile perversions, cruelties and suppression and a complete elimination of freedom. There has never been a theocracy that did not devolve into that and we have no reason to believe anything different will happen if the bible thumping, chest pounding, democracy smashing Republicans get their way.

Be clear that this isn’t about conservatism. There is nothing that today’s Republicans are doing that is even remotely conservative. They are anti-democracy radicals.

The actions in Texas and Tennessee and Niles, as well as children having been ripped from the arms of their parents at our southern border by the prior administration look cruel because they are, but John Pavlovitz cautions us that cruelty isn’t the point. Power is. And when some are grabbing and hoarding power, others are losing power. Others like us. Read David Frum’s Atlantic essay, There’s a Word for What Trumpism Is becoming.

The Founders didn’t have in mind that We the People should be ignorant peons enslaved by a cruel autocrat. Those conditions are exactly what led to our revolution. I sure as hell know those conditions are not what I have in mind for us and our country.


* I recently had a nightmare about Nazis. Being an early Boomer I was raised in the aftermath of WW II when Nazi atrocities, the capture of Adolph Eichmann and so much more were commonly discussed. It’s likely I’m not alone in occasional recollections or even nightmares of those things. When I awoke I wondered if people born, say, 20 years after me – the late Boomers and those born after them – have such dreams. It’s probable they have no memories of talk of Nazi terror during their childhoods.

That’s a kid’s head poking out of that machine – an “iron lung”. It’s doing his breathing for him, because he can’t breath on his own. This was a common sight in the 1950s during that awful polio epidemic. I wonder if that kid survived.

Then my head scratching latched onto the Tennessee Republicans and their actions to cripple medical protection for children. I’m guessing that these politicians are young enough to have no memory of children in iron lung machines, measles epidemics, whooping cough ravaging the nation and the rest. Perhaps the same can be said for our Covid-19 vaccination refusers who simply refuse to understand.

They can “OK, Boomer” all they want, but there is so much being done in our country that suggests that we’ve lost individual and collective memory of enormous suffering and death. It seems that all that is left is a knee-jerk reaction to any public policy that contacts rugged individual freedom. And it seems they now want to force their automatic rejections onto helpless others – children.

Very strange. And very dangerous.


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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  4. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.


Reading time – 5:16; Viewing time – 8:10  . .  .

This post is longer than usual, but stay with me. I promise you’ll be rewarded.


The 13th Amendment reads,

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Good idea. Too bad we’re violating that amendment right now.

In an article in the New York times entitled It’s Time for T.S.A. Workers to Strike, authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Stevenson show us what’s happening to our federal workers. They are prevented by law from striking, a point which was firmly made by Ronald Reagan, who fired 11,000 striking PATCO workers in 1981. They were demanding better wages and shorter working hours, as the high stress of their air traffic control jobs and overlong work hours were literally killing them. Those are good reasons to demand better, but their contract said that they couldn’t strike and they paid the price. This time, though, it’s different.

Ehrenreich and Stevenson make the case for a T.S.A. strike on the basis of violation of the 13th Amendment. Likely they identified the T.S.A. workers out of all federal workers as the ones who should strike because their striking would shut down our air traffic system and grind much of our economy to a halt. It would be enormously expensive for industry, so their strike would likely cause great pressure on government to get the shutdown resolved fast. The logic of a 13th Amendment triggered strike, though, applies to all federal workers who are forced to work during this shutdown. I’m not advocating a strike, but forcing people to work and refusing to pay them is most bad ju-ju.

The complaint isn’t about better pay, better working conditions, shorter hours or anything typical. This is about paying people as agreed. Yet they are being forced to work without pay. That’s called slavery.

Should any of our federal workers strike, there surely will be a lawsuit initiated by the Justice Department. It will be an interesting case. Let’s do a thought experiment about that.

The government will be asking for a temporary restraining order to force workers back on the job immediately. Surely, they’ll quote contract law that says the workers agreed not to strike and are thus prevented from doing so. They’ll say that the government will pay workers in full when the shutdown is over and that the promise of future pay satisfies the contract.

From Stat, a Boston Globe publication. Sen. Dick Durban has called on HHS Secretary Nielsen to resign. Click the pic to download the report.

The defense will likely also quote contract law and make clear that the government has violated its obligations, thus nullifying the contract and freeing workers to strike. They’ll also make the Constitutional case that the government is practicing slavery in direct violation of the 13th Amendment. They might claim civil rights violations by the government as well.

The only difference between old fashioned slavery and the circumstances of today’s federal workers is that today the workers are being given a promise of being paid on some unspecified future date that could be years from now. Imagine being a federal worker and having to tell your landlord that you’ll pay your rent – some day. How well do you think that will work for you?

The way our thought experiment case is decided or the shutdown itself is ended will dramatically affect not just the workers, but our entire nation. Here are some examples:

1. Absent a quick resolution to the shut down, thousands of federal workers, whether striking or not, will find permanent full time work elsewhere because they have bills to pay. They will not be coming back to those federal jobs ever. But we need airport security, food inspectors, a fully functioning FBI and State Department, air traffic controllers and the rest. These are skilled jobs and we don’t have a bench, especially in this full employment economy. Who will do the work to make our nation function?

2. The shutdown is costing billions of dollars and, if it continues a while longer it’s projected by the President’s own economic people that it will cancel out national economic growth for the year.

3. Depending upon how this shutdown ends, we’ll be making a powerful statement about our national values. We’ll be declaring with our actions who and what we care about and we’ll be setting a precedent for the future. There will be lasting impact.

There’s more, of course, but think about the callous way our people are being treated. You’ve seen the up close and personal reports, like the woman who is trying to stretch her insulin supply because she doesn’t have money for more; and the workers who are trying to decide whether to buy food for their families or pay the electric bill; and the family with two kids, both of whom have medical issues and they’ve have run out of money to properly care for their kids; and the hundreds of thousands who now or in the very near future will be unable to pay the rent or the mortgage or the car payment. Still, they’re expected to show up and work without pay.

It’s hard to comprehend that we’re dealing with slavery in America in the 21st century.

A friend of mine is a federal worker – an air traffic controller. He’s one of those people who is dedicated to serving and works every day to keep you safe when you fly and he’s working without being paid. He’ll miss his second paycheck four days from now. I reached out to him early this week to see if there is something we can do to support him and his family. Here’s his reply:

Thank you for reaching out. This shutdown is definitely weighing on me more than the previous ones I have been a part of. This is the longest one in history and there is no trying to figure out a solution. This has turned into a school yard shouting match.

It is hard to go to work – and do my job – not knowing when I will be compensated for it. I will continue to work my scheduled shifts – my overtime shifts – the holidays – and do everything that is asked of me. I am proud of what I do and I will continue to do it.

The show of support from our union brothers and sisters from around the globe has been amazing. I have been treated to meals by the Allied Pilots Association and the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association. The controllers in the Great White North [Canada] have taken it upon themselves to send pizzas to US facilities. Local businesses are reaching out – creditors are being understanding – some banks are offering 0% interest loans (as long as you pay them back within a certain time period). What is helping is the amount of publicity this is getting as a whole.

For now – we are okay. That may change. If this drags on, we may be forced to reach out to friends and family for financial support. We (luckily) aren’t quite there yet.

Thank you for reaching out – this has (and continues to be) a rough time and it helps to know we have a wonderful support system with some amazing people.

Please don’t let this only be a heartwarming story of people supporting others. Find a way to do your part, like overpaying your tab at the restaurant that’s providing free meals to federal workers and their families, or reaching out to someone you know who might need help, or donating to a local food bank or one of the GoFundMe sites. People are hurting and coming together in times of need is what we Americans do. It’s time for action.


Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,


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Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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