Eugenics in Texas

Nancy Isenberg’s book, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class In America, is brilliant and fascinating read so far.  It’s a book that deals with the fact that there has been a permanent underclass in America, since Europeans landed here.  Not only did Europe get rid of many of their “undesirables”, but they set up an economic order from the very beginning of this country that favored the rich.

I don’t want to write too much on this book until I finish, but since I live in Texas, I found the following passage of interest:

(Sam) Houston was actually a strange choice to carry this banner of racial pride.  Between 1829 and 1833, before he became president, he lived with the Cherokees, took two Indian wives, and sat for a portrait in full Indian garb.  His presidential successor had few qualms about cleansing Texas of Indian.  In 1839, the aptly named Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, known for his flowery poetry, pursued what he called “an exterminating war” against the Cherokees and Comanches.  The Texas national constitution explicitly denied citizenship to those of African or Indian descent.  The Texas legislature passed its first atimiscegenation law in 1837.  It was similar to laws force in southern states prohibiting marriage between persons of European blood and those of African ancestry.  

Texas could lay claim to another dubious “first”.  In 1849 Dr. Gideon Lincecum introduced a memorial before the Texas legislature hoping to ensure “good breeders.”  His solution was to castrate criminals in the manner of gelding bulls, thus literally cutting off the bloodline in order to prevent inferior people from reproducing.  “Like breeds like” was the basic rule of animal breeding, and degraded stocks of animals were no different than humans.  Lincecum offered a folksy analogy to make his case:  “When the horse and the mare both trot, the colt seldom paces.”  His plan was rejected, but he was merely ahead of his time.  Future eugenic policies built upon his blueprint for filtering out bad seeds from America’s human breeding stock.  

In Austin there is actually a prominent street still named after Lamar.  You can learn a lot more about the Texas/Indian wars in S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon.  In that book it also talks about how his favorite hobbies are writing poetry and killing Indians!

Before someone says to “Make America Great Again” they should learn what went on in our past.  At the very least they should say which decade they are calling great.  The past, in this country or any, is not often a place you want to return to, no matter how much nostalgia one feels.

When Ignorance Went Mainstream

Children look into a cage containing model baby dinosaurs inside a replica Noah's Ark at the Ark Encounter theme park during a media preview day, Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in Williamstown, Ky. The long-awaited theme park based on the story of a man who got a warning from God about a worldwide flood will debut in central Kentucky this Thursday. The Christian group behind the 510 foot-long wooden ark says it will demonstrate that the stories of the Bible are true. Its construction has rankled opponents who say the attraction will be detrimental to science education. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Children look into a cage containing model baby dinosaurs inside a replica Noah’s Ark at the Ark Encounter theme park during a media preview day, Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in Williamstown, Ky. The long-awaited theme park based on the story of a man who got a warning from God about a worldwide flood will debut in central Kentucky this Thursday. The Christian group behind the 510 foot-long wooden ark says it will demonstrate that the stories of the Bible are true. Its construction has rankled opponents who say the attraction will be detrimental to science education. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Ocean Researchers Discover New Type of Eel-like Fish

Noah’s Ark to Open Ready to Open

I read these articles back to back this morning.  The first one is about how scientists found a new type of fish 1.5 miles below the surface of the ocean.  The second article is about a Noah’s Ark Museum that is opening in Kentucky that features, I’m not making this up, dinosaurs in cages as some of the animals that Noah supposedly saved.

We live in a world where some people have the intelligence and technology to go far below the surface of the ocean in a quest of discovery and enlightenment.  And at the same time we live in a world where certain people, despite all data to the contrary, believe that Noah had dinosaurs on his ark.  My brother asked me today, when I was telling him about this second story, “Why would people believe that?”  I didn’t have an answer then or now.  It’s not as simple as religion as there are plenty of religious scientists that know this is pure ignorance.

I mentioned recently that my writing output had declined recently due to the fact that I was working on several music projects.  This is true.  However, lately, the news has often left me feeling befuddled.  (Befuddled is definitely a euphemism there.)  Often I start to write and then just say, “Ah, fuck it!”  When a daily scanning of articles leads you to things like Donald Trump for President and dinosaurs in cages, one can’t help but feel some threshold has been crossed.  It’s hard to debate people that are existing in a different reality, one in which humans and dinosaurs romped the earth together.

Don’t get me wrong, ignorance has always been with us.  There has not only always been ignorance, but the kind of of bold ignorance that we are seeing now.  However, I can’t help but feel that this is the year that ignorance has gone mainstream.  It’s not only bold, but almost celebratory.

I was also reading another interesting article with the creator of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, about poetry.  In it Weiner says the following:  “Which is funny because all of the predictions not reading were wrong. People are reading plenty. They’re just not proud of it. Or using it to communicate.”  There is definitely an anti-intellectual populism going on.

I know for a fact, having done research on it, that education has been distorted by big money.  Science has particularly been under attack due to the unfortunate scientific fact that humans are causing global climate change.  We also have an economy that often, though not always, rewards the lowest common denominator, as whatever makes the most money wins.

Yet there are still those that care, as the first article demonstrates.  There are still those with a thirst for knowledge, that want to see the world be a better place, that want this generation to be more educated than the last.  Hopefully intelligence wins in the end, or dinosaurs won’t be the only things in cages…

 

 

Why is This Happening Again?

Where are we going?  Who are we as a people?  Why are we here?  Why is this happening again?  The man that shot so many, I won’t even type his name, was evil and deserves to be dead.  It is a hard thing to admit, but the world is better off without certain people in it.  But even one so focused and disturbed could not have carried out this act on his own.  Politicians, radio hosts, arms manufactures, and citizens who traffic in fear are also partially to blame.  If you are so afraid of the world that you need an assault rifle to face it, know that no gun owned by a citizen has stopped a mass shooting since 1982.  (And even then people were killed first.)

There is no reason that assault rifles should be sold to the general public.  There are only two uses for them:  Killing and profit.

There are some that might say firing them at target ranges is their hobby.  A hobby should be given up if it leads to the death of 50 plus, let alone all the shootings that have happened before it.  No, not all people that have these guns are partially responsible, but going forward anyone that fights for the right to sell more of these weapons is.

Do you really think that as many politicians would support our current gun laws if they weren’t receiving campaign money from the NRA or gun manufacturers?  If they are selling out for those who profit off such weapons, then they are partially to blame.

If a radio host goes on the air and helps to create a climate of fear so that more people believe these weapons are needed, they are partially to blame.

Those who sell these weapons to the public are partially to blame.  They are partially to blame as merchants of death.

I have come along way.  I used to not care about gun laws as they aren’t, and still aren’t, the most pressing problem in our society.  But when one person is given the power to hurt and kill that many people things need to change.  When mass killings become the new norm things need to change.

None of this means that sects of Islam aren’t insane and dangerous.  They must be dealt with too.  None of this means that there aren’t real problems with our mental health system.  This too must be looked at.   None of this means that the shooter isn’t more to blame than anyone else.  Thankfully he has already been dealt with.  I don’t know what happens when we die, but I can assure you he isn’t with 72 virgins.  If somehow he was then the universe has no meaning and should just collapse upon itself now and get it over with.

I’m not against someone having a pistol at home for personal protection.  I know someone whose home was broken into just this week.  I’m not against owning a hunting rifle.  Although I am not a hunter, I know that for some these kind of weapons have practical purposes.  But an assault rifle is not a practical tool by anyone’s standards unless you are in the armed forces.  If an instrument allows one person to do that much harm then it needs to be done away with, same as the people that would try to use them for such harm.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people is a completely asinine argument.  If the shooter, however evil and crazy he was, could not buy such a weapon legally, then more people would be alive.

How many lives have been affected by this shooting?  I’m not talking just about the people that were killed or injured, but their friends and family?  Look how many friends you have on Facebook and then multiply that times the number of people killed and wounded.  That will at least give you some idea. (And yes not everyone on Facebook is our real friend, but we also have people in our lives that have smartly declined to join such a thing.)  Think of that many people being completely devastated today.  Now think of the people that are devastated by past shootings and people who have yet to be devastated.  Wouldn’t you gladly ban a weapon, a weapon that wasn’t even around when our founding fathers wrote the Constitution, to make the pain for all those people go away?  If you can say no to that, then I simply don’t understand your point of view.

But to those of you that would say no, that view gun restrictions as some form of tyranny, let me speak directly to you:  I don’t want there to be more cops on the streets.  I don’t want the government to have more of a say in our private lives.  But these weapons do not prevent violence, but merely create it.  A more violent world will become a world where freedom is restricted.  Death on this level cannot be allowed to go on.  To give up selling a weapon that didn’t even use to exist will erode far less freedom than allowing violence to continue on this scale.  Do you really think this kind of weapon would protect you from tyranny anyhow, if it really were a threat?  To some degree guns are primitive next to the kind of weapons that the US government uses all the time.  If the government really wanted to come for you in your house they could simply fly a drone over it and make a giant crater where you and everything you hold dear used to be.  We’ve already said that these kinds of weapons don’t prevent any mass shootings.  So not only are you not protecting yourself from any threats real or imagined, but you helping to create a world where there will actually be more restrictions on our freedom.  If this kind of thing keeps happening, how long do you really think it will be before clubs, schools, and other places of mass gatherings have stricter safety measures?

I apologize if I am rambling a bit.  I am angry.  But I am also tired.  I’m not only tired for real, as the hour is late, but I’m tired of living in a country where reason is so often shown the door over tribal allegiances, profit margins, and a fake morality driven by primitive notions.  I’ve said all that I have to say.  Think of those poor souls that cannot sleep tonight due to grief over recent events.  Goodnight…

 

 

The Clown that Destroyed Creation

I’ve walked catacombs in Austria and seen rooms full of nothing but human bones from the black plague.   I’ve seen ruins in Italy where Saints were martyred.  It doesn’t take a brilliant leap of the imagination, on a rainy day especially, to imagine what ruins we’ll leave behind.  There will certainly be a lot of plastic nonsense.  Certainly a lot of the plastic I have used will long outlast me.  Alas, I took a wrong turn on the road to perfection.  As a society, is this the kind of thing we wish to be remembered for?

Suppose at the bottom of a plastic trash mountain future inhabitants of earth find a Donald Trump poster.  I saw a particularly garish, clownish one recently.  Will these future citizens of the planet see it as just one more memento of a careless and indulgent culture, or will it represent something darker?  Or will they see it as the moment when the most powerful country of our time, the Roman Empire of the now, decided to completely stop giving a shit about not only its own future, but mother nature in general?

There will some of you that will find all this absurd.  The truth is, I hope those of you that feel this way are right.  But Trump, having just released his energy policy, isn’t thinking about life on earth more than a couple years out.  Trump  more fossil fuels, less renewable energy, wants to build a new pipeline, and wants to cancel the Paris climate agreement.  (The climate agreement, as good as it was, actually should have gone further.  We’ll take what we can get.)

Now truth be told, Trump changes his opinions about as often as the weather changes in Texas.  (When I first moved here people often said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait awhile, it will change.)  Trump is an entertainer more than a politician, willing to say or do anything in the moment for the applause of the crowd.  He knows his audience and he knows what schtick they like.  But do we really want an ethical and moral black hole in the Oval Office, a man that will simply do whatever will get him the most power?

Kurt Vonnegut, in his novel Mother Night, once said that, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”  If Trump is empowering racists and climate deniers, is he not of them, no matter what he might think privately in his own bedroom every night?

Trump is appealing to the very worst in our culture, and therefore is amongst the very worst of our culture.  (I’ve learned recently to never utter the phrase, “Things can’t possibly get any worse.”)  How we meet the challenge of this election will depend upon how we are remembered by future generations.  Do we really want to be remembered as the people who elected the clown that destroyed creation?

 

 

How Game of Thrones is About Climate Change

How Game of Thrones is About Climate Change

Game of Thrones is a piece of fiction and therefore interpretive.  I have been thinking about how the story could be used to discuss the challenge of facing climate change for awhile.  However, Vox got there first, which is probably just as well, because they did a better job than I could have done.  There is even a video for those of you not familiar with the show.  Click on the link above to see how “Winter is Coming” could just as easily be “Summer is Coming”.

The show is one of those shows that just seems to get better and better every season.  It is one of those rare shows that allows you to escape while watching it, while at the same time giving you plenty to chew on after.

Tom Cotton Just Said One of the Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Heard

Huffington Post Tom Cotton Criminal Justice Article

Representative Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, says that America has a, “Under-Incarceration problem.”  Holy fucking shitballs!  The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world.  In fact, from The New York Times:

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London.

China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China’s extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes.)

China is a DISTANT second.  Do some research on the Prison Industrial Complex.  Look up how our prison system destroys untold numbers of lives over victimless crimes.  Cotton’s stupidity has stripped me of the strength to do all of your research for you tonight.

Hey, I’m all about free speech, but when someone in power says something this stupid and immoral, my brain starts collapsing in upon itself and all reason goes out the window.  I think we need to give Cotton what he wants, raise the number of Americans in prison, and put him in jail.

Trump Is Killing the Republican Party

How Trump is Killing the Republican Party

Matt Taibbi wrote another great article.  I’m not saying that he is accurate on all of his predictions, but overall he really is able to translate the absurdity of this election cycle.  He is making the case not that the Republican Party is going to disappear, only that the party as we have known it for the past 60 years is in its death throws.

In the past I’ve felt conflicted on how to best make my political viewpoint understood.  I have friends of all political persuasions and I know we are often closer on certain issues than the left/right divide that we have been given as an option.  I don’t want to alienate someone that I could possibly sway to my side on a certain issue.  But Jesus Christ, if this current election hasn’t proven that the modern Republican Party has gone bananas, what will?  When Donald Trump, and formerly Ted Cruz, are the people you put closest to the to Presidency, reason has gone out the fucking window.

That’s Life

I have been on tour for the last two weeks, greatly diminishing my ability to write.  Touring doesn’t always do this, but I’ve been a little under the weather this tour, leaving me blankly staring at the wall between gigs.  I’ve been to Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  I’ve read a Lou Reed biography and am now reading a Prince biography.  I’ve listened to more hours of music than I could possibly count.

Ted Cruz has fallen by the wayside, as Donald Trump has risen.  Bernie Sanders still hangs on by the skin of his teeth.

Do I really want to live in a world where Prince is dead and Donald Trump represents the face of one of our two main political parties?  It seems like some weird sci-fi movie where someone went into the past and fucked something up.  But it is here and it is now and that’s life.

I’ve read some interesting articles:

Andrew Sullivan tries to make sense of the rise of Trump.  I don’t agree with everything in his article, but it is a brilliant piece of writing that deserves to be pondered.  Sullivan dives into history and political theory to try and communicate just how dangerous Donald Trump is at this moment in our history.

Brittney Cooper has an interesting piece over at Salon that uses the death of Prince to talk about how our economy and culture has not only devalued black lives, but literature, music, and art as well.

 

……..

There is more, so much more, but right now I need to get my day underway before I head out to a sound check.  Just a few records worth checking out:

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo – West continues his winning streak.  For all those of you that don’t understand, West simply dreams bigger, goes further than most recording artists hight now.  He is simply one of the best producers and creates gigantic, imaginative soundscapes.  This record mixes the sacred and profane on equal levels.  A futuristic gospel record with lots of swearing?  Something like that.

The Wedding Present – Seamonsters – An early 90’s album that got lost in the shuffle between 80’s rock and the 90’s alternative movement.  A devastating series of relationship songs recorded by Steve Albini.  The textures of this album are so vivid that you feel like the album is in 3D, like you could chew on them.

Prince – 1999 – Never forget that Prince is a great album artist.  One of the things that I find shocking with this album is how he is using technology that is completely of its time, yet somehow hasn’t aged.  He is using synthesizers and drum machines that are now long outdated, but he uses them so well that it never for a second gets in the way of the enjoyment of the record.  Also for an artist often associated with sex, one should always remember that his music was always stuffed full of ideas as well.  The title track ends with a group of voices intoning, “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?”  I only wish there were more modern artists subverting our radio stations.

 

 

 

The Molly Maguires – Free Download

MOLLY MAGUIRES, Sean Connery, 1970, mustache
MOLLY MAGUIRES, Sean Connery, 1970
Download Now

Make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

Down the mines no sunlight shines
Those pits they’re black as hell
In modest style they do their time
It’s Paddy’s prison cell
And they curse the day they’ve travelled far
Then drown their tears with a jar

So make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

Backs will break and muscles ache
Down there there’s no time to dream
Of fields and farms, of womans arms
Just dig that bloody seam
Though they drain their bodies underground
Who’ll dare to push them around

So make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

So make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

An old Irish folk song, recorded at 4am.  I love this song both as a song and for its topic.  My favorite version is Luke Kelly singing it with the Dubliners.  There is no point in even trying to match there version, which casts it as a celebratory drinking song, so I did something different with it.  I know where not to tread!

As the media drifts further on into the realm of the ridiculous, as income inequality builds, remember that people actually fought for the rights working people take for granted every day.  Though there is some dispute as to the exact story of the Molly Maguires, their story is not near the only one.

The photo above is Sean Connery and it is from the 1970  The Molly Maguires.  It’s a film I saw as a kid.

The Drug War’s Racist and Anti-Progressive Roots

I’m not the least surprised by this article that talks about the drug wars racist and anti-progressive roots.  I’ve read before about how certain people in the government will use political issues to destroy their opponents.  In Enemies: A History of the FBI journalist Tim Weiner documents how Hoover used his power to destroy the American left when it was possible.  So knowing that, and how absurd the drug war is, it’s no surprise that John Erlichman, who worked for President Nixon, said this:

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black people, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Now can you imagine what a President Trump would do to silence his critics?