Category Archives: Dred Scott

Civil War Mystery

I thoroughly enjoy listening to Don Trump, the President of the United States.  He brings into the light extremely important issues which have been ignored for too long. In his latest interview he once again challenged the American people to expand their intellectual horizons. This time in regard to one of the greatest mysteries in American history.

WHY was there a Civil War in America? What could have caused it? What happened? Until today this dark  period of American history has been shrouded in secrecy. But before I go on,  here are the actual words of our president in an interview on April 30 on Sirius Radio  (not be confused with Serious Radio).

Trump: ‘People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

So, let’s all think about the causes of the Civil War. For the first time. What could have been the issues? Why have these causes been ignored by historians and educators for over 150 years? Why has no one come forward to solve this mystery? Sad. Very sad.

So, I decided to do some digging. Although I taught history for over 30 years I must confess that the coverage of the Civil War is just not part of any curriculum.  There is just not enough written about the Civil War to draw any inkling of an idea as to why this conflict occurred. So, Donald got me thinking. Maybe I , and I ALONE, could solve the riddle!

After my third morning beer I set to work on the interweb. I googled “Civil War Causes”. The search offered only 28,600,000 hits. Well, that is no help. Only 28,600,000 references to the causes of the Civil War. Donald was right. Nobody knows !

So I wondered . Has anyone written any book about the Civil War? So I googled Civil War books. I found a New York Times (FAKE NEWS) which claims to have a list of the best books about the war. From the website:

“Far more books have been written about the Civil War than about any other event in American history, and Lincoln’s stack of books towers over that of any other American figure…

OK. Well .  Books.  I mean, You have to READ them. The president of the US is much too busy to read a book. That is hard. I tried to read one and discovered that reading is hard. Very hard. So, I thought. What about movies? Maybe someone, somewhere has made a movie about the Civil War? A movie is easier to read than a book, plus you can eat popcorn and learn at the same time. Brilliant.

Checking Wikipedia I found a list of movies. Starting in 1908 and continuing to today. A lot of movies and documentaries. Over 100 years of movies and films. About the battle between the states. Perhaps one of them has a clue as to the causes of the war?

So if we all work together to Make  America Great Again perhaps we can solve this mystery. Somewhere there is the answer. Until Donald mentioned it no one even cared. Once again, the Educator-in-Chief has caused us to rethink the old ideas and focus on new ones. What could have caused the Civil War? Who knew? Why have we ignored this for so long? Sad.  Very sad.

Do your own research.  Solve the mystery. And send your results to Mar-a-Lago along with a $200,000 entry fee. Donald wants to know. He’ll be glad you did.

https://www.google.com/#q=civil+war+causes

http://www.nytimes.com/ref/opinion/civilwar-booklist.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_and_television_shows_about_the_American_Civil_War

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Speaking Ill of the Dead

De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

Evidently the ancient Romans did not know Antonin Scalia.

I have no problem writing ill of Scalia. He’s dead. He won’t read this. And if he did I could care less.

Scalia was not, as his supporters like to claim, the voice of “conservatism” on the court. More likely, he qualifies as the voice of the “reactionaries”. Those who want to return to an imaginary past. He was not, as his supporters claim, a “strict constructionist” devoted to the Constitution. He was, in essence, a “reactionary” devoted to the Articles of Confederation.

You may recall that the Articles of Confederation were the first plan of government after the revolution. It gave massive power to individual states and little power to the central government. It guaranteed no rights nationwide. It was an abysmal failure. It was because the “states rights” concept  failed so miserably that the Constitution was formed.

Scalia was more devoted to the Articles than to the Constitution.  Some examples.

In 2000, in Bush v Gore. Scalia sided with the 5-4 majority is overturning the Florida Supreme Court.That  Florida court had ruled that it was necessary to recount the Florida voted because under Florida Constitution and law a vote so close had to be recounted. The Florida Supreme Court wanted to get it right.

Scalia, siding with the majority, supported the very odd decision that counting all the votes fairly would impact negatively on the Bush campaign. The vote count was stopped. The right of the state of Florida to follow its own election laws was overturned by the SCOTUS.  Justice Scalia had a son who was in the lawfirm directly involved in the Bush appeal to the SCOTUS, which should have been a reason for his recusal.

Scalia opposed the right of citizens to health care under the ACA. He used a rather foolish broccoli analogy to suggest that the federal government had no right to implement any law requiring people to..well..do anything.  (Actually, Scalia was the prime target of a 2012 blog post on this matter….    https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/scalia-and-the-broccoli-conundrum/)

Scalia opposed the rights of gays to marry. He took the position that only the individual states can decide on whether or not an adult can marry. State’s rights, ignoring the amendments guaranteeing equal protection under the laws.

Perhaps the strangest case ever for someone who claimed to be a “strict constructionist”  was the Citizens United fiasco. Overturning federal law to regulate money in politics. The decision basically created a new class of citizens, called “corporations”. According to Scalia, corporations had first amendment rights to spend money on candidates. No where in the Constitution is there any indication that the founding fathers sought to make corporations “persons” in the same sense as you and I are persons. this was a complete contortion of the reason for the Bill of Rights in the first place. To protect INDIVIDUALS from governmental power. Another example of Scalia claiming to be a “strict constructionist” and then ignoring the Constitution.

And, adding to this fantasy. A corporation called Hobby Lobby was granted “religious” reasons for not providing adequate health care to its employees. A total perversion of the meaning of the First Amendment. And Scalia was there. Leading the charge.

Scalia consistently refused to support individual rights. He opposed a woman’s right to abortion He supported overturning the Voting Rights Act. He supported the idea that individual states could deny classes of citizens certain rights. He was the most reactionary justice since WW2, perhaps since the Civil War. There is no doubt that he would have been very comfortable voting with the majority in the Dred Scott case. After all, slavery was a “state’s rights” issue.

So. I speak ill of the dead. But, in fairness to me, I spoke ill of him when he was alive. His death does not make his decisions any more palatable. The fact that he has passed from political power can only be seen as a positive step for individual rights. His loss is not one to mourn.

 

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Lincoln-Douglas Debates Redux

I just finished reading the original Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. Both were running for the Illinois Senate seat. Douglas was the incumbent.  The debates half the time centered on the key issues of the day and half the time were used to attack the opponent as corrupt or dishonest.

Still, they discussed their different philosophies about slavery, the Dred Scott decision, the Missouri Compromise, the Wilmot Proviso, the Mexican War, the Fugitive Slave Act and the Nebraska question. As well as the original intention of the “founding fathers” regarding the spread of slavery. Heady issues of the times.

What was most fascinating, though, was the format. No “moderators”. No “gotcha” questions”. Just a timekeeper. Over the course of the seven debates the format was the same. One candidate was given a full hour to speak. His opponent was given one and a half hours for rebuttal. Then the first candidate was given half an hour to respond. Three hours total. Over the course of the debates Lincoln and Douglas each had ten and a half  hours to explain their philosophies and positions on the great issues of the day.

I wonder what a Lincoln-Douglas debate, using today’s typical format and analysis, would look like. Here goes.

Moderator: Welcome to the first and only debate between “Honest Abe” Lincoln and the “Judge”, Stephen A Douglas. This debate is sponsored by the FauxNews/ABC/CBS/MSNBC/ESPN/Hollywood/Shopping Channel consortium.  The format is as follows. Each candidate will get 30 seconds to answer a question, then his opponent will get a 30 second rebuttal. We hope to delve into the important Constitutional, social, economic, social and political issues of the day.

Moderator: First question to “Honest Abe”. Mr Lincoln, isn’t it true that you slept with a man for many years . Doesn’t this imply that you support gay marriage.

Lincoln: Well, while it may be true that I did sleep in the same bed as a fellow for a while, let me put that in context. At the time many young men without means rented cheap rooms at boardinghouses and shared accommodations as a matter of economic necessity.  This in no way….(BUZZER)

Moderator: Your time is up. Now, to the “Judge”. Senator Douglas. What do you think of Mr Lincoln’s support for homosexuality and gay marriage.

Douglas: First, let me thank the press and the fine audience here. I see many supporters and some detractors. I hope you will give both Mr Lincoln and I the courtesy of listening carefully to our arguments and positions. Now, regarding Mr Lincoln and…(BUZZER).

Moderator: Your time is up. Next question for the “Judge”. Senator Douglas, Kim Kardashian has recently called both you and Mr Lincoln racists. What is your response?

Douglas: Well, I don’t know who this particular person is (LOUD GASPS from the audience) but I have always said that the United States was formed by white men and for white men. If that makes me a racist, so be it. Any white man today would hold the same opinion.Furthermore…(BUZZER)

Moderator: Abe. Your response?

Lincoln: I am afraid that you have me at a disadvantage, sir. Like my friend the Judge, I have no idea what news organization this Mr Kardashian works for (more LOUD GASPS from the audience, and chuckles of disbelief from the moderator). I have always held that the Negro is a human being, but is , of course, inferior to the white man in every way. However, let me add…(BUZZER).

Moderator: Well, there you have it, the only debate between Lincoln and Douglas . Fascinating stuff. Now , to our analysts, Huck and Sarah. Tell us who won?

Sarah: You betcha I will. First, old Abe. A catastrophe. I don’t know who did his makeup but those ugly lines and big nose? Give me a break. His suit was way too small. His looks like a big ape . Gangly and awkward. Definitely not going anywhere in politics.  Judge Douglas. Well. Here cums da judge. Here comes da judge. Hahahaha. Dressed to a “T”. Great suit. Great tie. I would only suggest he wear lifts to make himself a little taller. A clear win for Senator Douglas in my book.

Moderator: And Huck, what is your analysis? Who won?

Huck: Well, I think the American people were the big losers today. Neither of these candidates is fit for high office. Lincoln sidestepped the gay rights issue. What is he hiding? And Douglas never did explain his ideas about white supremacy. What does he really believe? But the clincher was this. Neither candidate seemed to know who Kim Kardashian is? Really? You expect us to believe that? The most important political analyst-dancer-TV personality of modern times and neither of these candidates had a clue? Both are UNFIT for public office. Case closed.

Moderator: So you have it. An in depth look at the issues and candidates. Stick around for the next two hours as we air our special ” When  Sasquatch Goes to the Mall”. And don’t forget to vote. It is your duty. I think voting this year is sometime in November…or is it October..? Google it.

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