Why I will not “unfriend” anyone.

This past elections has been very emotional for many people.  Some feel that the end of civilization is nigh, others feel that their opinions where vindicated, some feel we are progressing, others that we are degenerating.  It does not matter what name each group calls themselves, they seem to be interchangeable.

Do not get me wrong.  I have my own biases.  However, with this omnipresent divide we see in politics I see more admirable qualities in the people around me, more things we have in common, than how political pundits wants to define us.

We all have our opinions.  We all have our passions.  Sometimes we post some bat-shit crazy stuff online.  Is that the definition of who we are?

I know a woman at work.  She is a cancer survivor.  She shows up to work every day to walk miles delivering our internal mail.  Does she post some bat-shit crazy stuff?  Yes she does.  Do I want to unfriend her?  Hell no!  I admire her.  I admire her strong work ethic.  I admire her passion for our veterans.  I admire her love of her grandchildren.  She is a great person I would be proud to call my friend.  I do not want politics to define our relationship.

I know a man at work.  His wife and son died within a year of each other.  A horrible tragedy I do not want to imagine.  Does he post bat-shit crazy stuff?  Yes he does.  Do I want to unfriend him?  Hell no!  I admire him.  I admire his dedication to show up to work every day.  I admire his sacrifice to give his grandchildren a good stable life.  I admire his constant optimism.  He is also someone I am proud to call my friend.  I do not want politics to define our relationship.

I have so much in common with these people and many others.  We worry about our jobs.  We love our children.  We are concerned about the future.  We struggle and survive together. These people are that friend with a pickup truck that helps you move.  These people are that friend that consoles you when a loved one passes away.  These people are that friend that helps you rebuild your house when it burns down.

From my perspective, I may think they post some bat-shit crazy stuff, but I will not let politics define the relationship of us as a people.   I will not let an ambitions person, running for any office, pushing any agenda, define my relationship to these hardworking, dedicated and passionate people because of a contrive political perspective.

I will not unfriend you.


Who Are Donald Trump Supporters?

Stumbled across a post “Who are Donald Trump Supports?” which proceeds to give a list.  Out of curiosity I decided to take a closer look at this list.

We are sick of political correctness. 

This seems like a free speech issue and on the surface it is.  Just underneath the surface is using words and phrases that make people uncomfortable.  Sure “sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt me” sounds great but when we are insulted we are, well, insulted.  And to continue to purposely insult people is kind of being a dick.  Dig further down and the power of words can shape our perceptions of reality.  When people are traumatized it takes only a word to create a trigger that will make the person relive the trauma.  Would we treat our veterans this way?  Would we be exercising our freedom of speech if we expressed ourselves by suddenly yelling at a veteran suffering from PTSD and watching them dive under the nearest table? (For those of us who love irony, seeing the prankster pummeled in the face).  Words shape our reality and define who we are.  When we refer to people in terms that makes them second class citizens, they see themselves as second class citizens.  We often perpetuate generational misconceptions, adding one more obstacle to an already difficult road.


We like the fact that he is self-funded – he does not owe any favors

That is great, no special interest pulling the strings on the top executive.  But it is not entirely true.  He does self-fund his campaign more than the other candidates but approximately half of his campaign money comes from donors and super-pacs.



We are fed up with the corruption in DC

I agree with this.  Who wants corruption in our capital? But how much power does the president have in “cleaning up” the town?  But how uncorrupted is Trump?  Trump University seems to be non-stop scandal.  He has bankrupt his business four times, yet has come out on top.  He is associated with ACN Inc. which has been accused as a pyramid scheme.  It’s multi-level-marketing is, well, scandal riddled.  Donald Trump is a business man who plays hard ball.  Being corruptible or not corruptible is not a business man’s question.  It is how much money can be made with as little risk.  What that means if there is money to be made, he will probably go for it.


We hate liberal ideology

I have to question this, do they know what liberal ideology is?  Do they not like the liberal ideology of free speech, free press, and freedom of religion, free markets, or representative democracy?  Are they opposed to the natural right to life, liberty and property?  Is it the civil rights they are against?  A secular government?  Our country was founded on liberal ideology.  Are they for curbing free speech, censoring the press, state religion (often not yours), monopolies, and absolute monarchy?  Do they not believe they have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of property?  To most liberals to hate liberalism is to want to be shackled and chained.  Is this what Trump supporters want?


We are tired of supporting illegal immigrants

Not sure what support.  With recent anti-immigration laws being passed around the country, many farm economies are suffering because of a shortage of workers.  http://globalcomment.com/how-anti-immigration-laws-are-creating-farm-worker-shortages/ Claims of huge sums of welfare money goes to illegal immigrants are unsubstantiated. http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/cost-of-illegal-immigrants/ Crime rates are also unsubstantiated.  Data is murky but according to http://cis.org/ImmigrantCrime incarcerations are roughly the same as the general population.  Although the studies don’t differentiate between illegal immigrants and legal immigrants it appears foreign born residence do not appreciatively raise the crime rate.

Hillary belongs in prison

I had to look this one up.  As far as I know she has done nothing out of the ordinary, aside from the concept that all politicians are crooks, which is a large net to cast.  One article http://conservative-daily.com/2015/04/21/hillary-clinton-belongs-in-prison-period/ claims that as secretary of state she accepted gifts without congressional approval which is Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution also known as the Title of Nobility Clause.  Gift exchanges between governments are so common that in 1961 congress passed the Fulbright-Hays Act as a blanket approval of gift giving and receiving.   The gifts have to be registered, which you can find here, http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/c29447.htmCondoleezza Rice has a very long list of gifts received, along with Bush, his entire staff, congressmen etc. etc.  This is a non-issue.

Clinton’s emails and the nonuse of government emails and servers has been a big concern.  But according to http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/03/hillary_clinton_private_email_scandal_no_one_gives_the_clintons_the_benefit.html those rules and regulations concerning the use of emails and using government servers to keep records were not in place until after Clinton left office.  Many previous cabinet officers also used private emails.  John Kerry is the first Secretary of State to follow the new regulations. 

We want a wall on the southern border

This goes back to the no support of illegal immigration above.  Whether we like it or not, immigrant workers make up a huge part of our labor force in agriculture.  To such an extent that when threatened with deportation, millions of dollars’ worth of crops rotted in the fields due to lack of a labor force.

People who want to build a wall have never built a wall.  With differing terrain and weather conditions any wall in remote areas will soon be undermined by the elements.  We can continue to research and build better walls but the cost effectiveness that most security experts http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-the-united-states-build-a-fence-on-its-southern-border/why-a-border-fence-wouldnt-work agree is better spent elsewhere, either in more manned patrols, or more electronic surveillance.

Remember that Great Wall of China?  It was built to stop the Mongol invasion.  It didn’t stop the Mongol invasion.

We want jobs back from over seas

Aside from the fact of what business is it of the president to solve economic woes the economic forces that push jobs overseas is much too complicated for a single president to solve.  This is part of the globalization of our economy, which is driven by both cheaper labor overseas, emerging markets http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-05-17-Multinationals-send-jobs-overseas_n.htm and possibly our own energy consumption http://www.morssglobalfinance.com/the-loss-of-american-manufacturing-jobs-what-are-the-facts/ .  These are all business decisions, not political.  And Trump, if nothing else, is an astute businessman.

We want Isis eliminated, not “contained”

To eliminate a group is a long process and historically it has never been successful, think of Nazis final solution, Turkeys attempted genocide of the Armenians and our own attempts to eradicate Native Americans.  All of these examples, and others, failed and left with a stronger political force than before.  Even WWII’s attempts to eradicate fascism failed as there are still fascist elements in all societies.  Cost effectiveness of an all-out war is weighed heavily by our military elite.  Do we sacrifice more American soldiers on foreign soil in a war that can be easily fought by proxy?  So far the elimination of ISIS is pretty standard rhetoric amongst all of the political candidates.  We may differ on course of action but no one is advocating acceptance of ISIS and no one knows the best solution.  It would seem that ISIS will eventually implode.  They are a violent group that has no allies, even amongst other violent groups.  Even the Taliban has distanced themselves from ISIS.  They have declared Jihad on each other.  Would it be better to save American lives and let those two duke it out?

We want Obamacare repealed

Privatization of our health services never made sense to me.  In order for the free market of private companies to work, you need the competition.  When was the last time you shopped around for a hospital or an ambulance service?  You usually go to the nearest hospital and ambulance services cover specific areas. For profit insurance companies look to profitability first, your health second.  That’s just business.  Health Insurance will gladly take your money but as soon as you are cutting into profits, they find ways to wiggle out.  I am not a big fan of the Affordable Health Care Act but I do support a single payer system.  “Obama Care” does provide coverage for more Americans and it comes down to do we have a right to be healthy.  Some argue that the right to health is not in the constitution.  We should leave it as you are as healthy as you can afford to be http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2009/11/1035/ .  The problem with this is poor people are forced to used emergency services.  They often wait until a preventable disease reaches its critical stage, often costing, what ends up being the taxpayers, more money in the long run.  There is nothing stopping us from adding a right to health into our constitution.  Only our dogmatic political beliefs.

We want our military built back strong

We have the strongest military in the world.  We have the biggest military budgets in the world http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/18/republicans-wont-stop-saying-our-military-is-weak/. There is no other country in the world that can plan and execute an invasion half a world away.  Russia can’t do it and China can’t do it.  We can cut our military budget in half and still have the strongest presence known in the history of the human race.  Our spheres of influence around the globe remain unchallenged.  Whatever wars the US has lost is not because of the ineffectiveness of our military but the ineffectiveness of our foreign policy.  We have modernized our military to the point that troop’s numbers are not as important as they once were.  We already have a nuclear arsenal that can destroy the world several times over, if we cut that in half we still have an arsenal that can destroy the world several times over.   And as WWII and WWI demonstrated, we can increase our military virtually at a moment’s notice.

We want vets taken care of, they deserve it

No one that I know of will disagree with this.  I believe that our vets should get carte blanche support for their re-entry into civilian society.  Republicans have constantly blocked or politicized most veteran’s benefits http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/23/1249904/-GOP-s-actual-track-record-on-supporting-veterans .  True that Trump is not part of this group and feasibly if elected and with a Republican congress, Veteran’s benefits could be easier to pass, it doesn’t detract from the fact that people’s lives have been politicized for partisan gain.

But what about Trumps views of vets?  His comment of John McCain’s status as a war hero should send a red flag to every veteran.  McCain criticized the support for Trump, undiplomatically calling them “the crazies” http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/john-mccain-has-a-few-things-to-say-about-donald-trump .  Instead of coming to the support of his supporters, Trump attacks McCain’s war record http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/07/18/trump-says-mccain-is-no-war-hero/ . Does this mean that Trump agrees with McCain?  That his supporters are “The Crazies”?  You can’t dismiss a veteran’s record and still say you support veteran’s benefits.  Dismissing veteran’s experiences is an attempt to remove veterans from the status of being a veteran.  Another way to reject the benefits they deserve.  John Kerry is a bona fide war hero.  You can dislike him because of his political views but you can’t take away his experience as a veteran.  John McCain is a bona fide war hero.  You can disagree with his opinion but you can’t take away his experience as a veteran.

Granted Trump tried to backtrack but the take away from this incident is Trump immediately attacked on the reputation of McCain and did not address the content of McCain’s opinion.  Couldn’t he have said that his supporters are true Americans, passionate in their belief and frustrated with government?  That they have a right to act a little crazy because they are not being heard in the halls of government?  He has said similar things in the past, why not this time?

Actually the veteran’s support for Donald Trump is questionable, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/25/donald-trump-veterans-john-mccain as the there is some confusion if the names are those that actually support or Trump thinks should support him.

It seems to be politics as usual.  Some of the issues are fabricated some are real.

Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an

Just finished reading Denise Spellberg “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an”.  Spellberg, a historian, uses Jefferson’s ownership of the Qur’an as a launching point to explore the perceptions and the discussion of Americans religious freedom concept, and how much Islam played in that discussion.

For centuries various individuals had advocated a religious toleration for all differing perspectives and have been crucified for it, both literally and figuratively.  The evolution of this thought process culminated in the ratification of our 1st amendment.

Europeans perceptions of Islam was for many years based on the Ottoman Turks Empire, a very real political threat to European countries.  In the propaganda written about the new alien invaders, early European writers on Islam denigrated the religion of their political enemy.  Greatly misunderstood and seldom studied these early impressions of Islam continue to exist today.

Christian Europeans used Islam as the example of the alien “other”.  A comparison that both denigrates political rivals and produces imagery of barbarism.  It is interesting to note that Protestant Europeans viewed Catholics, Jews and Muslims as equally threatening to their world view and political lives.  With Jews as a suspicious minority, Catholics a real threat and Muslims as a vague concept on the other side of the horizon.

The evolution of religious freedom found its champion in Thomas Jefferson.  The largest Protestant denomination had the government support in the majority of the colonies and early States.  Many of the early arguments were led by the minority denominations that felt oppressed by the governmentally forced support, both financially and physically (tax supported preachers and requirements to attend the dominant denominational church services).  They argued that religious views and civic duties were two different things.  The government should only concern itself with the civic duties of its citizens.  It should not matter what religious or even no religious views a person had, if they were a good citizen then they should have all the benefits of a citizen, including elected to public offices.

Islam was used as the extreme example in this context.  The early constitutional framers could agree to allow other Protestant denominations full civic freedom, but the real test was the hypothetically one of a Muslim becoming a full citizen of the US.  The final answer, over many years of arguments, was a yes with the passing of the First Amendment.

Although Islam was considered hypothetical for the early Colonist and framers of the Constitution, few people of that day considered the religion of their African Slaves, many who came from parts of Africa where Islam was practiced. The only clue to early Muslims in Colonial America are their Islamic influences names.

The contrary arguments against inclusion of Islam in the late 1700’s are the same ones we hear today.  Along with the misunderstanding of Islam that began centuries earlier.  One gets the impression that early agreements to religious freedom was done by self-centered preservation rather than any universal good will.  No one knew if or when their specific denomination would be persecuted by the government.  It would be better to allow governmental inclusion of all religious ideas so one can practice their own form in exclusion.

It feels today that mainstream Christians have forgotten what it feels like to be randomly persecuted by the government for one’s beliefs.  It has emboldened them to push for government exclusion of differing world views and government support of mainstream Christian ideals.  Religious freedom is one of the few concepts in our constitution that actually makes America exceptional.  If we become a “Christian” nation then we are no different, not exceptional, than the many other “Christian” European countries in the past.

Black Laws of Virginia

June Purcell Guild painstakingly went through all of the laws of Virginia from the earliest records and compiled everything pertaining to slavery and African Americans. As a lawyer she may have enjoyed it. She published her works, Black Laws of Virginia, in 1938 with the hope of shedding light on the plight of African Americans, whom she felt were unjustly maligned for and often held responsible for social conditions that they did not create.  It was her hope that a historical understanding of the laws that created the social class of the African Americans would help us understand their condition better.

Legal description of early African Americans in the early 1600s was problematic.  They were treated as indentured servants, and as long as they remained “heathen”, the plantations had no problem.  But many African Americans became Christian, and this was an early problem the colonial legislature struggled to understand.  They were also concerned about intermarrying, illegitimate children of mixed unions, and extension of the civil equality to emancipated slaves.  By the end of the 1600’s, Virginia had decided on the unique direction it would treat the African Americans.

Some of the earliest laws solved the problem of whether being a Christian could impact one’s servitude.  No.  Being a Christian did not automatically free a person.  This also applied to White indentured servants, but their indentured was often limited to seven years.  The African slave was often held longer than seven years before being emancipated.

Virginia broke with English tradition of the status of illegitimate children following the status of the father.  Some of their first laws stated that children followed the status of the mother, regardless of the race of the father.  If the mother was a servant or slave, the child was a servant or slave.  However, lifelong servitude was not yet practiced, and these children were often indentured for 30 years before being freed.

Intermarrying was penalized and not legally recognized.  The recalcitrant couple was fined, but the minister that performed the ceremony was often penalized ten to twenty times more.  The way fines continually increased over time for the ministers, makes one wonder if there was some conflict between the clergy and the legislature.

Legally African Americans, regardless of their status of being slave or free, were not allowed to testify against White people in court.  Free Blacks were not allowed to have white servants or even own slaves.  They were not allowed to sell medicine, and buying alcohol was very restrictive.  Although Virginia allowed emancipation of slaves, the legislature greatly encouraged free Blacks to move away by taxing them heavily.  There was a brief time in history that Virginia tried to get funding to send free Blacks to Liberia, but that didn’t last long.  And in the decade before the civil war, an emancipated slave who stayed longer than a year could be enslaved and sold for the public benefit.  The free Blacks became an unwanted second class citizen in Virginia.

During the early 1800’s Virginia pushed hard for free public schools for poor white children.  In the succeeding years, the legislation increased fines to parents if their children did not attend the free public schools.  Free black children were not obligated to attend; if apprenticed, the master was not obligated to educate them. It was illegal for free Blacks of any age to attend any place for the purpose of education. Such groups were determined an unlawful assembly and forcibly dispersed.  People who taught slaves and free blacks to read and write were fined.

Virginia did take seriously the status of free Blacks.  For people who captured free Blacks and sold them into slavery was a capital offense.  People who did participate in this enterprise were truly part of the criminal element.  Although this may seem like a benevolent side of the Virginia legislature, they became outraged when New York passed a law that held the person buying the “contraband” liable.   For the most part, slaves and to some extent free Blacks could be convicted without a jury; punishment was swift, and owners compensated.

Slaves were often emancipated for faithful service.  They were freed for exemplary service in the Revolutionary war.  Virginia set up a pension fund for confederate veterans that included faithful slaves.

After the civil war there were immediate legislation that recognized common law marriages and increased the civil liberties of the newly freed slaves.  Soon after reconstruction ended in the 1870’s segregation laws began to pop up, and many of the civil liberties laws were overturned.   Poll taxes had to be current, that last three years paid up and a literacy test, often based on the constitution, was codified.  This was after half a century of enforced public education for white children and prohibition of educating African Americans.

Although separate education facilities were legislated during the late 1800’s, segregation as we know it did not happen until after the 1900’s.  Race legislation often considered a person who was ¼ African American to be Black.  Often, before the civil war, people who had less than ¼ could be considered White, and there are examples of whole families’ legislated to be White with all the privileges associated with being White or without the disadvantages of being Black.  But Virginia doubled down after the 1900’s, and the One Drop Rule came into being. Anyone with any Black ancestor had to be segregated.  Anyone with any Black ancestor could not marry a White person.

During the 1840’s and 1850’s the acrimony between the Northern and Southern states increased and ultimately led to the civil war in the 1860’s.  Virginia appeared to have a running feud with New York, evidently a hotbed for dissidents and troublemakers.  Virginia was furious at the lack of support from New York and other Northern States for the Fugitive Slave laws — accusing them, and for the time rightly so, of disregarding Federal law and passing unconstitutional State laws.  They made an official statement of sympathy but nonsupport for South Carolina’s first attempt at succession, and later  displayed a mixed joining of the Confederacy.  Virginia’s government split into two during the civil war, each calling the other the fake government of Virginia.  Throughout this time period any printing or disseminating literature advocating or even mentioning abolition of slavery was illegal.

The laws were passed to create a class of slaves.  Even when those slaves were free they were legally treated as second class citizens.  Although not as straight-forward as one would expect, and often confusing, these laws were crafted to ensure an uneducated, unrepresented, legal piece of inheritable property.  Although there were attempts to treat slaves humanely, convictions for crimes were swift, with no jury or legal counsel, often based on one or two “credible” witnesses.  After Reconstruction many of these laws “doubled down” on the differences, exacerbating segregation and the differences of race.  We have around 300 years of legalized slavery and segregation.  Laws that not only shaped African Americans’ situation and culture but shaped White America’s perception of them.  Can it be reasonable that we can resolve racial issues only one generation after the civil rights of 1960’s?

Nits make Lice

Nits make Lice.

This is an old quote.  It is a justification for killing children.  General John Chivington is attributed to saying that during the Sand Creek Massacres in 1864.  It is first attributed to the first Tennessee governor, John Sevier, or to one of his subordinates, after killing a captured Indian boy in the early 1800’s.  It was a popular saying.

This seems to be the response to the 14 year old boy in Texas, Ahmed Mohamed, who built a clock that was mistaken for a bomb.  Reading the fringe websites is outrageous but seeing these memes picked up and reposted is just depressing.  And it is too depressing to deconstruct the comments entirely.  So instead of annotating as I usually do I’m just going to summarize.

One meme is making its rounds showing the picture of the suitcase clock.


The poster claims to be an electronics engineer and computer expert.  I also have a degree in electronics engineering and I work in IT.  I suppose that makes me an expert on suitcase bombs also.

The poster makes the claim that the clock is not a real clock and it is actually a deconstructed countdown timer and that this may not be a bomb per se but the detonation device.  That sounds ominous enough but your kitchen timer, for those of us that still cook, is also a countdown timer.  Your alarm clock, which young Ahmed claims his device to be, is a type of countdown timer.  The poster claims there are two leads, one positive and one negative that are not attached to anything.  It could go to the absent explosives.   It could also go to an electric bell, to a piezo buzzer, or some electric motor that spins a unicorn around.  You can pop the back off of every single kitchen timer, disconnect the wires from the electronic buzzer or bell and plug them into C4 plastic explosive and have a bomb (at least that is what it looks like in the movies to detonate C4).

The poster suggests that if a student were to create an electronic clock he would use a breadboard.  A breadboard is an electronic board full of holes and each set of holes are connected.  It is used in electronics to experiment with circuits.  It is quit useful.  You can buy one fairly cheaply at Radio Shack.  You can also buy fairly cheaply at Radio Shack a PCB circuit board.  A PCB circuit board is one that is just full of holes that you solder your circuit in.  Normally you would use your breadboard to design the circuit and then transfer it over to the PCB board and solder it in place.  This is not unusual.

The poster makes much of a small white bag in the corner of the suitcase.  What is it for?  What was in it?  It is a mystery.  The bag serves no purpose for the electronics.  And the poster is correct.  The bag serves no purpose.  Absolutely none.  Not for the electronics in the suitcase nor for his argument.  I may have a degree in electronics but the picture is not clear enough, even magnified, to see enough detail to be certain of anything.

I have to ask.  Why anyone building a bomb would put the digital counter on the outside of the suitcase?  Visible to all?  And why would they immediately show it to the first authority figure they find?  Wouldn’t this undermine the surprise effect?  And why was the school not shut down until some expert verified that it was not a real bomb.  A teacher can’t do that.  A principal can’t do that.  For those teachers out there that know your policy, isn’t the school evacuated until the police or bomb squad determines if there is a threat or not and only then do they call it a hoax?  No one in that school believed it to be anything else but a clock.

Further into the website, away from the clock making boy in Texas, is another article about Syrian refugees.  The article links to a Colonel Oliver North interview on Fox News, warning about the potential of terrorist hiding in among the refugees.  That in itself is generic Fox news.  What is troubling is the links title.  They turn “refugee” into Muslim colonist.  These desperate mothers, and fathers and their children are no longer fleeing a savage civil war, brought on by extreme fundamentalist, but are invaders out to colonize us.

And further still into the site I read a comment about Obama, “What kind of follower of Jesus Christ would allow the slaughter of Christians, denying them safe haven in America yet allowing any and all Muslims free entry into our neighborhoods”.  I am not certain but I would bet there must be some Syrian Christians mixed up with the “Muslim colonist”.  The New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan seems to be lost here.

Are the fundamentalist Christians and extreme Right so anxious to see blood they are willing to kill children?  Or do they assuage their conscious with a play on words.  They are terrorist. They are colonist.  They teach their children to be suicide bombers so they are potential suicide bombers.

As long as we can demonize young people that are “different” than us, we will be the ones creating terrorist.  Nits make lice.

Why We Need Black History

History influences our current lives. We might react positively to our historical past or negatively to our historical past but we seldom react neutrally. To fully understand events today it helps to understand the historical context. Otherwise we are left with “don’t know why that happened!”
Often we look at history to feel good about ourselves when we are not doing something great at the moment. Or we look at history to compare our progress, see which direction we have traveled. Sometimes it is just to understand. Granted sometimes history is reduced to little tidbits of information that don’t seem to have any significance. But ultimately we don’t know what people find significant. Even historical perspectives change as we move from “great man” history to social and economic history that tries to understand the unknown common people.
To understand racism today we need to understand the history that brought us here. By reducing racism to individual actions we fail to understand the historical context that created it. The positive progress in race relations should be celebrated. We no longer condone lynching’s. But one never realizes how widespread, how accepted and how recent lynchings were. There are people still alive today that witnessed the last official lynching. If there is no acknowledgement of this we are just sweeping it under the rug and hope that those that remember are not resentful.
Our images of people are based on past experiences — history. If we meet someone for the first time, our impression is based on a historical perspective. What can I guess about this individual based on what I know? When it comes to hiring someone we base some of our impression on attitudes we grew up with. When a police officer pulls someone over they are basing their initial impression on a cultural perspectives. Our cultural perspectives are influenced by the history we are taught.

This perspective manifest itself in public policies today. Granted we no longer have separate drinking fountains but we spend a tremendous amount of both federal and state money, your taxes, combating drugs in predominantly Black neighborhoods. We send a disproportionate amount of African Americans to jail for drug use than any other race, ignoring studies that show that drug use is relatively equal amongst racial groups .
An accurate history helps us refine our awareness, helps us understand the contributions all people made to our culture. We are not ignoring the contributions our White ancestors have made; that has been up front and center for all of our lives. Knowing the contributions other people have done helps us polish our perspective of ourselves. True some bits of history may be trivial, in which case we can impress someone at a party. But knowing that the first African American to receive a patent was a woman in the 1800’s not only moves her away from “barefoot, pregnant and hysterical” to a contributing member of society but also knowing she was Black in the 1800’s moves her from beasts of burden to creative human beings (barely 20 years after slavery ended). Knowing that the fictional character of the Lone Ranger is based on a real frontier lawman who was an ex-slave gives us heroes that can be any race. By knowing a real history gives us a dynamic background.


Karl Marx “Capital” 

How does one summarize Karl Marx’s “Capital”?  Most people have only read the first book of his trilogy (if they have read anything of Marx at all) and this critique is only on the first volume.  The other two volumes were published posthumously, edited by Friedrich Engels.  The two were close collaborators but Carl Marx’s voice is unquestioned in volume one.

Marx is closely associated with the political/economic systems of communism and socialism.  However “Capital” is not about either.  It is a scholarly description of capitalism.  As academic as he is, Marx does let his biases show, although he keeps his criticism of capitalism within reason.

Capitalism is often confused with Free Market.  They are different mechanism, independent of each other.  They often work hand in hand but both are compatible with other economic mechanisms.  They are not mutually dependent on each other.  To understand Free Market, read Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations”.  To understand capitalism, read Karl Marx’s “Capital”.

Economics is a social system in that everyone participates in it.  As such, economics has a very profound effect on the lives of the populace.  We cannot divorce economics from the daily existence of society at large.  The very base of all economic systems is the exchange of commodities.  Commodities are the products and services that society finds valuable, either for the individual to use or to exchange for another commodity.  Marx is influenced by the Industrial Revolution and his focus is on commodities as the combination of labor and resources to produce a produce.  But his concepts apply to services also, which is labor only.

We place value on commodities based on our needs and wants.  We create something that is useful, which Marx appropriately calls “Use Value”.  People can also create commodities that are not useful for the individual but useful to exchange for other commodities that the individual needs or wants.  Marx calls this “Exchange Value”.

Everyone must meet their basic needs for survival, which includes both their physical and social life.  They can accomplish this by either creating Use Value commodities or trade for it with Exchange Value commodities.  The value of one commodity can be compared with another, and another and another.  We have a relative value of each commodity compared to each other.  Gold and silver are viewed as commodities also.   Coins created from bullion (gold and silver) have a symbolic value that is independent of their comparative value with other commodities.  The wear and tear of use reduces the actual volume of bullion, yet their value as an exchange commodity remains the same.  Even when governments devalue the coins by mixing with lesser valuable metals, their exchange value is unchanged.

Labor and resources are converted into a commodity.  The wear and tear on the means of production are all converted into the value of the commodity.  This is his explanation of depreciation without calling it such.  The tools are slowly wearing out but their value is converted into a commodity.  The value of the raw materials are converted into a commodity as well as the labor.   This is commonly called the production cost.

Money is used as an intermediary between commodity exchanges.  We use labor to create a commodity, exchange it for money and then use the money in exchange for another commodity.  The commodity is often consumed but the money continues to exist.  People are converting their labor into money.  Money is not always used in exchanges of commodities.  Selling a commodity with the promise to pay in the future creates a debit/credit relationship.  These debts become commodities in themselves as they are also exchanged.  Adam Smith describes these types of exchanges but Marx warns that the overuse of buying and selling debt leads to economic depressions.

Money makes exchanges convenient and he puts forth the argument that nomads developed the concept of money, making exchanges easier for people on the move.  I am under the impression that the earliest coins were made of mud and represented a quantity of grain.  However, I suppose that herders and farmers developed roughly around the same time and it does make sense that nomads would develop an exchange commodity that is easy to carry.  Very much like the Northwest Indians and the use of dentalium shells.

From creating a commodity to exchange for money to exchange for another commodity Marx then reverses this with an exchange of money for a commodity to exchange for money as the basis of his definition of Capitalism.  One may view the exchange of commodity for money for commodity for money as one long continuum and Capitalism inserts itself in the money portion of this line.  The goal of Capitalism is not to acquire a useful commodity but to acquire money in the form of profit.  Capitalism has moved away from the Use Value of a commodity to strictly its Exchange Value.  And even here it limits it to only exchange for money.

This basic exchange by itself does not create profit.  The value of the commodity is exchanged for relatively similar value.  What creates the surplus value is the extra labor that goes into creating the commodities.  The laborer must work to obtain the necessities for their survival, then work to obtain the necessity of survival for the Capitalist.  If the Capitalist wants to grow his capital in the form of profit, the worker must labor more.

The labor is a commodity for Capitalism and is negotiated.  However the labor is credited towards production as most labor is paid after production and not before.  This would normally set up the relationship between labor and Capitalist with the Capitalist being in debt to the laborer.  But the Capitalist does not necessary sell the commodities on credit and the laborer often does not have the resources to support themselves and must go into debt in order to survive.

The relationship between capitalist and labor was the view of labor as another machine.  The longer the machines ran, the more commodities produced.  This is a direct criticism of the industrial revolution by Marx.  He argued against the prevailing view of the industrialist that their profit was not in the last few hours of the work day but a percentage during any time a laborer worked. The value of the commodity is inherit and aside from losing value do to age, it retains the value put into it. When the commodity is sold, then its value is released, a portion going to the cost of production and a portion going to profit.  It would not matter which hour the Industrialist worked the laborers, his profit was assured. Industrialist could also work many laborers in a shorter day and still create the surplus labor for profit.

A third aspect of Capitalism that Marx describes is the constant attention to details.  The Capitalist looks for ways to lower cost and increase profits, this leads to efficiencies of production and divisions of labor.  The Capitalist divides the work load down to its minute parts in order to value each aspect of the work required.  This division of labor created the dichotomy of skilled and unskilled labor. Capitalism is dependent on this division of labor.  The more singular the task the better for the manufacturer.  This allows the Capitalist to continue to lower cost as they can identify skilled work vs unskilled work.  They continue to fragmentize the division of labor to a point where the worker does not create anything useful by themselves but together the workforce produces a commodity. By dividing up skill and unskilled and even dividing up the skilled labor, the Capitalist can negotiate wages according the specific skill sets.  There is an emphasis on staying within a skill set, especially if it takes time to become competent.  This fragmentation of labor also produces cognitive labor or “thinking” as another division of labor.  Middle management is created to oversee the workforce, something unique to Capitalism. He makes the argument for unions in that the value of the products cannot be done without the cooperation of the work force, yet the workforce is treated as individuals and paid less.  By becoming more efficient, producing more commodities per worker and pushing the wages down as low as possible the Capitalist increases their profits.  With greater demand from the consumer as motivation, capitalist are more willing to look for efficiencies and cost savings with production.  One of the few times Marx acknowledges the consumer.

There are two ways the division of labor can be organized. Several products can come together, each crafted by a skill laborer working anywhere and then assembled at a factory.  The other requires several skills working together to make one product. Factories requires cooperation.  Can be a cooperative where several people work in sequence, each worker does his one job at their own pace.  The workers are interchangeable in that if one does not produce anything it does not slow down the others.  Or the cooperation is organized where each member is crucial for the completion of the product.  If one member does not do their job, the whole suffers.

He contrast the Capitalist organization of the workforce against ancient civilization workforce.  In ancient societies great projects like the great monuments of Egypt were built to keep a homogenous population busy while the Capitalist create a large diverse workforce to achieve their profit goals.

He notes a counter problem with capitalism and the extreme division of labor.  Those that are highly competent in a valuable skill are problematic.  They have authority and leverage.  The production cannot be completed without their skill and the time it takes to acquire the skill makes it difficult to replace the laborer.  However with the increase of technology the dependence on skilled labor is lessened.

The historical context Marx is writing is very telling.  The eight or ten hour working day limitations was argued between parliament and industrials for over 50 years.  Parliament would pass labor laws, not fund them, and industry would subvert the laws.  Marx calls it a 50 year pro slavery revolt as industrialist manipulating the laws or ignoring them completely.  Laws that were passed allowing a certain amount of time to be put aside for breaks, the industrialist circumvent them by giving breaks at the beginning and end of the shifts.  Industrialist were concerned that the limited day would not only cut into their profits but they would lose time restarting the machines. By giving breaks during the day, the machines, often furnaces, would cool down and they would waste time restarting them.  The industrialist viewed the majority of commodities created during the day went to pay for the cost of production and the commodities created in the last hour was their profit.  Time was money. As mentioned above, Marx proves this to be untrue and as we see today, industry has no problem with making a profit with an eight hour workday.

During his time, industry worked both children and adults long hours.  12 hour days were short in comparison.  Some children worked 36 hours straight.  One can only imagine how long the adults worked.  Parliament continued to commission investigations and the reports were seldom positive.  Children were viewed as unskilled labor and cost the company less.   Industrialist argued against restrictions citing “Freedom of Labor” which echoes eerily contemporary arguments of the “right to work”.

Industrialist argued that work was morally good for the children, otherwise they will get into mischief.  However reports to Parliament not only documented children’s long hours but the lack of basic knowledge.  Children did not know basic math, nor did they know what country they lived in nor the fundamental tenets of Christianity.

The pro industrial academics argued for low wages for the workforce.  The consensus, articulated by Jacob Vanerlint, was to pay the laborer just enough to keep them hungry but not starving, so they don’t walk off the job once their needs are met.   They were concern about keeping a workforce working, regardless of the economy.  Marx notes that during depressions, the factories that don’t go out of business continue to work their laborers long hours, even though they are not selling the commodities they produce.  These commodities are stored and sold when the market returns.

Many observers noted the effects of the constant attention to specific, repetitious labor of factory work as being detrimental to the intellectual development of the person. Depression, stress related diseases, atrophy of the mind and a short life span were noted as part of the pathology associated with industrial manufacturing.  Both Marx and Adam Smith, who commented on the destruction of the mind, argued that an educated populace was better for society.  However, many pro industrialist academics argued against educating the populace.  An uneducated workforce would not be able to reveal trade secrets and why spend the resources to educate a workforce that will upset the division of labor that industry was dependent on.  Why have an overeducated janitor.  An illiterate workforce was needed to keep order in society.

There seemed to be an unlimited supply of laborers, either gathered from the countryside or immigrants.  Marx compares the treatment of the Industrial workers to slavery in America, pithily commenting “Meanwhile, late by night, self-denying Mr. Glass-Capital, primed with port-wine, reels out of his club homeward droning out idiotically. ‘Britons never, never shall be slaves!’”  He contrast the motivation; slaves where whipped, factory workers where starved.

He acknowledges that the specialization of labor can produce quality products, (the meat from the Kings table is better).  This implies that the consolidation of resources both labor and materials, provides the quality materials that a talented individual can utilize.  Marx also notes that many specializations spontaneously develop with cooperation between individuals of a group and between regions.  Unfortunately they evolved into caste systems that keep the laborers in their place.  Marx notes that the capitalist increase production, and the increases benefit to a consumer society in the form of quality, cheaper products, comes at the expense of the laborer.

Marx noted a couple of historical events that I have read from other sources but not found in your average history books.  He mentions Virginia and Kentucky’s main industry as slave producers. The two states bred and exported slaves to the rest of the Antebellum South.  Also both Marx and Adam Smith talk about a Roman system of indebting the labor force to keep them enslaved.  Something that Industrialist also used with their easy credit at a company store.

He ends the book with his only, if very brief, description of a communist community.  Villages in India held the land and resources in common, each person making decisions on where they fit in society, as farmers, as artisans etc.  These stable societies lasted for centuries and when the population got big enough they would strike out and establish a new village.  It did not matter who or how the overall kingdom was ruled, these societies continued to function.  This only hints at his ideal community and seems to be an important influence on Marx’s thinking.

Marx has no qualms about lambasting economist that he disagrees with.  So it is with some delight to find his appreciation of Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations.” He agrees or is only slightly critical of the free market theory.  It is also evident his admiration of Charles Darwin as he uses Darwin’s evolutionary theories to describe social progress.  Unfortunately this is the beginnings of what has become known as Social Darwinism which is a misinterpretation of Darwin’s evolution.  Although I don’t think Marx is going down the direction of superiority of races that ended up with Nazism and White Supremacy, he does assume the progression of one social mechanism leading to another and the harsh competition for survival he assumes is found in the animal world.


Marx makes a compelling case but leaves out one important aspect of capitalism.  Creating commodities in vast numbers at cheaper cost is good but it is worth nothing without the consumer demand.  He only devotes a paragraph’s worth of scattered sentences in his entire book to the perceived value of the consumer. What is the relationship between capitalist and consumer?  If the capitalist need to control the laborer in order to expand their profits, how much are they willing to allow freedom of choice, which is a cornerstone of Adam Smith’s free market, amongst the consumer, especially when the capitalist has invested and risked their capital?  He acknowledge perceived value as a social value or what society finds valuable but the dominate focus of “Capital” is on the laborer and the production side of creating a commodity.