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Blanket statements about any large assemblage of people are generally subject to disclaimers, unless the statements are so broad as to be inarguable. That being said, when the people in question have collected themselves into groups based on commonalities of interests or beliefs (e.g., as people do when associating themselves with political parties) it is worth looking at what those shared interests or beliefs actually are and what seems to underlie them.

Sometimes one finds a touchstone that can reveal a mysterious substance for what it truly is. For me, such a touchstone can be found in the writings of the Rev. James Henley Thornwell, D.D., AKA James Henry Thornwell (1812-1862). In his day (and to some up to this day), Rev. Thornwell was considered "the Greatest Divine of the South." Here is the greatest divine of the South in 1850, delivering a sermon entitled "The Rights and the Duties of Masters" on the occasion of a dedication of a church for slaves in Charleston, South Carolina. Bolding added by diarist.

"These are the mighty questions which are shaking thrones to their centres—upheaving the masses like an earthquake and rocking the solid pillars of this Union. The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders—they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, jacobins, on the one side, and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battle ground—Christianity and Atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity the stake. One party seems to regard Society, with all its complicated interests, its divisions and sub-divisions, as the machinery of man—which, as it has been invented and arranged by his ingenuity and skill, may be taken to pieces, re-constructed, altered or repaired, as experience shall indicate defects or confusion in the original plan. The other party beholds in it the ordinance of God; and contemplates “this little scene of human life,” as placed in the middle of a scheme whose beginnings must be traced to the unfathomable depths of the past, and whose development and completion must be sought in the still more unfathomable depths of the future—a scheme, as Butler expresses it, “not fixed, but progressive—every way incomprehensible”—in which, consequently, irregularity is the confession of our ignorance—disorder the proof of our blindness, and with which it is as awful temerity to tamper as to sport with the name of God."
If this starts to sound a bit familiar, look across the jump for him to make it even plainer, because a man like Rev. Thornwell is worth quoting more than once.
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I saw Dracula Untold yesterday. There were some parts of it I liked. Luke Evans is a charismatic actor with an interesting face. The acting overall was perhaps a cut above the norm for a modern vampire movie, of which genre I have quite low expectations. Special effects were quite appealing. Costuming was good, albeit no better than your average episode of Game of Thrones. Additionally, the movie showed a (very) little more of the real history behind the historical Vlad Dracula than I had expected to see. It portrays a highly fictionalized but not completely unrecognizable portrait of the man who became a Romanian national hero. Therein lies a piece of the problem I had with this film.

SPOILERS AHEAD (if you've seen the trailers, you will know some but not all of this already)

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I was inspired to write this when I read yesterday’s diary, KKK begins recruitment drive in Missouri. That diary recounts recent events in Lexington, in central Missouri. I could summarize those events here, but the only summary really needed is in the title. I recommend reading it.  Anyway, it made me think about how much has changed, how much has not, and how much the actions of a very few individuals can make a difference, even if the world largely ignores them at the time. And it did all that because it's talking about race relations in Missouri, a state I've never visited but have spent some time learning something about.

I do have a fleeting but real ancestral connection to that part of Missouri. Between 1850 and 1860, four of my 3x great grandparents had moved to central Missouri, settling in the Boonville area (about 74 miles east of Lexington and roughly midway between Kansas City and St. Louis), part of a huge wave of German immigrants. One of my 2x great grandparents was born in Boonville and she and her future husband both grew to adulthood there, before moving to Kansas.  

It is through the line of these German forebears that I have direct ancestors who fought in the Civil War. Three direct ancestors who lived in Boonville fought for the Union (Georg Groh, Stephen Leer, and Adolph Sandrock), plus near relatives who did the same. However, the focus of this diary is not on them, although they do play an extremely small part. Instead, the main focus is on a story I discovered while researching their military service, a story that I think deserves a wider audience, the true and practically unknown story and import of the Second Battle of Boonville in the Civil War.

If you follow me over the fold, I'll show you why this should matter to other Americans, even ones whose families never went anywhere near Missouri.

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I am not certain the GOP leadership or its backers are treating the Presidency as a serious goal in this election. Sure, they'd probably like to have it, but if they are actually as amorally rapacious as we generally believe them to be then they may well have decided to make the best of a weak position in this election.  That best would be focusing on holding on to their own personal power as long as possible while discrediting the Democrats' agenda, because that agenda would inevitably result in their removal from power if it succeeded. They would either get voted out, become politically marginalized, or end up paying their fair share in taxes.

Congressional Republicans are already doing all they can to block forward progress on the economy and every other front, while Republican opinion leaders blame the President for the fact that so little progress has been made. They'd be in a far better position to keep that up if Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.

As it is now, the Republicans still have an excellent chance of retaining control of the House of Representatives. We'll have to lose no safe or leaning Dem seats and pick up a LOT of their seats, including many leaning their way, in order to take it back. No, it is absolutely not impossible for us to do that, but our chances aren't stupendous, either (although even if we don't make it, any progress towards Speaker Pelosi would be good, especially as we could build on it in two years). Meanwhile, the Republican's chance of picking up the Senate either in this election or the 2014 midterms is not minuscule. Intrade currently (as of writing this) gives them a 53.3% shot at taking the Senate in this election, although I personally believe that is too high and plan to plunk some money down on a bet against it.

They had no poisonously charismatic Reagan clone to run this cycle, so it probably didn't much matter who won the elephant races. The odds were always against any of their candidates managing to unseat our relatively well-liked  (by most of the country) President. But, of course, they'd have to run somebody. I think a fair number of GOP voters would turn out to vote against President Barack Obama who would not turn out to vote for the downticket races alone. Not this year, anyway. They need those negative voters. So they've got to have someone. Anyone, really.

Wouldn't it explain so much if the GOP leadership saw Romney as just a dupe, a placeholder, an "anyone, really" candidate there to encourage GOP voters to come to the polls, to give them the illusion they actually had a chance to turf out Barack Obama? I mean, if the GOP leadership does not care about the country or about policy (and so far as I can tell, they don't), then they don't need to worry about the difficult problems we face or the impossible task of making the Republican Party look good. Not when it is so much simpler to just keep the Democrats from getting any success or any credit.

I dunno. It's all conjecture. But is it likely or unlikely conjecture? And does it matter either way?


Do you think Mitt Romney is a placeholder candidate?

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No tips--I didn't make this. But it is absolutely too useful not to pass on.

Warning: if there is ANY likelihood you could be triggered, please use caution watching this.



This will be short. Prominently displayed on the front page of the New York Times right now is a story by Jonathan Weisman entitled "Business Bets on G.O.P. May Be Backfiring".

From the article:

Big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars in 2010 to elect Republican candidates running for the House. The return on investment has not always met expectations.
More below Rand Paul's orange hair
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I'm not writing this diary to defend or describe the NDAA as a whole. I haven't read the entire thing and it is quite possible that there are parts of it I would not wish to defend.

However, I have seen quite a few claims here about what the legislation could do regarding the military detention of American citizens and was naturally duly concerned. The other day, in the course of noodling around the Internet, I ran across a piece entitled Stop the Hysteria Over the NDAA. Fact vs Fiction on the site Republicans for Obama (no, I'd never heard of them before either). This is the relevant part:

. . . those who are fear mongering about it are leaving out something very important.  The amendment clearly states:
'AUTHORITIES.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States


    (1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS.—The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.

    (2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS.—The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.

The detainee provisions in the bill do not include new authority for the permanent detention of suspected terrorists. The "existing law" is contained within the Patriot Act.  

This appears to be true. See across the fold.

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From the Chicago Tribune:

Anthony Holmes, 63, said that on May 29, 1973, Burge and other officers burst into the South Side home, arrested him at gunpoint and took him to the old Area 2 headquarters. There, in an interview room, he initially denied any involvement in the murder.

It was then that Burge entered the room with a mysterious device, Holmes said.

"He took the box and plugged it into the wall," said Holmes, an imposing figure with his hair pulled into a tiny bun and tattoos dotting his arms. "He put one wire on my ankle (shackles) and I assume he put the other one on my handcuffs... He said, 'N-----, you're going to tell me what I want to know."


"You expect to get beat up by the police, but you don't expect to get shocked, electrocuted, bags put over your head, stuff like that," Holmes said. "I still feel the effects. I feel withdrawn, helpless."

Burge is thought to have tortured hundreds of prisoners for confessions. Thought by who? US Attorney for Northern Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald (video over the fold).

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Jon Burge. I'd never heard of him until this morning. On NPR:

A one-time Chicago police commander who officials say oversaw the torture of more than 100 black men goes on trial Monday.

The first allegations date back 40 years, but former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge has avoided prosecution until now.

Prosecutors say detectives under his command on the city's South Side tortured suspects until they confessed to crimes they may or may not have committed.


For two decades, judges and juries didn't believe gang members with criminal records over decorated police officers. But the allegations were so widespread, they eventually led to a police investigation that found systematic torture in the South Side region where Burge was a commander. Burge was fired in 1993.

What is he being charged with? Two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury. If convicted, he may face prison time in addition to losing his pension. Oh, and apparently NPR was underplaying the story a bit--it seems it was over 200 men, all told.

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Tue Apr 27, 2010 at 11:01 AM PDT

Progress at Bagram?

by leftist vegetarian patriot

The Al Jazeera story has this to say:

James Bays, reporting from Kabul, said the Afghans wanted the foreign detainees transferred before they take over.

"The Afghans wouldn't want to take control of these detainees when it came under Afghan control, and that's why America is talking to some of the governments where these prisoners come from to see if they will take these prisoners," he said.

However, in late February, Al Jazeera reported that Afghanistan's deputy justice minister told reporters

"As a first step we will soon send a team of judicial officials [and] in three months the Afghan national army will take control of the prison facility."

"By January 2011 we'll be in full control of the prison."



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From Connecticut Public Radio:

Women make up just under half of the American workforce, but for the first time in US history, they’re poised to surpass the 50% mark in the next few months.

The last 50 years have represented an educational and professional revolution for women. Females now earn 60% of the university degrees being earned at American universities. But hurdles for women at work remain—even for women at the top of their fields. In board rooms across the country, fewer than 13% of board members are women. And a female CEO is still only compensated at 85% of what her male counterpart earns.

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Surprising, yes? I'd have thought there'd have been a memorial, or something, but I had to find out over at National Review.

In a post called Racism Today, Jay Nordlinger quotes this letter:

As everyone sweats out the final Obamacare tallies, I’m struck by a couple of other stories. In one case, someone reported hearing an anti-black epithet used at a political rally. In another case, dogged police finally arrested the perpetrator of an intolerable crime. The perp is a 16-year-old kid who made a potentially offensive comment on a Wal-Mart overhead speaker. That these things are even remotely newsworthy leads me to one conclusion: Racism in America is dead. We had slavery, then we had Jim Crow — and now we have the occasional public utterance of a bad word. Real racism has been reduced to de minimis levels, while charges of racism seem to increase. I’ll vote for the first politician with the brass to say that "racism" should be dropped from our national dialogue.

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