The image above is the tweet that alerted many people to the new Dove ad in which, apparenly, black people can clean themselves up and become white people!

When I first saw this ad, I was flabbergasted and assumed I had it wrong. I assumed that I simply misunderstood the ad, or it was a parody, or something. This, I thought, could not be happening. Then, I finally settled into the fact that Dove managed to produce a deeply disturbing, racist ad.

But then, I learned Continue reading

Visiting Arkansas, hanging around briefly with some people in the Real Estate business, I found a lot of hatred of Mexicans, whom they unimaginatively referred to as “spics” but making it clear they were talking about Mexicans, not some other spics. Sitting with a group of people talking about racism in an urban neighborhood in near Minneapolis, I found zero mention of dislike between whites per se and blacks per se. But Poles and Tibetans, they were very much disliked by people who were mostly but not all white. Years ago I remember being shocked by a fellow anthropologist who expressed a hatred of Cubans. This hatred stemmed from the death of a friend, gunned down by a Cuban criminal, who was in the US because of Mariel, in the Milwaukee area, a significant ultimate destination for Cuban refugees at that time. Where I grew up, all the white people sorted out and looked down upon each other by closely defined European ethnicity, and all the white people feared and distrusted all the black people, and there was one Japanese guy. But, we knew about, were told about, Puerto Ricans. That was in upstate New York, and New York City had a lot of Puerto Ricans, to the extent that as a child I thought Puerto Rico was an island just a few miles off New York City (because I was told that, don’t know why). White New Yorkers historically disdain Puerto Ricans because people from Puerto Rico represent one of the largest Hispanic groups in that area, or at least, did for many decades, while certain people were growing up and doing business.

It is not true that racism is random, arbitrary, or non deterministic. It is not build in, it is not always the same. Racism emerges with a strong historical context and different racisms look different for discernible reasons. American racism is special in its own way, with its own history, not the same as other racism, and there is an interesting characteristic to it. Most everybody who is white dislikes, distrusts, or disdains, the people of color, mainly African Americans. Recent immigrants of any ethnicity or geographic origins are generally disdained. That is all expected. But, since The Americas are a complex web of mostly Hispanic cultures with diverse and sometimes very complicated histories (Who knew history was so complicated? Nobody knew!) that part of American racism tends to have very specific parameters. Arkansas landowners rent to Mexican migrants. Minnesota city dwellers have a long menu of immigrants from diverse places across Eurasia and Africa, and multiple New World countries. It is a good thing Minnesota has a good educational system, because racists here have to know a LOT just to know whom to disdain. My Anthro colleague was from the Milwaukee area, where anti-Cuban sentiment had festered. If you were not from a Mariel recipient area, or near the mysterious Puerto Rican Islands of New York Harbor, or a Landlord to the Mexicans, you might not know much, or care much, about those specific groups. In short, white anti-other feelings are not uniform or consistent, and vary with the place the particular white person grew up and the particular way history has shaped their hatred.

All this is a long way of saying that Donald Trump hates Puerto Ricans because he is a white dude from Queens of a certain age, who was involved in real estaate, and also most would say, a white supremacist. I’m not sure if the rest of the country, outside of New York, is quite seeing this or understanding it. A hurricane during a Trump administration could happen anywhere other than Puerto Rico, and Trump would respond less disdainfully and stupidly. A hurricane hitting Puerto Rico during the Trump administration is not so much of a disaster in Donald Trump’s eyes. It isn’t just that Trump likes other people better, or is getting Puerto Rico wrong. No. Trump is a pretty right wing privileged real-estate connected white guy from Queens. Dollars to donuts says he likes that a hurricane hit Puerto Rico. Keep that in mind while listening to what he says and watching his body language. It will all make sense, in a sick and demented sort of way, if you do.

A lot of people will object to the title of this post. I will be told to take the post down. I will be told to modify the title or to change what I say in the post.


Ta-Nehisi Coates is correct, and his presentation is brilliant. Watch the following interview (in two parts) and read his book We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.

Chris Hayes is correct to point out that the historical source of Coates title is critically important and deeply disturbing (this is something we’ve talked about here in the recent past). He is incorrect, as Coates points out near the end of the second segment, that there will be a future in which we debate the relative merits of the Trump vs the Obama presidency. I have no idea what possessed him to day that (I see Hayes slip into the false balance mode now and then when he’s tired, maybe that’s what he did there for just a moment).

On the book:

“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”

But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period—and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective—the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.

We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President,” “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.

You’ll remember that Philando Castile was killed in cold blood by a St. Anthony cop, who was later acquitted with the defense that “he was a black guy, I wuz scared.”

A couple of days ago, tragically and sadly, a cop in a town near me was run over by a driver who was probably on drugs and drunk, who was told by the courts she was not allowed to drive because she is so dangerous but was driving anyway. That is very sad. That particular cop was said by others to be “one of the good ones” and I believe that. He had a boy Huxley’s age, in the same school system (but a different building). The memorial service for that officer was yesterday and today. Imma come back to that later.

Anyway, an on line fundraiser was started some time back to help feed the kids in the Saint Paul school district. Philando Castile worked in the cafeteria in one of the elementary schools there. The fundraiser, Pamela Fergus’s idea, was supposed to cover the costs of the school lunch debts for kids in Philando’s schol, which would have required something less than $5,000. Imma come back to that later.

So, anyway, today a guy was run over in Saint Paul by a drunk driver driving an SUV. Another guy was killed a couple of days ago in nearby Robbinsdale when a drunk driver ran his pickup into a building, killing the guy in side. Over the last year and a half, over an area with a radius of about 2 miles or less, three people were killed on roads near my house by drunk drivers, people who were either nowhere near the road, on a foot or bike path, or, as is the case of the police officer mentioned above, out with his police car removing an obstruction from the highway.

It is sad that all of those people died, including Philando who was killed for exactly one reason, that he was black. Including the three pedestrians who were committing the crime of walking down the street, and the one guy in the business who was just sitting there minding his own business, and the cop who was doing his job.

Two big things happened today. One of them is that several miles of road and several acres of parking were shut down, school buses delayed and rerouted, and traffic (somewhat, not much I think) messed up in order to have a huge memorial for the officer who was run over. Cops came from all over, it was a huge, huge deal.

The other big thing is that it was reported that the fundraiser for kids at Philando Castile’s school produced $64,400 instead of $5,000. So, that’s enough to cover all of the debts for all of the students in Saint Paul’s rather large school district.

I don’t have a problem with a big memorial for a cop that died in the line of duty. But I just want to point out that a huge memorial happened for one guy who was killed exactly the same way as a bunch of other people who didn’t get the memorial. It is almost like the cops are royalty, so when one of them dies there is a big procession and the streets are closed down and everybody has to salute and be sad. And since they are cops and can harass or kill people, you can’t really complain about it.

You might think I’m annoyed at the cop memorial and not annoyed at the Castile fundraider, but actually, I’m annoyed at the fundraiser as well. In Minnesota we feed the kids in our schools. Kids who are short of resources get the food for free or cheap, and if the bills are not paid nobody does anything. So, I think the fundraiser was a bit too specific. There are kids who are above the cutoff for free or reduced lunch that probably still can’t pay, but what the J.J.Hill school, where Philando worked needs, is probably some other stuff. Since the fundraiser is for lunch debt, now the extra money, it seems, will be spread across the school district, and is probably paying for something the school would have covered because they don’t have a choice. I’d love to see all the money go to just his school, for things school administrations are not already forced to cover but that kids need.

Oh, and another thing that is related to all of this in the usual sick and demented way. Today it was revealed that a security guard, a rent-a-cop, at a local Catholic college, admitted that he had lied. He claimed that he had been shot, and specifically, that he was shot by some black guy. Turns out he accidentally shot himself. This is the sort of thing that happens sometimes.

It is very rare that I find myself yelling at the TV when Rachel Maddow is on. She is very good at historically contextualized nuanced well informed analyses. But when I watched a segment of last night’s show (on the Internet, I have no cable) I was shocked to see that she missed something really important. If, that is, it is real.

In the segment below, she makes the point that there are two “clear through lines” in the whole Trump thing. One is the love of Russia and Putin by Trump, his unwavering stance that Russia and Putin can do no wrong. The other is the consistent “vehement antipathy towards immigrants”, clearly part of a white supremacists strategy, with respect to who has been appointed to various positions, the things Trump has said, and the policies attempted. The difference, Rachel notes, between these two separate through lines is the apparent novelty and strangeness of the Russia theme, while the racist trope has deep roots with Trump.

Here, I think, is what she missed: They are not two separate through lines. They are two faces of the same coin. The Russian oligarchs are white supremacists too.

This is underscored by the news that just came out that Russian entities had purchased ads on Facebook during the last election, described this way: “Most of the ads focused on pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.”

There are all sorts of reasons Russia wants to control the US presidency and state department. There seem to be some great economic benefits to Trump for selling the government to Putin, something we will be forced to assume happened if even a small number of the accusations emerging are true. But, there is also the potential of the two main actors and their associates having a common philosophy about race. This would not be the first time dictators or would be dictators bonded over such things.

I could be wrong. Am I wrong? I suppose time will tell.

In The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction, Charles Lane describes the events — several years of events including the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, though only briefly — that led up to the Colfax Massacre. What happened was incredibly complex and only a very detailed description can do justice. But, I’ll try to summarize it his way: A war was fought over slavery, and slave holders lost. A conflict then ensued between the new, victorious, anti-slavery government and the racist pigs of the Confederacy, who insisted on repressing blacks and, essentially, emulating slavery in any way possible. In Louisiana, some two thousand blacks were killed over a period of time, maybe more, between the Civil War and the Colfax Massacre, and another 150 on that day. The Colfax massacre was the largest single one-event racial killing event in the United States. The exact number killed is uncertain, but it is known that most of those killed had been captured by white supremacists who had formed an illegal militia. The prisoners were then summarily executed. Many, possibly most, of the bodies were tossed in the river.

This is how Democrats and Republicans used to do politics in the South. (Reminder: In those days, the Republicans were the good guys, the Democrats were the bad guys, and in Louisiana, of where we speak now, that is not an oversimplification.)

The Colfax Massacre has a lot more to it than that, and The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction gives those details, including the famous United States v. Cruikshank ruling by the Supreme Court. It occurred on April 13th 1873. But it is an event that ocurred a little while later, on September 14th, 1874, that I’d like to draw your attention to. It was known as the Battle of Liberty Place.

The back and forth between Democrats and White Supremacists on one hand and Republicans and Free Blacks on the other hand had involved military and paramilitary battles, individual homicides, massive voter intimidation efforts, and so on. The Colfax Massacre was a key point in that series of events. The Battle of Liberty Place was a continuation. Five thousand white supremacists, organized as the “White League” (a paramilitary group that was part of the Democratic Party) fought the New Orleans police and the state militia. Federal troops eventually showed up to end the fight. The battle was over who should be placed as governor. There was one election but there were two sets of vote counters, the white supremacists on one hand and those representing the Federal Government and the state on the other.

Caesar Antoine (1836-1921). US Federal Army Capitan. Multilingual, son of Creole war of 1812 veteran (father) and West Indian woman. Well respected barber. Served as a delegate to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 where he made significant contributions. Served in the state Senate and elected Lieutenant Governor in 1872. Later, he was president of the Cosmopolitan Life Insurance Company. Still later, as white supremacists gained more power and ended the ability for southern blacks to be elected, he worked on racial discrimination issues.
Unlike the Colfax event, only a few dozen were killed, and the deaths were more even on the two sides.

Years later, in 1891, a monument was erected at the site of the Battle of Liberty Place. It was erected at the time to commemorate the white supremacists and their attack on the Republicans and government, and to reify their position that the election had gone their way (it had most definitively not). Eventually, in 1932, an inscription was added to the marble obelisk, in line with the original meaning of this edifice. It read:

[Democrats] McEnery and Penn having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed by this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine (colored).

United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.

That monument is one of the monuments that has been removed in New Orleans in recent days. It is a monument to the murderous repression of African Americans in Louisiana over decades of time following the loss by the Confederacy of the Civil War.

You hear talk about these monuments, about how they are Civil War monuments and how they commemorate the dead on both sides. This monument was clearly erected to celebrate an event that happened many years after the Civil War was over, and it was erected to commemorate a failed paramilitary insurgency by self described white supremacists.

Later, an interpretive marker was put up near the monument. This was in 1974. It read:

Although the “battle of Liberty Place” and this monument are important parts of the New Orleans history, the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans.

That was nice to do that. But probably not enough. The monument was moved in 1993, to a warehouse, with the diea of eventually putting it in a museum. But the idea of putting giant monuments nobody knows what to do with in a museum is easier said than done. No museum in its right mind would accept such an artifact. So, it was placed in a new location, less central, still in New Orleans. At that time, the original inscription was replaced with this:

In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place … A conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future.

Davidson Bradfute Penn (1835-1902). Probably a slave owner. Captured during the Civil War. Nothing else notable. Oh, he was the fake Lieutenant Governor for Louisiana for a while.
Which, of course, is a bald face lie.

And that is the history of what would by 1860 become the Republican Party and the coalition of Democratic abolitionists and others in the North, on one hand, and the would be Confederates on the other, from the 1830s to the war itself. To a Democrat, compromise looked like making the other side do what you want and screaming bloody murder when that did not happen. To the Republican coalition, led eventually by Abraham Lincoln, compromise looked like agreeing to do much of what the opposition insisted you do, red-faced and clench-fisted, tantrum enthralled, and violent, and hope they don’t hit you. When the Republican coalition looked like it might gain sufficient power to lead the country out of absurd treasonous states rights and slavery, the south violently attacked the north and started the war. After the Union destroyed the South in a war the South would not allow to end until the maximum number of their own people, and a good number of Yankees, were dead on the battle field, the south continued to kick and scream and whine and fight and punch and shoot and kill.

This is a monument to that. And when the monument was being dismantled a few days ago, threats to shoot or lynch those removing the monument were made. Representative Karl Oliver ( said this:

“The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, “leadership” of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.”

The other monuments in question were of Jefferson Davis, General P.G.T. Beauregard, and Robert E. Lee.

Davis was, of course a war criminal for a number of reasons, not the least of which was Andersonville. Lee had nothing to do with New Orleans. Beauregard was a native of Louisiana but his involvement in the Civil War included that famous moment: Attacking Fort Sumter to begin the war. Otherwise, he fought in and around Virginia and the Carolinas, but never in Louisiana. After the war he got a job as the supervisor of the Louisiana Lottery. So, maybe they should have kept that one statue up. For good luck.

The Dogs Still Bark in Dutch

I grew up in the old Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now known to you as the State of New York. There, I carried out extensive archaeological and historic research, and along the way, came across that phrase, “the dogs still bark in Dutch.”

It is an idea that might occur to a denizen of Harlem, the kids off to Kindergarten, sitting on his stoop eating a cruller, or perhaps some cole slaw with a gherkin, and pondering the Dutch revival architecture down on Wall Street.

There was a war between the Dutch and the English in the 17th century, and as a result of that war, colonial lands were passed back and forth multiple times. In the case of the colony of New Amsterdam, the passing to the English involved the arrival of a warship on the Hudson, but they used their cannon only to wake up the governor so he could receive a letter telling him about the change. Actually, the colony went back and forth a couple of times.

But when the English took over that Dutch colony, they did not remove the Dutch, or really, do much at all. There were some old Dutch customs, such as the Pinksterfest, a bit of a happy go lucky free for all dance party with vague religious overtones, that were illegalized, because the English versions of Christians at the time didn’t like dancing. But mostly nothing happened to affect day to day life for most people. The Dutch parts of the collection of English Colonies and the early United States retained its Dutchness long enough for someone to remark of the time that even with all the political change, the new form of money, the change in monarch, all of that, the dogs still barked in Dutch.

(I oversimplify two centuries of history slightly.)

We know we are eating burritos, yet we call them tacos

I think this is a Minnesota custom but it could be more widespread. This is what you do. You get a large flour tortilla, some kind of meat or beans, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa or hot sauce, grated cheese and sour cream, and you put all that stuff inside the tortilla, roll the tortilla up, eat it, and then say, “That was a good taco, you betcha.”

The part about the tortilla, lettuce, cheese, etc. is not Minnesotan. That is widespread. But calling a burrito a taco may be more local. And, we know it is a burrito. Nobody in Minnesota ever gets confused about what they are ordering at a Mexican restaurant. In fact we’re pretty good at that. Indeed, of all the upper mid west cities, I’ll bet you that Minneapolis has one of the oldest Mexican restaurants, and there has always been a Mexican community here, though it has grown in recent decades.

But never mind the taco-burrito distinction. We Minnesotans also mix up “yet” and “still” and do things “on” accident instead of “by” accident. Don’t get me started on soda vs pop vs sodapop.

What I really want to talk about here is “Mexican food.”

Go find some hipsters and tell them, “Imma go get Mexican food, wanna come?” and you’ll find out that there is no such thing as “Mexican food,” that what you really mean is “Tex-Mex” and that if you want some authentic “Mexican food” there’s this great taco truck down the street that has authentic tacos.

So you got to get the authentic tacos. I did that the other day. Hipsters everywhere. All the tacos, though, were various meat or bean substances, some kid of lettuce, tomato, etc. with some sort of sauce, on a flour tortilla. The only difference between our home made “tacos” and these legitimate “tacos” was that our burritos are chimichanga size, and those burritos were hand size.

Don’t get me started on chimichangas.

Anyway, here’s what I want to say about Mexican food. It is Mexican, and it is not Tex-Mex. Why is it not Tex-Mex? because Tex-Mex is a made up word, a made up category of food. It was made up because people thought this stuff we call “Mexican food” was fake, an American, non-Mexican version of what they eat in Real Mexico. It was not understood that America did not invite Mexico over as long as they bring the Tacos, that things Mexican in America are not immigrated, but rather, indigenous, often. Even though many Mexicans actually do go back and forth across the US-Mexico border, the truth is, the geographical and cultural entity that gave rise to the Country of Mexico also gave rise to the Country of the United States, in part. In part for both. The Yucatan is no more Hispanic Mexican than El Passo is Anglo-American.

Both modern countries have histories that involve big areas of land, country size areas of land by European standards, that had this or that national, ethnic, or cultural thing going on, and all of that stuff contributes to the present. Native American zones were everywhere, of course, and for the region of which we speak here, that included hundreds of languages, many language groups, and numerous entirely different but often overlapping or intermingled lifeways (such as foraging, bigly civilization, and all the arrangements to be found on the small-group-forager to pyramid-building-nation spectrum).

America did not become a first-Native then Anglo-European country that then had Mexicans show up to fix our roofs and run Tex-Mex style taco trucks. Mexican culture, or more broadly speaking New World Hispanic culture (or some other word, you pick) was in place, across a huge area, long before the United States took its current form, and a whopping big chunk of the eventual United States was part of that. And no, I’m not talking about Texas, or even New Mexico, or the Southwest, or the land ceded to the US in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. I’m talking about a big blobby thing that includes regions from Atlantic Florida to California, from the Rio Grande to the Great Lakes, overlapping with other big and small blobby things that were French, English, Dutch, Creole, Acadian, Russian, and so on.

So don’t call what we eat “Tex-Mex” because that implies that we are America sans Mexico. We are Mexico. Even up here in Minnesota, the Cowboys sometimes spoke Spanish. A cowboy IS a Spanish-American thing. And out east, the dogs still barked in Dutch. And our northern beginnings are as French as anything else.

America is part Mexican, but not because they came to us. Rather, we come from them.

A brief update: This morning, Senate Republicans set aside the rules that say that both parties must be present, with at least one member, for a committee vote to advance a Presidential nominee for a cabinet appointment.

In other words, as outlined below, our system is based not only on enforceable laws but also on rules that only work if everyone involves agrees to not be the bully on the playground who ignores the rules. The Republicans are the bully on the playground.

The system requires honest actor playing by agreed on rules. So, without the honest actor, you get this. This fits perfectly with Trump’s overall approach.

Democracy is not threatened by this sort of thing. Democracy was tossed out the window a while back when this sort of thing became possible, and normal. Whatever we see now that looks like democracy is vestigial.

Original Post:

The title of this post is based closely on the title of a statement posted by my friend Stephan Lewandowsky, representing the Psychonomic Society.

The post is the official statement by this scientific society responding to President Trump’s recent activities, and it begins,

Last Friday was Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls on the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz Death Camp by Soviet troops in 1945. U.S. President Trump marked the occasion with a statement, although it omitted any specific mention of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

On the same day, Trump also signed an executive order that banned citizens of 7 mainly Islamic countries from entering the United States.

This order—at least initially—also applied to legal permanent residents of the U.S. (“Green card” holders), thus barring them from re-entry to their country of residence after a visit abroad, as well as to dual nationals if one of their citizenships is from one of those 7 countries.

I’m going to use this as a starting point to discuss the most important thing you need to know about the situation in the United States right now.

You know most resources are limited. We can cook along ignoring this for long periods of time, ignoring a particular resource’s limitations, until one day something goes awry and that particular resource suddenly matters more and of it, we have less. So a competitive framework develops and then things happen.

It is the business of the rich and powerful to manipulate the world around them in such a way that when such a limitation occurs, they profit. Candidate Trump mentioned this a while back. A housing crisis is a good thing for a real estate developer. This is not because it is inherently good; a housing crisis can put a real estate developer out of business. But the developer who is positioned to exploit such a crisis, or any kind of economic or resource crisis, is in a good position when thing go badly for everyone else.

One of the long term goals of many powerful entities is to maintain working classes, or other lower classes of servitude, in order to have cheap labor and a market. This has been done in many ways, in many places, at many times. Much of our social history is about this. Many wars have been fought over this, and many social, cultural, and economic revolutions have occurred because of this.

And every now and then, a holocaust happens because of this. This is, in part, because of what I’ll term as Mischa’s Law. Mischa Penn is a friend and colleague who has studied race and racism across all its manifestations as represented in literature, but focusing on the Nazi Holocaust and the holocaust of Native Americans. Mishca’s Law is hard to understand, difficult to believe, enrages many when they hear it, and is often set aside as lunatic raving. Unless, of course, you take Mischa’s class on race and racism, get a few weeks into it, know enough about it. Then, he gives you the thing, the thing I call “Mischa’s Law” (he doesn’t call it that) and you go, “Oh, wait, of course, that’s totally true.” And then you get really depressed for a while, hate Mischa for a while, hate his class. Then, later, ten years later, a life time after you’ve taken the class, and you’ve graduated and moved on to other things, Misha’s Law is the only thing you remember from all the classes you took at the U, and you still know it is true.

The fundamentals are always in place for Mischa’s Law to take effect. Competition, limited resources, different social classes or groups, a limited number of individuals in power, etc. But we, in America, have lived in a society where checks and balances kept one ideology (including, sadly, my own!) from taking over for very long, and there is a certain amount of redistribution of wealth and power.

But over recent years, the rich and powerful have convinced the working class that the main way we distribute wealth, through taxes, is a bad thing, so that’s mostly over. Social welfare has become a dirty word. The rich are richer, the powerful more powerful, and those with little power now have almost no power at all. But we still had a governmental system of checks and balances, so that was good.

But then the system of checks and balances got broken. In fact, the entire system of government got broken. Did you notice this? What happened is, about half the elected officials in government stopped doing the number one thing they were supposed to do, and this ruined everything.

What was that one thing? This: play by the rules.

Playing by the rules requires both knowing the rules and then making an honest attempt to respect them. Not knowing the rules is widespread in our society. I’m sure the elected officials know the rules they are breaking, but increasingly, I think, the average person who votes for them has no clue what the rules are or how important it is that they be observed.

Imagine the following situation. You go to baseball games regularly, to see your team play. Let’s make this slightly more realistic and assume this is a Little League team.

One day a big scary kid who is a bully gets up to bat. The pitcher winds up, throws the ball. Strike one. It happens again. Strike two. One more time. Strike three.

But instead of leaving the batter’s box, the big bully kid says, “I’m not out, pitch it again.” The following several moments involve a bit of embarrassment, the coaches come out, some kids are yelling at the bully, one parent hits another parent, and finally, it settles down, but the game is ruined and everyone goes home.

Next game, same thing happens, but this time nobody wants a scene, so they let the pitcher pitch the ball until the bully hits a single. Then the game continues. But the next game, there are a few bullies, not just one, demanding that the rules be ignored for them, and some other players decide to ignore other rules as well, and pretty soon, there is nothing like baseball happening.

You see what happened here? I’m going to guess that you don’t quite see the key point yet. The reason you leave the plate and go back to the dugout when you get three strikes is NOT because of the properties of matter, gravity, magnetic attraction, the unstoppable flow of water or a strong wind. You are not blown, washed, pulled, pushed, or dropped by any force back into the dugout when you get three strikes. You go back into the dugout because you got three strikes, the rules say you are out, right?

No. Still not right. You go back into the dugout because you got three strikes, the rules say you are out, AND THEN YOU FOLLOW THE RULES.

The Republican party, about half the elected officials, have unilaterally decided, in state houses across the country and in the Federal government, to stop following the rules.

A few years ago, in the Minnesota State House, a Republican representative made the clear and bold statement that he represented only the voters in his district who voted for him, and not the other citizens. He was resoundingly condemned for doing this, and he backed off and stopped talking like that. But over time, in state houses across the country, and in congressional districts, this increasingly became the norm, for Republicans. The rule is, of course, that once elected you represent all the people of your district. But more and more Republicans decided that this rule did not apply to them. They only represent those who voted for them. Now, this is normal in the Republican Party, and the first Republican President to be elected after this change said during his first news conference after his election, prior to his inaugural, that blue states would suffer and red states would benefit from his presidency.

I’ll give you another quick example. In one of Minnesota’s legislative chambers, the chair, who is from the leading party, has the right to silence any legislature who gets up to speak if the topic being discussed is not related to the matter at hand on the floor. So, the legislature is debating a proposed law about bicycles. The Democrats are in charge. A Republican gets up and insists on talking about his horoscope. The Democratic chair of the chamber says something like, “Your remarks are not relevant to the matter at hand, sit down and be quiet.” Good rule.

Last time the Republicans were in charge in that Minnesota chamber, they did this to every single Democrat who stood to say anything about anything, including and especially the matter at hand. The Republicans disregarded the actual rule (that the chair can silence a member who is off topic) and misused the power (that the chair can silence any member) to their benefit.

Tump is not following the rules, the Republicans in Congress are not acting like a “check” on Trump, and we have seen government officials in the Executive branch, apparently, ignoring court orders.

Trump’s executive orders over the last few days have been an overreach of power. For example, in its initial and badly executed form, his “extreme vetting” plan removed the rights of green card holders. Two different court orders neutered at least parts of this executive order temporarily, but it is reported that some officials, working for the Executive branches, ignored the court order. Since these are basically cops ignoring an order from a judge, and judges don’t have a police force, there isn’t much that can be done about that. Cops are supposed to follow the orders of judges. That’s the rule. The only way the rule works is if the rule is followed. There is no other force that makes the rule work.

Trump’s apparent abrogation of previous decisions on major pipeline projects was done without reference of any kind to the regulatory process that had already been completed. Regulations are acted on by the Executive branch, but they come from laws passed by Congress, and the whole judiciary is involved whenever someone has a case that there is something amiss. Trump’s executive orders and memoranda related to the pipeline ignore all the different branches of government, departments, process, and rules of governing.

It would appear that Trump had brought together the two major changes in rule observation that have developed over the last 20 years in this country. First, like the average citizen (of all political stripes) he is ignorant of how anything works. Second, like the bully that stands by the batter’s box, he shall not observe any rule that he does happen to find out about.

You see, for a United States President to become a dictator, he has to do only one thing: Stop following the rules. The US Court System, the Congress, and the Executive exist in a system of checks and balances, and that is supposed to keep everybody, well, in check. And balanced. But the Executive is the branch of government with multiple police and security forces, an Army, a Navy, an Air Force, Marines, and a Coast Guard. There is a rule that only the Coast Guard can carry out military-esque activities on US soil. But there is a mechanism for putting that rule aside. The President puts the rule aside. That’s it.

We live in a world of limited resources, and a pre-existing system of inequity, class, and ethnic categorization that allows the powerful to exploit and control most everyone else. We live in a country in which a single individual can take over the government by getting elected president then ignoring the rules, whether or not he formally declares himself in charge of everything. There is no mechanism to stop this from happening. There are all sorts of rules in place to stop it, such as the political parties putting up qualified candidates, the electors making sure they elect a qualified candidate, the Congress certifying the election of qualified candidates. But those things did not happen, and we now have a man who by all indications intends to dictate, not lead, dictate not rule, dictate not represent. There is no indication of any kind whatsoever that we do NOT have an incipient dictatorship as our form of government right now, and there are strong indications that this is where Trump is going.

And this is where Mischa’s Law becomes a thing.

“Racism, left unchecked, will eventually lead to holocaust.”

The checks, they have been neutralized.

A lot of people are just catching up on who John Lewis is. One way to do that is to read his memoir, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) is presented with the 2010 Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) is presented with the 2010 Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
He is a senior African American Representative to the House who was famously involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, along side Doctor King. If you watch any news at all you’ve seen him plenty of times. He is now also known as the latest person Donald Trump decided to denigrate and insult on Twitter.

I would like to see everyone ask their representatives in the House to treat Donald Trump’s remarks about John Lewis as they would treat similar remarks made by any other member of the House against a colleague. Generally, there are rules and you can’t do or say certain kinds of things, or you get sanctioned. I want Trump’s remarks addressed as though they were remarks on the floor made to another member. To put a point on it, since little that Republicans in Congress do relates to decorum or ethics, since to them it is all partisan politics, let’s assume the hypothetical offender is a Democrat and the remarks are made against a Republican. And when making the remarks a little bit of spit flew out and landed on the guy.

Here’s my letter to my representative, who is, sadly, a Republican. Can you please write a letter too?

Representative Erik Paulsen
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

To the Honorable Erik Paulsen,

I write to ask you to take appropriate action in response to the outrageous statements made by the Republican President Elect in regards to your colleague, the Honorable John Lewis, of Georgia.

On the 14th of January, 2017, President Elect Trump railed against Representative Lewis, and denigrated the important work he has done as a member of Congress and as a leader in the area of Civil Rights, on the very eve of our national celebrations of the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

How many of your colleagues in Congress have literally had their skulls smashed as a result of protesting racial injustice? This is what happened to young John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. The Congressman has dedicated his life to fight racism, injustice, and to honorably and effectively represent the people in his district.

Mr. Trump’s remarks are uncalled for, outrageous, and should not go unanswered.

I ask you to stand in defense of the Honorable Mr. Lewis on the floor of the House, to make a public statement responding to the President Elect, and to make clear that this sort of behavior is not acceptable. Alternatively, perhaps you could let me know why you would chose to remain silent, should that be your decision, or why you might support Mr. Trump’s remarks, if that is your intent.

I understand that Mr. Trump is a Republican and so are you, and Mr. Lewis is a Democrat. It is possible that the Republican Party’s position is to denigrate men like Mr. Lewis. If so, that would be a shame. If, on the other hand, you and your Republican colleagues truly represent the citizens of your respective districts, not just the narrow range of folk who voted for you, then you can not sit silently. You have to stand up and say something. As your constituent, I demand this. Do note that several of your colleagues in your party have done so.


Greg Laden