Saturday, April 22, 2017

Jenna Johnson's Ten Things She Learned That Media Can Do

The first part of Washington Post White House reporter Jenna Johnson's keynote address at the Alaska Press Conference was a quick review of what she said at yesterday's talk about the campaign. But at the end she offered a list of things she learned that media can do to improve things.  Below is my rough transcript of what she listed.


War on the media has tempered a little a bit.  What can the media learn from this and do our jobs better?  Polls show Americans don’t trust the media.  We have to work on this.  I have ideas, but no answers - here's a list of things I learned things media can do
1.  Transparency - giving readers as much raw info as we can - links to reports, if you do a high profile interview put the video on line and transcribe it.  David Farenthold at the Post got a Pulitzer Prize for reports on Trump’s charitable donations - called around asking orgs about getting charity from Trump - tweeted and asked.  Went to Trump clubs, crowd sourcing.
Sopan Deb - took phenomenal notes at rallies, transcribed the best and tweeted the candidate’s words.  
2.  Power of simple questions.  Easiest most obvious questions are the most important to ask, and if they don’t respond, it means they’re hiding something.  So you have to keep asking.  Trump attacked federal judge because his parents were from Mexico.  (Reporter) ???? had a list of questions and went to ask, but ended up asking the same question over and over.  We don’t because it’s part of being respectful, but we've gotta keep asking.
3.  Stop playing the game to get access.  Need to realize you want sources in the administration, but you can’t be too cozy.  They’re giving you info they want out there.  It’s ok to be on their bad side.  Looking at what’s out there and connecting the dots.  People start coming to you with info.
4.  Stay out of the office and talk to people.  Need to be out there talking to people.  And listen to criticism when you get it.  We get a lot of nasty comments, ok to ignore it.  But if someone seriously reaches out to you about what you reported.
5.  Need for explaining.  Need to be better to explain complex material.  Lots of tools - tweeting, answering, engaging, graphics great way to present info.  Here are people with ties to Russia and connections, etc.  Here are all of Trump’s promises to people.  Made a list.  282 promises. (You can see it here.)
6.  Facts really matter.  Learned this week chatting with you here in Alaska that Trump wasn’t the first to lie to your face, that Alaskans have been doing it for years.  Now more than ever we need to call out the lies, do fact checks.
7.  Treat politicians like humans.  Foreign leaders and their staffs have been studying Trump for months.  A lot of evidence has been his books.  His children, like his daughter who teaches her daughter Mandarin.  How do they handle conflicts?  How do they act when they are exhausted?  I felt I had to capture the rally for my readers.  I’d stay up to 3am writing a narrative about the rally - here’s what he said, here’s the reaction  Best Mannheim, Indiana - nine sentence critique ??? Clinton - took Trump 25 minutes to read the statement because he went on tangent after tangent saying Clinton was crazy, to poll watcher, etc.  He couldn’t stick to the script.  This is what really happened.  Writing what you saw
8.  Connecting what’s happening nationally to local communities.  How will Trump’s budget cuts to the community.  Write about it now, what people need to know.
9.  Have a good support system.  Job can be hard.  Conferences are good ways to find fellow reporters where you can get good advice.
10.  Read as much as you can - all sides New Yorker to Breitbart.  Get story ideas from all over.

Conclusion
No better time to be a journalist.  People are more stirred up than ever.  People say, don’t talk to me I don’t know anything about politics.  But then they know all the Trump appointments.  Historic times, people really interested in what’s happening

The executive editor of The Washington Post Martin Baron said the Post reporters would do what they always have done and offered five words to describe what Washington Post journalists need to follow in how they report:

  • Honorably,
  • Honestly
  • Accurate,
  • Unflinchingly
  • Energetically
There's a good Q&A going on now, but I can only do so much?

Ann Gerhart "The dry business of government, which is different from politics, has important real world impacts" at AK Press Club

Gerhart is an engaging speaker, warm and caring.  She's offered to help folks while she's here.  But for me, the stuff she's talking about is the stuff I know best.  I spent my professional career teaching public administration so when she says,
"The dry business of government, which is different from politics, has important real world impacts"
Ann Gerhart Washington Post
that's like the A, B, C's for me.  But it is important because it's not obvious to the public or to many reporters.  I've got extensive mental notes for posts I want to do on the idea of Government Isn't The
Enemy, Because There Is No Government.

That would branch off into:


  1. There are thousands of governments - from the federal government, to the state governments, to the local governments, and all sorts of water and road and other districts.  So there is no monolithic "Government."  And I've pointed out that when you lose your bags (or to be more current, when you're dragged off a plane) at United Airlines, you don't say, "Business is the enemy."  But people do say "Government is the enemy"  if they have a problem with any individual employee of any branch of government, rather than citing that specific agency.  
  2. That there's politics and there's government.  Politics are the people who write the laws and all they need to get their jobs is 50% of the vote.  That can happen to someone who has lots of experience and the best of intentions who runs a great campaign.  It can also happen to someone whose backed with lots of money and knows little except what his funders tell him.  Government is made up of people who get their positions by being qualified and competing for their jobs based on merit.  (Yes, I know it doesn't always happen perfectly, but we're all imperfect human beings.  At least government has a lot more transparency than business, so governments can be held accountable.  And yes, there's a hybrid of these two - the top level policy appointments of the newly elected executive.  They usually need legislative approval.  This works when there are healthy oppositions and reasonable politicians who are working for the public good and not some rote ideology.)
Gerhart did make this second point, and it's important.  And she also emphasized the importance of relationships. First, knowing the relationships among politicians and between politicians and those trying to influence them.  Second, relationships are important for politicians to get good legislation written and passed, so the government can implement it.  

What she's talking about is important to me, but not new.

Now she's talking about reaching out to non-voters.  "I don't think there is another side to 'everyone needs to vote.'"  Of course there are.  There are situations where the elections are rigged and not voting makes an important statement about the illegitimacy of the election and the government.  One could even argue that having Trump win was the emergency that Americans needed to understand how important government is and their participation is.  I'm not making that argument, but I wouldn't simply dismiss it.

Gerhart started out saying that when she started at the Washington Post she knew nothing about politics.  An early job was to write a political gossip column - who was partying who whom, etc.  That's when she said that relationships are important.  And I agree.  It was her fear that she'd mix up an R or a D behind someone's name in the column, that got her more into politics.  The things she's saying about getting to non-voters (as candidates and more in this talk as journalists) is right on the mark.  But she really had nothing more than platitudes about how to go about doing this.

As I'm listening and typing here, I'm wondering if I should even post this.  Her talk is good and she talks really well.  She's like an experienced older sister sharing her wisdom that has taken her years to acquire.  Her topic, though, is an area that I have expertise on.  (Most sessions look more at the journalism aspects that I don't know as well.)  And so I'm sucked in to reacting to some of what she's saying.

Looking around we have some key Alaskan political writers in the room.  Nathaniel Herz who is the ADN's legislative reporter is here and Dermot Cole has just asked about how to write about complicated budget issues.  And her answers are good.  She even said, "I don't know how to answer that.  We have to solve that problem every day, how to write about this in a way that is fresh every day."  And she acknowledged that sometimes what people prevent from happening is more important than getting something done.  That's a hard story to write.

She's talking about remembering the underlying conversation, rather than the specifics of the debate.  This is critical, it's what I try to do all the time.  I do like her and what she's saying.  This is really a conversation in a bar more than a conference presentation.  It's not organized with points she wants to make.  But rather it's sincere and as she talks and people ask questions, important ideas come up and are shared.

She's talking about two women in a bar who live nearby each other and seem the same, but it turns out they had totally different ideas.  It's about, she's saying, after all, who we want to be and how we want to get there.

I do want to talk to her during the break.

Aurora Over Our Backyard Deck

@AuroraNotify sends out tweets, so when there is action, I can watch it move from Scandinavia to Iceland to Canada to us in Alaska.

So when there were tweets about Fairbanks and then Anchorage, I went out on the deck to look.  At first there were very pale, but active spikes shooting above.  I went back in then came back out.  And again.  The fourth time the lights were rolling and dancing brightly overhead.  Even enough for my Canon Powershot.





The photos are just a faint sense of what was happening, and the swirling movement is part of the wonder.

And these catch the green glow, but as they swirled overhead they went bright white as well as green.

It's 1:30am.  I'll go out and take another look before I go to bed.

AK Press Club - What Do Media Folks Talk About At Their Conferences?

It's getting late, but I have some pictures and notes about the panels I went to today.

I'll just do them in chronological order.  I already posted about Matt Pearl's discussion on how to put together a video story.

Then came Matt number two - Matt Eich, a photographer who shared his photos that have been put into book form.  His projects are ambitious.  He finds interesting people and gets permission to hang out with them over a long period of time taking pictures.  You can see the albums on his website at the links below, including a better version of the picture on the right (it's in Carry Me Ohio).

THE INVISIBLE YOKE


It's Matt's head in the lower right of the photo, sticking up out of his computer.  I had a little trouble balancing the brightness of the screen so you can see the photo and the darkness of the room so you can get a sense of that too.

I had some trouble understanding Matt over the sound system so I missed a lot of the explanations of the photos, but this is serious photography and commitment.


Then I went looking for the Hearken Meet-up, but ended up in another session in the old TV studio on campus that had a video connection called "Smart, effective and ethical audience interaction."  The program says "Join presenters from the West Region of the Associated Press for best practices to apply your journalistic ethics in the world of social media."  While I was there the discussion was focused on how to find stories and contact people using Facebook.

But I really wanted to hear the Hearken meet-up talk.  It said it was about a way for radio folks to connect better with their audience.
It turns out to be an online system for getting suggestions from listeners for story ideas and there's a way for all the listeners to vote on the suggestions.  The idea is to engage the audience more.  It also costs stations and this was a sales pitch.  But it was an interesting discussion of one attempt to connect more to listeners.  Below is Steve Heimel talking with Hearken's Ellen Mayer on the right.




After lunch I listened to Jenna Johnson with moderator Liz Ruskin.  Johnson is a reporter for the Washington Post and followed the Trump campaign.  I've got lots of notes from that discussion, but given I'm trying to get all these in before I go to bed, I'll just offer a few things I found interesting.
Johnson said that she was curious about some of the off-the-beaten-campaign-path cities that Trump was speaking at so she used census data to come up with profiles of the places.  They were all well under the average US income, education, and employment levels.

Jenna Johnson and Liz Ruskin
At one point in the campaign, reporters had to get tickets and wait in line like everyone else.  No one from the campaign came around - as they did with other campaigns - and gathered voter data or offered water (it was hot) or even apologies for the inconveniences.  But she said the Trump supporters didn't seem to mind.  And she came to value these situations where she could get a more visceral sense of the people there and could slowly reveal herself and get interviews.

Johnson said that one good thing about the campaign was that you need it would end on a certain date.  But then Trump was elected and she ended up in the White House press.  Some asked if things gotten less hectic.  In the video below she answers:




Someone asked if Trump voters had  simmered down a bit.
Johnson said they had.  Once Trump won, they won.  Before that, they were angry at media.  Once election over it was cool.  They don’t have to fight you any more.  They had their victory.

There was lots more, but time to move on.





NPR reporter Kirk Siegler's topic was "making news stories pop.'  I liked Siegler's laid back style, which goes along with his rural beat.  There was nothing slick about him.  He came across as genuine.  Some of the points he made about getting good stories included:

  • A strong character, and the example stories he played did all have strong characters

Kirk Siegler

  • Tension - competing values or loyalties
  • Knowing the point of your story
  • Take your listener on a journey - he gave an example of walking from one end of a wildfire zone to the other, stopping along the way to make comments on talk to someone
  • Immediately after the interview, jot down notes - "what is the most important thing she said?" What are some of the interesting takeaways you want to remember?  Write it down right away.
  • Find a local guide.  A fixer.  When you're going to a place you don't know for a short time, you should contact someone who can then lead you to others.  Do this before you get there.


OK, that's a very abbreviated view of what I took in today.  These conferences always give me things to think about, new ways to do things, a checklist for how I do things, and sometimes confirmation that I'm doing things right.  


Friday, April 21, 2017

AK Press Club - Matt Pearl On Creating A Video Story







I'm at the Alaska Press Club listening to Atlanta television (WXIA)  journalist Matt Pearl talking about how to put together a video story. One story was about an autistic high school student who comes into his own as manager of the high school football team and the story was about the night he got to play in a game and make a touch down,  He went through the logistics of getting out to the town three hours from Atlanta, how he connected with the kid's mom and gathered a lot of different kinds of shots so he could tell the story with some real context.

Pearl strongly emphasized the need to think hard about why the story is important.  He used his story about the Cleveland Cavaliers victory parade in Cleveland and how he got up at 5am to get establishing sunrise shots of Cleveland, then how he took wide shots to establish the setting for the viewers so they get a sense of where they are when they see the close ups.  He even demonstrated this by taking an audience member and walking around the room to show how he'd get shots from different angles.

This talk inspired me to take some video, but I can't edit it while I'm here at the talk, so maybe I'll get to put some up later. [Later: the video wasn't good enough to use.] I'm thinking about how I use video which is different from what he's describing.  But I can use words and other pictures to do some of the story, but without having to make the video the whole story.

The key point I got was that you have to go the extra mile to make the story more than just out of context images.

Oh, and he's also the author of The Solo Video Journalist.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Racism Is Racism Is Alive

[Note:  This is an unpleasant topic, but please indulge me.  The history here helps put today's narratives and actions into sharp focus.]

I've done more reading and listening about racism than the average American.  (No, that's not like Trump saying "I'm the least racist person ever." First, having read more about racism than the average American doesn't take much reading.  But I've been involved with Healing Racism in Anchorage for many years and I've attended many workshops on racism as well.  So my claim is no boast, nor an exaggeration.)

Yet reading White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide makes me feel like I was totally not getting it before.  Even though I know a lot of what Dr. Carol Anderson writes about.  But she puts together the pieces like I've never seen before.  I've already posted about the first chapter which traces how the South basically reestablished slavery after the civil war, but a nastier, meaner form.

  They did this with laws that denied the rights of blacks guaranteed in the then new fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, with the help of US Supreme Court decisions that said the federal government couldn't interfere with states, even if the states were denying those newly won rights such as citizenship and voting.  They also did it with laws that required blacks to have work contracts with white farmers or mine owners.  If they didn't, they could be convicted for vagrancy and then as convicts, leased out to those same employers with no pay and no rights.  Those are just a few of the structural means of denying Southern blacks their rights.

As a friend warned, the next chapters get worse.  This is material most of us want to avoid confronting and our schools, media, and general disposition have made that easy.  I'm asking you to just take another five minutes to do what all American really need to do.  It's the first step of overcoming denial.  And if you're not in denial, the first steps to understanding the enormity of the mistreatment of blacks, not by individuals, but by a corrupt and evil system that established elaborate legal structures to keep blacks in shackles.

Chapter 2 is called Derailing The Great Migration - how blacks fled the South during WWI, enticed by promises of better jobs in the North and how the Southern states did all they could to prevent that exodus. Laws banning newspapers that recruited blacks to the north.  Stopping trains. And how housing discrimination in the North condemned blacks to live in overcrowded poor ghettos.  Part of the problem with our education on these topics is that we've only gotten the most generalized descriptions, like the beginning of this paragraph.  We haven't seen all the mutilated bodies hanging from trees or burnt alive.  If you see this book in a book store, read the end of chapter 2.  In my hard cover edition it starts at the bottom page 56,
"Tired of the cramped living conditions and exasperated with paying exorbitant rents for ramshackle housing that landlords refused to repair, black professionals sought to move away from Black Bottom."
It goes on to relate the stories of two black doctors in Detroit who moved into white neighborhoods.  The first moved out the first day when neighbors mobbed his house.  The second brought friends and guns to protect his property.  The black doctor and his family were jailed for inciting a riot and murdering a white neighbor.  Everyone lied about what happened - the police, the neighbors, etc.  Only because they had Clarence Darrow as their attorney did they win the case, after the first trial ended in a hung jury, but meanwhile his wife and daughter and friend all contracted tuberculosis in prison and died after their release.  And this was in the North.


Chapter 3 is about how, following Brown v Board of Education, Southern (and to an extent Northern) states essentially nullified that decision to integrate the schools by a variety of tactics from using public money to fund private white academies, to simply not funding education for blacks, to enacting a variety of laws that they knew were unconstitutional, but that they also knew would take years to grind through the courts, giving them time to figure out more strategies.  Meanwhile black students were deprived of a their rightful education.

I've rushed through chapters 2 and 3 because chapter 4 offers some insights that cut to the chase about why Americans are ignorant about the magnitude of the Southern mistreatment of blacks and horrific impacts it's had on African Americans.  And why African American mistreatment and abuse continues to this day.

Chapter 4 is called Rolling Back Civil Rights.  It's about 1965 now.
"The impact of this civil rights struggle had been slow but significant.  Inequality had begun to lessen.  Incomes had started to rise.  Job and educational opportunities had expanded.  And just as with Reconstruction, the Great Migration, and the Brown decision, this latest round of African American advances set the gears of white opposition in motion."(p, 99)
How?  First,  those who thought blacks were trying to get their rights too fast,  including Nixon, Reagan, and the Supreme Court, redefined what the civil rights movement was about.  
". . . centuries of oppression and brutality suddenly reduced to a harmless symbolism of a bus seat and a water fountain.  Thus when the COLORED ONLY signs went down, inequality had supposedly disappeared.  By 1965 Richard Nixon asserted, 'almost every legislative roadblock to equality of opportunity for education, jobs, and voting had been removed.'  Also magically removed, by this interpretation, were up to twenty-four trillion dollars in multigenerational devastation that African Americans had suffered in lost wages, stolen land, educational impoverishment, and housing inequalities.  All of that vanished as if it never happened."(p. 99)
To emphasize this point she quotes Patrick Buchanan.
"America has been the best country on earth for black folks.  It was here that 600,000 black people brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known." (p. 100)

So by taking down the "COLORED ONLY" signs, race was no longer an issue.  Sort of like, by electing a black president, race was no longer an issue.  But rather these events merely triggered more backlash against blacks.
"President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and affirmative action, which were developed to ameliorate hundreds of years of violent and corrosive repression, were easily characterized as reverse discrimination against hardworking whites and a 'government handout that lazy black people 'choose' to take rather than work.'" (p. 100)
 Second, was to redefine racism itself.
"Confronted with civil rights headlines depicting unflattering portrayals of KKK rallies and jackbooted sheriffs, white authority transformed those damning images of white supremacy into the sole definition of racism.  This simple but wickedly brilliant conceptual and linguistic shift served multiple purposes.  First and foremost, it was conscience soothing. . ." (p. 100)
Just as after World War II, there were no Germans who knew what had happened to the Jews, or who even were Nazis themselves [this is my insertion into Anderson's discussion],
"The whittling down of racism to sheet-wearing goons allowed a cloud of racial innocence to cover many whites who, although 'resentful of black progress' and determined to ensure that racial inequality remained untouched, could see and project themselves as the 'kind of upstanding white citizen[s]' who were 'positively outraged at the tactics of the Ku Klux Klan.'  The focus on the Klan also helped to designate racism as an individual aberration rather than something systemic, institutional, and pervasive.  Moreover, isolating racism to only its most virulent and visible form allowed respectable politicians and judges to push for policies that ostensibly met the standard of America's new civil rights norms while at the same time crafting the implantation of policies to undermine and destabilize the norms, all too often leaving the black community ravaged."(pp. 100-101)
Between the time I read this today and I started this post I read a couple of Tweets that remind me that this legacy is alive and well and still doing its evil in the United States today. From the Dallas News:
"In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel in San Antonio found that the maps gave Republicans an advantage in elections and weakened the voting strength of minority voters. House Districts in Dallas and Tarrant counties were among those in which the judges ruled minority voters had seen their clout weakened.
The ruling is yet another blow to the state in its six-year legal battle over the redrawing of the maps. Last month, the same court found that the state's congressional maps were drawn with intent to discriminate against minority voters and invalidated three congressional districts. And last week, a federal judge ruled that the state's voter ID law was written with intent to discriminate."
But like the delaying tactics to fight Brown v Board of Education, the redistricting was used for all the elections since 2011 and those candidates won't be unelected and their laws won't be invalidated.  So while this is a setback, there's new redistricting when the 2020 census comes out and so this will only, possibly affect, the 2018 and 2020 elections.  Cheating works.

This disenfranchisement of blacks continues.  And in 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled to end a key part of the Voting Rights Act that required pre clearance from the Justice Department before their redistricting plan could go into effect for a number of states including Texas and Alaska.  The court said the criteria set 40 years ago were out of date.  Just as Anderson tells us, they were arguing that the civil rights abuses had long ago ended.  But this decision - as well as the one for North Carolina  - show they haven't.  Had the Supreme Court NOT invalidating that section of the Voting Rights Act, Texas would have had to get the approval of the Justice Department before implementing their plan.  And that would not have happened under Obama's Justice Department.

But with Trump's Justice Department, would it matter?

The other Tweet was about Attorney General Jeff Sessions who said today,
"I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power."
This language about amazement and 'an island in the Pacific' (the State of Hawaii) is just about right from a man born in 1946 in Selma, Alabama, who was in elementary school when Brown v Board of Education was decided and he grew up in as racist a state as there was.  Where his family was surely part of the outraged Southerners who did all they could to block school integration.  So, the legacy that Anderson writes about is now reincarnated as the highest law enforcer of our nation.  This isn't even about a legacy, Sessions was right in the middle of the most virulent racist state in his formative years.  And he's now our Attorney General in charge of enforcing laws to protect our rights.  Disgraceful!

There's also this story in today's LA Times on neo-Nazi attack on Jewish woman in Montana.  The same kind of harassment, though mostly today digital that Southern blacks and their allies were subject too, though it hadn't gotten to the point of physical violence.  Nevertheless, the result was what all terrorist action wants - to put fear into the hearts of its victims.


A few choice quotes from the book about some of our past presidents (and one of Sessions' teen heroes I'm sure) from these three chapters.
"At the behest of his 'great friend' South Carolina governor James Byrnes, Eisenhower hosted a small dinner party at the White House to explain to Chief Justice Earl Warren that Southerners 'are not bad people.  Al they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside big overgrown Negroes.'"
"During his 1968 presidential bid, Alabama governor George Wallace understood this resentment.[white resentment of black gains]  He had experience a startling epiphany just a few years earlier after trying to blok the enrollment of an African American student in the state's flagship university at Tuscaloosa.  For that act of defiance, the governor received more than one hundred thousand congratulatory telegrams, half of which came from north of the Mason Dixon Line.  Right then he had a revelation:  'They all hate black people, all of them.  They're all afraid, all of them.  Great God! That's it!  They're  all Southern!  The whole United States is Southern!"
"Using strategic dog-whistle appeals - crime, welfare, neighborhood schools - to trigger Pavlovian anti-black responses, Nixon succeeded in defining  and maligning the Democrats as the party of African Americans, without once having to actually say the words.  That would be the 'elephant in the room.'  In fact, as H. R. Haldeman, one of the Republican candidate's most trusted aides, later recalled, "He [Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks.  The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.'"
"The objective [of redefining racism] was to contain and neutralize the victories of the Civil Rights Movement by painting a picture of a 'colorblind,' equal opportunity society whose doors were now wide open, if only African Americans would take initiative and walk on through.  Ronald Reagan breezily shared anecdotes about how Lyndon Johnson's great Society handed over hard-earned taxpayer dollars to a 'slum sweller' to live in posh government-sbsidied housing and provided food stamps for one 'strapping young buck' to buy steak, while another used the change he received from purchasing an orange to pay for a bottle of vodka.  He ridiculed Medicaid recipients as 'a faceless mass, waiting for handouts.'  The imagery was, by design, galling, and although the stories were far from the truth, they succeeded in tapping into a river of widespread resentment." 

Not much different from what we see today, not only about black, but even more so about Muslims.

For $65 You Can Have Dinner With Sens Murkowski And Sullivan Friday in Soldotna


Celebrate Trump's First 100 Days!



Or you could have brunch with Don Young on Saturday.  For only $25.  (Senators cost more than Representatives, besides you get two of them for dinner.)



Images from the Kenai Peninsula Republican Women of Alaska Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Alaska Income Tax Lottery Proposal

Yesterday's Alaska Dispatch had these two front page headlines:

1.  Senate wants raffle to help pay for education
2.  Senate gets income tax bill from the House

Note:  The online headlines are a little different from the ones in the actual newspaper.  Also there were other front page headlines as well, like this one:  "Prospective musk ox farmers face some huge hurdles"

So, the gist is this:

The Alaska State House, controlled by a Democratic led majority has proposed to deal with Alaska's budget deficits with a plan that includes budget cuts AND revenue increases, including resurrecting the income tax that was abolished after the oil money started flowing into Juneau, back in 1980.

But the Republican led State Senate has a severe allergy to the word taxes that causes them to break out in a basic services cutting delirium when the word taxes, particularly income taxes, is mentioned.  BUT, a raffle is something they can get behind.

I'd note that I proposed a similar idea back in 2015: (it's near the bottom of the post)

"As I'm thinking about this, I bet Alaskans would be willing to add a lottery twist to the PFD.  I bet we'd be willing to lower the average payout if there was a chance to win some really big prize money for a few who are randomly selected.  I bet most Alaskans would give up 10% of their check for the chance to win $100,000."  

Income Tax Lottery

But there's another proposal I've been pushing for years.  Back in March 2011 I argued that we should tie a lottery into a) our income taxes and b) voting.  Here's an excerpt from that post which started with a story about adding a lottery component to radar speeding cameras to reward people who were driving the speed limit as well as ticketing speeders:
"So, for a long time I've thought we should use techniques similar to the speeding lottery to encourage other behaviors we want people to do.  Here are two examples:

1.    Income Tax Lottery: Your lottery ticket is your income tax form.  There need to be lots of winners here - maybe one big win nationally, one smaller win per state, and lots oflittle wins.  There might even be fewer and less lucrative prizes for people who file late.  I'm sure this would increase the number of filers, and the cost of the prizes would be less than the increase in tax revenues."

That old post was based on the concept of 'gamifying' or 'gamification.'  Here's a post from the gamification blog that talks about using games to make citizen participation more interesting.  NPR had done a report on using speeding radar cameras used to get speeders and red light runners to also reward people driving the speed limit.  Everyone driving at or below the speed limit would be entered into a lottery and could win prizes.  


The Obvious Compromise

So, if the Democrats want an income tax and the Republicans want a raffle, the obvious answer is to add a lottery into the income tax.  There would be a couple of big prizes and a lot of smaller ones - like getting double your income tax back.  That way, the wealthy who pay more income tax, stand to win more.  That should please the Republicans.  And if you pay no taxes, you aren't eligible.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

First Chinese Pres, Then US VP, Now An Emperor Make Refueling Stop In Anchorage

Not even two weeks ago, Chinese President Xi, made a refueling stop in Anchorage on his way home, after meeting with president Trump in Florida.  He had enough time to talk to the Gov Bill Walker about trade, and to ride down Turnagain Arm.

Then just this last weekend US Vice President Pence also stopped to see the governor, on his way to South Korea.

We also have an emperor visiting as well, and he's fueling up too.  This time it's a threatened  emperor goose - a ways out of its normal range, which is western Alaska and coastal Russia.  He's been hanging out near Loussac library where I got these pictures today.



There are lots of Canada geese nearby as well.  I wasn't able to interview the emperor to find out why he decided to spend a few days in Anchorage.  He was clearly busy refueling.

Here's the Alaska Fish and Game description of emperors, and a report on emperor's visiting British Columbia.

Post-Civil War Supreme Court Good Example Of How Biased Court Can Do Terrible Things: Part 2

These two posts are based on Carol Anderson's Black [White] Rage. [  It's a scary book that every American should read.  I've only gotten through Chapter 1, which has critical stuff to post that is relevant today. How a biased Supreme Court can make decisions that condemn millions of Americans to a second class life.  Should Trump appoint any more judges to the Supreme Court, we could see the same sort of thing happen again now.  It's ugly.

Part 1 set up the context of the post-civil war South, with Andrew Johnson essentially pardoning many if not most of the old Southern leaders and plantation owners and how they essentially set up a new system of slavery by restricting black options for working, owning property, bargaining with their employers, even quitting.  Vagrancy laws meant any black without a job could be arrested.  Then he'd be auctioned off to people needing workers.  And there was no justice available for blacks.

In this, I'll offer up some of the Supreme Court decisions that Anderson discusses that made it possible to deny blacks citizenship, the vote, or really anything at all.


Dred Scott Case  - this was decided in 1856.  From Wikipedia 
"It held that "a negro, whose ancestors were imported into [the U.S.], and sold as slaves",[2][3] whether enslaved or free, could not be an American citizen and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court,[4][5] and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States. Dred Scott, an enslaved man of "the negro African race"[6] who had been taken by his owners to free states and territories, attempted to sue for his freedom. In a 7–2 decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the court denied Scott's request. The decision was only the second time that the Supreme Court had ruled an Act of Congress to be unconstitutional.[7]"
Anderson also quotes Taney:
"the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1856, wherein Chief Justice Roger B. Taney had stated explicitly that black people have 'no rights which the white man is bound to respect.'"(p. 18)
While Dred Scott is pretty universally seen as the worst Supreme Court decision ever, it played a key role, even in the post-civil war era, of signaling to Southerners that they could do what they wanted.

But the Emancipation Proclamation was supposed to have freed the slaves, but after the war,
"Johnson did everything in his power to stop constitutional recognition of black people's citizenship and voting rights, including convincing most of the southern states not to ratify the Fourteenth Amerndend and launching a breathtaking and ultimately disastrous political campaign to unseat Radical Republicans in Congress. Nevertheless, despite Johnson's wild fulminations about the 'Africanization' of the South and the tyranny of 'negro domination,' the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified on July 9, 1868, followed by the Fifteenth on February 3, 1870.  Congress had just created a legal structure to begin to atone for America's 'original sin.'
"The U.S. Supreme Court, however, stepped in and succeeded where Johnson failed."(pp. 31-32)
Anderson quotes Frederick Douglas:
"by the time the justices had finished, 'in most of the Southern States, the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments are virtually nullified.  The rights which they were intended to guarantee are denied and held in contempt.  The citizenship granted in the fourteenth amendment is practically a mockery; and the right to vote  . . . is literally stamped out in face of government.'" (p. 32)
How did the Court do this?  Anderson says that while claiming a strict constitutionalist posture (you know, related, if not exactly, what Scalia claimed and Gorsuch allegedly practices) they picked parts of the constitution to use to say that the federal government was trampling on states' rights.
"The court declared that the Reconstruction amendments had illegally placed the full scope of civil rights, which had once been the domain of the states, under federal authority.  That usurpation of power was unconstitutional because it put state governments under Washington's control, disrupting the distribution of power in the federal system, and radically altered the framework of American government." (p. 32)
Anderson points out, that while states' rights were critical when dealing with black civil rights,
"this same court threw tradition and strict reading out the window in the Santa Clara decision.  California had changed its taxation laws to no longer allow corporations to deduct debt from the amount owed to the state or municipalities.  The change applied only to businesses;  people, under the new law, were not affected.  The Southern Pacific Railroad refused to pay its new tax bill, arguing that its rights under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment had been violated.  In hearing the case, the court became innovative and creative as it transformed corporations into 'people' who could not have their Fourteenth Amendment rights trampled on by local communities.  So, while businesses were shielded, black Americans were most emphatically not."(pp. 32-33)
Then Anderson goes through a slew of cases that kept  white Southerners immune from charges they violated the constitutional rights of blacks, including the right to life.


1873 - The Slaughterhouse Cases - Anderson says this began a retreat from rights-based society.  New Orleans not only restricted butcher shops to a certain part of town (because of the health hazards of 'blood, entrails, and inevitable disease'), but also required them to have city authorized licenses.  The butchers sued on the grounds their due process rights (cannot take life, liberty, or property without a fair hearing) under the Fourteenth Amendment  had been violated.
"The justices ruled that that was impossible because the amendment covered only federal citizenship rights, such as habeas corpus and the right to peaceful assembly.  Everything else came under the domain of the states.  As a result, 'citizens still had to seek protection for most of their civil rights from state governments and state courts.'" (p. 33) (emphasis added)

1874 - Minor v. Happersett  -
"Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite wrote, 'The Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone,' because the vote 'was not coexistent with citizenship.'" (p. 33)
1875  - United States v. Reese
"In Lexington, Kentucky, a black man, William Garner, had tried to vote.  The registrars, Hiram Reese and Matthew Foushee, refused to hand Garner a ballot because he had not paid a poll tax.  Yet, the black man had an affidavit that the tax collector had refused to accept his payment.  With one wing of local government demanding proof of payment and the other flat out refusing to accept the funds, Garner knew his right to vote had been violated.  The U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, disagreed. . .
In quick succession, the court had undermined citizenship, due process, and the right to vote.  Next was the basic right to life."(pp.33-34)
1876 - United States v. Cruikshank
"Southern Democrats, angered that African Americans had voted in a Republican government in Colfax, Louisiana, threatened to overturn the results of the recent election and install a white supremacist regime.  Blacks were determined to defend their citizenship rights and occupied the symbol of democracy in Colfax, the courthouse, to ensure that the duly elected representatives, most of whom were white, could take office.  That act of democratic courage resulted in an unprecedented bloodbath, even for Reconstruction.  Depending on the casualty estimate, between 105 and 280 African Americans were slaughtered.  Their killers were then charged with violating the Enforcement Act of 1870, which Congress had passed to stop the Klan's terrorism.
Chief Justice Waite . . .  ruled that the Enforcement Act violated states' rights.  Moreover, the only recourse the federal government could take was the Fourteenth Amendment, but, he continued, that did not cover vigilantes or private acts of terror, but rather covered only those acts of violence carried out by the states.  The ruling not only let mass murderers go free;  it effectively removed the ability of the federal government to rein in anti-black domestic terrorism moving forward." (p. 34)

She adds that Supreme Court justice Joseph Bradley was tired of blacks continually trying to use the courts.
"He barked that 'there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen, and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws.'  Like Andrew Johnson, Bradley saw equal treatment for black people as favoritism." (p. 35)
1877 - Hall v. DeCuir 
"The justices ruled that a state could not prohibit racial segregation." (p. 35)

 1880 - Strauder v. West Virginia, Exparte Virginia, and Virginia v. Rives 
". . .in a series of decisions . . . the U.S. Supreme Court provided clear guidelines to the states on how to systematically and constitutionally exclude African Americans from juries in favor of white jurors."(p. 35)
1896 - Plessy v. Ferguson
"Homer Plessy, a black man who looked white, thought his challenge to a Louisiana law that forced him to ride in the Jim Crow railcar instead of the one designated for whites would put an end to this legal descent into black subjugation.  He was wrong.  The justices, in an 8-1 decision, dismissed the claims that Plessy's Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection under the law were violated.  Justice Henry Brown unequivocally stated, "If one race be inferior to the other socially, the constitution of the United States cannot put them on the same plane."
"And when Plessy argued that segregation violated the thirteenth Amendment's ban against 'badges of servitude,' the Supreme Court shot down that argument as well, noting:  "We consider the underlying fallacy of [Plessy's] argument . . . to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority.  If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.'" (p.35)  (emphasis added)

1899  Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education 
"that even ignored Plessy's separate but equal doctrine by declaring that financial exigency made it perfectly acceptable to shut down black schools while continuing to operate educational facilities for white children." (p. 36)
1898 Williams v. Mississippi 
"the justices approve the use of the poll tax, which requires citizens to pay a fee - under a set of very arcane, complicated rules - to vote.  Although the discriminatory intent of the requirement was well known prior to the justices' ruling, the highest court in the land sanctioned this formidable barrier to the ballot box.  In fact, Justice Joseph McKenna quoted extensively from the Mississippi Supreme Court's candid admission that the state convention, 'restrained by the federal Constitution from discriminating against the negor race,' opted instead to find a method that 'discriminates against its [African Americans'] characteristics' - namely poverty, illiteracy, and more poverty." (p. 36)
 Anderson notes the impact of this decision.
"As late as 1942, for instance, only 3 percent of the voting-age population cast a ballot in seven poll tax states." (p. 36)

1903 Giles v. Harris
"Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that 'the federal courts had no power, either constitutional or practical, to remedy a statewide wrong, even if perpetrated by the state or its agents." (p. 37)
Did you catch that?  Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the most celebrated Supreme Court justices ever.

 Two things seem most important here to me:

  1. Slavery didn't end after the civl war.  In fact for many blacks things were worse.  Slave owners had no incentive to destroy their 'property.'  But after slaves were freed, Southerners could kill at will pretty much.  And these conditions continued until the 1960s.  So African Americans haven't come close to recovering from the personal traumas and the financial theft of their labor.  Rather than blaming blacks for their own poverty, white Americans need to acknowledge the long history of oppression, cruelty, and murders of African Americans, some aspects of which continue to this day.  
  2. A court blinded by its own prejudices and ideology can do untold harm to Americans, including overturning the laws of Congress.  A scary thought with Trump and Pence picking candidates for the supreme court.  
Another book club member asked me if I've read White Rage yet.  I told him only Chapter 1, but it was really grim.  He said, it gets much worse.

Monday, April 17, 2017

"Women's" Stories Less Important Than Men's

In today's LA Times, Sarah Menkedick recalls apologizing to book tour audiences that her book is about motherhood.  Until one day, she thinks, what male author would apologize about writing about, say, war?  None.
"Birth is only, after all, the single most important experience in our lives. Like war, sports, medicine, epic travel, it’s a matter of blood and sweat and gore and suffering, of life and death, of triumphing over the limits of body and mind, except: Only women can give birth. So birth is imagined as an ingenuous, icky realm for the dull-minded."
She writes about two women writers - one whose first work was on motherhood, but then wrote for a men's magazine 
"often writing profiles of celebrated white men.  She is famous." 
Then a reverse example.  Elizabeth Gilbert wrote for the same men's magazine and her first books, Menkedick tells us, included man in the title and won her acclaim.  Then she wrote "Eat, Pray, Love."   She quotes her:

"I came out of the closet as a woman," Gilbert once said.  "Whatever acclaim I had in the world, however I was known, I was not known as a woman who would write a book like that.  Then, of course, I did get typecast.  . . .Like all of a sudden, my whole history disappeared."
"Yet I can’t help but think that in our determination to turn our talents away from personal writing, and to be taken seriously by men, we strengthened an existing paradigm that elevates the characteristically male, diminishes the characteristically female, and emphasizes the distinction."
She writes about how graduate school professors have helped instill in female students that writing about motherhood and other women's issues is a less serious genre.  But she's also hopeful that more women are changing that way of thinking.

I'm not sure what it means, but the print and online titles of Menkedick's piece are radically different.
  • Print:  "Portrait of the artist as a young mother"
  • Online:  "Why motherhood isn't an icky realm for the dull-minded but the stuff of epic literature"

In another op-ed in today's LA Times, Ben Blatt, the author of Nabokov's Favorite Color is Mauve writes about the use of the pronouns 'he' and 'she' in the most acclaimed novels.  As you might guess, he shows up much more than 'she.'  But women are far more balanced in their usage than men.  

That one also has very different print and online titles:
  • Print:  "What writers use 'he' more than 'she'?
  • Online:  "The gender pronoun test: What the ratio of 'he' to 'she' says about our favorite novels"
Based on these two examples, I'm guessing that the limits of print keep their headlines shorter, but, of course, one would have to look at a lot more examples to be sure.  And maybe interview some editors.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Home Building - Are Stellers Moving In? And Home Show

There were four Steller Jays poking around under the dead leaves in the backyard.  Yes, the snow is pretty much gone, except on the north side of the house, and that follows the shadow line as the sun gets higher each day.






The Stellers seem to be having a territorial fight over our backyard with some magpies in the last couple of weeks.  But I haven't seen more than three at a time before this morning.  This one came up on our deck.  The others were too far away and obscured by the branches of our still bare high bush cranberry bushes to get a decent shot.  The last time we had a magpie nest in our yard, we lost access to half the yard to screeching, dive-bombing magpie parents.  But we also got to see a nest full of chicks learn to fly.

Stellers have seemed more comfortable with people, often coming very close.  But that might not be true if they have babies.




 It's gray today, after lots of sunshine.  While the bike trails through the woods are still full of snow, the last two days I've been able to take a loop along the street-side bike trails/sidewalks with only a little water here and there.  But even with a fender on the back tire, my jacket or backpack shows I've been on the bike.





We went to the home show yesterday.  I still object to having to pay to get to have companies pitch to me, but since we have some long delayed home repairs - starting with our front porch.  We're comfortable with it, but guests do make comments.






Last time we went was long ago at the Sullivan Arena.  There's an advantage to having lots of companies related to homes all in one place.  We got to talk to lots of folks.  Even a company that uses a helical drill to put in metal posts instead of sonotubes if we switch to wooden steps, which we're thinking about.  But it seems they're a lot more expensive.

I talked to Adam about rain gutters.  Our old plastic ones I put in myself long ago, still are working fine, except the down spouts keep detaching from the gutters.  The part you use to hold the downspouts in place has broken in each case and the ones they have are for a different size.  Adam sells metal ones.  They also have some heat wires to put on the roof along the overhang that create places for the melting snow to get to the gutter instead of building up big ice dams.  We also got ideas for window upgrades - they even sell electric shutters for windows.

I also got to talk to some solar energy folks.  For under $10,000 (plus a federal rebate of 30% until 2019) I could get solar panels installed on our house.  They aren't useful, he said, in the three darkest months, and the price that MLP buys back energy is too low to be worth it, he claimed it would pay for itself over a period of time.  I didn't catch how long, but I did notice the average electric bill prices they listed were higher than ours.  So, while gun sales have dropped after Trump's election, perhaps solar buyers may be rushing to get their panels installed before the subsidies drop. 

A woman named Lisa, who was here from Minnesota, was selling, what I learned now online, is a "whole body vibration" machine for 'only' $2495.  I did get to stand on it and do some exercises.  It essentially vibrates and is supposed to help muscle tone.  This was a whole technology I knew nothing about.  Whether it actually does what they claim, is not really proven by science according to science based medicine website which seemed to one that wasn't industry based.  I did see them online ranging in price from $3999 to under $200, though the lower ranging ones only had a base and no handles.

What stood out as we walked around the basketball arena at UAA's newish sports center where vendors had their booths - plus a few more in adjacent areas - was the number of mortgage companies and realtors.  While I'm sure they were there when we did this in the Sullivan Arena long ago, they seemed to make up a much larger proportion of the vendors.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What Are Your Ethical Responsibilities To Your Pets?

Next Tuesday evening, you can find out:

The UAA Ethics Center and Philosophy Department is please to welcome philosopher, Prof. Gary Varner, Texas A & M to campus for a free, public symposium.  Prof. Varner who will be speaking on 
Pets, Companion Animals, and Domesticated Partners: Ethics and Animal Companions on 
April 18th 
between 6-8 pm in Library 307.  

Abstract: Prof. Varner is author of Personhood, Ethics, and Animal Cognition: Situating Animals in Hare's Two Level Utilitarianism (Oxford University Press, 2012).  In this presentation, he will introduce stipulative definitions of terms "companion animal," "domesticated partners," and "mere pet."  He will argue that the institution of pet-keeping is justifiable, but that the justification is stronger for companion animals than for mere pets, and that it is stronger for domesticated partners.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Post Civil War Supreme Court Good Example Of How Biased Court Can Do Terrible Things - Part I

"The codes required that blacks sign annual labor contracts with plantation, mill, or mine owners  If African Americans refused or could show no proof of gainful employment, they would be charged with vagrancy and put on the auction block, with their labor sold to the highest bidder.  The supposed contract was beyond binding;  it was more like a shackle, for African Americans were forbidden to seek better  wages and working conditions with another employer.  No matter how intolerable the working conditions, if they left the plantation, lumber camp, or mine, they would be jailed and auctioned off.  They were trapped.  Self-sufficiency itself was illegal, as black couldn't hold any other employment besides laborer or domestic (unless they had the written consent of the mayor or judge) and were also banned from hunting and fishing, and thus denied the means even to stave off hunger.  More galling yet was a provision whereby black children who had been sold before the war and hadn't yet reunited with their parents were to be apprenticed off, with the former masters having the first right to their labor.  Finally, the penalty for defiance, insulting gestures, and inappropriate behavior, the Black Codes made clear, was a no-holds-barred whipping." (White Rage, p. 19)
That paragraph was to get your attention.  It describes the post Emancipation Proclamation, post civil war conditions in much of the South.  As I wrote this post chronologically, this was toward the end.  But it begged to lead off the post.  It most graphically shows how diabolically southern states reintroduced what was essentially slavery.  They were able to do this, and continue it into the 20th Century, in part because the Supreme Court found legal points with which to override the obvious injustices that were perpetrated against blacks.

I'm reading Carol Anderson's White Rage:  The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide for my next book club meeting.  This is a difficult book to read because it tells painful stories.  And as much as I like to think that I've dug deeper into race stuff than the average white American, this book is filling in details of stories that, if covered in history books, were done so in sweeping generalities that didn't make the continuing post-civil war de facto slavery and evil clear.

In Part I of these posts, I'm relating the conditions that led to staggeringly atrocious court decisions after the civil war.  Without these contextual details, the court decisions are dry and lifeless with no hint of the real tragic impact they had on people's lives.

How many of us can explain Plessy, Dred Scott, or even the 13th, 14th, or 15th Amendments, let alone their impact on the lives of African-Americans?  

The key point of the chapter I'm now reading - the post civil-war period - is that while African-Americans had been emancipated, they were still virtually slaves.  And there was wholesale unpunished slaughter of African-Americans in the South, and sometimes in the North as well.  How did this work?

After a quote about the 1863 Draft Riots in New York City where black men and women were attacked, the men hanged or beaten to death and sexually mutilated, Anderson goes on to write:
"This violence was simply the most overt, virulent expression of a stream of anti-black sentiment that conscribed the lives of both the free and the enslaved.  Every state admitted to the Union since 1819, starting with Maine, embedded in their constitutions discrimination against blacks, especially the denial of the right to vote.  In addition, only Massachusetts did not exclude African Americans from juries;  and many states, from California to Ohio, prohibited blacks from testifying in court against someone who was white." (p. 12)
After the civil war, the government needed 'an absolute resolve' to protect and assist the four million newly freed slaves and recognize them as citizens of the US.  They needed, first, to make sure that the old slave owning leaders of the South didn't come back into power, Anderson writes.  But Lincoln wanted to go easy on the rebel leaders.
"His plan for rebuilding the nation required only that the secessionist states adopt the Thirteenth Amendment and have 10 percent of eligible voters (white propertied males) swear loyalty to the United States."  
"One official stationed in the now-defeated South noted, 'Wherever I go - the street, the shop, the house, or the steamboat - I hear the people talk in such a way as to indicate that they are yet unable to conceive of the Negro as possessing any rights at all.'  He further explained how murder, rape, and robbery, in this Kafkaesque world, were not seen as crimes at all so long as whites were the perpetrators and blacks the victims.  Given this poisonous atmosphere, he warned, 'The people boast that when they get freedmen affairs in their own hands, to use their own classic expression, 'the niggers will catch hell.''" (pp. 12-13)
Picking out what to quote here is hard.  I'm trying to give a sense of the tangible conditions Anderson writes about as well as the legal and economic structures put into place to maintain the servitude and second class non-citizenship of newly freed slaves.  Suffrage, despite the need, was not part of Lincoln's plan, which was consistent with Lincoln's prior views.
"'I am not," Lincoln had said, 'nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.'" (p.14)
If this wasn't bad enough, it got much worse after Lincoln was assassinated.  Andrew Johnson was a Tennessee Democrat.  Anderson tells us that Johnson had, during the war, blasted the Confederate leadership and wealthy plantation owners, but from the perspective of a poorer white, who felt they should be punished as traitors. But his anger at the white leadership did not include any sympathy for the blacks.

The civil war, Anderson says, was, in Lincoln's and in Johnson's minds, just for preserving the union, while Southerners had made it clear that their departure from the union was to preserve the institution of slavery.  Johnson's antipathy toward the white aristocracy of the South evaporated.
"First, within weeks after taking office, Johnson pardoned scores of former Confederates, ignoring Congress's 1862 Ironclad Test Oath that expressly forbade him to do so, and handed out full amnesty to thousands whom, just the year before, he had called 'guerrillas and cut-throats' and 'traitors . . .[who] ought to be hung.'  Beneficiaries of his largesse included the head of the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee, and even CSA vice president Alexander  Stephens.  Even more shocking, given Johnson's decades-long resentment against and vilification of the 'damnable aristocracy,' his generosity and forgiveness extended to the planation owners themselves." (p. 15)
Except for the opening quote, we haven't even gotten to the really evil parts of all this.  First Anderson was setting up the context.  This didn't all happen without some pushback in Congress. They set up an organization to help freed slaves learn how to handle their new emancipation.  The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Land's
"charge was to lease forty-acre parcels that would provide economic self-sufficiency to a people who had endured hundreds of years in unpaid toil."
Land was reserved for them in various places, like coastal Georgia and South Carolina.

 But as president Johnson did little to follow through on that.  General Oliver O. Howard, the Freedman's Bureau head immediately began plans to transfer the lands.  Anderson quotes W.E.B. Du Bois on Howard,
"Howard was neither a great administrator nor a great man, but he was a good man.  He was sympathetic and humane, and tried with endless application and desperate sacrifice to do a hard, thankless duty.  Howard made clear that whatever amnesty President Johnson may have bestowed on Southern rebels did not 'extend to . . . abandoned or confiscated property."(pp. 15-16)
But President Johnson began immediately to subvert Howard's mission, relieving him of his command and
". . . commanding the army to throw tens of thousands of freedpeople off the land and reinstall the plantation owners." (p. 16)
Anderson tells us that Johnson had long been a supporter of the Homestead Act,  having pushed well before the Civil War for taking plantation land from the rich and giving it to the poor.  But not to blacks.  And all the Confederate leaders he had pardoned, were now elected members of Congress and leaders of their states.
"As he welcomed one 'niggers will catch hell' state after the next back into the Union with no mention whatsoever of black voting rights and, thus, no political protection, he effectively laid the groundwork for mass murder.
One of the president's emissaries, Carl Schurz, recoiled as he traveled through the South and gathered reports of African American women who had been 'scalped,' had their 'ears cut off,' or had been thrown into a river and drowned amid chants for them to swim to the 'damned Yankees.'  [Steve's note: Think about how that phrase became normalized enough to be the name of a popular New York musical about a baseball team without any lingering trace of this horrible context.]  Young black boys and men were routinely stabbed, clubbed, and shot.  some were even 'chained to a tree and burned to death.'  In what can only be described as a travelogue of death, as he went from county to county, state to state, he conveyed the sickening unbearable stench of decomposing black bodies hanging from limbs, rotting in ditches, and clogging the roadways.  White southerners, it was obvious, had unleashed a reign of terror and anti-black violence that had reached 'staggering proportions.'  Many urged the president to strengthen the federal presence in the South.  Johnson refused, choosing instead, to 'reside over .  . . this slow-motioned genocide.'  The lack of a vigorous  - or for that matter, any response only further encouraged white Southerners, who recognized that they now had a friend in the White House.  One former cabinet member in the Confederacy 'later admitted that  . . . the white sSough was so devastated and demoralized it would have accepted almost any of the North's terms.  But . . . once Johnson 'held up before us the hope of a white man's government,' it led '[us] to set aside negro suffrage' and to resist Northern plans to improve the condition of the freedmen.'  Thus emboldened, Virginia's rebellion-twined leaders planned to 'accomplish . . . with votes what they have failed to accomplish with bayonets.'" (pp. 17-18)
And so the southern states began to reestablish their white supremacist governments.  This next quote does mention one of the court cases we'll get into in Part II of this post.
"The delegates at Louisiana's Constitutional Conference in October 1865 were so confident in the president's support and their reclaimed power that they resolved, "We hold this to be a Government of white people, made and to be perpetuated for the exclusive benefit of the white race; and in accordance with the constant adjudication of the United States Supreme Court' - specifically, the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1856, wherein Chief Justice Roger B. Taney had stated explicitly that black people have 'no rights which the white man is bound to respect.'  The Louisiana delegates concluded 'that people of African descent cannot be considered as citizens of the United States.' (p. 18)
Mississippi was next.
"As noted by Du Bois, the notorious Black Codes 'were an astonishing affront to emancipation' and made 'plain and indisputable' the 'attempt on the part of the Southern states to make Negroes slaves in everything but name.' (p. 19)
And here, back to the opening quote, which is worth repeating, is how they did that.
"The codes required that blacks sign annual labor contracts with plantation, mill, or mine owners  If African Americans refused or could show no proof of gainful employment, they would be charged with vagrancy and put on the auction block, with their labor sold to the highest bidder.  The supposed contract was beyond binding;  it was more like a shackle, for African Americans were forbidden to seek better  wages and working conditions with another employer.  No matter how intolerable the working conditions, if they left the plantation, lumber camp, or mine, they would be jailed and auctioned off.  They were trapped.  Self-sufficiency itself was illegal, as black couldn't hold any other employment besides laborer or domestic (unless they had the written consent of the mayor or judge) and were also banned from hunting and fishing, and thus denied the means even to stave off hunger.  More galling yet was a provision whereby black children who had been sold before the war and hadn't yet reunited with their parents were to be apprenticed off, with the former masters having the first right to their labor.  Finally, the penalty for defiance, insulting gestures, and inappropriate behavior, the Black Codes made clear, was a no-holds-barred whipping." (p. 19)

In Part II, we'll look at some of the Supreme Court decisions that made it possible for the South to reinstate de facto slavery right after the Civil War.

It's also worth thinking about how some people talk about how blacks have had plenty of time to rise up from slavery.  The civil war ended, they remind everyone, in 1865.  That's over 150 years. Anderson shows us in this book that black lives did not improve much, if at all, after the civil war.  For many they got worse.   Slavery, in reality, didn't end in the South until much later.  But significant legal barriers to equality didn't end in the 1960s either.  These many barriers have made it significantly harder for African Americans to get financing from banks to start businesses and buy homes, to even legally buy homes in most neighborhoods, to get equal education, to get jobs, to even avoid prison.  As the movie 13th documents, many laws like the ones in the opening quote here, made it easy to target African American men for arrest and imprisonment.  The prisons then turned them over to farms and other businesses that needed manual labor under plantation slavery conditions. In fact the intent of the laws was to insure a cheap supply of labor.  Many people's home deeds have covenants that forbid selling the homes to blacks.  While the covenants are no longer valid, they were written in such a way to make it nearly impossible to remove them from the covenants.

*13th which refers to the 13th Amendment, was nominated for best documentary academy award and won many other awards.  It's available online through Netflix and is well worth watching for people who want to understand how our system perpetuates racial prejudice and discrimination for the financial benefit of private prison owners and others.


[UPDATE April 18, 2017:  Part II is now up here.