The Next Civil War is Going to Be So Much More Awesome than the First!

I am fascinated by how deranged and unhinged the dialogue in this country has become over the course of the past year. The Interwebs, always a dangerous place for the rational and reasonable, have become virtually overrun by insanity. One need only take a single journey through various YouTube comments to become a complete misanthrope. Of course, there have always been crazy people who just want to be heard, but there is an ominous streak that lurks behind today's rhetoric.

My thoughts on this came together after a short ride on the Washington D.C. Metro, where I was given a copy of The Washington Post. In its ever-curmudgeonly opinion page, there was a column by George Will in which he seemed initially to push the usual barrogant and specious right-wing rhetoric. But a rather interesting pattern emerges rather quickly in the piece. Take, for example, this nugget of wisdom:

“But does not federal law trump state laws? Not necessarily.”
More than just answering his own rhetorical questions (which, by the way, he has done incorrectly in the past), Will posits that if a state amended its constitution in a certain way, it could block health care reform at the federal level. In this way, the state could effectively nullify a law it believes to be unconstitutional. Later that night I was reminded of why that argument stuck with me—a PBS program on President Andrew Jackson described the Nullification Crisis of 1832, in which South Carolina attempted to nullify a tariff passed by Congress that it considered unconstitutional. In response, Jackson declared the following:

"I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which It was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed."
His appeal, backed with the threat of military force and the possibility of compromise on the issue led to South Carolina backing down. The Nullification Crisis is widely seen today as a prelude to the Civil War, not least of which because the arguments it made (e.g. “the union is voluntary and dissolvable” and “states, not the federal government, are sovereign”) provided ideological justification for secession. The revival of this argument by the so-called “Tenthers”—referring to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution—has thus been a curious and dangerous recent phenomenon.

But vague references to state sovereignty are not the only new proclamations coming from the right. Last April, Governor (and notorious hair fondler) Rick Perry of Texas not only announced himself as a born-again Tenther, but also that secession would be one of “a lot of different [potential] scenarios” for the Lone Star State. Numerous Tenther-inspired resolutions have been proposed in state legislatures this year, but in May Georgia was the first to pass one signed by its governor. Not only does the bill declare that Georgia has the right to nullify any federal law it considers unconstitutional, but adds that such an act “shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States of America by the government of the United States of America” and that “all powers previously delegated to the United States of America by the Constitution for the United States shall revert to the several States individually.” Thus, Georgia not only has declared its intent to nullify certain actions taken by the federal government but that these actions actually make the United States of America null and void as an entity.

Right-wing activists who pushed for these pronouncements have also been emboldened by their adoption and promotion by Republican politicians. In July, the far right website FreeRepublic declared that the government shall immediately be dissolved. This was followed in September by an article published on Newsmax.com—one of Sarah Palin’s “top” news sources—which advocated a military coup to resolve “the Obama problem.” As secession becomes a popular discussion topic on the Republican Party’s official website gop.com, it becomes apparent that more and more of the Republican base are treating secession or a coup d’état as a serious option. This would all be comical were it not for the fact that these people are heavily armed and that such rhetoric has inspired domestic terrorism and the militia movement.

That said, much has changed from the era of set-piece battles fought with muskets and cannon. Whereas state militias—distinct from the contemporary wingnuts in the woods version, though they imitate their style—could have hoped in the 18th and 19th centuries to resist federal military power, the tides of war have since changed. Personally, I would love to see Georgia state government and its peach-munching militia—once the federal government does any of the multitude of things to "annul" itself—try to seize Ft. Benning from the 3rd Infantry Division and Rangers stationed there. Ft. Sumter wishes that they had what Ft. Benning has. Or think of how quickly the Sieges of Atlanta and Richmond could have been resolved with B-2 stealth bombers and cruise missiles? So, I say we give words of encouragement to all the Tenthers and secessionists, so that they may destroy themselves in trade embargo and warfare rather than slowly destroy our entire nation with their incessant stupidity and stubbornness to accept reality. Hopefully, just like the last one, this next Civil War will settle those arguments for another century-and-a-half. Fingers crossed!


Fictionary Supplement: Unpopular Historical Figures Part 1

Most people study history at some point in their lives. At some point, however, the Average Jane or Joe loses interest. I've learned all I can from watching popular Nicholas Cage-related historical docs like 'National Treasure 2: The Search for Hitler's Gold,' you might complain. Stop complaining, no one like a whiner. As a public service, possibly required by law, I have spearheaded an effort to spread more hist'ry to the peoples, covering ground your average New York Librul State Technical Colleges wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole! We will be covering wide categories, including definitive musical groups, folk legends, authoritarian figures, and more.

I present Unpopular Historical Figures, part 1:

Duke Newcomb:
Edward Thomas Bellevue, 4th Duke of Newcomb, 134th in line to the British crown, was born in 1763. A rakish fellow, he enjoyed the gentlemanly arts of hunting, drink, and womanizing. He was to achieve notoriety from one event in the winter of 1797. Having traveled to to one of his country estates in Pembrokeshire, Wales, Newcomb hoped to track and shoot the elusive proton pheasant. Instead, he encountered his manor abandoned by his many servants and overrun by ragged French revolutionaries. Grabbing his Brown Bess musket and his fowling piece, Newcomb regrouped in the forest. As he had anticipated a four-course meal from his chef upon arrival and had not even received so much as afternoon tea, the Duke consumed some delicious-looking forest mushrooms to sate his hunger. Proceeding onward to battle, Newcomb became convinced that the French soldiers were actually creatures from beyond the stars. As he slayed multitudes of these outer space beasts, the Duke eventually encountered their leader, attempting to flee to his ship, at the port of Fishguard. With a quick quip--"Blow it out your arse!"--Newcomb lit the fuse to a bomb and tossed it at the fiendish commander, thus ending the French/alien invasion of Britain. His heroic deeds were passed down for generations at bedtime by patriotic British parents to their children, when eventually, they formed the basis for the "Duke Nukem" series of video games. His family remains proud of their ancestor to this day, their only regret that his video game name is horribly misspelled, as all Americans are wont to do.

Harry Grundell Jr.:

Like his father before him, Grundell (pronounced like "trundle") Jr. was uniquely predisposed towards the lucrative business of investment banking. His physiology was something of a boon, a series of genetic permutations assembled in just such a way: his eyes- too close together for proper depth perception, this made Harry, nonetheless, a whiz in the 2-D world! His phalanges, extra long and coordinated, allowing Harry to tickle keyboards from across the room! His biographer wrote that Grundell's voice carried an old-world-y raspiness, a mastadonal bass offset with shrieks of excitement. The combination proved to be efficient, and Grundell grew to understand, in minimizing wasteful meaningful humanoid interaction, and getting a lot more typing done.

Rick Spickler and the Puberteens:

Nearly everyone familiar with the gristle and intrigue of the short-lived TV hour "The Laff Brigade" remembers the eponymous and tragic rise and fall of this dynamic 90's power trio. Spickler, an erudite yet impossibly tardy young ranch-hand from the Hinterland wilds made a go of his pop dreams in York, and then more successfully New York, America with his occasionally androgynous cousins, Creo and Lawntee. Obsessed with recurring visions of fame and fortune, the trio accidentally wandered into Lady Luck on the downtown number 6 train in Manhattan. It turned out to be a disaster. Lady Luck, of course, being a wayward oil tanker, crashed headlong into the underground trestle, upsetting a family of four and waylaying the boys' plans to meet with a record executive for pie. The rest of Spickler's rise and the formation of the hated Crybabies, then the critically acclaimed Puberteens, became his most famous musical contributions to date, and were solely responsible for the rise of the MiniDisc, and the inspiration for the Nu-Redundancy Movement.

Tran Pham:

A veritable enigma of the inner-web, Pham is best known for advertising his services in the wrong sections of Craigslist, so that you think it is a job, but instead it's some d-bag who can't read directions, apparently. Ad usually reads as such:

Meet Tran Pham:
Compliance Technician
Hobbies include vintage vehicles, breadwinning, and yelling at buildings.

To this day, experts and the unemployed are baffled as to its meaning, or really, what this guy may be trying to prove.


Vanity Plates, Vanity Hate

I tend to believe that vanity is one of the most prominent qualities of the modern American consumer. Supporting my theory is the fact that over 9.3 million Americans possess vanity license plates for their motor vehicles. Ironically, as a vanity plate owner myself (behind which—in my defense—lies volidity, not vanity), I also possess a car registered in the state with the most vanity plates per capita, Virginia. In 2007, 16.2% of Virginia drivers had vanity plates, which is a statistic I can't easily explain. Perhaps it is just a means of self-expression particular to the Old Dominion, a place with a penchant for bold public declarations since revolutionary times? Or maybe that the workers in "Communist Country" (i.e. Northern Virginia) are eager to spread socialist propaganda on the road, as Leon Trotsky once did in his armored train during the Russian Civil War?

It could just be that the Virginia DMV maintains a lovely little website where potential ideas for text can be tested against various choices of background. With the knowledge that profanity would not be allowed and that many ideas were taken I began browsing through the available license plate designs to get some inspiration. Just take a gander at my two most dark and volid ideas, that I couldn't resist trying out after encountering these plate designs:

Well, "SECeSSioN" is what he ended up (and is remembered for) supporting...

Sure this is offensive, but so to many is the very idea of a Confederate Battle Flag on one's official license plate, so you might as well go for the gold.

And, in case anyone was wondering, each plate idea was met with a "Congratulations. The message you requested is available" from the VA DMV. With that in mind, maybe we could all be a little less vain and accept whatever number-letter combinations we're assigned next time, on plain designs indicating our home state and nothing more...


Beer Colonialism

Though it seems frequently debated which country possessed the worst colonial policy—it appears that Portugal is currently the frontrunner—less common are inquiries into which had the best colonial policy. As such, I nominate the German Empire. A late starter to the colonial game, recently united Germany was hungering for international prestige and respect, which at the time was most easily acquired via the possession of overseas colonies. Private colonization efforts from the middle of the nineteenth century were eclipsed by state-supported efforts under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the 1880s. In this “scramble” for territory, Germany acquired colonies in Africa (all or part of modern-day Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Togo, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Namibia) and in the Pacific (all or part of modern-day Papua New Guinea, Palau, Nauru, the Marshall, Solomon, Caroline, Mariana Islands, and Western Samoa) and even a region in China, Kiaochow. Under German rule, cities mimicking those in Central Europe were built, infrastructure—especially rail—was rapidly constructed throughout each colony, and modern German-style school systems were established to educate the natives. Even some colonies, such as Samoa and Togoland, quickly became self-sustaining and prosperous.* One might say, “Sure, but didn’t the British do this as well?” Indeed, but the United Kingdom was missing one colonial policy priority of the German Empire: the establishment of breweries to supply the colonies with good German-style beer.

Qingdao, called Tsingtau by the Germans, was the administrative capital of a concession the Germans managed to wrest from the Chinese on the Shandong Peninsula. Acquired by them only in 1898, German authorities set out to build a modern European-style city from which they would manage trade with the Orient. Churches, offices, and an impressive governor’s mansion copied from a German palace were all built and remain to this day on Jiangsu Lu. Most lasting however, was to be a brewery established in 1903. Originally named Germania-Brauerei (Germania Brewery), it was the second brewery set up in China (after Harbin Brewery, in Manchuria), and supplied all of Kiaochow with German lager made according to the Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law) of 1516. German-control—of its colony and its brewery—was not to last, however, as World War I brought an opportunistic Japanese invasion and occupation of Kiaochow. Another war, World War II, would lead to Chinese ownership of the brewery. Renamed Tsingtao, the brewery was nationalized under the Chinese Communists and remained a state-owned enterprise until 1990, when it was privatized. Most startlingly, the beer there was always brewed under the Reinheitsgebot while a state-run enterprise; it was private control and not the Cultural Revolution, that would lead to its abandonment. Today, Tsingtao Brewery controls a large share of both domestic and international beer consumption, including being the most popular Chinese beer in the U.S. An amazing saga, and one that would not be possible without the brief German colonial control of Qingdao.

But China is not the only nation to benefit from the building of breweries by German imperialists. German Southwest Africa, today known as Namibia, was also to become a major producer of German-style lager. In 1904, four small breweries had been established—Kronen Brauerei, Omaruru Brauerei, Kleine Windhoek Brauerei, and Felsenkeller Brauerei—in the administrative center of Windhoek and the port of Swakopmund. Though conquest in World War I by South African forces ended German control of South-West Africa, thousands of German settlers remained, and two of them, Carl List and Hermann Ohlthaver, purchased and consolidated the breweries into South West Breweries. This firm in turn merged with Hansa Brauerei in 1967 to make South West Breweries the sole local beer producer. Full Namibian independence in 1990 brought a corresponding name change to Namibia Breweries Limited. Today the firm produces three beer brands that follow the Reinheitsgebot—Windhoek, Hansa, and Tafel—and even brews an Urbock beer, something that was not easy to get in the U.S. until fairly recently. Windhoek—the best African beer I personally have ever tasted—is distributed worldwide today, and looks to have a bright future in further expansion. All of this was, of course, enabled by the original German colonization.

So, remember, next time you drink a Tsingtao or a Windhoek—be it in a bar or just at home making some funny sketches—be sure to raise a toast to Kaiser Wilhelm I and Otto von Bismarck, the pioneers of beer colonialism!

*And yes, rebellions in the colonies were crushed with extraordinary brutality; though this should be recognized and condemned, this fact has little use to the volid thesis of this article.


Reverse King Midas, Commissar of Evil

To his conservative critics, Barack Obama is "reverse King Midas" - everything he touches turns to corruption, socialism, or unamerican excess. This principle applies especially to any place where he has lived. Having been *ALLEGEDLY* born in Hawaii, Obama has transformed the fiftieth state (a state for 50 years, an American possession for 100) into "some sort of foreign exotic place." But conservative resentment toward the hegemony of this foreign polynesian pineapple kingdom over our government pales in comparison to the elevation of Chicago as a dystopian gangster hovel paralleling Obama's own rise to prominence.

In fall 2008 it was difficult to watch the tee-vee or slide down the Inter-Tubes without encountering phrases like "TERRORIST Bill Ayers" and "CHICAGO SLUM LORD Tony Rezko" - hell, it was even difficult to just be alive and avoid them, considering the daily robocalls and flyers coming in. Chicago became a caricature of all bad things Republicans could imagine: a socialist big city with an education system run by former leftist terrorists, a nineteenth-century style center of corrupt machine politics, and an urban area which liberal policy had failed and is filled with scary brown people. While it's not surprising that such tactics would be used by the Republicans in the lead-up to the presidential election, it is a bit shocking how deeply this distaste for Chicago has become ingrained. Recently, Chicago was in the running to host the 2016 Olympic Games. But hosting the Olympics, normally a source of national pride, became instead an issue of revulsion and mockery by those (i.e. conservatives) for whom patriotism is ostensibly most important.

Now, I've never been to Chicago, excepting a walk through its massive and frustrating airport, but I presume its problems are not uncommon to any large city in this country. Furthermore, I know of no other developed country where politicians and pundits would so freely and willfully bandy about hatred of its third largest city (imagine German politicians spending their time railing against Munich or French politicians decrying "corrupt Lyon" as un-French).

Fortunately, I was reminded of a fun set of pictures than can round out this discussion of the foci of delusional wingnut hatred. Combined with the meme that Obama is a communist Manchurian candidate is a reminder that perhaps the distaste for Chicago goes back farther than I had previously thought among right-wingers. A certain gem of a comic book titled "This Godless Communism" - distributed by Catholic organizations to the young and impressionable - is notable not only for its pseudo-history of communism and the USSR or its hilarious anti-communist fear-mongering, but its references to Chicago. Take a gander:

The origin of community organizing?

What will happen after "Obamacare" is passed?

All I know is, with commentary like this passing as informed opinion among the mainstream right, volidity can be the only response. I suppose the only thing left is to send these pictures to Wonkette so that they can use it to mock these wingnuts who "love" America so much that they need to exclude various states, cities, and groups of people from the national community. I think it would be a nice image to complement "Is This Tomorrow? - Life under Communism" that sadly but hilariously gets so much use on that blog.