All posts by seeder68

lover of the ocean; friend and advisor to felines; co-conspirator in their plan to take over the world Long Live FLUFFY, destroyer of worlds

Hot As Hell (Not!)

A bit of humor at the expense of Ol’ Scratch

The Return of the Modern Philosopher

The Devil, Hell, heat wave, poetry, short story, Sundays With Satan Short Story Series, humor, Modern PhilosopherO how I abhor it,

When foolish mortals,

A species who wasted

The gift of Free Will,

And is on the verge

Of destroying the planet

With which they were gifted,

Try to tell me,

The Prince of Darkness

And Ruler of Eternal Hellfire,

That the current temperature

Is hot as Hell!

Such imbeciles!

Why do they speak

With such confidence

About things of which

They have absolutely no knowledge?

The coldest corner of Hell

Is exponentially hotter

Than the warmest place

On the precious planet

They seem absolutely hellbent

On demolishing!

Stop inserting the name

Of my beloved kingdom,

Which will still be here

Long after you have all

Returned to the dust,

Into your weather reports!

You have no concept

Of how hot it is

In Hell,

But mark my words,

That will change

For so many of you

In the coming years!

Speak not of Hell again,

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Hate in the Trans Community

Words of advice for any community…hating what you do not understand or that which makes you feel uncomfortable does a disservice not only to the people you direct that negative perception onto but to yourself…how can people see the good in oneself if all there is is words of irrationality

The Life of an FTM


Hate in any community is terrible, but when it happens in a community you are part of it always seems worse than others because you are directly affected by it. Being part of the LGBTQ community I have encountered a lot of hate from outside the community as well as inside the community. When I identified as a lesbian it was lesbians against gays and vice versa. I find the hatred to be even worse in the trans community. I’m not really sure why its worse in the trans community and maybe its my own perception, but I feel like its worse in the trans community than it was for me in the lesbian community. The hatred isn’t just transmen against transwomen it’s also transmen against transmen and transwomen against transwomen. We are all apart of the same community and should be supporting one another through our journeys whether they…

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The Loneliness of Donald Trump, by Rebecca Solnit

“We keep each other honest, we keep each other good with our feedback, our intolerance of meanness and falsehood, our demands that the people we are with listen, respect, respond—if we are allowed to, if we are free and valued ourselves. There is a democracy of social discourse, in which we are reminded that as we are beset with desires and fears and feelings, so are others; there was an old woman in Occupy Wall Street I always go back to who said, “We’re fighting for a society in which everyone is important.” That’s what a democracy of mind and heart, as well as economy and polity, would look like.”


A Conservative-to-English Lexicon a resource for non-native speakers of the Conservative language

A Conservative-to-English Lexicon

a resource for non-native speakers of the Conservative language

For an explanation of what the Lexicon is, see the post that introduced it, and the follow-up. The short version is this: Conservatives have begun using English words in ways that diverge from the definitions you might find in a standard dictionary. Just to give one example — there are gobs of others in the definitions below — moving DREAMers to the bottom of the deportation priority list is an example of tyranny, because tyrants are so famous for not arresting people and instead letting them continue living their lives.

OK, one more: People whose incomes are too low to pay income tax are lucky duckies in Conservative-speak; that’s got to be the first time in history that low income was non-satirically considered an example of luck. (In standard English, lucky is a synonym of fortunate, from which we get the word for a bundle of money: a fortune.)

Things get even harder to follow when two or more new usages combine in a single sentence. For example, when conservatives talk about using their Second Amendment rights to defend against tyranny, they mean that if they need to overthrow the government to prevent ObamaCare from extending health insurance to the unworthy, they’re ready.

The definitions below were abstracted from actual examples of conservative usage, many of which I reference. Within the definitions, words in italics refer to the Conservative meanings rather than the English meanings., i.e., the difference between the Constitution the Constitution.

Activist judge. A judge who applies the Constitution and other laws, rather than the Bible or the Constitution written by the Founding Fathers.

American exceptionalism. The belief that the United States is exempt from all legal and moral standards. Example: Waterboarding is a capital crime when done to Americans, but legally and morally acceptable when practiced by Americans.

Amnesty. The basic English meaning is unchanged since Bierce: “The state’s magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.” In conservative usage, amnesty is an abandonment of all moral standards if applied to undocumented immigrants, but “makes perfect sense” when applied to corporate profits held off-shore to avoid taxes. To spin amnesty positively, use holiday. Example: a tax holiday, but not an immigration holiday.

Appeasement. Hesitating before attacking or overthrowing the unfriendly government of an oil-rich nation.

Balance. 1. Providing Democrats as well as Republicans the opportunity to criticize President Obama. 2. Providing blacks as well as whites the opportunity to indict black culture. Usage: “Fox News is fair and balanced.”

Bankrupt. Requiring taxes that the wealthy do not want to pay. Usage: “The government is bankrupt.”

Celebrity. A disparaging term applied to a liberal who can draw a crowd. Usage: Barack Obama “is the biggest celebrity in the world.” Not to be confused with a politician who is popular in Real America, like Sarah Palin, or with statesmen like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronald Reagan.

Class warfare. When the 99% fight back against the 1%. Usage: “Obama’s priority is class warfare. That’s why he relentlessly denounces job creators as ‘millionaires and billionaires.’ That’s why he demands that they be punished with higher tax rates.”

Collateral damage. Humans whose deaths would rattle the conscience of a nation not blessed with American exceptionalism.

Color-blindness. Fighting racial injustice by refusing to see it, much as an ostrich avoids danger by sticking its head into the sand.

Common sense. The opinion of the People, as opposed to the opinion of experts who have devoted their lives to studying the subject. See: science, junk science.

Common sense solution. A (usually unspecified) way to make a problem vanish without inconveniencing any job creators or real Americans, or making them pay taxes. Usage: “All across this country, women are standing up and speaking out for common sense solutions.”

Confederacy. An early attempt to restore the freedom envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Still an object of nostalgia in the GOP’s southern base.

Constitution. A holy scripture written by the Founding Fathers. Like the Bible, it means whatever conservatives want it to mean, regardless of its actual text. The Constitution, for example, protects corporate personhood, and the near-infinite powers it assigns to Republican presidents vanish when a Democrat takes office. Unlike the real-life Constitution, the Constitution includes the Declaration of Independence, and so really does mention God.

Contract. An inviolable pledge, except when made to a union.

Controversial. An adjective applying to any fact or set of facts that conservatives don’t want to believe. Examples: evolution and climate change. Once facts have been labeled controversial, stating them as facts is evidence of liberal bias.

Dependent on government. Anyone receiving welfare, encompassing retirees, students, and the disabled. Usage: “there are 47 percent … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Dividing the country. Talking about the concerns of voters other than real Americans. Examples: Starting a class war by encouraging the 99% to fight back, or discussing the effects of racism. Usage: President Obama “won by dividing the country.”

Elite, Elitist. Those who challenge common sense by insisting on facts. Usage: “The power of the knowledge elite does not stem primarily from money, but in persuading, instructing and regulating the rest of society.”

Europe. A hellish dystopia governed by liberals, where people belong to unions, have guaranteed health care, and earn high wages with long vacations. Soon to be overrun by Muslims. Usage: “I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.”

Fair. Favoring the wealthy. Usage: “A true free market is always fair.”

Family. A group of people related by blood to, and under the control of, a straight white man wealthy and powerful enough to protect and control them.

Family Farm. Any piece of land controlled by a single family, no matter how vast it might be. This is how Paul Ryan can say that an estate tax that only applies to estates over $5 million “hits the little guy — like the small business and the family farm.

Fascism. An insult with no meaningful content, similar to “bastard” or “asshole”. The previously well established Mussolini/Hitler sense of the term — a militarist, nativist, corporatist style of totalitarianism claiming to restore a nation to the greatness of its mythic past — is now archaic, having been successfully jammed by tangential usages like Islamo-fascism and oxymorons like liberal fascism. Usage: “The quintessential liberal fascist isn’t an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade-school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.”

Founding Fathers. Loosely based on the American generational cohort that fought the Revolution and wrote the Constitution, the conservative Founding Fathers are heroes of a great mythic past constructed by pseudo-historians like David Barton. Divinely inspired, the Founding Fathers intended to create a non-denominational Christian theocracy, but inexplicably failed to mention God in the Constitution. They were implacably opposed to Big Government, even as they were writing a constitution that vastly extended the powers of the national government beyond those laid out in the previous Articles of Confederation. They “worked tirelessly” to end slavery, while owning hundreds of slaves themselves, and without actually ending slavery until long after they were all dead.

Free market. A system of decision-making based on the only fair principle: one dollar, one vote.

Freedom. 1. The ineffable quality that exempts the United States from all moral standards. (See American exceptionalism). Usage: “They hate our freedom.” 2. The right of the powerful to use their power as they see fit. Usage: “The minimum wage is a freedom killer.” 3. The right of job creators to use public infrastructure without paying taxes, or to exploit common resources (like air, water, or public land) without regulation. Example: Cliven Bundy.

Freedom of religion. The right of conservative Christians to shape society and define social acceptability. Intended by the Founding Fathers only to protect expressions of religion, not atheism or Islam.

Freedom of speech. 1. The right of a conservative to speak and write publicly without criticism. (See persecution.) Synonym: First Amendment rights. Example: Sarah Palin’s objection in 2008 to the characterization of her charge that Barack Obama was “paling around with terrorists” as “negative campaigning”. “If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.” While no one had disputed Palin’s right to say what she said, the fact that she faced criticism for it violated her freedom of speech. 2. In election campaigns, the right of the rich to drown out all competing voices. Usage: “Citizens United gives freedom of speech back to the People.”

God. Jehovah, the father of Jesus, as revealed by a literal reading of the Bible. Non-Christians do not believe in God, but in other supernatural beings like Allah. Some liberals claim to believe in God, but they use the word incorrectly.

Hate. Criticism of conservative ideas or disputation of facts alleged by conservatives. See persecution.

Holiday. A temporary suspension of tyranny. Usage: “tax holiday“.

Illegal immigrants (or illegals). Hispanics. Usage: “the more illegals that vote, the better the Obama administration thinks it will do.”

Impeachable offenses. Anything President Obama does or fails to do.

Impeachment. A means of reversing elections, when voters mistakenly choose Democrats. Established by the Constitution, impeachment requires impeachable offenses. Failure to make use of impeachment may necessitate “Second Amendment remedies”.

Indoctrination. Teaching historical or scientific facts that are controversial.

Innocent human life. The unborn, who possess souls of infinite worth. At birth, a child inherits the soul-value of his parents, which — if they are black or poor — does not amount to much. Consequently, abortion in the United States is a moral crisis equivalent to the Holocaust, while our third-worldish infant mortality rate (34th in the world, just behind Cuba) is no big deal.

Institutionalized racism. Racial advantages and disadvantages explicitly written into the law, like Jim Crow. Other embedded racial advantages, like legacy admissions to Ivy League schools or the extra-zealous policing of black neighborhoods, are just the way things are. Usage: “Today the system and philosophy of institutionalized racism identified by Dr. King no longer exists.”

Job. An expression of generosity by a job creator, who allows a small amount of wealth to trickle down to a person who does exactly what he’s told. As John Galt told workers at the Rearden factory: “The standard of living of that [medieval] blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden.”

Jobs bill. A cut in taxes or regulations for job creators. Usage: “If lawmakers are really serious about creating jobs, they should simply repeal ObamaCare.”

Job creator. A wealthy person, who may or may not be an employer, and who may even have become wealthy by firing people or shipping jobs overseas. Usage: “Let’s cut taxes for job creators.” Does not apply to public works, public schools, or any other government program, no matter how many Americans such a program might productively employ.

Judicial activism. When activist judges rule against corporate interests or white supremacy, or in favor of separating Church from State.

Junk science. Research not funded by a corporation whose profits depend on the outcome. Examples: climate research not funded by fossil fuel companies, tobacco research not funded by cigarette companies, etc. All you really need to know about the term is that is run by Steve Milloy, who is also Director of External Policy and Strategy for Murray Energy, the largest privately owned American coal company. Usage: “It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life. I’ve never been for any [greenhouse-gas reducing] scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole [climate change] narrative.” See sound science.

Liberal media bias. The fading tendency of certain portions of the journalistic establishment to require supporting facts before promoting a conspiracy theory. For an example of the frustration this causes conservatives, consider the following quote from Jonah Goldberg shortly before the 2012 election: “If you want to understand why conservatives have lost faith in the so-called mainstream media, you need to ponder the question: Where is the Benghazi feeding frenzy?”

Lucky Ducky. Anyone whose income is low enough to escape the punishment of income tax. Collectively, lucky duckies are known as “the 47%“. Usage: “Who are these lucky duckies? They are the beneficiaries of tax policies that have expanded the personal exemption and standard deduction and targeted certain voter groups by introducing a welter of tax credits for things like child care and education.”

Marxist. One who regrets the increasing concentration of wealth. Unrelated to any theories contained in the writings of Karl Marx. Example: Pope FrancisUsage: “Elizabeth Warrren, who has almost confessed to her Marxist views”. (Synonyms: communist, socialist, liberal.)

Objective. Adjective describing a person (especially a journalist) who tells it like it is.

The People (or We the People). All real Americans, considered collectively. Usage: “I believe Owen Hill is one of those future leaders and must be supported by ‘we the people’ to take back our country and to restore our constitution as the law of the land.”

Persecution. 1. Denying conservatives the special rights they believe they are entitled to. Example: The War on Christmas, in which conservative Christians are persecuted if they are not allowed to dominate all public space for the month of December. 2. Criticism directed at conservatives. Example: If a conservative says something racist and you point that out, you are persecuting him. (See freedom of speech.) 3. Enforcing laws broken by conservatives. Example: Dinesh D’Souza. 4. Limiting the privileges of privileged groups.

Personhood. A quality shared by fertilized ova and corporations, but not by Afghans, Iraqis, or Pakistanis who become collateral damage. Usage: “Corporations are people, my friend.”

Political correctness. 1. The bizarre liberal belief that whites, men, straights, Christians, the rich, and other Americans in positions of privilege should treat less privileged people with respect, even though such people have no power to force them to. 2. Avoiding offense to a group unworthy of regard. Example: Saying “Happy Holidays” to avoid offending non-Christians is politically correct. Saying “Merry Christmas” to avoid offending Christians is not.

Politicizing. When a particularly dramatic or tragic event demonstrates how wrong conservatives have been, a liberal who points that out or proposes new policies to prevent future tragedies is politicizing the event. Correct usage: After the Sandy Hook school shooting led to calls for tighter gun laws, Rush Limbaugh said: “You’ve got a horrible event here, and they’re already looking to politicize it.” Incorrect usage: any application to 9-11. The Bush administration’s massive response to 9-11 was not politicization.

Poor. Lacking in gumption or virtue, undeserving, black.

Prayer. A way to appear to take action on issues you don’t actually care about. Example: the prayers routinely offered for the families of victims of mass shootings.

Punishing success. Restoring upper-level tax rates to their levels during the Clinton administration, a dark time of peace and prosperity when no one bothered to become rich because it was too painful. Usage: “If you want to punish successful people, vote for Democrats.” Synonym: punishing job creators.Usage: “We shouldn’t be punishingjob creators.”

Racism. Calling attention to racial injustice with an intention to rectify it. Also called “playing the race card”. (See color-blindness.) Example: the Fox News commentator who said, “You know who talks about race? Racists.” Also see institutional racism.

Rammed (or forced) down the throat of the People. Any government action taken against the will of a majority of real Americans. Usage: “They’re going to do what they have to, the Democrats are, to force this [ObamaCare] down our throats.”

Rammed through Congress. Passed by majority vote, without granting an extra-constitutional veto to the conservative minority. Usage: “Senate Democrats rammed through what would later be called ObamaCare … The vote on Monday, in the dead of night, was 60 to 40.”

Rape. 1. A liberal myth used to persecute men who get sex through “consensual conquest“. 2. An excuse made up by women who want to murder their babies. 3. The exceedingly rare act the previous usages are based on, i.e., sex acts committed by thugs, Bill Clinton, and other moral degenerates. When using rape in this sense, it’s important to add a qualifying adjective like real or legitimate.

Real America. Rural areas and small towns, where the majority of voters are real Americans. Usage: “the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America.”

Real American. 1. A white conservative Christian born in the United States at least 30 years ago. 2. A typical resident of real America. Usage: “Real Americans do not recognize [Obama] as a president.”

Religion. Christianity, not including degraded liberal variants that accept evolution or gay rights. Sometimes qualified as “real religion” or “true religion” to differentiate from false religions like science.

Religious. Having to do with religion, i.e., Christian.

Religious freedom. 1. The right of religious people to ignore laws they don’t like. 2. The right of public officials to implement their religious views rather than the law. 3. The right of a religious majority to use public resources to promote their religion.

Science. 1. A false religion devoted to conquering the world in the name of the No God it worships. Usage: “Science, like God in the Old Testament, behaves jealously against any other religion. So science will say to its followers: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’. If you have any doubts, try asking an audience at a scientific convention to join you in a prayer.” 2. A conspiracy to impose world government through hoaxes like global warming. Usage: “Global warming is not about science, but about politics — that is, about expanding the power of elites using the coercive instruments of government to control the lives of people everywhere.”

Second Amendment rights. The right of whites, Christians, the wealthy, and other traditionally privileged groups to commit violence when their privileges are threatened by democratic processes. (People not from privileged groups may be gunned down by police — with full conservative support — if they are even suspected of being armed.) Best expressed by Sharron Angle in her 2010 Senate campaign: “if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” Also by Virginia Republican Catherine Crabill: “We have a chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box. But that’s the beauty of our Second Amendment right. I am glad for all of us who enjoy the use of firearms for hunting. But make no mistake. That was not the intent of the Founding Fathers. Our Second Amendment right was to guard against tyranny.”

Slavery. The Old South’s enlightened system for taking care of blacks without a welfare state. Usage: “And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Small business. Any economic entity not in the Fortune 500, and maybe a few that are. At various times, small business has included privately-owned firms like Bechtel or wealthy individuals who incorporate, like billionaire George Soros. Since it evokes images of Mom-and-Pop diners or three-chair beauty salons, tax breaks for small business are always popular. But since one mis-categorized multi-national giant can outweigh a thousand Main Street card shops, the bulk of the breaks always end up going to the big boys. (See family farm.)

Social justice. A plot to turn mainstream Christian denominations Communist. Usage: “I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.”

Sound science. The opposite of junk science. Coined by The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, “a front group set up by Philip Morris in 1993 … to question the science showing detrimental effects of cigarette smoke.”

States rights. 1. The belief that the 14th Amendment‘s guarantee of “the equal protection of the laws” was never intended to be taken seriously. Usage: “I believe in states’ rights … and I believe that we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment.” — said by Ronald Reagan near the site of the KKK’s Mississippi Burning murders, which were solved by federal investigators after being covered up by local police. 2. The real cause of the Civil War, which had nothing to do with slavery.

Take back our country. Restoring the dominance of the People. As Hank Williams Jr. sang in “Take Back Our Country“: “Move over little dog, cause the big dog’s moving in.” Usage: “It’s time to take our country back.”

Taxes. A method of stealing money from job creators and giving it to poor people. Unrelated to Social Security, Medicare, roads, schools, lowering the deficit, or any other useful goal.

Telling it like it is. Pandering to people who resemble the speaker.  Usage: Middle-aged white guy Wayne Allyn Root: “Donald Trump tells it like it is.” Alternate form: Calling it like he sees it.Usage: Ted Nugent writing, “Donald Trump … calls them like he sees them.”

Terrorist. 1. A Muslim. 2. Any violent person conservatives don’t like. Cannot be applied to violent anti-abortionists, white supremacists, or tax resisters. (See Second Amendment rights.)

Thug. 1. Young black male. Usage: “Trayvon Martin was a thug. His parents know that, you know that, I know that.” and “The Ferguson thugs aren’t alone. The overwhelming majority of violent crime across America is conducted by young, black males.” 2. An agent of government tyranny who might descend upon real Americans at any moment. Usage: “”jack-booted government thugs [who have] more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.” 3. A union organizer.

Traditional marriage. The type of marriage commonly portrayed in the media when the speaker was a child. Does not include common features of marriage from earlier eras, such as the inability of the wife to own property, the impossibility of divorce (except by act of the Pope), the right of the husband to beat his wife, or the right of the husband to take multiple wives. (Biblical marriage may not have been Adam and Steve, but it was Jacob and Leah and Rachel and Bilhah and Zilpah. Don’t think too hard about why the link also has a picture of a sheep.)

Trumponym. (This is said about conservatives rather than by them, but was too good to leave out.) A word used in defiance of all known definitions. Example: “Obama is the founder of ISIS.” Coined by Nathan Heller.

Tyranny. When a Marxist gets elected and then tries to carry out the platform the people voted for. Example: ObamaCare.

Values. Beliefs that condemn gays or promiscuous women. Usage: the Values Voters Summit.

Voter fraud. Any votes cast by people whose demographic profile makes them likely to vote Democratic, i.e., blacks, Hispanics, or students. Alternate form: election fraud. Usage: “Obama likely won re-election through election fraud.”

Welfare. Any payment from the government, including (when convenient) Social Security, unemployment compensation, or student loans. Usage: “Unemployment compensation is just another welfare program.”

A great speech by a southern white politician

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A great speech by a southern white politician

by digby

The New Orleans mayor gave a speech for the books explaining the necessity of taking down the confederate monuments at long last:

Thank you for coming.

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill.

It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans: the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Color, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of Francexii and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see: New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures.

There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum — out of many we are one.

But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.

America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.

So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.

There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.

As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other.

So, let’s start with the facts.

The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.

First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.

Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy.

He said in his now famous ‘Cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears, I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us and make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago so we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and more perfect union.

Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize and remember all of our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it.

President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about history … on a stone where day after day for years, men and women … bound and bought and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”

A piece of stone – one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored.

As clear as it is for me today … for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s long proud history of fighting for civil rights … I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought.

So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race. I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes.

Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

We all know the answer to these very simple questions.

When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and, most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong.

Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division, and yes, with violence.

To literally put the confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past, it is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future.

History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans — or anyone else — to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd.

Centuries-old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place.

Here is the essential truth: we are better together than we are apart. Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world?

We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz; the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures.

Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think. All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity.

We are proof that out of many we are one — and better for it! Out of many we are one — and we really do love it!

And yet, we still seem to find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial. We still find a way to say “wait, not so fast.”

But like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “wait has almost always meant never.”

We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need to change now. No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well. If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society this would have all been in vain.

While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts, not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.

Earlier this week, as the cult of the lost cause statue of P.G.T Beauregard came down, world renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful daughters at their side.

Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.

He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride … it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don’t respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.”

Yes, Terence, it is, and it is long overdue.

Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.

A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond; let us not miss this opportunity New Orleans and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.

We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves — at this point in our history, after Katrina, after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and after the tornado — if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces … would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?

We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations.

And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people.

In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals.

We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America.

Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all, not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians are in, all of the way.

It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and flourishes.

Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans and set the tone for the next 300 years.

After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6-1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the monuments in accordance with the law have been removed.

So now is the time to come together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.

Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned and now universally loved Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.”

So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.

As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history. Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause.

Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to do all which may achieve and cherish: a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Thank you.


What does it mean?

White nationalism is a sector of the U.S. right-wing political sphere that is characterized by a white supremacist ideology.

As Chip Berlet explained, in a 1992 piece co-authored with Margaret Quigley, white nationalism “oscillates between brutish authoritarianism and vulgar fascism in service of white male supremacy” and white nationalists believe that “social problems are caused by uncivilized people of color, lower-class foreigners, and dual-loyalist Jews.”

Political Research Associates identifies white nationalism as a faction of what it calls the “xenophobic right.” Under the umbrella of white nationalism, it identifies four different major groups:

  • “cultural supremacists,” who believe that non-white people can, and should, adopt white culture
  • “biological racists,” who rely on (false) essentialist views of race
  • “segregationists,” who want race-based enclaves within a country
  • “separatists,” who want separate nations for different races

What’s the difference between white nationalism and white supremacy?

White supremacy is an ideology—a way of understanding the world—as well as a system of oppression, whereas white nationalism is a political faction that practices that ideology and upholds that system.

Some, such as Barbara Perry in her 2001 book In the Name of Hate, and Mana Kharrazi, at “Beyond the Safety Pin,” have argued that white nationalism is a coded term for white supremacy, or a rebranding of white supremacy.

Although the terms aren’t synonymous, it is true that white nationalist groups trade in using coded language to obscure their white supremacy. As Perry points out:

In their search for respectability, some hate groups have rejected explicitly racist terms for more “subtle” code words that act as proxies for traditional rhetoric. Primary among these is the assurance that they don’t hate blacks or Jews or gays; rather they simply love their own race.

This is what makes it possible for blatantly white supremacist leaders like Richard Spencer and David Duke to deny being white supremacist while simultaneously saying things like, “America was until this past generation a white country, designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

White nationalists often claim that it’s not that they hate people of color, it’s just that they naturally, as white people, love white people best—and, importantly, they wholeheartedly believe that white people and white culture are under attack.

They see white people and white culture as inherently or “naturally” superior, but instead of understanding that this is actually the definition of white supremacy, they are convinced it’s simply an unassailable truth.

Should I use this term?

Yes, but when you do, be clear that white nationalism and white nationalists are white supremacist in nature.

A good standard that many media outlets use is to say “white nationalist and white supremacist,” to avoid the risk that a reader may interpret white nationalist as a neutral term divorced from racism.

What’s your take on white nationalism? Comment below! Want to ask a radical copyeditor something? Contact me!

Note: Many thanks to Jessica Campbell, co-director of Rural Organizing Project, for her help with this post.

What Liberals Don’t Understand About Freedom

Democrats would be more successful with this simple reframing.

This article is adapted from George Lakoff’s the ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! (September 2014) and is printed with permission from Chelsea Green Publishing.

FDR, in giving his Four Freedoms speech of 1941, suggested that Democrats’ mission was to expand human freedom. Yet today Democrats have ceded the very concepts of freedom and liberty to Republicans. It’s time to take freedom back as the central Democratic issue.

Conservatives talk constantly about freedom and liberty, defining the nation’s understanding of these core values. But conservatives and progressives understand the concepts of freedom and liberty very differently.

For conservatives, individual responsibility is central: democracy provides the “liberty” to pursue your own interests, without any help from others (which would make you dependent and weak) and without any responsibility for others.

This is the exact opposite of the progressive view, perhaps expressed best by Elizabeth Warren. Senator Warren often repeats a central truth that the conservative view misses entirely: democracy is about citizens caring about one another and working through their government to provide public resources that allow freedom for all.

How do public resources create freedom? Consider the business world. It’s hard to run a business without sewers, without roads and bridges and airports, without an electric grid, without satellite communications, the internet, GPS systems, and without healthy and educated employees. The public—you and me and the rest of us over decades—have, through our government, provided all these public resources. The development of computer science depended on government funding, as did the development of the computer chip industry. Our pharmaceutical industry required NIH research funding. In short: the private depends on the public! Without collective investment, Americans would not be free to start, run, and work in businesses.

The same is true of individual private life. Physical well-being is fundamental to a free life. If you do not have access to health care and you get cancer, you are likely to be trapped not only in debt peonage by the healthcare industry, but in physical anguish or death. So-called “women’s issues” are freedom issues, too—the freedom for individuals to be able to control their own bodies, and follow their doctors’ advice. Without safety regulations for our food and water supply we are not free. Without highways or air traffic controllers or an air force that trains most of our pilots, we would not be free to travel without fear for our safety.

Freedom of opportunity is created through public education, without which most Americans would lack the knowledge and skills that free you to choose a path in our society. Early childhood education is crucial. By the time a child is about five years old, half the neural connections she was born with have died off—the half least used. A huge range of life’s opportunities are made possible or choked off in those early years.

Equality? Serious financial inequality cuts off life’s possibilities. If you are facing an accelerating decline in wealth or long-term financial insecurity, you are less free. Further, your ability to change your position is circumscribed by how expensive it is to be poor — not just financially but in the poverty of educational opportunity, social know-how and connections, pure joy, and breadth of life experiences. And a recent Princeton study shows that with escalating inequality, the wealthy come to exercise vastly more power over our political process.

Unions? Without them, workers can be subject to unpredictable working hours, workplace dangers, unfulfilled pensions, and other forms of corporate servitude. Pensions, after all, are delayed payments for work already done. They increase your freedom in your senior years. Unions also guard against discrimination on the job, whether by race, or gender, or ethnicity.

Foreign policy? The military, economic and political effects of globalization and high technology make it more and more apparent that threats to freedom in other regions of the world become threats to freedom here. The economic policies of China and India make it increasingly difficult to deal with global warming, compounding a problem in which the US has long been complicit. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has led to greater investment by the US in upgrading nuclear weaponry while our domestic budget shrinks. Low wages and anti-unionism abroad has led to major job losses here as companies seek out the cheapest labor internationally. Freedom abroad and freedom at home are always linked.

Global warming? The freedoms affected are enormous: freedom from monster storms, droughts, fires, and floods—as well as the economic disasters that will follow. Freedom to experience nature as we have known it—not just for us but for future generations. On this issue, Democrats have had to battle intransigent Republicans who would sacrifice the freedom of future generations to enjoy the security that we have now.

The freedom to control one’s life and participate in our democracy is what unites progressives. Yet, very few progressives actually say this out loud. Progressives are bad at communicating the interdependence of issues and hence the links among forms of freedom.


The answer lies in an understanding of framing. Frames are mental structures that organize our thoughts. All words evoke larger frames: “tax relief” frames taxation an affliction, for example, instead of a tool for solving collective problems. “Pro-life” evokes the ultimate morality of preserving human life, and makes abortion seem immoral. Speaking of the Affordable Care Act as a “government takeover” turns health care into enslavement. Speaking of the “Islamic State”—or ISIS or ISIL—leads one to think of several thousand militants as a nation on a par with other nations. Using the word “cause” only to mean direct, rather than systemic, causation makes it impossible to see the reality that climate disasters are systemically caused by global warming, and leads to climate denial and its ultimate imposition on the freedom of most people on earth.

In politics, the highest frames are moral frames—ideas of what is right and wrong. Policies are proposed on the assumption that they are right, not wrong or morally irrelevant. Words activate not just policy frames but moral frames, and each time the words are used, the stronger those moral frames get. Even arguing against conservative ideas using conservatives’ language make oppressive frames stronger. Imagine someone saying, “Don’t Think of an Elephant. It then becomes impossible not to. One can’t negate a frame while using that frame—a concept treated in-depth in my new edition of Don’t Think of an Elephant!

Instead, we should reframe the issues we care about. We should describe the regulations and services we need, not in conservative frameworks of cost and control, but in the language of freedom described above.

Because about 98 percent of thought is unconscious, none of this is obvious to most people. Progressives tend to think that just communicating the raw facts on a given issue is sufficient. It isn’t. The facts matter, but their moral relevance is what resonates. People identify with their deepest moral views much more than with facts about policy issues. Freedom is about as deep a moral view as one finds in a democracy. One has to communicate the intimate connection between freedom and fact.



He sat down.
The waiter approached.
'Would you like to see the menu?' he said, 
'or would you like meet the Dish of the Day?'

'Huh?' said Ford.
'Huh?' said Arthur.
'Huh?' said Trillian.
'That's cool,' said Zaphod, 'we'll meet the meat.'

 - snip -

A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox's table, 
a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with
large watery eyes, small horns and what might almost have
been an ingratiating smile on its lips.

'Good evening', it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, 
'I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in the parts 
of my body?' 

It harrumphed and gurgled a bit, wriggled its hind quarters in 
to a more comfortable position and gazed peacefully at them.

Its gaze was met by looks of startled bewilderment from
Arthur and Trillian, a resigned shrug from Ford Prefect and
naked hunger from Zaphod Beeblebrox.

'Something off the shoulder perhaps?' suggested the animal, 
'Braised in a white wine sauce?'

'Er, your shoulder?' said Arthur in a horrified whisper.

'But naturallymy shoulder, sir,' mooed the animal contentedly, 
'nobody else's is mine to offer.'

Zaphod leapt to his feet and started prodding and feeling
the animal's shoulder appreciatively.

'Or the rump is very good,' murmured the animal. 'I've been 
exercising it and eating plenty of grain, so there's a lot
of good meat there.' 

It gave a mellow grunt, gurgled again and started to chew 
the cud. It swallowed the cud again.

'Or a casselore of me perhaps?' it added.

'You mean this animal actually wants us to eat it?' whispered 
Trillian to Ford.

'Me?' said Ford, with a glazed look in his eyes, 'I don't mean 

'That's absolutely horrible,' exclaimed Arthur, 'the most revolting 
thing I've ever heard.'

'What's the problem Earthman?' said Zaphod, now transfering his 
attention to the animal's enormous rump.

'I just don't want to eat an animal that's standing there
inviting me to,' said Arthur, 'It's heartless.'

'Better than eating an animal that doesn't want to be
eaten,' said Zaphod.

'That's not the point,' Arthur protested. Then he thought about it 
for a moment. 'Alright,' he said, 'maybe it is the point. I don't 
care, I'm not going to think about it now. I'll just ... er ... I 
think I'll just have a green salad,' he muttered.

'May I urge you to consider my liver?' asked the animal,
'it must be very rich and tender by now, I've been force-feeding 
myself for months.'

'A green salad,' said Arthur emphatically.

'A green salad?' said the animal, rolling his eyes disapprovingly 
at Arthur.

'Are you going to tell me,' said Arthur, 'that I shouldn't have 
green salad?'

'Well,' said the animal, 'I know many vegetables that are
very clear on that point. Which is why it was eventually
decided to cut through the whoile tangled problem and breed
an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and was capable of
saying so clearly and distinctly. And here I am.'

It managed a very slight bow.

'Glass of water please,' said Arthur.

'Look,' said Zaphod, 'we want to eat, we don't want to make 
a meal of the issues. Four rare stakes please, and hurry.
We haven't eaten in five hundred and sevebty-six thousand
million years.'

The animal staggered to its feet. It gave a mellow gurgle.
'A very wise coice, sir, if I may say so. Very good,' it
said, 'I'll just nip off and shoot myself.'

He turned and gave a friendly wink to Arthur.
'Don't worry, sir,' he said, 'I'll be very humane.'

It waddled unhurriedly off to the kitchen.

From the book “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” by Douglas Adams

How pre-existing conditions became front and center in health care vote

Posted on May 5, 2017
Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) speaks to reporters outside the White House on May 3, 2017 after a meeting with the president on proposed legislation that could limit coverage for preexisting conditions.
Susan Walsh/AP
Simon Haeder, West Virginia University

Pre-existing conditions became the focus of debate on the American Health Care Act, which was narrowly passed 217-213 by the House of Representatives.

The debate led to bitter disagreement, as Republicans sought to undo a requirement of the Affordable Care Act that insurers be forced to cover pre-existing conditions and at the same premiums as others.

The issue, long contentious, gained further fuel this week through two illustrative videos seen by millions of Americans. On the one hand, a tearful late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel described the nightmare of every parent when his son was born with a serious, complex, and costly birth defect. On the other hand, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) stated that those Americans “who lead good lives” and “‘ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy” should not have to support Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Why should this be such a contentious issue? As someone who studies and teaches health care policy in West Virginia, one of the states with the highest percentage of individuals with pre-existing conditions, let me offer some answers.

What is a pre-existing condition, anyway?

Pre-existing conditions are health conditions which were diagnosed or treated by a provider prior to the purchase of insurance. Twenty-three states even include cases where individuals did not seek medical attention but when a “prudent” person would have sought care.

Pre-existing conditions apply only to those circumstances where the sale of insurance policies is based on individual risk, as opposed to risk spread across many people, such as in employer-sponsored insurance or Medicare.

Addressing the contentious issue of pre-existing conditions, and most importantly how to distribute the costs associated with them, is a crucial one for all health care systems. The issue has been with us from the very emergence of health insurance, particularly as for-profit insurers sought to minimize their risks and to maximize their profits.

However, while most other industrialized nations have long resolved the issue equitably, the U.S. continues to struggle with it, even after the passage of the ACA.

Before passage of the ACA, pre-existing conditions were subject to a confusing mix of state and federal laws, regulations and enforcement. Almost 20 percent of the states provided no definition of preexisting conditions at all.

Insurers hence had significant leeway in determining what counted as a preexisting condition unless a state specifically banned the practice for certain conditions.

States also differed on how far back health conditions were relevant, ranging from six months to indefinitely.

Insurers could elect to deny coverage altogether to individuals with preexisting conditions in most states. In others, insurers charged much higher premiums for those with preexisting conditions.

Man being treated for sleep apnea, once an excluded preexisting condition.

Insurers are generally not concerned about preexisting conditions per se, but only about those that are expected to incur significant medical costs in the future.

Basing their decisions on risk models, individual insurers have developed lists of declinable conditions (such as substance abuse, acne and sleep apnea), medications (such as heparin, Zyrexa and Interferon) or occupations (such as miners, pilots and air traffic controllers).

A congressional report found that 425 medical diagnoses have been used to decline coverage.

Certain reasons for rejection fueled public outrage more than others. For example, immediately prior to the ACA’s passage, being the victim of domestic violence counted as a preexisting condition in eight states.

Similarly, many insurers also included rape as a pre-existing condition, and 45 states allowed the practice for C-sections.

How the idea of denying coverage got started

The issue of pre-existing conditions is not new to the American health care system. At the beginning – in the 1920s and 1930s – emerging health insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield were created as nonprofits with special tax treatment. Most plans charged the same rates to all consumers.

As the insurance market became more profitable, for-profit insurers entered the market. Focused on maximizing their profits, these companies sought to attract only the healthiest individuals. They did this by offering lower premiums than their nonprofit competitors to healthy individuals.

Naturally, this entailed excluding individuals with preexisting conditions. In order to avoid being left with only the sickest individuals, all insurers eventually had to move to medical underwriting, at least in the individual market.

Over time, both states and federal government enacted certain, albeit very limited, protections, such as high-risk pools, for individuals with preexisting conditions.

Some states also required insurers to issue policies to all comers. These guaranteed issue requirements, however, often did not address costs issues.

As result, while consumers may not have been denied coverage, they were penalized with higher premiums for having these conditions.

Common efforts to limit losses for insurers from those with preexisting conditions included the temporary or permanent restriction of benefits for certain enrollees based on their health condition; the creation of so-called bare-bone plans or allowing insurers to charge discriminatory premiums.

However, none of the approaches offered a comprehensive solution.

A study by the Commonwealth Fund in 2007 found that 36 percent of individuals had been turned down or charged a higher price for a preexisting condition.

An investigation by the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives showed that the nation’s four largest for-profit insurers covering close to three million individuals had turned down more than 600,000 individuals between 2007 and 2009. Moreover, during the same period they refused to pay medical treatment for a preexisting condition for more than 200,000 claims.

Those most closely affected were those 16 million Americans (in 2008) who held policies in the individual market and the additional 50 million who were uninsured.

However, transition between insurance is inherently frequent in a mobile society like the United States. A significant number of people in any given year lose their jobs. Both instances leave many Americans uncovered for at least part of the year, and potentially seeking insurance in the individual market.

Obamacare’s call for coverage

The pre-existing condition issue is one pretty much unique to the American health system.

The ACA sought to solve the issue through a variety of arrangements surrounding the insurance marketplaces including community rating, a minimum amount of benefits (the Essential Health Benefits), the elimination of annual and lifetime benefit limits, and subsidies.

In contrast, the American Health Care Act would allow insurers to charge higher premiums to those individuals.

The AHCA does offer some very limited funding to offset its negative effects. However, policy experts, providers and patient groups have described these as inadequate. The most recent Upton Amendment slightly increased this funding – something that possibly contributed to the law’s passage. But policy experts continue to see the funding as significantly too small.

Are we all in this together, or not?

Millions of Americans could potentially be affected by the changes under the new legislation.

The point is that pre-existing conditions remain ubiquitous in American society. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis a few months ago found 52 million Americans under age 65, or 27 percent of the population would not be able to obtain insurance on their own under pre-ACA conditions.

The situation was considerably worse in states like West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama, where more than one in three residents, according to the analysis, would not be able to.

Making sure that those among us with pre-existing conditions have health care is challenging and unquestionably costly. It also requires a degree of sacrifice, in terms of higher premiums, from those who, at any given point in time, are relatively healthy.

What is required is a degree of solidarity with our neighbors, friends and family members who, often through no fault of their own, have suffered from poor health. Not the least, it is a degree of solidarity with our own future selves as all of us could fall sick at any point in time.

Americans of all political persuasions seem to be willing to make the required sacrifices. Most Americans, including 63 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of Democrats in a recent poll, support the preexisting condition components of the Affordable Care Act.

Simon Haeder, Assistant Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

16:9 in English: The Original Function of Groucho Marx’s Resignation Joke

Forside Indhold i dette nummer Arkiv Abonnement In English

16:9 in English: The Original Function of Groucho Marx’s Resignation Joke


Groucho Marx sent the following wire to a Hollywood club he had joined: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”


Jokes that play on self-disparagement should not be taken at face value, as though they were unequivocally sincere expressions of the way in which the jokester actually perceives him- or herself. Sometimes the self-presentation involved is based on a fictional persona, propped up as a target of ridicule, such as the character Jack Benny played in his radio and television shows, when he gave new meaning to the concept of stinginess. The most memorable radio sketch was the one in which Benny is stopped by a mugger who says something like, “All right, buddy, your money or your life,” after which the continuing silence becomes funnier with every passing second. To mistake the fictional character who can’t decide whether he cares more about his own life or the money he is carrying at the moment, for the person pretending to be that character, would be stupid, even if one didn’t know that in his private life, Benny was notoriously generous in giving to charities.

It is also common for professional entertainers to base their jokes on a potential liability for their career – turning that liability into an asset. This is what George Burns did for decades, with self-disparaging jokes that call the audience’s attention to the state of his aging body and his presumed loss of sexual viability. For example at a show he did in 1974, at the age of 78, he made such cracks as: “At my age, the only thing about me that still works is my right foot – the one I dance with,” and “The only thing that gets me excited is if the soup is too hot.” Through these jokes, the comedian turns to his own advantage a condition which might otherwise interfere with his continued acceptance as a vital entertainer. Some comediennes use jokes disparaging their sexual attractiveness in much the same way, such as Phyllis Diller’s “I never made Who’s Who but I’m featured in What’s That,” and “Have you ever seen a soufflé that fell? – nature sure slammed the oven door on me.”

Fig. 1. Groucho Marx.



The present article is a slightly modified version of a chapter in the author’s book, Life Is Like a Glass of Tea: Studies of Classic Jewish Jokes (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1992), pp. 121-130.

One of the all-time classics of self-disparaging humor is Groucho Marx’s famous telegram. In reconstructing the situation in which the comedian actually used the telegram, I will try to show in a kind of “case study” of the joke, that the last thing on Groucho’s mind was any concern with his own failings as a human being. But first, a brief discussion of the way in which the joke was used by Woody Allen, will help to set the stage for our analysis.

Annie Hall

Soon after the opening credits of Annie Hall (1977), Woody Allen tells the “Resignation Joke” while facing the camera (fig.2), in his role as Alvy Singer (1):

The – the other important joke for me is one that’s, uh, usually attributed to Groucho Marx but I think it appears originally in Freud’s Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious. And it goes like this – I’m paraphrasing: Uh… “I would never wanna belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” That’s the key joke of my adult life in terms of my relationships with women. (Allen, 1983: 4)

This “key joke” functions here as a self-diagnostic tool enabling our hero – as well as the viewer – to conceptualize a particular neurotic pattern in the life of a person who allows his feelings of unworthiness to prevent him from wanting any woman who would want him. This self-diagnostic use of the joke is further developed in a subsequent scene in which Alvy Singer interrupts his love-making with Allison Portchnik, and succeeds in engaging her in a discussion of John F. Kennedy’s assassination (fig. 3-4). When Allison says: “You’re using this conspiracy theory as an excuse to avoid sex with me,” Alvy replies:

Oh, my God! (Then, to the camera) She’s right! Why did I turn off Allison Portchnik? She was – she was beautiful. She was willing. She was real… intelligent. (Sighing) Is it the old Groucho Marx joke? That – that I – I just don’t wanna belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member? (Allen, 1983:  22-23)

As already seen, Alvy attributed this joke to Sigmund Freud’s Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious (1905). Actually, neither the joke itself nor any likely forerunner appears in that book. Alvy’s creator was probably thinking of a joke which had appeared in Theodor Reik’s Jewish Wit in the following form (2):

Every day in a coffee house, two Jews sit and play cards. One day they quarrel and Moritz furiously shouts at his friend: “What kind of a guy can you be if you sit down every evening playing cards with a fellow who sits down to play cards with a guy like you!” (Reik, 1962: 57-8)

Alvy’s confusion of Reik’s book with Freud’s, takes nothing away from Woody Allen’s brilliant use of the joke in Annie Hall.

Virtually nothing has been written about the “Resignation Joke” in the literature on Groucho Marx. This is surprising, considering the notoriety enjoyed by the joke, especially since interest in it was revived by Woody Allen in 1977. Furthermore, none of the commentators who discuss the joke at all – Sheekman (3), McCaffrey (4), Wilson (5) and Arce (6) – raise the question as to why Groucho sent the famous telegram and what purpose it was intended to fulfill. The situation in which the telegram was sent will now be reconstructed, after which the original function of the “Resignation Joke” will be described, and an attempt will be made to account for its effectiveness in fulfilling that intended function.

The Friar’s Club Incident

We have two sources of information concerning the context in which Groucho Marx first used the “Resignation Joke.” The earlier of these sources is the biography written by the comedian’s son, Arthur Marx, who provided the following account:

[The actor, Georgie] Jessel has always been able to make Father laugh, and as a favor to him, he joined the Hollywood chapter of the Friar’s Club a couple of years ago. But Father doesn’t like club life, and, after a few months, he dropped out. The Friars were disappointed over losing him, and wanted to know why he was resigning. They weren’t satisfied with his original explanation – that he just didn’t have time to participate in the club’s activities. He must have another, more valid reason, they felt.

“I do have another reason,” he wrote back promptly. “I didn’t want to tell you, but since you’ve forced the issue, I just don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” (A. Marx, 1954: 45)

Since this biography appeared in 1954, “a couple of years ago” would place the incident somewhere in the vicinity of 1950-1952, assuming that a year or two may have elapsed between the writing and the publication of the book.

The other account we have was written by the comedian himself in the autobiography that was published in 1959. Much unpleasantness had apparently been omitted from the earlier record, perhaps out of discretion, in order to avoid offending anyone, or because any public criticism leveled at the club had to come from Groucho himself, and not his son. And even here, Groucho took the precaution of withholding the name of the club, which appears under the same alias (“Delaney”) that is jokingly applied to a number of parties portrayed in the autobiography in an unfavorable light.

Groucho begins by telling of his general aversion for clubs, and this is consistent with the earlier description in his son’s book, though here the aversion is concretized to a fuller extent:

I’m not a particularly gregarious fellow. If anything, I suppose I’m a bit on the misanthropic side. I’ve tried being a jolly good club member, but after a month or so my mouth always aches from baring my teeth in a false smile. The pseudo-friendliness, the limp handshake and the extra firm handshake (both of which should be abolished by the Health Department), are not for me. This also goes for the hearty slap-on-the-back and the all-around, general clap-trap that you are subjected to from the All-American bores which you would instantly flee from if you weren’t trapped in a clubhouse. (G. Marx, 1959: 320)

In the remainder of his account, specific grievances Groucho had against the Friar’s Club (alias “Delaney Club”) come to light:

Some years ago, after considerable urging, I consented to join a prominent theatrical organization. By an odd coincidence, it was called the Delaney Club. Here, I thought, within these hallowed walls of Thespis, we would sit of an evening with our Napoleon brandies and long-stemmed pipes and discuss Chaucer, Charles Lamb, Ruskin, Voltaire, Booth, the Barrymores, Duse, Shakespeare, Bernhardt and all the other legendary figures of the theatre and literature. The first night I went there, I found thirty-two fellows playing gin rummy with marked cards, five members shooting loaded dice on a suspiciously bumpy carpet and four members in separate phone booths calling women who were other members’ wives.

A few nights later the club had a banquet. I don’t clearly remember what the occasion was. I think it was to honor one of the members who had successfully managed to evade the police for over a year. The dining tables were long and narrow, and unless you arrived around three in the afternoon you had no control over who your dinner companion was going to be. That particular night I was sitting next to a barber who had cut me many times, both socially and with a razor. At one point he looked slowly around the room, then turned to me and said, “Groucho, we’re certainly getting a lousy batch of new members!”

I chose to ignore this remark and tried talking to him about Chaucer, Ruskin and Shakespeare, but he had switched to denouncing electric razors as a death blow to the tonsorial arts, so I dried up and resumed drinking. The following morning I sent the club a wire stating, PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT ME AS A MEMBER. (G. Marx, 1959: 320-321)

Allowances should certainly be made for a good deal of exaggeration in the account cited above. Much of it is tongue-in-cheek, and designed to entertain the reader. However, the basic picture, regarding Groucho’s attitude toward the Friar’s Club, can undoubtedly be taken at face value.

If the two accounts – the son’s and the father’s – are allowed to complete each other, we can conclude that the full sequence of events probably looked something like this:

1) Groucho allows himself to be talked into joining the Friar’s Club, though he doesn’t like clubs in general.

2) He quickly becomes fed up with this club in particular, because of what he sees as its low intellectual and ethical standards.

3) The last straw is the final offensive remark in a series of insults to which he is subjected by a member of the club.

4) Groucho notifies the club that he is quitting, inoffensively giving as his excuse that he just doesn’t have time to participate in the club’s activities.

5) Unhappy about Groucho’s resignation and sensing that there may be more to it than the comedian is letting on, club members press him for the “real” reason.

6) Wanting to be done with this entanglement once and for all, Groucho pretends to disclose the real reason in the famous telegram, and is left alone from then on.

Seen in this light, it is clear that the “Resignation Joke” was invented to fulfill a tactical purpose: that of extricating Groucho from an unpleasant situation, by discouraging any further efforts on the part of club members to obtain a fuller explanation as to his reasons for resigning. But why did it work? To some degree, the apparent self-disparagement may have had a disarming effect. However, I suspect that two properties of the telegram played an even more important role in enabling it to fulfill its intended social function.

One of those properties is a defiance of logic of essentially the same type as that found in impossible figures which induce cognitive confusion by violating their own logic in so logically compelling a manner that we cannot grasp how they fit together.

“Penrose triangle”

“Three-stick clevis” or
“Two-pronged trident”

When Groucho Marx couched his “explanation” in the form of an impos­sible figure, he confronted the club-members with a piece of reasoning that was as impregnable to logic as a “Penrose triangle” or “three-stick clevis,” and which undoubtedly mystified those who would otherwise have pressed him for the real reason for his resignation. There is simply no arguing with an impossible figure, or with a person who is capable of generating one, which in a game situation is like checkmate in the sense that it marks the end of the contest, allowing for no subsequent move.

The second property of the telegram which accounts for its effectiveness, is the fact that it was framed as a joke. In delivering his “explanation” in a form calculated to provoke laughter, Groucho made it difficult for the club-members to know how to react without looking foolish, especially since they were already implicated in the joke, as a collective butt. As one commentator put it–though not in connection with the famous telegram: “Groucho may be the most powerful clown ever. […] because Groucho has the power to turn us nonfools into his private stock.” (Despot, 1981: 671)

Furthermore, the comedian’s toying with shared ridicule may have func­tioned as a kind of negotiation on his part: signaling his preference for sever­ing the relationship in a playful spirit, as well as his willingness to assume (or pretend to assume) the blame for its failure, thereby sparing the club-members’ feelings in exchange for a clean break. It was also a means for telling them indirectly and unmistakably that they were no match for his wit.

In any event, the joke put an end to the club-members’ requests for an explanation, thereby fulfilling a very specific social function. In the process, of course, Groucho launched a hilarious “one-liner” which (he must have sensed) would be retold countless times, and would become a lasting part of his own comic profile.

Paradoxically, one of the most striking examples of a self-disparaging joke turns out to have been motivated by a wish on the jokester’s part to dissociate himself once and for all from a group of people to whom he felt superior.

– – –

Fig. 2. Woody Allen tells the “Resignation Joke” in Annie Hall.


(1) I have taken the liberty of correcting the typography of the title of Freud’s book.


Fig. 3. “You’re using this conspiracy theory as an excuse to avoid sex with me.”

Fig. 4. “Is it the old Groucho Marx joke?”


(2) For the publication history of this joke, see Life Is Like a Glass of Tea: Studies of Classic Jewish Jokes (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1992),  pp. 189-190.

(3) In his introduction to The Groucho Letters (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Arthur Sheekman wrote of the joke: “There, in a few satirical words, is one of the most astute and revealing observations about the self-hating, socially ambitious human animal” (p. 8).

(4) For Donald W. McCaffrey, the joke was a non sequitur, resulting from “a chain reaction of delightful pseudo-logic that almost sounded valid.” The Golden Age of Sound Comedy (South Brunswick and New York: Barnes, 1973), p. 74.

(5) Christopher Wilson described the “Resignation Joke” as an example of shared ridicule, through which “the joker derides himself and his audience simultaneously […] The message of shared disparagement being–’If you don’t mind me, you’ve got no taste!'” Wilson was also the first to identify the joke as “a variant of the famous Jewish joke–’What sort of a shmuck do you think I am? I’m not going to sit down and play cards with the sort of shmuck who’d sit down and play cards with me.” Jokes: Form, Content, Use and Function (London: Academic Press, 1978), p. 190.

(6) In his introduction to The Groucho Phile (London: W. H. Allen, 1978), Hector Arce was the first to set the telegram in its social context: Referring to the Friar’s Club of Beverly Hills, Arce wrote that Groucho “had some misgivings about the quality of the members, doubts which were verified a few years later when an infamous card-cheating scandal erupted there. When he decided to drop out of the group, he wrote: ‘Gentlemen: Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any social organisation that will accept me as a member'” (p. xv).


After completing this article, I found the following remark entirely by chance: “I can never be satisfied with anyone who would be block-head enough to have me” – a statement penned by none other than Abraham Lincoln in 1838 (7). Its possible significance in relation to Groucho Marx’s resignation joke will be considered in a future article.

(7) Letter to Eliza Browning (Mrs. Orville H. Browning) dated April 1, 1838. This letter is reproduced in its entirety in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler (New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 1953), Vol. 1, pp. 117-119, and can presently be accessed here or here.


Quatation record

Curiously enough, this one-liner is never quoted in precisely the same way by any two people. However, its underlying concept is so strong that the wording of the punch-line can be varied without in any way altering the impact of the joke. Here are twelve versions of the main sentence:

“I just don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

Arthur Marx, Life with Groucho. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1954; p. 45.

“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

Groucho Marx, Groucho and Me. New York: Bernard Geis, 1959; p. 321.

“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

Arthur Sheekman in Groucho Marx, The Groucho Letters. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967; p. 8.

“I wouldn’t belong to any organization that would have me for a member.”

Joey Adams, Encyclopedia of Humor. Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968; p. 359.

“I wouldn’t join a club that would have me as a member.”

Lore and Maurice Cowan, The Wit of the Jews. London: Leslie Frewin, 1970; p. 96.

“I wouldn’t belong to an organization that would have me as a member.”

Donald W. Mc­Caffrey, The Golden Age of Sound Comedy. South Bruns-wick and New York: Barnes, 1973; p. 74.

“I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.”

Woody Allen’s film, Annie Hall (1977).

“I don’t care to belong to any social organization that will accept me as a member.”

Hector Arce in Groucho Marx, The Groucho Phile. London: W. H. Allen, 1978; p.  xv.

“I don’t wish to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.”

Christopher P. Wilson, Jokes: Form, Content, Use and Function.. London: Academic Press, 1978; p. 190.

“I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member.”

William Novak and Moshe Waldoks, The Big Book of Jewish Humor. New York: Harper & Row, 1981; p. 85.

“I do not care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.”

Joseph Dorinson, “Jewish Humor. Mechanism for Defense, Weapon for Cultural Affirmation,” Journal of Psycho-History 8, 4  (1981);  p. 452.

“I do not wish to belong to the kind of club that accepts people like me as member.”

Leo Rosten, Giant Book of Laughter. New York: Crown, 1985; p. 227.

I have run into only one commentator who actually succeeded in butchering this joke:

“Another of the many stories about the Marx Brothers concerns Groucho, who is alleged to have applied for membership of an exclu­sive New York club. When he was told that his application was accepted he is said to have pointed out that no club with a good repu­tation could possibly accept Groucho Marx as a member–therefore he would rather stay away. And he did.” John Montgomery, Comedy Films. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954; p. 251.
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