• Every day I learn from the Twitter account @AfricanArchives

    For example, did you know that "James Hemings, brother to Sally Hemings, was the first American to train as a chef in France. He was enslaved by Thomas Jefferson at 8. In May 1784, Hemings received a summons to join Jefferson in Philadelphia. From there they traveled to Paris where he was trained in the art of French cooking. At a time when illiteracy was imposed on all African people, he was not only literate but fluent in English and French."

    There's much more at @africanarchives on Twitter.

    Thomas Jefferson also owned Sally Hemings, whom he sexually assaulted at least six times.

    For more on Sally Hemings and Jefferson, check out The Hemingses of Monticello, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, both by Annette Gordon-Read. For a discussion of sexual assault during slavery and the legal right to rape enjoyed by slave owners, see Saidiya Hartman's Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America.

    Hartman's book was recently reissued after 25 years,

    "…Her singular talents and analytical framework turn away from the "terrible spectacle" and toward the forms of routine terror and quotidian violence characteristic of slavery, illuminating the intertwining of injury, subjugation, and selfhood even in abolitionist depictions of enslavement. By attending to the withheld and overlooked at the margins of the historical archive, Hartman radically reshapes our understanding of history…This 25th-anniversary edition features a new preface by the author, a foreword by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an afterword by Marisa J. Fuentes and Sarah Haley, notations with Cameron Rowland, and compositions by Torkwase Dyson."

  • Brother Ali's "Uncle Sam Goddam"

    Inspired by the song "Mississippi, Goddam," Nina Simone's monumental and influential clarion against the violence of white supremacy and the whitewashing of white terrorism against Black people, Brother Ali's "Uncle Sam, Goddam" is both a historical narrative rewriting the triumphalist textbook history of US colonialism and a theory of change.

    As reported in Jazziz, released in 1964, "She wrote [Mississippi, Goddam] in an hour, out of anger and in response to the murder of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers in Mississippi on June 12, 1963, as well as the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963. It remains today one of her most famous, as well as one of her first protest songs."

    Ali's inspired version is also characterized by righteous anger.

    "Welcome to the United Snakes
    Land of the thief, home of the slave
    Grand imperial guard where the dollar is sacred and-
    Let's do this shit for real, come on now

    Smoke and mirrors, stripes and stars
    Stolen for the cross in the name of God
    Bloodshed, genocide, rape and fraud
    Writ' into the pages of the law, good Lord
    The Cold Continent latch key child
    Ran away one day and started acting foul
    King of where the wild things are daddy's proud
    Because the Roman Empire done passed it down".

    Ali is a poet, Hip-Hop artist, and member of Rhymesayers Entertainment. A brilliant lyricist,
    "Uncle Sam, Goddam" is fire truth that scorches the claim of innocent American victims fighting against tyranny and, instead, reveals the forgery of USian historical narratives about democracy and freedom. "Uncle Sam, Goddam," is history from below. The joint is track 12 on the 2007 album, The Undisputed Truth. The collage of still images and documentary footage in the official video provides a searingly unforgettable visual accompaniment to Ali's rewriting of political history. In this interview, Ali discusses the controversies spawned by the song and video.

    Ali's "two-decade resume includes eight critically-acclaimed albums, mentorships with iconic Hip Hop legends Chuck D and Rakim, and performances on late night shows with Jimmy Fallon and Conan O'Brien….When he's not rocking the mic at Coachella or being arrested for civil disobedience in support of marginalized communities, Brother Ali travels the world learning and teaching Islamic Spirituality under some of today's most renowned teachers….Brother Ali recently launched The Travelers Podcast from his new home in Istanbul, exploring life's journey with cultural, spiritual, and thought leaders from across the globe."

    For Ali, everyday people transform the world despite and in spite of other people in positions of political and economic power whose policy and legal goals, as well as the narration of history, are directed to reproduce the conditions of their continued domination.

    "At the end of the year add
    up what they subtracted
    Three outta twelve months your
    salary pays for that madness
    Man, that's savage
    What's left get a big ass plasma
    To see where they made Dan
    Rather point the damn camera
    Only approved questions get answered
    Now stand your ass up
    for that national anthem."

    The above link is to the live album recording of "Mississippi, Goddam" from Carnegie Hall. In this version from Sweden, circa 1965, you can see Simone and the band. The effect and affect are mesmerizing and unforgettable.

    Click here for an "Uncle Sam" Black Coach Jacket.

  • Arizona skaters ride bikes too

    Tim Ward (@wtairmd), co-founder of Skate After School and co-host of the podcast Vert Button, announced the "SkatersWhoBikeRideTM" event in October.

    "The first SkatersWhoBike Ride was a lot of fun," he recently posted. "About 30 skaters showed up. We rode about twelve miles, skated two parks, and stopped at four street spots, and no one got mangled by any cars! Looking forward to doing this again soon."

    Check out the video here.

    To participate, you don't have to live in Arizona, the Valley of the Sun. Start your own SkatersWhoBikeRide TM wherever your wheels roll. If skateboarding were a sport (It is not!), this would be some serious cross-training. Instead, it is like a consummation of the global phenomenon of Critical Mass and collective stunt wood magic, just rolling with the fun, making and taking space together.

    Tempe is looking a lot like Malmö. Here's Tim, on the right:

  • Police officer kills bystander who helped victim after Walmart shooting

    A Walmart parking lot, Center Township, Pennsylvania. A person is shot. A second person helps. A third person, after demanding they move away, pushes and tackles the second person so hard they hit their head on the ground and eventually die.

    The first person was shot near their car. Kenneth Vinyard was the second person. The third person was a Center Township police officer. The officer only identified himself after inflicting the fatal injury.

    Joel Sansone, the family's attorney stated, "On behalf of his fiancé and his family. I am demanding action. This officer should be immediately suspended pending the outcome of this investigation but the facts as I've been told he should be arrested and charged with manslaughter at the very least."

    The State Police are investigating. Video surveillance is pending.

  • When some Christians were pro-choice and pro-segregation

    What is the function of the myth of separation of church and state? What is the relationship between capitalism and Christianity? What is the relationship between the Puritan view of the chosen, "elected" few that could be saved and the prosperity gospel or entrepreneurial Protestantism? What is a Christian nation? How can religious doctrine be democratic law?

    Until the 1960s, some Christian sects were pro-choice and supported birth control for Malthusian reasons of population control and maintaining a healthy Christian marriage. In "Below-the-belt-politics," Scott Flipse writes, "As new attitudes about sex crept into the cultural mainstream, evangelical marriage manuals began to describe explicitly the joys of recreative sex. The manuals continued to view sex as proper only within the bonds of marriage, but they were effusively and enthusiastically excited about marital sex."

    "Evangelical leaders gave their consent to couples using artificial forms of family planning. They backed this claim with an appeal to act in the 'liberty of good conscience before god.' The vision of 'the good Christian life' expected married couples to have a healthy and robust sex life, but did not require them to have large families."

    When does a fetus have rights? What is a fetus?

    According to Flipse's research, the fetus " as a developing life…did not necessarily have a soul at conception." Paul Hewitt, a Harvard-trained theologian, concluded that in a fetus, there was "potential life, but not fully human." Bruce Waltke, also trained at Harvard as a biblical scholar, noted that the status of the mother and the unborn child were not the same and that "the Old Testament 'did not equate the fetus with living persons,'" and therefore, the fetus does not yet have a soul.

    When does the soul enter a fetus, and when can a viable claim be made for legal protection? This all presupposes that souls exist.

    As ethical and political discussions on human reproduction and the momentum of civil rights movements increased, these "below-the-belt" politics revealed their entire body of issues. As editor of Christianity Today, Harold Lindsell organized a broad-based political force bringing together conservative Catholics, Protestant Evangelicals, and Protestant Fundamentalists. This configuration brought together sects that had previously disagreed on spiritual and social issues—engaging in sexual politics impacted how that engagement shaped political action.

    But all this was subterfuge. "The Religious Right and the Abortion Myth," by Randall Balmer at Politico, explains,"The history of that movement, however, is more complicated. White evangelicals in the 1970s did not mobilize against Roe v. Wade, which they considered a Catholic issue. They organized instead to defend racial segregation in evangelical institutions, including Bob Jones University. To suggest otherwise is to perpetrate what I call the abortion myth, the fiction that the genesis of the Religious Right — the powerful evangelical political movement that has reshaped American politics over the past four decades — lay in opposition to abortion."

    The relationship between defending racial segregation and shifting to anti-abortion politics is not such a stark binary. Instead, population control and the inculcation of conservative Christian values (we cannot forget the historical and ongoing use of the Bible to justify slavery, discrimination, and the targeting of specific groups) within policy and law has a long history.

    The anti-abortion coalition that emerged in the 1970s wove together a politics of racial segregation and anti-choice positions, clearly in line with gendered ideas of social roles and the power of the patriarch – father on earth as in heaven.

    The Politico article further explains the relationship between the IRS and the tax-exempt status of churches, racial segregation, and voting during the 1970s. "Abortion did not take hold among evangelicals until the eve of the 1980 presidential election, the result of assiduous promotion by Weyrich, Falwell and other leaders of the Religious Right following the 1978 midterms….Opposition to abortion, therefore, was a godsend for leaders of the Religious Right because it allowed them to distract attention from the real genesis of their movement: defense of racial segregation in evangelical institutions. With a cunning diversion, they were able to conjure righteous fury against legalized abortion and thereby lend a veneer of respectability to their political activism."

    As Flipse concludes, "It was this new anti-abortion coalition that became the intellectual foundation and activist base of the New Religious right, which would emerge full-force in the late 1970s and would find its greatest political influence when linked to the resurgent conservatism of Ronald Reagan."

    The genesis of the religious right has many origin stories. Understanding the relationship between the different threads reveals the ideological links between racial segregation, population control, and sexual and reproductive politics. Check out this interview with Frank Schaeffer, a former propagandist for the Christian right, about his regrets about participating in the movement.

  • Project Mushroom, a "complete social community ecosystem", among emerging alternatives to Twitter

    "Apartheid Clyde" now owns Twitter and droves of people are looking for alternatives. Mastodon Social is on the radar screen, yet there are still some questions and concerns with the platform. If you are interested in other emerging options, check out "Try Project Mushroom."

    On November 4, 2022, meteorologist Eric Holthaus announced, "Project Mushroom is working with ex-Twitter employees, open-source advocates, and justice champions to build a complete social community ecosystem where people can feel heard, valued, and interact personally with their favorite creators."

    "Project Mushroom is designed to reclaim power from the scorched earth policies of billionaires on a warming planet. We are building the world that needs to exist because there is no time to waste. We intend for this to be a safe place for creators and their communities to connect and share ideas. We are so excited for you to join us!"

    To help Twitter users find a new home, "Project Mushroom is working on automating the process of migrating your Twitter account to Mastodon *including* support for finding all of your followers & automatically notifying them of how to follow you in an easy step-by-step process (in about 5 min)."

    Hopefully, Mastodon won't quickly get musky.

  • Did Mike Tyson smoke too much of his "Undisputed Cannabis" weed before meeting with Tony Hawk?

    In the short Instagram clip embedded below, legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk gives boxing champion Mike Tyson a specially designed skateboard from his company Birdhouse. Tyson's balance on the board, well, needs some better footwork. The short clip has been making the rounds, will various versions of "knock-out" jokes.

    Undisputed Cannabis, Tyson's signature brand, was launched in February 2022. With strains like "Pound for Pound" and "Knockout OG," perhaps his imbalance was a testament to the power of his ganja

    As for Undisputed Cannabis, "It started with the undisputed heavyweight champ using cannabis to reach new heights. When Mike was in his prime, he used cannabis to relax his body and focus his mind. It was always a tool close by that aided him in reaching the heights he did in his amazing boxing career. In Mike's words, "Cannabis has always played an important role in my life. Cannabis has changed me for the good both mentally and physically, and I want to share that gift with others who are also seeking relief." Who will interview Tyson about what strains were good for body shots and headshots? In other words, does Iron Mike prefer Indica or Sativa? Mike?

    Tyson isn't the only former professional combat sports athlete to put their name on some bud in 2022, though he is not running the company. Rick Flair has also gotten into the game. His line

    "Ric Flair Drip" is marketed under Tyson 2.0. Hawk, Flair, and Tyson are the ultimate triad collaborations from the 1980s.

    Celebrity sponsorship is the backbone of weed companies. Run by corporate giants like Verano, Curaleaf, Harvest, and other national corporations, Ronald Reagan, perhaps the most famous celebrity turned corporate spokesperson, anti-communist crusader, and former leader of the free world, would be proud.

    Or maybe not, as Reagan publicly stated that "marijuana was probably the most dangerous drug in the United States." Read here about how marijuana ruined Ronald and Nancy's (Reagan's) Valentine's Day. Check out this clip of Tyson and Flair sharing a blunt.

    Check out the official video for "Rick Flair Drip" with 21 Savage, Offset, and Metro Boomin.

  • Pirate e-book site goes dark, boarded by the feds

    Z-Library, a popular pirate e-book site, was shut down by the Department of Justice.

    As Fast Company's Jude Kramer reports, "The exact circumstances of Z-Library's shutdown are still unclear. Some of its many domain names simply won't load. Others lead to a message reading: "This domain has been seized by the United States Postal Inspection Service in accordance with a court order." However, in response to a request for comment, the Postal Inspection Service wrote that "this case was inadvertently credited to Postal Inspectors," and directed media requests be sent to the Department of Justice (The DOJ declined Fast Company's request for comment.)."

    TikTok is the culprit for the most recent enthusiasm for Z-Library. The Author's Guild has been a vocal critic of these sites: "The hashtag #zlibrary on popular social media platform TikTok has 4 million views, in reference to the countless videos posted by college and high school students and others across the world promoting it as the go-to place for free ebooks," the Guild wrote, adding, "So far there have not been any significant enforcement actions against Z-Library of which we are aware."

    Controversially "all the rave," like Napster in its heyday, there are other pirate sites on the high seas of printed knowledge.

    For a brilliant book about motley crews, radical democracy, and anti-capitalism, check out Villians of all Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age by Marcus Rediker.

    "This novel interpretation shows how sailors emerged from deadly working conditions on merchant and naval ships, turned pirate, and created a starkly different reality aboard their own vessels. At their best, pirates constructed their own distinctive egalitarian society, as they elected their officers, divided their booty equitably, and maintained a multinational social order.

    This unprecedented social and cultural history of pirates proves that the real lives of this motley crew – which included cross-dressing women, people of color, and the "outcasts of all nations" – are far more compelling than contemporary myth. Pirates challenged and subverted prevailing conventions of race, class, gender, and nation, posing a radical democratic challenge to the society they left behind. They dared to play the rebellious villain on a floating international stage. The authorities hanged them for it, but the pirates triumphed in the end, winning the battle for the popular imagination in their own day and in ours."

    Long live the motley crew!

  • What is inside an apartment in Paris abandoned for 70 years?

    What do Micky Mouse, a taxidermied ostrich, and dusty furniture have in common? As reported in Play Junkie, a team of researchers was given exclusive access to an abandoned Parisian apartment with a colorful history. Elated, the researchers had an opportunity for urban time travel.

    Led by auctioneer Olivier Choppin-Janvry, the researchers were deployed "to create an inventory of each item which prevailed in the Parisian time-capsule, and, if possible, develop a valuation of them all. The team had no idea as to what they would find in the apartment and were unsure as to whether or not anything had been left behind when the couple fled. Once inside the apartment, the team was astonished to discover the apartment to be almost in full working order. Each room was still immaculately decorated, equipped with furniture and items which would have made it a home."

    Time had left its indelible sooty mark on the apartment, and the still-shot of history is an intriguing and elusive find. "Every item in the property was covered in thick layers of dust, but everything remained untouched and just as it would have appeared 70 years earlier. The team reported that it felt like they were stepping back in time, almost as though they were in an alternate universe."

    "The group of investigators established a theory about the desolate apartment. They concluded that the war had forced Mrs. de Florian to flee the home, to the safer countryside of southern France, therefore leaving their once beloved home completely frozen in time." Check out the remainder of the article for more images and details of what was found inside.

    Previously: Devin Nealy posted about a rare painting, "The Depiction of Madonna and Child," found in an abandoned north London bungalow.

  • Indigenous Futures, a zine from Abalone Mountain Press

    Amber McCrary is the founder of Abalone Mountain Press, "A place for indigenous writers to dismantle the canon." She was interviewed by the Fronteras Desk on KJAZZ, Phoenix public radio.

    The interview, "Diné artist Amber McCrary's new zine collaboration imagines Indigenous futurism," traces the origins of the idea for Abalone Mountain Press to a zine for Indigenous people first imagined by Berkeley Ethnic Studies Ph.D. student Sierra Edd (Diné), titled "Portals of Indigenous Futurism." The collaboration on the Zine includes Chanti Jung, Julie Fiveash, and Edd.

    "Abalone Mountain Press is a Diné woman-owned press existing on occupied Akimel O'odham and Pee-Posh land. The meaning behind Abalone Mountain comes from the Diné name(Dookʼoʼoosłííd) for the so-called San Francisco peaks in Flagstaff, Arizona. Abalone Shell Mountain is one of the four sacred mountains for Diné. The owner of Abalone Mountain press, Amber McCrary grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona therefore, this sacred mountain is near and dear to her heart and among many Diné and Hopi folks."

    Check out the store for chapbooks, stickers, and zines. The press also produces a podcast series that focuses on "one Native or BIPOC writer on their creative process, life perspectives and tips on writing." Episode #6, "On growing up O'odham," features Ruben Cu:k Ba'ak discussing the "use of names through colonization, connecting back to tribal (Tohono O'odham ) roots, addiction, native masculinity and growing up on the reservation in Southern Arizona."

  • Brazilian musician Curumin, Solesides, and DJ Shadow

    In 2005, Curumin, the Brazilian musician, artist, and songwriter born Luciano Nakata Albuquerque, re-released his debut album, Achados E Perdidos (Lost and Found), on Quannum Projects label Solesides. For the Hip Hop heads out there, you know, Quannum was a Bay Area Hip Hop collective, locals that made phat world-hopping beats. Curumin is an accumulation of Brazilian musical history, from Samba ala Antonio Carlos Jobim to funk, contemporary house, and Hip Hop. All layered and oozing percussions dreamy universe of body-shaking rhythms, these songs need to be remembered, reintroduced, and replayed as widely as possible.

    Luciano was "born in Brazil to Spanish/Japanese parents, [and] early on earned the moniker Curumin, a term reserved by indigenous Brazilians for their more precocious children. It was the 1970s in Sao Paulo, and with his older brother, Curumin began his journey through the world's music, from Jorge Ben to Devo to Bebeto. By the time he was 8, he'd already formed his first rock band with classmates, with pots and pans substituting for a proper drum kit. Within two years he'd formed another band, this time an instrumental funk group called ZU. By the time he was 14 he was already a percussionist at Sao Paulo's top clubs. By 16 he'd taught himself to play keyboards as well." Curumin's debut album reflects this intensely creative genealogy.

    Quannum's lineup included Chief Xcel, DJ Shadow, Gift of Gab (RIP), Lyrics Born, Blackalicious (Xcel and Gab), Joyo Velarde, Lifesavas, and skateboarding legend Tommy Guerrero.

    As this 2005 San Francisco Weekly article, "Quannum Mechanics: The amazingly true tale of the Bay Area's greatest hip hop success story," explained, "The seeds of the Quannum family tree were planted in the sleepy town of Davis (population 50,000). In Davis during the early '90s, the right place for a hip-hop fan to be was to the left of the dial, specifically Jeff Chang's KDVS radio show.

    "The radio show would be a magnet for the crews that would eventually form the Solesides label and Quannum Projects collective. Jeff Chang is also the author of Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation. The first edition contained a CD with samples and narration telling the history of Hip Hop through sound. The SF Weekly article tells the whole story and is worth checking out.

    In 2021, Solesides released, A Goodwill Projects' latest joint, "ReEndtroducing: The Second Album, "a 61-minute journey into a Quannum space and time of 2 original works. Exploring a commingled world where after 25 years, DJ Shadows 1st full-length album is infused and enveloped with 2nd album."

  • "Where do they go?" is an accessible and tender children's book about death

    Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a two-day celebration and remembrance of family and friends who have passed on to their ancestors. Convening in cemeteries and homes, altars are made with pictures, favorite foods and libations, candles, copal, and other incense, and flowers, specifically bright yellow cempasúchil, or flowers of the dead—marigolds in English.

    A celebration and a convening, November 1st is dedicated to children, while the 2nd is for adults. Contrary to the puritanical approach to death, which is to ignore death or monetize it through a market purchasing insurance policies, Día de Muertos reminds us that those who have passed are always with us. Death is not some long, faraway possibility, but the other side of life is always present.

    With origins in indigenous communities in Central Mexico, how did the ceremonies honoring the dead come to be on November 1st and 2nd? The answer. The Catholic Church: All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Much ink has been lettered about the use of Catholicism for control and domination, particularly the assimilation of indigenous spiritual practices. Check out the research of Mary J. Andrade, who has written extensively about Día de Muertos.

    I want to take this opportunity of Día de Muertos to introduce the book Where do they go? by Julia Alvarez and illustrated by Sabra Field. An accessible and tender book about death, written for children and to perhaps guide a conversation with adults, the book asks, "When somebody dies, where do they go? / Do they go where the wind goes when it blows? … Do they wink back at me when I wish on a star? Do they whisper, 'You're perfect, just as you are'? …" You can listen to the book on MsKingsHomeroom Youtube Channel.

    "Born in New York City, Julia Alvarez moved to the Dominican Republic with her Dominican American parents when she was an infant. In 1960, though, the political situation forced the family to return to New York. Alvarez has explained that the experience of being forced to refine her English upon returning to the United States made her very aware of language—good training for a writer. In 2013, she received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama. Alvarez's poetry often explores her identity as a Dominican American. Alvarez has also written many novels, including Afterlife (2020), Saving the World (2007), A Cafecito Story (2002), and In the Time of Butterflies (1994), which was set during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and adapted into a motion picture released in 2001." Here is a link to the trailer for the film.

  • "Kill the Overseer!", a book about slave resistance in video games

    In her new book Kill the Overseer! The Gamification of Slave Resistance, Sarah Juliet Lauro looks at slavery and rebellion as motivational elements in video games. Does it lead to empathy or desensitization? Is it empowering? What happens in our brains, minds, and hearts when we play video games that dehumanize people, while also providing the possibility for redemption and justice?

    An assistant professor at the University of Tampa, Lauro "questions whether the reduction of a historical enslaved person to a digital commodity in games such as Mission US, Assassin's Creed, and Freedom Cry ought to trouble us as a further commodification of slavery's victims, or whether these interactive experiences offer an empowering commemoration of the history of slave resistance."

    Kill the Overseer! profiles and problematizes digital games that depict Atlantic slavery and "gamify" slave resistance. In video games emphasizing plantation labor, the player may choose to commit small acts of resistance like tool-breaking or working slowly. Others dramatically stage the slave's choice to flee enslavement and journey northward, and some depict outright violent revolt against the master and his apparatus."

    In this review, Isabel Williams explains, "Lauro urges readers to join her in staring at what she calls the "void," as she works through the absence of celebratory monuments to slave resistance and revolts. This silence depends on a specific understanding of the slave and of what the figure of the slave allowed for."

    Check out two articles on Assassin's Creed as a digital pedagogical tool here and here.

    Near-contemporary prints depicting the Haitian Revolution (public domain)
  • The contested legacy of the Texas Rangers

    A new podcast from Texas Monthly magazine, "White Hats," explores the history and ongoing legacy of the Texas Rangers. It airs on November 15, 2022.

    Immortalized in movies and TV shows, from post-WWII westerns to Walker, Texas Ranger, "On the eve of the Rangers' 200th anniversary, "White Hats" explores the Rangers' true place in Texas history." The phrase "true place" makes me nervous. The myth of the Texas Rangers upholding law and order in the U.S-Mexico border region and the greater Southwestern United States is not simple.

    "For many Texans, the white hats became synonymous with justice and protection. But many other Texans grew up hearing haunting memories of "los Rinches," and the violence they visited upon Mexicans and Mexican Americans a century ago."

    As the host Jack Herrera, explains in the podcast trailer, "When you grow up in Texas you're raised on the symbols that defined this place: the heroes of the Alamo, wildcatters in the old fields, and the Texas rangers. No, not the baseball team. Instead, picture this: A stoic steely-eyed man with a silver star pinned onto his shirt. And he is wearing a white Stetson hat. The Rangers… offer a vision of righteous, self-reliant, principled, and powerful Texans. This is a search for what defines Texas, or who gets to be Texan, or American, for that matter."

    I grew up hearing these stories of organized state-sanctioned and extra-legal violence against Mexican and Indigenous populations. Yet more than stories, these mythological tales had a pedagogical function of reinforcing the idea of European and USian superiority. Because the Rangers are the reference for male protagonists in Hollywood westerns and frontier patriarchal masculinity, as well as movies about battling "aliens," the meanings given to their actions resonate in the present "heart of darkness" of this USian gunfighter nation.

    Consider this quote from Ranger Napolean Agustus Jennings, "We paid visits to Matamoros [across the border from Brownsville, Texas] after nightfall. We went there for two reasons: to have fun, and to carry out a set policy of terrorizing the Mexicans at every opportunity…Each Ranger was a little standing army in himself." A 1922 New York Times article stated, "The killing of Mexicans without provocation is so common as to pass almost unnoticed."

    The Ranger was the nation, a one-person standing army. Impunity and violence as diversion and fun. Empire as an experiment. The Ranger was a land speculator. The Ranger was a judge. As historian Roxanne Dubar-Ortiz explains in her book,Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, the first armed slave-owning Indian-killing ranger/land speculator was George Washington.

    This story of the Texas Rangers as a heroic band of law-abiding citizens is a historical myth. The Texas Rangers were criminals and murderers, enacting justice through violence and reinforcing the power and infrastructure of Anglo-American economic and political interests.

    As Dunbar-Ortiz writes, "Having perfected their art in counterinsurgency operations against Comanches and other Native communities, the Texas Rangers went on to play a significant role in the U.S. invasion of Mexico. As seasoned counterinsurgents, they guided U.S. Army forces deep into Mexico, engaging in the Battle of Monterrey. Rangers also accompanied General Winfield Scott's army and the Marines by sea, landing in Vera Cruz and mounting a siege of Mexico's main commercial port city. They then marched on, leaving a path of civilian corpses and destruction, to occupy Mexico City, where the citizens called them Texas Devils. In defeat and under military occupation, Mexico ceded the northern half of its territory to the United States, and Texas became a state in 1845. Soon after, in 1860, Texas seceded, contributing its Rangers to the Confederate cause. After the Civil War, the Texas Rangers picked up where they had left off, pursuing counterinsurgency against both remaining Native communities and resistant Mexicans."

    These stories about the Texas Rangers are like statues honoring the Confederate South. We must reckon with their ongoing presence and influence on the current political moment, given the return to Territorial Law in some states and the practices and logic of Jim Crow America that is becoming more commonplace and increasingly accepted.

    The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas, by McArthur "Genius" award winner Monica Muñoz Martinez, explores how "Between 1910 and 1920, vigilantes and law enforcement—including the renowned Texas Rangers—killed Mexican residents with impunity. The full extent of the violence was known only to the relatives of the victims. Operating in remote rural areas enabled the perpetrators to do their worst: hanging, shooting, burning, and beating victims to death without scrutiny. Families scoured the brush to retrieve the bodies of loved ones. Survivors suffered segregation and fierce intimidation, and yet fought back. They confronted assailants in court, worked with Mexican diplomats to investigate the crimes, pressured local police to arrest the perpetrators, spoke to journalists, and petitioned politicians for change."

    As Melissa del Bosque recently wrote in The Border Chronicle, "In September [2022], a group of unarmed Mexican migrants came under attack as they crossed through Hudspeth County, Texas. One of them was shot to death, and another was seriously wounded. Covering this incident in an October 17 article, The New York Times called Hudspeth County "a new focal point in the nation's increasingly contentious immigration debate."

    The Texas Rangers are on the case.

    "According to a Texas Ranger affidavit, 60-year-old twin brothers Michael and Mark Sheppard parked their truck at a watering hole for cattle near the county seat of Sierra Blanca, where a group of Mexican migrants had stopped for water. As the men approached, the group hid behind some bushes, and the brothers allegedly taunted them, yelling, "Come out, you sons of bitches, little asses!"

    As you anxiously wait for the podcast, check out the educational web project Refusing to Forget.

  • Why is New York City perceived as the most dangerous city in the Galaxy?

    It would not be an exaggeration to note that the assumption that New York City is more dangerous and violent than other areas of the United States, both rural and urban, is an intergalactic legend. A myth, in fact, according to this Bloomberg essay by Justin Fox, "New York City Is a Lot Safer Than Small-Town America."

    Fox concludes from examining data, charts, surveys, and studies, "Rising homicide rates don't tell the whole story. When you dig deeper into data on deaths, you'll find the more urban your surroundings, the less danger you face."

    Providing a brief pre-pandemic historical context of crime data in NYC, the discussion includes homicides, car crashes, and other external causes of death in comparative urban areas and between urban and rural areas. Fox concludes with the US's safest towns, counties, and metro areas. Consider spending some time and thought on the disaggregated data, especially the charts and maps. See what might surprise you.

    Fox concludes, "Even the safest areas in the US remain killing fields compared with most of Western Europe. In Paris, the city described in 2016 by presidential candidate Donald Trump as "so, so, so out of control, so dangerous," the homicide rate in recent years has been well below one death per 100,000 residents, and traffic deaths below three per 100,000, meaning that Parisians face a combined risk from those two sources about one-third that of New Yorkers. So there's lots of room for improvement in New York City. There's just even more room for improvement almost everywhere else in the US."

  • Federal judge orders armed right-wing goons intimidating Arizona voters to knock it off–and to post a truth online

    Federal U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi ordered the founders of Clean Elections USA, the group posting armed vigilantes to intimidating voters in Arizona, to post on social media that it is legal to drop off ballots for another person in some cases.

    "Defendants shall, within 24 hours of the date of this order, post the following in a conspicuous place on Clean Elections USA's website and on the Truth Social page, @TrumperMel, and leave it posted through the close of voting on Election Day 2022: a. 'It is not always illegal to deposit multiple ballots in a ballot drop box. It is legal to deposit the ballot of a family member, household member, or person for whom you are the caregiver. Here are the rules for ballot drop boxes by which I ask you to abide:' The preceding statement shall be followed by a copy of the entire statutory text of Arizona Revised Statutes § 16-1005 or link thereto."

    AZ Central reported, "The legal wrangling comes after some voters dropping off early ballots at outside locations in downtown Phoenix and Mesa complained that groups of people were filming them and taking photos of their license plates. Some of the observers have touted the debunked film '2,000 Mules,' which states without proof that widespread ballot harvesting occurred during the 2020 presidential election. The situation has led Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone to patrol around the outdoor drop boxes."

    The mandated post on social media is in addition to an order of restraint to not engage voters, take pictures, or have visible guns and tactical gear. For more details on the ruling, and the role of Clean Elections USA, check out journalist Jen Fifield on Twitter. Fifield reports, "The group also cannot go through with its plan of claiming voters committed fraud just because they deposited multiple ballots in a drop box, posting or disseminating photos/videos of voters or their license plates."

    Maybe @Trumpermel should post on Twitter, where free speech shall soon cost only $8 a month.

  • Lula da Silva and zero deforestation

    Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidential election in Brazil against right-wing Trumpite Jair Bolsonaro. So many issues, problems, and policies to discuss. Will Bolsonaro, and his supporters, go quietly in the night? What will the IMF impose? Is Lula good for the US empire?

    Graphic: Vox Media

    The graph above is a powerful image to understand the impact of political ideology on the earth's health and the capacity for human survival. The image illustrates how deforestation increased under the Bolsonaro regime. Privatization ideologies of extractive capitalism created policies and laws to expand and increase the further destruction of the Amazon in the name of profit and progress.

    As Diana Roy explained, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, "Large-scale deforestation of the Amazon began in the 1960s, but it has accelerated under Bolsonaro, reaching a fifteen-year high in 2021. Since taking office in 2019, his government has scaled back the enforcement of environmental laws and pushed to open Indigenous lands to commercial exploitation. When widespread fires broke out in 2019, Bosonaro rejected millions of dollars in aid from the Group of Seven (G7), claiming the G7 sought to infringe on Brazilian sovereignty.

    As reported in Vox, "Under President Bolsonaro, deforestation accelerated, threatening not only wildlife and Indigenous communities but also the global climate. But Lula has promised to give the forest a second chance. "Let's fight for zero deforestation," Lula said Sunday night after his victory. "Brazil is ready to resume its leading role in the fight against the climate crisis, protecting all our biomes, especially the Amazon forest."

    For more on Lula and the Worker's Party, check out, Without Fear of Being Happy, and Lula and the Workers Party in Brazil.

    Check out CFR's Deforestation in the Amazon project with videos, summaries of studies, graphs, and timelines of the effects of extractive industries and other educational tools. This project provides a detailed and in-depth history of extractivist politics in Brazil.

  • Using AI to find open cameras recording near where Instagram shots are taken Photo of CCTV camera by Rafael Parr

    Dries Depoorter created a fantastic and fear-inducing technology, "The Follower." It accesses "open cameras and AI to find how an Instagram photo is taken," tracing, cross-referencing, and correlating time stamps, geolocations, and surveillance networks.

    How does this work?
    1. Recorded a selection of open cameras for weeks.
    2. Scraped all Instagram photos tagged with the locations of the open cameras.
    3. Software compares the Instagram with the recorded footage.

    According to his webpage, "Dries Depoorter is a Belgium artist that handles themes as privacy, artificial intelligence, surveillance & social media. Depoorter creates interactive installations, apps and games."

    This Input Mag article by Chris Stokel-Walker, "A surveillance artist shows how Instagram magic is made," provides further details on Depoorter's intentions and the project's origins.

    "Depoorter, 31, gained attention last year for his project The Flemish Scrollers, which used AI to tag Belgian politicians distractedly scrolling on their phones during live-streamed meetings. Depoorter declines to share the usernames of any of those caught up in his latest project…Depoorter will reveal that The Follower came about out of boredom as he remotely observed the habits of an apparent influencer. "I've been doing projects with open cameras for years," Depoorter says. "One day, I was watching one camera, and there was a person taking photos for like half an hour, really professionally. That was the starting point." Depoorter manually searched for the resultant photos on Instagram using the platform's location-tagging functionality, but couldn't find them. So, he decided to code a tool that pulls in surveillance camera footage that is close to the ground — the better to identify people more accurately — and at tourist sites where people are likely to take photographs."

    Check out Depoorter's Instagram. These are two YouTube discussions of "The Follower," here and here. His TEDxTalk, "Privacy?" can be found here. Rob Bezchizza posted about Depoorter's Die With Me app here.

  • In conservative states, people die younger

    As reported in The Guardian, a new study correlates death rates by age to the conservative politics of red states. Published in Plos One, an online open-access peer-reviewed journal, and titled "U.S. state policy contexts and mortality of working-age adults," these highlights are alarming when the data is disaggregated. Correlating conservative policies, ideologies, and laws with increased mortality rates, living in a red state can kill you faster, i.e., younger.

    Punitive policies based on means-tested logics of punishment and vengeance, limited access to health care, urban zoning that aggregates polluting industries in specific neighborhoods, over-policing, right-to-work laws, under-funded public education, and generally ideologies that demand the evisceration of spending on the public, can lead to increased levels of mortality and earlier death.

    The research team that published the study concluded, "The large and growing mortality disadvantage of working-age U.S. adults may partly reflect changes in state policy contexts that have occurred in recent decades. Policies that promote gun safety, environmental protections, labor (e.g., minimum wage, paid leave), progressive taxation, and tobacco control are among the potentially important policy opportunities to address increasing working-age mortality at the macrostructural level. The health gains from such policies offer potential collateral benefits to families, the economy, workers, and the health care system. More studies are needed to assess how the increasing bundling of state policies into either left-leaning or right-leaning has affected the divergence in population health and mortality across U.S. states."

    This is an extensive study, and yet what I most appreciate about the publication are the sections on limitations, where the authors are upfront about areas that need more focus and new areas of research that could shed more light on the relationship between social policies and life expectancy.
    Consider the contemporary and historical implications of this research. First, on the upcoming elections in the US, The Guardian reports, "With federal and state midterm elections less than two weeks away, increased social spending in legislation passed by Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration has become a key issue in voters' minds. Joe Biden and other senior Democrats have sought to emphasise the success and necessity of such measures. But Republicans, who have presented such measures as irresponsible and contributing to inflation, are poised to retake the House and perhaps the Senate."

    Now, consider the historical implications of this research: people living in red states, states that are governed by politicians whose ideologies lead them to vote against any expenditure on the public, in turn preferring the privatization of life, might have been living under these conditions of premature death for longer than we have the data to demonstrate – yet.

  • Michael Rayner is redefining juggling

    What do Nicholas Cage, burning Burger King burgers, Annie Lennox, a parasol, and suburban landscapes have in common? They are some of the props and set for Michael Rayner's (@brokenjuggler) genius skills of balance, drama, and pillow-tossing accuracy.

    "Weirdly Experienced," you may have seen Rayner on various variety and talent TV shows or social media outlets – during COVID, he has racked up 100 million views on TikTok and Instagram. Rayner's accounts provide access to his uncanny performances of unconventional juggling. The most popular are spinning umbrellas with a rolling burning donut and/or burger and, in the other hand, a glitter-covered pillow that, when rubbed, reveals the fact of Nicholas Cage. Each short has its brief soundtrack, creating a soundscape with Annie Lennox, G-Mayne Da Wreck, and Johnny Cash. The finale is consummated with Rayner successfully tossing the Cage pillow over his shoulder into a basketball hoop in slow-motion joy.

    These shorts rearranged my brain a little bit. I will never look at a donut the same again. Or Nicholas Cage, for that matter. Other versions are equally creative, whacky, and with some strange talents and props, including appearances from squirrels, garden gnomes, and fire juggling tennis rackets. Here is his Youtube channel.

    Though it's not all Nicholas Cage and fire.

    "Last night Nicolas Cage pillow was in bed sleeping on his Travolta pillow. So I went out side in the shadows and did this." #jugglersquad #basketballplayer #newskills #oldmanstrength #shadows Set to the main theme from Knight Rider.

    See if you can find his tribute to skateboarding, set to Kenayeboi, "Tony Hawk."

    "Michael's show has been described as "preposterous brilliance" and "wacky jugglement," a combination of hilarious tricks and stunts with uproarious stand-up."