The Black Codes

So, Mike has been reading up a storm, and has been neglecting his duties as my blogging assistant. One of his recent books was “White Rage” by Carol Anderson, the chair of African-American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. In the book she wrote about the Black Codes which were enacted by the legislatures of 10 of the 11 Southern states that had seceded from the USA. Strangely, nobody Mike has asked had learned about this in their high school American History classes. Or maybe not so strangely. These codes succeeded in depriving blacks, whether former slaves or not, of basic human rights. President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Abraham Lincoln after the assassination, was from Tennessee, a former slave state. He saw equal rights for blacks as a disaster for whites and was quoted as saying, “This is…..a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men.” Likewise, the provisional governor of South Carolina said at their constitutional convention, “This is a white man’s government.” The Black Codes enacted, first in Mississippi, and then throughout the South, severely limited the freedom and rights of blacks. A great many blacks stayed on the plantations doing the same farm work they had always been made to do. Blacks who worked in towns were required to sign a labor “contract” with an employer which denied their right to seek better employment elsewhere for a year. If a man left his employment, for whatever reason, he was subject to arrest and return to his “master.” Most contracts required the worker to reside on the employer’s property, work sun-up to sundown 6 days per week, and not leave the property or receive visitors without permission. Wages were low and non-negotiable. Employers were authorized to whip their “employees” under age 18, but needed a judge’s order to whip older servants. An inducement to sign these contracts was the risk of being arrested for “vagrancy.” Anyone arrested for vagrancy could be put to hard labor and fined. A prisoner could be “hired out” at a public auction to an employer as a bondsman to work off the fine, often an impossibility. Vagrancy was a broad category which included being unemployed, loitering, frequenting brothels or drinking parlors, being disrespectful to a white man by word or gesture, or basically, by being black in public. Blacks were prohibited from fishing or hunting, owning knives or firearms, or to testify against a white man in a court of law. And so on and so forth….. just slavery by another name.

First appearing in North America, Black Codes were promulgated in 1685 for all the French Colonies by King Louis XIV, and issued almost unchanged in 1724 as the Louisiana Code Noir. Interestingly, the very first article in both codes says that Jews may not reside in the colony(s). (European countries and principalities, in particular, have a long history of kicking Jews out, and then, eventually, letting them back in again. Rarely, though, did Jews have the same rights as their Christian brethren until modern times.) Some choice items from the 54 articles of the Code Noir of 1685: Slaves must be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church; slaves belonging to different masters may not gather together under any circumstances; a slave who strikes his master or a member of the master’s family will be executed; fugitive slaves who have been absent for one month shall have their ears cut off and be branded; if they are absent for an additional month (or presumably, run away again) one of their hamstrings will be cut and they will be branded again; for a third offence the punishment is execution; masters who kill a slave will pay a fine; masters must provide food and clothing for their slaves even if they are old or sick; and so on and so forth.

Mike thinks that it reprehensible that the law is used as the underpinning of such horrors. What is worse is the complicity of religious agencies in this outrage. Mike thinks it is ironic that Cobb County, where we live in Georgia, is named for the author of a greater than 600 page treatise on slavery law. Thomas W. Cobb served as a member of the United States House of Representatives, then as a US Senator, and finally as a Superior Court Judge. Our city, Marietta, is thought to be named for his wife, Mary Cobb. So, the mistreatment of blacks, Jews, Indians, and other minorities in our country and elsewhere has a long and dreadful history. Mike thinks we can expect the struggle to continue with minorities demanding their full human rights, while others will try just as hard to deny them. A friend of Mike’s once defined politics as competition for limited resources. It’s more than that, but the point is a good one.

Some progress is being made in the sports world. Erik Moses has been named president of the Nashville Superspeedway,  a venue owned by Dover Motorsports. He is the first black man to hold the position of president at any NASCAR track. His previous job was as president of the XFL’s DC Defenders. And Jason Wright was named as the president of the Washington Football Team (formerly known as the Washington Redskins.) He is the fourth former player and first black man to serve as an NFL team president. Wright played for the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, and the Arizona Cardinals, and while a player served as the union representative for the Cardinals. He holds an MBA from the University of Chicago. Congratulations to both men. And condolences to the Caray family and everyone connected with the Atlanta Braves on the passing of Paula Caray, wife of the late Skip Caray, the legendary announcer who died in 2008.

In other milestones, we have just marked 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the USA. Mike thinks it’s amazing that at the time that he was born women had only had the vote for 23 years. It seems so right and natural that women should vote. The greater the participation of everyone in our democracy, the better it will be for everyone. And, I’m just saying, on another important topic, Black Cat Appreciation Day has just come and gone on August 17; and International Cat Day (World Cat Day) was August 8. National Black Cat Day will be on October 27, just in time for Halloween. I’m not making this up, and I admit it seems like a bunch of silliness. Cats deserve to be esteemed every day, especially black cats. And speaking of black cats, here is another picture of Magi, although he is much bigger now.


Magi is growing like a weed. He weighs almost 5 pounds. We had him to the vet for his shots last week, and he is good to go for a year. What a great little guy!


So, we had a little excitement over the weekend. Mike decided to have a couple of trees removed. One was hanging over the garage roof, and another one in front was hanging over our neighbor’s driveway and aiming at his house. Here is a picture of the worker up in the tree:


This was a river birch that Mike had planted when they moved in 36 years ago. I think you can see where they already removed one trunk. This is what it looked like after the tree was cut down:


Judy has wanted a pink dogwood, and now we have a nice spot for it. We will probably wait until spring to plant it. There might be room for two dogwoods.

A friend of Mike’s just called. He is sober 3 years today, a wonderful thing, and a cause for grateful celebration. I hope all of you have good things in your lives to celebrate as well. We are all certainly dealing with enough difficulties at this time; but things will improve. We even had a Zoom crash today, probably due to the increased use due to the start of school around the country.

Well, by all means stay healthy. Pray for world peace, be kind to everyone, wash your hands, and mask up. The more diligent we are about public health measures the sooner this mess will be over, and we will save lives. We have passed 5,000 deaths in Georgia, 175,000 nationally, and would like to put the brakes on. We love you all, and until next time, so long from Happy Meadows.

What a Week!

So, hello again from Happy Meadows. Not much has happened here or elsewhere, unless you want to consider: a 300 pound male black bear was captured recently a mile from our house and hauled off to north Georgia  where, we hope, he will be much happier; international cat day has come and gone; Joe Biden has picked Kamala Harris to be his Vice-Presidential running mate; the pandemic is pressuring decisions on school opening and on fall sports competitions; an explosion of unbelievable proportions took place in Beirut; and on and on. What a week, what a year!

Across the street today some tree trimming went on, during or after which our mailbox got thumped. Mike went out to look at it, and found a little frog had insinuated himself between the box and the support, his little throat vibrating like mad. Mike says he won’t fix the box until Gerald leaves voluntarily. (All our frogs are named Gerald, for some reason, and once you name a frog you have to treat it like family.) Here he is:


Magi has seemingly doubled in size since he came to live with us almost a month ago. He and Jackson have been helping Mike read, which they have found exhausting as evidenced by this photo:



He is a great little guy who loves to aggravate his siblings with games of chase and bite. We all tolerate it okay, that is, all of us but Ladybug. Yesterday Mike and I were in the living room when we heard a screech like the sound a cat makes when a 250 pound man accidentally steps on its foot, and Magi tore into the living room and hid under the couch. I didn’t think he was ever going to come out, but Mike got down on the floor and talked him out from under. There is a limit to what Ladybug will tolerate, and he will learn that limit, of that I am sure.

The hummingbirds have been at our feeder a lot lately. Mike got a few pictures. Here is the best one:


So, we hope you are as well as you can possibly be. Please stay safe, wear your masks, wash your hands, pray for the world, and enjoy the beauty all around us. Until next time, remember that we love you all. So long from Happy Meadows.

Magi – Out and About

So, Magi has been cleared to mingle with the rest of us cats, and he has been having a ball. He and Jackson love to chase each other around the house. When he first came out of his room Ladybug disappeared for a day. None of us knew where she was. She is starting to get over it, but hisses at Magi if he gets too close to her. Shayna Maidel still isn’t sure what to think of him, and thus far has shown no inclination to either play with him or to avoid him. Me, I think he is great! Here are a couple of pictures:



As you can see, he is adorable, and he loves his toy dragonfly. And speaking of bugs, look at what we encountered on a walk this past week.


It is a Robinson’s annual cicada, the common cicada that serenades us on these hot summer days with its love song.

So, with a big election coming up it is a good time to talk about what Mike says is the biggest weapon in the armamentarium of those who want to preserve the status quo. The weapon is voter suppression. This takes many pernicious forms, some of which go back hundreds of years, and some are of recent origin.

The newest game in town is the crippling of the United States Postal Service (USPS). The post office has been under duress for years. Some of the challenges have been the advent of electronic communication platforms and the competition of private companies in package delivery. Added to that was the law passed by Congress in 2006 which requires the postal service to fund the pension fund of every employee going forward 75 years. This ties up revenue unreasonably, it seems to me, and puts the USPS at a competitive disadvantage. The post office receives no government funding, relying entirely on revenues derived from the services it provides. But it can’t really run like a business, because it can’t set its own rates. Congress does that for them. In 2020, the post office has been hammered by the COVID pandemic. The workers are considered essential, so they have had more virus exposure than people who get to work from home. Tens of thousands have had to quarantine because of exposure to known COVID cases, which has slowed production because of the resultant understaffing.  And who knows how many have died since the beginning of the year? This has placed an increased burden on the timely delivery of the mail.

In this setting, we have a president who is determined to be re-elected by whatever means necessary. He believes that voting by mail will decrease his chances, and has been attacking absentee voting all year with his statements. He says that it is vulnerable to massive fraud, which has not been the experience of those jurisdictions where voting by mail is the norm. Congress authorized 10 billion dollars in emergency COVID funding for the USPS, but the money has not been released by the Treasury Department, which is demanding control over the USPS operations. Another loan of 25 billion has been passed by the US House of Representatives, but is being held up by the Republican controlled Senate.  Very recently a major donor to the Trump campaign, Mr. Louis DeJoy, was appointed Postmaster General. He has instituted changes designed to slow the delivery of the mail, such as not allowing overtime to workers. Mail delivery has been limited to once per day. Donald Trump has attacked the USPS, calling it “a joke.” He is calling for a 400 per cent increase in rates for package deliveries, which if instituted would accelerate the financial problems of the institution as more package delivery would be diverted to private carriers. And right now package delivery is the only postal service that doesn’t lose money.

All these moves, and more, are designed to cripple the post office which could be broke by October, and to severely impact voters who depend on the mail to vote. For example, many poor people, much more likely to vote for Democratic candidates, may be unable to get off work in order to vote. Even if they could get an hour off, say for lunch, long lines would make it impossible to vote, as polling places have been drastically reduced in number in many states, especially in minority neighborhoods. Many potential voters are burdened by lack of access to child care, lack of transportation to polling sites, or are elderly or disabled. This kind of maneuvering in order to win an election is unconscionable, but not surprising. Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey has said, “Attacks on the USPS threaten our economy and the jobs of 600,000 workers. With our states now reliant on mail voting to continue elections during the pandemic, the destabilizing of the post office is a direct attack on democracy itself.” Mike thinks he will be able to vote by mail this year. but if the issue is in doubt, even though his doctor has warned him to remain quarantined until he is vaccinated against COVID-19, he will vote in person. Mike says he loves his country enough that he would absolutely risk his life to cast a vote against Donald Trump. Mike was just reading the Tao Te Ching, a translation by Stephen Mitchell. Poem #18 says, in part, “When the country falls into chaos, patriotism is born.” Still as true today as it was 2500 years ago, give or take, and still a good thing.

Happy birthday to Medicare which just turned 55 on July 30. Medicare is a good example of something which was vigorously opposed by many when it was being debated, (mostly by those who are opposed to government control of much of anything)  but which has come to be highly valued by many people and institutions (such as the AMA) which originally fought its enactment into law.  It is kind of like white and black people in the South drinking from the same water fountain and thinking nothing of it. There must be a lesson in this.

We should find out this week who Presidential candidate Joe Biden is going to pick to be his running mate. Donald is getting so nervous that he suggested postponing the election. It should be an interesting time, and as the Chinese are said to wish upon their enemies, “May you live in interesting times.” I have a lot more to say about voter suppression, so stay tuned for my next blog. Until then stay safe, wear your mask, wash your hands, pray for your socially distant neighbors, practice the Golden Rule, and be nice to your cats and dogs. And speaking of dogs, some of our Happy Meadows dog owners are leaving little plastic bags of dog poo lying around instead of properly disposing of them. Come on now, you know who you are. How about starting to live a better life by going back out and picking up your little treasure’s little treasures? Thanks a heap, so to speak. We love you all. Bye bye!