Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys – "Oh, Death" (2000)

Oh, death
Oh, death
Won’t you spare me over till another year

It looks like death has spared you and me for 2015.  

Technically, of course, the year isn’t quite over.  But if we refrain from going out tonight, getting all liquored up, and then hopping in a car and driving like a maniac, we’ll almost certainly make it to 2016.

But what about 2017, or 2018?  How many more times will Death spare us over till another year?

Lloyd Chandler
There’s considerable disagreement over the source of today’s featured song.  Some scholars believe that “Oh, Death” was written in 1916 by Lloyd Chandler, a Free Will Baptist preacher from western North Carolina, after he received a vision from God.

Click here to read a 2004 article in the Journal of Folklore Research that gives Chandler credit for the song.  

Edvard Munch's "By the Deathbed" 
“Oh, Death” is a dialogue between a young man dying before his time and Death, who tells him exactly what he can expect:

I'll fix your feet till you can't walk
I'll lock your jaw till you can't talk
I'll close your eyes so you can't see
This very hour, come and go with me
I'm Death, I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold

The young man’s mother tries to comfort him, but to no avail:

My mother came to my bed
Placed a cold towel upon my head
My head is warm, my feet are cold
Death is a-movin' upon my soul

President Garfield on his deathbed
Desperate to live, the young man begs for mercy, then tries to bribe Death:

Oh, Death, please consider my age
Please don't take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you will move your icy hand

But Death is unmoved by his pleas:

The old, the young, the rich, the poor
All alike to me you know
No wealth, no land, no silver, no gold
Nothing satisfies me but your soul

The notorious “BTK killer,” Dennis Rader, killed ten people in the Wichita, KS area between 1974 and 1991. 

Dennis "BTK Killer" Rader
Rader wrote a poem titled "Oh! Death to Nancy" that was based on the lyrics to “Oh, Death."  (The poem was about his seventh victim, Nancy Fox.)  Rader was apparently familiar with a Wichita State University professor who had discussed “Oh, Death” in class.

Click here to read more about the BTK killer, who was finally apprehended in 2005 – which was 31 years after he killed his first victim and 14 years after he murdered his tenth and last victim.   (By the way, “BTK” stood for “bind, torture, kill.”)

“Oh, Death” was first recorded by the legendary banjo player “Dock” Boggs in the 1920s, and has been covered by a wide variety of musicians since then.  Ralph Stanley did an a cappella solo version on the soundtrack to the 2000 movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but we are featuring the 1977 cover of the song he did with the Clinch Mountain Boys.

Here’s “Oh, Death”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, December 28, 2015

Michael Jackson – "Smooth Criminal" (1987)

You've been struck by
A smooth criminal

Thirty years ago this month, 101 people showed up at the Washington Convention Center in response to an invitation to pick up a free pair of tickets to the Washington Redskins football game later that day.

Those who came to the Convention Center for a pregame brunch were also told that they would be entered in drawings for 1986 Redskins seasons tickets and a week-long, all-expense-paid trip to New Orleans for Super Bowl XX.  

A story in the December 16, 1985 issue of the Washington Post describes what happened to those who showed up:

While they waited for their tickets in a small room at the Convention Center, eating pastries and drinking coffee next to posters that urged "Let's party!", an emcee in white tails and top hat announced that he had a "surprise": They were under arrest.

The ticket winners stopped singing "Hail to the Redskins" as 28 deputy U.S. marshals and D.C. police officers, dressed in flak jackets and carrying shotguns, marched in, handcuffed them, and put them on a bus that went to D.C. Superior Court instead of to RFK Stadium.

The marshals move in
The letters promising Redskins tickets had been mailed to some 3000 individuals with outstanding criminal warrants by the U.S. Marshals Service.  It was all part of a sting operation called “Operation Flagship.”  

The Marshals Service said that 15 of the not-so-smooth criminals arrested that morning were wanted for assault, five for robbery, six for burglary, 19 for bond default or bail violation, 18 for narcotics violations, 59 for probation or parole violation, two for fraud or embezzlement, one for a weapons violation and the rest for a variety of charges ranging from rape to arson to forgery.  Two handguns were confiscated along with an undetermined amount of narcotics from the fugitives who showed up thats morning.

Five of the people arrested (including the son of a man wanted for murder) had gone to the Convention Center with a letter addressed to someone else, and were released after their true identities were confirmed.

A December 18, 2015 Post article talked about how the marshals suckered the fugitives:

[A]fter the unsuspecting guests arrived at the convention center . . . they checked in and were given name tags. The criminals entered a large room [where] officers dressed as Redskins cheerleaders conducted discreet weapons checks by offering hugs or arms around the shoulders.  A big screen TV played Redskins highlights, including John Riggins’s touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII.  There was no indication that the event was a setup.

More than 100 undercover law enforcement personnel . . . participated in the operation. . . . One marshal wore a Redskins headdress and another wore a knock-off San Diego Chicken suit.  Both carried guns.

The star of the sting was U.S. Marshal Louie McKinney.  More from the recent Post story:

One of the most important roles was played by the charismatic McKinney, who wore a tuxedo and large top hat as the party’s master of ceremonies.

[McKinney deputy Robert] Leschorn and his team decided that attempting to arrest 101 criminals in a large room at once was too risky, so the plan called for groups of 14-16 fugitives at a time to be escorted to another room upstairs, where they were told they would receive their tickets and hear a few remarks from McKinney.

McKinney wrote in a 2009 memoir about what he said to the criminals:

Knowing that many in this crowd were Redskins fans, I talked about the exciting upcoming game and interacted with them. We had a prearranged signal with the Special Operations Group, which was supposed to enter the room when it heard me say “surprise.” . . . “Today really is your lucky day,” I shouted above the conversations.  “And I’ve got a big surprise for you!” . . . With guns drawn, the SOG team swept into the room and surrounded the audience. The cheerleaders drew their weapons, as did the chicken and the Indian characters.

All the law enforcement people involved in the Redskins tickets sting believed it was a great success, and the local press applauded the operation.

But only a few of those who were arrested had been accused of committing a serious felony.  Many of the fugitives were wanted only for parole or probation violations.

Something else about this sting rubs me the wrong way, too.  I’m sure the operation was perfectly legal, but I don’t like the idea of the police lying to criminals to trip them up.  Two wrongs don’t make a right . . . right?

I was a government attorney for many years, and I always believed that law enforcers should hold themselves to a higher standard than their targets.  It’s not legal for hunters to spotlight their quarry, and I don’t think it’s kosher for government law enforcement officers to lie to fugitives in order to trap them.

Here’s “Smooth Criminal,” the seventh single from Michael Jackson’s 1987 album, Bad:

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Capitol Steps – "We Didn't Start Satire" (2011)

Clinton made a big mess
Who’d have thought she’d keep the dress?

The last 2 or 3 lines featured a song by the Capitol Steps, which has been a comedic institution here in Washington, DC, since the group was formed in 1981.  If one post about the Capitol Steps is good, two posts about the Capitol Steps is twice as good – right?

The Capitol Steps
I moved to Washington in 1977, but I never saw a Capitol Steps show until a week ago.  The group closed that show with a number called “We Didn’t Start Satire,” a parody of “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which was a #1 hit for Billy Joel in 1989.   

Here are the names of the politicians and other newsworthy figures who are mentioned in “We Didn’t Start Satire” (which is barely three minutes long): 

– Ronald Reagan
– Mikhail Gorbachev
– Lorena Bobbitt
– Walter Mondale
– Fidel Castro
– Fawn Hall

Oliver North's secretary, Fawn Hall
– Marion Barry 
– George H. W. Bush
– Al Haig
– Mike Dukakis
– Dan Quayle
– Pee Wee Herman
– O. J. Simpson
– Clarence Thomas
– Ross Perot
– Amy Fisher
– Tonya Harding

Ice skater Tonya Harding
– Bob Dole (“Sold pills that made you stiff”)
– Saddam Hussein
– Bill Clinton
– Monica Lewinsky

Bill and Monica
– Michael Jackson
– George W. Bush
– Al Gore
– Dick Cheney
– the “Dream Team”
– Howard Dean
– Strom Thurmond
– John Kerry
– Teddy Kennedy
– the “Unabomber”
– the “Octomom”

The "Octomom" then
The "Octamom" now
– Hans Blix
– Bill Frist
– Barack Obama (“Black guy, white momma”)
– Rod Blagojevich
– Justin Bieber
– Tiger Woods
– Larry Craig
– Bernie Madoff
– Tom DeLay 
– John McCain
– Mark Sanford (“A governor looks for tail on the Appalachian Trail”).

Gov. Mark Sanford and his Argentine "soul mate"
Here’s “We Didn’t Start Satire.”  Just think of it as a belated Christmas present from your friends at 2 or 3 lines.

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Capitol Steps – "Seventy-Six Unknowns" (2015)

Seventy-six unknowns will be candidates
With a hundred and ten more set to declare
In Des Moines every weekend morn
They’re lined up like rows of corn
And most just do not have a prayer

In 1981, Congressman John Jenrette’s soon to be ex-wife, Rita, posed for Playboy.  In the article that accompanied her pictorial, Rita claimed that she and her husband had once had sex on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during a break in an all-night session of the House of Representatives.  (By the time the article appeared, John Jenrette had been convicted of taking a $50,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent.)

Rita and John Jenrette
In honor of the Jenrettes’ trysting spot, a group of six congressional staffers who wrote song parodies inspired by current events in their spare time decided to call themselves “The Capitol Steps.”  

The group performed that December at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s staff Christmas party.  Today – 34 years later – the Capitol Steps are still performing.

Rita on the cover of Playboy
Last week, my daughters took me to see the Capitol Steps perform at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in downtown Washington.  By coincidence, the performance we saw was taped for the group’s annual New Year’s Eve show on NPR stations across the country.  (If you miss the radio broadcast, go to this Capitol Steps webpage and you’ll find a link that will allow you to download the show from iTunes for free.)

The original Capitol Steps were all Republicans, but their shows have always targeted politicians from both parties equally.  The night I saw them, they ridiculed Trump, Christie, Huckabee, George Bush, and other Republicans, but also skewered Obama, the Clintons, Joe Biden, and other Democrats.

A recent Capitol Steps performance
I think my favorite number was the one depicting Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor waiting on the third female justice, Elena Kagan, to come out of the Supreme Court ladies’ room.  (Ginsburg speaks longingly of the days when she was the only female justice and had the bathroom all to herself.)  Suddenly, the two women admit to one another that each has a big crush on conservative justice Antonin Scalia, warbling “(We Both Love a Man Named) Scalia” to the tune of “(I Just Met a Girl Named) Maria” from West Side Story.

“Seventy-Six Unknowns” – a song about the oversupply of Presidential candidates currently cluttering up town meetings and church suppers in Iowa and New Hampshire – is based on “Seventy-Six Trombones,” the most famous of all the wonderful songs from The Music Man.  While the Capitol Steps normally keep their lyrics relatively clean, the closing lines from “Seventy-Six Unknowns” show that the group isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect:

Seventy-six unknowns will campaign for months
And most of these candidates really stink
They’re not doing us any good
So we wish Bill Cosby would
Take them all out for a drink

Here’s “Seventy-Six Unknowns”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sublime – "Santeria" (1996)

I could find that heina 
And that sancho that she's found
I'd pop a cap in sancho and I'd slap her down

A good friend of 2 or 3 lines recently e-mailed me an AP story about the arrest of a 32-year-old man who allegedly paid another man to dig up the remains of five dead people:

A man described by police as a Santeria priest raided a cemetery and took the remains of five people for use in religious ceremonies, authorities said.

Amador Medina, alleged grave robber
Amador Medina, 32, was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Hartford on a charge of being a fugitive from justice from Worcester, Massachusetts, where authorities allege he stole the remains two months ago from a family mausoleum that dates to 1903.

Police arrested Medina on Friday after the remains were found in his Hartford apartment.  Medina told police he was a Santeria priest and wanted the human bones for religious and healing ceremonies, said Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley.

"We see (Santeria) rarely in Hartford," Foley said. "When we do, it's generally with animals. Very even more rarely you get human remains."

(I don’t mean to be snarky, but let’s think about that quote from Deputy Police Chief Foley: “Very even more rarely” do you get human remains.  I’m glad Foley decided to join the police force instead of becoming an English teacher.)

A Santeria practitioner
Santeria mixes Roman Catholicism with a traditional African faith.  Scholars say it was imported to Cuba through slaves brought from the Nigeria's Yoruba tribe, and it is now widely practiced in the Caribbean.

Foley said police have learned that practitioners of Santeria use human bones for medicinal purposes, and the age of the deceased and how long they have been dead are relevant to those practices.

The remains of three adults and two young children were stolen from the Houghton family mausoleum in Hope Cemetery in Worcester, where police have obtained an arrest warrant charging Medina with five counts of disinterment of bodies and other crimes.  Medina will face extradition to Massachusetts.

The Houghton family mausoleum
Mr. Medina didn’t need to end up in jail for grave robbing.  He could have simply bought the human bones and skulls he needed by going to “The Dark Side of Santeria” website.  

Here’s what that website has to say: 

It is perfectly legal to sell human bones in the United States.  Except for select antique specimens, all human bones for sale in the United States have been prepared overseas.  Prior to 1985, the main supplier of human material for medical use was India.  India ceased exporting bones in 1985 following changes in Indian law. 

These remains are anonymous.  Skulls and skeletons can be sexed, but the vast majority of our stock consist of adult males.  Individual post-cranial bones, with the exception of pelvic material, cannot be sexed accurately.

This articulated human arm
and hand sells for only $885
Unless otherwise specified, prices are for A1 quality specimens.  Having said that, not all bones are perfect.  Since many of these bones were prepped several years ago, they occasionally show signs of wear related to long-term handling or storage.  Bones that were previously held in museum or academic collections may possess catalog numbers.  We will try and select the best-quality bones available, but each bone is unique.

It is the customer's responsibility to be aware of their own local laws.  Materials seized due to conflict with foreign law are not eligible for refunds or replacement. If you are uncertain about the legality of an item you wish to purchase, please contact your local legal authorities.

(As a consumer, I appreciate this “full disclosure” approach.  Like the late Sy Syms, whoever is behind this website obviously believes that “An educated consumer is our best customer.”)

You can get a tibia for $250, a matched radius and ulna for $400, a nice male skull with some teeth for $1900, or an articulated female skeleton for only $400.

Click here to order your santeria bones, and all the other santeria paraphernalia you need.

The "Santeria" album cover
“Santeria” was the title track of Sublime's third and final studio album, which was released in 1996.  The song is sung by a jealous man who plots revenge against his ex-girlfriend and the man who stole her from him – he’s going to “slap her down” and “pop a cap” in him (e.g., put a bullet in him).

Heina is a Hispanic slang term for a girlfriend – it is apparently derived from the Spanish word for queen, reina.  

Sancho is a slang term for the man whom a woman cheats on her boyfriend with – her “back door man,” so to speak.

Here’s the music video for “Santeria”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

State Radio – "Fight No More" (2007)

We know not of your borders
But you push us to your corners

Maine native Oliver Otis Howard was promoted to the rank of general in the Union Army when he was only 30 years old.

He spent the first half of the Civil War in the Eastern Theater, leading a division at Antietam and a corps at Gettysburg. 

Gen. Oliver Otis Howard
After Gettysburg, Howard (now a major general) was transferred to the Western Theater, where he commanded the 27,000-man Army of the Tennessee in the Atlanta Campaign and Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”

When the war ended, Gen. Howard was appointed to head up the Freedman’s Bureau, which was created by Congress to help integrate freed slaves into American society.  The Bureau’s agents did everything from distributing food to needy African-Americans, overseeing employment contracts between former slaveholders and their newly-freed slaves, and serving as advocates for former slaves in state and federal courts.

A school for freedmen in North Carolina
But the most lasting of the accomplishments of the Freedman’s Bureau was the creation of educational institutions for blacks.  Several of the historically black colleges and universities that exist today – including Fisk University (Nashville), Hampton University (Hampton, VA), Virginia Union University (Richmond), and Dillard University (New Orleans) – were originally sponsored by the Bureau.

Perhaps the most well-known of the historically black colleges and universities is Howard University in Washington, DC.  That university, which was established in 1867, was named for Gen. Howard, and he served as the school’s president from 1869 to 1874 while still serving in the army.

The house on the Howard University
campus where Gen. Howard lived
If you asked those who want to rename the public schools that currently honor Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders to identify some historical figures who are worthy of having schools named after them, I would think that Oliver Otis Howard would be on the short list.

But while most African-Americans would likely support honoring Howard in such a fashion, native Americans might feel quite differently.

In 1874, Gen. Howard was named commander of U. S. Army forces in the Pacific Northwest and sent to Fort Vancouver, Washington to fight Indians.  

One of Howard’s assignments was to get several bands of the Nez Perce Indians to move to a reservation on the Oregon-Idaho border.  In May 1877, he met with Nez Perce leaders, giving them 30 days to move or else.

Chief Joseph
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce argued that the U. S. government had unjustly seized the tribe’s traditional lands and that the reservation was not large enough for all his people to live on.  He also protested that Howard wasn’t giving the Nez Perce enough time to collect their livestock and transport themselves and their lodges to the reservation – they needed several months to comply with Howard’s orders, not 30 days.

Howard’s haughty response offended the Nez Perce:

I stand here for the President, and there is no spirit good or bad that will hinder me.  My orders are plain, and will be executed.  I hoped that the Indians had good sense enough to make me their friend, and not their enemy.

When the Nez Perce failed to move to the reservation by his deadline, Howard sent troops to force them to do so.  The Nez Perce defeated the soldiers in the Battle of White Bird Canyon on June 14 and headed east.  

Between June 14 and October 5, the Nez Perce covered some 1400 miles in a desperate attempt to evade their pursuers and find sanctuary in Canada.  Only about 200 of the 700 Nez Perce were warriors, but that small force fought eighteen engagements (including four major battles) against its numerically superior foe before they were finally cornered and forced to surrender.

Chief Joseph surrenders
After the Nez Perce War was won, Gen. Howard led troops against the Bannock, Paiute, and Shoshone tribes, forcing them to move to to reservations as well.  

Oliver Otis Howard didn’t share the attitude of his fellow general, John Pope, who said this when President Lincoln sent him to pacify a Sioux uprising in Minnesota in 1862:

It is my purpose to utterly exterminate the Sioux.  They are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromise can be made.

A devout man who was known as “The Christian General,” Howard was sympathetic to the plight of the native Americans he fought against.  But when he was told by his superiors to force the Nez Perce and other tribes to submit to the U. S. government, he unhesitatingly followed orders.

Most African-Americans who know about Howard likely view him as a hero – he was a strong supporter of the abolitionist cause before the outbreak of the Civil War, and he worked hard to ameliorate the lives of freed slaves after that war ended.  

Gen. Howard in 1908 (aged 78)
To native Americans, however, Howard is just another one of the U. S. Army “long knives” who made war on them until they were forced to surrender their lands and move to government reservations.  

State Radio was formed in the Boston exurb of Sherborne, Massachusetts.  “Fight No More,” which was released in 2008 on the group’s Year of the Crow album, quotes the closing sentence of Chief Joseph’s heartbreaking surrender speech:

It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death.  My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food.  No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death.  I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find.  Maybe I shall find them among the dead.  Hear me, my chiefs!  I am tired; my heart is sick and sad.  From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.

Here’s “Fight No More”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Stranglers – "No More Heroes" (1977)

Whatever happened to the heroes?
No more heroes any more

In 1992, the New Orleans school board voted to adopt a policy prohibiting the naming of schools after former slave owners or others who “did not respect equal opportunity for all.”  (Over 90% of students in New Orleans public schools at that time were African-American.)

A few years later, that school board voted unanimously to change the name of George Washington Elementary School.  

''Why should African-Americans want their kids to pay respect or pay homage to someone who enslaved their ancestors?'' asked Carl Galmon, a local civil rights activist, in 1997.  ''This was the most degrading thing that ever happened in North America, and Washington was a part of it. To African-Americans, George Washington has about as much meaning as David Duke.''

David Duke
(Carl Galmon has got to be the first guy to compare George Washington to David Duke, a former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.)

When Washington died in 1799, there were 318 slaves living at Mt. Vernon.  Of that number, 123 were owned by Washington.  (Most of the rest of them had been owned by Martha Washington’s first husband.)

Washington with slaves at Mount Vernon
To give credit where credit is due, Washington provided in his will that his slaves would be freed after both he and Martha had died.  

But Washington may not have been as kind to his slaves when he was alive.  According to the Mount Vernon website, 

Richard Parkinson, an Englishman who lived near Mount Vernon, once reported that "it was the sense of all his [Washington's] neighbors that he treated [his slaves] with more severity than any other man."  Conversely, a foreign visitor traveling in America once recorded that George Washington dealt with his slaves "far more humanely than do his fellow citizens of Virginia."  What is clear is that Washington frequently utilized harsh punishment against the enslaved population, including whippings and the threat of particularly taxing work assignments.  Perhaps most severely, Washington could sell a slave to a buyer in the West Indies, ensuring that the person would never see their family or friends at Mount Vernon again. Washington conducted such sales on several occasions.

Former U.S. Presidents Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren (who was from New York, where slavery was legal until 1827), Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses S. Grant also owned slaves.  Should their names be erased from the many public schools named after them?

What about U.S. Presidents who didn't own slaves but viewed whites as superior to other races? 

Recently, student protestors invaded the office of Princeton University’s president, demanding that the school take the name of Woodrow Wilson off Princeton buildings.

Woodrow Wilson
Wilson – who was the president of Princeton before becoming President of the United States – was “virulently racist” even by the standards of the era when he lived, according to the protestors:

Wilson discouraged the admission of black students to Princeton, opposed black suffrage, was an ardent KKK apologist, and resegregated federal offices that had previously been integrated — costing many black families their jobs.

As NYU professor Regina Rini has written,

Once we’ve started rescinding honours from besmirched heroes, where should we stop?  On any reasonable scale of evil, the segregationist Wilson cannot be as bad as George Washington, who owned hundreds of slaves.  So must we also rename several universities, a northwestern state, and the District of Columbia?  The last, in fact, seems to require double renaming, as Christopher Columbus is now seen as a genocidal monster.  Perhaps "America" itself ought to go: Amerigo Vespucci wrapped up his first voyage to the New World by setting a native village on fire and "thereon made sail for Spain with 222 captive slaves."

Where will the line be drawn?  I suspect that most schools named after Confederates will eventually be renamed – particularly if they are named for Confederates other than Robert E. Lee (like Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest).

But I don't think George Washington has much to worry about.  (The same is true for Thomas Jefferson.)

"No More Heroes" is a 1977 single that was released on the Stranglers' album of the same name.

The first verse of "No More Heroes" refers to the assassination of the Marxist revolutionary, Leon Trotsky.  I don't think there are any schools in the U.S. named for Trotsky – not to mention Joseph Stalin, the man who ordered Trotsky's murder.

Here's "No More Heroes":

Click below to order the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Allman Brothers Band – "Whipping Post" (1969)

Sometimes I feel
Sometimes I feel
Like I've been tied to the whippin' post

An 1859 newspaper account reports that when two male slaves and one female slave who had run away from the estate belonging to Robert E. Lee’s family were captured, Lee personally took up a whip to punish the female.

Lee always denied that story, and the late historian Michael Fellman thought it was "extremely unlikely" that Lee used a whip on that female slave.  

But as Fellman pointed out, slavery was so inherently violent that "it cast all masters in the roles of potential brutes.”

Robert E. Lee
Another newspaper story published in Northern newspapers during the war quotes another slave belonging to Lee's family, who described a whipping he received after he tried to escape:

[Lee] stood by and frequently enjoined [his overseer] to “lay it on well,” an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done. 

After white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people in Charleston, SC, in June of this year, the California State Legislature passed a bill that would have required schools named after Confederate leaders to be renamed.

Dylann Roof
Governor Jerry Brown vetoed that legislation.  Here’s part of his veto message:  

I am returning Senate Bill 539 without my signature.  This bill would prohibit the naming of any school, park, building or other public property after certain persons associated with the Confederate States of America. . . .  As far as we know, only two schools, and a street in Stockton would be affected by this law.  Existing local processes provide for the naming or re-naming of public facilities, and in several cases local residents have voiced their opposition and have succeeded in re-naming schools and other public property.  Local governments . . . are quite capable of deciding for themselves which of their buildings and parks should be named, and after whom.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez
California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who had co-sponsored the bill that Brown vetoed, then wrote to the San Diego Unified School District and asked them to rename an elementary school in her district that has carried Robert E. Lee’s name since it was opened in 1959.  From her letter to the school board:  

Recent tragedies have revived the debate over Confederate-related symbolism in our country.  The flag in particular, and anyone associated with this army, in general, have been associated with intolerance, racism and hate, none of which have a place in our schools. . . . The area in which the elementary school is located . . . deserves a school named after someone we can all admire.  Robert E. Lee is not that person.

The San Diego school district responded to Assemblywoman Gonzalez’s letter by asking students, parents, and other community members what they thought about changing the name of the school, whose students are overwhelmingly Hispanic.  (Only 5.5% of the students are African-American, and only 2.5% are white.)

Robert E. Lee Elementary School in San Diego
By a 59% to 39% margin, students wanted to rename the school.  (Only 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders were allowed to participate in the survey, but I still can’t fathom why any weight at all would be given to the opinion of elementary school students on this issue.)

The adults who were surveyed saw things differently – only 24% wanted to remove Robert E. Lee’s name from the school, while 67% opposed changing the name.

The San Diego Board of Education has approved a long list of names for schools.  Sixteen of those names were preferred by at least four of those who took part in the survey.  The most popular of those potential names was that of the African-American abolitionist, Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass
Tied for second in popularity were suffragette Susan B. Anthony and Robert Alvarez, who was the named plaintiff in a 1931 court challenge to the segregation of white and Hispanic children by a San Diego County school district.  (The California court that decided that case did so because its reading of the law was that Hispanics were white.)

Others garnering votes included Amelia Earhart, Fred “Mr. Rogers” Rogers, Harry Truman, Simón Bolívar, the Columbia space shuttle, and Bob Hope.

The most popular prospective name among those surveyed was Archie Buggs, a policeman from the neighborhood who had been shot and killed in 1978.  Because his name was not on the approved names list, San Diego’s School Names Committee would have to approve it before the Board of Education could consider it.

Slain San Diego police
officer Archie Buggs
Other popular prospective names that were not yet on the approved names list included local baseball star Tony Gwynn (who died just last year), Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Dr. Seuss, Bruce Lee, and Oprah Winfrey.

A 2007 study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research found that it is increasingly rare for school districts to name schools after people – especially former Presidents – and increasingly common for them to opt instead for school names that are more generic, such as neighborhood names or geographic features.

Here are some of the specific findings of that study:

   –  An overwhelming majority of public school districts nationwide did not have a single school named after a U.S. President as of 2007.

   – In Minnesota, the naming of schools after Presidents declined from 14 percent of schools built before 1956 to 3 percent of newer schools.

   – In New Jersey, naming schools after people dropped from 45 percent of schools built before 1948 to 27 percent of schools built since 1988.

   – A public school built in Arizona in the two previous decades was almost fifty times more likely to be named after such things as a mesa or a cactus than after a President.

   – In Florida, nature names for schools increased from 19 percent of schools built before 1958 to 37 percent of schools built in the previous decade.  (Of almost 3,000 public schools in Florida, five honored George Washington, while eleven were named after manatees.)

Manatee Elementary School in Viera, FL
Why are school districts increasingly reluctant to name schools after people?  According to the Manhattan Institute report, 

The difficulty with naming a school after a person is that it may provoke a debate over whether that person is worthy of emulation. . . . To some, [Thomas] Jefferson articulated the founding principles of our nation, while to others he was a slaveholder.  In New Orleans, the school board voted in 1997 to forbid naming schools after anyone who had owned slaves, forcing the renaming of a school honoring George Washington.

In the next 2 or 3 lines, we’ll take a closer look at the politically-incorrect skeletons hidden in the closets of some of our former Presidents.

The cover of the "At Fillmore East" album
Some critics swear by the 22-minute-long live version of “Whipping Post” that takes up the entire final side of the Allman Brothers Band’s live double album, At Fillmore East, which was released in 1971.  Click here to listen to the live version.

If you don’t have time for the live version, here’s the original studio recording of the song, which was released on the band’s eponymous debut album in 1969:

Click below to buy the studio version of the song from Amazon: