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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Wayback Machine: Real Change Takes Time: Lesson #6,743

Welcome to the Wayback Machine, a sporadically recurring diary series for Motley Moose. The Wayback Machine revisits diaries of days gone by…a peek into our moosely past. The original diary will be linked to, and reposted in full, but, with a fresh comment thread. If you have requests for the Wayback Machine, use the ‘Contact the Moose’ link at the bottom of the page and let us know your ideas.

Today we turn the dial and tune into a vintage diary from fogiv. In September 2010 fog was in the mood for a rant, and rant he did. His ‘Real Change Takes Time: Lesson #6,743’ took to task those on the Left complaining about the pace at which Change™ was happening under Obama. It is a diary that offered up some free learnin’ for those threatening to take their ball and go home.

While the diary was spot on when written, it has also, sadly, proven itself to be prescient. The lessons contained within are just as applicable to the present political environment.  It seems that, in the case of some of Obama’s most strident detractors, the more things Change™…the more they remain the same.


As someone somewhere once said: “you can’t know where you are going without knowing first where you have been”

So, join us for a look back….

From the right, and now increasingly from the left, we’re getting used to hearing Where’s the change, Obama?

I anticipated this sort of horseshit from the established right, a now completely rudderless opposition party who are determined to see the President’s agenda (and the POTUS himself) fail at any cost. The stakes are high, but it’s evident to anyone who’s even remotely paying attention that the GOP are willing to sacrifice the nation, over the well being of citizens, in their quest to achieve and maintain political power. If the Republican Party were an ex-lover, they’d be the type to slash your tires by dark of night, kidnap your beloved pet, or spend hours calling to hang up on you. Whatever, not much surprise here (see also BREAKING! stories on the wetness of water).

What’s harder for me to stomach is the bizarre intransigence from the left of center folk who decry ‘incrementalism’. We saw this all throughout the healthcare debate; we saw it again with DADT, and again with FinReg. Nothing has been good enough for these people. Nothing.

Again and again, over and over, issue after issue. I’m not talking about the general swath of leftward-leaning people who have disappointments. I have a few of my own. I’m talking about the self-absorbed, holier-than-thou lefty motherfuckers who are willing to hand control back over to the aforementioned power-mongering GOP, purely out of spite.

These are the same assholes who are willing to sit out the midterms, deliberately dampen enthusiasm for Democrats down ticket, and shoot all of the country in the collective ass, just to teach that dirty Corporocrat shill Obama that they will not brook any ‘dirty fucking hippie punching’. He needs to be more like LBJ they say, more like FDR. Apparently, hippies have been too busy shitting themselves (and complaining about the stink) to read an 8th grade history textbook.

If they had, or even if they had the will power to read beyond the Huffington Post headlines or spatula their dialated pupils off the front page of FireDogLake, they’d know that the substantial progressive achievements of both FDR and LBJ were only possible because of significant compromises and political deal-making. In fact, many of the programs, laws, and policies we know and love started small, and improved over time. A long time. You know, little shit like social security and civil rights. The kind of things that only begin to live up to our ideals as Americans.

Recently, I’ve been reminded that real gestalt level change takes time. This little lesson came to me the other day as I carried out one of the regular functions of my job — a gig made possible in large part by the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Thanks Obama and Democrats, you swarthy bunch of neo-liberal corporatist shit-sandwich servers tossing us all under the bus!

SRSLY people, let’s get a goddamned grip. Change takes time. Given the challenges we face as a nation, now is most assuredly not the time for poutrage.


For those that don’t know, I’m an archaeologist (no dinosaurs, no gold). I used to work for a large corporation that provided environmental consulting services to a variety of clients. I got laid off when the economy tanked. Now, I work for a federal agency that is fielding a number of ARRA funded projects, most of them related to infrastructure repair and improvement. This one in particular involved the widening of a public roadway.

During construction, there was a late discovery of a historic mining adit. It fell to me to try to find something out about this hole in the ground. To begin, I conducted a review of GLO plats in an effort to collect any available chronometric information for the feature. While the GLO plats and associated survey notes provided some information from 1855, 1858, and 1949 for the specific area of the discovery, they revealed no evidence of historic mining activity (either as mapped features or subjects of mention in the surveyors field notes). Digging deeper, a review of available Bureau of Land Management (BLM) records failed to produce any historic or modern mineral claims for the area. The paucity of data with regard to this kind of feature isn’t particularly unusual, and in no way precluded the possible historic era origins of the feature. It could be that the adit and/or affiliated remains and features may have been deemed unworthy of mention and omitted from survey notes, or simply were not observed in the course of each cartographic/survey effort.

Additionally, I checked out the BLM’s California Automated Land Records Management Improvement Project online database to scan available Master Title Plats and the Historical Index. The results showed only one land patent within the project area–a cash entry filed on November 1st, 1880 by Edward Booth. A number of other historic land patents (homesteads, scrip patents, and cash entries) had been filed in the vicinity though none of these directly accounted for any mining activity in the project area.

So, where are we now? Based on a field recording of the adit (and possibly associated prospect features noted in the vicinity), it’s likely that the adit feature is representative of a drift-mining episode. The drift mining method was well in use across California by the mid-1850s, reached its peak in the 1870s before virtually ceasing.  The technique came back into popular use after 1933.

This is about all we know, save that in 1880, Edward Booth held a land patent for the spot. Usually, this is where the story ends. Most of the time, if we’re lucky enough to get a name associated with a place, we generally find out very little about the person. They’re often just lost in history, their stories forever untold, and for the most part this is where we give up. We write up our findings, show our due diligence, and move on. As it turned out, Edward Booth still had a story to tell.

After some more exhaustive
research, I’ve compiled a collection of circumstantial archival data to suggest that the Edward Booth responsible for filing the land patent in 1880 is likely one of California’s first African American miners. Edward Booth was born to slaves in Virginia. One account indicates that his mother once stood in the presence of George Washington (she was reportedly much impressed with his fine breeches). Somehow the children, or perhaps the entire family, were granted their freedom, and they relocated from Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. The eldest of several siblings, Edward Booth first came to California in search of gold in 1849 after a successful stint trading in the West Indies. After some profitable mining efforts he returned to Maryland to collect his family, and in 1851, began what would be an arduous journey to California accompanied by brothers George, Samuel, Elijah, and sisters Ann-Maria and Harriet. After repeatedly enduring the indignity of establishing that the family were legally free blacks (i.e. not escaped slaves) the group sailed from New York City to Panama, where Mr. Booth’s fluency in Spanish (probably the product of his trading career) reportedly helped to save the lives of a man and woman in dire circumstances.

To reach the port in Panama City, the family had to hire Spaniards to guide them upriver, and ride mules across the isthmus. When they reached port, the family was separated by a series of misfortunes, whereby no single vessel was able to accommodate the entire group. Edward and his sisters managed to secure passage to San Francisco aboard a steamship, and later travelled to Sacramento via the riverboat New World.  Edward’s  brothers were delayed several months more however, as their vessel (the sailing ship Cabargo) became lost at sea — a voyage that ended in a mutiny adrift. After eventually coming ashore somewhere in Mexico, the younger Booth men began their voyage anew, finally arriving in Sacramento via the riverboat Sydney Stepp in 1852.

With the exception the sisters and brother George, who remained in Sacramento as an Expressman, the Booth Brothers took to mining — initially in the Nevada City and Grass Valley area. Brothers Samuel and Elijah appear in the 1856 Nevada County Business and Residential Directory as miners, and are listed as working at American Hill, where hydraulic mining was first practiced in 1853. Later, Edward and Elijah are listed in the Placer County Directory of 1861, evidently residents of the Last Chance / Michigan Bluff area, the latter being among the earliest mining towns in Placer County. Edward Booth surfaces again in the historical record via the Placer County Great Register of Voters for the year 1890. Like his brother George, Edward was active in seeking equality for African Americans. He spoke formally before the second Colored Convention of California in 1856:

It is with pride I say, we are showing to our white fellow citizens, that we have some natural abilities. We are resolved to let them see that all we want is an equal chance, and open field and a fair fight…We intend to disprove the allegation that we are naturally inferior to them.  The colored people of Nevada County possess property to the amount of $3,000,000 in mining claims, water, ditch stock and some real estate.

One of four such events, the conventions were held in response to a Gold Rush era environment that lacked any significant legal and/or political recourse for African Americans living under racism and discrimination. The Conventions of Colored Citizens of the State of California marked the beginning of organized civil rights activism in the American West. Upon word of the Klondike strike in Alaska, Edward Booth travelled to Alaska, staked a reportedly successful mining claim, and later died in 1900.

In 1856, Edward Booth wanted equality.  He wanted an equal chance, an open field, and a fair fight. Today, in 2010, we’re still not there yet. If anyone wants to suggest that equality has been achieved, please present that particular argument to the family and friends of Oscar Grant.

Johannes Mehserle, the former BART police officer who killed Oscar Grant while he was lying face down and handcuffed in an Oakland train station, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter — his crime, according to the jury, was negligence in not knowing the difference between his heavy black gun and his light yellow Taser.

Edward Booth and Oscar Grant are just two reminders that change — the kind of change that actually fucking matters — is a process, not a destination. Let’s all remember that when we get off our whiny asses and go to the polls this November, shall we?


  1. wordsinthewind

    and I enjoyed the righteous rant. As a historian I’m reminded daily how little my fellow citizens know about their history that is factually correct. As a Texan the problem is particularly dire, first in my generation as we were taught a version that was so blatantly jingoistic that it provoked my skepticism as a child and now with factually inaccurate material in our textbooks.  

  2. November 5

    fogiv…excellent diary

    MM….excellent diary

    Maybe I’ll start backwards…

    The Booth read was great; awesome and inspirational to all people, not just blacks. But, I want to know something. When you have African-Americans who achieve, who become uber-wealthy, like Robert Johnson, like Edward Booth, like (dare I say) Herman Cain, how much do they give to the community, how much do they try to help other AAs achieve their goals, or do they just become Republicans like Cain?

    I’d take Booth’s statement about fair field and fair fight one step further. Most of the problem is that blacks (and other poor people, it’s become more of an economic line and less of a color one, although the blue collar white Republicans are maybe just now starting to get the picture) are pretty much institutionally discriminated against from birth. Blacks have inferior public education, they usually pay more to borrow money, when they can borrow it, it’s tougher to get a mortgage, etc. Oh yeah, good luck with the justice system too.

    Which reminds me….what an outrage it is having so many people needlessly incarcerated. That by itself is proof how broken and corrupt our system of justice has become.

    Let me offer you an example of what I’m talking about. There’s a famous nightclub located in a large US city known for its nightlife. Undercover cops are always present in that club; they’re kind of easy to spot, but that’s not the point. As in all famous nightclubs, it’s not really a problem to score if you know the right people, which invariably is the management of the club. Since the managers have been there pretty much forever, I can only assume that the undercover cops are there to prevent anyone with competing with the management for the sale of drugs (usually psychotropics and coke). If you’ve followed my writings for some time, you know that historically I’ve pointed out that drug laws are really not about stopping use, they’re about protecting monopolies. If my 82yo father who used to vote near-straight ticket GOP until 2008 can figure this out, so can you. I can only tell you how much he hates what taxes he pays financing this bs.

    Consider just how many billions of dollars each year governments would save by legalization of marijuana. Look at all the people in jail for using it or selling it. It’s obvious to me this is a product the people have great demand for, but it’s still illegal. But, eliminate pot busts, which is the justice system’s bread and butter, law enforcement organizations might have to go back to enforcing the law or something.

    Oh yeah before I leave, the medical marijuana deal cracks me up…what’s going on with the pols is trying to figure out who is going to divide the money when it does become legal. The legal fight over MMJ is coming soon, this will be interesting to see what happens.

    Which I guess leads me into the original fogiv diary…I think Obama is doing a good job, under much more difficult circumstances than Bill Clinton had. There’s no way 8 years of hard work is going to unravel all the things Witless did. 20 maybe, if you’re lucky.

    I’ve always viewed what happened to Gore as a coup. Actually, you could take pretty much almost every sitting President since JFK and see where the coups happened-assassination (JFK, RFK, MLK), Watergate (Nixon), Iran (various) (Carter), attempted assassination (Reagan), attempted removal (Clinton)…none of these were accidents, none of them ever are, IMO.

    My main beef has been with many of the old line Dem pols who just sat their on their hands and refused to do something and just went about business as usual in the Village, and fuck the American people in the process.

    But even then, it’s always been obvious to me that the system is the problem. It’s a wonderful thing that people are rising up finally and demonstrating. But the real enemy here is not so much the bankers, but those in government which enable those policies which give the bankers carte blanche. Will it be a matter of time before the directionally impaired protestors get a GPS and start marching on government institutions?

    And those are the competing tensions I have difficulty resolving. Obama is to a certain extent part of the solution, but the politics which have supported his meteoric rise are much of the problem.

    Let me close with this famous Thomas Jefferson comment: When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. We need to get out there and put a little more fear into government.

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