Thursday, August 31, 2017


The Washington Post's Fredrick Kunkle reports:
Imagine being run over by a car and then being charged with a crime for being the victim.

Earlier this month, three African-American young men were walking along a street at night in the small Louisiana town of La Ville Platte (pop. 7,270) when a Chevrolet pickup truck hit them, inflicting minor injuries. The driver of the truck — who said he was blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle — wasn’t charged, police said. But the three pedestrians were.

Police charged them with unlawfully obstructing traffic and failure to have reflective gear. That’s a misdemeanor that could put a person in a highly visible orange jumpsuit for up to a year.
According to KATC, police said the three teenagers were "obstructing a public passage" as well as not wearing reflective clothing; they say they were on the side of the road (the road has no sidewalks). One of the teenagers told KLFY that officers followed them to the hospital to charge them.

Another Ville Platte resident who was charged with not wearing reflective gear in 2015 had to shell out $409.
“The cost of this is $200 for the fine and $209 for court costs!” said Rufus Searile who lives in Ville Platte. He says the city places a burden on residents, forcing them to buy reflective gear; instead, he says city officials aren’t doing their jobs. “It should be there responsibility to put sidewalks, to put more lighting.”
In 2015, Frontline noted that Ville Platte was under investigation by the Justice Department:
In its announcement, the DOJ said it was looking into allegations that law enforcement in Ville Platte improperly keep people in jail under “investigative holds” — detained without charges while officials investigate a crime.

But civil-rights activists in Louisiana say that improper detentions are only part of a broader problem in Ville Platte, a city in which they say residents are cited for frivolous violations, excessively fined and put in jail when they cannot pay.

It’s a system that on its face appears similar to some of what Justice Department officials found in Ferguson, Mo., where the police department, at the behest of the city, regularly ticketed mostly African-American residents for violations like “manner of walking in roadway,” and then funneled that money into the city coffers. Those who couldn’t pay were sent to jail.
For eight months in 2011, Ville Platte had a 10:00 P.M. curfew, with a $200 fine for violators. It was illegal to be out after 10:00 unless you had a car. The law, needless to say, disproportionately burdened poor residents. A local NAACP leader named Arthur Sampson sued, under the sponsorship of the ACLU, and by 2013 an agreement was reached to do away with the curfew.

But Ville Platte continued to keep "appropriate dress" laws on the books:
One is a ban on sagging pants. Specifically, the city’s municipal code requires that pants be “size appropriate and secured at the waist to prevent the pants from falling more than three inches below the hips (crest of the ilium) causing exposure of the person or the person’s undergarments.”

The city also requires residents to wear “something reflective as an outer garment such as an armband, or parka” when walking after dark.”The reflective material is to be visible from all directions,” a town ordinance reads. “This will enable drivers to see the walking resident more clearly.”

The police began enforcing that ordinance in January 2011, at the same time as the curfew, according to city council meeting minutes.

The penalty for violating either rule is a fine with a maximum penalty of $200 — and 30 days in jail for those who can’t pay it....

Residents who can’t pay the fee are put on probation, where they must pay a fine of $35 each month until they pay off the full ticket fee.

Some people just give up trying to cover the mounting costs and ask for jail time, Sampson said. “It’s a racket,” he said. “Something needs to be done about the injustice that’s been going on here.”
Less than a month before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, the Justice Department ended its investigation of Ville Platte. The department's announcement read in part:
The Justice Department announced today that it found reasonable cause to believe that the Ville Platte, Louisiana, Police Department (VPPD) and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

The department found that VPPD and EPSO used a procedure the agencies called an “investigative hold” to detain individuals without probable cause during criminal investigations. As a result of this pattern or practice, people in Louisiana’s Evangeline Parish have been arrested and placed in holding cells without probable cause. Often, individuals were in holding cells for several days at a time, where they were unable to contact family, friends or employers and had limited access to food and personal items....

VPPD and EPSO leadership acknowledged that the investigative holds are unconstitutional and have taken laudable steps to begin eliminating their use.
However, the "appropriate dress" laws are still on the books. It's up to the press and the public to shame Ville Platte now. The Justice Department sure as hell won't do it.


Here's data from a new Fox News poll:
With the controversy heating up across the country, voters by a 2-to-1 margin think Confederate monuments and statues should stay up (61 percent) rather than be taken down (29 percent).
You're probably thinking this is to be expected -- it's a Fox poll. But there's very little in this poll that reflects Fox values. President Trump's job approval/disapproval is 41%/55%. Trump is seen as "tearing the country apart" by 56% of poll respondents. And the numbers get worse for Trump:
He receives net negative ratings on North Korea (43-50), taxes (37-45), immigration (43-54), Russia (35-56), the environment (36-56), and health care (34-60).

His worst marks are on race relations (33-61 percent), where disapproval outweighs approval by 28 points.
On the subject of the Confederacy, we're told that "more than three times as many" poll respondents "have a negative reaction when they see the Confederate flag (36 percent negative vs. 11 percent positive)."

And yet respondents want Confederate monuments to stay. In a recent Quinnipiac poll -- which was also terrible for Trump -- respondents opposed removing monuments by a 50%-39% margin. The margin was 62%-27% in a recent NPR/NewsHour/Marist poll. Trump's response to Charlottesville got low marks in that poll. The numbers in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll were 54%-27% in favor of the monuments.

Racists want the monuments to stay up, of course, but for others, the "tearing down history" argument seems to settle the question, and opponents can't seem to refute it effectively. We can say that we don't put up monuments to the 9/11 hijackers, or to Hitler and Hirohito's soldiers, or even to British troops in the Revolutionary War, and no one says that we're "denying history." But that argument doesn't resonate.

Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times tells us that we're actually in a Confederate monument boom, with the recent tributes to the South going up on private property:
While old monuments erected in bygone eras are coming down, new ones continue to go up.

In Crenshaw County, Ala., a new monument to “unknown Confederate soldiers” was unveiled on Sunday in a private park. In the small East Texas town of Orange, a giant concrete ring of 13 columns, representing the states the Confederacy claimed as its own, is going up on private land at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. In North Carolina, a bronze statue of the Confederate general Joseph Johnston was installed at the Bentonville battlefield in 2010.

“There has been a Civil War memorial boom going on over the last 20 years,” said W. Fitzhugh Brundage, the chairman of the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At least 36 have gone up in North Carolina alone since 2000, he said, as many as were put up between 1940 and 1990. Of those, 20 are to Confederates and four are to Union forces. The rest memorialize the war in general, including one dedicated in 2012 to Civil War horses.

But if the memorials of yesteryear were put in busy public squares, today’s are mostly appearing far from the bustle of daily life on plots of private land, or on battlefield sites, Professor Brundage said.
The Crenshaw County monument has been in the works since last year; I suspect that an increasing number of monuments are in the planning stages right now, or will be very soon.

If the boom started at the beginning of this century, you can't blame it on a black president's election. Surely that was a factor from 2008 on -- but before that there was a lot of controversy about displays of Confederate flags and other symbols of the rebellion.

The backlash is strong. It's not going away. And Americans in the middle simply don't understand the reasons for opposition.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Politico reports:
Voters are divided on President Donald Trump’s plans to send more American troops to Afghanistan, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

Forty-five percent of voters support increasing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, the poll shows — only slightly greater than the 41 percent who oppose the plan. The other 14 percent have no opinion.
There's a partisan split:
Backing for a troop increase is greater among Republicans than Democrats or independents. Sixty-eight percent of self-identified GOP voters support increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan, but only 30 percent of Democratic voters and 35 percent of independents agree.
But weren't we told that Donald Trump won the presidency because Republican voters have turned antiwar? That's how J.D. Vance, author of the bestseller Hillbilly Elegy, explained Trump's success in the Republican primaries in an April 2016 New York Times op-ed titled "Why Trump’s Antiwar Message Resonates with White America":
Sixty years ago, Americans looked to Europe and Asia and saw continents liberated and despots defeated. With the Islamic State on the rampage, Americans today look to a Middle East that is humiliatingly worse off than the way we found it.

The burden of this humiliation fell hardest on Republican strongholds. Demographically, the military draws heavily from the South, rural areas and the working and middle class. And while no racial group has a monopoly on military service, white enlistees make up a disproportionate share of those wounded and killed in action. This is the very same demographic that forms the core of the contemporary Republican base.... the people who made [George W.] Bush president are the same people who sent their children to fight in his wars.

... Donald J. Trump ... torments a G.O.P. elite that cannot admit its own failures.

... Anger about the wars isn’t the only reason voters support Mr. Trump. But his willingness to say what other G.O.P. candidates won’t reflects what people like most about him: his complete break with the party elite. Because the last time Republican voters put a member of that elite in the White House, he sent their children on a bloody misadventure. Until others recognize that failure, expect many to support the one major candidate who does.
Last month, Justin Raimondo of quoted a study by Francis Shen of the University of Minnesota and Douglas Kriner of Boston University that looked at November's election results and came to essentially the same conclusion:
With so much post-election analysis, it is surprising that no one has pointed to the possibility that inequalities in wartime sacrifice might have tipped the election. Put simply: perhaps the small slice of America that is fighting and dying for the nation’s security is tired of its political leaders ignoring this disproportionate burden....

The data analysis presented in this working paper finds that in the 2016 election Trump spoke to this part of America. Even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump....

In [Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania], our analysis predicts that Trump would have lost between 1.4% and 1.6% of the vote if the state had suffered a lower casualty rate.... such margins would have easily flipped all three states into the Democratic column....

The significant inroads that Trump made among constituencies exhausted by fifteen years of war – coupled with his razor thin electoral margin (which approached negative three million votes in the national popular tally) – should make Trump even more cautious in pursuing ground wars.
Whoops! Guess not. It appears that his voters are totally cool with a newly expanded war in Afghanistan.

There's an explanation for this. In his op-ed, Vance wrote:
... war is about more than service and sacrifice — it’s about winning.

... to those humiliated by defeat, [Trump] promises we’ll win again.
The Politico/Morning Consult poll tells us this:
... Republicans are more bullish on how the war is going. Thirty-eight percent of Republicans say the United States is winning the war in Afghanistan, compared with 19 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of independents.
(That's a plurality of Republicans -- only 31% think we're losing. The other 31% have no opinion. Among Democrats and independents, far more respondents see a loss rather than a win in Afghanistan.)

The Republicans who back the troop increase and think we're winning the war probably can't explain why our great success requires more troops. But Vance gets at the truth here: Despite the use of the word "Antiwar" in his headline, the people he's discussing aren't skeptical of war -- they're just angry about losing. They're fine with extending the war as long as they think we're winning (or will win now that the Conquering Hero Trump is in charge).

Republican voters were never antiwar. They'll like indefinite war in Afghanistan for as long as Trump can persuade them that we're the victors.


Nancy Pelosi is denouncing violent antifa:
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement denouncing the violent protests carried out this weekend in Berkeley, California:

“Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts. The violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted.

“In California, as across all of our great nation, we have deep reverence for the Constitutional right to peaceful dissent and free speech. Non-violence is fundamental to that right. Let us use this sad event to reaffirm that we must never fight hate with hate, and to remember the values of peace, openness and justice that represent the best of America.”
Good for her. I know a lot of you will disagree, but I hope there's more of this from liberals and leftists. (Further to her left, Noam Chomsky has said that violent antifa is "a major gift to the right, including the militant right, who are exuberant.")

I'm in favor of anti-fascists. I just don't support violence unless it's strictly for self-defense. As Josh Marshall writes, it's deeply counterproductive in the long run:
I believe that if you look both historically and in practice, when you have widespread street brawling between “good” groups and “bad” groups it almost always ends up being a victory for the fascist groups. This is for a number of reasons. First is that these groups have historically used the presence of civil violence to justify “law and order” crackdowns which usually empower and propagate authoritarian politics. You can already see this, tendentiously, in those hideous NRA video hate screeds. Again, history tells us this and I think it’s close to intuitive: breakdowns of civil peace lead to authoritarian crackdowns, which almost always have a right-wing and often racist valence.
The right carefully archives incidents of left-wing violence and uses them in endless rounds of propaganda in order to discredit progressive ideas. Every Fox viewer thinks Black Lives Matter is a terrorist movement because Fox never stops reminding those viewers that a few BLM supporters once said "Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon" in order to taunt cops. That was just a chant. Actual left-wing violence is much more useful as propaganda for the right.

The violent antifa argument resembles arguments from the paranoid right. Why does the NRA tell its members they need to be armed? Because society has reached a state of collapse and violent mobs will kill them if they're armed. Because fascist tyranny is imminent unless armed citizens wield deadly force.

Mobs really aren't storming into red America to kill white right-wingers, and the government isn't tossing them into dungeons without trial -- nor was it in the Obama or Clinton years. The gunners just like to think so because it makes their idea of fun -- wielding and shooting firearms -- seem noble and righteous.

Flip that fantasy over and it's violent antifa's fantasy. There are fascist and Nazi mobs, but they're small and they don't have unchecked power. Heather Heyer is dead, but her killer is in custody, charged with murder. The president of the United States, if he'd had the sinister will, could have turned fascist mobs into his storm troopers, but that hasn't happened. Portraying the alt-right as an irregular army of the Trump state is as hyperbolic as portraying a couple of New Black Panthers in front of a polling place as Obama and Soros's enforcers of the Kenyan Muslim socialist order.

I don't want Nazis to be punched. Punched Nazis become Nazi martyrs. I want Nazis to be radioactive. I like it when they're unable to find servers for their hate sites, when they can't attract marchers for their rallies, when they whine about social ostracism. That comes through moral outrage, not adolescent street brawl elevated to the level of a good war in the participants' minds. Concentrate on making Nazis pariahs. Violence doesn't help.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


This happened today:
A Houston resident displaced by Hurricane Harvey made a heartbreaking statement during a live interview with CNN on Tuesday.

Reporting from a shelter housing flood victims, anchor Rosa Flores asked a woman named Danielle (whose last name was not given) about her experiences during the catastrophic storm....

Danielle ... poured out her frustration and pain with the media.

“Four feet of water to go get them food on the first day. Yeah, that’s a lot of shit. But y’all sitting here, y’all trying to interview people during their worst times. That’s not the smartest thing to do,” she said....

“Like people are really breaking down and y’all are sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the fuck is wrong with us,” she continued. “And you really trying to understand it with the microphone still in my face, with me shivering cold, with my kids wet and you still putting the microphone in my face.”

After watching that, retired right-wing radio talker Neal Boortz had some thoughts:

Caleb Howe of RedState is a conservative, but I give him credit: He calls this the "worst, ugliest, most uncalled-for hurricane comment to date," writing:
You would think a large portion of the CNN-hating, MSM-hating, free press hating “conservative” right would find in her a new folk hero, speaking back fiercely against what she sees as the exploitative press. But you’d be wrong, if retired big name AM talker and thought-leader Neal Boortz is any indication. I guess there’s some mystery group of people he likes even less than the press.
What on earth could that mystery group be? Thinking, thinking...

Who could have imagined that Boortz would tweet something like this? Only someone who knows nothing about Neal Boortz.

Here was Boortz in 2005:
In a December 12 weblog post, nationally syndicated radio host Neal Boortz predicted that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) would commute the sentence of convicted murderer [and Crips leader] Stanley "Tookie" Williams to life imprisonment because "Schwarzenegger knows full well that as soon as Tookie's death is announced there will be riots in South Central Los Angeles and elsewhere." Boortz wrote that "[t]here are thugs just waiting for an excuse ... not a reason, an excuse" and explained that "[t]he rioting, of course, will lead to wide scale looting." Boortz added: "There are a lot of aspiring rappers and NBA superstars who could really use a nice flat-screen television right now."
(Williams was executed and L.A. was calm.)

A few months later, when Cynthia McKinney, an African-American congresswoman, had a run-in with D.C. police, Boortz said this on the air:
I saw Cynthia McKinney's hairdo yesterday -- saw it on TV. I don't blame that cop for stopping her. It looked like a welfare drag queen was trying to sneak into the Longworth House Office Building. That hairdo is ghetto trash. I don't blame them for stopping her.
In 2009, four years after Hurricane Katrina, Boortz had some opinions about the victims:
As the fourth anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster approaches, hate-radio talk show host Neal Boortz mocked President Obama’s pledge to rebuild New Orleans, calling the victims human “debris.” This weekend, President Barack Obama told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he “remains focused on rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast,” and anything less “would be a betrayal of who we are as a country.” Boortz responded on Twitter by attacking the “debris that Katrina chased out”:

Boortz has also called the overwhelmingly black, poor victims of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans “human parasites” and “deadbeats,” even suggesting that a victim of Hurricane Katrina consider prostitution instead of “sucking off taxpayers.” Although Katrina’s devastation cost this nation $80 billion, killed thousands, and displaced a million people, Boortz believes “Katrina cleansed New Orleans.”
In June 2011, Boortz said this about the city of Atlanta:
We got too damn many urban thugs, yo, ruining the quality of life for everybody. And I’ll tell you what it’s gonna take. You people, you are - you need to have a gun. You need to have training. You need to know how to use that gun. You need to get a permit to carry that gun. And you do in fact need to carry that gun and we need to see some dead thugs littering the landscape in Atlanta.

And then there was this Boortz tweet in 2013, after President Obama spoke at length about the death of Trayvon Martin:

So Boortz was just being Boortz today. And oh, by the way, if you think the right wasn't racist until Trump took that escalator ride in 2015, go reread the datelines above.


Uh-oh, we're approaching yet another "This is when Trump became president" moment, according to Glenn Thrush of The New York Times:
Harvey Gives Trump a Chance to Reclaim Power to Unify

Hurricane Harvey was the rarest of disasters to strike during the Trump presidency — a maelstrom not of Mr. Trump’s making, and one that offers him an opportunity to recapture some of the unifying power he has squandered in recent weeks.
Wait -- he's going to reclaim the power to unify? He's going to recapture it? When did Donald Trump ever unify America? During the campaign he never tried. He hasn't tried as president. All he's ever done is try to please his base by demonizing everyone who isn't part of his base.
Now a tropical storm as it continues to inundate the Texas and Louisiana coasts....

Mr. Trump is behaving like a man whose future depends on getting this right.
No, no, no. That's how a normal president would think. Trump doesn't plan for the future that way -- he just tries to master moments. What he cares about now is getting good press coverage. Trump's not worried about the future. He thinks his base is big enough to carry him through the 2020 election. If he has trouble scoring legislative victories in the interim, he'll just blame Congress, and seek vengeance against specific legislators who challenged him.
... In announcing his [upcoming] trips [to the flood-ravaged area], he used the dulcet, reassuring and uplifting language of prior presidents. His rhetoric was strikingly different from his much-criticized pronouncements at a news conference this month when he equated the actions of leftist protesters in Charlottesville, Va., with the violent, torch-wielding alt-right activists who hurled anti-Semitic and racist epithets.
Why are we surprised when Trump occasionally gives a normal speech? That's what he always does, and it doesn't change his essential nature. A generation ago, if you were a metal band, you'd put one power ballad on every album so you could have a radio hit. This is Trump's version of that strategy. His main focus is still the noisy stuff.

There are nods to reality in the middle of Thrush's piece:
Yet uncertainty abounds. In addition to the as-yet-untold toll on people and property, there is the unpredictable element of Mr. Trump’s emotional weather, which can shatter the prevailing harmony in an instant, through a tweet or a taunt....

So far, the storm has done little to diminish Mr. Trump’s propensity for muddying moments of presidential leadership by picking fights with the news media or his political opponents. On Monday, moments after gravely reading his tribute to national resolve and the spirit of emergency workers in Texas, Mr. Trump enthusiastically defended his decision to pardon Joe Arpaio...
So why was the piece even written when we know that Trump is going to emerge from this moment still being Trump?

Please don't tell me Thrush thinks this time is different.
But this time is different, people around Mr. Trump insist.

The president, who prefers to skim rather than delve, has seldom been more engaged in the details of any issue as he is with Harvey, according to several people involved in disaster response.

Mr. Trump, one aide said, was fascinated by the long-term effect of water damage on structures in the Gulf Coast, peppering FEMA and National Security Council briefers with detailed questions about the flooding in Houston and Galveston. As the extent of the projected devastation became apparent over the weekend during a meeting at Camp David, he shook his head in disbelief and compared the situation to problems he experienced when managing his family’s apartment buildings in New York. “Water damage is the worst,” he told one staff member, “tough, tough, tough.”
This is a region-altering megastorm and Trump is comparing the consequences to the time that guy in 11-B had a burst pipe and the apartments on the B line below him had to have emergency repairs. It's not the same thing.

Which is why...
Still, many of the most substantive conversations about the relief efforts — including interactions with elected officials — have been routed through Mr. Pence....
And then there's this:
Despite a reputation for political sang-froid, Mr. Trump appeared genuinely moved by the early images of devastation in Texas....
How low is the bar for Donald Trump? So low that we consider it remarkable when he -- a sitting president -- sees scenes of devastation in his own country and is "genuinely moved," or at least "appeared" genuinely moved. He's so narcissistic that, until now, we weren't sure that would be the case. The mere appearance of a normal human emotional reaction to human suffering on a mass scale makes us think, or at least makes Glenn Thrush think, Yes, he may really be acting presidential now.

Stop. Trump will probably sign off on the necessary outlays, but he is who he is. There's no hope for redemption.

Monday, August 28, 2017


The Washington Examiner reports that Joe Arpaio might run for Jeff Flake's Senate seat:
After receiving President Trump's first pardon, Joe Arpaio's plans have gone from possible prison to book-writing, speeches and potentially another run for office in Arizona, with Sen. Jeff Flake's seat one opportunity he is eyeing....

"I could run for mayor, I could run for legislator, I could run for Senate," Arpaio said Monday. One particular race, however, is likely to gain significant attention: the GOP primary next year facing Flake, R-Ariz., a forceful Trump critic.

"I'm sure getting a lot of people around the state asking me" to challenge Flake, said Arpaio, who served 24 years as sheriff before losing reelection in 2016. "All I'm saying is the door is open and we'll see what happens. I've got support. I know what support I have."
Jeff Flake is a Republican who's alienating his party's base by criticizing President Trump. Flake has the lowest in-state approval rating of any senator, according to Morning Consult -- only 37% of Arizonans approve of him. He's extremely vulnerable in 2018.

But he already has a challenger who's beating him by double digits in an early poll: state senator Kelli Ward, who has the support of the pro-Trump Great America PAC. It seems very likely that Flake would lose a one-on-one primary against Ward. But against Ward and Arpaio? Flake could easily win a plurality. And if I understand correctly, that would be sufficient to send him to the general election under Arizona rules.

Ward and Arpaio would be competing for a lot of the same voters. We know Arpaio is a wingnut media star. Ward also makes great use of the conservative noise machine -- she's frequently seen on Fox, she's been endorsed by Sean Hannity, she's made appearances with Alex Jones and Roger Stone, she's been heard on Breitbart radio....

You know how Democrats have trouble making young officeholders into stars? Republicans seem to have the opposite problem: The right-wing media turns practically every GOP fanatic into a star. I wish the Democrats had a problem like that -- but in this case, two stars might cancel each other out.

Hey, Arizona GOP, go ahead and turn this race into a three-way brawl, with the likely result being a bruised, weakened, cash-strapped nominee. I'll cook up some popcorn.


In one sense, the headline for this piece by The New Republic's Brian Beutler -- "Republicans Completely Own Trump’s Arpaio Pardon" -- is fairly accurate:
Arpaio was a public figure in good standing on the right for two decades, not in spite of the fact that he made life hell for prisoners and immigrants living in his jurisdiction, but because of it. Republicans stood by as Arpaio built his infamous “tent jails,” where temperatures sometimes exceeded 115 degrees. They stood by as he made a woman give birth while shackled to a bed. As the country’s demographics shifted over the years, some Republicans started treating Arpaio less like a celebrated hero and more like an embarrassing racist uncle, but by then, their lots had been cast.

Trump’s decision to pardon Arpaio, like Trump’s success in the Republican primary, is an outgrowth and an emblem of the GOP’s decision to foster the intellectual and cultural climates of Fox News across the country—concentrated in heavily gerrymandered congressional districts—to help them win elections. On its own terms, that project has been an incomparable success, but it has also been a moral abomination, forcing one of America’s two major political parties into complicity with the worst actors in the country. Conservatives finally discovered a vocal distaste for Arpaio after Trump pardoned him, but for decades they have done nothing to kick Arpaioites out of the coalition. Some Republicans may be genuinely uncomfortable with this arrangement, but nearly all of them represent parts of the country that are walled off from dissent.
I wholeheartedly agree with Beutler's assertion that the entire Republican Party shares the blame for Arpaio's misdeeds (though Beutler's recounting of those misdeeds is woefully incomplete -- go here and here for more). I don't agree, however, with the word "forcing" -- nobody held a gun to the heads of Arpaio's fellow Republicans and compelled them to tolerate him.

They did so because they knew they'd benefit as Republicans from the brand-building aura of "toughness" directed at non-white people, but they also knew that no voter who was in any way squeamish about what Arpaio was doing would blame them personally for it, because they'd be regarded as the "nice" Republicans, the ones with couth and good manners who piously declare that all men and women are brothers and sisters even as Republican policies brutalize and disenfranchise black and brown people. This is the same deal they have with Trump -- all but a handful of them support him, and yet they have much of the public (and the political press) persuaded that his worst behavior has nothing to do with them.

In this sense, they absolutely don't own Trump's pardon of Arpaio, any more than they own the other awful doings of Arpaio and Trump. Their pious tut-tutting is accepted by much of the public (and a substantial portion of the media). The sanctimonious claptrap offered up by former senator John Danforth last week in The Washington Post -- Danforth asserted that Trump is the antithesis of a Republican because the GOP is the party of national unity -- is plausible to much of the political world and the public even though Trump and Arpaio's good standing within the GOP mocks every sentence Danforth wrote.

The vast majority of Republicans always get away with seeming like decent people. Nothing ever sticks to them. That has to change.


Hi, I'm back. Thank you again, Yastreblyansky and Crank -- I've been leaning on you guys and Tom a lot lately, and I've really appreciated your help when I've been away.

I'm reading the Hurricane Harvey news, and while I agree with Yastreblyansky that The New York Times is giving Trump a lot more credit for engagement than he deserves, I think Trump could surprise us by responding to Harvey at least adequately.

Trump was completely overmatched when it was time to craft complex health care legislation because he lacks the ability to master details, which are the source of health care disputes. He couldn't participate in bill crafting because he couldn't be bothered to understand the consequences of supporting or opposing particular policy choices.

But competent disaster relief isn't really political. Republicans and Democrats don't have serious disagreements about how to do it well. So Trump doesn't have to understand what he's being told about how it's done. He just has to nod and agree with what the pros tell him they intend to do. From what Mark Landler of the Times is telling us, there are pros in place, and nodding in agreement with them is precisely what Trump is doing:
One thing that may help the Trump administration’s response is the hard-won history that some of its leaders have with Katrina. Mr. Trump’s homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, was working for FEMA when the hurricane struck, and later ran Mr. Bush’s emergency preparedness office. The agency’s current administrator, [Brock] Long, was head of FEMA’s hurricane program at the time of Katrina....

Mr. Bossert suggested that disaster relief, with its focus on rapid response and logistics, was well suited to Mr. Trump.

“This is right up President Trump’s alley,” he said. “His questions weren’t about geopolitical issues or about large political consequences. His questions were about, ‘Are you doing what it takes to help the people who are going to be affected by this storm?’”
Are you doing all the right things? Great.

Trump probably isn't obsessed, as he usually is, with trying to do the opposite of whatever President Obama did. He knows that he and his people have to be on top of the situation, which is what didn't happen during Katrina in the Bush administration. Trump doesn't like the Bush family very much, so I'm sure he thinks it's important to outdo George W. He probably has a vague memory that various crises were referred to as "Obama's Katrina," and the problem with the real Katrina seemed to be lack of interest on the part of the president, so Trump will be ... interested. I think that means he'll greenlight what needs to be greenlighted. Let's be grateful for that and not worry for now about the fact that he'll never understand the process.

He probably won't want to shaft Texas, which has a supportive Republican governor and two Republican senators who haven't recently criticized him. The storm is also doing damage to Louisiana, which has a Democratic governor, but it also has two Republican senators who aren't known as Trump critics. So Trump's vengeance instinct probably won't be on display. The fact that many of the victims on TV are white will probably curb any inclination on Trump's part to withhold aid.

I can't say how this will play out after the first week or two. There will be serious questions about funding -- The Washington Post has a good writeup on this -- but for now, Trump probably won't preside over an incompetent response, though that doesn't mean he's a generally competent president.

The most disturbing aspect of Trump's response will probably be his desire to make the Harvey story all about himself. It's hard not to think that Trump seems engaged (in his fashion) because he doesn't want the hurricane to draw attention from him. I'm predicting that in the future he'll brag (accurately or otherwise) that "We had the worst hurricane" -- as if just being president during a horrific natural disaster makes him a great leader. But if it means he's rubber-stamping decisions made by people who know what they're doing, well, be glad the response wasn't worse.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Image by 731/Bloomberg.

"In a simple ceremony at Camp David, attended only by a few close friends, President Donald Trump asked the Gulf of Mexico to marry him, and the well-known North American body of water, dressed in a gauzy wrap dotted with clouds and a very large hurricane in its northwest, agreed, pending completion of the pre-nuptial agreement by their attorneys..."

No, not that kind of engagement. But there's something that did strike my funnybone about Landler's story:

President Trump wrapped up a sparkling late-summer weekend at Camp David on Sunday. But his Twitter feed and the photos and statements released by the White House indicated that he did little other than monitor the catastrophic storm in Texas.
"Little other than" sounds like the impression I got as well, that he was basically watching TV for 48 hours, with two sets, one tuned to Fox News and the other to The Weather Channel, or maybe CNN, but Landler makes the case that this kind of engagement is a good thing, or at least a thing calculated to make Trump look good:

throughout the weekend, Mr. Trump posted regular updates on the status of the storm and praise for the government’s response. He held two teleconferences with members of his cabinet, announced that he would travel to Texas on Tuesday, and signed a federal disaster proclamation for the state.
It was a calculated display of energetic presidential leadership — one hardly unique to the Trump administration. But it also revealed a president who was genuinely engaged by the drama unfolding in Texas, certainly more so than he has been by other pressing issues facing his administration, like tax reform or a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
His helpful regular updates include
  • six announcements that he is "closely monitoring" (the third one is really a retweet of Scott Pruitt's thoughts and prayers, and in one case Trump is "closely watching") Hurricane Harvey and one from just before the landfall that he "will remain fully engaged"; 
  • three admiring the way city, state, and federal governments are working together, which is respectively great, wonderful, and great, plus a thank you to volunteers and shoutouts to administrator Brock Long of FEMA and to the "fantastic people on the ground", also known as "great talent on the ground"; 
  • one announcement that he's signed a Disaster Proclamation which "unleashes the full force of government help!",  three suggesting he would be attending meetings, and one responding to encouragement from Senator Grassley; 
  • and statements advising that the storm is "bigger and more powerful than projected", "record setting", the worst storm "many people are saying" they have ever seen, a "once in 500 year flood", one the like of which "even experts" have never seen, and "unprecedented".
I don't want to be mean, but it's hard to see in what sense these are "updating" us about anything. We're also told that
  • he's pardoned one civil rights–hating murderous sheriff, Joe Arpaio late of Maricopa County AZ, and admires a new "book" by another one, David Clarke of Milwaukee County WI;
  • he's going to visit Missouri too on Tuesday, to campaign for a Senate candidate who hasn't yet been nominated for the 2018 elections, so he won't be wasting a whole day on displaying compassion;
  • Mexico will pay for the wall sooner or later, though he doesn't deniy we taxpayers will have to pay for it first;
  • NAFTA is bad and the negotiating partners are too "difficult" and he might have to dump the agreement after all. 
Suggesting that he really is watching The Weather Channel or CNN four or five times as hard as he's watching Fox.

I though Haberman was pretty funny, though:

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Weekend long read: Party of Lincoln

Image via C.K. Coleman.

I've  been paying a ridiculous amount of attention lately to rightwing academic fraud Dinesh D'Souza and his new booklike object, The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, an extended argument that the party of Nancy Pelosi, Tom Perez, and Keith Ellison is objectively pro-slavery, since it was founded 190 years ago by slaveholders, and therefore Nazi, because Hitler's Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei was directly inspired by those leftists John C. Calhoun, James Buchanan, Jefferson Davis, and the Ku Klux Klan and Senator Theodore Bilbo, and Al Smith and Franklin Delano Roosevelt too, who were all essentially the same person, as you can tell by the presence of the word "sozialistisch" in Hitler's party name. And the progressive birth control advocate Margaret Sanger is in there because tying the tubes of intellectually disabled women without asking them for permission, which she thought was a good idea, seems wrong to us, and gassing Jews seems wrong to most of us as well, so that proves gassing Jews is a progressive program*, though only in a Democratic, Woodrow Wilson sense of "progressive", not a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt** sense.

I know it's so stupid it's not worth thinking about in serious times like these, but the thing is D'Souza's thesis is a reductio of a kind of thinking that can be found all over the place, for example in a piece in yesterday's Washington Post by somebody who seems like the opposite of D'Souza in almost every respect, the calm and dignified, indisputably honorable and honest, eminently moderate, compromise-loving, Episcopal priest and former Republican Senator from Missouri John Danforth, an unwavering Trump opponent (in theory at least; I can't find him publicly mentioning Trump's name between December 2015, when he found Trump revolting, and now, when he still does), who writes:
The fundamental reason Trump isn’t a Republican is far bigger than words or policies. He stands in opposition to the founding principle of our party — that of a united country.
We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and our founding principle is our commitment to holding the nation together. This brought us into being just before the Civil War. The first resolution of the platform at the party’s first national convention states in part that “the union of the States must and shall be preserved.” The issue then was whether we were one nation called the United States or an assortment of sovereign states, each free to go its own way.
Danforth is as wrong as D'Souza there, in two respects. Like D'Souza insisting that whatever the Democratic Party may have been in 1826 must be identical to what it is now, Danforth takes the No True Republican position that nobody deserves to be called a Republican today who would not have qualified as one in 1856, which I think makes no sense (under Calvin and Knox, Reformed Christians weren't allowed any instrumental music in church services and could sing nothing but psalms; should we say today's Presbyterians with their modern hymns and organ music aren't Presbyterians?). And like D'Souza making absurd misstatements about what those old Democrats were, that they were in some sense a "leftist" party, Danforth gets his Eternal Republican Identity wrong. Commitment to holding the country together was not their founding principle at all.

The founding principle of the Republican Party, the thing that distinguished them from their Whig predecessors, was their insistence that slavery should be illegal in Kansas and any other future states, as the platform stated before its first resolution, in its explanation of why they were holding a convention:

Friday, August 25, 2017

Constantly asking me

I'll bet you any money Corker has never once asked Trump if he should run in 2018. This is a key to one particular form of Trump falsehood (as when he claimed that at his dinner in Hamburg with Shinzo Abe and Moon Jae-in "everybody was talking about John Podesta"). In reality he does all the talking and doesn't realize that everybody else is silent. He has nothing to talk about with Corker (chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a key supporter of Trump's idiotic proposal to repeal the PPACA without replacing it) except lecturing him about whether he should run in 2018 or not, so that's what he does every time they meet, and then he comes away with the improbable belief that Corker wanted to know what he thought.

Happier times. Image via CNBC.
Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Afghanistan Speech

Kabul record shop, late 50s or early 60s, via Daily Star.

"On Afghanistan," writes Mr. Bret Stephens, "There's No Way Out." And he goes through everything, I mean everything, light footprint, big footprint, nation building, focus on terrorists, using Pakistan, using diplomacy, using a troop surge, nothing works. The best thing is the thing Trump came up with, he decides, which is the light footprint but with a little more heft, and a long-term, possibly unending, not getting out at all:
With relatively modest troop increases, we can provide the elected Afghan government with sufficient military support to reverse some of the Taliban’s recent gains and ensure that it cannot seize Afghan cities or control entire provinces. With relatively modest troop numbers, we can also try to keep U.S. casualties relatively low over time, avoiding the political race to the exits when combat fatalities rise.... Trump, incredibly, may have alighted on the best of a bad set of Afghan options.
It's magnificent that the single thing he picks out of Trump's speech is the thing Trump not only didn't say, but announced as a really important point that he wasn't going to say:

We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.
I know everybody else says he wants to send 4,000 additional troops, but the speech doesn't say it, and specifically says he doesn't want anybody to know whether he does or not. And he does say lots of other stuff, about punishing our nuclear-armed Pakistani allies if they don't shape up, I think that was option 5, and rewarding India if they spend more money on Afghanistan's infrastructure, by not starting a trade war, I think, which is one of the options Stephens completely missed:

We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.
And greatly increasing the weight of the footprint by getting rid of rules of engagement meant to preserve civilian lives:

That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan. These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful, as we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field.
With the renewed focus on terrorists that is option 4; and also our strategy, far from condemning ourselves to the semi-permanent semi-occupation Stephens describes, will be to win.

Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition. Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.
Which is brilliant. "What's your strategy for ending the war, Mr. President?" "I think we should win it!" That's obviously the best way, but how many people would think of it?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Stuck in the Muddle with You

Image via 2Cats&Chloe.

David Brooks ("What Moderates Believe") identifies the great questions:

Donald Trump is not the answer to this nation’s problems, so the great questions of the moment are: If not Trump, what? What does the reaction to Trump look like?
"If not Trump, what?" is a question that can be asked only by those who thought it was likely that Trump was the answer to this nation's problems and have since become uncertain about it. I think the great question is what the fuck was wrong with those people?

"What does the reaction to Trump look like?" Well, it looks like a red. red rose that's newly sprung in June. Or maybe it creeps in on little cat feet.

For some people, the warriors of the populist right must be replaced by warriors of the populist left. For these people, Trump has revealed an ugly authoritarian tendency in American society that has to be fought with relentless fervor and moral clarity.
Gods forbid we should have any moral clarity. That's just so obnoxious.

I don't know why recognizing the ugly authoritarianism Trump exemplifies (not "reveals", you should have known about it long before) entails demanding "warriors of the populist left". I'd think it would entail looking for less authoritarian ways of going on.

For others, it’s Trump’s warrior mentality itself that must be replaced. Warriors on one side inevitably call forth warriors on the other, and that just means more culture war, more barbarism, more dishonesty and more dysfunction. The people in this camp we will call moderates.
Ah, there we go. It's the good old there-are-two-kind-of-people template. There are two kinds of reactions to Trump: those who are bothered by the authoritarianism, who are bad, and those who are bothered by the "warrior mentality", who are Brooks.

Unlike us commoners, they have the good taste to be against culture war, barbarism, dishonesty, and dysfunction. The Brooks are very different from you and me, who would never make such classy objections.

So you know where he's going. Nothing can be changed anyway (if there are warriors one one side there are "inevitably" warriors on the other, and all the bad things that result from that—note by the way that that's the exact bothsiderism for which Trump was so roundly condemned last week). So we can adopt the let's-do-nothing modesty of Burkean conservatism, the smiling, humble, morally muddled authoritarianism aimed at preserving the authority of our traditional religious and class institutions, and call it "centrist".

It's "centrist" because Brooks just built a nice bothsides framework around it, but it's conservatism 101.

I'd like to think about whether there are any political means to the construction of a less authoritarian society, but it wouldn't involve cutting a large number of people out of the discourse because they choose sides and that makes them "immoderate", especially when the self-glorifying "moderates" are covertly choosing the soft-authoritarian side themselves, even as they claim they're not taking sides at all. We don't need to read any more of this. Check Driftglass by all means. And Andrew Johnston's uncharacteristically brief preview from last week.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

I was shocked by the sheriff

From the Times report:

Mr. Trump also implied that he planned to pardon Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who became a national symbol of the crackdown on undocumented immigrants with round-’em-up searches that landed him in legal trouble. “Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Mr. Trump asked to wild whoops and cheers.
“I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” Mr. Trump said. “I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine.”
Translation: "I won't do it tonight because my minders won't let me. But I'll cause all the controversy I can anyway."

No, incidentally, Arpaio wasn't convicted for doing his job. He was convicted for doing it wrong, so wrong that it amounted to criminal misconduct:
  • Criminal contempt of court: Having Latino people harassed and arrested not on suspicious behavior but merely on account of the color of their skin (that's "racial profiling") in traffic stops, workplace raids, and neighborhood sweeps, and refusing to stop in defiance of court orders
  • Failing to combat serious crimes such as sexual abuse: ignoring hundreds of cases of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse of girls, many involving the children of unauthorized immigrants, in its single-minded pursuit of the immigration cases that aren't even part of the county's responsibility—it's federal law—leading to overall increases in the county's violent crime rate, according to a Justice Department civil rights complaint
  • Creating what he himself boasted was a "concentration camp":
Arpaio is best known for establishing Tent City, a sprawling, outdoor detention center which he once positively compared to a “concentration camp.” Temperatures in Tent City, which is surrounded by an electrocuted [sic from ACLU source, h/t swkellogg for catching it] fence, could reach up to 141 degrees; one detainee said life in Tent City felt “like you are in a furnace.” People held there wereprimarily Latinos — he called it “the tent where all the Mexicans are” — and were put into chain gangs and subjected to humiliating practices like public parades.
Women of color in Arpaio’s jails were particularly mistreated. The Justice Department discovered cases where Latina detainees were “denied basic sanitary items” and were “forced to remain with sheets or pants soiled from menstruation” or were put into “solitary confinement for extended periods of time because of their inability to understand and thus follow a command given in English.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Timing is everything, isn't it?

Image via IN.

That was on MSNBC, before Trump's speech even began.

New York Times came out shortly after it ended, trying to get out ahead of the narrative by not only calling the pivot in the speech ("his best speech" apparently meaning "the one with the fewest words composed by Donald J. Trump") and the counterpivot we should be expecting sometime today.

But the most scorching hot take of all, I think, came from Chris Cillizza at CNN: the speech,was great because it was only "ostensibly" about Afghanistan, it was really about Charlottesville:
He just wasn't telling us how many troops he was sending to Virginia. I guess it depends on how much cooperation we get from North Carolina and Maryland.

Best thing is, that explains what happened last week in the Charlottesville speech: he was talking about Afghanistan!
"It's been going on for a long time... Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, it's been going on for a long time.... Egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides."
Like poor old Robert Mugabe, he just got the speeches switched.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Major Speech or General Speech

Bala Hissar Fortress, Kabul, at the time of the 1842 war, via British Battles.

I imagine Trump's address on Afghanistan tonight is going to be on the sober side, sticking fairly resolutely to the script that's been prepared for him in the hope of getting the broadcast media to call it "presidential", and since the actual policy change is supposed to be pretty modest, just adding another 4,000 troops to the 8,000 that are there, in contrast to the 100,000 US troops at the height of the Obama "surge" in 2011-12, the media discussion is mostly going to be about him, and whether he does or doesn't "demonstrate the stability and competence he needs to be successful", as old Senator Corker complained last week; as Corey Robin says:
Social media will focus entirely on the rhetoric. The theme of the commentary will be something like: Trump consolidating his shaky presidency with imperial violence abroad! Media falls for new Trump presidency grounded in imperial violence abroad! And then by Wednesday, it’ll all be forgotten. The discussion will have moved on to Trump’s latest tweet, whatever surge in the polls Trump got from his announcement will be countermanded by whatever barbarity he utters in his tweet.
But while everyone will be talking about the “insanity” of this presidency and this moment, there’ll be almost no discussion of the real insanity of this moment: that yet another US president continues, at the cost of tens of thousands of lives, the longest war in US history—a war that shows no sign of being winnable—simply because no US president wants to be the one who lost Afghanistan.
I think it might even be a bit worse than that, on a couple of counts.

For one thing, the new "strategy" isn't necessarily as modest as the narrative is telling us. General Mattis has been anxiously saying that it isn't an Afghanistan strategy but a "South Asia" strategy, which means basically that it's also about Pakistan, where numerous Taliban cells and the so-called Haqqani network (and, they always used to say, Taliban sympathizers in the military) work both sides of the border to complicate the Afghanistan situation. According to the Times coverage, that aspect of the new strategy is going to be mainly about the use of US money for the Pakistani military—giving it or withholding it or laying down conditions—but there's a side the president and generals won't talk about, which is the presence of CIA troops in Pakistan. Looks like Afghanistan is going to escape Erik Prince's private army for the time being, but the equally unaccountable CIA force in Pakistan, intriguing and conducting its drone war in the borderlands, will still be there, killing.

And then another aspect is likely (I think I heard this on NPR this morning) to be the continued loosening of restraints on our military, especially with respect to bombing—restraints the Obama administration worked so hard to install from 2011 through 2016 to hold down civilian casualties, though I guess not very successfully in Afghanistan, where civilian deaths caused by NATO and government strike were already way up last year. Coalition was handling things better in Iraq and Syria, and they're much worse there now.

I will say about tonight's speech, in spite of Corey, that the more Trump looks "presidential", the more he'll be under the generals' control. That's how it will be staged, like an episode in Celebrity Apprentice, to look as if he's selected the best contestant to lead this week's effort, after considering all their ideas judiciously, with the Trump frown, showing him decisive, but of course the plan is pretty much their wish list, the kind of thing people like Mattis have been agitating for for a while. In reality Emperor Trump has nothing to do with it, other than showing up to take the credit. As I always say, there is a good side to this (Trump's not in charge) and a bad side (there is no civilian control over the military). It's uncharted constitutional territory, and though I'm confident nobody's going to blow up the world, it still gives me the willies.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

What to do with that torn down Confederate statue? That’s easy. Leave it just the way it is.

Angry protestors transformed this object from a monument
to a work of art
Statues of military figures, Confederate or not, are pretty much clichés in this nation. They’re everywhere — from the oodles of them on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, to the front lawns of obscure county courthouses around the nation.

The statues don’t say much. Essentially, all they tell us is, “Here’s a soldier. He stands for the thousands of soldiers who fought and died. He’s on a horse. Or on foot, weapon ready, prepared to defend his cause.” 

The cause might be anything — the defense of this nation against foreign invasion, or the destruction of naziism, or the complaint that the Kaiser was blocking our shipping lanes, or the demand that only the United States may colonize the Western Hemisphere, or the continuance (or destruction) of slavery on American soil.

Last week, in Durham, North Carolina, angry protestors tore down a civil war statue. And in so doing, instead of simply vandalizing  a clichéd monument, they created a visual masterpiece.

Lying on the ground in beneath his own pedestal, his legs bent or broken just above the ankles, his hat bashed in, his head bent as if to hide his face in shame, his body supported partly by his own base and partly by the soil, he now has more to say to those who pass than he ever did high atop his pedestal.

He is now a symbol not only of soldiers who fought for slavery in the Civil War, but also of what became of many of them, and of the world’s regard for their cause. And he speaks also of the rage of 21st Century protestors who said, in effect, enough! This worship of “lost” causes must stop when the lost cause is an evil cause. Those who fight for malevolent ends will always, in time, be toppled.

The bent and broken body, lying in front of a pedestal bearing the inscription, “IN MEMORY OF THE BOYS WHO WORE THE GRAY” is no longer a monument. Instead, it has all the characteristics of a work of art. It shows us something familiar in a new way. It prompts discussion. It makes an impassioned commentary. It tells a story.

It should be preserved in its present state. 

Cross-posted at The New York Crank