chris_gerrib: (Default)
Various Southern cities are taking down statues commemorating Confederate war heroes. These statues were largely erected by white Southerners from 1890 to 1920, and were explicitly intended to send a signal to the local black population that Whites Were In Charge. They were also intended to hide the fact that the Civil War was fought by the South to protect slavery.

In any event, the statues are finally coming down. Various groups of whites are protesting the removal, and some of them have been heard chanting "Russia is our friend" at these protests. One sees this "Russia is our friend" concept a lot among the Alt-Right and Trump supporters (for whatever difference there is between the two groups). The question is why? Why did we go from a Cold War fear of the Ruskies to "Russia is our friend?"

There are a variety of reasons for this. The simplest is that Russia is ethnically mostly white - even most of the non-Russian peoples in the country are "white" by American standards. The Russian government has obviously done a lot with Twitter-bots and other social media creations to pump themselves up. But I think the biggest reason is Putin.

The American right, and right-wings in general, have always been fond of authoritarians. After all, the original "right wing" were the (absolute monarch) King's supporters in the French Estates General. Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford were both quite okay with Nazi Germany, not changing their minds until very late in the game. As I noted elsewhere, The antebellum South was organized, directed and structured to the benefit of white men, preferably those of property.

This is why the Alt-Right and Trump supporters not only aren't upset with Trump's collusion with Russia, but confused as to why anybody else is upset. We should be working with Russia. (Actually, if and when Russia extracts their collective heads from their asses, they should be natural allies with the US.)

The problem with authoritarians is this - it really matters who's the kicker and who's the kick-ee. By their very nature, authoritarian regimes end up with everybody, even members of the secret police (and there's always a secret police) being scared of their shadows. Anybody can be turned in by anybody for anything, true or not. Authoritarian regimes end up collapsing, because loyalty trumps (pun intended) competency, and the collapse is messy and bloody.

But for a while, while your side is the kicker, authoritarianism feels good. Unfortunately, the good feelings never last.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I was flying back from a business trip to Orlando today, so I didn't see much news. I did note that the GOP, in a squeaker of a vote, repealed Obamacare. I'll just note the hypocrisy of "read the bill" (which they didn't) and "jam through without debate" (ditto) and the complete lack of bipartisan support for this bill (which supposedly made Obamacare bad). I will note that I think the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot, much like the Sad Puppies did with the Hugo affair.

So, in the Sad Puppies affair, a bunch of maximalists jammed through a slate of nominees. Many people (including Yours Truly) came out of the woodwork to put the kibosh on this. Trump and the GOP have jammed through something that will prove to be unpopular and unworkable. People have been coming out of the woodwork against Trump since the day he won the election, and this will continue.

In general, when maximalists gain control of a situation, anti-maximalists come out of the woodwork to oppose them. In the Civil War, when Southerners, upset that the North wouldn't allow them to expand slavery (see South Carolina's declaration of secession), left the Union and tried to take the Navy and coastal forts on the way out, people came out of the woodwork in opposition.

Being a maximalist generates maximal resistance.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Over the weekend, I saw the new movie The Birth of a Nation, which is the story of Nat Turner and his slave rebellion. The movie theater I saw it in was practically empty (myself and two others) and I'm told that attendance at this movie in general was low. That's a shame, as the movie is quite good.

Although it's advertised as the story of Nat Turner's slave rebellion, the actual revolt doesn't happen until the last quarter of the movie. The first three quarters are about Nat's life in particular and life in the antebellum South in general. One scene I found particularly enlightening.

Nat is standing outside a store by a wagon, waiting for his master to return from settling up with the owner inside. As he's waiting, a small white boy walks by and drops his doll. Nat calls out (respectfully) to the boy's mother and returns the doll. The father of the family immediately shows up and starts hitting Nat with his stick for "talking to my wife." His wife, attempting to explain, is immediately silenced and ignored. Fortunately, the beating stops when Nat's master arrives.

The moral of the little scene was clear. The antebellum South was organized, directed and structured to the benefit of white men, preferably those of property. Everybody else was at best a second-class citizen.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Update

Yesterday I made a one-day business trip to eastern Tennessee. It involved an oh-dark-thirty wake up call to catch the dawn patrol flight to Nashville, an hour's drive, and a late evening return to Chicago. I seriously considered flying in the night before, but that would have meant a night in a chain motel and a dinner at a chain restaurant. In short, six of one or a half dozen of the other. In any event, I'm back in the saddle.

Random Thoughts

1) Via various news sources (use your own Google) former general and Secretary of State Colin Powell is quoted has having said in email that the Benghazi affair was a witch hunt. He was also quoted (a sentiment I agree with) as saying the problem was our Ambassador thought the Libyan people loved him (which they may have) and thus he was safe (obviously not).

2) Again via various sources comes news that the Trump charitable "foundation" was yet another scam. Trump collected other people's money, used same to write checks to other charities while siphoning off as much as possible to pay family and buy junk for himself. The technical term for such conduct is "felony fraud" and usually earns one an orange jumpsuit.

3) Over at Wright's House of Wrong, the proprietor quotes Chesterton on the loss of honor due to the South's defeat in the Civil War. I am gobsmacked to note that the entire just under 2000 word article has not one mention of "slavery" in it.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I suppose I should say something pithy about the results of last night's primaries in Indiana, but I don't really have anything. Trump won big as expected, Sanders won narrowly as not expected, but the only change was Cruz recognizing the inevitable. So I'll talk about something else, namely history.

A commentor on another post suggested I said that "(the War of Southern Rebellion was fought for the purpose of freeing black slaves)." No, actually not. The South left the Union and tried to steal Federal property on the way out (Fort Sumter, the Navy in Norfolk). The South left because the North was not sufficiently supportive (in the South's view) of slavery. See the South Carolina Declaration of Secession.

There were a variety of attitudes in the North with regards to slavery, including freedom. The majority position, however, coalesced around keeping slavery out of the north. The working man didn't want to compete with slave wages, and the wealthier classes didn't want to worry about slave revolts.

The man who did the most to actually free slaves was Benjamin Butler. He was a politician who'd used pull to get himself a brigadier general's commission in the state militia, which he parlayed into a major general's post in the Union army. He was incompetent as a general, even by the somewhat lax standards of the time.

But Butler was a sharp lawyer, and when three escaped slaves showed up at his command at Fort Monroe, he refused to return them to their masters. Since the slaves had been employed in building Confederate fortifications, he felt returning the slaves would be the same as handing back guns to the enemy. After some to-and-fro, this became official policy, and the Union army took to paying, feeding and employing former slaves in their camps.

This same logic came to be used to support the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which only freed slaves in areas "people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States."

In any event, the South, by demanding extension of slave-holders' rights into the North, precipitated a series of events that ended slavery everywhere. The moral of the story is that sometimes it is much better to take half a loaf than to demand the whole thing.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Been saving this up...

A) An interesting thought on police misconduct. The author compares fear of police as equivalent to the fear of terrorism. Both are random events that could happen to anybody anywhere, where as other forms of violence can in theory be avoided.

B) What do you eat in Antarctica? The hot dog soup actually looks pretty good, but then one does not get to be my size by being a picky eater.

C) The title says it all Yes, Virginia, people of color do fucking read SF/F.

D) Speaking of science fiction, an interesting anthology having a Kickstarter.

E) Here's a video on the cause of the Civil War:

Was the Civil War About Slavery?

New Video! "Was the Civil War About Slavery?"What caused the Civil War? Did the North care about abolishing slavery? Did the South secede because of slavery? Or was it about something else entirely...perhaps states' rights? Col. Ty Seidule, history professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, settles the debate once and for all.For more information on the Civil War, check out The West Point History of the Civil War, an interactive e-book that brings the Civil War to life in a way that's never been done. Click here -> https://shop.westpointhistoryofwarfare.com/products/copy-of-the-west-point-history-of-the-civil-war.

Posted by PragerU on Monday, August 10, 2015
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Last week, a racist terrorist shot and killed a bunch of blacks because the terrorist wanted to start a race war and he's a terrorist. Said terrorist associated himself with the Stars and Bars Confederate flag, a flag that is currently flying near the state capitol in South Carolina, site of the terrorist attack. In addition, the terrorist linked himself with the Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor organization to the "uptown Klan" White Citizens Council.

Today, everybody from the conservative blog Redstate to Republican governor Nikki Haley are running to distance themselves from both the flag and the Council. Now, both flag and Council have been criticized vigorously for years if not decades, but Republicans have stuck by them before.

Sometimes, progress happens slowly and incrementally. Other times, it's sudden, as if a dam has broken. Don't get me wrong - we have a ways to go on race, but this appears to be a big turning point.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
In honor of today's ice storm, have some links:

A) Cave-related link #1 - mysterious "terrorist" cave in Toronto just a man-cave.

B) Cave-related link #2 - what claims to be the largest cave in the world, with its own jungle, river and climate.

C) Building the first museum of slavery in the US.

D) An interesting story about being the daughter of a serial killer

E)
Assessing the health of independent bookstores - in the US, they are up 27% from 2007. Not clear is whether this is a "dead cat bounce" or a more permanent thing.

F) Why women love the movie 'Jupiter Ascending'.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
* With apologies to The Godfather. (The quote? "Leave the gun. Take the canoli.")

A) From cop and pro-gun advocate Chris Hernandez, a mostly tactical and partially ideological argument against open carry. From the same guy, healing the rift between police and the public.

B) Via Crossroads blog, an interesting documentation of the fact that slaves and free blacks did fight for the Confederacy. Not by any means a majority of blacks fought for the South, but some did.

C) No, Virginia, Antarctic ice is NOT growing or expanding. It is in fact declining, as is Arctic ice.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Much like John Scalzi, I have no desire whatsoever to go shopping today. Since Mom is still laid up with her hip (although they are moving her to a rehab place today, so improvements noted) I decided to go into work.

Speaking of work, it looks like (fingers crossed) we've filled our recent job opening. It's nice to be in a position to hire, especially in a soft economy.

Yesterday, in lieu of an after-Thanksgiving-meal nap, I decided to take in the new movie Lincoln. Although obviously set during the Civil War, it's not an action movie, instead focusing on the passing of the 13th Amendment banning slavery. The movie then cuts to the Hampton Roads Conference, a meeting held the week after the amendment passed in which the Confederates asked for peace. The movie makes clear that the reason the conference failed was Southern insistence on slavery. What it doesn't show is that Lincoln, at the conference, offered to give the South cash in compensation for freed slaves. I found the movie both historically accurate and very entertaining.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
A year ago today, we were bracing for a giant blizzard. Today, I'm trying to decide if I should cut back my rose bush or let it keep growing. So, in honor of our mild, dry and entirely-non-global-warming-related winter, have some links:

A) From the New York Times, Adolescent girl hysteria.

B) So, after the Civil War, a Confederate Colonel wrote to his ex-slave and asked him to come back to the plantation. The slave's reply is a thing of beauty.

C) Video reconstruction of how the Costa Concordia ended up on the rocks.

D) Closing on a global warming note, two relevant links. First, the USDA has changed growing zones. They've moved pretty much everything north. Second, an argument that the Little Ice Age was caused by volcanic eruptions. We know that 1816, the Year Without a Summer, was caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora the year previous, so it makes sense.

Since tomorrow is Groundhog Day, in honor of Bill Murray expect another helping of link salad, this time a political edition.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
For some reason, my April 14, 2010 entry keeps getting hit with stupid SPAM comments. I then go delete these comments, which involves me reading a non-SPAM comment there to the effect of "American blacks had a duty (or were perceived to have a duty) to go back to Africa and help get that continent squared away."

I didn't respond to the comment at the time, but since I keep seeing it, a response hit me. My response goes something like this:

I am of Lithuanian descent, so, by the same argument, I should go back to Lithuania to help out. However, I was born in the USA. My father was born in the USA. His father, my grandfather, was born in the USA. Grandfather was the last of us to speak any Lithuanian, and he died in 1985. What duty do I owe Lithuania? And if I don't owe a duty to Lithuania, why would an American black, who would have a longer chain of "born in the USA" than I have, retain a duty to go back and help "their" continent?
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Three random thoughts, linked only by being in one mind (mine):

1) Here's an interesting article on the history of US space suits.

2) The story of Robert Smalls, a Civil War slave who stole a Confederate ship and later became the first black captain of a vessel in the service of the United States.

3) You may have heard from certain (usually right-wing) sources that Europe is in danger of becoming "Eurabia" - a majority Muslim region. Well, not so fast, partner. Europe is currently only 4% Muslim, and that demographic isn't growing significantly faster than any other group.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
1) The official Declaration of Secession from South Carolina. The shorter version: "The bad Northerners won't give back our slaves and talk bad about slavery!" Seriously.

2) Who exactly makes over $250,000 per year? Not small business owners. The breakdown is at the link.

3) So, the Colombian cartel is using "home made" submarines to smuggle drugs into the US. A fascinating story.

4) Via [livejournal.com profile] jaylake, I give you the crackpots of "forbidden" archeology. You'll find many similarities between those crackpots and the anti-global warming crowd.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Ta-Neishi Coates, a blogger at The Atlantic magazine, has been reading various histories of the Confederacy. He's struck by how medieval some of the Confederacy's institutions and practices were. For example, they fielded a strong army, but never had a working post office system - a vital service in the pre-telephone days.

When I read Coates, I was immediately reminded of Mark Twain, who famously blamed Sir Walter Scott for the South's medieval fixation. It's worth a read, especially as Twain points out that Scott's portrayal of Medieval England had all the accuracy of a Disney animated movie, which is to say very little.

Another member of the "blame Scott" crowd is Scott Horton, who visited Sir Walter's castle and reflected on the gap between reality and fantasy. You see, Sir Walter's castle wasn't a real castle - he had one built at great expense and funded by an enormous loan that was always a burden.

In short, the Southern fans of Sir Walter Scott weren't the only people who confused fiction with reality. Nor are they the last.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Various links, cluttering up my desktop, presented with commentary:

1) The Tale of Two Failed Plots: So, we've all heard of the Underpants Bomber, who failed to blow up a plane. Not nearly as many have heard of Najibullah Zazi who failed to blow up three NYC subway trains. Zazi was arrested by the Plain Old Police (POP), given his Miranda rights, and coughed up his co-conspirators. Why don't we hear more about Zazi? His case makes the Obama administration look good, and we obviously can't have that.

2) Confederate History Month: From Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephen's most famous speech, African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution... [Our new government's] ... foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition.

3) Air Marshals: The security expert Bruce Schneier notes that we are spending $200 million per arrest in the Federal Air Marshal system.

4) Building a Green Economy: Paul Krugman writes an interesting if long article on how building a green economy would be beneficial both economically and for our climate. Get a cup of your beverage of choice and read it.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
As you may have heard, the newly-elected Republican governor of Virginia proclaimed this month "Confederate History Month" in his state. The original proclamation didn't even mention the word "slavery," let alone note that the cause of the war was a desire to defend slavery. After taking some heat, the Governor, to his credit, apologized and amended his proclamation, noting that slavery did in fact cause the war.

To say people's feathers got ruffled by the proclamation is an understatement. A few notable reactions:

Elizabeth Moon: History lesson: the South did not fight for "freedom". The white men of the South fought for the right to enslave others. And thank God Almighty, they lost. Over a hundred years ago.

The blog Lawyers, Guns and Money: assume arguendo that many Confederate soliders were not motivated primarily by a desire to protect slavery when joining in a treasonous war. By the same token, I’m sure many members of the Wehrmacht fought valiantly and were not personally motivated by a desire to exterminate Jews; this would hardly make a month commemorating Nazi soldiers — let alone a “Nazi History Month” whose proclamation made no reference to genocide — defensible. And if we concede that Confederate soldiers were fighting for a kinder, gentler form of white supremacist authoritarianism than the Nazis, at least members of the Wehrmacht weren’t taking up arms against their own country...

Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic: The GOP is, effectively, the party of willfully unlettered Utopians. It is the party of choice for those who believe global warming is a hoax, that humans roamed the earth with dinosaurs, and that homosexuals should work harder at not being gay.

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