Streetwise Professor

August 27, 2017

The Mask Is Off

Filed under: History,Politics — The Professor @ 6:42 pm

The mask is off in Berkeley, precisely because the masks are on. Masked Antifa thugs with black shirts and red flags–quite a chilling combination, no?–set upon a small group of individuals whom they declared to be Nazis. But, unlike in Charlottesville, there wasn’t a swastika in sight–or even an tiki torch. Instead, a small group of Trump supporters–including those with names like Irma Hinojosa (I’m sure her friends call her Billy Bob, or maybe even Nathan Bedford)  attempted to stage a rally, and were attacked by the Antifa types, who labeled everyone in sight (other than them) Nazis:

Andrew Noruk, who was wearing a T-shirt denouncing both the Republican and Democratic parties when two young women came up to him and started yelling at him.

“You’re a Nazi,” they shouted, leaving Noruk, who said he came out to protest Trump supporters, confused.

Poor, poor, deluded Andrew. If you aren’t one of them, you are a Nazi.

How ugly did it get? This ugly. And by the way, Shane, since the victim is “apparently” alt-right, does that make it OK with you? Sure not sensing any outrage in your coverage or your TL.

Also note the tremendous heroism of the black shirted thugs. Ten or so vs. one. Sticks and shields vs. nothing.

Where were the police, you’re asking? Um, they did a full on Sir Robin, and ran away–buggered off; scarpered. Shameful. I understand that this is the Berkeley PD’s new headgear. It’s appropriate in sooo many ways.

This should be–but of course won’t be–a clarifying moment. First, we see that if there aren’t actual Nazis around, that is no impediment to Antifa–they’ll manufacture one out of any material at hand. And indeed, anyone who isn’t full on Antifa likely qualifies as a Nazi in their book. But apparently the most useful of the idiotic–or is it the most idiotic of the useful?–like Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio are totally cool about delegating the task of Nazi-designation to this lot.

Second, this strips away some of the ambiguity present in Charlottesville. There were no plausibly violent Nazis massing in Berkeley, yet there was violence anyways. It had to have come from the left, and there is graphic evidence that it came from the left. So if the left engages in violence in someplace like Berkeley when they had to imagine a far-right provocation, it is highly likely that they engaged in, and came with the intent of engaging in, violence in Charlottesville when there were large numbers of their main enemy present.

In other words, things like Berkeley are a natural experiment that sheds light on the causes of political violence in the US. Viewing such experiments, it is beyond farcical to absolve the left of any responsibility for it in places like Charlottesville.

This is why I am saying that the mask is off. Events like those in Berkeley (and the threat of similar violence that led to the cancellation of a rally in San Francisco) reveal the aggressive and violent agenda on the far left. It is not resistance or reaction. It is a driving force.

Would that the useful idiots paid attention. But then they wouldn’t be idiots, or useful.

Third, there were other leftists protesting in Berkeley. These included relatively mainstream groups like the Democratic Socialists of American (recall that Bernie Sanders identifies himself as a democratic socialist). Yet the DSA was chanting Antifa slogans.

Is this entryism (a well-known tactic advocated by Trotsky, among others)? That is, has Antifa infiltrated the DSA and is pushing it in a more radical direction? Or more disturbingly, are mainstream left groups, heretofore non-violent, embracing a more violent and confrontational–and non-democratic–ideology?

I will note that the grotesque imbalance in media treatment of Antifa and other hard left groups on the one hand and Nazis and White Supremacists on the other does suggest a mainstreaming of communism that is extremely disturbing. Indeed, the mainstream media refuses to look seriously at Antifa violence, and when it acknowledges it, rationalizes it as a form of idealism, thereby whitewashing black shirted thugs spouting a red ideology.

Fourth, in some jurisdictions, law “enforcement” is ceding ground to violent individuals and organizations, which will beget violence and the Weimarization of America.

Meanwhile, here in Texas, we see spontaneous acts of civility, charity, and civic action under increasingly dire circumstances. These acts cut across racial, ethnic, and class lines. For instance, the man with the airboat festooned with a Confederate flag logo picking up strangers–including African-Americans. Which, alas, set the SJW set into a frenzy on Twitter, though I’m guessing that if they were in the water and he pulled up, they wouldn’t go all Japanese sailor mode and chose to drown rather than be rescued by an “enemy”. We are also seeing commitment to duty, hard work, and courage displayed by law enforcement and military personnel (including notably state and national guardsmen and women). We are seeing (for the most part) professional competence displayed by state and local authorities working under very trying conditions.

There are many Americas. I know which one I prefer.

 

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Riding the Storm Out

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Professor @ 11:08 am

Harvey has hit Houston with Biblical rains. I’m stocked up and off ground level, and searching the Internet for Ark plans. One of the most damaging hurricanes in Houston history was Allison, in June, 2001. Like Harvey, rather than hitting the city with devastating winds, it was a slow moving storm that inundated the city. Post-Allison Houston made efforts to increase drainage capacity, but the city is low-lying, and with all the pavement and buildings, this storm is likely to result in some pretty devastating flooding. How devastating depends a lot on how fast Harvey decides to get out of town.

It’s hard to get a comprehensive picture of things, especially at street level. You see pictures on the news or Twitter of flooded areas, but hard to know how representative that is. My street and the nearest major street are curb deep in water, and there are cars stalled.

All I can do is hang out and ride it out and hope for the best. Maybe given my enforced idleness I’ll write a substantive post in a bit 😉

And even though I’m not a big REO Speedwagon fan, this seems an appropriate way to pass the time.

Update. Sadly, there are parts of the Houston area where this seems more appropriate:

Braes Bayou, where I used to live, is over its banks. The place I first lived in here was a block from the Bayou, and had been flooded up to the door frames by Allison. (I moved in a year after it had been repaired.) I’m sure it’s flooded again.

 

 

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August 20, 2017

Even Orwell Would Be Agog

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 6:18 pm

If you read the news lately, you’d think it’s the 1930s all over again, and Nazis are the gravest threat the world faces  in 2017. Case in point, the Prime Minister of Sweden:

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called for people to stand up against the growing threat of Nazism and white-power movements to protect democratic values.

Fascist groups are moving forward their positions “step by step,” the premier said in a speech in Eskilstuna, Sweden, highlighting local demonstrations across the Nordic country as well as “Nazi groups, the Ku Klux Klan and white power protesters in Charlottesville.”

“It may be easy to try to laugh away these angry men with big words, small hearts and closed fists,” he said. “But all fascist movements were small when they were founded and were able to quickly gain followers during difficult times.”

I’ve spent time in Gothenburg. I’ve been through Malmo. Hell, I’ve been to the Stockholm train station. Based on what I’ve seen with my own two eyes, I can state with metaphysical certainty that Nazis in Sweden are not the country’s biggest problem, let alone Nazis in Charlottesville,VA.

For this . . . person to say this in the immediate aftermath of a Islamist terror attack in Spain that killed 14 in a reprise of an Islamist terror attack in Stockholm in April that killed four (and targeted small children), and in the immediate aftermath of an Islamist terror attack in nearby southwestern Finland that killed two, and in the aftermath of other Islamist terror attacks in Europe and the US almost too numerous to list is loathsome and appalling.

All the more so because it is deliberately political. Lovfen and others like him–including the increasingly loathsome Angela Merkel–are hyperventilating about Nazis–including Nazis thousands of miles from anywhere that is their business to begin with–precisely to distract attention from the real danger lurking in their midst, and their responsibility for letting this danger metastasize.*

And it’s even more cynical than that, especially in the US. By setting up Nazis as the straw man to epitomize evil, the left is staking out its claim as being the main adversary of this looming menace, and laying the foundation to claim that anyone who opposes the left is pro-Nazi. We are seeing this daily in the US, and we are also seeing cowardly political putzes like Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham buy into this premise and validate a cynical strategy that will be used not just against them (which they actually well deserve) but against tens of millions of other Americans whom the left despises and wants to silence.

Given that Nazis in the United States, and even in Europe, are fringe figures, present in tiny numbers, made up exclusively of losers, hyping the Nazi menace actually trivializes the monstrousness of Nazism in the 1920s-1945.

If Nazis and white supremacists did not exist, the left would have to invent them. In a way they have. They are not completely a figment of the imagination, but the outsized role they are playing in current discourse is completely fantastical, and bears no relationship to reality. This is a calculated attempt to seize control of the political narrative and to silence vast numbers of people who oppose the identity politics of the left.

Ironic, isn’t it? The most ruthless practitioners of identity politics wildly exaggerate the danger posed by fringe groups obsessed with racial identity in order to silence those who are disgusted by identity politics. I think even Orwell would be agog.

*Lest you say that Europe’s Islamism crisis is thousands of miles away from anywhere that is an American’s business, I remind you that (a) the 9-11 plot was hatched in Hamburg, under the eyes of the German authorities, (b) Americans have died in many of the Islamist attacks in Europe, including in Barcelona last week, the attack in Paris in November, 2015, and the attack in Nice in July of last year–and that’s just off the top of my head, and (c) the foreign ISIS recruits that the US has spent billions killing in Iraq and Syria, and who have killed Americans engaged in that fight, come from Europe in large numbers.

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August 16, 2017

First They Came For Lee . . .

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — The Professor @ 6:26 pm

The battle over the monuments is not really about the monuments. It’s not even really about the legacy of the Civil War. It is about the left’s vision of what America was, is, and will be. Here’s the most important thing to remember. The hard-core left that is the driving force behind extirpating the icons of the Confederacy does not see it, or the Old South, as an exception, a deviation from an otherwise laudable and righteous history: they see it as just one manifestation of the fundamental evil of America, evil that is writ on every page of history from 1607 on down. In this worldview, the United States has been, from even before its formal beginning, characterized by racism, sexism, and oppressive capitalism. It is not something that is basically good, but which has fallen short of achieving its lofty ideals: it is something that is fundamentally rotten, and which must be transformed by any means necessary.

It should not be surprising how the left conducts its march through institutions. It is really rather brilliant in conception and execution, although malign in effect and intent. There is a long term objective–in this case, the transformation of the US. But there is a coherent operational plan that concentrates force on a specific objective, and once that objective is taken, moves on to the next one.

Right now the ostensible target is the legacy of the Confederacy, but once the battle of the Confederate monuments is won, they will move on to the next target, which will inevitably include sooner or later every person in the American political pantheon, and every political, social, and economic institution that reflects the American past and tradition.

The left also masterfully personalizes the conflict, and ruthlessly presents the false choice between being on the side of the angels, or the side of the devils. In the current case, Nazis and white supremacists have been made the face of the anti-left. And now the left–with the assistance of many useful idiots, to whom I will turn in a moment–presents the false choice: if you are anti-left, well, that means that you are a Nazi or a fellow traveler thereof.

This is what’s happening here, and it’s as plain as day. Today it’s Robert E. Lee. Tomorrow it will be Lincoln and Washington and the Constitution and the Founding. The ultimate objective is the delegitimization of the American creed.

What is particularly sickening about this is that the most militant–and violent–of the leftists are being sanitized, and indeed lionized, because of their alleged anti-racist cred: anti-racism has become a license for vandalism and violence.

This is unbelievably stupid, and unbelievably dangerous. Antifa and the like are just the mirror image of the most retrograde white supremacists. Black bandanas=White hoods. Hammer and Sickle (which is displayed prominently at many Antifa and leftist actions)=Swastika. Both are anti-American. Both are anti-liberty. Both are committed to use violence in order to achieve their maximalist objectives. Nazis on the one side, Bolsheviks on the other. And it’s not as if either is hiding it: their regalia and flags advertise it.

And crucially, both are the twisted spawn of identity politics, the bane of modern society. Both define everything in crude terms of race and ethnicity and religion. Both are collectivists–a point too often overlooked, even though it is of decisive importance. Both reject the Western individualist revolution that began with Christianity and then humanism, and advanced through the Reformation and the enlightenment. To them, you are defined by your race, religion, ethnicity and class. The only difference between them is the perfect negative correlation between which race, religion, ethnicity, and class they demonize, and which they deify.

And, of course, this creates a sick symbiosis: neither can really exist without the other, and the rise of one contributes to the rise of the other.

Further, both are totalitarian and absolutist, and this is what leads to such virulent attacks on a past which does not conform with their absolutist vision. The iconoclasm we see now almost daily is redolent of other absolutist movements in the past, be it the Year One insanity of the French Revolution or the shrieking violence of the Cultural Revolution in China.

Both must be condemned. More than that, both must be opposed forcefully by duly constituted civil authority whenever they act out their violent ideologies.

But saying this is apparently beyond the pale in current American discourse, which just shows how degraded that discourse has become. Antifa–again, an avowedly communist, anti-liberty, anti-American movement–is not just not criticized, it is defended, because its self-proclaimed anti-racism (which in fact includes a healthy dose of anti-white racism) absolves it from any taint. Trump’s calling out of Antifa as well as Nazis has led supposedly conservative establishment figures like Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Charles Krauthammer to differentiate the indistinguishable, and to defend Antifa because of their opposition to Nazis and racists.

What Romney et al don’t get is who the hard-core left identifies as racists: it’s pretty much everybody who doesn’t agree with them in totality. It includes most whites (which is ironic, given the pastiness of most of the cheekbones and foreheads visible between black hats and masks). I guarantee it includes Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Charles Krauthammer. By vouching for them now, and validating their claim of authority in establishing who is and who is not a racist, Romney et al are putting a target on a lot of people who are by no stretch of the imagination white supremacists or Nazis.

But of course the left has always benefitted from useful idiots. Romney et al are playing that role to perfection.

History will not be the only casualty. Free speech will be as well. Free speech has already largely died on college campuses, which are merely the laboratory and hot house of leftism. Coming soon to, well, pretty much everyplace you might consider speaking your mind.

This too illustrates the devolution of American civil society. White supremacism and even Nazism are not new to American life, of course. In a way, what is amazing now is how marginalized these things are today. In the 1920s, the KKK was a major political force throughout the US–not just the South. (Indiana was a Klan hotbed.) In February, 1939–almost 6 years after Roosevelt’s inauguration and 6 months before German tanks rolled into Poland–the American Bund (basically the American Nazi Party) held a rally in Madison Square Garden attended by an estimated 22,000. Yet Eleanor Roosevelt, an extremely liberal political figure whose husband was savaged by the Bund, defended its right to exist, organize, and speak: she also defended America Firsters, Father Coughlin, and others with whom she disagreed violently on basically every political and social issue.

But if she did that today, she would be savaged. Because the left has gone from being believers in and defenders of civil liberties and individual freedom to their avowed enemies. The American liberal tradition, rooted in the enlightenment and classical liberal values, is being eclipsed, and replaced on the left by an alien political mindset. A mindset, ironically, that also spawned the fascist and Nazi movements in Europe as well as the leftist movements they battled in the streets: to understand the symbiosis between left and right in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, read Paul Johnson’s Modern Times. It is that intellectual tradition (rooted in Germany) that gave rise to the tragedy of Weimar, and it is that intellectual tradition that has the United States slouching towards its own Weimarization today.

Both far left and far right are collectivist and anti-rational, and hence at odds with the American political tradition which was individualist and rooted in the rationalism of the enlightenment. That is why Robert E. Lee might be the first historical casualty, but he will not be the last. All of American history is in the dock, and staring at the gallows.

 

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August 14, 2017

Comments on the War Over the War

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — The Professor @ 7:49 pm

A few thoughts to follow up on the post on the war over the war, which sparked a spirited set of comments (for which I am grateful as always).

Re those memorialized, specifically Robert E. Lee. I am with Tim Newman on this. Lee was certainly not a pro-slavery ideologue, and was arguably far less supportive of the institution than most of his social position and background. I would characterize him as somewhat like Jefferson–he would have liked to get rid of slavery, but had no idea how to do that where it was already established.

He was, moreover, first and foremost a Virginia patriot, who believed he was defending his people from an invasion by a tyrannical government that violated the Constitution. As is often noted, in that time it was common to say “the United States are” (not is): identification with one’s state was quite common during the antebellum period in a way that most Americans cannot conceive of today. They can’t conceive of it precisely because of the outcome of the Civil War.

That said, pace Orwell, since the war was ultimately about slavery, Lee was objectively pro-slavery. Subjectively, however, like many Southerners, he was pro-Constitution as he interpreted it, and a patriot who viewed Virginia as his country.

The opponents who aroused Lee’s greatest ire provide a window into his mindset. Of all the Federal generals he fought, he detested John Pope–“that miscreant Pope”–with the greatest intensity. Because Pope was a favorite of the anti-slavery, pro-emancipation Radical Republicans, and his army (the Army of Virginia) was the most pro-Radical army in the field? Not directly.

Because of the Radical leanings, Pope and his army advocated a hard war in contrast to that waged by George McClellan. As a result, they committed numerous depredations against civilians and their property in northern Virginia. It was those depredations that outraged Lee, and spurred him to crush Pope. Pope and his army had (in Lee’s view) unjustly harmed Lee’s people–his fellow Virginians–and Lee was dead set on making him pay: why Pope and his army acted as they did was irrelevant to Lee. And he did make Pope pay, at Second Manassas/Bull Run two weeks shy of 155 years ago.

So should Lee be memorialized? Before answering the should, it’s best to understand the why. A people who had suffered as devastating a loss as the South did (with about 25 percent of its adult male population perishing, and its cities and farms in ruins) and who fought courageously, and who fought in what their minds was a righteous cause, will always want to commemorate their heroism and sacrifice: people who have suffered such carnage will inevitably want to give some meaning to it. Lee embodied those things, so it was inevitable that he would be the center of those commemorations.

The darker side of this was that the old order in the South did not want to concede defeat, and indeed waged an ultimately successful campaign of asymmetric and political warfare to restore as much as the old social order as it could: Lee was conscripted into that campaign, largely after his death. The Cult of Lee, a man who was widely admired even by many of his adversaries, was to a considerable extent the benign cover for a the Cult of the Lost Cause/Old South.

So, it’s complicated. And that’s exactly why I think that the monuments can be a teaching tool. They shed light on the entire arc of conflict from the 1850s through the 1950s (or 1960s), and help illuminate the subjective motivations not just of the leaders (like Lee) but Southerners generally throughout that century of hot and cold war. Presentism is the enemy of understanding, and where the monuments (and the Civil War generally) are concerned, presentism has run amok.

Speaking of complicated, let me move to the second subject that has sparked comments–Great Britain in the Civil War. For a variety of cultural, social, historic, geopolitical, and economic reasons, Great Britain was broadly sympathetic to the South at least at the onset of the war. The United States was a rising commercial rival. The US and Britain had fought two wars against one another, and because of its Revolutionary heritage many Americans saw Britain as an enemy–and many Britons felt the same way. Britain’s textile industry was heavily reliant on Southern cotton. And there were British businesses from button makers to Birmingham gunsmiths to Laird, Son & Co. (the builder of the infamous Laird rams) who wanted to make some money. Lacking the industrial base of the North, the South was a better customer than the North, but large numbers of British arms made it into the hands of Union soldiers: the Enfield rifled musket was the second most widely issued weapon in the US army, and the US imported about twice as many as did the CS.

The UK toyed with intervention in 1861 and 1862, especially in the aftermath of perceived provocations like the Trent Affair, when a US ship seized two Confederate envoys from a British vessel. British enthusiasm waxed and waned with Confederate battlefield fortunes, and when Lee moved into Maryland in September, 1862, intervention (or at least recognition) looked like a real possibility. But Lee’s defeat at Sharpsburg/Antietam on 17 September, and Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation immediately thereafter, ended that. Britain wasn’t going to recognize a loser, and particularly wasn’t going to intervene on the side of slavery once the war became explicitly about slavery.

One last thing, not directly related to the post but to the events that spawned it. There are reports, contested but plausible, that Charlottesville Police withdrew in the face of the Antifa, or at least did not vigorously contest them. The governor of Virginia, the execrable partisan hack Terry McCauliffe, claims that the police had to withdraw because they were outgunned by the white supremacists. Others deny this.

Regardless of why it happened, the biggest official error was that the Neo-Nazis/white supremacists and the Antifa types were allowed to come into contact. There is no excuse for the authorities not to realize that the potential for violence was great. As a result, they should have been present in overwhelming force to keep the two sides separate, and crushed any attempt by anyone to get at the others.

The Weimarization of the US, where rival gangs of extremist thugs battle it out on the streets, is a very real possibility–it has already happened in some places, like Berkeley, and Charlottesville was also very Weimar-like. It cannot be allowed to progress, and indeed, it must be rolled back.

There must be no tolerance for violence–either by Nazis, Klansmen, or other varieties of white supremacists, or against them. Those lawfully assembled, no matter how loathsome they or their beliefs are, should be protected against physical attacks by those who oppose them: and if those lawfully assembled attempt to initiate violence, their targets should be defended as well.

Alas, I sense an implicit double standard, especially among the officials of left-leaning local governments, who either sympathize with the Antifa types, or are who are too cowardly to stand up to them and their less violent supporters (who are part of their political base). Further, this double standard is echoed more broadly in the media and politics, as the hue and cry over Trump’s statement decrying violence “on many sides” demonstrates.

Not acceptable. The normalization or rationalization of political violence will have baleful consequences. The responsibility of the authorities is to maintain civil order, thereby assuring that political disputes are carried out through political channels. The authorities need to take the side of civil order, and ruthlessly suppress those who would disrupt it, regardless of their politics.

Weimarization is a real danger. It must be stopped post haste.

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August 12, 2017

Iconoclasm and the Lost Cause

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — The Professor @ 8:42 pm

Protests over the removal of the R. E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, VA predictably descended into violence, with at least three dead: one killed when a car drove into a group of counter-protestors, and two police officers killed when their helicopter crashed while observing the chaos on the ground.

The protestors were primarily white supremacists, egged on by appalling figures like David Duke. Their opponents included Antifa types, as well as non-violent protestors.

As someone who has been intensely interested in the Civil War since I was 8 years old, I have considerable ambivalence about memorials to figures like Lee and Jackson, or to Confederate veterans generally–and to their removal.

I understand acutely that the memorials were primarily an assertion of political power. Many were erected in the 1890s through 1920s, and were monumental embodiments of the Lost Cause myth, which denied the evil of slavery and its fundamental role in causing the War–and the consequent destruction of the Old South. They were to a considerable degree defiant assertions of the resurgence of the old social and political order. Hence, I understand the bitterness and anger and humiliation that they engender, particularly among black Americans whose ancestors suffered under that order.

But this very history makes them artifacts that document an important and instructive period of American history. I would much prefer that they be preserved, contextualized, and interpreted as such. That they be transformed into museums, rather than memorials per se. Repurposing them can contribute to our civic education in ways that destroying them cannot.

The history of the monuments can educate people about the history of an era, and in so doing may actually contribute to a broader understanding of just why they evoke such bitter memories and emotions in many Americans. Extirpating the monuments will generate a frisson of excitement and satisfaction, but once they are gone the era which spawned them will become even more opaque to Americans at large, and the important lessons of that era will be lost to most. Ironically, this is actually not helpful to the interests of those who find the monuments offensive: they would be better served if the lessons they convey could be taught in the future, rather than largely forgotten, as will happen once the monuments are gone.

It is because of this loss of historical memory that I am averse to iconoclasm. I am also quite conscious that iconoclasm is itself almost always an assertion of political power, and as such can be as divisive as the erection of the icons was. A cycle of symbolism can sow discord, and generate much more heat than light. In a deeply divided country, we should be looking for ways to improve understanding and to provide fora for reconciliation, rather than to inflame divisions. Building the monuments was a way of showing who is on top: taking them down is a way of doing the same. But assertion of power relations exacerbates conflict and detracts from the advancement of true equality.

The Confederate monument controversy has also catalyzed tribalism, perhaps intentionally so, as this has definite political uses, most notably making it possible for the left to claim that the fringe mouth breathers who rallied to defend the monument are representative of all its political adversaries. It is also the last thing the increasingly tribal US needs at present.

There are of course always hard cases: the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis (removed several years ago) is a good example, given his record as a slave dealer, the commander during the commission of a mass racial atrocity (the Fort Pillow Massacre), and leader of the first incarnation of the KKK. But even here, the fact that he was memorialized provides a very telling commentary on the attitudes of those who memorialized him. His very outrageousness makes his monument particularly instructive about the times in which he was cast in bronze and put on a pedestal.

The monuments are about a particular interpretation of history that held sway in a part of the country for decades, and as such are themselves historical artifacts that can inform and instruct. Transforming them from icons of The Lost Cause into museums that educate about the reasons for the Lost Cause myth, and the society that created it, would allow them to play a constructive role in America’s future, and in a way redeem the destructive role they played in the past. Making them the battlefields in a new civil war pitting some of the ugliest elements of America against one another only perpetuates their divisive legacy, as today’s events in Charlottesville demonstrate tragically and forcefully.

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August 9, 2017

How Do You Eat a Norkupine?

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:23 pm

North Korea represents one of the most daunting challenges imaginable. Although the North Korean military has aged and obsolete equipment, and would lose in an all out war, it could inflict massive casualties on whomever it fought. Further, it has the Sampson option: with massive conventional and chemical artillery forces in range of Seoul, before it was consumed in the inevitable retaliatory strike, North Korea could kill tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of South Koreans.

North Korea has also amassed a cache of nuclear weapons, estimated to number about 60. These weapons alone, without a reliable delivery mechanism, pose little threat to the US. The Norks are also working diligently on their missile forces, and have recently achieved several apparently successful tests of ICBMs. Nukes alone are little threat. Missiles alone are little threat. Put them together, and you have a real threat.

It is this convergence between missile and nuke technology that has brought this crisis to a head. The window to prevent this threat from becoming reality is closing rapidly with every successful North Korean test. But how to deal with the threat without wreaking vast destruction on the Korean Peninsula? No easy answers.

Kim Jung Un clearly sees nukes as the best guarantor of his survival, and that of his regime. But somehow guaranteeing regime survival is unlikely to induce him to give up these weapons. First, he is unlikely to find any guarantee credible: paranoids seldom do. Second, no one, least of all the US, is likely to consider any Un promise to disarm to be credible: “unpromise” is about the most accurate way you could characterize it. Further, if KJU believes that nukes make him immune from attack, he will believe that his freedom of action is much greater with nukes than without them: he can be far more aggressive and disruptive secure in the knowledge that his nuke missiles deter any retaliation.

So what to do? In the medium to long term, continued development of more robust missile defenses will mitigate the threat he poses. But in the short term, the only real leverage is economic, and (a) that is limited, and (b) it depends crucially on Chinese cooperation (and to some degree Russian).

But the Chinese actually enjoy US discomfiture: this gives them little incentive to cooperate. China will act only if it perceives that there will be a serious price to be paid if it doesn’t.

Since the earliest days of the administration Trump has been deploying every carrot and stick to get the Chinese to cooperate. Relenting on threats to deal aggressively with trade, currency and intellectual property issues. Threatening secondary sanctions against Chinese companies and banks who keep North Korea afloat–and relenting on those threats when the Chinese cooperate.

But greatest risk that China faces would be a war on the Korean Peninsula. It would receive the most fallout–figuratively, but likely literally too. A collapsed regime on its border is a Chinese nightmare, as would the resulting storm of refugees, not to mention a substantial risk of nuclear fallout–and perhaps even a Korean launch of a nuclear missile against China.

So China is unwilling to play a constructive role unless it believes that the US may indeed attack the Norks.

It is against this background that one must view Trump administration actions, from direct presidential threats to repeated flyovers of US nuclear capable bombers to today’s statement by SecDef Mattis, which effectively reprises his famous threat to Iraqi tribal leaders (though unfortunately absent the profanity): “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.”

Yes, these messages are ostensibly directed at KJU, the administration is definitely CC’ng Xi and the Chinese leadership.

This strategy does appear to have paid off: China voted in favor of  Security Counsel resolution imposing the most punitive sanctions on North Korea yet adopted. Chinese compliance on the ground remains to be proven, but it’s a start.

And there’s the dilemma. There are seldom ever purely diplomatic solutions: all negotiations depend crucially on threat points, and in international relations military force is a powerful threat point. This is especially true with North Korea, which as a pariah nation is relatively immune to other conventional blandishments. And this is also true here because the party with the most leverage, China, is likely to be most responsive to the risk of military conflict.

It is therefore hard to imagine any approach to North Korea that does not involve the threat of military force, including threats in terms that North Korea is usually the one using, rather than hearing used against them. Trump personally, and most of his top personnel, including Mattis and McMaster, have been doing just that.

This has elicited a horrified reaction among the establishment–whose opinions, I might add, deserve even less weight than usual given that they have proven singularly inept at dealing with North Korea over the past quarter century. From ex-Obama people (notably the execrable James Clapper), to senior Senators like Feinstein and McCain(!), we are told that Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous (“unhelpful”, in McCain’s case), that we can accept a nuclear North Korea, and that dialogue with North Korea is the only alternative.

But again, this is utterly vacuous. Dialog with KJU has any prospect of success only if he and the Chinese believe that a failure of diplomacy could result in mushroom clouds over Pyongyang. Further, acceding to KJU’s possession of an arsenal of nuclear weapons without contemplating what he will do next is a victory of hope over experience.

It is particularly bizarre to see this obsession with jaw-jaw in North Korea juxtaposed with the frenzy directed against Trump for attempting to talk with Russia. Here McCain is by far the most bizarre of the bizarre. For at least the past 9 years (since 8/8/8, when the Russo-Georgian War began), McCain has been spoiling for a fight with Putin. In Georgia. In the Donbas. In Syria. Further, McCain has cast attempts to talk to Russia as tantamount to treason. It doesn’t take much of an imaginative leap to picture McCain as a latter-day Major Kong, taking the big one for a final ride into Russia.

So if talking to KJU, or letting Kim be Kim, is the right policy on the 38th parallel, how can confrontation with Putin be the right policy? Putin has more military (notably nuclear) capability. Putin hasn’t made blood-curdling threats against the US. Putin is clearly a far more reasonable interlocutor than the Pyongyang Playboy. If you can transact with KJU, you can transact with Putin.

This palpable irrationality and rank inconsistency is yet further evidence that anyone spouting DC conventional wisdom should be ignored. This conventional wisdom is driven by something. What it is I don’t know exactly, but I know what it isn’t: logic.

The policy choice is therefore fold (as the Feinsteins and McCains and Clappers are proposing) or raise the stakes. But folding will just embolden Kim going forward–which is something that McCain would point out if it was Putin on the other side of the table, but which he blithely ignores here. And it is hard to see how the correlation of forces would move in favor of the US if the game is continued: indeed, it is likely to go the other way as Kim hits his nuke and missile building stride. So, as dismal as it seems, raising the stakes now, with all the attendant risks, is the best of a bad choice. The fact that John McCain and the rest of the CW set don’t like it may be the best endorsement of all.

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August 5, 2017

A Brief European Tour

Filed under: Economics,Energy,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:46 pm

Emmanuel Macron’s popularity has come off considerably since his victory in May. This is to be expected. He was the beneficiary of metropolitan France’s giddiness at the vanquishing of Le Pen, and the perceived slap at Trump (more on this in a bit). That intoxication has passed, and France is still France, riven as it always has been by deep political divides even among the elite.

I must confess that I may have misjudged M. Macron. I pegged him as a cipher whom Merkel would dominate. But if anything, Macron is proving to lean more towards Napoleonic ambitions, labeling himself “Jupiter” who aims to overawe the petty squabbling political nation.

Macron left some angered, and others nonplused, by his bonhomie with Trump during the president’s visit to France on Bastille Day. This actually makes perfect sense, and is the best demonstration of his intent to be his own man, rather than a Merkel flunky. As Empress Angela’s pretensions continue to swell, Macron knows that he needs a counterweight. He further knows that Merkel disdains Trump, and Trump don’t think much of her either. So the clever thing to do is to build a relationship to Trump. It signals independence. It will aggravate Angela. And it will provide Macron with some muscle in his dealings with Germany, and with the EU.

Speaking of the Germans, they are in a lather over the recently passed, and grudgingly signed, US sanctions on Russia. (Socialist) Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called the sanctions “more than problematic” and accused the US of using the sanctions to advance its economic interests.

Vats good for ze goose is good for ze gander, eh, Fritz? German policy is all about advancing the interests of Germany, Inc. (or more properly, Germany AG). So spare me the sanctimony.

And as a factual matter, Sigmar is full of it. He states the US position to be “we want to drive Russian gas out of the European market so we can sell American gas.” This takes a very narrow and distorted view of the effect of sanctions on US companies, and energy companies in particular. The gains to US LNG are speculative, and would not be realized for some time. Other US firms–notably the oil majors–will suffer more with certainty, and suffer now, as a result of the new sanctions. Consequently, US energy firms fought the sanctions bill aggressively, and won some concessions.  So the idea that the sanctions effort was a Trojan Horse intended to advance US commercial interests is laughable. Congress proceeded with sanctions in spite of US economic interests, rather than because of them.

I think psychologists refer to what Herr Gabriel did there as “projection.”

One other thing about the sanctions bill. After it became law, Putin responded by ordering a reduction of 755 in staff at US diplomatic missions in Russia, and kicked the American diplomats out of some dachas. This is a good a confession of his strategic weakness. He really had no retaliatory measure available that would have really hurt the US without hurting Russia substantially more. So he was forced to resort to a purely symbolic measure. Something to think about the next time that you read about Putin the Colossus. Yes, he can be a pain, but when it comes down to it, he is playing with a very weak hand.

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August 2, 2017

Tell It to the Marines: SJWs are Inimical to Real Warfighting

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 11:43 am

Everything in the military should be directed to its purpose: winning wars while being sparing of American lives. As Patton said, making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. The focus should be on lethality, and strategic, operational, and tactical prowess. All other considerations are beyond secondary, because it is a matter of life and death, not to mention national security.

This is why I read with satisfaction that SecDef Mattis wants to focus training on warfighting, not Mickey Mouse:

Notably, Mattis has ordered a review of the “requirements for mandatory force training that does not directly support core tasks” – the many hours soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines spend prior to deployment meeting the Pentagon-required tasks that sometimes have little to do with the role they will actually fulfill when deployed.

“I want to verify that our military policies also support and enhance warfighting readiness and force lethality,” Mattis said.

Damn right. And about time.  To do otherwise puts lives at risk, and jeopardizes the national interest by compromising the ability of the military to fight and win wars.

But real warriors have long been the target of Social Justice Warriors who want to use the military to advance their agendas, even when doing so is inimical to combat effectiveness, either because it diverts resources from primary missions, or because it actually undermines order, discipline, and effectiveness.

The recent kerfuffle over transgenders in the military is a case in point. The whole purpose of making transgenders in the military a cause celebre had nothing at all to do with fighting shooting wars: it was all about fighting the culture war. Some of the attacks on Trump for his bolt-from-the-blue statement that he was overturning the late-in-the-day Obama policy regarding transgenders in the military were rather astounding. One was the commonly repeated statement that there were as many as 15,000 transgendered individuals in the US military. That would be 1 percent of the force: bull. (How many transgenders do you know?) Even the Rand study that was commissioned to advise Obama administration policy put the number at less than half of that–at most–and admits that there is no empirical or epidemiological basis for the number. It is a wild ass guess. Nothing more.

Then there were statements like how terrible it was to exclude transgenders from the military because the suicide attempt rate among them is almost 10 times that of the population at large. Methinks that argument cuts quite the other way: why would you want to put in a high stress environment people who are disproportionately suffering from severe emotional problems? This is not conducive to military effectiveness, and even putting that aside, how is it helping these people? Suicide rates are already above average for military personnel, especially those who have been in combat: tell me how it is compassionate to encourage such emotionally vulnerable individuals to go into a profession that can test every fiber of the far stronger? Indeed, it is sick that transgenders are being used as pawns in the SJW war on convention and majority culture.

My policy recommendation is pretty simple: don’t ask, don’t snip. Apply the same standards of conduct and performance. Those that hack it, fine. Those that can’t–adios. That’s a truly non-discriminatory policy that is consistent with the overriding goal of the military: combat effectiveness.

The recent flap over transgenders sparked by a (go figure) Trump tweet is only the most recent example of the SJW campaign against traditional military norms. One that I’ve been keeping my eye on is efforts to change the Marine Corps, always a bête noire to the left because of its unapologetic, uncompromising stance on traditional standards of the service, and its resistance to PC tripe that the other branches have capitulated to. The anti-USMC vanguard sees an opening due to the recent scandal involving Marines sharing online naked photos of female Marines, often accompanied by unflattering commentary.

Is it gross? Yes. Would I be upset if my daughters were the subject of such indignities? Probably–although I am sure I would tell them that this is a problem easily avoided: don’t pose for (or take yourself) nude photos.

But even granting, for the sake of argument, that the Marine Corps is a socially retrograde institution, out of step with progressive values, and beset with misogyny: I don’t care! I look at the effects of its culture and traditions at achieving the purpose of the organization: on those terms, its record is unparalleled. Do not interfere with any military organization that has achieved a record unblemished by defeat. Do not interfere with any military organization that within the last 100 years has been able to get its men to fight and win horrific battles. There is no other body of troops of similar size that can match its record. Just look at the names: Belleau Wood, some bloody small wars in Central America and Haiti, Wake Island, Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Bougainville, Tarawa, Peleliu, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Inchon, Seoul, the Chosin Reservoir, Hue, Kuwait, Fallujah I and II. Grinding, bloody battles all. Despite often fighting on a shoestring (always being last in line for equipment) and facing grave disadvantages in terrain, protection, and position, and taking grievous casualties, the Marines always prevailed. (Yes, Wake is an exception. But that was a forlorn hope in which the Marines covered themselves in glory.)

When people approached Lincoln with tales of Grant’s drinking, he responded: find out what kind of whiskey he drinks and send a barrel of it to all my generals. I have a similar response to those criticizing the retrograde social attitudes of the Marine Corps.

The truth is that we have little understanding of the unique alchemy that creates an exceptional military force like the Marine Corps. It is possible, and indeed even likely, that the attributes of the Marine Corps that most infuriate SJWs are inseparable from those that make it a nonpareil military force. PC won’t prevail on Peleliu. SJWs won’t take Saipan.

The case for letting Marines be Marines is strengthened by the fact that it is, and always has been (with some modest exceptions in WWII and Vietnam) a volunteer organization. Nobody makes you become Marine, and you should know what you are getting into: in fact, it is precisely that knowledge that induces many to join. Self-selection at work.

I have long admired the Marines, but I knew from my days at Navy that I could never be a Marine in million years–another example of self-selection. But that’s definitely a feature, not a bug. By attracting and retaining people that are suited to the institution’s idiosyncrasies, the Corps has created a culture and esprit that has allowed it to achieve great deeds. It ain’t for everybody. And that’s why it’s great at what it does.

During the recent transgender kerfuffle some criticized using the military to carry out social engineering, to which some objected that the military is nothing but a product of social engineering. But this is not true. Most longstanding military organizations are emergent, not designed or engineered. They are the products of a long evolutionary process. Channeling Hayek, organizations like the Marine Corps are the product of human action, not of the execution of any human design. They have an internal logic that is often tacit and really impossible to understand. One attempts to redesign or manipulate them at one’s peril. Or, more accurately, at ours. For doing things that undermine the effectiveness of the USMC, or of other branches of the US military, gets people killed and undermine the security and interests of the country.

 

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July 29, 2017

Could the Dossier Prove to Be the World’s Deadliest Boomerang?

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:58 pm

I’ve long considered Bill Browder to be a dubious, dodgy character. He has always posed as the white knight who tilted against Russian oligarchic dragons in the bad old days, and who paid for his temerity in crossing the powers that be. I take a somewhat more jaundiced view.

People who ventured into Russia during that era did so because it appeared that there were huge gains to be made because everything was up for grabs. But it was not for the faint of heart or the principled investor: it was for those with few scruples. Posing as the good Boy Scout who would make money in Russia by reforming the governance of companies like Gazprom was a good shtick to present to Western investors (who could thereby participate in Russia’s primitive capitalist accumulation while believing they had bought an indulgence), and a good way to keep Western regulators from prying too deeply. But Boy Scouts in Russia circa 2000 were road kill, with a half-life of about a nanosecond. Yes, Browder (as he will be glad to tell you) eventually got squashed, but he lasted there long enough during the baddest of the bad days to require an epic suspension of disbelief to take his story at face value.

But since he was booted from the country, and hounded in absentia by Russian authorities, Browder has succeeded in portraying himself as a stalwart fighter against Putin (whom he lavishly praised–back when Putin was going after other people). Browder has been the prime mover in the passage of the Magnitsky Act, which drives Putin and the Russian elite bonkers. As part of this campaign, Browder has been an adversary of Natalia Veselnitskaya, who has been hyperactive in attempting to undermine the Magnitsky Act–including meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner (a meeting apparently secured by dangling the promise of dirt on Hillary). Browder has long said that Veselnitskaya is a Kremlin operative.

Hence, the Democrats were salivating at the prospect of having Browder testify. He has longtime anti-Putin cred, and could provide testimony on the link between the Kremlin and Trump Jr./Kushner’s Russian interlocutor, thereby advancing the collusion narrative.

But in their eagerness, the Democrats  overlooked another connection–one that points directly at Democrats generally and Hillary in particular. That connection being Fusion GPS, the “opposition research” firm run by the biggest bottom feeder in The Swamp: Glenn Simpson.

Whoops!

Fusion GPS is the source of the infamous Trump dossier. It was retained first by Republican parties unknown, and then by Democratic parties unknown: the firm’s MO is to work through law firm and LLC cutouts to conceal its true, ultimate client. (Yeah. That screams integrity, don’t it? “Research laundering” would be one way to describe it.)

So Fusion GPS was really tight with someone whom Browder claims is a Kremlin operative. Fusion GPS was retained to do opposition research on Trump. The dossier it compiled (and supposedly it’s a leading contender for the next Man Booker Fiction Prize) was obviously created with support from figures in Russia. The dossier was plausibly intended to hurt Trump, and presumably to help Hillary (and post-election, it was used to help Democrats in their war on Trump).

In other words: the evidence of Russian-Hillary and Russian-Democratic collusion is much stronger and far more direct than any evidence of Russian-Trump collusion. Trump Jr. and Kushner bailed on the meeting with the alleged Russian agent within minutes: Democrats and Democratic operatives have been in bed with her for months and even years.

By bringing unwanted attention to Fusion GPS, Browder became very inconvenient for the Democrats. Their soaring eagle of a witness became an albatross.

For which they have only themselves to blame. The Fusion GPS-Veselnitskaya connection has been known for a long time. The firm has made the top of Browder’s enemies list precisely because it has long targeted him as part of its contract to trash the Magnitsky Act (which involves trashing Browder): in 2016 (!) he filed a complaint with the Justice Department accusing Simpson by name, and Fusion by name, with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The connection came up in coverage of the trial of a Russian company (Prevezon Holdings) which was accused of money laundering. The case settled in May, and from March through October 2016 generated a lot of publicity because Browder moved to have Prevezon’s lawyers, Baker Hostetler, removed because it had represented him in Magnitsky-related matters.

Meaning that Browder probably couldn’t care less about damaging Trump, but he sure as hell has it in for Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS. So Browder’s testimony did a lot more damage to the Democrats than it did Trump.

The big bottom feeder has agreed to talk to Congress, but only on the condition that he not reveal who retained him. The response to that should be: “you have to be fucking kidding me!” He should be subpoenaed, and if he dummies up, jailed until he gets his mind right.

The dossier should be at the center of any investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and in US politics post-election. It was definitely intended to be used by Trump’s political opponents to hurt him, and hurt him badly. It was definitely created with the help of some Russians.*

But we don’t know what Russians, and for what purpose. Paul Gregory suggests that it was an FSB operation. That is very possible, but I have no idea exactly who was behind it (and one cannot treat Russia, or even the FSB, as a single-minded entity), or how the operation was supposed to work. Was it supposed to damage Trump? Was it supposed to be so ludicrous that it would backfire on whatever US figures pushed it (which would include McCain certainly, the US intelligence community, and perhaps Hillary and the Democrats)? If so, they greatly underestimated the credulity of the American political class, especially when they want to believe. Was it just intended to sow chaos, with indifference as to who in US politics it hurt or helped? (If so–mission accomplished!)

But there is a direct line between Russia and the US presidential campaign. We know who is in the middle: Fusion GPS/Bottom Feeding Glenn. We don’t know exactly who is on the US end, but Occam’s razor says the DNC and/or the Clinton campaign, directly or by proxy (but we can guess their interest). We don’t have the slightest idea who is on the Russian side, and what’s more, we don’t have a clue about the game they were playing.

But what we do know is that this is a far more direct case of colluding with Russians to influence the US political system than anything that has been demonstrated–or even rumored–about Trump. Anyone who claims to have a genuine interest in protecting US politics should want to get to the bottom of the dossier.

And once upon a time–oh, like anytime since January but before last week–the Democrats and the Never Trump Republicans like the execrable John McCain–were treating the dossier like Revealed Truth. It was what was going to bring down Trump!

What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue now, folks?

It would be delicious irony indeed if the dossier proved to be the world’s biggest and most lethal boomerang. The very fact that it has reversed course is precisely why those who threw it now want to scurry from it.

That should not be allowed to happen. Right now only Charles Grassley appears to have an interest in pursuing it. (Grassley and the Russians–Fridman, Aven and Khan–who are suing Buzzfeed for defamation: we might learn more from that lawsuit than from the entire US journalistic and political establishments. The three Russians have every reason to embarrass anyone involved in it: the establishment, not so much.) All those harrumphing about Russian interference definitely don’t.

They don’t not just because discovering the full story threatens to undermine the anti-Trump movement. They don’t because it threatens to implicate the entire Swamp as colluders, or accessories in collusion before and/or after the fact. The Swamp wants it to go away, which is precisely why it must not.

*Well, I suppose Christopher Steele might have made up the entire thing.  But the more plausible story is that someone or someones in Russia were feeding him this stuff.

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