Streetwise Professor

July 23, 2021

FBI Delenda Est-But No Cato or Scipio Are In Sight

Filed under: Civil War,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:58 pm

The Babylon Bee, as usual, nails the idiocy and absurdity of the FBI:

This refers, of course, to the FBI’s and DOJ’s weighty pronouncement that one of the 1/6 arrestees was in possession of–wait for it!–an assembled Lego model of the Capitol. Except it wasn’t actually assembled. It was still in the box. But still! Obviously he was planning dastardly deeds with Legos! It’s amazing the Republic survived. Thank God the FBI is there to protect us!

The FBI has of course been going all out to apprehend the trespassers, gapers, gawkers, and other assorted invaders of the Capitol. They announced with pride some weeks back that they had made 535 arrests. (Gee. Why that number?) (And none for sedition. Why is that, if this was a greater threat to “our democracy”–which it ain’t–than the Army of Northern Virginia?)

But of course the FBI had advanced warning. So why didn’t they stop it?

Why do I say that they had advanced warning? Because I guarantee that every remotely open access organization or ad hoc grouping is penetrated by the FBI. FFS, the FBI has surveilled the “Concerned Women of America,” as if it’s the ISIS Women’s Auxiliary. What next? Red state sewing circles?

A necessary–but not sufficient–condition to prevent being infiltrated by the FBI is a classic cell structure. But take-all-comers groups like Proud Boys or Oath Keepers or Concerned Women of America or a bunch of idiots bragging on Twitter will attract FBI agents and/or assets like a dog attracts fleas.

Oh. And not joining any organization won’t help. The FBI is also deeply concerned about “lone wolf” white extremists. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (I’m sure I’m already damned, so this post won’t make any difference.)

So was the FB I complicit in 1/6, or just incompetent in not stopping it?

One cannot rule out the latter. After all, the FBI had advanced warnings about the Pulse nightclub shooter, the Parkland HS shooter, the Fort Hood shooter, and the San Bernardino shooters. Yet they all blazed away unmolested by our vigilant Federal dicks. (I also wonder about the Las Vegas shooter, whom the FBI cannot even figure out ex post. Or supposedly can’t. Maybe their ex post befuddlement is an attempt to conceal ex ante knowledge.)

Although I do not rule out incompetence, I lean towards complicity. Why? This sick-making statement by the current FBI Douchenozzle*, Christopher Wray:

“Darn tootin'”? Are you effing kidding me? “Golly gee willikers Mr. G-man! I’m sure glad we have you to protect us!” “Aw shucks, Jimmy. Just doin’ my job.”

That performance was so transparently phony that Wray would have earned an F in any community college acting class. But our “elite” eats it up.

And that’s the point, exactly. The FBI operates as the elite’s political police. Not the president’s–as demonstrated by its concerted campaign to get Trump. The elite’s/oligarchy’s/ruling class’/administrative state’s political police.

(The FBI also shanked Nixon, BTW. Cf. Mark Felt.)

What is the FBI good at? Setting up mouth breathers to commit crimes, whom it can then arrest and then claim with great fanfare to have protected us from. If you look at most of the high profile terrorism cases the FBI prosecuted post-911, they were low-IQ losers cajoled by FBI informants (operating, of course, at the direction or at least strong suggestion of FBI agents) into committing crimes.

Most recently, the hair-on-fire claims about the allegedly dastardly plot to assassinate Wretched Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, appear to be less than a real threat than another prêt-à-porter FBI setup, with 12–12!–FBI informants/provocateurs outnumbering the actual dim bulb alleged conspirators.

But this is just one part of the bill of particulars against the FBI. It has also proved shockingly inept (to give it the benefit of the doubt) or complicit in some horrible crimes.

For example, in addition to the terrorism fails mentioned above, it let serial sex offender Larry Nasser operate with impunity for years. Its response to the revelations by the DOJ IG? Not even a “whoops, my bad.” It had copious information on Jeffrey Epstein whom it also allowed to continue his romps for years. (Given Bill Clinton’s and others’ involvement with Epstein, this may have been part of its political police function.) And just recently, FBI agent David Harris was arrested by Louisiana authorities–n.b. state authorities, not the FBI itself–for a sickening trail of child sexual abuse.

Again, in each case: incompetent, or complicit?

In the Nasser case (and others) an FBI agent lied when being questioned. If you or I lie when the FBI questions us–hard Federal time. They lie? No biggie!

Some on the right have called for the “reform” of the FBI. Spare me your naivete. The FBI is unreformable because of its deep internal rot, and the fact that anyone who would be in a position to “reform” it no doubt quakes in terror at the prospect of FBI blackmail or slanderous leaks. (Cf. MLK.)

No. The only peace we could obtain from the FBI is a Carthaginian one. But there’s no Cato or Scipio in sight.

*Four years ago I referred to James Comey as a douchenozzle, for which I apologized profusely, for having insulted douchenozzles. But “Douchenozzle” is clearly a much more descriptive title than “Director.”

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July 5, 2021

The Haters Don’t Take These Truths to be Self Evident

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:02 pm

A few posts back I said that the America Founding is a political Rorschach test. Yesterday–4 July 2021–proved that beyond cavil: the haters were out in force. The NYT claimed that flying the American flag is divisive–reading between the lines, what they meant was only knuckle dragging right wingers do it. NPR–your tax dollars at woke!–makes the banal point that people were not equal under the law–some were indeed enslaved–at the time that Jefferson penned “all men are created equal.” It adds that the Declaration includes a racist slur–“Indian Savages.” (I guess I will have to take a sledgehammer to may GGGGGF’s tombstone, which reads: “Here Lies the Body of ABEL SHERMAN Who Fell By The Hand of the Savage,” said Abel being ambushed and scalped by Silverheels on 15 August, 1794.)

The likes of NPR were joined by some of our illustrious solons, including Rep. Cori Bush:

(Pssst. Cori. You’re living on stolen land! Please move!)

And Maxine Waters:

As I said before, this point is so banal. FFS, people (including especially the British) were pointing this out about, oh I dunno, 5 July, 1776.

But it completely misses the truly subversive effect of the Declaration. Accepting it as a statement of founding principle made the reality of slavery untenable. These things could not coexist. The logical tension was too great–one would have to give way. In the end, slavery did. Not easily, but it did.

This was a point Lincoln pounded on in speech after speech, starting from the Lyceum address in 1838, and especially in his debates with Douglas in 1858. If you believe in the Declaration, you must believe slavery is wrong. You cannot have both. Pick one.

That is, the Declaration started two revolutions, one immediate, against the British, and one that took generations to ripen, culminating in the Civil War four score and five years after the first. The very contradiction between ideal and reality that so exercises midwits (feeling generous today) like Bush and Waters and NPR sparked a dialectic that culminated in emancipation. (Leaving, of course, other contradictions, meaning that the dialectic continues to operate.)

The language of the Declaration–“that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”–reveals plainly its natural rights roots. And this is another thing that drives leftists mad–although they are more circumspect in criticizing this aspect of it. The modern left in particular finds natural rights an anathema. (Not all conservatives embrace natural rights, but the modern left loathes the idea.)

Those of you who are old enough might remember Joe Biden’s weird questioning of Clarence Thomas about natural rights at the latter’s confirmation hearing, back when Joe was a compos mentis Senator idiot rather than a non compos mentis President idiot (not feeling that generous). To Biden and his ilk, the idea that rights exist independently of the government is dangerous crazy talk.

Relatedly, the Declaration is subversive because it asserts that the people have the right to revolt against a government that deprives them of their natural rights. It’s that subversive thinking that leads Joe to threaten nuking anyone who dares act upon it.

Lincoln’s treatment of the Declaration–which he venerated, over the Constitution, in fact–represents a far more sophisticated and lucid approach than the simplistic screeds of the NPRs, the Cori Bushes, and the Maxine Waters of the world. (I could expand that list greatly.) Lincoln venerated the principles the Declaration espoused, and dedicated his life to making those principles reality–and eventually gave his life in the attempt. The haters can’t get past the fact that the principles weren’t the reality instantaneously. And many of the haters don’t actually venerate the real principles–the natural rights principles–of the Declaration. In fact, they loathe them.

And that’s the nub of the real division in America today. The Declaration, though a statement of universal principles, is not universally embraced. Not just because the principles were not reality in 1776. But because some venerate the Declaration’s principles of liberty and natural rights–including the right to resist a tyrannical government–and some don’t. What’s happened progressively over the years (pun not intended) is that the ranks of the don’ts have swelled, and the ranks of the dos have thinned. The Fourth of July has therefore become a national Rorschach test that reveals the shift in that balance.

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June 26, 2021

The March Through the Institutions Is Reaching Its Acme: The Left Is Marching Through The Military Like Sherman Through Georgia

Filed under: Civil War,History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 10:50 am

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, apparently studied Medieval fortification quite closely, as he implemented a classic motte-and-bailey stratagem in defense of the military’s program of Critical Race Theory indoctrination.

Expressing outrage, Milley dishonestly replied to Republican questioning about CRT thus:

I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military general officers, our commissioned [and] noncommissioned officers, of being “woke” or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist.

Why do I say dishonest? For an ambitious officer rising through the ranks during the Cold War, or shortly thereafter, studying Lenin, Marx, and Mao was a way to “know thine enemies.” To know how they thought. To know what motivated them. That is valuable knowledge in trying to counter them. Reading communists provides part of a good foundation for devising strategies to confound communists. As the movie Patton said while watching the Germans retreat at the Battle of El Gattar: “”Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book.” 

Mandatory indoctrination in CRT at the academies, and in the ranks and officer corps, is nothing of the sort. It is not about educating servicemen and -women about a foreign enemy to be able to defeat them. It is about coercively reshaping the minds and hearts of those who have volunteered for armed service to force them to pay obeisance to beliefs most of them find inimical. Indeed, puts an official imprimatur on the view that the majority of those who serve are irredeemably racist, and in need of reeducation of the type that Marx, Mao, and Lenin enthusiastically advocated. (No word on whether Milley also studied Pol Pot.)

No, Milley didn’t read Marx to become a Marxist. He read Marx to understand Marxists to fight them better. By forcing CRT on the armed forces, he and others in the military establishment, e.g., CNO Admiral Gilday, are waging war on the values, beliefs, and characters of a large majority of those whom they command.

Put differently: you read Marx et al to learn about the enemy; you force Americans who have volunteered for military service to read Ibrahim X. Kendri (aka Ibram Henry Rogers) et al because you believe they (the American volunteers) are the enemy.

And Milley said so, in not so many words:

I want to understand white rage, and I’m white. So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it.

Kendri and his CRT ilk identify white people and “whiteness” as the enemy. If you are reading Kendri to understand white people, and their alleged rage, you are doing so because you have already bought into the idea that they are the enemy.

And about this “white rage” thing. Is it really a thing? I don’t think so. It is basically a standard epithet that leftists drag out when their political opponents don’t conform like good sheep. My first recollection of a variant on this is when Peter Jennings said that voters had thrown a “temper tantrum” when they voted out the Democrats from control of Congress in 1994. The real rage here is expressed by leftists (ironically, largely white) who cannot countenance opposition: the charge is just another example of psychological projection. “Mommy! No Fair!!! Johnny hit me back!!!!”

And it’s interesting that when it comes from the left, rage is considered a sign of authenticity, of righteous reaction to injustice. (“Days of Rage” in Chicago in 1968 was a label the leftists chose, not one that was applied to them.) This is particularly true of “black rage.”

So apparently the virtuousness (or not) of rage is politically situational and ideologically contingent. Go figure.

Another element of the motte-and-bailey strategy regarding CRT in the military is to claim that there are racial tensions in the military, and that such tensions degrade morale and military effectiveness. Therefore, proactive measures to improve racial understanding are imperative.

Well, there are such tensions, and not for the first time. I guarantee things were infinitely worse in the late-Vietnam and early-post-Vietnam era. The Navy had severe racial problems: that’s one of the biggest challenges Elmo Zumwalt faced as CNO: as I recall there is a chapter in his autobiography where he discusses his struggles to deal with racial conflict in the service in detail. Things had come a long way a short handful of years later when I was at USNA: they have improved substantially in the decades since.

But CRT indoctrination will not ameliorate racial tensions–it will exacerbate them, and substantiallynso. Tell me how, exactly, preaching that one skin color is inherently evil and oppressive, and other skin colors are inherently saintly and oppressed is going to promote a sense of camaraderie among a racially diverse group of individuals. It does the exact opposite. R. Lee Ermey’s way was much more effective.

The motte-and-bailey response to criticism of CRT is not limited to Milley and the military. It is particularly pronounced in public schools, where it is (dishonestly) argued that preventing teaching CRT prevents teaching about slavery: as MSNBC’s Joy Reid put it, if you don’t teach Critical Race Theory you are teaching Confederate Race Theory. This is obviously illogical bollocks: CRT emphasizes the evils of slavery, but not all curriculum that deals honestly with slavery is CRT. Another motte is to deny that such a thing as Critical Race Theory even exists: it’s just a figment of fervid (raging?) right wing/white wing imaginations dontcha know.

Wrong. CRT is a thing. It is a dishonest, pseudoscientific, divisive, coercive thing, and essentially a mask for the will to power. Cancerous Race Theory is a more accurate description. And it is now a cancer in the military.

One last thing about Milley. The left is in a rage (more irony!) about criticism of Milley’s remarks before Congress. Tucker Carlson’s trenchant description of the general (“He’s not just a pig, he’s stupid!”) has brought down howls demanding his cancelation (yes, it was a day ending in “y”).

Leftists defending the military “leadership.” The world turned upside down. But this isn’t because the leftists have changed: it’s because the military “leadership” has become leftist. It will become only more so in the next three and a half years as the purges work through the ranks. The military was once the sole institution the leftists hadn’t marched through: but now they’re doing so, like Sherman marched through Georgia.

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June 24, 2021

Gibbering Joe Validates the Founders’ Fears

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:55 pm

Virtually everyone in the Founding generation had one fear: Tyranny. They did not want to replace one tyrannical government with another. On this Federalists and Anti-Federalists agreed. The difference was that the Federalists believed that the Constitution had adequate safeguards against tyranny, but the Anti-Federalists did not.

One manifestation of the dread of tyranny was a deep suspicion of standing armies, which were viewed as the enforcers of tyranny. Another was a veneration of an armed citizenry, not least because it was a check on tyranny, via the threat of armed resistance. Indeed, these two things went together: a large standing army could overawe even a well-armed citizenry.

Yesterday Gibbering Joe Biden expressed the sum of all the Founders’ fears:

In other words, the armed citizenry is powerless against America’s massive standing military. Meaning that there is no check on tyranny. To which the Anti-Federalists would say: told you so.

Biden’s remarks, delivered in a drugged out way that wouldn’t be shocking if Hunter Biden had uttered them but is still disconcerting when Joe does, were revealing on many dimensions.

One of these–remarked upon by many–is his apparent willingness to use, or at least to threaten to use, nuclear weapons on Americans. Rather staggering, no?

Another is his apparent belief that F-15 pilots, and other members of the US military, would be willing to carry out orders to use massive force against Americans. I wouldn’t be so sure. Although an intent to ensure it may well explain the ideological offensive being waged against alleged “extremists” within the military at present.

Another, sickly ironic one, is the complete disconnect between this rhetoric and the rhetoric regarding January 6. The Babylon Bee says it better than I could:

No, really, it is just too much. On the one hand, Biden and the Democrats say that armed resistance against the government is futile, but on the other hand, they say that unarmed resistance by a motley group at the Capitol was the greatest assault on American democracy since Pearl Harbor, and amounted to an insurrection that threatened “our democracy,” i.e., to overthrow the government.

Pick one. They both can’t be true.

There is a broader lesson here. The Founders and their 18th century vision–including their fear of state tyranny, their desire to center as much government as possible at the lowest level possible, and their belief that a revolutionary public is the last check against tyranny–is a 21st century Rorschach Test. A large number of Americans embrace it fervently. A large number of Americans loathe it. Indeed, that divide is a succinct way of summarizing the current American political fault line.

Clearly, most of the ruling class and the “elite” fall in the loathers camp. Most of the embracers are non-ruling-class “deplorables” whom the elite despises and wants to crush.

The ruling class and the “elite” sacralize the state, and especially the federal government. Unlike the Founders, who saw government as a necessary evil to be constrained, limited, and checked by a watchful–and if need be, revolutionary–citizenry, the ruling class and the “elite” have effectively adopted Mussolini’s credo: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”

And this is understandable, because l’etat, c’est eux. They control the state. They utilize the state to amass power and riches. A threat to the state is a threat to them. And as Biden indicates, they are willing to use all means necessary–including nuclear weapons, apparently–to defend that position.

This elite sacralization of the state is another way in which the US is converging to Putin’s Russia. The only difference–for now–is that Putin and the Russian elite explicitly express their veneration of the state above the people, and explicitly say that the people exist to serve the state. The American ruling class does not say this in so many words. But the idea is implicit in their rhetoric–like Biden’s rhetoric yesterday, and the unceasing rhetoric flogging January 6. More importantly, it is implicit in their deeds.

The 21st century ruling class has rejected the vision of the 18th century ruling class–which happens to be the vision of the 21st century ruled class. That is the real divide in today’s America, and why the country is in a pre-revolutionary condition. The visions of the ruling and the ruled are completely incompatible. That can only end in the submission of one side, or the failure to submit by either culminating in armed conflict.

And if it comes to conflict, the ruling class shouldn’t be so sure that military might is sufficient to prevail. Hasn’t worked magic in Iraq or Afghanistan, has it? Nor did it in Southeast Asia decades ago.

At the end of the Civil War, a great fear in the North was that Southerners would resort to guerrilla warfare. Some Confederates (e.g., Edward Porter Alexander) advocated it but Lee demurred. But if the current house divided does not stand, that’s exactly the kind of conflict that would occur. And although the military might not lose such a war (assuming it agrees to fight it), it has never proved able to win one.

Pray that it doesn’t come to that. But such an outcome cannot be precluded, given the ruling class’s sacralization of the state and its corollary: growing tyranny.

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February 27, 2021

Obama: Advocate for Injustice, Fanning the Flames of Division

Filed under: Civil War,Politics — cpirrong @ 8:07 pm

In his inimitably supercilious and churlish fashion, last week Obama endorsed slavery reparations, and blamed his inability to implement them during his administration on white racism:

“So if you ask me theoretically: ‘Are reparations justified?’ The answer is yes,” he said. “There’s not much question that the wealth of this country, the power of this country was built in significant part — not exclusively, maybe not even the majority of it — but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves.”

“What I saw during my presidency was the the politics of white resistance and resentment, the talk of welfare queens and the talk of the undeserving poor and the backlash against affirmative action,” Obama said on the podcast. “All that made the prospect of actually proposing any kind of coherent, meaningful reparations program struck me as, politically, not only a non-starter but potentially counter-productive.”

These statements are factually incorrect, bigoted, and extremely divisive, demonstrating exactly why race relations degraded more during Obama’s administration than in any other since Woodrow Wilson–a figure with whom Obama shares many similarities, none of them good. (I compared Obama and Wilson during the very early years of the former’s administration.)

Where to begin deconstructing this vicious farrago? I guess with the most vicious part–the claim that white racism doomed his high-minded dreams for reparations. Look at this part again:

the politics of white resistance and resentment, the talk of welfare queens and the talk of the undeserving poor and the backlash against affirmative action

Obama must have been having an acid flashback to the Reagan years when he said this. “Welfare queens”? Really? Who the hell has said that in the past 30 years?–that’s a trope from about 1982. Similarly “undeserving poor” and “backlash against affirmative action.” FFS–these are all anachronisms that had f-all to do with disputes over reparations in the 2010s.

Obama’s bigotry is also revealed by his failure even to countenance the possibility that resistance to reparations (not just among whites, but Asians, Hispanics, and even blacks) was and is rooted in a belief that the entire idea is monstrously unjust, and wildly impractical.

In terms of injustice, the argument for reparations is rooted in ideas of collective guilt. Not surprising from Obama and his ilk, but a profoundly unjust and anti-Western idea, and one which as wreaked untold miseries (including in the form of death camps and gulags and killing fields) wherever it has held sway.

Further, reparations impose no penalty on those responsible for slavery or who benefited from it, and pay no recompense to those who suffered from it directly, all of whom have been dead for at least decades, and most for centuries.

Think of any living white American. Not a single one is personally responsible for any sin committed by any dead white American prior to 1865. Moreover, virtually no living white Americans conceivably benefited in any material way from slavery.

Take me and my family for instance. The first of my father’s ancestors to arrive in the US did so in 1867. Most of the rest came here in the 1870s. How did they benefit from slavery? And if at all, by how much?

On my mother’s side, one great grandfather arrived in 1848–and settled in Ohio (and fought in the Civil War, including the March to the Sea, which freed numerous slaves). The remainder of her ancestors arrived to these shores between 1620 (yes, on the Mayflower) and the late-18th century. But every single one resided in a northern colony or state which were free states by the late-18th century; never held slaves; and were almost to a man and woman near subsistence farmers living on or near the frontier. So how did they benefit from slavery?

Pretty much every white American can to a considerable degree make a plausible claim that there is no plausible chain of causation between their current economic circumstances and slavery. The descendent of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine. Italians or Jews or Slavs arriving at Ellis Island in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th. Even the descendants of poor whites in the South: there is some debate in the economic history literature that slavery might actually have made them poorer, not richer.

There is also the issue of the incredible cost paid by all Americans in the 1860s to end slavery. The Civil War resulted in the deaths of upwards of 400,000 men serving in Union armies: As Lincoln said, “every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn by the sword.” Shall be, and was. Hundreds of thousands more suffered horrific wounds, and debilitating diseases that scarred them for life: approximately 400,000 collected disability pensions, despite the fact that the government presented many obstacles to those making claims. Untold numbers suffered extreme emotional trauma–a subject only now receiving much attention (including in the drama Mercy Street). Even beyond the losses suffered by those who died or were maimed emotionally or physically, these casualties affected the economic circumstances of their families, and their descendants.

So how is it just to force those living now who did not benefit from slavery even indirectly, and who may well have suffered some loss from it or from the war fought to end it, to pay compensation? Should I get a credit for my Civil War veteran ancestors’ disabilities (a lost arm, lifelong rheumatism)? It cannot be rationalized even on the twisted logic of collective guilt, for this living collective is neither neither guilty of sins committed by some dead collective, nor the recipient of ill-gotten gains.

Obama tries to get around these issues thus:

“There’s not much question that the wealth of this country, the power of this country was built in significant part — not exclusively, maybe not even the majority of it — but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves.”

This is a monstrous untruth. In fact, the reverse is true. “Slavery made America rich” is a leftist mantra. It is also categorically false, as has been demonstrated by massive scholarship over the years.

The economic historical literature on the subject is vast, but Deirdre McCloskey summarizes it well:

Yet the economic idea implied—that exploitation made us rich—is mistaken. Slavery made a few Southerners rich; a few Northerners, too. But it was ingenuity and innovation that enriched Americans generally, including at last the descendants of the slaves.

It’s hard to dispel the idea embedded in Lincoln’s poetry. TeachUSHistory.org assumes “that northern finance made the Cotton Kingdom possible” because “northern factories required that cotton.” The idea underlies recent books of a new King Cotton school of history: Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams (Harvard University Press), Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Knopf), and Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books).

The rise of capitalism depended, the King Cottoners claim, on the making of cotton cloth in Manchester, England, and Manchester, New Hampshire. The raw cotton, they say, could come only from the South. The growing of cotton, in turn, is said to have depended on slavery. The conclusion—just as our good friends on the left have been saying all these years—is that capitalism was conceived in sin, the sin of slavery.

Yet each step in the logic of the King Cotton historians is mistaken. The enrichment of the modern world did not depend on cotton textiles. Cotton mills, true, were pioneers of some industrial techniques, techniques applied to wool and linen as well. And many other techniques, in iron making and engineering and mining and farming, had nothing to do with cotton. Britain in 1790 and the U.S. in 1860 were not nation-sized cotton mills. (Emphasis added.)

. . . .

Economists have been thinking about such issues for half a century. You wouldn’t know it from the King Cottoners. [Or Obama.] They assert, for example, that a slave was “cheap labor.” Mistaken again. After all, slaves ate, and they didn’t produce until they grew up. Stanley Engerman and the late Nobel Prize winner Robert Fogel confirmed in 1974 what economic common sense would suggest: that productivity was incorporated into the market price of a slave. It’s how any capital market works. If you bought a slave, you faced the cost of alternative uses of the capital. No supernormal profits accrued from the purchase. Slave labor was not a free lunch. The wealth was not piled up.

The King Cotton school has been devastated recently in detail by two economic historians, Alan Olmstead of the University of California at Davis and Paul Rhode of the University of Michigan. [Obama apparently missed this.] They point out, for example, that the influential and leftish economist Thomas Piketty grossly exaggerated the share of slaves in U.S. wealth, yet Edward Baptist uses Piketty’s estimates to put slavery at the center of the country’s economic history. Olmstead and Rhode note, too, from their research on the cotton economy that the price of slaves increased from 1820 to 1860 not because of institutional change (more whippings) or the demand for cotton, but because of an astonishing rise in the productivity of the cotton plant, achieved by selective breeding. Ingenuity, not capital accumulation or exploitation, made cotton a little king.

One could go on and on. Critically, cotton production represented a relatively small fraction of US income and wealth. As McCloskey (and others) note, American economic growth derived from myriad factors, of which cotton and slavery represented a modest and arguably trivial part.

Further, to the extent that slavery did massively benefit a small Southern elite, well the Civil War pretty much took care of that, no? The war devastated the planter class. Yes, more millionaires lived in sugar plantations along the Mississippi River in Louisiana than anywhere else in the US in 1860, but in 1865 the grand houses were burned; the stables emptied; the animals slaughtered or seized–and the slaves gone. They sowed the wind, and reaped the whirlwind.

Take Braxton Bragg as an example. The much-hated Confederate general married into a wealthy Louisiana planter family, but his time in the slaveholding aristocracy was short lived: Union troops confiscated his plantation in 1862, and after the war Bragg scraped by selling insurance and working as an engineer for a struggling Texas railroad. And he was one of the fortunate.

Wars also consume resources that could have been invested in productive activities: the massive expenditure of wealth to fund the Civil War reduced future US income, rather than increased it.

All meaning that Obama’s argument that modern Americans have been been unjustly enriched by the past injustices of slavery, and thus should pay reparations, is a complete falsehood. (A falsehood propagated by the loathsome 1619 Project as well.)

There are also the practical questions of to whom reparations would be paid, and the justice of any formula for rewarding them.

Are payments to be made on the basis of the one drop rule? That would be mordantly ironic, no?

Most descendants of slaves in the US are also the descendants of non-slaves, mainly whites, some of whom were more likely beneficiaries of slavery than you or I. There is considerable variation in the ratio of slave ancestry among Americans who currently identify as black. How will a reparations scheme reflect such variation? (Depending on how it does so, it could lead to another irony–a replacement of a historical reluctance of some who identify as white (especially in the South–read some Faulkner) to admit African ancestry, with a rush to find a slave ancestor: maybe investing in a genetic testing company is a way to speculate on the prospects for reparations!)

However these knotty issues are resolved, the resolution will be highly arbitrary–and hence add yet another element of injustice to an already irretrievably unjust enterprise.

Then there is the question of what is the counterfactual against which harm can be calculated. It could even be said there is no plausible counterfactual: Person X, descended from slaves, would not exist in the counterfactual world in which slavery never existed. So how can you calculate the harm suffered by X? And maybe there is no harm. Some portion of Person X’s genetic material would exist in some other people, living in Africa in far worse conditions than Person X. Person X could therefore be said to be the beneficiary of the horrors his enslaved ancestors suffered. But, of course, said ancestors cannot be compensated for these horrors.

Any just system of compensation and taxation to pay it (for reparations is at root a massive redistributive scheme) should have at least some connection between the harm suffered and the compensation paid, and between the responsibility for inflicting the harm, or the benefit received therefrom, and the tax paid. For all of the reasons discussed herein, slavery reparations cannot be just. Indeed, they are guaranteed to be unjust.*

And it is that fundamental injustice–which is an inherent feature of the entire concept of reparations–is what makes it extraordinarily divisive. Even people of good will will not voluntarily submit to such a fundamental injustice, and indeed, people of good will will resist the imposition of such an injustice.

Obama’s failure to recognize this, and his assertion that opposition to reparations is rooted in base, racist motives speaks volumes about the man–and about what he thinks about the majority of Americans. And it does not speak well. Pushing for reparations will inevitably and severely exacerbate racial tensions, and divide the nation. Claiming that opposition to reparations can only be due to racism will divide it even more. This is the last thing we need now. But Obama apparently decided he had inadequate time in office to accomplish his mission, so he is devoting his post-presidency to fan the flames of enmity in America.

*There are also issues of economic efficiency. Reparations are purely redistributive. It can have no effect on the behavior that caused the harm–because all those behaving thus are long dead. But redistributive programs impose deadweight costs. These include, inter alia, the deadweight costs of taxation required to pay reparations; the costs of administering the program, including the costs to detect and punish fraud; and the rent seeking costs incurred by those attempting to secure the transfer. These deadweight costs make everyone poorer. And this does not even consider the cost of the strife that a battle over reparations would engender.

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January 9, 2021

The Tyrannical Reaction to the Blundering “Insurrection” at the Capitol Means That Worse Is to Come

Filed under: Civil War,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:25 pm

My main reaction to Wednesday’s debacle at the Capitol is the same as Fouché’s to the murder of the Duc d’Enghien: It was worse than a crime: it was a blunder. As “insurrections” go, it was rather farcical, with limited instances of real violence the exception, and theater of the absurd the rule. As a result it was utterly ineffectual in achieving any object. And I use the passive tense deliberately, because it is rather hard to identify any actual person with an objective.

But that is a major reason why this was such a colossal blunder. It was utterly aimless and pointless and ineffectual and barren of any result–except for giving the governing class a reason to begin a ruthless purge of anyone in opposition to it. Anyone who is opposed to the governing class (which extends far beyond government, and includes large swathes of corporate America) is equated to those very few who rampaged through Nancy Pelosi’s office, even if they were nowhere near DC at the time. They are deemed seditious insurrectionists and “domestic terrorists” who must be excised from public life–including in particular participation in social media–and whose private employment is at risk.

This is affirming the consequent on steroids, but that fallacy is one of the most useful tools of political propaganda. And the governing class is using that tool with utter ruthlessness. Those who do not express complete fealty are at risk of being destroyed. And to be honest, expressing fealty today is likely to be insufficient, if one is deemed to have committed some sin against orthodoxy in the past.

This has been a judo move that turned Trump’s biggest strength–his ability to engage the passions of millions of people–into his greatest liability. He should have understood the risk, but so consumed was he by his increasingly Quixotic efforts to overturn his election loss that he failed to see it, and in fact fell right into the trap–that is his blunder. And in so doing he has inflicted a grievous harm on his most fervent supporters, and those not so fervent yet broadly aligned with him in their opposition to the governing class.

This is a blunder from which recovery will be nearly impossible, at least for some years–or until the governing class commits a similarly egregious blunder.

The governing class is not going to miss this opportunity to bludgeon its adversaries–and indeed, the campaign to do so ramped into high gear after the Capitol was cleared. It continues to intensify, led by the governing class’s Praetorian Guard: the social media and tech companies.

The most striking–and revealing–phenomenon is the stark contrast between the governing class’s reaction to this spasm of mob violence, even as highly limited in duration and extent as it was, to the epidemic of mob violence that lasted for months from sea to shining sea starting in May. I’m so old that I can remember when public protest–including protest that descended into destruction and death far more extensive than what occurred in DC on 6 January–was the highest expression of patriotism, and the most authentic expression of the discontent of the dispossessed, oppressed, and disenfranchised.

But that’s because those protestors were advancing the interests of the most ruthless part of the governing class, whereas these protestors are expressing their contempt for the governing class.

Who, whom, you know. It’s not the fact or protest or the intensity or violence thereof that matters: it’s who is protesting against whom, and why. The attempted assault on the White House in June, let alone the consummated assault on a Minneapolis police station or the nightly attacks on Federal buildings in Portland, were far more intense and angry and destructive than what happened on Wednesday. But to the governing class, those are legitimate targets. They are not, and since the rampage at the Capitol targeted the governing class, it is beyond the pale.

The reaction is what one would expect from tyrants, and indeed the entire episode is symptomatic of tyranny. Not the tyranny of Trump, but the tyranny of the governing class. As I’ve written for years, Trump is a symptom, not a cause. His victory, and his popularity among a massive number of Americans, stems directly from his opposition to the governing class. Trump cannily recognized the widespread discontent, and tapped into it. His populism reflected the undeniable fact that a large fraction of the people were–and are–mad as hell at those who presume to rule us–with very good reason. Populism is almost always a consequence of government failure–which is why governing classes hate it so much.

This discontent has been stoked to a fever pitch by the unrelenting campaign against covid, which has saved pitifully few (if any) lives, but destroyed many livelihoods and deprived most of us the things that make life worth living. Further, the highly dubious outcome of the election–and perhaps more importantly, the phalanx-like opposition of the governing class (including notably the Republican establishment) to any investigation of this dubiousness–has fueled the fires further.

In sum, there are a large number of desperate and angry people who believe the governing class despises them, and is indeed at war with them. So why should anyone be surprised that this desperation and anger has resulted in mob action? No one–least of all those who rationalized the Floyd protests (and riots) as a natural response to desperation and anger.

And to be frank, I am pretty sure that the ruling class is not surprised. They would never acknowledge it, but they know they hate these people, and are hated back in return. Which is precisely why they are using this opportunity to try and crush those that they hate, both out of a self-defense reflex, and for the pure pleasure of vanquishing one’s foes.

This is what tyrants do. They believe that their power and legitimacy is non-negotiable and indisputable, and that anyone who challenges the one and questions the other is seditious and deserves to be crushed. The left makes a big deal about demonizing “The Other.” Well, to the left and the governing class which is largely left, The Other is, well, probably you. And you are being demonized, and that demonization is used to justify the imposition of coercion on you.

Their expectation, like that of all tyrants, is that if they exert enough force, their opponents will be crushed or cowed into abject submission. Sometimes that is correct. But often it has the exact opposite effect, and exacerbates tension and hostility to such a degree that there is a revolutionary convulsion.

In other words, we are living in pre-revolutionary times, and the reflex of the governing class to double down on coercion when challenged is greatly increasing the odds that soon the prefix “pre-” will be obsolete. So convinced of its righteousness, rectitude, and right to rule, the governing class is failing to ask why so many hate them so much–they just dismiss them as rubes and rednecks and racists and religious freaks. And by failing to ask the question, they greatly increase the odds of getting an unsolicited, and very violent, answer to the question they should ask but haven’t.

In the covid months I’ve let my beard grow out, mainly as a statement about how the restrictions on normal life in 2020 rendered irrelevant certain social conventions. When someone commented rather snarkily about that, I responded “well, if we are headed for a civil war, I thought I should look the part.” If that sardonic response was comprehensible when I made it a few months ago, it is all the more so after the events of the past weeks, and last week in particular.

There are other things about the Capitol catastrophe (catastrophic much less in its direct effects than its fallout) that deserve attention. Such as: why was it even possible that a rather inchoate and spontaneous mob was able to get access to the Capitol? But all that must be based on speculation colored by one’s pre-existing beliefs. The fact is that it did happen, and it will have consequences. It is those consequences that we must focus on, as I’ve tried to do here. And I am increasingly convinced that the most important consequence will be a grave escalation in internecine conflict as the governing class attempts to suppress those millions who already feel oppressed by their rule, with the possible (and indeed, likely) results being frightful to contemplate.

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December 26, 2020

Lee & Jackson Come Down: It’s More About the Future Than the Past

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 4:40 pm

Among other things, annus horribilis 2020 will evidently mark the final eclipse of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson as Virginia icons. Lee-Jackson Day (commemorated under various names since 1889) was eliminated as a state holiday. The statue of Lee was removed from the U.S. Capitol, and his statue on Memorial Avenue in Richmond was defaced by massive graffiti during the George Floyd protests, and Virginia’s governor ordered its removal a month later: its fate now hangs by a thin legal thread. This month, Jackson’s statue was removed from the Virginia Military Institute, where he taught before achieving fame in the Civil War.

Even more than erecting them, the removal of monuments is a statement of political power. Thus, the monument controversy is a testament to political realignment. The controversies have been particularly intense in Virginia because the realignment has been so pronounced. This is directly attributable to the vast expansion of the Federal government since the 1960s, which has resulted in the dramatic growth of the northern Virginia suburbs, with the burgeoning population consisting disproportionately of non-Virginians, most of whom have direct or indirect ties to the national government, and hence have an antipathy towards, or at most an indifference to the most renowned rebels against that government. Similar things are happening in other Southern states with burgeoning urban populations, e.g., Georgia. In many respects, the Yankee invasion of the Sunbelt that started in earnest in the 1970s is doing what Yankee Reconstruction in the 1870s could not.

As I have written many times in the past four years or so, this iconoclasm disturbs me. It disturbs me in part because I dislike the naked assertion of political power and the marking of political territory. Waving the bloody shirt 155 years after the fact seems particularly unseemly. It is largely presentist bigotry which refuses to countenance context. And as I discuss in the closing, it will have baleful political effects.

Moreover, I dislike the erasing of history. We need to understand our past better–including understanding how previous generations understood their past. ISIS wants to destroy everything that predated Mohammed. The topplers of monuments in Richmond or Portland or Madison (and I could go on) what to destroy everything American that predates The Woke. What they have in common is a deep antipathy of anything that angers their gods.

The removal of the Jackson statue is particularly ridiculous. VMI is, after all, a military school. It trains officers. Jackson, although an indifferent teacher at VMI, was a living embodiment of many military virtues, and a general of some genius. For those reasons, he is a good example for cadets to contemplate. And as for the cause in which he employed that genius and virtues, cadets are also better off understanding it and what brought it into existence than having it extirpated from memory. The statue’s removal will also remove a reminder to strive for such an understanding.

There is also an element of cheap virtue signaling, and in fact cowardice, in removing Jackson’s monument. Truth be told, if Jackson’s legacy is a blot on Virginia that must be removed, so is VMI itself. Twenty-one of its graduates served as Confederate generals: many more as colonels (including George Patton’s grandfather) or in lower ranks: approximately 1,800 VMI graduates served in the Civil War–all but 19 for the Confederacy. The Corps of Cadets delivered a decisive charge at the Battle of New Market on 15 May, 1864.

VMI is therefore inextricably linked to the Civil War, and on the “wrong” side. If such historical bonds require removal from public space, intellectual consistency would require VMI to be burned more thoroughly than David Hunter’s Union troops did on 12 June, 1864. Getting rid of Jackson’s statue is a cheap and cowardly way of reckoning with the past.

We are now entering a period in which the subject of relations between states, and the relations between the states and the Federal government is being questioned as it has not been since 1865. The topic of secession has been broached, especially in the aftermath of the fiasco that is the 2020 presidential election. There is greater distrust and alienation between different regions of the US today than there has been since the era of Reconstruction, and by a large margin. What was universally considered settled is no longer so.

In such a febrile environment, a better understanding of how sectional distrust and alienation (North-South then, Red-Blue today) can lead to disastrous rupture is imperative. “No more Munichs” informed post-War US foreign policy: this was an attempt to learn from past mistakes in order to avoid their repetition. “No more Civil Wars” is equally important, if not more so, and we should think seriously and deeply about the period 1820-1860, in order to learn from the mistakes of that era–mistakes that culminated in a bloody war and bitter Reconstruction.

Sadly, erasing visible traces of this era does not encourage such consideration: it prevents it. Much the worse, the intensely partisan and triumphalist way it is being done actually widens the fissures in American political and social life that are becoming more apparent by the day. Again, it is an assertion of political power by one faction that is deliberately intended to demonstrate to other factions who is in charge, and that they don’t matter. That will only intensify the already manifest centrifugal forces at work in the United States. That is the last thing we want to do now, for reasons that a better understanding of the Civil War Era should make more than plain.

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July 13, 2020

The Emancipation Memorial–A Coda About Historical Context

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 7:04 pm

I regret to have forgotten an episode during Lincoln’s visit to Richmond in the immediate aftermath of the Confederate capital’s fall in April, 1865. It provides the backstory for the Emancipation Memorial which points out yet again that those who call for the Memorial’s destruction or removal are ignorant fools unfit to render judgment on the Memorial, the towering historical figure it depicts, or the events that it memorializes.

Specifically, on 4 April, 1865, a group of freed slaves, shouting “Glory Hallelujah!” mobbed Lincoln when he disembarked from the USS Malvern and strode the streets of the captured capital, still smoking from the fires set by the retreating Confederates the day before. Several of them knelt before him, some trying to kiss his feet, or the cuff of his pants. Lincoln replied:

“Don’t kneel to me.  You must kneel to God only and thank Him for your liberty.”*

That is is the scene depicted in the Memorial. A slave rising at Lincoln’s injunction not to kneel before him, or any man.

Thus, the Memorial does not symbolize subjugation of black people before the benevolent white father, as the iconoclasts claim. It depicts the exact opposite.

The Memorial therefore does what good public art should do–dramatize an historical event or personage (or, in this case, both) to make a powerful statement about time and place. And in this case, the statement is about liberation and the ending of a great historical “scourge,” which continued “until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”

It is an event that black artists of an earlier generation thought worthy of commemoration. In 1963, at the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the State of Illinois commissioned black artist Gus Nall to create a commemorative painting. What did he paint? Not anything related directly to the Proclamation itself: he painted the meeting between the freed slaves and Lincoln on the streets of Richmond, 98 years before, not 100. This was not a moment of humiliation. It was a moment at which a promise was realized, and at which the promisor disclaimed fealty, rather than demanded it.

About these events, and the direct connection between them and the statue in Washington, the iconoclasts are both ignorant and apathetic–they don’t know, and they don’t care. Yet they are swollen with self-righteous belief in their unerring and forever unchallengeable judgment. In their relentless narcissistic presentism they denigrate not just Lincoln, but newly freed people of color. They think they know everything, and can judge everything and everyone, but they know nothing and are fit to judge nothing and no one.

Lincoln’s words, “with malice towards none, with charity towards all” fall on uncomprehending ears today. What we witness today is people seething with malice towards people and events for whom and about which they not have the slightest understanding, nor the smallest speck of human charity. They deserve no respect, and their demands deserve only scorn and rebuke. The nation should not kneel before this mob. I for one will not.

*The NYT described this event on its sesquicentennial in its “Disunion” series that recounted the events of the Civil War day by day. Will they ever do so in an uncritical (let alone laudatory) way in the future? I seriously doubt it.

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June 27, 2020

Narcissistic Presentist Bigotry Plus Radical Marxism–What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:52 pm

The most recent monument to face desecration and destruction is The Emancipation Memorial in Washington, DC. This was the site of a confrontation between raving lunatics dressed in black and a group of elderly black gentlemen who had assembled to protect the monument:

The ostensible objection to the Memorial is that portrays a black man in a demeaning, submissive pose at Abraham Lincoln’s feet. This was indeed true of the original design, but due to the objections of African Americans who had seen the design, it was changed to portray the subject rising, with head raised.

If you were a consistent leftist (I crack myself up sometimes) you would actually endorse this portrayal–after all, the incessant drumbeat we hear about slavery as the nation’s original sin and the root of all current evils is based on the very premise that blacks were beaten down, humiliated, and suppressed. In bondage, they were on their knees–literally and figuratively: and the statue portrays that. Emancipation–and remember, this is a monument to Emancipation–gave them the opportunity to rise up and stand like full human beings. But it was just the beginning. That is, the statue conveys powerfully that slavery subjugated black people, and that Emancipation was only the first step in a painful process of rising up to the status of full citizen and full person.

What about that does anyone–including a leftist–believe is untrue?

The monument was paid for by African Americans grateful to Abraham Lincoln, without whom, they realized, they would still be in bondage, and whom they recognized was martyred for his role in freeing them. The model for the rising black man was a former slave–is the modern left insinuating that he was an ignorant Uncle Tom for collaborating in a demeaning portrayal? The oration at the Memorial’s dedication was delivered by Frederick Douglas, who movingly and realistically described Lincoln’s not-John-Brown-like racial views, but who in the end celebrated Lincoln’s greatness, and expressed his gratitude–and impliedly the gratitude of other African Americans–for what Lincoln achieved despite his imperfections (which were largely the inheritance of his time and place). Was Frederick Douglas also a fool advancing the cause of white supremacy?

Note in the video in the tweet that one of the gentlemen that this mentally imbalanced woman is haranguing is clearly doing an historical impression of Frederick Douglas. I am sure that harridan has no clue.

Let’s be clear. This baying mob is not fit even to grovel at the feet of a moral and intellectual giant like Frederick Douglas, let alone assault those doing him homage, or attempting to destroy a monument to which Douglas paid homage on that very spot.

These attacks on the monument are, at best, narcissistic presentism run amok. And presentism is a malign form of bigotry, and in this case ironically deprives mid-19th century African Americans of agency and dignity.

But let’s cut the bullshit. The attack on the Emancipation Memorial has fuck all to do with aesthetics, symbolism, or iconography. Those are just the rhetorical camouflage.

To reprise the theme of several past posts, tearing down this monument is just another act of a movement to tear down the entire nation, extirpate its history root and branch, and replace it with a Marxist paradise.

But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of the person who targeted the monument for destruction, one Glenn Foster:

Apropos my earlier post on our Schumpeter Moment, note that Foster attended Harvard. That’s what they “learn” there.

There are other examples–too many–of the fundamental nature of the movement. Here’s one:

Law enforcement officials had to respond to a large group of Black Lives Matters activists late on Friday night that stormed a Beverly Hills residential neighborhood chanting “Eat the rich!” and “Abolish capitalism now!”

I could go on. And on. And on.

At root, this is not about racial injustice, really. That issue is merely a wedge. Or better, an opiate being given to the masses to cloud their faculties and dull the pain of the radical surgery that these radicals have planned for them.

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June 24, 2020

What Were the Crimes of US Grant & Hans Heg? They Were Americans–and Fighting Against Slavery Does Not Expiate the Guilt

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 11:00 am

You’ve probably heard of Ulysses S. Grant. He arguably did more for African Americans than anyone in American history. It is highly doubtful that the United States of America would have prevailed against the Confederate States of America without Grant. His brilliant victories in the Western Theater (most notably Vicksburg and Chattanooga) knocked the props from under the Confederacy, and his relentless, grinding campaign in Virginia in 1864 and 1865 (and his orchestration of the overall Union effort in those years) accomplished what previous generals had failed to: smashing the Confederacy’s ability to resist.

As president, he pushed a vigorous Reconstruction policy, and was largely personally responsible for crushing the first incarnation of the KKK.

Grant has long been ranked among the worst presidents. Why? Because the history profession from the 1880s-1930s was dominated by Southerners who detested his Reconstruction policies. What better endorsement could one have?

You probably haven’t heard of Hans Heg. Heg was a Norwegian immigrant to Wisconsin. He was a fierce abolitionist, and early member of the Free Soil Party and then the Republican Party. He commanded the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and was mortally wounded with a gut shot in the woody abattoir at Chickamauga on 19 September, 1863. His brigade suffered almost 50 percent casualties in fighting Bushrod Johnson’s Tennessee brigade and James Robertson’s Texas Brigade.

I have walked the ground where Heg fought and died at least a dozen times. I have also read his moving letters.

Now Grant and Heg have something in common besides fighting to end slavery in the United States. Their statues (Grant’s in San Francisco, Heg’s in Madison, WI) have been toppled in the ongoing (and indeed intensifying) frenzied assault on public historical memorials, ostensibly to remove from our sight the glorification of slavery. Poor Colonel Heg’s bronze head was separated from his body and he was tossed into Lake Monona (which is where Otis Redding perished in a plane crash in 1967, by the way).

One’s first reaction might be to condemn the utter ignorance of those who assault the memorials of those who actually fought–and in Heg’s case, died horribly–to end slavery and bring freedom and justice to African Americans.

But I think that reaction is wrong. The indiscriminate nature of the assaults on memory are not the product of ignorance: they demonstrate with incredible clarity the true motivation and impetus behind this iconoclastic moment, and the beliefs of those who carry out these deeds. They believe that America is evil, that its history is a litany of sin, and its memory must be ripped up, root and branch. The message is: these figures are evil, regardless of what they did, or what side they fought on, because they are Americans who were revered by earlier generations of sinful Americans.

It is pointless to argue facts about the acts of Grant or Heg with these people. Those facts pale into insignificance in the face of the irredeemable sin of the United States of America.

Destroying the statues of Grant or Heg (or the threatened destruction of the Emancipation Monument) make this point far more forcefully than removing the statue of a Nathan Bedford Forrest. These acts show that these people believe that nothing you have done can redeem you. Your crime is that you were an American. Your good acts are not sufficient to expiate that guilt. Thus, I expect that monuments to such individuals will become a special target for future destruction.

To argue against these people is as futile as a lifelong Bolshevik pleading his devotion to the cause when facing one of Stalin’s NKVD executioners.

This is an irreconcilable conflict of visions, and an existential one. And if people of good will, normal Americans, don’t figure that out quickly, the consequences will be catastrophic. The time to fight back is now. And hopefully now is not too late.

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