The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Relitigating the Civil War

Jeet Heer thinks it's about time to confront the history of our greatest failure in light of recent events:

At the end of Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, which aired on TV in 1990, the historian Barbara Fields says “the Civil War is still going on. It’s still to be fought and regrettably it can still be lost.” This is hard to deny: That war still shapes the basic contours of American politics. The heartland of the American conservatism is the old Confederacy. Figures like Robert E. Lee are still the subject of heated debate, as are the very origins of the war itself.

Some analysts think such debates over history only serve to empower Trump, giving him a phony culture war to distract from his political failures. But Trumpism is a byproduct of the unfinished conflicts produced by the Civil War; thus, combatting Trumpism requires combatting this pernicious view of the war. Avoiding the subject would cede the central narrative of American history to people like Trump, and would fatally damage our ability to understand and fight one of our core political problems: the endurance of racism in America.

John Kelly and Sarah Sanders’s emphasis on “compromise” is part of a larger understanding of the American story, which historians call the “reconciliationist” narrative.” As developed by turn-of-the-century scholars like Ulrich B. Phillips and William Archibald Dunning (father of the influential “Dunning School.”), the reconciliationist narrative told a false, sweeping story about American race relations: that slavery was a mostly benign institution, and antebellum America was bedeviled by fanatical abolitionists committed to the false idea of human equality.

Ta-Nahesi Coates took on this notion  in a series of Tweets yesterday.

I've never understood how people can talk about any Confederate figures as "loyal" to anything. They committed treason against the United States, in order to maintain chattel slavery. That's as unacceptable as the three-fifths compromise and Dred Scott.

Link round-up

I've got a lot going on today, with a final rehearsal tonight before Saturday's dress for Carmina Burana (get tickets here) and two business trips in the next 10 days. But there are a few articles to note in today's media:

Back to work now.

About those statues

Via Mother Jones, the Southern Poverty Law Center has published a report that examines the statues to Confederate heroes of the sort that sparked last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Va. It should surprise no one with a modicum of historical knowledge that they went up during periods of exceptional violence against African-Americans:

[T]he argument that the Confederate flag and other displays represent “heritage, not hate” ignores the near-universal heritage of African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved by the millions in the South. It trivializes their pain, their history and their concerns about racism — whether it’s the racism of the past or that of today.

And it conceals the true history of the Confederate States of America and the seven decades of Jim Crow segregation and oppression that followed the Reconstruction era.

There were two major periods in which the dedication of Confederate monuments and other symbols spiked — the first two decades of the 20th century and during the civil rights movement.

Southerners began honoring the Confederacy with statues and other symbols almost immediately after the Civil War. The first Confederate Memorial Day, for example, was dreamed up by the wife of a Confederate soldier in 1866. That same year, Jefferson Davis laid the cornerstone of the Confederate Memorial Monument in a prominent spot on the state Capitol grounds in Montgomery, Alabama. There has been a steady stream of dedications in the 150 years since that time.

But two distinct periods saw a significant rise in the dedication of monuments and other symbols.

The first began around 1900, amid the period in which states were enacting Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise the newly freed African Americans and re-segregate society. This spike lasted well into the 1920s, a period that saw a dramatic resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, which had been born in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.

The second spike began in the early 1950s and lasted through the 1960s, as the civil rights movement led to a backlash among segregationists.

Mother Jones prepared this handy graph:

So, yes, these statues represent history: the history of Southern oppression of African-Americans throughout the Jim Crow era. Southern whites erected them as symbols of white supremacy and violence.

And they need to go away now.

We haven't been making this up

Those of us saying for years now that President Trump is a racist twat and that you should apply Occam's Razor (or Trump's Razor) to his behavior got quite a shock yesterday when he proved our point spectacularly. We can't pretend anymore that his policies and rhetoric come primarily from "inexperience" or "stupidity." Josh Marshall lays it out plainly:

The simpler explanation that accounts for all the available facts is not always right. But as Occam noted, it is always to be preferred. What we need is a Copernican revolution in our understanding of Trumpism, or at least some of us need it. The breakthrough for Copernicus was in positing the unimaginable, indeed the terrifying possibility that the Earth is not the center of the universe but rather a peripheral, secondary celestial body. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place.

With Trump, he has a revanchist racist politics because he is a revanchist racist. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place. All the heroic and increasingly nonsensical perambulations of misunderstandings, inexperience, missed opportunities, stubbornness and all the rest are not needed. It all falls into place.

What we have in this Times article is the more direct evidence, a confirmation of what we should already know. His advisors know this is what he thinks. They apparently hear it frequently. They were shocked to here him say in public “opinions that the president had long expressed in private.”

Stop pretending he's going to learn or grow. He won't. This is the president. Supporting him means supporting these views, which should not be aired—or held—by any serious politician anywhere. And it's shocking that people like Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn can stand next to him.

The low-down on Robert Moses and the Southern State

Robert Moses was well known as a bigot during his lifetime. But there has always been some question about a story Robert Caro told in his 1974 biography of Moses, The Power Broker. In his book, Caro said that Moses deliberately designed the bridges along Long Island's Southern State Parkway too low for buses to keep "those people" out of Jones Beach.

Well, Cornell historian Thomas J. Campanella has analyzed data from the era and concluded...Caro was probably right:

There is little question that Moses held patently bigoted views. But to what extent were those prejudices embedded in his public works? Very much so, according to Caro, who described Moses as “the most racist human being I had ever really encountered.” The evidence is legion: minority neighborhoods bulldozed for urban renewal projects; simian-themed details in a Harlem playground; elaborate attempts to discourage non-whites from certain parks and pools. He complained of his works sullied by “that scum floating up from Puerto Rico.”

But Moses was complex. He gave Harlem a glorious pool and play center—now Jackie Robinson Park—one of the best public works of the New Deal era anywhere in the United States.

And contrary to a claim in The Power Broker, Moses clearly meant buses to serve his “little Jones Beach” in the Rockaways—Jacob Riis Park. While oriented mainly toward motorists (the parking lot was once the largest in the world), it is simply not true that New Yorkers without cars were excluded. The original site plan included bus drop-off zones, and photographs from the era plainly show buses loading and unloading passengers.

Limiting my search to only those arched stone or brick-clad structures in place or under construction when Moses began work on the Southern State, I recorded clearances for a total of 20 bridges, viaducts and overpasses: 7 on the Bronx River Parkway (completed in 1925); 6 on the initial portion of the Saw Mill River Parkway (1926) and 7 on the Hutchinson River Parkway (begun in 1924 and opened in 1927). I then took measure of the 20 original bridges and overpasses on the Southern State Parkway, from its start at the city line in Queens to the Wantagh Parkway, the first section to open (on November 7, 1927) and the portion used to reach Jones Beach. The verdict? It appears that Sid Shapiro was right.

Overall, clearances are substantially lower on the Moses parkway, averaging just 2.73 m (eastbound), against 3.08 m on the Hutchinson and 3.13 m on the Saw Mill. Even on the Bronx River Parkway—a road championed by an infamous racist, Madison Grant, author of the 1916 best seller The Passing of the Great Race—clearances averaged 2.94 m.

It's a very pretty road. But clearly, Moses didn't intend it for the masses.

Did I miss a scare piece on Fox News?

Apparently we're now frightened of everything:

Passengers on foreign airlines headed to the United States from 10 airports in eight majority-Muslim countries have been barred from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone under a new flight restriction enacted on Tuesday by the Trump administration.

Officials called the directive an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack.

The Department of Homeland Security said the restricted items included laptop computers, tablets, cameras, travel printers and games bigger than a phone. The restrictions would not apply to aircraft crews, officials said in a briefing to reporters on Monday night that outlined the terms of the ban.

The new policy took effect at 3 a.m. E.D.T. on Tuesday, and must be followed within 96 hours by airlines flying to the United States from airports in Amman, Jordan; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Because, hey, if it's illegal for the administration to block people coming from those countries, maybe we can simply make them not want to come here? Oh, right. This is only going to stop people who need to work on those long flights; i.e., people we probably want to come here.

Great work, DHS. Nice.

More reading this evening

I'm a little disappointed with the Cubs' 6-5 loss to the Giants last night, but they get another crack at them tonight. I'll probably watch—while writing software. Meanwhile, here are some articles I wish I'd had more time to read:

Go Cubs, and back to work.

Thinking of Orlando Gibbons

When I read this, I couldn't help thinking of this:

The silver Swan, who, living, had no Note,
When Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast upon the reedy shore,
Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
"Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes! 
More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise."

In other burials of Caesar, former University of Chicago law students have had some unkind things to say about how Scalia treated minorities:

Ben Streeter, now an attorney with the Federal Election Commission and a former black student of Scalia’s, told Gawker that although he in fact passed Scalia’s course, he, too, noticed preferential treatment towards white students. Streeter said the final exam in one of Scalia’s classes included an unprecedented short-answer section, with answers that weren't covered in class. Streeter suspected Scalia had mentioned the material with students who came to visit him outside of class.

“In those days, the only students who came by to visit him were in the Federalist Society group,” Streeter told Gawker. “There was not a single black member of the Federalist Society in my three years at the University of Chicago.”

Phillip Hampton, the former president of the University of Chicago’s Black Student Law Association, told Gawker that he found it strange that “every black student’s lowest grade was in Scalia’s class.” He also remembered Scalia once saying that he could “usually tell papers that were written by African Americans,” even if they had no names on them.

Scalia at least remained perfectly consistent in these attitudes throughout his tenure in the Federal Courts. Remember last December, when he said black students should stay on the short bus?

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Tony. We'll be clawing back Scalia's revanchist, racist, repulsive judicial legacy for two generations—or if not, we'll be a country I don't want to live in.