The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

It was always about slavery

The "Lost Cause" mythology of certain good ol' boys in the Republican Party deliberately obfuscates the real causes of the US Civil War, as Brynn Tannehill describes in a well-written Twitter thread:

When Haley refused to say that the root cause of the Civil War, it pulled back the curtain a bit on an ugly truth: the American south has successfully waged a campaign to obfuscate history for over 100 years, to the point where they use their own supply.

Facts up front: The US Civil War started when Lincoln got elected and the south absolutely freaked out over it because he believed slavery should be phased out over time. It was an aspiration with no definitive date. He wasn't willing to split the union over the issue.

Slavery was the top issue in the 1860 election. Lincoln ran on a promise not to induct more slave states and to allow it to remain legal where it already was. He believed that it would become non-viable (eventually) and was content to let it ride out the clock for decades.

[T]he South absolutely lost their **** when he won, because they believed that his election would lead to the end of slavery... some day. They wanted it guaranteed forever. Seven of the 11 states that seceded did so before Lincoln was sworn in on March 4, 1861.

The South Carolina secession ordinance was also pretty explicit. So was the infamous "Cornerstone Speech" at the secession conference by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens.

So, where did this nonsense about "States' rights" and "individual freedoms" come from? Basically, it comes from the south wanting to look less awful after the war when basically everyone was expected to agree that slavery was wrong. It's also key to the "Lost Cause" myth.

This reframing started as early as 1866, and is really well documented, so I shan't re-hash all of it here. But, the number one tenet of the lost cause mythology is that the civil war wasn't about slavery.

Look, I get it: accepting that you fought for something horrific is a bitter pill to swallow. No one likes to do it, and almost no one has particularly owned it (maybe the Germans after about 1967-ish? Debatable though).

Regardless, rehabilitating the South's image was a massive project. The Daughters of the Confederacy put up statues everywhere. They paid for stained glass windows of Jackson and Lee in the National Cathedral in DC.

School textbooks (that I used as a kid!) taught about "states rights", "economic anxiety" (huh, where did we hear that one before as an excuse?), and movies (Like "Birth of a Nation", "Gettysburg", and "Gods and Generals") lionized the South.

In particular, the movies told stories from a southern perspective that left out WHAT they were fighting for, and made their cause seem both noble and doomed (which is basically the Lost Cause in a nutshell). They were neo-confederate propaganda.

Which brings us to yesterday, and Nikki Haley. I don't think she believes it, but because her audience has been spoon fed the Lost Cause mythology from birth, saying the truth would get her crucified by the Republican base (which is centered on white southerners).

It's also been largely accepted by whites outside the south (geez, I hated living in Ohio). The Lost Cause has become part of the party's tribal epistemology. So, Haley resorted to euphemisms. But they still mean slavery.

States' Rights = States have the right to keep slavery legal Individual Freedoms = The "freedom" to own other people in chattel slavery.

When Trump tells his audience "I am your retribution," he's tapping into the Lost Cause Mythology. He's telling much of the audience "The south will rise again, and I will make it happen."

For more on this topic, I cannot recommend @HC_Richardson's book "How the South Won the Civil War" highly enough. It came out to late for me to incorporate into American Fascism, but I wish I had.

I've been saying as much since I first read about the Civil War in school. But about the South, to paraphrase Tom Lehrer, "we taught them a lesson in 1865 and they've hardly bothered us since then." Only, they never went away.

It baffles me that 150 years after we fought the deadliest war in US history over the subjugation of one people by another, the very same people want to re-litigate it. Maybe we should have let them leave? Probably not. But I'm just so tired of these assholes.

(I included most of Tannehill's thread as I believe Twitter won't exist much longer.)

Last work day of the year

Due to an odd combination of holidays, a use-it-or-lose-it floating holiday, and travel, I'm just about done with my first of four short work-weeks in a row. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Of course, since I would like to finish the coding problem I've been working on before I leave today, I'll have to read some of these later:

  • Josh Marshall thinks it's hilarious and pathetic that Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), realizing she can't win against a Democrat in her own district, said she'll run in the next district over.
  • Jennifer Rubin points out that while you can blame anyone you want for what's wrong with US politics today, ultimately it's the voters.
  • Authors Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith argue for the repeal of the Insurrection Act, not just because of the XPOTUS.
  • Climate scientist Brian Brettschneider has charted the perfect year-long road-trip across the US where it's always (normally) 21°C.
  • A truck driver found himself trapped in an Indiana creek for six days until some fishermen discovered him. (He's OK.)

Finally, police and firefighters in Lancashire, England, are glancing about sheepishly this evening after reports of a fire at Blackpool Tower turned out to construction netting. They still managed to arrest one person for "breach of the peace," though for what The Guardian didn't report.

Erev Christmas Eve evening roundup

As I wait for my rice to cook and my adobo to finish cooking, I'm plunging through an unusually large number of very small changes to a codebase recommended by one of my tools. And while waiting for the CI to run just now, I lined these up for tomorrow morning:

Finally, the CBC has an extended 3-episode miniseries version of the movie BlackBerry available online. I may have to watch that this week.

Cartoon villainy from our "friends" in the Mid-East

Climate scientist Rollie Williams explains the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's not-so-secret plan to get "every molecule" of hydrocarbons out of the ground:

Seriously. You can almost hear them twiddling their mustaches and tying the maiden to the tracks in this one.

Ordinarily I'd quote Upton Sinclair, but the government of KSA completely understands the thing. Then again, with temperatures on the Arabian peninsula routinely cresting 45°C and sometimes exceeding 50°C, what do they think will happen if their plans to burn all those fossil fuels succeed?

In other crimes...

May your solstice be more luminous than these stories would have it:

  • Chicago politician Ed Burke, who ruled the city's Finance Committee from his 14th-Ward office for 50 years, got convicted of bribery and corruption this afternoon. This has to do with all the bribes he accepted and the corruption he embodied from 1969 through May of this year.
  • New Republic's Tori Otten agrees with me that US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is the dumbest schmuck in the Senate. (She didn't use the word "schmuck," but it fits.)
  • Texas has started flying migrants to Chicago, illegally, in an ongoing effort to troll Democratic jurisdictions over immigration. This came shortly after they passed a manifestly unconstitutional immigration law of their own.
  • Millennial journalist Max Read, a kid who took over the Internet that my generation (X) built from the ground up, whinges about "the kids today" who have taken it over from his generation. (He thinks a gopher is just a rodent, I'd bet.)
  • Hard to believe, speaking of millennials, that today is the 35th anniversary of Libya blowing up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Finally, a court in California has ordered one "Demeterious Polychron" to destroy all extant copies of what I can imagine to be a horrific example of JRR Tolkien fanfic that the court found infringes on the Tolkien estate's copyrights. Note that Polychron (a) put his self-published fanfic for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, (b) after sending it to them with a letter call it "the obvious pitch-perfect sequel" to The Lord of the Rings, and then (c) suing them when they allowed Amazon to produce its own prequel, Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. Note to budding novelists: if you're writing fanfic, don't sue the underlying material's copyright owner for infringement.

The tragedy and pathos of Rudy Giuliani

Back when I was growing up, Rudy Giuliani destroyed the Italian mob in New York City. Today he declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy to avoid paying a $148 million defamation verdict—the day after the people he defamed sued him again for repeating the same defamatory statements outside the courthouse after the judgment was handed down:

Lawyers for the two Georgia election workers who won $148 million in damages from former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani last week filed a new lawsuit Monday, asking a federal judge to order him to stop repeating his damaging debunked claims about the poll workers and to immediately enforce the jury’s massive award before his assets are dissipated.

Ruby Freeman and Wandrea Arshaye “Shaye” Moss asserted that Giuliani is continuing to baselessly accuse the former Fulton County election workers of manipulating the absentee ballot count to steal the 2020 election from former president Donald Trump in Georgia. The former New York mayor repeated the allegations during and after his defamation damages trial last week, even as his lawyer conceded in court the claims were wrong.

“Everything I said about them is true,” Giuliani told reporters outside the courthouse after the first day of his trial on Dec. 11, adding, “Of course I don’t regret it. … They were engaged in changing votes.”

I'm no doctor, but it looks like Giuliani has suffered from dementia for a long time, and it's getting worse. He appears to have no self-awareness or self-control at this stage. Other circumstantial evidence suggests late-stage alcoholism. Whatever the cause, the man stopped making sense long before he started working for the XPOTUS—even before he tried to cancel the 2001 New York mayoral election:

Once he was the toast of town. As a federal prosecutor he sent a congressman to jail, locked up mobsters and indicted white-collar criminals. As mayor, he made the streets again feel safe. Love him or hate him, crime precipitously dropped on his watch.

In the days and months following 9/11, he projected strength, confidence and reassurance. He had braced himself for a calamity; he just didn’t know its source or when it would happen. He was steady when crunchtime arrived.

As mayor, his tenure was consequential. His eight years at city hall rank up there with Fiorello La Guardia, Michael Bloomberg and Ed Koch. All that feels like aeons ago.

Yet Giuliani’s latest woes cannot be described as wholly surprising. He always possessed a penchant for drama and a tropism for the transgressive. He loved the opera and his life emerged as operatic. As a prosecutor, he dressed up “undercover”. Then as mayor, he performed onstage in drag with Trump.

All that came with a darker side. The warning signs were there. We just chose to ignore them.

Amid his first campaign for mayor, in 1989, a story broke of a concentration camp survivor, Simon Berger, being held in federal custody, facing a blackboard that read “Arbeit Macht Frei” the slogan written across the gates of Auschwitz. Berger would be acquitted. Decades later, Dunphy alleged that Giuliani has a problem with Jews.

I lived in New York City while Giuliani was mayor, though. As Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union reminded me while researching this post, even at his most popular, he was a bit unhinged:

Whatever may be going on with Rudy Giuliani personally, let’s be clear: while, for one brief moment in his career he served as a cheerleader for a devastated city and a shocked nation, the rest of Rudy Giuliani’s mayoralty was driven by a hostility to free expression, police brutality and violence, and an authoritarian disregard for democracy.

Let’s start with the First Amendment. The New York Civil Liberties Union was involved in 34 First Amendment lawsuits against the Giuliani administration – and prevailed in 26 of them. Those cases successfully challenged the firing of Police Officer Yvette Walton in retaliation for testifying before the City Council about racial profiling; the attempt to censor the Sensations exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum; the ban on press conferences and demonstrations by Giuliani critics on the steps of City Hall; the ban on condom distribution as part of AIDS education in City Parks; police harassment of homeless people sleeping on the steps of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church; and singling out political demonstrators charged with minor offenses so that they could not get appearance tickets to return to court and often had to stay in jail overnight.

In the seven-and-a-half years before 9/11, let there be no mistake: racial bias, fear-mongering, and police brutality were the hallmarks of Giuliani’s mayoralty.

As mayor, Giuliani oversaw a policing regime repeatedly engaged in persecution and brutal assaults and killings of Black and Hispanic New Yorkers, using unlawful stop-and-frisk policies to jail Black and Hispanic New Yorkers in service of his ‘broken windows’ policing. Every time the NYPD killed a Black man, Rudy Giuliani was right there not only defending the police, but attacking the victim.

I will never forget his tirade against Patrick Dorismond, a 26-year-old Black security guard and father of two, after undercover police officers killed Dorismond after initiating a scuffle while on the job in Manhattan. Giuliani attacked Dorismond’s character and publicly revealed his legally-sealed juvenile record. It was Giuliani‘s notorious street crimes unit that killed Amadou Diallo in the lobby of his apartment building.

Rudy Giuliani has always had an authoritarian streak coupled with a belief that the rules didn't apply to him. Fortunately, he behaved so badly for so long that no one ever gave him more power after his mayoralty ended in 2001. And I mention all this because, as bad as Giuliani has always been, and as far as he's descended into dementia and insanity...the XPOTUS is worse.

Polls open in 319 days.

Evening round-up

I can't yet tell that sunsets have gotten any later in the past two weeks, though I can tell that sunrises are still getting later. But one day, about three weeks from now, I'll look out my office window at this hour, and notice it hasn't gotten completely dark yet. Alas, that day is not this day.

Elsewhere in the darkening world:

  • Mike Godwin, the person who postulated Godwin's Law, believes that invoking it as regards the XPOTUS is not at all losing the argument: "You could say the ‘vermin’ remark or the ‘poisoning the blood’ remark, maybe one of them would be a coincidence. But both of them pretty much makes it clear that there’s something thematic going on, and I can’t believe it’s accidental."
  • Julia Ioffe watches with growing horror at Ukraine's looming money cliff.
  • The rings of a 200-year-old tree in Arizona show just how bad last summer was.
  • The Federal Highway Administration has revised the MUCTD after 14 years, this time after actually listening to people who don't drive cars.

Finally, Tyler Austin Harper shakes his head that university administrators and other people of limited horizons completely misunderstand why the humanities are important:

If we have any hope of resuscitating fields like English and history, we must rescue the humanities from the utilitarian appraisals that both their champions and their critics subject them to. We need to recognize that the conservatives are right, albeit not in the way they think: The humanities are useless in many senses of the term. But that doesn’t mean they’re without value.

It is often faculty who are trying to safeguard their fields from the progressive machinations of their bureaucratic overlords. But faced with a choice between watching their departments shrink or agreeing to hire in areas that help realize the personnel-engineering schemes of their bosses, departments tend to choose the latter. ... At the same time, a generation of Ph.D. students is eyeing current hiring practices and concluding that the only research that has a prayer of landing them a tenure-track position relates to questions of identity and justice.

Instead of trying to prove that the humanities are more economically useful than other majors—a tricky proposition—humanists have taken to justifying their continued existence within the academy by insisting that they are uniquely socially and politically useful. The emergent sales pitch is not that the humanities produce and transmit important knowledge, but rather that studying the humanities promotes nebulous but nice-sounding values, such as empathy and critical thinking, that are allegedly vital to the cause of moral uplift in a multicultural democracy.

The whole essay is worth a read.

XPOTUS disqualified in Colorado; SCOTUS appeal imminent

The XPOTUS racked up another first-in-history court ruling yesterday that already has US Supreme Court law clerks cancelling their Christmas vacations:

Colorado’s top court ruled on Tuesday that former President Donald J. Trump is disqualified from holding office again because he engaged in insurrection with his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, an explosive ruling that is likely to put the basic contours of the 2024 election in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Colorado Supreme Court was the first in the nation to find that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — which disqualifies people who engage in insurrection against the Constitution after taking an oath to support it — applies to Mr. Trump, an argument that his opponents have been making around the country.

In the Colorado court’s lengthy ruling on Tuesday, the justices there reversed a Denver district judge’s finding last month that Section 3 did not apply to the presidency. They affirmed the district judge’s other key conclusions: that Mr. Trump’s actions before and on Jan. 6, 2021, constituted engaging in insurrection, and that courts had the authority to enforce Section 3 against a person whom Congress had not specifically designated.

“A majority of the court holds that President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the justices wrote. “Because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Colorado secretary of state to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot.”

The Post has four takeaways:

1. The historical and political impact may exceed the direct impact

The decision is at once explosive and likely to have little direct impact on the 2024 election.

Colorado has trended blue in recent decades and is not considered a competitive state in presidential elections, having given President Biden a 13.5-point victory in 2020. That made it the 14th-bluest state — the kind of state that if Trump ever won it, he would most likely secure more than enough electoral votes to be elected.

2. The court disagreed with a judge who ruled presidents were different

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars from “any office, civil or military, under the United States,” anyone who takes an oath “as an officer of the United States ... to support the Constitution of the United States [who] shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

Denver District Judge Sarah B. Wallace...ruled that Section 3 wasn’t meant to pertain to presidents.

3. A Trump traffic jam is converging on the U.S. Supreme Court

Already in the last week or so, special counsel Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court to fast-track a decision on Trump’s claims to presidential immunity from his election-subversion indictment. Then the Supreme Court signaled it would review the use of a popular charge against hundreds of Jan. 6 defendants, including Trump: obstruction of an official proceeding. Some judges have rejected or expressed skepticism about that charge’s applicability.

4. A long-running 14th Amendment effort reaches a milestone

The decision is the culmination of a long-running effort to disqualify not just Trump but other Republicans over Jan. 6.

Efforts to disqualify members of Congress including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and now-former congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) failed, in part, because it was harder to directly attach them to the events of Jan. 6.

I believe this was the correct, historical application of the 14th Amendment, and at the same time a risky strategy. Under any plain-language reading of the Constitution and the history of its adoption, the President is an officeholder, not a monarch, and so subject to the laws of the country. And the 14th Amendment exists precisely because Federal officeholders made war against the Constitution in order to preserve slavery.

But today's Republican Party bears no resemblance to the Republicans who wrote the Amendment in 1868, having decided that the only way to handle a dangerous fascist in their party was to join him. The XPOTUS continues to yell about "election fraud" as part of his Big Lie, so obviously he'll spin the Colorado case as proof of it. A reasonable person might think of it like killing your parents and then begging sympathy as an orphan, but clearly a third of the US have left reason behind in the 1960s.

We're a week and a half from 2024, and the times just keep getting more interesting...

European cities mend car-centric streets

Paris, Barcelona, and Brussels have taken back streets for pedestrians, streets never designed for cars:

Strategies vary, from congestion charges, parking restrictions and limited traffic zones to increased investment in public transport and cycle lanes. Evidence suggests that a combination of carrot and stick – and consultation – works best.

A startling statistic emerged in Paris last month: during the morning and evening rush hours, on representative main thoroughfares crisscrossing the French capital, there are now more bicycles than cars – almost half as many again, in fact.

The data point is the latest to comfort Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor, who since she was first elected in 2014 has pursued some of the toughest anti-car policies of any major city – starting with closing the 1970s Right Bank Seine expressway to traffic.

Hidalgo has since sealed off famous streets such as the Rue de Rivoli to most traffic, created an expanding low-emission zone to exclude older cars, and established 1,000km (620 miles) of bike routes, 350km of them protected lanes.

Due in part to her policies and those of her predecessor, Bertrand Delanoë, driving within Paris city limits has fallen by about 45% since the early 1990s, while public transport use has risen by 30% and cycle use by about 1,000%.

I admit that the US has huge difficulties breaking away from its car-centric development pattern because most existing US infrastructure was built for cars. But the inability of US voters to imagine a better life with alternatives to driving hurts us as well. I've chosen to live in a city that pre-dates mass car ownership (at least in some parts), but even here, we struggle with compact, walkable development.

Still, Paris and other European cities are showing that it's possible to undo some of the damage cars and car-centric development cause. I hope more of the US catches on to this in my lifetime.

Dana Milbank on the worst Congress in history

The 118th Congress has done less than any previous Congress, except the 72nd, which didn't convene until December 1931 (after taking office in March):

What do House Republicans have to show the voters for their year in power? A bipartisan debt deal (on which they promptly reneged) to avoid a default crisis that they themselves created. A pair of temporary spending bills (both passed with mostly Democratic votes) to avert a government-shutdown crisis that they themselves created. The ouster of their speaker, nearly a month-long shutdown of the chamber as they sought another, and the expulsion of one of their members, who is now negotiating himself a plea deal.

Among the 22 bills in 2023 that became law as of this week was landmark legislation such as: H.R. 3672, “To designate the clinic of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Indian River, Michigan, as the ‘Pfc. Justin T. Paton Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic.’” Also, H.R. 5110, the “Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act,” which authorizes federal education funds “to purchase or use dangerous weapons” for instruction.

As the year ends, Ukraine will have to wait for more ammo. The federal government will have to wait for its 2024 funding to be settled. But there was one priority so urgent that it absolutely could not wait until after vacation, and it united every single Republican in the caucus. The day before skipping town, they voted in an entirely party-line vote of 221-212 to put the House on an all-but-inevitable course toward impeaching Biden for the high crime and misdemeanor of having a drug-addicted son.

Democrat Eric Swalwell (Calif.) congratulated Republicans for their dogged pursuit of the president’s son. “I want to give James Comer some credit,” he told the House, “because after 50,000 pages of depositions and secret hearings and closed hearings, I think if we give him enough time, he is going to prove that Hunter Biden is Joe Biden’s son.”

Just remember, the current Republican Party wants to rule, not to govern; and making Americans question the effectiveness of all the government (rather than just their own sabotaging party) will help that along.