Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: February 2, 2019 Filed under: Cats, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, racism, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bandy X. Lee, Concord Management and Consulting, Donald Trump, Justin Fairfax, Ralph Northam, Robert E Lee, Robert Mueller, slavery, Stonewall Jackson 37 Comments
There is so much news this morning that it’s difficult to know what to focus on. I guess I’ll begin with the followup to the story Dakinikat wrote about in yesterday’s post–Trump’s horrifying decision to withdraw from the INF treaty. This was nothing but a gift to Trump’s puppet master Putin–did they coordinate this?
Associated Press: Russia to pull plug on nuclear arms pact after US does same.
MOSCOW (AP) — Following in the footsteps of the U.S., Russia will abandon a centerpiece nuclear arms treaty but will only deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles if Washington does so, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.
U.S. President Donald Trump accused Moscow on Friday of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with “impunity” by deploying banned missiles. Trump said in a statement that the U.S. will “move forward” with developing its own military response options to Russia’s new land-based cruise missiles that could target Western Europe.
The collapse of the INF Treaty has raised fears of a repeat of a Cold War showdown in the 1980s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the continent. Such weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing as they only take a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving no time for decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.
After the U.S. gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months, Putin said that Russia would do the same. He ordered the development of new land-based intermediate-range weapons, but emphasized that Russia won’t deploy them in the European part of the country or elsewhere unless the U.S. does so.
“We will respond quid pro quo,” Putin said. “Our American partners have announced they were suspending their participation in the treaty and will do the same. They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly.”
“Quid pro quo?” Is that shade from Putin? Because it’s obvious as this point that Trump is checking off everything on Putin’s wish list in order to repay him for the 2016 election and likely promises that he’ll eventually get that Trump Tower in Moscow.
And it’s not just the 2016 election. Natasha has a revealing post up at The Atlantic this morning on Robert Mueller’s latest court filing: Russia Is Attacking the U.S. System From Within.
A new court filing submitted on Wednesday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed that a Russian troll farm currently locked in a legal battle over its alleged interference in the 2016 election appeared to wage yet another disinformation campaign late last year—this time targeting Mueller himself.
According to the filing, the special counsel’s office turned over one million pages of evidence to lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting as part of the discovery process. The firm is accused of funding the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency. But someone connected to Concord allegedly manipulated and leaked those documents to reporters, hoping the documents would make people think that Mueller’s evidence against the troll farm and its owners was flimsy. The tactic didn’t seem to convince anyone, but it appeared to mark yet another example of Russia exploiting the U.S. justice system to undercut its rivals abroad….
When Mueller indicted Concord Management and Consulting in February 2018, along with two other corporate entities and 13 Russian nationals allegedly connected to the Internet Research Agency, it seemed highly unlikely that the indictment would result in a trial because Russians cannot be extradited to the United States. But Concord unexpectedly hired the well-connected American law firm, Reed Smith, to fight Mueller, arguing that the charges should be dropped because the special counsel was illegally appointed. The judge in the case, Dabney Friedrich, has twice refused to dismiss the case and recently lambasted Concord’s American lawyers for submitting “unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective” court filings, and the legal battle has raged on.
Now, according to the Mueller filing this week, unidentified actors working out of Russia appear to have weaponize the U.S. discovery process to Concord’s benefit. Over 1,000 files on the website that hosted the leaked documents “match those produced in discovery,” the special counsel said. The documents were published from a computer with a Russian IP address, according to Mueller, and whoever released them clearly “had access to at least some of the non-sensitive discovery produced by the government.” But forged documents were mixed in to the trove, too, apparently in an attempt to accuse Mueller of characterizing American websites and Facebook pages like Occupy Democrats as Russian disinformation operations. The website also inserted irrelevant documents into the unique folder names—known only to those with access to the discovery materials—and characterized them as the sum-total of Mueller’s evidence “in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation,” the special counsel said.
It’s complicated, so I hope you’ll go read the rest at The Atlantic.
Yesterday, the The Virginian-Pilot broke the news that Governor Ralph Northam included a racist photo of himself and another man in his medical school yearbook. I’m not going to post the photo; I’m sure you’ve seen it by now.
Ralph Northam admits he’s in “clearly racist” photo; vows to serve out term amid calls for resignation.
A photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook shows him and another person in racist costumes — one wearing blackface and one a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, though it was not clear which person was the future governor.
Hours after the 35-year-old photo came to light Friday, Northam apologized for his decision to appear in it. Elected officials and activist groups from across the political spectrum called for him to resign.
But in a video posted to Twitter Friday evening, Northam said he had spent the past year “fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people” and he would continue to do so throughout the rest of his term, which ends in January 2022.
Northam admitted that he appears in the photo, but for some reason did not say which of the costumed men he is. It’s obvious he is going to have to step down, but as of this morning he’s apparently still hanging on. Multiple Democratic politicians, including former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe have called for his resignation.
Shortly after this news broke, CBS New reported that the yearbook also lists a racist nickname for Northam, who was 25 years old at the time.
CBS News uncovered a page from Northam’s yearbook at the Virginia Military Institute that had nicknames listed underneath his name. One of them was “Coonman,” a racial slur.
Northam has to go, but the upside of this is that his Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax is a rising star and would be Virginia’s second black governor if Northam resigns. The Washington Post:
Justin Fairfax is an Ivy League-educated lawyer descended from slaves, who as lieutenant governor of Virginia was known mostly for sitting out tributes to Confederate leaders in the historic Capitol in Richmond.
He could now become the commonwealth’s 74th governor, if fellow Democrat Ralph Northam resigns over a racist photo he included in his medical school yearbook in 1984.
Fairfax, 39, was elected as Northam’s deputy in the 2017 blue wave in which Democrats won all three statewide offices and picked up 15 seats in the House of Delegates.
He would be the second African American governor of Virginia, following L. Douglas Wilder, who held the office from 1990 to 1994. Only two other African Americans have been governors in modern U.S. history.
Read more about Northam’s background at the WaPo. Also check out this powerful piece at the Root: Justin Fairfax, The King of Confederate Shade, Shuts Down 100-Year Tribute to American Traitors.
For more than 100 years, the Virginia State Senate has had a little tradition, where they honor Confederate “heroes” Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee at the close of a Senate session sometime near the birthdays of two men. Now if you didn’t take Treason 101 in high school, you probably missed the part where Jackson and Lee were part of the Confederacy that broke away from the United States and started the Civil War by firing on Fort Sumter. Perhaps you also didn’t learn that Robert E. Lee, as head of the Confederate Army, is responsible for more American deaths than the Nazis, The Vietcong, ISIS, the LAPD, Cobra, Hydra, and high blood pressure.
The point is, at the time and by modern standards, Jackson and Lee were horrible men. They also happen to have birthdays very close to each other (Jackson, January 21; Lee, January 19) and Jackson occasionally shares a birthday with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Consequently, for years, on or around the birthdays of these two Confederates, a member of the Virginia Senate would announce, “I would like to adjourn in honor of General Lee or Stonewall Jackson.”
The Senate would agree, someone would take the podium to speak a couple of words, and then everyone would break for orange slices and Mint Julip Capri-Suns. All of this has gone off without a hitch for decades, even after the first African Americans got elected to the Virginia Senate; even after the state adopted the ridiculous Lee-Jackson-King Holiday from 1984 to 2000; even after Virginia elected its first black governor, Doug Wilder, from 1990-1994. However, Justin Fairfax didn’t come to Richmond to play footsie with Confederates and he is very much his great-grandfather’s child….
Since being elected Lt. Governor of Virginia in 2017, Fairfax has served as the president of the state Senate and has quietly left the podium whenever state senators have attempted to honor Stonewall or Lee at the end of the session. He did it last Friday when a Republican senator stepped up to honor Robert E. Lee. The reasons are obvious. First, no one should be honoring American traitors in a government building, no matter where that traitor was born. Secondly, Justin Fairfax, a man who literally took his oath of office with his three-greats-ago grandfather’s Freedom papers in his pocket, knows history and knows power.
It sounds like Fairfax would do just fine as governor; he was expected to run in 2021 after Northam completed his term-limited governorship anyway.
I’m post a few more important reads in the comment thread, but I want to call attention to this one from Raw Story: ‘Incredibly dangerous’: Yale psychiatrist warns Trump will resort to ‘extreme measures’ as Mueller closes in.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump declared that he was not concerned about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
He claimed that departing Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had told him he was not a person of interest in the investigation.
“He told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target,” Mr. Trump told the New York Times.
Nevertheless, the probe seems to be circling closer to the president and his family. The arrest of long-time Trump ally Roger Stone—and wording in his indictment that suggested he’d been directed to perform criminal acts by a more senior campaign official—spurred discussion that Donald Trump Jr. or even Trump himself would be implicated in Stone’s alleged crimes.
Trump also told the Times that he would build a wall along the Southwest border with Mexico regardless of Congress.
Raw Story spoke with Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee about how the latest developments are likely to impact the president. Lee’s views are her own, not a reflection of Yale’s position.
I hope you’ll go read the whole interview. Here’s an excerpt:
Bandy X. Lee: His anxieties are palpable, as he resorts to more and more extreme measures and unreal justifications for building a wall. We had the extended shutdown that put us at real security risk, according to the FBI, and declaring a national emergency is a very real possibility.
He needs to maintain his shrinking base as well as to give himself a sense of victory, and he will go to all lengths to achieve it. What concerns me, however, is our own lack of readiness for when the real crisis comes. As a nation, we continue merely to react, while dangers escalate, and underestimate the profound effects that mental instability can have.
With all the negative news for Mr. Trump, “rational” people may feel relief, as he is finally held to account, but while being driven to a corner, the president’s only desperate remaining diversion may be war. Forces around the globe—the Israelis and the Saudis, for example—want that for their own reasons, and with a foreign policy team that now reflects his psychology, times could turn incredibly dangerous.
What stories have you been following?
Tuesday Reads: Sweet Schadenfreude and John Kelly’s RacismPosted: October 31, 2017 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Aaron Zelinsky, confederate statues, Donald Trump, George Papadopoulous, John Kelly, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Robert E Lee, Robert Mueller 65 Comments
The schadenfreude is strong this morning, as the world watches the aftermath of yesterday’s special counsel indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, as well as the guilty plea and cooperation by Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. It’s easy to envision Trump melting down yesterday as the revelations poured out.
Fallout from Mueller Monday
The Washington Post: Upstairs at home, with the TV on, Trump fumes over Russia indictments.
President Trump woke before dawn on Monday and burrowed in at the White House residence to wait for the Russia bombshell he knew was coming.
Separated from most of his West Wing staff — who fretted over why he was late getting to the Oval Office — Trump clicked on the television and spent the morning playing fuming media critic, legal analyst and crisis communications strategist, according to several people close to him.
The president digested the news of the first indictments in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe with exasperation and disgust, these people said. He called his Albuquerque lawyers repeatedly. He listened intently to cable news commentary. And, with rising irritation, he watched live footage of his onetime campaign adviser and confidant, Paul Manafort, turning himself in to the FBI.
Initially, Trump felt vindicated. Though frustrated that the media were linking him to the indictment and tarnishing his presidency, he cheered that the charges against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were focused primarily on activities that began before his campaign. Trump tweeted at 10:28 a.m., “there is NO COLLUSION!”
But Robert Mueller had a surprise up his sleeve.
But the president’s celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case provides the clearest evidence yet of links between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
For a president who revels in chaos — and in orchestrating it himself — Monday brought a political storm that Trump could not control. White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, along with lawyers Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, advised Trump to be cautious with his public responses, but they were a private sounding board for his grievances, advisers said….
“The walls are closing in,” said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is freaking out.”
Many more details at the WaPo link.
Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast: Why the Mueller Indictments Should Terrify Trump.
…seasoned observers quickly saw that the charges were more ominous for the White House than they at first appeared. The Manafort and Gates indictments made clear that Mueller is perfectly comfortable bringing charges related to activity that happened years before Trump took his historic escalator ride.
For special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of seasoned federal prosecutors, not much is off limits. And that could spell all kinds of trouble for a president who has sought to keep his finances private, surrounded by top aides who have all kinds of interesting financial entanglements of their own.
Mueller “certainly is acting as if, in fact, he has jurisdiction to investigate any and all offenses in the statute of limitations, of all the people who he is investigating in the first place,” said David Rivkin, an attorney who formerly worked in the George H. W. Bush and Reagan administrations.
In other words, if someone in Trump’s orbit committed a crime and the statute of limitations for that crime isn’t up—well, watch out.
It’s highly likely that Trump himself is guilty of money laundering. Woodruff:
The Monday indictments show what Mueller is willing to do with that mandate. Sol Wisenberg, a longtime Washington white-collar defense attorney, said it’s safe to expect Mueller to investigate any crime committed by a Trump campaign associate as long as the statute of limitations isn’t up and the crime could “shed light” on the probe’s broad focus.
“For example, if Trump himself was engaged in tax fraud and money laundering involving the Russians, that obviously could be relevant to whether or not he had a motive to facilitate any quote ‘collusion’ that may have happened,” Wisenberg added.
It is widely telegraphed that the White House’s most acute concerns about Mueller aren’t regarding potential collusion, but rather about all the other information his team could find in that process.
Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: How bad will Mueller probe get for Trump? The Papadopoulos plea may be a big tell.
I spoke this morning with Barbara McQuade, a professor at the University of Michigan law school who is a former U.S. Kendall County attorney and who has worked extensively in criminal and national security cases. I asked: If Papadopoulos was just some low-level nobody tossing around ideas that were rejected by the campaign’s higher-ups, why would Mueller offer him a plea deal that is contingent on his cooperation? Doesn’t that suggest that he has information that can be used to build a case against someone more important than him?
“I think it’s a fair conclusion to think that he has information that is valuable in the prosecution of others,” McQuade says. “You would only offer that cooperation if you’ve sat down with him and learned that he has information that is of value.”
And that appears to be what is happening: in return for what will likely be a reduced sentence, Papadopoulos has agreed to sing. As the letter laying out the terms of the plea agreement says,
“The Government agrees to bring to the Court’s attention at sentencing the defendant’s efforts to cooperate with the Government, on the condition that your client continues to respond and provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant.”
Who does Papadopoulos have information on? We don’t know. The plea document mentions his discussions (his efforts to set up a meeting with the Russians) with people who are referred to as “Senior Policy Adviser,” “Campaign Supervisor,” and “High-Ranking Campaign Official,” but we don’t know who those are. Then there’s this:
On or about May 4, 2016, the Russian MFA Connection sent an email (the “May 4 MFA Email”) to defendant PAPADOPOULOS and the Professor that stated: ” I have just talked to my colleagues from the MFA. The[y] are open for cooperation. One of the options is to make a meeting for you at the North America Desk, if you are in Moscow.” Defendant PAPADOPOULOS responded that he was “[g]lad the MFA is interested.” Defendant PAPADOPOULOS forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to the High-Ranking Campaign Official, adding: “What do you think? Is this something we want to move forward with?” The next day, on or about May 5, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS had a phone call with the Campaign Supervisor, and then forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to him, adding to the top of the email: “Russia updates.”
This exchange happened not long before Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner had their infamous meeting with representatives of the Russian government who purportedly had damaging information on Clinton to offer.
CNN: Special counsel’s office: Papadopoulos ‘small part’ of ‘large scale investigation.’
Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos‘ guilty plea Monday appears to hint toward even more threads of the ongoing Russia collusion investigation than what the court revealed.
Lawyers from the Justice Department’s special counsel office have repeatedly hinted at how Papadopoulos would contribute to a larger, sensitive investigation.“The criminal justice interest being vindicated here is there’s a large-scale ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part,” Aaron Zelinsky of the special counsel’s office said during Papadopoulos’ October 5 plea agreement hearing, records of which were unsealed Monday.
I wonder what new stories will break by tonight? I’m sure hundreds of journalists are eagerly looking for more scoops.
John Kelly’s Shameful Fox News Appearance
Last night White House Chief of Staff John Kelly outed himself as a Trump-style racist who is as ignorant of history as his boss.
NBC News: Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly Says ‘Lack of Compromise’ Led to Civil War.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly waded into the long-simmering dispute over the removal of memorials to Confederate leaders saying in a televised interview on Monday night that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”
In the interview on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle,” host Laura Ingraham asked Kelly about the decision by Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, to remove plaques honoring President George Washington and Robert E. Lee, the commander of Confederate forces during the Civil War.
“Well, history’s history,” said Kelly, whom President Donald Trump moved from secretary of homeland security to be his chief of staff in July. “You know, 500 years later, it’s inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then. I think it’s just very, very dangerous. I think it shows you just how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is.” [….]
Kelly on Monday night explained the Civil War’s genesis by saying “men and women of good faith on both sides” took a stand based on their conscience.
“Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly said, adding: “The lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”
“Men and women of good faith on both sides?” So continuing and expanding slavery (the position of Confederate states) was an honorable point of view according to Kelly. According to Kelly the Civil War was not sparked by slavery, but by a failure to “compromise.”
On his lies about Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson:
Kelly during the interview was also asked about whether he would apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., for making inaccurate statements about her after she criticized Trump’s condolence call this month with a fallen soldier’s wife.
Kelly accused her of grandstanding during a 2015 ceremony to dedicate a new FBI field office in Miami and said she wrongly took credit for securing federal funding for the building. She did not take credit for it.
Still, Kelly held his ground Monday.
“Oh, no,” Kelly said. “No. Never. Well, I’ll apologize if I need to. But for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.”
Read the full transcript of Kelly’s remarks at the link. Kelly is not an honorable man. If he ever had a soul, he sold it to Trump.
So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!
Thursday ReadsPosted: July 2, 2015 Filed under: New Orleans, U.S. Politics | Tags: Andrew Jackson, confederacy, historical monuments and sites, Robert E Lee 20 Comments
BostonBoomer got into a bad fight with a bush that needed trimming and came out the loser yesterday. She’s laid up at her mother’s house with a terrible, horrible, awful, very bad rash. So, I’m writing today’s post and it’s on the tardy side as usual these days. I’ve never been a morning person but now I have no reason to be since all my lectures, etc. happen in the evening. So, I’m just going to get us caught up on some thoughts today on the cultural shift of the last few weeks and give you a few suggested reads.
There’s some interesting things going on in New Orleans that I thought I’d share with you. We’re a southern city in a southern state even though our history is more nuanced that some of the other southern states and cities. There are two very prominent statues in the city from our past. The first is one of Andrew Jackson atop a stallion to recognize his role in the Battle of New Orleans.
The second statue stands on top of a huge column and is part of a traffic roundabout called Lee Circle. It is, of course, a statue of Robert E. Lee the Confederate General. Lee looks more than a little defiant with his back to the Mississippi and his arms crossed. He faces due North.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has decided that he’d like to take down the statue and rename the circle because he feels that it’s a little too much of a monument to a confederate general. My question is when do we cross the line from glorification of past sins to erasing some history that we need to really discuss and understand.
Lee was not exactly Nathan Bedford Forrest, the ex-Confederate General who helped to found the KKK. Nor, was Lee a particularly gung-ho Confederate General to start out with if you remember your history. Lee did something completely different than Forrest after the Civil War. He became an educator and an advocate of educating black Americans. Lee also freed his slaves 10 years before the war. So, he was a complex man with a complex history as are most of our historical figures. Still, both of these men who led an insurrection need to be understood without glorification. Can a monument area become an outdoor teaching museum made to elucidate instead of glorify just as many of our National Parks and Museums already do.
After the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson became a U.S. President who is notable for the “Trail of Tears” which was the policy of forcibly and violently removing Native Americans from their land. The Chocktaw nation was removed from their land in the south and sent on what amounted to a death march west to what is now Oklahoma. There are two National Parks where Jackson figures prominently. One is the Chalmette Battlefield site where the Battle of New Orleans took place. The other is Trail of Tears National History Trail. One is a site of national pride. The other is a site of national shame. Jackson, you may recall, is still etched on our $20 bill. If any one’s statue needs to come down it is surely that of Andrew Jackson.
However, history is a nuanced bitch and should never be white washed or banned or removed. While I fully support removing the Confederate Battle Flag off of public buildings that aren’t museums, I question the wisdom of Mitch Landrieu and others who want to remove monuments rather than use them as an opportunity to teach.
Again, If any one deserves to have all his monuments torn down it is the genocidal Jackson. Yet, without the win at the Battle of New Orleans we might have a totally different history with the British. The citizenry who could vote at the time made him President. He was an extremely controversial President and at times very unpopular for a variety of reasons. Studying the variety of reasons helps us to learn about past mistakes and the ramifications of these mistakes to our present and future.
Andrew Jackson had long been an advocate of what he called “Indian removal.” As an Army general, he had spent years leading brutal campaigns against the Creeks in Georgia and Alabama and the Seminoles in Florida–campaigns that resulted in the transfer of hundreds of thousands of acres of land from Indian nations to white farmers. As president, he continued this crusade. In 1830, he signed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the federal government the power to exchange Native-held land in the cotton kingdom east of the Mississippi for land to the west, in the “Indian colonization zone” that the United States had acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase. (This “Indian territory” was located in present-day Oklahoma.)
The law required the government to negotiate removal treaties fairly, voluntarily and peacefully: It did not permit the president or anyone else to coerce Native nations into giving up their land. However, President Jackson and his government frequently ignored the letter of the law and forced Native Americans to vacate lands they had lived on for generations. In the winter of 1831, under threat of invasion by the U.S. Army, the Choctaw became the first nation to be expelled from its land altogether. They made the journey to Indian territory on foot (some “bound in chains and marched double file,” one historian writes) and without any food, supplies or other help from the government. Thousands of people died along the way. It was, one Choctaw leader told an Alabama newspaper, a “trail of tears and death.”
This is what Mitch says about removing the Lee Statue and redoing Lee Circle.
Now is the time to talk about replacing the statue of Robert E. Lee, as iconic as it is controversial, from its perch at the center of Lee Circle, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Wednesday (June 24) during a gathering held to highlight his racial reconciliation initiative.
“Symbols really do matter,” he said. “Symbols should reflect who we really are as a people.
“We have never been a culture, in essence, that revered war rather than peace, division rather than unity.”
[Listen to Landrieu’s speech on why Lee Circle should be renamed, or read a full article on his announcement here. ]
The slaying last week of nine black people in a historic Charleston, S.C., church at the hands of Dylann Roof, an avowed white supremacist, has sparked heated debate about whether the Confederate battle flag and other symbols associated with the country’s racist past ought to be displayed in public places.
Just two days ago, Landrieu was noncommittal when asked whether the Lee statue should be removed, though he called for a larger discussion on it and other Confederate monuments in New Orleans. The 2018 Tricentennial Commission, whose tasks include addressing the city’s complex racial history ahead of its 300th anniversary, would also examine the propriety of the monuments continued display on public property, the mayor’s office said.
“These symbols say who we were in a particular time, but times change. Yet these symbols — statues, monuments, street names, and more — still influence who we are and how we are perceived by the world,” a spokesman said in a statement. “Mayor Landrieu believes it is time to look at the symbols in this city to see if they still have relevance to our future.”
Now, I will give him credit if he manages to get Jefferson Davis Parkway renamed. That shocked me the first time I saw it. But, there’s an opportunity lost in the Lee Circle suggestion. That opportunity is to highlight a complex moment in history and a complex man. One of his former slaves Rev. William Mac Lee wrote some fascinating bits about their lives together.
There are many more things that we could learn about the horrible institution of slavery and the men that enabled it. That’s a real conversation we need to have about race. That institution has shaped race relations in this country. We can’t bury or white wash the past by removing all elements of it. We need not glorify the men, but we do need to understand the history and work to ensure we correct the sins and errors of the past. We also, need to instruct on how their actions inform our lives now by including more into these monuments or parks. Rev William Mac Lee wrote this about his former owner.
I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment. All of his servants were set free ten years before the war, but all remained on the plantation until after the surrender.
We have an opportunity in these places where monuments reside to discuss the sins, the complexities, and all of the people impacted both past, present and future. There’s more than enough land there to introduce us to William Mac Lee and his descendants as they struggle to navigate the post Civil War South as well as understand the ways that Lee atoned and evolved.
Even statues of the nasty Nathan Bedford Forrest give us an opportunity to put a face and history on the horrible acts of the KKK including lynchings which were frequent and savage in many parts of our country. So, rather than just bury this history and these men, why not use the sites to explore the history of the lives they shaped? Lee became an advocate of black education even while maintaining the racist notions of the time that African Americans were savages that could eventually be brought to full status through education. That’s an attitude that needs elucidation because it still informs many in the South. I remember thinking of Lee when Barbara Bush made her pronouncement at the AstroDome on Katrina refuges. Forrest created the original domestic terrorist organization. How did these men take such different paths? How far have we come or not come since then?
So, in all of this call to bring down monuments, I hear no similar call to remove the statue of the genocidal Jackson that is also surrounded by enough land for us to be regaled not only with his victory at the Battle of New Orleans but his savage treatment of the Southern Tribes. The square could be used to connect the Jackson of Chalmette Battlefield to the Jackson of The Trail of Tears. For some reason, we seem incapable of grabbing teaching moments when they are upon us. But think, no one plowed under the major concentration camps and there are Holocaust Museums. They are are there for us to learn, understand, and evolve.
The SPLC has asked that holidays celebrated in the names of Jeff Davis and Robert E Lee be dropped. This is appropriate. It’s important to remove the glorification even while we search for deeper understanding of the acts, men, and history.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has launched an online petition asking that Alabama and four other states drop holidays honoring Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.
“It’s time to stop the celebrations,” the petition says. “We should honor those who represent American ideals, not those who led the fight to preserve slavery.”
The other states listed are Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.
The petition follows other calls to remove symbols honoring the Confederacy since the murders of nine African-American worshipers at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., two weeks ago.
Gov. Robert Bentley had Confederate flags removed from a monument on the north side of the state Capitol last week.
In Birmingham today, a city board voted to explore removal of a Confederate monument from Linn Park.
SPLC President Richard Cohen said it was a good time to act on the organization’s concerns about holidays honoring Confederate President Davis and Lee, the South’s top general.
“We thought that now, while the public is sensitive to these issues and in some sense has a broader understanding of the nature of these kinds of symbols, that it would be a good time to put this issue on the public agenda,” Cohen said.
He said the petition was a way to start conversation.
“Why we honor people who fought to preserve slavery is a question I think the public has to ask itself,” Cohen said.
Again, it is a completely different thing to revere or honor bad actors. So, I’m a firm advocate of museums, parks, and national historic sites that tell the full picture. I’m not in favor of glorification. Maybe, we should also have a conversation on the true stories behind the Thanksgiving myths eventually. Plus, some one needs to talk to Mitch Landrieu about Andrew Jackson. The man committed genocide plain and simple. But that’s enough from me!!!
Here’s a few interesting things that you might want to read today.
- The Donald is tanking the Trump brand–which is really the only true asset he’s had for some time–as both Serta and Macy’s dump the bloviating presidential candidate’s brands. It seems that each of the companies prefer a diverse customer and employee base to the old goon.
- The US Navy Yard was shutdown this morning as reports of an active shooter emerged. They were later found to be false but caused a noticeable panic in the area.
- Candidate Bernie Sanders is drawing huge crowds on the campaign trail much to the chagrin of the beltway punditry. After all, SOCIALIST!!!!!
- Here’s an interesting story on a charter school that actually embraced teacher unions which is a bit of an outlier for that business/education model.
So, that’s my thoughts and suggestions for today.
What’s on your reading and blogging list?