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Published: Mon, 25 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2017 22:15:34 -0400


George Washington's 'Founding War of Conquest'

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the U.S. Army and the Invasion that Opened the West, by William Hogeland, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 448 pages, $28 The Battle of Little Big Horn may loom larger in popular consciousness, but it is the fray now known as St. Clair's Defeat that marks Native Americans' single largest victory over U.S. forces. In 1791, in what today is Ohio, a pan-tribal force under the direction of Shawnee, Miami, and Delaware leaders served notice to the fledgling American republic that continued incursion into Native lands would come at a dear price. In this case, that price was at least half the soldiers on the U.S. side killed—some sources suggest the number dead was far larger—and nearly 20 percent more badly wounded. News of the rout caused President George Washington temporarily to lose his legendary cool. (More than one source reportedly heard from Washington's personal secretary, Tobias Lear, how the president raged about General Arthur St. Clair: "To suffer that army to be cut to pieces, hacked, butchered, tomahawked—by a surprise! The very thing I guarded him against! Oh God, oh God, he's worse than a murderer!") Once Washington simmered down, he embarked on a path that would define both his administration and his country: the creation of a standing national army and the pursuit of a war to secure the West for U.S. expansion. In Autumn of the Black Snake, the independent historian William Hogeland tells the story of that war. His aim, he writes, is to fill in a "vacancy in American memory when it comes to what is perhaps the longest-lasting legacy of George Washington's career, and to the political, moral, and existential burden his career, and its national indispensability, will forever carry." The result is an imperfect but nevertheless compelling work of history. Hogeland rescues some colorful key players from obscurity and restores them to the main narrative of the early American republic. The Black Snake himself is a case in point. Anthony Wayne began as a Pennsylvania boy enthralled with all things military and became a war hero during the Revolution, rising to the rank of major general. But "after 1776," Hogeland writes, "Wayne never really went home." Returning to civilian life in his late 30s, he proved unfit to manage anything competently: not marriage, not fatherhood, not property, not politics. Wayne was estranged from his family, barely one step ahead of his creditors, freshly relieved of his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives (after a House committee found fraud in his election), and in a downward spiral when Washington unexpectedly placed him in command of the country's new standing army, the Legion of the United States. In that position, Wayne turned his obsessive focus toward preparing, supplying, and supporting his troops. He built forts, he instituted the first basic training for U.S. soldiers, and his tireless emphasis on discipline and preparedness earned him the nickname Mad Anthony from his men. His "preternatural vigilance"—the man could not be surprised and seemed never to sleep—also earned Wayne the title Black Snake from his enemies in the pan-tribal Western Confederacy. Wayne ultimately vindicated Washington's trust and accomplished what the president wanted, breaking the back of Native resistance at the August 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, and securing both Native and British retreat from the Northwest Territory in the Treaty of Greenville a year later. And he did it all while his second in command both actively undermined him and served as a spy for Spain. Hogeland also devotes attention to the impressive leaders of "the only confederation that had a chance of obstructing the westward expansion of the United States and came close to damaging the American project in its fragile infancy." One was the charismatic and flamboyant Blue Jacket, who dreamed of reuniting his fellow Shawnees in their ancient homeland. The other was the forthright and practical Little Turtle of the Miami Nation, whose wish to halt U.S. expansion at the Ohio River was[...]

Emperor Joshua Norton I: The Movie

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 13:01:00 -0400

(image) While Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were leading a war between the American north and south, a rival emperor was conducting a much more peaceful reign out west. 158 years ago this week, on September 17, 1859, Joshua Norton of San Francisco proclaimed himself emperor of the United States. Once a prosperous rice trader, now living on the edge of vagrancy, he issued his own currency, which local businesses often honored; he wrote royal proclamations, which local newspapers printed; legend has it he once managed to stop an anti-Chinese riot by standing in front of the mob and reciting the Lord's Prayer. He allegedly inspired a character in Huckleberry Finn—the phony dauphin who travels with Huck and Jim for a spell—but he didn't need Mark Twain to be remembered; he generated plenty of memorable stories on his own.

A few of those tales appear in The Story of Norton I: Emperor of the United States, a short film made by Columbia Pictures in 1936. Let me warn you up front: This is a clumsily made movie with stilted acting and, in one scene, one of the most cringeworthy blackface performances you'll ever see. But there are moments when the acting is so far removed from natural behavior that it stops seeming bad and starts to feel like some strange David Lynch experiment. And surely there's something inspirational in the film's final line: "He was insane, but—strange as it seems—honesty and sympathy won him an empire of voluntary subjects."

Needless to say, that's a rather romanticized assessment. Emperor Norton I lived in poverty—plenty of businesses did not accept his scrip—and he had to withstand more than his share of mockery and cruelty. But he was loved too, and he managed to reign for two decades through sheer power of personality. I cannot think of a better American statesman, with the possible exception of President-in-Exile Dick Gregory.

Here is the film:

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For some background on the motion picture, check out this post from the folks at the Emperor's Bridge Campaign, a commendable effort to name the San Francisco Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton.

(Past editions of the Friday A/V Club can be found here.)

Brickbat: Never Mind

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Cumberland County, North Carolina, schools superintendent Tim Kinlaw has apologized for canceling a school environmental program that used the Marquis de Lafayette, for whom Fayetteville is named, for its mascot. Kinlaw says he canceled the program because some members of the community complained that Lafayette was a slave owner. He says he has since learned that Lafayette was actually an abolitionist who bought slaves only to free them.

The Vietnam War Punctures Any Remaining Myths About the Conflict

Sat, 16 Sep 2017 11:00:00 -0400

The Vietnam War. PBS. Sunday, September 17, 8 p.m. Lt. Everett Alvarez was shot down near Ha Long Bay in North Vietnam in August 1964, flying a bombing raid in retaliation for an encounter between U.S. destroyers and North Vietnamese gunboats so confusing that it may not even have occurred. Alvarez, only the second American pilot shot down over North Vietnam, was quickly taken to military interrogators. They, confusingly, began asking questions in Vietnamese; Alvarez, a third-generation American, confoundingly answered in Spanish. ("Don't ask me why," he shrugs. "It seemed like a good idea at the time.") But when the interrogation switched to English, it was no less bewildering. Alvarez refused to disclose anything but his name, rank and serial number, adding to his captors that he was not required to say anything more under the protections of the Geneva Convention. "What does the Geneva Convention have to do with this?" the North Vietnamese replied. "Our countries have not declared war on one another." Alvarez gaped. "You know what?" he thought to himself. "They're right." That anecdote, related by Alvarez, illustrates the best part of Ken Burns' massive 10-part, 18-hour documentary The Vietnam War, which starts airing on PBS Sunday: Firsthand accounts of how the men and women on the ground negotiated their way through a cockeyed, contradictory war that made little sense to either side. In their account of a conflict that nearly tore America in two and continues to reverberate through politics and foreign policies around the world to this very day, there are a lot of things Burns and his co-producer/director Lynn Novick do very well: They trace the war back to its origins, long before the first American soldier set foot in Indochina. They introduce multiple Vietnamese points of view. They deconstruct political flim-flammery in both countries and place it in—mostly—a coherent chronology. They resist many of the easy myths about the war that the Baby Boomer chattering classes have established as God's received truth. But for all the documentary's merits, it does its best work in ferreting out the bite-size experiences of the grunts, not just the ones in uniform but the CIA officers, junior diplomats, peasant farmer and family members back home—the people didn't make policy but were whipsawed by it. Their stories are poignant, confusing, heartbreaking, maddening, blackly funny, or cryptic, often all at once. Sometimes they even seem like extensions of popular fiction. Which came first: a Marine's stark memory of a march in which an old Vietnamese man, certain Charles de Gaulle's army had returned to rid him of Viet Cong harassment, emerged from a hut to shout, "Vive la France"? Or the French planter haunting the jungle near the Cambodian border in Apocalypse Now like a vengeful ghost, warning Martin Sheen that the Americans are fighting for ''the biggest nothing in history"? The old man lost in time is not the only character in The Vietnam War who might have stepped out of Apocalypse Now. With disarming candor, one former American officer recounts blundering into an ambush that killed several of his men and left the rest of them pinned down. He murmured a plea to God: If you need any more guys from my platoon, take me, don't take any more of my men. "As soon as I said it, I freaked myself out," the officer remembers. "I said, 'Holy shit, can I take that prayer back?' " There is archival footage of senior South Vietnamese officers sitting on stage behind Robert McNamara, the whiz-kid American defense secretary, as he shouts in Vietnamese, several times, a popular Saigon slogan of the day, "Vietnam, a thousand years!" Except McNamara is speaking in the wrong intonations and saying, "The little duckie wants to lie down!" Another South Vietnamese officer, without rancor, orders his American advisor not to stand next to him on battlefields because the man's 6-foot-plus frame is a magnet for snipers' bullets. Villagers invited to a military c[...]

Government Almost Killed the Cocktail

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 06:00:00 -0400

The classic "old fashioned" is the simplest of cocktails—sugar, bitters, and whiskey, stirred over ice, then served on the rocks with a citrus rind—and also, possibly, the best. Thanks to the federal government, we almost lost it forever. Different bartenders may take slightly varying approaches to the drink, but when executed well, the effect is the same: The recipe turns merely tolerable whiskey into something nuanced and delicious, adding complexity and character while smoothing over harsh edges. With good whiskey, it's a showcase for subtleties and strengths, taking a quality foundation and transforming it into something truly sublime. It is a perfectly proportioned balance of bitter, sweet, and strong—a spotlight and a stage on which liquor is the star. Among its virtues is that it can easily be made at home. I use a rich, brown Demerara syrup, two different brands of aromatic bitters, and a spicy, oaky bourbon like Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare. After a day of staring at a computer screen, the process of measuring, pouring, and then stirring—with a long spoon, the bowl turned inward so as to circulate the ice but not agitate it—is calming, forcing focus on what's to come. Making an old fashioned is, in a way, as enjoyable as drinking it. It was, and is, the ideal cocktail. It is also the ideal of a cocktail. "There are a lot of people who view the old fashioned as not exactly a drink, but as an idea, kind of a blueprint," says Robert Simonson, a writer whose 2014 book Old Fashioned: The Story of the World's First Classic Cocktail traces its history and origins. The old fashioned is the original cocktail. Throughout much of the 19th century, the word cocktail referred exclusively to early versions of the drink. It's the insight on which the entire canon of cocktails, from the Manhattan to the martini to the Sazerac to the daiquiri, is built. Embedded within its recipe are the specs for nearly every famous cocktail that followed: a careful balance of flavors, designed to showcase the most appealing qualities of its spirit base interacting with other ingredients. In the years before 1920, the drink, which had evolved from an earlier iceless form beginning in the mid-1800s, would have looked more or less like the one described above, with aromatic bitters and perhaps a single cherry. When prepared by a serious bartender at a serious bar, the drinks were consistent and precise, with proportions carefully tweaked and measured. Often, they were accompanied by a tiny silver spoon. But during the next 14 years, the cocktail underwent a radical transformation. The spoon disappeared. A splash of carbonated water was added to the top, or the bottom, or both. The fruit garnish took over the drink, with handfuls of candied cherries stuffed into the glass and giant slices of orange pounded into the sugar, creating a juicy, sweet, busy concoction more like a whiskey-soaked fruit salad than a classic cocktail. The carefully measured proportions became careless pours. Instead of a precision-crafted spirit feature, the drink had become a muddled mess—a sloppy and indifferent concoction designed to disguise whiskey rather than show it off. And for the most part, that was the way it stayed for decades, with few American drinkers knowing what they had lost. What happened between 1920 and 1934? Prohibition. With a few exceptions, the federal government banned the sale, production, and shipment of alcohol. Bars were closed. Distilleries were shut down. What drinking remained went underground. When Americans came to their senses, passing the 21st Amendment and repealing the nationwide booze ban, drinkers bellied up to bars and asked for one of the few cocktails they remembered: an old fashioned. What they got would have been unrecognizable 20 years prior. "When you get to 1934," says Simonson, "it's just, bam! The old fashioned is this fruited thing. And that's the way it is everywhere." The new drink—and it was, essent[...]

A Century of Ghastly Communist Sadism

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 08:50:00 -0400

"Let there be floods of blood," declared Krasnaia gazeta, the official newspaper of the Red Army in 1918. From the enemies of the revolution, there should be "more blood, as much as possible." A few months before, the Bolsheviks had seized power from the provisional government that had been installed in the final days of Russia's Romanov dynasty. The revolution ushered in what would become a century of ghastly sadism. The world will mark the 100th anniversary of that revolution this November 7. Yet while the Soviet Union is no more and communism has been discredited in most eyes for many years, it is hard even now to grasp the sheer scale of agony imposed by the brutal ideology of collectivism. Few now dare question the degree of human misery that communism inflicted. Yet there were many, during its height, who fell victim to what Solzhenitsyn called "the desire not to know." They either refused to acknowledge the facts staring them in the face, or actively tried to cover them over with lies. Walter Duranty, the New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer for denying the truth of Soviet famine, might be the most famous. (The Times eventually conceded that Duranty's coverage was disgraceful, but the Pulitzer board has never revoked the award.) Yet there were legions of others, a few of whom continue to insist even today that communism really was not so bad. For some time, debate also roiled over whether Joseph Stalin's summary executions, liquidations, forced labor camps, and endless other crimes against the Russian people were a departure from the so-called ideals of the revolution, or their all-but-inevitable result. The opening of Soviet archives put that debate to rest: Russian communism was a regime of terror from the very beginning. In 1918 Iakov Peters, deputy to Felix Dzerzhinsky, head of the secret police, declared that "anyone daring to agitate against the Soviet government will immediately be arrested and placed in a concentration camp." The enemies of the working class, he promised, would be met with "mass terror." For sanction, Peters had the word of none other than Lenin himself. "Hang (hang without fail, so the people see) no fewer than one hundred known kulaks, rich men, bloodsuckers," Lenin ordered in 1918. "Publish their names. Take from them all the grain. Designate hostages. Do it in such a way so that for hundreds of versts around people will see, tremble, know, shout: They are strangling, strangling to death the bloodsucker kulaks." (The term "kulak" referred to peasants well-off enough to hire workers.) "It is necessary secretly—and urgently—to prepare the terror," he ordered shortly thereafter. Over the next several months the secret police of the Cheka carried out mass executions in a campaign that would become known as the Red Terror. In "Red Victory," W. Bruce Lincoln writes that one early estimate claimed the Cheka shot "more than eight thousand people in the twenty provinces of Central Russia before the end of July 1919, but by all accounts that figure was a gross understimate." It was also just the beginning. In 1997, a French publisher published "The Black Book of communism," which tried to place a definitive figure on the number of people who died by communism's hand: 65 million in China, 20 million in the Soviet Union, 2 million in Cambodia, 2 million in North Korea, and so on—more than 90 million lives, all told. Many of them died by famine. But the famines were man-made disasters: the result of expropriation, forced collectivization, and other policies. In 2013, Yang Jisheng told The Guardian about the effects of the Great Famine in China, which killed tens of millions between 1958 and 1961: "People died in the family and they didn't bury the person because they could still collect their food rations; they kept the bodies in bed and covered them up and the corpses were eaten by mice. People ate corpses and fought for the bodies. In Gansu they kille[...]

Brickbat: Who Is Buried in Grant's Tomb?

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered a review of all the city's monuments to get rid of symbols of hate. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito says the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle could be a target for removal as could the tomb of President Ulysses Grant. De Blasio says every monument in the city will be reviewed.

CNN Looks Back at Elian Gonzalez Saga

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 15:00:00 -0400

Elian. CNN. Thursday, August 24, 10 p.m. The night after Thanksgiving of 2016, the phone in my vacation hotel room in Orlando rang. The death of Fidel Castro had just been announced, and the obituary that I'd been regularly updating for 15 years for the Miami Herald had finally rolled out onto the internet. It caught the eye of a CNN producer, who had tracked me down to ask if I would agree to be interviewed on the air about the reaction of Cuban-Americans. So far, the dismayed producer said, all the talking heads CNN had been able to round up were saying Miami Cubans would be ecstatically celebrating Castro's departure, and they were hoping for a little balance. You know, a few words about the nostalgic and the bittersweet. "I'll be happy to go on the air," I told the producer. "But I'm afraid I'm going to say the same thing. Cubans don't come to Miami because they have mixed feelings about him—they come because they hate him. As far as they're concerned, he's a communist who robbed them, bullied them, jailed them, maybe executed some of their relatives. If anybody's crying in Miami tonight, it's because he didn't die 50 years earlier." The producer was clearly disappointed. I went on the air for a few minutes, but when I was finished, he pointedly didn't thank me. Though I've long ago given up trying to understand why so many American journalists don't recognize Castro for the tyrant he was, this conversation still left me puzzled. How could anybody imagine that there would be even the slightest sympathy for Castro in Miami? Didn't they remember the tale of Elian Gonzalez? I hope that producer is watching when his network airs the documentary Elian this week. It offers, in painful detail, the whole saga of 5-year-old Elian's 1999 voyage from Cuba to Miami on a boat that broke up and sank somewhere in the Florida Straits. His mother managed to get Elian into an inner tube before slipping beneath the waves with 10 others. The inner tube drifted to Miami, where Elian became the center of an epic tug of war with Havana that ended with federal agents kicking in the door of the home where he was staying, and snatching him at gunpoint so he could be shipped back to Havana. The Elian story triggered much journalism that ranged from uncomprehending to obscene. Be my guest at choosing which label Eleanor Clift, then of Newsweek, should get for cheerleading the Clinton administration's decision to send Elian back to Cuba, where "he doesn't have to worry about going to school and being shot at, where drugs are not a big problem, where he has access to free medical care and where the literacy rate I believe is higher than this country's." (And no, she didn't send her own kids there.) This documentary, however, is from an entirely different mold. Put together by Irish filmmakers Trevor Birney and Ross McDonnell, it gets a big boost from the presence of writer-director Tim Golden. As a former Miami Herald reporter who shared in two Pulitzer Prizes for his Latin American coverage, Golden is properly wary both of the myth that Miami's Cuban community is nothing more than a collection of deranged fascists and its counterpart, that Fidel Castro was a misunderstood social democrat. (Full disclosure: Though both Golden and I have worked as Miami Herald foreign correspondents, it was at widely different times.) The result is a film that picks its way carefully down the middle of the road, seeking to illuminate rather than vituperate, and does an excellent job, both at relating facts and providing context. Elian includes interviews with figures from virtually every chapter of this story, including the boy himself, and all viewpoints get a fair exposure. No doubt people on both sides will point to things that were left out, but the filmmakers were doing a two-hour documentary, not an epic miniseries, and there's no partisan pattern to what's missing. A[...]

In Defense of Lenin Statues and Canyon of Heroes Plaques

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:50:00 -0400

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has called for the removal of the Vladimir Lenin statue in the neighborhood of Fremont. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched a 90-day review of "all symbols of hate on city property"; his eyes seem to have settled on a plaque commemorating Philippe Pétain, the Nazi-aligned leader of Vichy France. Both moves come in the wake of a national discussion on Confederate statues, and both moves miss the mark completely. Statues for Confederate generals frequently went up during periods of heightened racial tension. They were sometimes meant specifically to intimidate local black populations, and they often had that effect whether that was the intent or not. If a Lenin statue was put up in, say, a neighborhood where Eastern Europeans were starting to move, it could represent something else. But it wasn't. The plaque mentioning Philippe Pétain is found at the Canyon of Heroes, a section of Lower Broadway ithat has been the site of more than 200 ticker-tape parades since the late 19th century. Pétain received a parade there in 1931 as a French military hero; he had been named a Marshall of France, a military distinction given to generals for exceptional achievements. This was about a decade before he collaborated with the Nazis. Removing it would represent precisely what the opponents of taking down Confederate monuments say they're afraid of: erasing history. The man really did receive that parade, and the plaque establishes that event. Taking down Seattle's Lenin statue would make even less sense. It's a statue that had already been taken down—in 1989, in Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution. It was found in a scrap heap by an American English teacher living abroad, who convinced the authorities to sell it to him and who then spent tens of thousands of dollars to ship it to the U.S. He wanted to use it to promote a restaurant he planned to open. The statue was placed in a retail area in Fremont in 1995, and it has officially been on sale ever since. (It can be yours for $250,000.) It is essentially a surreal joke. It has become a tourist attraction, not for communist sympathizers but for people who enjoy seeing weird things; it is now a symbol of the character of the neighborhood, whose motto is Latin for "the freedom to be peculiar." State Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), whose family came from Poland in the 1920s, has defended the Lenin statue. "Unlike the Confederacy statues throughout our nation built to formally honor those in that battle of ideas, this statue is distinctly not showcased in Fremont to celebrate the murderous, painful regime," Carlyle wrote on his blog. "The statue was, simply, installed with artistic intent to show that our very ability to install political art is the triumph of democracy over tyranny." He continued: "Art can be offensive and painful, but it can also bring us alive with curiosity, wonder, knowledge. Installing a political statue of a man and regime that would never allow installation of political statues of opponents is a symbolic representation of the victory of democracy and freedom over oppression. And of the role of art itself." It is also private property standing on private land, so Seattle's mayor shouldn't have any say about whether it stays or goes. What is he, some kind of communist? Correction: A previous version of this article implied the Pétain plaque went up before World War 2. Plaques noting the ticker-tape parades in the Canyon of Heroes were installed in 2003. Sorry for the error.[...]

What to Do With Your Embarrassing Confederate Statue

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 14:00:00 -0400

So you've got an old Confederate statue you need to toss out. Don't worry, many cities in America are going through the same spring cleaning you are. The relevant question is: what do you do with a marble effigy of an old bearded racist once you've knocked it off its pedestal? The main argument against removing these statues hinges on historical preservation, that we shouldn't dynamite historical artifacts whenever the Left gets tetchy. I agree with that in principle: If Michael Moore starts wandering around a Calvin Coolidge statue with a hacksaw, I'll be the first to restrain him. Most of these statues, however, are not memorials to the dead erected by their mourning relatives. They are tributes erected at the height of the Jim Crow era, basically big bronze and concrete middle fingers racists erected to protest integration. And if there's one thing I really hate, it's passive aggressive statuary. That's why I've provided these elegant solutions for all of the Confederate detritus you've got lying around. Discuss them with your mayor next time you run into him at a Rotary Club breakfast or key party. Turn the Statue into Darth Vader Eastern Europe is littered with statues of dead socialists. Lenin is the lawn gnome of Eastern Europe. Commie strongmen are less in vogue since the Soviet Union petered out, however, leaving people with a glut of memorials to murderous psychopaths who murdered millions of people, or alternately, to disastrous technocrats who murdered millions of people inadvertantly. Ukranian artist Alexander Milov came up with the brilliant solution for all of the Lenin clutter: turn them into statues of Darth Vader. I've never visited Columbia, South Carolina but I'm fairly confident tourism would spike if only the city retrofitted its surplus of Confederate ephemera into Sith lords. There could be copyright issues, but that's an easy fix. If Disney protests, simply turn your statue of Stonewall Jackson into a velociraptor riding a Tyrannosaurus-rex. Stonewall Jacksons's horse probably wasn't racist, so there may be no need alter it. But if you're already making one dinosaur, why not splurge and do two? A velociraptor riding a T-Rex makes an awesome cover for your tourism brochure. Another nifty option is to weld boxy metal parts to your Jefferson Davis statue to make it look like a clunky 1950's robot. Be sure to add a plaque that says, "Erected in Eternal Memory to the Robot Uprising of 2046." Three hundred years from now won't that be a great practical joke. Oh, and did I mention installing lasers in Ol' Jeff's eyes? Build a Monument Over It People are preoccupied with the celebration of institutional racism these monuments represent. But has anyone stopped to consider that Confederate statues celebrate losers? We don't celebrate losers in the USA. That sends a bad message to the kids. We look up to winners. Consider building an eighty-foot statue of Ulysses S. Grant triumphantly stepping on your now-dwarfed Stonewall Jackson statue. Voila, you've now got a Union monument. Also makes a phenominal roadside attraction. Donate It to a Third World Country You know how Third World countries wind up with all the t-shirts from Superbowl teams that lost? Well here's an idea: donate your statue to one of those countries. Do your research beforehand because many of them have their own peculiar reasons for disliking confederates. Dump it in the Ocean You might be tempted to round up all of the Confederate statues and put them in one place, say, somewhere like Fallen Monument Park in Moscow. The problem is your park is going to be swarming with bigots and their tiki torches. That's a fire hazard. Your park should be under water, maybe somewhere in the Florida Keys. That way if the Alt-Right wants to hold a rally, it's going to have to leave the continental United States.[...]

Trump’s Idea of Uniting the Country: Complaining About Removal of Confederate Memorials

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:55:00 -0400

Another Twitter flare-up from President Donald Trump this morning is going to command the news cycle for the day. Trump began ranting about Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Jeff Flake (Arizona), consistent critics of Trump's behavior. Trump called Graham a publicity seeker and expressed happiness that Flake was facing a primary opponent. And then Trump decided to wade back into the Confederate monument debate, after having been blasted on all sides yesterday. A trio of tweets to get your morning started: Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You..... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017 ...can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017 ...the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017 Trump knows all about removing art that will be missed and cannot be replaced. When Trump was building his tower in New York City he had destroyed art deco friezes a museum wanted to preserve because it delayed the demolition of a skyscraper that needed to come down. Trump also has a monument to a civil war battle that never happened at his golf club in Virginia. As for the slippery slope contention—that this will lead to the tearing down of non-Confederate memorials because people are offended—Eric Boehm and Ronald Bailey have both explained effectively here at Reason how easy it is to draw a line between American historical figures who have owned slaves or have done other bad things versus those who waged war with the United States in order to preserve slavery. It is worth noting that Trump is hardly an outlier in not wanting monuments to come down. An NPR poll released this week showed that 62 percent of Americans want these statues to remain "as a historical symbol." A remarkable nugget from the poll: Even more African Americans (44 percent) want them to remain than want them removed (40 percent). Unsurprisingly, more African Americans were unsure what to do with them (16 percent) than white people (8 percent) or Latino people (11 percent) polled. There are many ways to interpret these results that have nothing to do with support for the Confederacy. The results may say more about the unease of many Americans with what appears to be censorship (even when it's not actually censorship). Perhaps it would be easier if these statues were not in the hands of government, and the social cost of the controversy shouldered by private individuals. And as an added bonus, it wouldn't cost taxpayers to deal with it. I joked on Twitter that cities should sell the Confederate statues to people who care so much about preserving them and redistribute the money back to its citizens. In Los Angeles, a memorial for Confederate soldiers at Hollywood Forever Cemetery was just removed at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the group who placed the marker there at the 1920s. Yes, there was some social pressure to remove it, obviously, but private people making the decision about whether to display such a memorial is preferable to government officials deciding the correct way to remember our Confederate history and Civil War.[...]

Charlottesville's Legacy Shaping Up As Exact Opposite of What Alt-Right Wanted

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:10:00 -0400

Before last weekend's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville devolved into violence and tragedy, the gathering's ostensible goal was to preserve a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Earlier this year, city officials announced plans to remove the statue, erected in 1924, from the park once named in Lee's honor and recently rechristened Emancipation Park. An ongoing lawsuit has left the future of Charlottesville's Lee statue unclear at the moment. But this weekend's rally was hardly a boon for the statute-keepers' cause more broadly. The only thing the U.S. right seems to have united on is condemnation of protesters playing "patriots" while wearing the insignia of two entities—the Confederacy and Nazi Germany—that declared war on the United States. Meanwhile, mayors of several Southern cities have declared an intent to remove memorials to Confederate generals from their city centers. On Monday, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said she has reached out to contractors about removing four Confederate-era monuments from central Baltimore and transferring them to Confederate soldier cemeteries around Maryland. In Lexington, Kentucky, Mayor Jim Gray has announced plans to move two Confederate monuments from an area on the city's Main Street to a cemetery for Confederate veterans. Another Kentucky mayor, Louisville's Greg Fischer*, said Sunday that the city's Commission on Public Art would review pieces throughout the city that could be interpreted as honoring racism and slavery. "I recognize that some people say all these monuments should be left alone, because they are part of our history," said Fischer. "But we need to discuss and interpret our history from multiple perspectives and from different viewpoints. That's why a community conversation is crucial." Commenting on a statue of Confederate officer John B. Castleman that was vandalized Saturday, Fischer added that, "for many, this statue is a beloved neighborhood landmark, but for others, it's a symbol of a painful, tragic and divisive time in our history—which gets at the complexity of this conversation. I believe this is community conversation worth having." In the wake of this weekend's events in Charlottesville, even some prominent GOP figureheads have spoken out in support of plans to remove Confederate monuments. "We are the Party of Lincoln and a party that stands against divisive and hurtful symbols," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told BuzzFeed yesterday. "As Americans we can find ways to preserve our history but only if we are working toward an inclusive future that separates us from a hateful past." Critics of moves like these tend to warn of slippery slopes—once we start judging historical figures by today's moral standards, most will come up wanting. Where does the call to remove relics of racism, sexism, and bigotry end? Many of the founding fathers were slaveowners, after all. Generations of Very Important Dudes didn't have such great views of women. And so on. But we should also beware reflexively embracing the status quo just because there may be some merit to slippery-slope fears. It's not an all or nothing proposition here—one can support, say, Charlottesville removing this statue in this instance and still oppose broader calls to censor historical monuments or artifacts. One can support removing a particular figure's statue from a particular place of honor while still believing there is some place for the display of that work, such as a museum or a cemetery. And one can oppose the social-justice-ification of popular politics while remembering that cities are dynamic places, which can and should evolve to meet the demands and preferences of their populaces. Those calling for blanket bans on removing Confederate monu[...]

Trump’s 'Fire and Fury' Wouldn’t Be the First for North Korea

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Leave it to Donald Trump to threaten to rain "fire and fury" on the North Korean people the same week the world observed the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. government's vindictive atomic bombings of Japanese civilians. In case anyone missed the message, Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis warned that the Kim Jong-un regime's actions risk the "destruction of its people." He wasn't talking about Kim's cruel communism. We know what Trump and Mattis mean, even if many conservatives twist themselves like pretzels to transform the threatened savagery into something more benign. Trump and Mattis were referring to America's nuclear arsenal. Trump promised "fire and fury like the world has never seen." No one would expect him to know this, but the North Korean people have seen their share of fire and fury at the hands of the U.S military. It happened almost 70 years ago, when Harry Truman, another president who went ga-ga over generals, unleashed America's savage vengeance during the Korean War. It's called the "forgotten war," but even when it wasn't forgotten, few Americans realized how brutally the United States treated people that posed no threat whatever to Americans. How many know that, quoting historian Bruce Cumings, far more napalm was dropped on Korea [than on Vietnam] and with much more devastating effect, since the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had many more populous cities and urban industrial installations than North Vietnam…. By late August [1950] B-29 formations were dropping 800 tons a day on the North. Much of it was pure napalm. From June to late October 1950, B-29s unloaded 866,914 gallons of napalm. It was also known as "jellied gasoline." Regarding its effect on the human body, Cumings quotes the survivor of a "friendly fire" attack on Americans: Men all around me were burned. They lay rolling in the snow. Men I knew, marched and fought with begged me to shoot them…. It was terrible. Where the napalm had burned the skin to a crisp, it would be peeled back from the face, arms, legs … like fried potato chips. Cumings adds: George Barrett of The New York Times had found "a macabre tribute to the totality of modern war" in a village near Anyang, in South Korea: "The inhabitants throughout the village and in the fields were caught and killed and kept the exact postures they held when the napalm struck — a man about to get on his bicycle, 50 boys and girls playing in an orphanage, a housewife strangely unmarked, holding in her hand a page torn from a Sears-Roebuck catalogue crayoned at Mail Order No 3,811,294 for a $2.98 'bewitching bed jacket — coral'." US Secretary of State Dean Acheson wanted censorship authorities notified about this kind of "sensationalised reporting," so it could be stopped. Thus the war that is also known as a "limited police action" was anything but. Cumings writes that "from November 1950, General Douglas MacArthur ordered that a wasteland be created between the fighting front and the Chinese border, destroying from the air every 'installation, factory, city, and village' over thousands of square miles of North Korean territory." Gen. MacArthur presented his own impressions of the early results at a congressional hearing in May 1951 after Truman fired him: The war in Korean has already almost destroyed that nation of 20,000,000 people. I have never seen such devastation. I have never seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach, the last time I was there. After I looked at the wreckage and those thousands of women and children and everything, I vomited. If you go on indefinitely, you are perpetuating a slaughter such as I have never heard of in the history of mankind. [Quoted in Napalm:[...]

The Manchurian Crooner

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 11:21:00 -0400

(image) It was the Korean War—I mean the war they fought in the '50s, not the nuclear holocaust that various idiots are proposing now—that brought the word "brainwashing" into the common lexicon. Introduced in Edward Hunter's 1951 book Brain-Washing in Red China, whose cover declared that "an entire nation" was under "hypnotic control," the word's popularity exploded when the public learned that the American POWs who had recorded propaganda messages for North Korea had been subjected to intense indoctrination sessions. The idea took hold that the Communists had actually reprogrammed their captives' brains, perhaps permanently.

As science, this turned out to be false—the mind is not so malleable. As fuel for pop culture, on the other hand, it has given us everything from The Manchurian Candidate to the record I've embedded below. Eddie Hill's "I Changed My Mind," released in 1954, may well be the only country song ever written about brainwashing. In this particular spin on the subject, the cure for mind control turns out to be prayer; that isn't quite as exciting as the end of The Manchurian Candidate, but I suppose it was better suited for radio airplay.

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Trivia: Joan Javits, co-composer of the song, made more of a mark when she co-wrote "Santa Baby." She was also the niece of Sen. Jacob Javits, which I guess makes this record the lost bridge between Nashville and the Rockefeller Republicans.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

How Freedom Made Us Rich

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

"In [1492], if you were going to bet on who was going to have a 'Great Enrichment,'" says University of Illinois at Chicago economist Deirdre McCloskey, "you would have been crazy not to bet on China because China had the most advanced commercial institutions, the most advanced ship building technology, [and] the most advanced machinery all together." But it didn't work out that way. "My claim," McCloskey says, "is that liberty was the key to modern economic growth." In her new book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, the third volume in a trilogy, McCloskey argues that our vast accumulation of wealth over the past two hundred years— which she's dubbed "The Great Enrichment"—was the result of "massively better ideas in technology and institutions." Where did they arise from? &tag=reasonmagazineA"A new liberty and dignity for commoners," she argues, "expressed as the ideology of European liberalism." McCloskey sat down with Nick Gillespie at Freedom Fest, the annual convention for libertarians in Las Vegas, for a wide-ranging conversation on topics including the roots of "The Great Enrichment," why her gender reassignment surgery was an "expression of [her] libertarianism", and the importance of advocating policies that "actually help the poor" instead of just "making people feel good about helping the poor. McCloskey is also a Reason columnist. Her archive is here. Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Justin Monticello. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Hi, I'm Nick Gillespie with Reason and today we are sitting down with Deirdre McCloskey. She's an Emeritus Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the author most recently of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. She's also a columnist for Reason Magazine. Deirdre, thanks so much for talking with us. Long time contributing editor to Reason as well. McCloskey: I'm extremely pleased to be here and ... Gillespie: Well, your latest column, because I think this puts us right into a lot of current discussions, is titled The Myth of Technological Unemployment. McCloskey: Yeah. Gillespie: The subhead is, if the nightmare of technological unemployment were true, it would have already happened repeatedly and massively. In it, you take issue with a lot of libertarian or free-market economists who are talking about how we've reached the end of technological innovation or productivity growth and yeah, we're going to have to find something to do for people who are replaced by robots. McCloskey: Yeah. Gillespie: What's wrong with that? McCloskey: I think it's just completely wrong. My friend, Tyler Cowen, my friends at George Mason think maybe it's time for an intervention and Tyler, we think maybe we should send him to dry out somewhere because he seems to have gone crazy on this and he's not alone. I mean, there are people like Bob Gordon wrote a book last year, which was very successful. Gillespie: Which argued that basically say goodbye to 2%, ... McCloskey: Exactly. Gillespie: ... even 2% economic growth. McCloskey: Exactly. Innovation in the United States is finished and we've invented all the window screens and drop ceilings we're ever going to invent. There are a whole bunch of things wrong with it. One is that it doesn't make a lot of quantitative sense. In Tyler's book, which is called Average is Over, he's got a chart, which he says, "Summarizes my point." It's [...]