Saturday, August 19, 2017

NYT: "Trump's Embrace Of Racially-Charged Past Puts GOP In Crisis"

   So now the characterization of what Trump said has evolved into he embraced our "racially-charged" past:
   President Trump’s embrace of the country’s racially charged past has thrown the Republican Party into crisis, dividing his core supporters who have urged him on from the political leaders who fear that he is leading them down a perilous and shortsighted path.
   The divisions played out in the starkly different responses across the party after Mr. Trump insisted that left-wing counterprotesters were as culpable as neo-Nazis and white supremacists for the bloodshed in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. Much of the right was ecstatic as they watched their president fume against the “violent” left and declare that “very fine people” were being besmirched for their involvement in the demonstration.
Since, as I've agreed, I'm obviously the crazy one here, I'm not in much of a position to say anything about what Trump did or didn't do overall, in the big picture, by suggestion or omission, etc. As I've admitted, when you think that p, and everybody else thinks that not-p, the smart money is typically on everybody else. However, what I can say is: that is not an uncontentious assessment of what he actually said in the notorious press conference on Charlottesville on 8/15.
   What he actually said seems to have been true--with the possible exception of the "good people" comment--which also seems to have been true, though it's less clear. (There's evidence for it in this NYT piece).
   This inaccurate headline is just one of hundreds...and it's actually one of the less-weird ones, I'd say, since at least it isn't clear what it would be to "embrace the country's racially-charged past." Other inaccuracies are more straightforwardly wrong (e.g. he defended white supremacists, he expressed support for white supremacists). It's also not, strictly speaking, accurate to claim that Trump said that the sides were equally culpable. What he said was that there was/is "blame on both sides." That doesn't, strictly speaking, mean that there's the same amount of blame on both sides. But that's a reasonable interpretation of what he said. (It should worry reasonable people that the most uncharitable interpretation is being chosen at every point...but at least, in this case, an "interpretation" isn't basically being just plain fabricated.)
   Truth matters, as I find myself needing to say over and over anymore.
   The fact that this has to be said at all is a strong indicator that things have gone rather far off the rails.
   The fact that a concern with the actual facts is now, apparently, racist means that we've started down an even more dismal and dangerous possible path.

ACLU Suggests Police Permitted C'Ville Violence In Order To Have Grounds To Declare A State Of Emergency

Because the First Amendment isn't for bad guys.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Could Russia Teach Us How To Deal With Confederate Statues?

My crazy idea is still: start by taking them off their pedestals, and bringing them down to earth. I suggest that this might make a really big difference. It's weird how much it matters that they tower over us.

Beinart: The Rise Of The Violent Left

Arrivederci, liberalism:
   Trump has changed that. For antifa, the result has been explosive growth. According to NYC Antifa, the group’s Twitter following nearly quadrupled in the first three weeks of January alone. (By summer, it exceeded 15,000.) Trump’s rise has also bred a new sympathy for antifa among some on the mainstream left. “Suddenly,” noted the antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down, “anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, ‘you’ve been right all along.’ ” An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.” [my emphasis]
   Those responses sometimes spill blood. Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action: They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.
   Such tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left. When the masked antifa activist was filmed assaulting Spencer on Inauguration Day, another piece in The Nation described his punch as an act of “kinetic beauty.” Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs, prompting the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to tweet, “I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.”
   The violence is not directed only at avowed racists like Spencer: In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.”
And--post-C'ville--it's politically incorrect to even admit that the violent left is violent. It's like having the cloaking device, but being able to attack with it up. What, me bash someone over the head with a bike lock?
   We seem to be sliding toward an American politics and culture that is, basically, Nazis vs. Commies. The muscular liberalism that won WWII and the cold war is busy cowering in the corner...or making excuses for the leftier of the two psychopathic groups. 
   I don't think this is a done deal, but any stretch of the imagination. But that's where the progressive establishment seems to want us to go.


Don't let the screen door bang your ass on the way out.

Are We In The Midst Of A Moral Panic?

Starting to seem that way to me.
   Not sure how cogent the concept is, but I guess it'll do for now.
   It's starting to seem to me that racism is now being treated a bit like witchcraft or demonic possession. Anybody might be one (or be infected by it). Accusations fly in every direction--and the truth of the accusations doesn't matter or barely matters. The best way to avoid being accused is to be fanatical in your opposition to the evil...and, of course, to accuse others liberally, and believe accusations readily. If you're accused, denial is fruitless, and only shows that you're both guilty and a liar. Best to fess up and be seen as guilty and repentant. Concern about the truth of accusations is a sign of insufficient persecutory enthusiasm.
   To me, it seems like mass hysteria--online and in the media, anyway. IRL I'm not seeing any uptick, though, in academia, things have been moving in this direction for quite awhile. Maybe I'll see something when the semester starts.

Robert E. Lee Discouraged Monuments; They 'Keep Open The Sores Of War'

This is immensely important, it seems to me:
   [Lee] expressed his views in two famous letters that are now recirculating widely in the wake of Charlottesville.
   The first was to Thomas Rosser, a former Confederate general who in 1866 queried Lee about a proposed commemorative monument.
   “My conviction is,” Lee wrote, “that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; & of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.”
   Lee thought it better to tend to the graves of the fallen. “All I think that can now be done, is to aid our noble & generous women in their efforts to protect the graves & mark the last resting places of those who have fallen, & wait for better times.”  
   God bless historians. I actually felt a little bit like bursting into tears when I read this. (In a totally masculine way, of course...) There are several non-trivial objections one could obviously make to this appeal to Lee's authority--but, honestly, I think that this is as close as we ever get to a conclusive answer to a question of this kind. And add to this the fact that most such statuary doesn't date from the time of the war, but from the early 20th century...and, seriously, I think the case in favor of doing something up to and including moving the average Confederate statue into a more museum-like setting has gotten very powerful. (Which is not to say that there aren't reasons on the other side that might emerge tomorrow.)
   We're still stuck with some thorny aspects of the problem--e.g. given that the war and its personalities and symbols have become part of Southern culture, how does this alter the question?* (And, remember, the lost cause idea is powerful and common, and doesn't itself have anything to do with slavery.) And, even if we agree that we should defer to Lee's authority and take his advice, what sort of timetable should we think in terms of? Personally, I think that the current spasm of Confederacy "erasure" (to use a term beloved of the left) is a bad idea...but nothing's optimal anywhere in this vicinity.) IMO a lot of what's going on now is motivated by anger and the desire to punish the conservative South...and I can't believe that this is exactly invisible, especially to those who feel as if they're on the receiving end of it. So I suspect that a choice will have to be made. We can have something more like a fast, decisive, punitive wave that sweeps away these monuments and leaves a lot of anger in its wake...or we can try to figure out some way that is more judicious. OTOH, the obvious response is: it's a straightforward question of where the psychological harm is going to be felt: among black Americans or conservative southerners. I want to say, as usual: go slow. But that has its costs, too.
   Well, I'm no good at thinking about stuff like this--this is all kind of just musing.
   For now I'm just going to be something approximating happy about having found that there's someone with a kind of genuine epistemic / moral authority that may be able to decide this issue for us.
   Kinda funny that Lee may end up demonstrating that he's more worthy of admiration than we thought precisely by providing us with reasons for removing statues to him.

*Not to put too fine a point on it, but: deciding whether to remove a statue is different than deciding whether or not to put one up.

Trump's Charlottesville Press Conference 7

Infrastructure question, go ahead.
QUESTION: Should the statue of Robert E. Lee stay up?
TRUMP: I would say that's up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located.
QUESTION: Are you against the Confederacy?
QUESTION: How concerned are you about race relations in America? And do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?
TRUMP: I think they've gotten better or the same – look, they've been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that, because he'd make speeches about it.
But I believe that the fact that I brought in – it will be soon, millions of jobs, you see where companies are moving back into our country, I think that's going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations. We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin just announce. We have many companies I say pouring back into the country.
I think that's going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It's jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. And when they have that, you watch how race relations will be.
And I'll tell you, we're spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We're going to fix – we're fixing the inner cities. We're doing far more than anybody's done with respect to the inner cities. It's a priority for me. And it's very important.
Should statues of Lee stay up? Local decision.
Good answer. I usually deride illicitly misinterpreting such questions as political/legal/procedural ones...but in this case, I think it's the best way to go.

Have race relations gotten better or worse? Is anything other than answering 'worse' going to be considered acceptable? It's hard not to say 'worse' in the wake of C'ville... Dunno whether this is the sort of thing that can be quantified. Perhaps he should have said something like This was a difficult weekend for the nation, and we shouldn't rush to conclude that it is a trend rather than a blip...  But Trump doesn't give such answers.

MD Removes Taney Statue From State House Grounds In The Dark Of Night

Ok, this is just getting creepy.
   The very fact that this is happening all at once, in a kind of spasm, is creeping me out almost more than anything else. And, again, I'm not even firmly against removing such statues. C'ville voted to remove the Lee statue in due course after due deliberation. But this scramble to suddenly take down statues right and left--and now expanding the targets beyond Civil War figures per se... This just seems bizarre to me. Though Scott v. Sanford really is an embarrassment, of course.
   It's some consolation that this may be happening to keep the hard right away, because no one wants another C'ville-type event in their neck of the woods. A bit of poetic justice.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ex-Neo-Nazis Explain What's Driving The Far Right

I have no idea whether any of this is accurate..

Will C'Ville Accelerate The Split Between Liberalism And The Radical Left?

Here's one Natasha Lennard proclaiming antifa's anti-liberalism openly.
   Seems to me there are more crazy lefties now willing to admit that they aren't liberal. 
   Anti-liberalism is central to the hard left...but in the States they seem to keep it largely on the DL. With liberals flocking to side with antifa over C'ville, it seems like an odd time to come out...but maybe e.g. Lennard figures that there's no stopping the tectonic shift of the American left away from liberalism and toward the currently-fashionable cluster of anti-liberal alternatives.
   Shit is getting bad, and no lie.

Wolf Blitzer Wonders Whether Barcelona Attack Is Copycat Of C'ville Attack

Ok that's enough internet for tonight.

"Trump Enters Culture War With Call To Preserve Confederate Statues"

Raw Footage of C'ville Violence

   I've watched about ten of these things now, and one thing's perfectly clear: the view that the right-wing protesters were responsible for all of the violence isn't anywhere in the vicinity of the truth.
   Another thing that's fairly clear: firearms and violent right-v.-left riots: not a good mix. I'm kind of surprised nobody got shot (though, in this video, one of the wingnuts does threaten to shoot one of the moonbats).
   Jesus Christ it's utter madness.

Charlottesville Unite The Right Protest Video

This apparently has some connection with InfoWars, but it's still damn interesting.
   Comparing this to the Vice's like night and day.

Will Congress Remove Confederate Statues From the Capitol?

Trump's tweeting is, as you may find hard to believe, not helping.

How Big Is The Klan?

I groggily Googled this question, and ended up finding this.

The Klan, however, is--well, the ADL says about 3k, and the SPLC says about 6k. So that probably means about 3k. That's not great, obviously...but, by historical standards, it's pretty good. That's about the same size as (the Google also reveals) the Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates. Also, the SUNA looks a little more capable in a fight. So could be worse. It was about 3-6,000,000 around 1924, when the whole population was only about 110,000,000. And I'm sure it wasn't randomly distributed across states, if ya know what I'm sayin. That had to suck. At least we're not dealing with that.

(In my extensive research, I also discovered that the Klan has a website! (here), and a web store where you can buy some of that sweet Klan gear you've been needing. Though...honestly...some of that stuff...looks kinda racist...
Also, according to a shirt they have for sale, the Klan is apparently an LLC. Which, I have to admit, is probably a pretty good idea if you're the Klan...)

Trump's Claim That There Were Good People / Non-White-Supremacists At The C'Ville Rally Turns Out To Be True

Well, I was wrong about being wrong.
[h/t J. Carthensis]

And now I need a break from this for awhile.

[Of course this doesn't tell us how many such people are there--and just a few won't do to make Trump's claim significantly true. But this accords with the view of the rally that's out there in the rightosphere, so far as I can tell, so I was assuming that there were more. But that does, technically, remain to be seen.]

Trump's Charlottesville Press Conference 6

Ok, here's the core of the thing:

TRUMP: OK, what about the alt-left that came charging them (ph)? Excuse me. What about the alt-left that came charging at the – as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
QUESTION: Mr. Trump...
TRUMP: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging – that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.
TRUMP: As far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.
Wait a minute, I'm not finished.
I'm not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day...
TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you have – you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group – you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.
TRUMP: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you think that the – what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: Those people – all of those people – excuse me. I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were White Supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.
So – excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see – and you'd know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you're not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.
So this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson's coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?
You know, you all – you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? But they were there to protest – excuse me. You take a look, the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

When I re-read this, I came to think that something really bad/unfortunate happens here between the last chunk and this one: the question "What is the alt-right?" gets dropped. I think it was weird (and maybe even an expression of disrespect) to ask the POTUS to define the term in the middle of a press conference--it was probably meant to embarrass him by asking him a question almost nobody knows the answer to. But I do think that it would have been good to have at least gotten out on the table the point that almost nobody seems to know what it is.
Still, Trump manages to get a really, really important point out on the table: a segment of the American left--the "alt-left" in his terminology--has become extremely violent, and was responsible for part of the violence in Charlottesville. This really is a crucial point. It transcends even the terrible events in C'ville. It's a big problem, it's not addressed with sufficient seriousness by the media, and it seems to be not-entirely-disapproved of by the more mainstream left. The violent left made a bad situation worse in C'ville.
Question: "Do you think that the...alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?"
A good question. We need clarification on that.
Trump then reiterates his condemnation of Neo-Nazis... (Strange days indeed when this is required, eh?)
He then asserts that not everyone there was a white supremacist...and that's huge. And, though this isn't getting as much attention as some of the crazy points people are making, this is where I think Trump screws up bad. I didn't realize how bad this was when I watched, nor when I first read the transcript. I'd been informed that there were a lot of straight-up conservatives at the rally, and that the racists and white nationalists etc. were a fringe that the core participants had tried to keep out. And that many people were there hoping to peacefully protest the removal of the Lee statue. So far as I can now tell, that's all wrong. I've seen no evidence that there was a core or even a fringe of non-racists there. That's an embarrassing enough mistake when I make's tragic when the President of the United States makes it. It doesn't change the fact that they had a right to protest...bad people have rights, too. But it's a really terrible mistake to make, and it significantly changes my judgment about Trump's comments. You just can't make that kind of mistake. You just can't make it. It doesn't alter the fact that he's just said that the racists suck...he's merely wrong about there being non-racists about... But really, in this context, under these conditions, about this topic...Jesus...
[ turns out that Trump was actually right about this.]
This week Lee, next week Washington...true, again. Everybody should see this one coming.

So, despite containing a crucially important truth, this is the segment in which things spin out, I'm afraid... He did not say that the two sides were morally equivalent, and he did not defend white supremacists...but he screwed up bigly.

What To Do About Political Demonstrations By Crazy People

The Klan marched down Franklin Street when I was in grad school, so we all spent a fair amount of time thinking about what the best response would be. Obviously the two most salient options are:
       (a) Go and jeer
       (b) Stay away and deny them an audience.
Ultimately, despite my curiosity, I decided that we ought to stay away.
   However, not everybody agreed, and lots of people went and jeered.
   Which made me realize that the stay away strategy wasn't going to work, because it really only works if everybody--or close to everybody--will do it. But they won't. Which seems to leave: go and jeer. Which I think is basically what they want...but I also think that a lot of people yelling at them is probably better than a few people yelling at them.
   (This is not to be confused with: Go and physically attack people to deny them an opportunity for free expression of their ideas.)
   I had fantasies of talking everyone into going about their business on Franklin, assiduously refusing to give any indication that they were even aware of the Klansmen... Not realistic, obviously...but I think that'd be pretty effective, and I really wish it could be pulled off.
   It doesn't matter to me all that much that there's no good, workable, direct response, because I don't think we should put our eggs in that basket anyway. The remedy, as we know--or as we ought to know--is more speech. If the rest of us want to say our peace, too, then we should hold our own event. If racists want to publicly and collectively express their belief in the moral equivalent of a flat Earth, that's their right. Raging against them seems to betray some kind of confusion--as if their minds could be changed by it or something. Our ideas will win out, but not like that, not by just being expressed loudly and angrily at people who have already set their hearts against them. That's just not the way such things work.

What The Hell's The Alt-Right, Anyway?

Hundreds Gather At UVA Against White Nationalism

"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence"

Well done, 'Hoos.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

David Rothkopf: "Donald Trump Gave The Most Disgusting Public Performance In The History Of The American Presidency"

This lying and hysteria about what Trump said is actually making the guy look pretty good by comparison:
   Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon gave the most disgusting public performance in the history of the American presidency. Framed by the vulgar excess of the lobby of Trump Tower, the president of the United States shook loose the constraints of his more decent-minded advisers and, speaking from his heart, defended white supremacists and by extension, their credos of hatred. He equated with those thugs the courageous Americans who had gathered to stand up to the racism, anti-Semitism and doctrine of violence that won the cheers and Nazi salutes of the alt-right hordes to whom Trump felt such loyalty.
   After several days in which Trump and his advisers wrestled with what should have been a straightforward task — condemning the instigators of the unrest that rocked Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend — Trump revealed the reason that finding those words was such a struggle. He, too, is an extremist.
   No one who values the best of what the United States has stood for could watch without feeling revulsion, anger or heartbreak...
   Look, what Trump said is a matter of public record. These are just lies. Compare them to what was actually said. I don't like the didn't like what he thought it was thought it was a travesty...hell, you thought it deserves impeachment...whatever the merits of your case, you can hold those opinions if you like. But the delusional hysteria, the flat-out lying about what he said...that's just plain nuts.
   For whatever reason I keep thinking back to the McEnroe-Williams dust-up. The facts in the case were clear. What McEnroe said was clear. There was virtually no wiggle room whatsoever...barely any room at all for intellectual dishonesty to operate...and yet...lies found a way... A trivial issue, a handful of statements, virtually no latitude for bullshit to get a grip...and it still turned into a massive argument.
   What's going on here is basically the same thing--but with much more at stake, a much larger and more garbled set of assertions, a much bigger backstory, and about ten thousand times as much emotion in play. 
   I'm happy to be done with Trump. I don't like the guy one damn bit. And if I thought people were all just BSing to drag him down, that'd be one thing. But watching someone get dragged down by this's starting to seem worse than keeping him.

Short Documentary: Charlottesville: Race And Terror

This is definitely worth watching.

Trump's Charlottesville Press Conference 5

QUESTION: Can you tell us how you're feeling about your chief strategist, Mr. Bannon? Can you talk about that?
TRUMP: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I would echo Maggie's (ph) question. Steve Bannon...
TRUMP: I never spoke to Mr. Bannon about it.
QUESTION: But can you tell us broadly what you're – do you still have confidence in Steve (ph)?
TRUMP: Well, we see (ph) – and look, look. I like Mr. Bannon. He's a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him. He's a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He's a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard.
But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon, but he's a good person, and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.
QUESTION: Do you have confidence in him? Because he has called on you to defend your national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, against...
TRUMP: I've already done it. I did it the last time.
QUESTION: And he called on it again (ph) linking this (ph)...
TRUMP: Senator McCain?
QUESTION: ...the alt-right and...
TRUMP: Senator McCain, you mean the one who voted against Obamacare? Who is – you mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good healthcare?
QUESTION: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Well, I don't know – I can't tell you. I'm sure Senator McCain must know what he's talking about. But when you say the "alt- right," define "alt-right" to me. You define it, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, I think that (ph)...
TRUMP: No, define it for me, come on. Let's go. Define it for me.
QUESTION: Senator McCain defined them as the same group...
   So Bannon. I don't really know. Seems like not a great sign. But not bad enough to warrant the Monster Trump hypothesis. I don't really know anything about Bannon, but if there's any serious concern that he's sympathetic to racialists, he should go, obviously
   Alt-Right. Hell, I don't know what the Alt-Right is. I'm pretty sure that some of the Alt-Right is, as I've said before, young males poking at whoever the most prominent, most sanctimonious assholes are. In my youth it was the Moral Majority / religious right. Now it's the PC left. But apparently the "Alt-Right" shades off into white supremacists. I'm inclined to think that playing around with Nazi iconography and crap like that is, at least in part, the contemporary version of adolescent Satanism.
   But, more importantly: why is a reporter asking the POTUS to define a term in the middle of a presser?
   Trump should have let the guy trip himself up, because he doesn't know either. He was about to say something like "Senator McCain defined the Alt-Right as being the group that protested in C'ville. Which is not a definition. But Trump couldn't keep his mouth shut long enough to let the guy hang himself.
   Not really a whole lot to see here.

"Serious Attention To Vegetality": Critical Plant Studies

I actually listened to this whole damn thing.
   It's about like you'd expect.

What's Wrong With What Trump Said About Unite The Right / Charlottesville?

So the overwhelming consensus is that Trump screwed up, screwed up so badly that he cannot be forgiven. Needless to say, it would be absurd for any single person to presume to question something so universally acknowledged. So at this point, I'm just trying to understand the nature of Trump's screw up. Here are what seem to me to be the most salient possibilities:
     [1] What Trump said was false.
     [2]  What Trump said was true, but insufficient.
     [3]  What Trump said was true, but he shouldn't have said it.
     [4]  What Trump said was true, but had nefarious intent.
What other relevant options are there?
I'm trying to avoid making this all so precise as to be unwieldy. I understand, for example, that [3] and [4] can both be true, and that what he said might have been partially true and partially false.

Chicago Pastor Wants President's Names Removed From Washington, Jackson Parks Over Ties To Slavery

Well this was certainly unpredictable.

Eyewitness Reports: Which Side Was Responsible For the C'ville Violence?

Ilya Somin: Why Slippery-Slope Arguments Should Not Stop Us From Removing Confederate Monuments

This is characteristically good.
   I think it's important to recognize the strength of slipper-slope arguments in this case. Another way to put the slippery-slope point is: some of the the general principles that lead to the conclusion that we should remove (e.g.) statues of Lee also lead to the conclusion that we should remove (e.g.) statues of Jefferson. People usually deploy these arguments because they think it's obvious that we shouldn't remove statues of Jefferson, and so intend to cast doubt on arguments for removing statues of Lee.
   Me, I'm mostly just interested in the logical link between Lee-statue-removal and Jefferson-statue-removal. I'm not really so deeply committed to not removing statues of Lee, though I currently incline against rushing into anything. I actually think that the arguments for removing statues of Lee are pretty strong, and that those arguments also support removing statues of Jefferson. I'm pretty strongly against Jefferson-removal, and less-strongly against Lee-removal. But I seem to think that the link between the two is stronger that others seem to think it is. Maybe because I'm skeptical that the treason argument is actually operative in lefty arguments for Lee-removal. Treason is a major difference between Jefferson and Lee. But I doubt that the relevant sectors of the left care much about treason, so I doubt that that actually figures into their reasonings. So I'm fairly sure that Jefferson-removal will actually be on the menu in my expected lifetime. (And so this won't be a merely theoretical question.)
   A good response is: it doesn't matter what they think, it only matters what reasonable people think. And reasonable people think that the treason reason is a reasonable reason. Which is plausibly right.
   However, when it does come to arguing against the lefty-left about Jefferson, I'd expect them to deploy the obvious arguments about moral considerations trumping national/tribal ones: Lee's treasonousness wasn't an important reason for removing his statue. Such a reason is purely parochial. The important reasons were the moral reasons: his entanglement with slavery. And the moral reasons seem to cut against Jefferson approximately as much as they cut against Lee.
   And I'm not sure that such arguments are wrong--or, at least, I'm not sure that they're invalid, though they might be unsound. Slavery is a very great crime. And Jefferson participated in it very directly. And I'm rather skeptical of creature-of-his-time defenses...
   But, anyway, the Somin piece is good, and makes good points in the opposite direction.

Trump's Charlottesville Press Conference 4

TRUMP: I didn't know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. And the facts as they started coming out were very well stated. In fact, everybody said his statement was beautiful; if he would have made it sooner, that would have been good. I couldn't have made it sooner because I didn't know all of the facts.
Frankly, people still don't know all of the facts. It was very important that – excuse me, excuse me – it was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. Because if I would have made a fast statement, and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing.
The second statement was made after – with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things – excuse me – there are still things that people don't know.
TRUMP: I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts.
QUESTION: Was it – two questions. Was it terrorism? And can you tell us what you're feeling about your...
TRUMP: Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and his country. And that is – you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That's what I'd call it. Because there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics.
The driver of the car is a murderer. And what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.

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Trump's Charlottesville Press Conference 3

TRUMP: They don't. They don't.
TRUMP: How about a couple of...
TRUMP: How about a couple of infrastructure questions?
QUESTION: Mr. Trump, was it terrorism, that event? Was that terrorism?
TRUMP: Say, what?
QUESTION: The CEO of Walmart said you missed a (inaudible) opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?
TRUMP: Not at all. I think the country – look, you take a look. I've created over a million jobs since I'm president. The country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we've ever had in the history of our country.
We're doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm. So the head of Walmart, who I know is a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean...
TRUMP: ... it the same way. And you know why? Because I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct. And there was no way – there was no way of making a correct statement that early.
I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters – unlike a lot of reporters...
   Again with the I needed to collect evidence thing, which I'm still not buying. Then some economy stuff, which I tend to deride in such contexts...but may actually be important...
   Did he "miss an opportunity to bring the country together"? I guess he obviously did...but was it an honest failure, or because he was playing footsie with white supremacists? Well, that's what's at issue...

Trump's Charlottesville Press Conference Transcript 2.1

So this is part of the Trump's Saturday Statement subroutine.
Here's the video of Trump's Saturday statement.
Two points:
First, with respect to this crucial part of the Saturday statement (starting at 1:00):
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides.
When he reads it on Saturday, here's how he reads it:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry..........and violence...on many sides. On many sides.
I've tried to accurately represent his pauses, which, I think, made my interpretation plausible. That interpretation was that he was saying that the violence was on many sides, not the hatred, bigotry and violence. I'm not trying to argue that that interpretation is correct, I'm merely arguing that it was understandable / not crazy.
   But here's the more important point about the Saturday statement: watching the entire thing, it's honestly a little bit difficult for me to believe that people think it leaves any wiggle room for white supremacists. Now, since even white supremacists say that it does, I'm obviously the crazy one here.
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Trump's Charlottesville Press Conference Transcript 2


TRUMP: I brought it. I brought it. I brought it.
QUESTION: What did you (inaudible)?
TRUMP: As I said on – remember this – Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America. And when I went on from there.
Now, here's the thing. As to–excuse me – excuse me – take it nice and easy.
Here's the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn't even happen yet, as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts.
So I don't want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman who I hear is a fantastic young women, and it was on NBC, her mother wrote me and said through, I guess, Twitter, social media, the nicest things and I very much appreciate that.
I hear she was a fine, a really – actually, an incredible young woman. But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and unlike – excuse me – unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.
   Ok, again there's the "gathering evidence" excuse, which I don't buy--but, again, I don't think that's significant.
   But his first point is basically, as I see it, the point I said he should have made above: his Saturday statement was a lot less bad than people are pretending it was:
we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America. 
He left out the controversial bit. Here's what he actually said:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides.”
Aaaaand here's where I may have made a significant mistake. Here's the way I heard Trump's Saturday statement:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and [violence. On many sides.”]
Here'e the way almost everybody else seems to have heard it--and this seems to be the more natural reading:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of [hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides.”]

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Trump's Charlottesville Press Conference Transcript 1

Ok, since I've apparently lost my marbles, I'm going to try to go through the Trump transcript piece by piece. I'm not used to siding with Trump--though I do think he pretty routinely gets treated unfairly by the press. But obviously I'm a bit freaked out by finding myself defending him when he's alleged to be defending Nazis and the Klan... I mean...I've defended their right to assemble and speak, of course...but if supporting them is what's at issue, obviously one doesn't want to make a mistake. And the same goes if there's a real possibility that the President of the United States is defending them.. 
   So here goes:
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Transcript of Trump's Infrastructure / Charlottesville Press Conference

   Aside from some fairly ordinary Trumpian bullshitting early on, there are really only two things in there that should be controversial. First, he's wrong about the tiki-torch march at UVa, which was despicable. Second, he claims that there were people at the Saturday rally who were not white supremacists, but who were actually there to protest the removal of the Lee statue. Now, as far as I can tell, this is true--my only conservative friend just made the same point to me the other day, and I've seen references to this elsewhere.I haven't chased it down, but it's an empirical goddamn question. Maybe he's wrong. It's a big-ass mistake if he is...and it would give the lie to his claims about wanting to chase down all the facts. So go track down the info.
   The claims that seem to be sending people over the edge are his claims that the counter-protesters were responsible for at least some of the violence--which is undoubtedly true. Though the reporters repeatedly try to make it sound as if he was equating the counter-protesters with the Nazis and Klan, he does not do this, and, in fact, explicitly denies it.
   IMO the mistake about the Friday night march is a substantial one--but he makes that error rather in passing, and I haven't heard a peep about it. If he is, in fact, right about the presence of significant numbers of non-white supremacists, then he's right about basically everything that matters here--so far as actual, factual claims go. And I don't mean: he squeaks by with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, nor anything like that: he's just straightforwardly right about what he's genuinely trying to say.
   In the end, this will likely go down in the public record as something it absolutely wasn't--the President of the United States equating the counter-protesters with Nazis and the Klan. It's pretty obvious that people had their minds made up before he even opened his mouth.
   Remember: this is a case in which we've got even the uber-reasonable Kevin Drum claiming that the one day between the time that people started demanding that Trump explicitly denounce the groups at the protest by name and the time he called them evil was, in and of itself, a super-secret signal of approval to those groups...

Trump's Infrastructure Press Conference, Blame On Both Sides, CNN Is Downright Dangerous, And Anti-Trump Hysteria

So it probably sounds like I watch a lot of CNN, but I don't... I just sat down to eat an apple about an hour ago, and turned it on just as Trump's infrastructure press conference started. As soon as it was over, the press basically jumped him about Charlottesville. Now, I didn't think his initial statement on Saturday was good, though it was minimally accurate--it's true that there was blame on both sides. It was just damn weird (to say the least) to make that point under those conditions. He blew it--pretty bad, actually.
   But, he came out on Monday, and made a good statement. Hardly Obamaesque, but good. He said what needed to be said, and said it in no uncertain terms. A lot of you guys disagree with me on that, but, well, I disagree with you, too.
   So then today rolls around, and Trump basically gets pounced by the press. Which is not such a big deal--that's the way press conferences sometimes work. But Trump handled it fairly well. He's not that smart, and not that good on his feet, and, well, Trump's Trump. But he actually handled it ok. There was a fair amount of bullshitting (e.g. his "I was waiting on the facts" excuse. What facts do you need to wait on to know that Nazis: bad?), but on the most important points he was right. In particular, he pointed out:
(a) Some of the blame for the violence lies with the counter-protesters.
(b) Not everyone participating in the protest protest was a white supremacist
(c) The protesters had a permit; the counter-protesters didn't.

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First Amendment, Second Amendment, Klansmen

Gotta say--though I'm pretty enthusiastic about both the First and Second Amendments--I'm not all that enthusiastic about assholes like this carrying, especially in a situation like that in C'ville. Much less these jackasses:

[Sorry--to be fair, there's no reason to think that these guys are Klansmen (but the guy linked-to above is), or even white supremacists. The rally was not made up exclusively of white supremacists. I'm told that there was an effort to keep such folks out. (If so, it obviously failed.) But even if that's true, the rally was obviously comprised of people at least willing to consort with white supremacists...]


...we're f*cking crazy and sometimes also awesome

Idiots Pull Down The Confederate Soldiers Monument In Front of The Old Durham Courthouse

I'm torn (to say the least) about what to do about Confederate memorials. But these people are f*cking idiots.
   The statue they destroyed was the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the Old Durham Courthouse. The vandalism was accompanied by standard-issue moronic chants and ill-informed speechifying, as I suppose goes without saying.
   I reckon Silent Sam is more-or-less next on the list. (I actually remember being kinda shocked when I first arrived on campus and saw Silent Sam. I was like please be Revolution please be Revolution...oh... damn...Civil War...)
   Then we can get started on the slave owners--who are at least as deserving of disapprobation as your average Confederate soldier. Might as well start with Mr. Jefferson. Don't forget Washington and Madison...a whole lot of 'em, in fact, including Grant.
   Then comes the issue of our treatment of American Indians--theft of land for one thing, genocide for another. That's at least as bad as slavery. And, sadly, it can't really be hung on the Confederacy, I'm afraid...which is bad news for Old Glory. Also a lot of other U.S. presidents. But it's a small price to pay it is we're doing...
   And, whatever it is, there's a whole lot of it left to be done.

[Which, again, doesn't mean that I think I know what to do about the monuments. But destroying them is not on my list of options. At the very least they belong in a museum.
   Jeez, I shudder to think about questions about Lee's statue in Lee Chapel. They've already moved the Confederate flags--not an unreasonable course of action...but, again, it's hard to articulate the general principles at work, and, so, among other things, hard to see where this all ends.]

Monday, August 14, 2017

Trump Tells It Like It Is Re: The Klan Et Al.

Props to the President for this.

Heather Heyer, Killed By Charlottesville Car Attack; Maybe Rename Lee Park Again?

It's important to remember that not all the counter-protesters were the worst of the left. Heyer certainly sounds like she was one of the best--an admirable person by all accounts. I wonder whether C'ville ought to consider adding a statue of her to the park?
   I'm torn on the issue of Confederate monuments, but one type of option is to add rather than subtract--that is, add e.g. other statues, informative plaques, and so on around them. (I've wondered whether it might not improve the situation to take statues like that of Lee of their pedestals, as it were...) A statue of Heyer might be exactly the right sort of thing--though I don't mean to make this sound purely instrumental.
   Another option would be to rename the park for her, despite the fact that it's only recently been renamed. 'Emancipation park' (is that the one? I can't keep the new names straight) is well-intentioned, but pretty generic.

106-Year-Old Fruitcake From Scott Expedition "Almost Edible" ordinary fruitcake, then?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tiki Nazis

Did um...anybody else notice that the Nazis / Klansman torch march at UVa the other night used tiki torches? It was like they were threatening the campus with a luau or something.
Seriously, if you're going for intimidation, you really ought to take the time to wrap some oily rags around the end of a stick.

What Trump Has To Say Clearly

"If you're a white supremacist, I don't want your support."

There's no excuse for pussy-footing around this issue.

Frank Bruni: "I'm A White Man--Hear Me Out"

I’m a white man, so you should listen to absolutely nothing I say, at least on matters of social justice. I have no standing. No way to relate. My color and gender nullify me, and it gets worse: I grew up in the suburbs. Dad made six figures. We had a backyard pool. From the 10th through 12th grades, I attended private school. So the only proper way for me to check my privilege is to realize that it blinds me to others’ struggles and should gag me during discussions about the right responses to them.

Is Liberalism Dying?: The Most Amazing Article You'll Read Today, IMO

This is...astonishing. (Vox--but archived.)
   It's the bafflement that saturates the thing that's jaw-dropping. It seems to be written by and for people who are genuinely dumbfounded that the ACLU is defending racists' right to assemble and speak. How can a liberal organization do such a thing?????
   This seems to be a post for people who didn't have junior high civics. Or, rather, it's like a patient,dumbed-down attempt to explain America to alien hive creatures.
(And, of course, those aliens are: contemporary millennial progressives. Well, Johnny, some people think that even people who think wrongthink and say wrongtalk have a right to think and say these wrong, wrong things... This all said with the cautious tone in which one might explain to a child that there are people out there who...upsetting as this might be to realize...don't believe in Jesus...)

   The fact that this was written at all--that someone thought that it needed to be written, that anybody might need to read it--suggests to me that things are worse than even I thought.

Centrist Dems Push Back Against Sanders, Liberals

'New Democracy', however, is not a particularly well-chosen name for the movement.