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No, it is not “erasing history”

Infidel 753 writes at his own site of the same name. From time to time in the past he has put up several of Angry Bear’s posts on Crooks and Liars. This post (of his), I find interesting as he discusses the history and legitimacy of statues honoring  Confederates and US military bases named after Confederate military leaders.

History needs to be recorded and remembered, regardless of how we today judge the events and people of the past.  What happened is what happened, even when the truth is painful.  But historical memory does not require that we preserve monuments explicitly meant to honor criminals and insult black Americans.

Most of the Confederate monuments now scattered across the country were not built right after the Civil War but between 1895 and 1920, when the post-war progress on civil rights had been mostly reversed and the grinding down and terrorization of blacks reached an apex.  They were less commemoration of history than assertion and celebration of the resurgence of white supremacy.

This is perhaps fitting given that that was the cause for which the Confederates fought.  The Civil War was entirely about slavery — the Confederacy was created solely to preserve slavery.  The declarations of secession passed by the Southern states at the time make this clear.  Any assertion to the contrary is simply a lie.  Yet it’s the people who claim to be concerned about preserving history who keep repeating this fundamental lie about it.

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Frederick Douglass’s oration on the 4th of July (abridged)

Frederick Douglass’s oration on the 4th of July (abridged)

The middle portion of Douglass’s famous speech, delivered in 1852 to white abolitionists in Rochester, NY, where Douglass lived at the time, and is buried — “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” — is best known.

But in the first portion he allowed for the celebration of the principles enunciated by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence: “your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure.”

And in the Concluding portion, he “dr[e]w[ ] encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions” for the future.

In our own moment of critical trial and literal iconoclasm, Douglass’s ability to see the Founding Fathers as 3 dimensional, lauding their accomplishments as well as damning their collusion in evil, and for girding one’s loins to the crisis of the present, with abiding hope for the universality of decency and justice in the future, is particularly inspiring.
____________________

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration.
The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable—
This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; … The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young. ….
there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed….

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Differences

Differences

by Ken Melvin

… He said I have no opinion about this

And I have no opinion about that

Asked an Honors History Class what they thought was the most important issue facing America. In an earlier period, Patrick, a kid from Africa, responded, “our differences.” In a later period, a black female, in a plaintive voice, responded, “we are different.”

Indeed. We are a world of people with many differences: different politics, different religions, … different cultures. Not just here; worldwide, humans are wrestling with this question: How to live with our differences? Can we humans, after all our centuries, change enough? Change enough to accept our differences?

The importance of these questions came to the fore with the recent onslaught of immigration into Europe and has since played out in referenda/elections throughout Europe and the United States. The pending further, and of greater scale, dislocations caused by global warming/climate change and globalization, makes their answering imperative. Plus: What will resulting cultures look like? At what point does an existing culture become more like that of the immigrant? What is the tipping point? Can the center hold?

Over the past 20 years, really quite late, much of our nation has come to believe that someone else’s sexuality is really none of our business. We, as a nation, now accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, LGBT, people as they are. Not ignore them, not tolerate them, not demand that they change; but accept them as they are. Yet, there are still regions of America, sectors of the population, where a majority of the people think that they know how people should act, should think, … that they have the right to demand that others change.

 

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Nonviolence

This article by Ezra Klein is excellent.  I can’t do it justice in a blog post, but here is a bit:

This is the often neglected heart of nonviolence: It is a strategic confrontation with other human beings. It takes as self-evident that we must continue to live in fellowship with one another. As such, it puts changing each other’s hearts at the center of political action, and then asks what kind of action is likeliest to bring about that transformation. That its answers are radical and demanding does not make them untrue.

“King thinks human beings are sacred,” says Brandon Terry, a Harvard sociologist and co-author of a volume on King’s political philosophy. “We need, above all else, to avoid preventing them from changing for the better. That’s what the whole ethos is about: trying to see in other people what we see in ourselves — the capacity for growth, self-correction, and change.”

And another:

That violence begets violence is more than a dorm room slogan: It is a much-replicated research finding. A study by the US Justice Department of 11- to 17-year-olds, for instance, found that being the victim of violence was an extraordinarily powerful predictor of subsequently being the perpetrator of violence. “Violent victimization,” they concluded, “is an important risk factor for subsequent violent offending.”

There is much the state does that is meant to protect citizens from violence, including policing, which really does work to reduce crime. But there’s also much the state does that inflicts violence — and that is nowhere more true than in the state’s cramped, self-defeating definition of justice. As Danielle Sered writes in Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair, decades of studies find four key predictors of violence in individuals: “shame, isolation, exposure to violence, and a diminished ability to meet one’s economic needs.” Those are also, as it happens, the definitional features of prison. “As a nation, we have developed a response to violence that is characterized by precisely what we know to be the main drivers of violence,” she writes. “We should not be surprised, then, when the system produces exactly the results we would expect.”

And one more:

In restorative justice, the focus is not on what perpetrators have done but on what victims need. In some cases, that is imprisonment. But far more often, it is answers, amends, the kind of visible transformation in a perpetrator that leads to a continued feeling of safety. Sered, who directs the remarkable nonprofit Common Justice, tells the story of a man robbed at gunpoint. Asked if he preferred imprisonment or a restorative justice program, he asked whether the perpetrator could get life without parole for the crime. Told that he couldn’t, the man chose restorative justice. “If he can’t be gone forever, then I’d rather he be changed,” he said.

meta-analysis of 84 evaluations of restorative justice programs focused on juveniles found better outcomes for both offenders and victims. Another analysis of 22 studies examining particularly rigorous restorative justice programs concluded, “restorative justice programs are a more effective method of improving victim and/or offender satisfaction, increasing offender compliance with restitution, and decreasing the recidivism of offenders when compared to more traditional criminal justice responses.”

As they say, read the whole thing!

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Naming Forts

It appears possible that the US military will cease to honor traitors and will change the names of bases named after Confederate generals. This raises the question of what new names to give them. This is one of the topics on which I have the very least expertise, so I will make my suggestions.

1) Fort York. Named after Sergeant Alvin York who, when he was corporal York during World War I, personally captured 132 German soldiers. I like the idea of naming a fort after a sergeant. Also I just learned that, when drafted, York initially was a conscientious objector before being convinced to the distinct advantage of the 132 German soldiers and ot the disadvantage of the 25 he killed when leading the attack on the German machine gun nest.

Only risk. Gaffe prone President Biden might slip up in the decidation ceremony and inadvertently plagiarize “Now is the Winter of our discontent maid glorious Summer by this noble son of York” *I still remember when Neil Kinnock’s ancestors mysteriously became Biden’s ancestors back in 1988).

2) Fort Bradley
Come on, station GIs in a fort named after the GI’s general.

3) Fort Howard, named after General Oliver Otis Howard head of the Freedman’s bureau and founder of Howard University. NO compromise with treason.

4) Fort Walker named after the only female Medal of Honore recipient Mary Edwards Walker MD. I’ll drink to that.

5) Fort Anderson named after James Anderson Jr who threw himself on a hand grenade in Cam Lo in 1967

They also served who died in pointless wars. We owe them gratitude along with infinite apologies. Infinite.

6) Fort Baldonado named after Jose Rodriguez Baldonado who doesn’t even have a Wikipedia article.

7) Fort Montgomery. Clearly there might be some need for disambiguation. I am writing as someone raised in Montgomery County Maryland hearing stories about the Montgomery Bus Boycot. I am thinking of lieutenant Jack C Montgomery, more or less the sergeant York of World War II.

I propose renaming Fort Rucker Alabama Fort Montgomery.

As a gesture at national unity play “Sweet Home Alabama” when dedicating it (hoping that people notice the closing line “My, Montgomery’s got the answer” which should have been completely clear in the context of the 1960s also “the governor boo boo boo” should have been fairly clear.

8) Fort Hayashi. I am thinking of Joe Hayashi, but it is OK if people think of Shizuya Hayashi. The name can honor two Medal of Honor recipients with one fort.

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Another Look

Another Look

by

Ken Melvin

In the wake of riots following the Police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many other Black Americans, and Trump’s earlier installation  the likes of Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr as Attorney General; let US Cities find now to be a particularly good time to look anew at what they, the people, think should be the proper role of Police in America. It is time and time to rethink Policing in America. Any and all changes made need be made nationwide, else we would wind up forever dragging around this same Policing Model, a model purportedly somewhat based on some interpretation of the Old Testament of the Bible, a Model with ties to Slavery and Servitude. It is time and time that Policing in America broadly reflects current American values and thinking.

Police being an inclusive term; including all law enforcement agencies.

Much of what we now have was brought forward from 17th Century English Laws premised on protecting the property of the landed gentry, including the Monarch, since modified as required to allow for the added responsibility for public safety, … Today, many Police and Sheriff Departments are Economic and Political Fiefdoms. In December 2019, Barr said, “They have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves, … And if communities don’t give that support and respect, they may find themselves without the police protection they need.” Safe to assume that Sessions would have agreed. Here we are two generations into the Age of Technology with an Administration out of the 1960s and before. Taking off from Albert Camus’ Absurdism, we past Absurd quite a long ways back. Houston, we have hit bottom.

In times like these, the question must be: 

What should be the role of the Police?

 

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Stephen Miller’s Racist Fix for Race Relations, Part II

In the immigration handbook he wrote for then Alabama Senator Sessions, Stephen Miller cited U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner, Peter Kirsanow, who subsequently was considered by Trump during the transition as a potential nominee for Secretary of Labor. In Kirsanow’s June 4 feature for National Review, Flames from False Narratives, he claimed that Black men are not disproportionately the targets of police violence and that the perception they are is a fabrication perpetrated by Hollywood, the media, academics and politicians.

To show that systemic police racism is a myth, Kirsanow presented a list of statistics compiled “from the 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey, Census data, FBI Uniform Crime Reports, and other sources” and cited his dissenting statement 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Report for further discussion. The first thing to note is that Kirsanow’s statement was a dissent. He disagreed with the findings of the report adopted by the majority. One of those findings had to do with the inadequacy of data collection dealing with police violence. The report found that:

The public continues to hear competing narratives by law enforcement and community members, and the hard reality is that available national and local data is flawed and inadequate.

A central contributing factor is the absence of mandatory federal reporting and standardized reporting guidelines.

Former Director of the FBI James Comey characterized the data as “incomplete and therefore, in the aggregate, unreliable.” I know, I know, Comey is a deep-state enemy of Donald Trump and therefore anything he said back in February of 2015 was simply a baseless attempt to discredit the President. The FBI publishes a honking huge disclaimer warning against the improper use of UCR data. None of that seems to matter to Kirsanow’s high school debate deployment of selected, clumsily massaged statistics.

Of course, there is no way to challenge Kirsanow’s numbers with better numbers because “the hard reality is that available national and local data is flawed and inadequate.” It is a hard reality that Kirsanow would presumably prefer to retain, given his dissent from the Civil Rights Commission’s report. Kirsanow is a lawyer, not a statistician, so it is probably unfair to challenge the logic of his claim that “[i]n 2015, a cop was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was likely to be killed by a cop.”

Say what? Almost 20 times as many cops killed by Black men as unarmed Black men killed by cops? Well, no. Kirsanow arrived at his imagin-scary 18.5 times ratio by way of a per capita calculation that is not only preposterous but also wrong in Kirsanow’s own terms, even setting aside the not inconsiderable fact that according to the Civil Rights Commission report only about half of police killings of civilians are reported to the FBI.

What Kirsanow did to arrive at his seemingly astonishing ratio is compare cops killed by Black men per 100.000 cops to unarmed Black males killed by cops per 100,000 Black males. The preposterous part of the per capita comparison is that the population of cops is not comparable to a population of African-American males. For example, there are no (or very few) individuals under the age of 20 something or over the age of 60 something in a population of cops. I could go on but the point is that “sworn officers” are not a demographic, they’re an occupational category.

O.K. that’s just the preposterous part. Now for the part where Kirsanow’s calculation fails on its own terms. He compares unarmed Black males killed by cops to cops killed by Black males, where presumably both cops and their killers were armed. This shows conclusively that not all Black males are unarmed at all times yet both unarmed and armed Black males are included in the population Kirsanow used to calculate his per capita comparison. How silly. This may sound like nit-picking but it’s the kind of thing that just kind of slips in when you are trying to lie with statistics but don’t really understand descriptive statistics.

Yeah, but what about — gasp! — BLACK-ON-BLACK violent crime?!? If one actually read the criminology literature one would learn that violent crime is multi-factored, that most violent crime occurs within a given community and higher crime rates are associated with poverty. The analysis is nuanced and doesn’t identify any single factor as decisive but here is an intriguing anecdote: white people living in poverty have a higher rate of violent crime than Black people living in poverty.

Black people are more than twice as likely as white people to live in poverty (22% to 9%). Now those two populations are not strictly comparable but then neither are the white and Black general populations that Kirsanow compares with abandon. But if we adjust for poverty using those percentages, the crime discrepancy vanishes! We can’t do that because it makes inappropriate assumptions about non-comparable populations. But the reason I brought it up is to point out that the populations Kirsanow compares so blithely are also not comparable. One has a 22% poverty rate and the other has a 9% poverty rate. One of these things is not like the other.

Expect to hear Peter Kirsanow’s name a lot in the coming days and possibly see his mangled numbers in Trump’s speech on race relations written by Miller. He’s African-American. He’s a U.S. Civil Rights Commission commissioner. He’s conservative. He ticks all the boxes.

Oh, and he’s statistical illiterate who uses numbers to score high school debating points.

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Tear Gas Versus Pepper Spray

Tear Gas Versus Pepper Spray

Or pepper gas.

So, AG Barr and Pres. Trump (and also the commander of the US Park Police, I think) have been hotly denying that tear gas was used last Monday June 1  in the attack by the Praetorian Guard on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square.  Various of them have also been claiming that as many as three warnings were issued to the crowd before they attacked and also have claimed that the protesters were throwing things at them and hus were violent rioters.  The latter claims have been denied by nearly all observers, including journalists, although it may have been that perfunctory warnings were issued very quietly so that almost nobody could hear them and that maybe one bottle got thrown.  Barr has also denied giving the order for this attack, laying it on the Park Police chief, and also denied that it had anything to do with Trump walking across the square a few minutes after the protesters were cleared to have his photo op at St. John’s Church with an upside-down backwards Bible, after church personnel were forced off their own church grounds by the attack.  All of this has turned into a massive embarrassment as polls on this have turned sharply against Trump, and the National Guard from 11 states are now being removed from Washington, if not the still non-IDed Praetorian Guard Barr oversees himself.

Then we have the matter of tear gas, with protesters clearly crying and coughing and exhibiting symptoms usually associated with being tear gassed as they fled the square, and with most of them claiming to have been “tear gassed.”  This has been roundly denied by the three parties identified above.  Instead it has been admitted that “pepper balls” were thrown into the crowd, along with rubber bullets being used and flash-bang grenades.  While both Barr and Trump have both since claimed that these “pepper balls” are not “eye irritants,” clearly they are, and a variety of expert sources have reported that they are.

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Stephen Miller’s Racist Fix for Race Relations

Word is circulating that Stephen Miller is writing Donald Trump’s speech on race relations. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Trump’s “solution” to the current malaise in the U.S. will involve extending a ban on immigration and expanding enforcement and expulsion of undocumented individuals. This seems like a safe bet to me because Miller really is a one-trick pony and Trump relishes rehashing his greatest hits. Maybe Miller will toss in some “enterprise zones” or other ornamental trivia but the meat will be anti-immigration.

They playbook for this will be Miller’s Immigration Handbook for a New Republican Majority that he wrote for Jeff Sessions in 2015. Footnote 21 of that handbook states that, “Amnesty and uncontrolled immigration disproportionately harms African-American workers, and has been
described by U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Peter Kirsanow as a ‘disaster.'” The handbook also cites a poll commissioned by Kellyanne \Conway, one finding of which was that “86% of black voters and 71% of Hispanic voters said companies should raise wages and improve working conditions instead of increasing immigration.”

Two years ago, I posted a couple of pieces discussing Miller’s handbook in more detail: The Lump That Begot Trump and Goebbels or Gompers?: A Closer Look at Stephen Miller’s Immigration Manifesto. I hope these pieces provide some insight into just how dangerous and effective Miller’s and Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric can be, especially given the hypocrisy of neo-liberal promotion of immigration as exemplified by Tony Blair’s and Gerhard Schroeder’s “Third Way” advocating “a new supply-side agenda for the left“. To put it bluntly, “Third Way” immigration policy was intended to create jobs by keeping wages low through an abundant supply of labor. The transfer of income from the working class to the wealthy would provide ample funds for “investment.”

In short, Miller’s and Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is dangerous and effective because Blair and Schroeder (and Clinton and Obama) enacted right-wing, supply-side economic policies in the name of “the [‘responsible’] left.”

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Echoes and contrasts with 1968

Echoes and contrasts with 1968

 – by New Deal democrat 

As I mention from time to time, I am a fossil. I am old enough to remember 1968, when I was a politically precocious teenybopper. In the past week, I have read a number of commentaries wondering if this year is similar. In short: yes.

In 1968 it appeared that the world was spiraling out of control. The Vietnam war was at its height, with 300 soldiers killed every week. Protests against the war were also reaching a crescendo, one that reached its apex during the Democratic Convention in Chicago, which was later described as a “police riot” that, among other things, targeted journalists. That was just a few weeks after the Soviet Army rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” of a progressive socialist government.
There were also race riots in medium and big US cities throughout the country. The police were called in to crack down on looting and vandalism, particularly following the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
While we don’t have a foreign war, we do have a pandemic that has uniquely been allowed to grow out of control in the US. We have China making moves in Hong Kong and the border with India. We have massive demonstrations, with some sporadic violence, following yet another  death of a black man at the hands of heavy-handed police tactics. The President has called in the military against its own citizenry.
But there are also two important differences. The first is that the pervasive videoing of police tactics has caused what one writer is calling “The Great Awokening” among most white people, who have seen convincing evidence of racial profiling by police and worse, killings of African Americans by police for things as trivial as a boy having a toy gun in a park.
This “Great Awokening” is shown by two charts below. The first shows attitudes towards violence by vs. towards police:

 

Even whites view violence *by* the police as a bigger problem than violence *towards* the police.

The second shows that the public does not approve of Trump’s handling of the protests in the past week (I’ve truncated the chart to take out views by employment and a few other items):

 

Only Evangelicals and rural areas show higher rates of approval (good, very good, and excellent) compared with disapproval (poor). Interesting, whites are not broken out separately.
The second contrast with 1968 is that the person calling for “law and order” is the incumbent. In 1968 the President, both Houses of Congress, most State governments and big cities were run by Democrats. Nixon, a Republican, was running against them. Now Trump and the GOP control the Presidency, Senate, and a majority of Statehouses. And when civil order breaks down, the public blames the incumbent party, not the insurgents.
I have no idea how everything will ultimately play out, but I do believe the images of the US military being called into action against peaceful demonstrators in Washington DC is going to leave a very sour taste. I do suspect that, like 1968, there will be a watershed passing of the political order of the old guard.

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