The Sons of Confederate Veterans respond to Virginia governor Bob McDonnell apologizing for, and effectively abolishing, Confederate History Month:
Brag Bowling, the commander of the Virginia division, is not pleased with McDonnell's decision.
"Our organization is terribly disappointed by this action," Bowling told TPMmuckraker. "He succumbed to his critics, people who don't support him anyway. And the vast majority of citizens of Virginia support Confederate History Month."
He said he had spoken with the governor's office and told them the same thing. He said "Civil War In Virginia Month" is a poor substitute.
"Nobody's ever been able to reason with me and tell me why we're honoring Yankees in Virginia," Bowling said. "The only northerners in Virginia were the ones that came to Virginia and killed thousands of Virginia citizens when they invaded."
He also defended against the charges of racism.
"There was nothing racist about Confederate History Month. It was honoring Confederate soldiers who fought and died for their state," he said, adding that the Sons will continue celebrating the month privately.
The racism in this statement is fairly obvious. In terms of armed forces, some six thousand black Virginians fought for their freedom in the Civil War. I don't have the numbers handy, but I believe by the time the War began to wound down at the Siege of Petersburg, something like one out of every eight Union soldiers were black. Most of them were either escaped slaves, or freedmen with roots in the South. My point is these black soldiers were not Yankee invaders. They were Southerners. As was Winfield Scott. As was George Henry Thomas, who capped a marvelous military career fighting Confederates reconstituted under the banner of the Ku Klux Klan. But none of these people mesh with Bowling's comfortable rendition of history. And so, in the interest of that comfort, he erases them.
This is not new. I have spent the last year visiting battlefields around the country--Shiloh, Fort Pillow, and Petersburg among others. It must be said that Southerners are doing better in terms of detailing a more complete story of the Civil War. Sometimes it verges on the bizarre. At Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park, I was shocked to see a film that--all at once--effusively praised Forrest, as well as the colored soldiers who fought against him. A group of black reenactors played the role of colored soldiers explicitely and directly stating that they had taken up arms against slavery.
At Shiloh, a Park ranger beautifully narrated the biography of Andrew Jackson Smith (pictured above.) Smith, born a slave, fled, when told that his "master" would be taking him with him into the Confederate Army. Instead, Smith fled 25 miles through the rain and presented himself to Union forces. As a servant to Major John Warner, he was shot in the head at Shiloh, but survived. He went on to fight for the Massachusetts 55th, holding aloft the regimental colors, after the flag-bearer was cut down.
Smith lived to be 88, selling and buying land, according to Wikipedia. In 1997--some sixty years after Smith's death--he was given the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton. There were no monuments for Smith, or any other black people, at Shiloh, much as there are no monuments for any of the USCT at The Crater.
Through a concerted effort Lost Causers have left many of the battlefields of the South awash with neo-Confederate sentiment. Petersburg should be a Mecca for black people, but if you watch the film that's shown in the visitor center, the sadness with which it regards the demise of a republic founded on White Supremacy, you understand why it isn't. You can not talk about African-American history without talking about the Civil War, and yet the battlefields where that War raged are decidedly alien places for people like me.
In making March, Civil War History Month, Bob McDonnell has, in the main, opened up the possibility of more informed public discussion. But he has also taken a step to give a share of the Civil War back to the people for whom it was fought. Honesty compels me to credit him for this. Ignoring this step because McDonnell hasn't reconstructed himself as Mike Bloomberg, or because it might be vaguely "in his interest" strikes me as cynical and dishonest. Were he to stand on Confederate History Month I would rightfully condemn him. Condemning him for doing the exact opposite would betray a lack of fidelity in my own words, and reveal me as someone who only cares about the Civil War insofar as it allows me to club away at people I may not like.
I can not do that. The broad reclamation of a Civil War equally shared by all Americans is, at this moment, the work of my life. It is not a means for something else. It is not a tool, or a wedge. It is not a component of a broader vision. This does not mean McDonnell shouldn't be criticized on other issues. I am speaking, at this moment, only to this one, and in that business, I want to endorse clarity, honesty and the work of broadening out the vistas of history.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Defining common cultural literacy for an increasingly diverse nation.
Is the culture war over?
That seems an absurd question. This is an age when Confederate monuments still stand; when white-privilege denialism is surging on social media; when legislators and educators in Arizona and Texas propose banning ethnic studies in public schools and assign textbooks euphemizing the slave trade; when fear of Hispanic and Asian immigrants remains strong enough to prevent immigration reform in Congress; when the simple assertion that #BlackLivesMatter cannot be accepted by all but is instead contested petulantly by many non-blacks as divisive, even discriminatory.
And that’s looking only at race. Add gender, guns, gays, and God to the mix and the culture war seems to be raging along quite nicely.
People labeled “smart” at a young age don’t deal well with being wrong. Life grows stagnant.
At whatever agesmart people develop the idea that they are smart, they also tend to develop vulnerability around relinquishing that label. So the difference between telling a kid “You did a great job” and “You are smart” isn’t subtle. That is, at least, according to one growing movement in education and parenting that advocates for retirement of “the S word.”
The idea is that when we praise kids for being smart, those kids think: Oh good, I'm smart. And then later, when those kids mess up, which they will, they think: Oh no, I'm not smart after all. People will think I’m not smart after all. And that’s the worst. That’s a risk to avoid, they learn.“Smart” kids stand to become especially averse to making mistakes, which are critical to learning and succeeding.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
The retired general and former CIA director holds forth on the Middle East.
ASPEN, Colo.—Retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus pioneered America’s approach to counterinsurgency, led the surge in Iraq, served as director of the CIA for a year, and was sentenced to two years probation for leaking classified information to his mistress. On Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, he was interviewed by my colleague, Jeffrey Goldberg, about subjects including efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program; the civil war in Syria; ISIS and the threat it poses to the United States; and the Iraq War.
Here are several noteworthy moments from their conversation, slightly condensed:
The Risks of Attacking Iran
Jeffrey Goldberg: So you believe that, under certain circumstances, President Obama would still use military force against Iran?
David Petraeus: I think he would, actually. I know we’ve had red lines that didn’t turn out to be red lines. ... I think this is a different issue, and I clearly recognize how the administration has sought to show that this is very, very different from other sort of off-the-cuff remarks.
Goldberg: How did the Obama administration stop Israel from attacking Iran? And do you think that if this deal does go south, that Israel would be back in the picture?
Petraeus: I don’t, actually. I think Israel is very cognizant of its limitations. ... The Israelis do not have anything that can crack this deeply buried enrichment site ... and if you cannot do that, you’re not going to set the program back very much. So is it truly worth it, then?
So that’s a huge limitation. It’s also publicly known that we have a 30,000-pound projectile that no one else has, that no one else can even carry. The Massive Ordinance Penetrator was under design for almost six years. ... If necessary, we can take out all these facilities and set them back a few years, depending on your assumptions.
But that’s another roll of the iron dice, as Bismarck used to say, and you never know when those dice are rolled what the outcome is going to be. You don’t know what risks could materialize for those who are in harm’s way.
You don’t know what the response could be by Iran.
There’s always the chance that there will be salvos at Israel, but what if they decide to go at the Gulf states, where we have facilities in every single one.
This is not something to be taken lightly, clearly.
Be kind, show understanding, do good—but, some scientists say, don’t try to feel others’ pain.
In 2006, then-senator Barack Obama gave a commencement speech offering what seemed like very sensible advice. “There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit,” he told Northwestern’s graduating class. “But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit—the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us—the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.”
In the years since then, the country has followed Obama’s counsel, at least when it comes to talking about empathy. It’s become a buzzword, extolled by Arianna Huffington, taught to doctors and cops, and used as a test for politicians. "We are on the cusp of an epic shift,” according to Jeremy Rifkin’s 2010 book The Empathetic Civilization. “The Age of Reason is being eclipsed by the Age of Empathy."
A European heat wave, lightning over California, a building made of 8,500 beer bottles, shrimp fishing on horseback in Belgium, the first-ever White House Campout, mine detection rats in Cambodia, and much more.
A European heat wave, lightning over California, a building made of 8,500 beer bottles, cosplay in Paris, shrimp fishing on horseback in Belgium, the first-ever White House Campout, mine detection rats in Cambodia, a train wreck in Pakistan, an airshow over St. Petersburg, Russia, and much more.
“I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants.”
If the U.S. and Iran conclude a nuclear deal next week, the Islamic Republic stands to gain billions of dollars in eventual sanctions relief. But money isn’t the most important reason the Iranian leadership may be set to shake hands with its historic enemy after 18 months of negotiations.
“One of the most important reasons Iran is signing this deal, in my opinion ... is not actually sanctions,” said Vali Nasr, the dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. “It’s ISIS. There is actually support for this deal within the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, because their day job is right now fighting ISIS, and they need the United States, particularly in Iraq, on the right side of that fight.”
Former Senator Jim Webb is the fifth Democrat to enter the race—and by far the most conservative one.
In a different era’s Democratic Party, Jim Webb might be a serious contender for the presidential nomination. He’s a war hero and former Navy secretary, but he has been an outspoken opponent of recent military interventions. He’s a former senator from Virginia, a purple state. He has a strong populist streak, could appeal to working-class white voters, and might even have crossover appeal from his days as a member of the Reagan administration.
In today’s leftward drifting Democratic Party, however, it’s hard to see Webb—who declared his candidacy Thursday—getting very far. As surprising as Bernie Sanders’s rise in the polls has been, he looks more like the Democratic base than Webb does. The Virginian is progressive on a few major issues, including the military and campaign spending, but he’s far to the center or even right on others: He's against affirmative action, supports gun rights, and is a defender of coal. During the George W. Bush administration, Democrats loved to have him as a foil to the White House. It’s hard to imagine the national electorate will cotton to him in the same way. Webb’s statement essentially saying he had no problem with the Confederate battle flag flying in places like the grounds of the South Carolina capitol may have been the final straw. (At 69, he’s also older than Hillary Clinton, whose age has been a topic of debate, though still younger than Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden.)