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.
We're all going to die and we all know it. This can be both a burden and a blessing.
In the heart of every parent lives the tightly coiled nightmare that his child will die. It might spring at logical times—when a toddler runs into the street, say—or it might sneak up in quieter moments. The fear is a helpful evolutionary motivation for parents to protect their children, but it's haunting nonetheless.
The ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus advised parents to indulge that fear. “What harm is it, just when you are kissing your little child, to say: Tomorrow you will die?”he wrote in his Discourses.
Some might say Epictetus was an asshole. William Irvine thinks he was on to something.
“The Stoics had the insight that the prospect of death can actually make our lives much happier than they would otherwise be,” he says. “You’re supposed to allow yourself to have a flickering thought that someday you’re going to die, and someday the people you love are going to die. I’ve tried it, and it’s incredibly powerful. Well, I am a 21st-century practicing Stoic.”
People look to Amy Schumer and her fellow jokers not just to make fun of the world, but to make sense of it. And maybe even to help fix it.
This week, in a much-anticipated sketch on her Comedy Central show, Amy Schumer staged a trial of Bill Cosby in “the court of public opinion.” Schumer—her character, at any rate—played the role of the defense. “Let’s remind ourselves what’s at stake here,” she argued to the jury. “If convicted, the next time you put on a rerun of The Cosby Show you may wince a little. Might feel a little pang. And none of us deserve that. We don’t deserve to feel that pang.”
Her conclusion? “We deserve to dance like no one’s watching, and watch like no one’s raping.”
Ooof. This is the kind of thing that gets Inside Amy Schumer referred to as “the most feminist show on television,” and her act in general called, in a phrase that reveals as much about her craft as about Schumer herself, “comedy with a message.” But while Schumer’s work is operating at the vanguard of popular comedy, it’s also in line with the work being done by her fellow performers: jokes that tend to treat humor not just as an end in itself, but as a vehicle for making a point. Watch like no one’s raping.
Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life.
Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life. We've grown more adept at shaping these underground shelters and passages over the millennia, and today we dig for hundreds of reasons. We excavate to find both literal and cultural treasures, digging mines and unearthing archaeological discoveries. We use caverns for stable storage, for entertainment, and for an effective shelter from natural and man-made disasters. And as the planet's surface becomes ever more crowded, and national borders are closed, tunnels provide pathways for our vehicles and for smugglers of every kind. Collected below are more recent subterranean scenes from around the world.
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.
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
The danger of uploading one’s consciousness to a computer without a suicide switch
Imagine a supercomputer so advanced that it could hold the contents of a human brain. The Google engineer Ray Kurzweil famously believes that this will be possible by 2045. Organized technologists are seeking to transfer human personalities to non-biological carriers, “extending life, including to the point of immortality.” My gut says that they’ll never get there. But say I’m wrong. Were it possible, would you upload the contents of your brain to a computer before death, extending your conscious moments on this earth indefinitely? Or would you die as your ancestors did, passing into nothingness or an unknown beyond human comprehension?
The promise of a radically extended lifespan, or even immortality, would tempt many. But it seems to me that they’d be risking something very much like hell on earth.
What it’s like to watch a komodo dragon get dissected
Try to imagine how hard it would be to skin a Komodo dragon.
It is harder than that.
The problem is that the giant lizard’s hide is not just tough and leathery, but also reinforced. Many of the scales contain a small nugget of bone, called an osteoderm, which together form a kind of pointillist body armor. Sawing through these is tough on both arms and blades.
I’m at the Royal Veterinary College, about 20 kilometers outside of central London, watching four biologists put their shoulders into the task. A Komodo dragon, which recently died in London Zoo for unexplained reasons, lies on a steel gurney in front of them. Their task, over the next three days, is to dissect it and measure all of its muscles. So, first, the skin must come off.
For those who didn't go to prestigious schools, don't come from money, and aren't interested in sports and booze—it's near impossible to gain access to the best paying jobs.
As income inequality in the U.S. strikes historic highs, many people are starting to feel that the American dream is either dead or out of reach. Only 64 percent of Americans still believe that it’s possible to go from rags to riches, and, in another poll, 63 percent said they did not believe their children would be better off than they were. These days, the idea that anyone who works hard can become wealthy is at best a tough sell.
Along with the Nancy Drew series, almost all of the thrillers in the popular teenage franchise were produced by ghostwriters, thanks to a business model that proved to be prescient.
In the opening pages of a recent installment of the children’s book series The Hardy Boys, black smoke drifts though the ruined suburb of Bayport. The town's residents, dressed in tatters and smeared with ash, stumble past the local pharmacy and diner. Shards of glass litter the sidewalk. “Unreal,” says the mystery-solving teenager Joe Hardy—and he's right. Joe and his brother Frank are on a film set, and the people staggering through the scene are actors dressed as zombies. But as is always the case with Hardy Boysbooks, something still isn’t quite right: This time, malfunctioning sets nearly kill several actors, and the brothers find themselves in the middle of yet another mystery.
A song from 2011 is causing controversy now, proving how slowly the genre’s attitudes about women are evolving.
The rapper Action Bronson, whose major-label debut came out recently, is mostly known for his love of food, his large frame, and the fact that he sounds so much like Ghostface Killah that even Ghostface Killah gets confused sometimes. He will likely now be known by more people for one particular lyric of his, due to a headline-making petition asking Toronto’s NXNE music festival to kick the artist off the bill because, in its words, he “glorifies gang-raping and murdering women.”
The lyrics in question come from the 2011 song, “Consensual Rape,” which has a verse that mentions giving a girl MDMA and then having very rough sex with her. The petition also calls out a 2011 music video that portrays Bronson happily disposing of a woman’s corpse.