Archive for the ‘#civilwar’ Tag

We Don’t Live in a Crap World   Leave a comment

Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. (Gandalf, The Hobbit)

World PovertySo after watching American liberals scream hate speech at each other for a few weeks, I (Brad) am reminded of why I don’t pay a lot of attention to politics. Lela does, but she has gotten so she thinks it’s all a bunch of hooey. I prefer not to pay much attention because I prefer not to be angry over things I can’t control. If you haven’t figured out that you don’t actually control politics yet … well, you don’t.

There’s this belief these days that politics is the only way to keep evil in line. We must confront power with power, right? I think Gandalf had it right when he suggested the opposite is true.

So, if you’ve been busy screaming shit about each other, maybe you missed these five human achievements while you were driving the poison koolaid of Washington politics.

  1.  The World Bank reported that the number of humans living in extreme poverty dropped below 750 million worldwide. The Wall Street Journal reported that this is the lowest figure since the World Bank began collecting such data in 1990. That’s GREAT news, but if you were busy trying to analyze the body language of Brett Kavanaugh, you probably missed it.
  2. Scientists found a way to use spit (yeah) to predict heart attacks and strokes. Researchers at Queen Mary University London and Imperial College London announced a breakthrough in gene research that will allow them to identify patients genetically predisposed to high-risk blood pressure conditions through a simple spit test.

“This is the most major advance in blood pressure genetics to date,” Professor Mark Caulfield, of QMUL told The Sun.

The technology will enable doctors to more effectively identify, educate, and treat high-risk patients, reducing the number of heart attacks and strokes.

3. Our oceans may be getting cleaner sooner. The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organization that uses new technologies to rid the oceans of plastic, announced the beginning of a two-week trial phase in preparation for its anticipated cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

“Consider it a final dress rehearsal before the main performance: cleaning plastic from the ocean,” said officials with Ocean Cleanup, a privately funded initiative.

Oceanographers claim plastic in the world’s oceans represents a “global threat” by carrying toxic pollutants into the food chain and endangering some 600 marine species. It also looks really gross (see below).

4. A big solar power breaththrough? I’m always skeptical of these because I live in Alaska where we experience a severe shortage of solar anything in the winter, but it sounds cool. Solar power has yet to become an affordable and efficient energy source. But there’s reason to believe that could change.

University of Cambridge scientists recently claimed they made a significant breakthrough in their attempts to find new ways to harness solar energy. The breakthrough reportedly involved splitting the elements in water—hydrogen and oxygen—”by altering the photosynthetic machinery in plants.”

Yeah, even as a master electrician, I won’t pretend to know what that means, but it sounds impressive. You can read more about it here.

5. New data show life expectancy is rapidly increasing in Africa. A new UN report shows that residents of sub-Saharan Africa are living much longer than they were a mere two decades ago.

People in the region, The Guardian reports, “can expect to live for 11 years longer than the generation that went before them, new statistics show.”

The increase in life expectancy in Africa is linked to the stunning growth of its middle-class in recent years, one of the greatest stories of our age.

It’s not that I don’t think the Supreme Court and the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation isn’t important, but that there is nothing you or I can do about it, so why are we wasting our time and raising our blood pressure freaking out over it. It just creates acrimony, bitterness, and antagonism. It’s a bunch of tyrants scrabbling for control of the monopoly of force (yes, Lela, I do so listen to you).

Contrast that government spectacle with free markets — people working together willingly, exchanging stuff each other, and solving problems.

Entrepreneurs are “ordinary folks” (to get back to our Gandalf metaphor) who go mostly unseen. They aren’t politicians, bureaucrats, or Supreme Court justices, but they are the ones who actually improve our world and really keep evil at bay.

American Civil War 2?   Leave a comment

Image result for image of antifa versus the tea partyI’m writing an apocalyptic series. When I first started, I didn’t really think the US would be headed toward a civil war before my son’s beard completely grew in, but the last year has me rethinking that feeling … at times.

I want to believe that the fears of civil war are mostly overblown, but …. I want such scenarios to stay inside my books, but ….

The Good News?

I see some hard leftists and some hard rightists will to kill each other, but I don’t see even my heavily-armed neighbors shooting at one another or even at the people in neighbors within my city. Politics makes people irrational, but average people don’t shoot each other over political disagreements.

The Bad News?

Some observers disagree with me. They don’t live in Alaska, where politics is an indoor participation sport, and they think there’s a rational argument for why civil war can happen.

 

Jonathan Logan makes a thoughtful, informed argument for the plausibility of civil war:

  • For young people to be susceptible to war (the young fight while the old stay home and direct), they must not be too settled, invested, or satisfied with the status quo and they can’t be living stable lives. They require some motive, be it “making a name for themselves” or “fighting evil” or whatever.
  • Few young people in the West are willing to fight a foreign enemy for their country. (Polls find approximately 12% in Germany and 20% in the US). But when you ask if they would participate in riots against an unjust political order, the numbers shoot up. In Germany, it’s 66%; in the US, it’s about 60%.
  • For a civil war (which is really just a big riot against what is perceived to be an unjust political order) to break out, enough people must perceive the current situation as unbearable and be willing to use violence.
  • The police must be unable or unwilling to keep the two sides apart.

Image result for image of antifa versus the tea partyJonathan Logan’s theory goes like this:

  • There’s a growing inability of “cultural progressives” and “cultural conservatives” to engage in reasonable dialogue. Civility long ago hit the fan and was shredded by the blades.
  • For a long time the “cultural progressives” had success after success. That led to the internal perception that they were not just right but also absolutely right if only those stupid hicks (deplorables) would get out of their way. This was really the general lay of the American political landscape from the late-1960s through to the 2016 election with a couple of moderate setbacks when Reagan restructured taxes in 1986 and when Congress did the Contract with America in 1994.
  • Meanwhile, with limited and sporadic access to the reins of governmental power, “cultural conservatives” grew dissatisfied. They were pushed by progressives on a whole variety of issues to the point where they had a hard time tolerating some of the cultural changes that were forced on them.
  • Before Brexit and Trump, progressives were absolutely convinced that they were right, that they would win, and that the future would be bright. This wasn’t just an assumption. They were convinced of this as surely as they were convinced the sun will rise tomorrow morning. The election of 2016 came as a crushing surprise to them. They didn’t just lose an election. The results of that election destroyed their world perception. OMG, progressive liberals are NOT the center of the universe. The sky IS FALLING!
  • The result is widespread post-traumatic stress disorder. The progressives didn’t just lose; they were traumatized. They now experience anything or anyone that doesn’t go 100% according to their ideology as being violent, hurtful, and triggering. Their coping mechanism is to push harder, become more radical, accept less compromise. They feel that everyone else is actually trying to kill them.
  • At the same time the cultural conservatives experienced something new: victory. They’d just spent a decade in one losing battle after another. First, Bush 2 had reneged on his promises to them and then Obama had told them to sit down, shut up and let their betters lead because they were never getting into power again. Although they won the election of 2016, they are intently aware that there’s a huge mess to clean up. When they see progressives pushing back, they remember all the times conservative values were shelved, denigrated and ignored. They remember what it was like to be backed into a corner. Many of them haven’t actually left the corner yet.
  • So, we have two groups backed into corners with a huge no-man’s land between them. Both groups are deeply polarized and have virtually no shared values on which to find common ground.
  • A defining characteristic of my children’s generation (Millennials) is that they know they can expect nothing from the status quo. Add to that they lack tools for conflict resolution. Their generation is split between progressives and conservatives. Yeah, really, there are many conservative Millennials. Currently they are not the largest generation in existence and they lack influence because they are young. They, therefore, have no way to implement anything that matters to them.
  • So, the Millennials on the progressive side feel they must radicalize because it is imperative to destroy the “evil” other side. Antifa, BLM, RevCom, those groups at the center of the protests and riots, are desperate, hurting, hating, and they feel righteous in their anger.
  • Meanwhile, conservatives are starting to feel fear. Conservatives reject radicalism and the disorder that comes with it. They look at the progressive side and they see agitation, violence and hateful rhetoric. Their natural reaction is to defend themselves.
  • We’re already seeing the more radical of Millennial conservatives and progressives pull out clubs. That’s what happened in Charlottesville and Oakland. That’s a growing trend that doesn’t show signs of stopping. In fact, the progressives have planned a whole series of color-revolution-type protest/riots for November.
  • At the same time, the police are choosing to stand down in these conflicts. More often than not, they agree with the progressive sentiments, but occasionally a conservative administration will not step in the middle of a clash until someone has died.
  • And their refusal to decisively take sides is what allows the ingredients of civil war to ignite. –

I kind of agree with Logan that people are currently so polarized that the ingredients are there for civil war, but I’m going to keep hoping that people will listen to their better angels and just stay home. That’s unlikely with the media stirring the pot in the pursuit of ratings. If a civil war does happen, Judy Woodruff and Sean Hannity will be culpable for causing it.

Notice, I’m not blaming this on President Trump. Why not? Because I don’t think the president is that important. I also don’t think he is seeking to tear the country apart. He is seeking to fulfill his campaign promises and, regardless of whether he does fulfillment well, he’s answerable to the people who put him in office. Let him have his turn. He’ll be out of office in three years if he doesn’t do a good job or seven years if he does and then you’ll get another shot at tyrannizing the country … or not. Maybe by that time, you polarized advocates for coercing “the other guy” will have figured out that politics is poison and that we’d all be better off if we paid less attention to it.

 

 

Making Sense of Robert E. Lee by Roy Blount, Jr.   Leave a comment

From Smithsonian Magazine by Roy Blount, Jr.

Few figures in American history are more divisive, contradictory or elusive than Robert E. Lee, the reluctant, tragic leader of the Confederate Army, who died in his beloved Virginia at age 63 in 1870, five years after the end of the Civil War. In a new biography, Robert E. Lee, Roy Blount, Jr., treats Lee as a man of competing impulses, a “paragon of manliness” and “one of the greatest military commanders in history,” who was nonetheless “not good at telling men what to do.”

via Making Sense of Robert E. Lee

Blount, a noted humorist, journalist, playwright and raconteur, is the author or coauthor of 15 previous books and the editor of Roy Blount’s Book of Southern Humor. A resident of New York City and western Massachusetts, he traces his interest in Lee to his boyhood in Georgia. Though Blount was never a Civil War buff, he says “every Southerner has to make his peace with that War. I plunged back into it for this book, and am relieved to have emerged alive.”

“Also,” he says, “Lee reminds me in some ways of my father.”

At the heart of Lee’s story is one of the monumental choices in American history: revered for his honor, Lee resigned his U.S. Army commission to defend Virginia and fight for the Confederacy, on the side of slavery. “The decision was honorable by his standards of honor—which, whatever we may think of them, were neither self-serving nor complicated,” Blount says. Lee “thought it was a bad idea for Virginia to secede, and God knows he was right, but secession had been more or less democratically decided upon.” Lee’s family held slaves, and he himself was at best ambiguous on the subject, leading some of his defenders over the years to discount slavery’s significance in assessments of his character. Blount argues that the issue does matter: “To me it’s slavery, much more than secession as such, that casts a shadow over Lee’s honorableness.”

In the excerpt that follows, the general masses his troops for a battle over three humid July days in a Pennsylvania town. Its name would thereafter resound with courage, casualties and miscalculation: Gettysburg.

In his dashing (if sometimes depressive) antebellum prime, he may have been the most beautiful person in America, a sort of precursor cross between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. He was in his element gossiping with belles about their beaux at balls. In theaters of grinding, hellish human carnage he kept a pet hen for company. He had tiny feet that he loved his children to tickle None of these things seems to fit, for if ever there was a grave American icon, it is Robert Edward Lee—hero of the Confederacy in the Civil War and a symbol of nobility to some, of slavery to others.

After Lee’s death in 1870, Frederick Douglass, the former fugitive slave who had become the nation’s most prominent African-American, wrote, “We can scarcely take up a newspaper . . . that is not filled with nauseating flatteries” of Lee, from which “it would seem . . . that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven.” Two years later one of Lee’s ex-generals, Jubal A. Early, apotheosized his late commander as follows: “Our beloved Chief stands, like some lofty column which rears its head among the highest, in grandeur, simple, pure and sublime.”

In 1907, on the 100th anniversary of Lee’s birth, President Theodore Roosevelt expressed mainstream American sentiment, praising Lee’s “extraordinary skill as a General, his dauntless courage and high leadership,” adding, “He stood that hardest of all strains, the strain of bearing himself well through the gray evening of failure; and therefore out of what seemed failure he helped to build the wonderful and mighty triumph of our national life, in which all his countrymen, north and south, share.”

We may think we know Lee because we have a mental image: gray. Not only the uniform, the mythic horse, the hair and beard, but the resignation with which he accepted dreary burdens that offered “neither pleasure nor advantage”: in particular, the Confederacy, a cause of which he took a dim view until he went to war for it. He did not see right and wrong in tones of gray, and yet his moralizing could generate a fog, as in a letter from the front to his invalid wife: “You must endeavour to enjoy the pleasure of doing good. That is all that makes life valuable.” All right. But then he adds: “When I measure my own by that standard I am filled with confusion and despair.”

His own hand probably never drew human blood nor fired a shot in anger, and his only Civil War wound was a faint scratch on the cheek from a sharpshooter’s bullet, but many thousands of men died quite horribly in battles where he was the dominant spirit, and most of the casualties were on the other side. If we take as a given Lee’s granitic conviction that everything is God’s will, however, he was born to lose.

As battlefield generals go, he could be extremely fiery, and could go out of his way to be kind. But in even the most sympathetic versions of his life story he comes across as a bit of a stick—certainly compared with his scruffy nemesis, Ulysses S. Grant; his zany, ferocious “right arm,” Stonewall Jackson; and the dashing “eyes” of his army, J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart. For these men, the Civil War was just the ticket. Lee, however, has come down in history as too fine for the bloodbath of 1861-65. To efface the squalor and horror of the war, we have the image of Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, and we have the image of Robert E. Lee’s gracious surrender. Still, for many contemporary Americans, Lee is at best the moral equivalent of Hitler’s brilliant field marshal Erwin Rommel (who, however, turned against Hitler, as Lee never did against Jefferson Davis, who, to be sure, was no Hitler).

On his father’s side, Lee’s family was among Virginia’s and therefore the nation’s most distinguished. Henry, the scion who was to become known in the Revolutionary War as Light-Horse Harry, was born in 1756. He graduated from Princeton at 19 and joined the Continental Army at 20 as a captain of dragoons, and he rose in rank and independence to command Lee’s light cavalry and then Lee’s legion of cavalry and infantry. Without the medicines, elixirs, and food Harry Lee’s raiders captured from the enemy, George Washington’s army would not likely have survived the harrowing winter encampment of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. Washington became his patron and close friend. With the war nearly over, however, Harry decided he was underappreciated, so he impulsively resigned from the army. In 1785, he was elected to the Continental Congress, and in 1791 he was elected governor of Virginia. In 1794 Washington put him in command of the troops that bloodlessly put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. In 1799 he was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he famously eulogized Washington as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Meanwhile, though, Harry’s fast and loose speculation in hundreds of thousands of the new nation’s acres went sour, and in 1808 he was reduced to chicanery. He and his second wife, Ann Hill Carter Lee, and their children departed the Lee ancestral home, where Robert was born, for a smaller rented house in Alexandria. Under the conditions of bankruptcy that obtained in those days, Harry was still liable for his debts. He jumped a personal appearance bail—to the dismay of his brother, Edmund, who had posted a sizable bond—and wangled passage, with pitying help from President James Monroe, to the West Indies. In 1818, after five years away, Harry headed home to die, but got only as far as Cumberland Island, Georgia, where he was buried. Robert was 11.

Robert appears to have been too fine for his childhood, for his education, for his profession, for his marriage, and for the Confederacy. Not according to him. According to him, he was not fine enough. For all his audacity on the battlefield, he accepted rather passively one raw deal after another, bending over backward for everyone from Jefferson Davis to James McNeill Whistler’s mother. (When he was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, Lee acquiesced to Mrs. Whistler’s request on behalf of her cadet son, who was eventually dismissed in 1854.)

By what can we know of him? The works of a general are battles, campaigns and usually memoirs. The engagements of the Civil War shape up more as bloody muddles than as commanders’ chess games. For a long time during the war, “Old Bobbie Lee,” as he was referred to worshipfully by his troops and nervously by the foe, had the greatly superior Union forces spooked, but a century and a third of analysis and counteranalysis has resulted in no core consensus as to the genius or the folly of his generalship. And he wrote no memoir. He wrote personal letters—a discordant mix of flirtation, joshing, lyrical touches, and stern religious adjuration—and he wrote official dispatches that are so impersonal and (generally) unselfserving as to seem above the fray.

During the postbellum century, when Americans North and South decided to embrace R. E. Lee as a national as well as a Southern hero, he was generally described as antislavery. This assumption rests not on any public position he took but on a passage in an 1856 letter to his wife. The passage begins: “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages.” But he goes on: “I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”

The only way to get inside Lee, perhaps, is by edging fractally around the record of his life to find spots where he comes through; by holding up next to him some of the fully realized characters—Grant, Jackson, Stuart, Light-Horse Harry Lee, John Brown—with whom he interacted; and by subjecting to contemporary skepticism certain concepts—honor, “gradual emancipation,” divine will—upon which he unreflectively founded his identity.

He wasn’t always gray. Until war aged him dramatically, his sharp dark brown eyes were complemented by black hair (“ebon and abundant,” as his doting biographer Douglas Southall Freeman puts it, “with a wave that a woman might have envied”), a robust black mustache, a strong full mouth and chin unobscured by any beard, and dark mercurial brows. He was not one to hide his looks under a bushel. His heart, on the other hand . . . “The heart, he kept locked away,” as Stephen Vincent Benét proclaimed in “John Brown’s Body,” “from all the picklocks of biographers.” Accounts by people who knew him give the impression that no one knew his whole heart, even before it was broken by the war. Perhaps it broke many years before the war. “You know she is like her papa, always wanting something,” he wrote about one of his daughters. The great Southern diarist of his day, Mary Chesnut, tells us that when a lady teased him about his ambitions, he “remonstrated—said his tastes were of the simplest. He only wanted a Virginia farm—no end of cream and fresh butter—and fried chicken. Not one fried chicken or two—but unlimited fried chicken.” Just before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, one of his nephews found him in the field, “very grave and tired,” carrying around a fried chicken leg wrapped in a piece of bread, which a Virginia countrywoman had pressed upon him but for which he couldn’t muster any hunger.

One thing that clearly drove him was devotion to his home state. “If Virginia stands by the old Union,” Lee told a friend, “so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution), then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”

The North took secession as an act of aggression, to be countered accordingly. When Lincoln called on the loyal states for troops to invade the South, Southerners could see the issue as defense not of slavery but of homeland. A Virginia convention that had voted 2 to 1 against secession, now voted 2 to 1 in favor.

When Lee read the news that Virginia had joined the Confederacy, he said to his wife, “Well, Mary, the question is settled,” and resigned the U.S. Army commission he had held for 32 years.

The days of July 1-3, 1863, still stand among the most horrific and formative in American history. Lincoln had given up on Joe Hooker, put Maj. Gen. George G. Meade in command of the Army of the Potomac, and sent him to stop Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. Since Jeb Stuart’s scouting operation had been uncharacteristically out of touch, Lee wasn’t sure where Meade’s army was. Lee had actually advanced farther north than the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when he learned that Meade was south of him, threatening his supply lines. So Lee swung back in that direction. On June 30 a Confederate brigade, pursuing the report that there were shoes to be had in Gettysburg, ran into Federal cavalry west of town, and withdrew. On July 1 a larger Confederate force returned, engaged Meade’s advance force, and pushed it back through the town—to the fishhook-shaped heights comprising Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, and Round Top. It was almost a rout, until Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard, to whom Lee as West Point superintendent had been kind when Howard was an unpopular cadet, and Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock rallied the Federals and held the high ground. Excellent ground to defend from. That evening Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, who commanded the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, urged Lee not to attack, but to swing around to the south, get between Meade and Washington, and find a strategically even better defensive position, against which the Federals might feel obliged to mount one of those frontal assaults that virtually always lost in this war. Still not having heard from Stuart, Lee felt he might have numerical superiority for once. “No,” he said, “the enemy is there, and I am going to attack him there.”

The next morning, Lee set in motion a two-part offensive: Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell’s corps was to pin down the enemy’s right flank, on Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill, while Longstreet’s, with a couple of extra divisions, would hit the left flank—believed to be exposed—on Cemetery Ridge. To get there Longstreet would have to make a long march under cover. Longstreet mounted a sulky objection, but Lee was adamant. And wrong.

Lee didn’t know that in the night Meade had managed by forced marches to concentrate nearly his entire army at Lee’s front, and had deployed it skillfully—his left flank was now extended to Little Round Top, nearly three-quarters of a mile south of where Lee thought it was. The disgruntled Longstreet, never one to rush into anything, and confused to find the left flank farther left than expected, didn’t begin his assault until 3:30 that afternoon. It nearly prevailed anyway, but at last was beaten gorily back. Although the two-pronged offensive was ill-coordinated, and the Federal artillery had knocked out the Confederate guns to the north before Ewell attacked, Ewell’s infantry came tantalizingly close to taking Cemetery Hill, but a counterattack forced them to retreat.

On the third morning, July 3, Lee’s plan was roughly the same, but Meade seized the initiative by pushing forward on his right and seizing Culp’s Hill, which the Confederates held. So Lee was forced to improvise. He decided to strike straight ahead, at Meade’s heavily fortified midsection. Confederate artillery would soften it up, and Longstreet would direct a frontal assault across a mile of open ground against the center of Missionary Ridge. Again Longstreet objected; again Lee wouldn’t listen. The Confederate artillery exhausted all its shells ineffectively, so was unable to support the assault—which has gone down in history as Pickett’s charge because Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s division absorbed the worst of the horrible bloodbath it turned into.

Lee’s idolaters strained after the war to shift the blame, but the consensus today is that Lee managed the battle badly. Each supposed major blunder of his subordinates—Ewell’s failure to take the high ground of Cemetery Hill on July 1, Stuart’s getting out of touch and leaving Lee unapprised of what force he was facing, and the lateness of Longstreet’s attack on the second day—either wasn’t a blunder at all (if Longstreet had attacked earlier he would have encountered an even stronger Union position) or was caused by a lack of forcefulness and specificity in Lee’s orders.

Before Gettysburg, Lee had seemed not only to read the minds of Union generals but almost to expect his subordinates to read his. He was not in fact good at telling men what to do. That no doubt suited the Confederate fighting man, who didn’t take kindly to being told what to do—but Lee’s only weakness as a commander, his otherwise reverent nephew Fitzhugh Lee would write, was his “reluctance to oppose the wishes of others, or to order them to do anything that would be disagreeable and to which they would not consent.” With men as well as with women, his authority derived from his sightliness, politeness, and unimpeachability. His usually cheerful detachment patently covered solemn depths, depths faintly lit by glints of previous and potential rejection of self and others. It all seemed Olympian, in a Christian cavalier sort of way. Officers’ hearts went out to him across the latitude he granted them to be willingly, creatively honorable. Longstreet speaks of responding to Lee at another critical moment by “receiving his anxious expressions really as appeals for reinforcement of his unexpressed wish.” When people obey you because they think you enable them to follow their own instincts, you need a keen instinct yourself for when they’re getting out of touch, as Stuart did, and when they are balking for good reason, as Longstreet did. As a father Lee was fond but fretful, as a husband devoted but distant. As an attacking general he was inspiring but not necessarily cogent.

At Gettysburg he was jittery, snappish. He was 56 and bone weary. He may have had dysentery, though a scholar’s widely publicized assertion to that effect rests on tenuous evidence. He did have rheumatism and heart trouble. He kept fretfully wondering why Stuart was out of touch, worrying that something bad had happened to him. He had given Stuart broad discretion as usual, and Stuart had overextended himself. Stuart wasn’t frolicking. He had done his best to act on Lee’s written instructions: “You will . . . be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the [Potomac] east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell’s troops, collecting information, provisions, etc.” But he had not, in fact, been able to judge: he met several hindrances in the form of Union troops, a swollen river that he and his men managed only heroically to cross, and 150 Federal wagons that he captured before he crossed the river. And he had not sent word of what he was up to.

When on the afternoon of the second day Stuart did show up at Gettysburg, after pushing himself nearly to exhaustion, Lee’s only greeting to him is said to have been, “Well, General Stuart, you are here at last.” A coolly devastating cut: Lee’s way of chewing out someone who he felt had let him down. In the months after Gettysburg, as Lee stewed over his defeat, he repeatedly criticized the laxness of Stuart’s command, deeply hurting a man who prided himself on the sort of dashing freelance effectiveness by which Lee’s father, Maj. Gen. Light-Horse Harry, had defined himself. A bond of implicit trust had been broken. Loving-son figure had failed loving-father figure and vice versa.

In the past Lee had also granted Ewell and Longstreet wide discretion, and it had paid off. Maybe his magic in Virginia didn’t travel. “The whole affair was disjointed,” Taylor the aide said of Gettysburg. “There was an utter absence of accord in the movements of the several commands.”

Why did Lee stake everything, finally, on an ill-considered thrust straight up the middle? Lee’s critics have never come up with a logical explanation. Evidently he just got his blood up, as the expression goes. When the usually repressed Lee felt an overpowering need for emotional release, and had an army at his disposal and another one in front of him, he couldn’t hold back. And why should Lee expect his imprudence to be any less unsettling to Meade than it had been to the other Union commanders?

The spot against which he hurled Pickett was right in front of Meade’s headquarters. (Once, Dwight Eisenhower, who admired Lee’s generalship, took Field Marshal Montgomery to visit the Gettysburg battlefield. They looked at the site of Pickett’s charge and were baffled. Eisenhower said, “The man [Lee] must have got so mad that he wanted to hit that guy [Meade] with a brick.”)

Pickett’s troops advanced with precision, closed up the gaps that withering fire tore into their smartly dressed ranks, and at close quarters fought tooth and nail. Acouple of hundred Confederates did break the Union line, but only briefly. Someone counted 15 bodies on a patch of ground less than five feet wide and three feet long. It has been estimated that 10,500 Johnny Rebs made the charge and 5,675—roughly 54 percent—fell dead or wounded. As a Captain Spessard charged, he saw his son shot dead. He laid him out gently on the ground, kissed him, and got back to advancing.

As the minority who hadn’t been cut to ribbons streamed back to the Confederate lines, Lee rode in splendid calm among them, apologizing. “It’s all my fault,” he assured stunned privates and corporals. He took the time to admonish, mildly, an officer who was beating his horse: “Don’t whip him, captain; it does no good. I had a foolish horse, once, and kind treatment is the best.” Then he resumed his apologies: “I am very sorry—the task was too great for you—but we mustn’t despond.” Shelby Foote has called this Lee’s finest moment. But generals don’t want apologies from those beneath them, and that goes both ways. After midnight, he told a cavalry officer, “I never saw troops behave more magnificently than Pickett’s division of Virginians. . . . ” Then he fell silent, and it was then that he exclaimed, as the officer later wrote it down, “Too bad! Too bad! OH! TOO BAD!”

Pickett’s charge wasn’t the half of it. Altogether at Gettysburg as many as 28,000 Confederates were killed, wounded, captured, or missing: more than a third of Lee’s whole army. Perhaps it was because Meade and his troops were so stunned by their own losses—about 23,000—that they failed to pursue Lee on his withdrawal south, trap him against the flooded Potomac, and wipe his army out. Lincoln and the Northern press were furious that this didn’t happen.

For months Lee had been traveling with a pet hen. Meant for the stewpot, she had won his heart by entering his tent first thing every morning and laying his breakfast egg under his Spartan cot. As the Army of Northern Virginia was breaking camp in all deliberate speed for the withdrawal, Lee’s staff ran around anxiously crying, “Where is the hen?” Lee himself found her nestled in her accustomed spot on the wagon that transported his personal matériel. Life goes on.

After Gettysburg, Lee never mounted another murderous head-on assault. He went on the defensive. Grant took over command of the eastern front and 118,700 men. He set out to grind Lee’s 64,000 down. Lee had his men well dug in. Grant resolved to turn his flank, force him into a weaker position, and crush him.

On April 9, 1865, Lee finally had to admit that he was trapped. At the beginning of Lee’s long, combative retreat by stages from Grant’s overpowering numbers, he had 64,000 men. By the end they had inflicted 63,000 Union casualties but had been reduced themselves to fewer than 10,000.

To be sure, there were those in Lee’s army who proposed continuing the struggle as guerrillas or by reorganizing under the governors of the various Confederate states. Lee cut off any such talk. He was a professional soldier. He had seen more than enough of governors who would be commanders, and he had no respect for ragtag guerrilladom. He told Col. Edward Porter Alexander, his artillery commander, . . . the men would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy’s cavalry would pursue them and overrun many wide sections they may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from.”

“And, as for myself, you young fellows might go to bushwhacking, but the only dignified course for me would be, to go to Gen. Grant and surrender myself and take the consequences.” That is what he did on April 9, 1865, at a farmhouse in the village of Appomattox Court House, wearing a fulldress uniform and carrying a borrowed ceremonial sword which he did not surrender.

Thomas Morris Chester, the only black correspondent for a major daily newspaper (the Philadelphia Press) during the war, had nothing but scorn for the Confederacy, and referred to Lee as a “notorious rebel.” But when Chester witnessed Lee’s arrival in shattered, burned-out Richmond after the surrender, his dispatch sounded a more sympathetic note. After Lee “alighted from his horse, he immediately uncovered his head, thinly covered with silver hairs, as he had done in acknowledgment of the veneration of the people along the streets,” Chester wrote. “There was a general rush of the small crowd to shake hands with him. During these manifestations not a word was spoken, and when the ceremony was through, the General bowed and ascended his steps. The silence was then broken by a few voices calling for a speech, to which he paid no attention. The General then passed into his house, and the crowd dispersed.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/making-sense-of-robert-e-lee-85017563/#2ZpAt6idyhYHhRi0.99
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Posted August 19, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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Trump Gets It Half Right   Leave a comment

Yeah, Donald Trump is no history scholar. In fact, he probably isn’t much of a history buff. We actually read history books.

In an interview that aired Monday May 1 with Salena Zito, he wondered aloud if better leadership could have prevented the Civil War.

Trump thought that Andrew Jackson would have prevailed in a showdown between the North and the South. After all, he did it before in the 1830s. Trump then said this:

He [Jackson] was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this.’

Trump followed up by violating all that is sacred in American religion – he questioned if the Civil war was necessary. The horror!

Image result for image of abe lincoln as a warmongerThe leftist media immediately pounced, openly mocking Trump for believing that Andrew Jackson was alive in 1861. He died about 15 years before. Social media trolls ran post after post criticizing Trump’s “revisionist” history, lambasting him for not knowing when Jackson was alive, or that he dared to buck modern historical interpretation.

Leftist reporter for The Atlantic David Graham published a piece titled “Trump’s Peculiar Understanding of the Civil War” in which he made a number of kind of peculiar claims himself. Graham suggested:

  1. “nullification” is unconstitutional because the federal courts say so.
  2. “The Civil War was fought over slavery, and the insistence of Southern states that they be allowed to keep it.”
  3. The Civil War wasn’t tragic because Ta-Nehisi Coates said so in 2011.
  4. War was inevitable because of the “Confederate states’ commitment to slavery.”
  5. If Trump had read great history like Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biography Team of Rivals, he would have a different position on the War—which is really pretty hysterical.

Graham also Graham insisted that Trump can’t be blamed for being such a historical ignoramus because even though he attended great schools, “many Americans are still taught, incorrectly, that the war was essentially a conflict over state’s rights, with abolition as a byproduct of the war. This revisionist view flourished after the war, and though gradually being displaced, is common across the country.”

I found that sort of interesting, that a modern day revisionist would call traditional history revisionism.

The Atlantic followed up with Yoni Applebaum’s “Why There Was a Civil War,” which berated Trump for suggesting the Civil War might have been avoided. To Applebaum, the question of the War begins and ends with slavery and nothing but slavery. He provided one quote from Lincoln to prove his point and, as most shallow Lincoln apologists do today, several quotes from the Southern States’ declaration of causes that seem to prove unequivocally that slavery and only slavery led to the War.

He applied a theory of moral causation to the War that the vast majority of Americans missed when the question of war or peace was still on the table in 1860 and 1861.

“There are some conflicts,” he wrote, “that a leader cannot suppress, no matter how strong he may be; some deals that should not be struck, no matter how alluring they may seem. This was the great moral truth on which the Republican Party was founded.”

I encountered this theory once back in college, but evidence to the contrary persuaded me to give the whole era a different look.

Trump’s reverence for Jackson is concerning, not the least because it offends my Indian DNA. I don’t go so far as to refuse to spend $20 bills because his image is on it … that’s just weird and inconvenient, my tribal brethren … but I don’t exactly love Jackson either. Yes, he supported Henry Clay’s death with South Carolina in 1832, which allowed South Carolina to nullify the Force Bill. That’s something we often ignore. Nullification worked in 1832 and, contrary to Graham’s ill-informed suggestion, the federal court system has never had the final say on the constitutionality of nullification. That was always the point, actually. States don’t ask permission from the federal courts to nullify unconstitutional legislation. Every proponent of the Constitution, including staunch unionists Alexander Hamilton and James Wilson, swore in 1787 and 1788 that laws contrary to the Constitution could be voided by the States.

My main issue is with the idea that the Civil War was inevitable because of the moral conflict of slavery. The entire history of America up to the Civil War was built on compromise, and there were ongoing discussions of Constitutional amendments in Congress. Moreover, there was no irrepressible moral conflict until the North  fabricated one.

 

The South was willing to compromise in 1860 and 1861, as it had been for the 80 years prior. Jefferson Davis insisted that any compromise placed before the special Committee of 13 established to handle the crisis needed the support of both Republican and Democratic members. He could get the Democrats to support several, but the Republicans, led by president-elect Lincoln, voted down every single one.

Lincoln, while not yet sworn in, refused compromise, which led six other Southern States out of the Union in early 1861. Lincoln could still have saved the Union through compromise at this juncture, but chose not to do so. The Union still existed even with seven States missing. The government, banking houses, and infrastructure remained. It seems that the “Confederate States insistence on slavery” had nothing to do with War. War and secession are separate issues. Secession didn’t mean war was inevitable. Most Americans hoped otherwise, even in the South where President Davis insisted that the South simply wanted to be left alone. The South was acting very much like the American colonies had acted in 1776 and the North was playing the role of the British crown.

There were also still six other slave States in the Union as late as April 186. Over a month after Lincoln took office, six slave States that had already rejected secession. There’s no evidence Lincoln was worried about slavery at this point. He supported a proposed 13th amendment which would have protected slavery indefinitely in the States where it already existed. He promised never to interfere with the institution in the South. Lincoln’s objective in March 1861 was to “preserve the Union” at all costs, and by “preserving the Union” Lincoln meant preserving the Republican Party and his fledgling administration. He had received less than 40% of the popular vote in 1860. Letting the South go would have certainly made him a one-term president, which might well have killed the newly-minted Republican Party.

Yes, letting the South go would have ensured the existence of slavery within the Union for the near future, but its days were numbered. Every other power abolished slavery by 1880. Still this was not a moral question for most Americans. Lincoln received thunderous applause across the North in 1860 when he made campaign promises to leave the institution alone. Racism was an American institution and Lincoln never challenged the prevailing attitudes on blacks. He agreed with them. The Republican Party’s objective was always political. Bottle the South up, ensure that the Whig economic agenda could be ascendant, and control the spoils. They never dabbled in moral issues.

The tragedy of the Civil War was that more than a million men died for a conflict that was unnecessary. The elimination of slavery was merely an afterthought to Lincoln. He wanted war. He had the chance to save the Union without war before he took office. He refused it. He had the chance to save the Union without war in March 1861. He rejected attempts by the South to peacefully purchase Fort Sumter and began polling his cabinet about provisioning Sumter less than a week after taking office, knowing full well it would cause war. As he later told a political ally, his decision to provision Fort Sumter had the desired outcome, meaning armed conflict. Nothing can sugarcoat Lincoln’s head-long rush into the bloodiest war in American history.

So, though he is certainly no historian, Trump may have been on to something here. Better leadership could have avoided the carnage. Ooo, I just committed American sacrilege.

But who cares. No one really reads The Atlantic anymore, anyway.

Posted June 20, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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American Civil War 2   Leave a comment

It’s really starting to look like the United States of America is at war with itself. We haven’t yet begun to kill one another as we did in 1861-65, but we’re plunging headlong toward shredding ourselves.

When I wrote Hullabaloo on Main Street, I didn’t need to look far for inspiration. The media was filled with articles such as When a Red State Moves to a Blue State. PBS, which has been utterly ignorant of main street America for the decade I’ve been watching it actually has done some interviews with red state residents, which they then contrasted with the panic of blue state residents over the election of Donald Trump. I think they stopped running those interviews because even the Propaganda Bureau of Socialism (PBS) recognized how unexpectedly reasonable Trump voters sounded compared to those mourning the Clinton campaign.

Image result for image of clapper comey cabalBut it’s more than just how we feel about the election. As someone who didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton, I see this perhaps more clearly than those who have a dog in the fight. It sure does suck to lose an election. Committed democrats suddenly start applying to government to overturn the democratic process, forgetting that the United States was established as a republic, and in a republic, sometimes, the minority opinion wins, prepared for it or not.

This time around, it’s not Northern versus Southern states … or, if you subscribe as I do to the multiple causation theory of the Civil War …, industrialists attempting to usurp landowners, or the moral question of slavery. The current war is due to powerful factions within the political class not willing to accept the election of Donald Trump.

As far as the ruling class is concerned, Donald Trump was not supposed to win the presidential election of November 2016. Hillary Clinton’s deep connection to the foreign policy establishment and corporate news media made her the favored candidate. Her more hawkish outlook encouraged the establishment’s desire to extend the United States’ global hegemony, which Trump’s avowed stance to normalized relations with Russia threatened to derail those ambitions.

Of course, America’s rulers are varied in their opinion depending on their particular policy emphasis. Trump’s proposals for cutting taxes was bound to appeal to the powerful Wall Street and corporate factions among America’s power elite. This may make it seem that they are indifferent about the actual election result or even pleased by it. But is that where the real power lies?

With the rise of the surveillance state, we ought to recognize within the political class is a foreign policy establishment that straddles the politicians in Washington. This is the deep state — the intelligence community and the security-military apparatus, the CIA, Pentagon and their assets and class sympathizers within the corporate media. These hold a hostile view of President Trump and have the power to sustain a political war against his presidency.

Examples? The whole Russia “hacking the US elections” scandal just keeps running regardless of any objective evidence that it happened. The media and the political elite keep bringing it up, but James Clapper, former National Intelligence Director, has given more than one media interview where he reiterated that he has seen no evidence of “collusion” between the Trump election team and Russian state agents. Clapper and the former FBI chief James Comey continually hint at a Russia-gate scandal, but they never present any evidence. It plays into the long-standing American paranoia of Russia and many Americans buy into the supposition that where there’s smoke there’s fire, but it’s really looking like dry-ice fog used to cover behind-the-scenes.  They should either put up or shut up. For to not do is nothing less than political witch-hunting. The purpose of which is to undermine President Trump’s mandate. And it is all given full vent by politicians and media who wittingly or unwittingly rally behind the American paranoia of Russophobia.

Hullabaloo Front CoverI don’t care for President Trump’s personality. That’s why I didn’t vote for him. I am uncomfortable with his pal-type politics, but while President Obama was more publicly restrained in his cronyism, he also played at putting people who he owed political favors to in positions of power. I knew, because I’d watched her operate, that Hillary would be just as bad in the department, if not worse. Thus, I voted for someone didn’t display a similar history. Not many other people voted for him, so … like it or not, Donald Trump was constitutionally elected to the presidency. If you’re a committed democrat, it sure does suck if you lose an election … but if you’re trying to overthrow that election, you’re refusing to accept the results of American-style democracy.

It seems clear that there are elite interests within the US ruling class who do not accept American democracy and the mandate of President Trump’s electors. This fundamental revelation lays bare the very heart of American democracy. We’re told it’s the best in the world, but the ruling class is unwilling to accept the results of the last presidential election. They’re using unsupported claims of Trump being a Russian agent and how he couldn’t have won the election without Russian cyber-hacking to cover up a brazen anti-democratic assault on the electorate.

The people fanning the allegations are powerful enough to make sure the witch-hunt remains a dominate focus in public life and to do so without producing a shred of evidence for a good long time.

Consider recent history. President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because he fumbled the Clinton email investigation and was grandstanding over the Russia-gate probes. The media claimed this was evidence that Trump is covering up his alleged Russian links.

Ah, but the public started to grow bored when no evidence was produced, so then the US media became full of claims that President Trump leaked highly classified information on Islamic State terrorists to Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov during their closed-door meeting at the White House. If so, he risked exposing intelligence agents in Syria and it is well known that the only US-allied country that has infiltrated intelligence agents in Syria is Israel.

In the Clapper interview cited earlier, he said the US was being attacked both externally by the Russians and internally by President Trump “assaulting state institutions”. He offered no evidence. It’s all rhetoric, used to undermine a sitting president through innuendo. The presidency is being assaulted by people like Clapper and the establishment who are refusing to acknowledge President Trump’s electoral mandate.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov alluded to this when he said that America was “humiliating itself” by making the unfounded claims that Russia subverted its presidential election. How can the supposedly most powerful nation on Earth be so vulnerable to alleged Russian hackers? There’s been no evidence of actual voter manipulation. It would be difficult to the point of impossibility for anyone to hack 51 separate state-based election systems, many of them further decentralized at the community level. If Russia was behind the release of DNC emails (remember, only Wikileaks has taken credit), all they did was release information that American voters had a right to know. The voters themselves voted according to their feelings about the disclosures found in the material. That shouldn’t be against the law and it shouldn’t be something we go nuts over. Informed voters are a very good thing.

The people attacking American democracy (which works through a republican system) are American, not Russian or anyone else. The country is at war with itself. It is its own worse enemy, harming itself by flailing around with paranoid fears over non-existent threats.

America’s Civil War II is underway. It’s a war over whether democracy in this country exists or not and whether we want a pure democracy that has never worked out well in history or to continue with a republican form of government that protects social and regional minorities’ right to be heard and to have a voice in national politics. I pray we don’t start shooting at one another. It would be better if we the people stopped believing every bit of falsehood oozing out of the national media and started talking to our neighbors as if we were fellow Americans and not enemy combatants.

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