Removing Confederate Monuments in New Orleans

Wayne,

New Orleans is removing four monuments erected during the Jim Crow era. Three are to Confederate leaders, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and P. G. T. Beauregard, and fourth is to white rioters who objected to the integrated police force of Reconstruction era Louisiana. There has been significant opposition, and some supporters of the monuments have issued threats against city officials and the owners and workers of the firms that will do the work. The city plans to remove these monuments, unannounced, at night, with police protection for the workers who will be wearing bullet proof vests and helmets.

This is a good and thorough essay by a knowledgeable historian, Kevin M. Levin, about these monuments found in the thousands throughout the former Confederate states and in some border Union states. He relates the story of the Robert E. Lee monument, both Lee’s life and white Southerners’ images of him.

It is well worth reading this because, in my opinion, what today’s Southern whites say about these monuments, and their ancestors, and about the Civil War distorts or erases the story of the Civil War and about the monuments themselves.

Bernard

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Bernard,

Informed and knowledgeable, yes. But Lee remains in my eyes a truly superior human despite certain barbaric things he did, such as kill black Union prisoners near the end of the war. Humanity evolves (which is a truism of course). Many great philosophers and religious thinkers have stated that slavery is natural and inevitable – see for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/slavery/ethics/philosophers_1.shtml. Humanity has reached a new level of understanding on the matter. Yet, some humans are born unable to take care of themselves and can live only in a state resembling slavery, in which other people govern their every act but do not own them as property and thus cannot sell them. 

People are of their times and I believe should be judged according mostly to the norms of their times, less so to humanity’s new and improved norms.

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Global Warming XV: The Coming Ice Age

A recent Politico report tells us that Trump’s Deputy National Security adviser, K. T. McFarland, put a copy of two Time magazine cover pages in his reading list. One cover, which showed a lone penguin on a mound of snow and ice, had the title: How To Survive the Coming Ice Age: 51 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference. It’s from April 9, 1977. The other cover, which showed a lone polar bear on a small floe, had the title: Be Worried: Be Very Worried: Climate Change isn’t some vague future problem—it’s already damaging the planet at an alarming pace. Here’s how it affects you, your kids and their kids as well. Headlines for some of the issues’ stories, shown on the cover are: Earth at the Tipping Point, How It Threatens Your Health, How China & India Can Help Save the World—Or Destroy It, and The Climate Crusaders. It’s from April 3, 2006. The point of this juxtaposition is to demonstrate that since scientists once worried us about a coming Ice Age and now they alarm us with talk of roasting, they really haven’t a clue.

In fact, the Coming Ice Age cover is a fake. Here’s Time’s own explanation. The con artist had changed the headline, three digits in the year, and a couple of the top story teasers from a 2006 Time cover. According to Politico, an unnamed White House colleague defended McFarland on the grounds that the cover was “fake, but accurate.” (?!?!?) In fact, the cover is not only fake, but it is inaccurate. The opposite of the truth.

Here’s the fake cover and the one the con artist modified, from the Time explanation.

My essay deals with the idea that in the 1970s climate scientists thought that we were heading for an Ice Age. You can read more about K. T. McFarland in Wikipedia. Word is that she will be appointed our ambassador to Singapore, and inside the beltway types are wondering if it’s a dream come true for her, or exile.

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Confederate Monuments in New Orleans

Wayne,

The New Orleans city government has begun to remove four Confederate monuments.
Some people are unhappy about this. The city officials and the firms hired to remove them have been receiving threats. As a result, the police have been providing guards, and the work is being done at night and unannouced.

I think that this is all to the good, and that it’s about time.

Bernard

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Bernard,

The city probably could have achieved the best possible outcome by not just taking down the statues, instead moving them all to some public spot and erecting explanatory signs there. That’s sort of what the

city is doing, but the way it’s gone about it is guaranteed to bring out the Confederate battle flags, AK-47s, Glocks, Dukes and so on and so forth. Seems like a huge ruckus for not much gain. And yes, if slave owners were the real problem then the statue of George Washington should come down, or be moved, too.

Wayne

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Wayne,

You might read just who the four monuments honored. One of them commemorated one of the post-war openly terrorist groups that worked to establish white supremacy.

Workers dismantled an obelisk, which was erected in 1891 to honor members of the Crescent City White League who in 1874 fought in the Reconstruction-era Battle of Liberty Place against the racially integrated New Orleans police and state militia, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement.
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Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson, the Civil War, and counterfactual speculation

Wayne,

A few days ago, Donald Trump whipped up a storm with remarks about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War:

In an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito, Trump compared himself to President Andrew Jackson and said Jackson, if he was born later, could have helped avoid the Civil War.

And then, in comments that whipped Washington into frenzy Monday morning, Trump said he didn’t understand why the Civil War had to be fought.

“I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” he said. “He was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

This link is to the full Examiner report of the interview.

Later, Trump tweeted:

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Global Warming XIV – Florida Gov. Scott’s Beach House

Wayne,

In my Physics class at the University of Tampa, I show my students pictures of Florida Gov. Scott’s beach house in Naples, Florida. That is about 170 miles south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf coast. These are photos I found with brief internet searches. On the mid-term exam that includes Climate Change I ask my students when the Governor’s house is likely to be flooded: next year, a few decades, a few centuries, a few thousands of years. A few decades is the correct answer, depending upon the vagaries of hurricanes and tides added to the inevitable sea level rise as Greenland and Antarctica melt and the ocean’s warm.

In the first picture, you see an aerial view of Florida Gov. Scott’s house. According to a real estate article it’s worth about $15 million. His house is the one with the black line.

You can just see a bit of the water in the lower left. The house is but a few feet above the high tide line, and the road on the inland side is also a bit lower than the house. You can’t see it, but it’s on a narrow barrier island, so there is water not far to the right too.

The second photo shows the house, water, and the road. The central house in the photo, larger than the governor’s is a ~$70 million one. That owner, I read, is in prison for some reason. Above the high tide line, barrier islands of this type often have a low, linear vegetation-covered dune. You can see it here. By the governor’s house, that is, because his neighbor seems to have removed the dune between his house and the Gulf. It’s not high, and the governor (and everyone else) has cut paths through the low dune. The lines of pilings are probably attempts to control beach erosion, as development cuts off new sources of sand and along-shore currents and storms remove the beach sand. Futile in the long run.

In this photo, probably taken by an amateur, hence the under exposure and imprecise focus, you get an idea of the high-water levels from tides, from the slight color changes in the beach sand, and you can see the height of the barrier dune. You can see the exit of one of the paths cut through the dune. The dune is a few feet high.

The governor’s house, to my eye, is lower than the top of the dune, and not much above the high-water marks.

The governor’s house is in trouble. Likely it will be wiped out the next time a hurricane or tropical storm brings a storm surge on a high tide, on top of whatever sea level rise will have occurred at the time.

Sea walls won’t work on dunes or anywhere else on peninsular Florida because the underlying rock is porous limestone.

The Governor is well-known as a global warming denier. Indeed, researchers and other employees at the state’s environmental agency say that the political leaders of that agency required them to remove any mention of global warming from official documents. The Governor and his staff deny this.

Bernard

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Bret Stephens’s NY Times Op-Ed on Climate Change: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Bernard,

This April 28 Bret Stephens op-ed debut is way off the mark every inch of the way.

First, what Old Jew Of Galicia? Milocz wrote that epigraph and hundreds or thousands have cited it as if it’s ancient and real wisdom that transcends the folly of whomever you want to lambaste. But what Old Jew of central or western Europe would use precise figures like 55% as opposed to 60% to describe degrees of being sure that one is right? And right about what? Everything? It seems to me that’s the only possibility of the quote, given no other information than the “quote” itself. It seems to be about totalitarian regimes that rewrite truth and history to their liking and allow no dissent. But that’s a whole different world! Climate scientists are not claiming they’re 100% right about everything, only 97% right about something very important that they’ve looked at from dozens or hundreds of different angles and almost always come up with the same conclusion, which is that warming will with high likelihood accelerate and all of humanity with high likelihood will be in a peck of trouble therefrom.

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Global warming XIII – The Carbon Dioxide Control Knob

Wayne,

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box on March 9. Here’s one question and answer:

JOE KERNEN (HOST): Let me ask you this, let me ask you one other thing, just to get to the nitty gritty. Do you believe that it’s been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate? Do you believe that?

SCOTT PRUITT (EPA ADMINISTRATOR): No, I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So, no, I would not agree that’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet, as far as — we need to continue debate — continue the review and analysis.

The question is awkward, since no one asserts the premise of the first question. No one says that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate. What knowledgeable people believe is that of the various “control knobs” for the climate, humans are “turning up” the CO2 knob and warming the planet. Thus, by accident, Pruitt’s first word is correct: “No.” After another accidental correct claim, that measuring the effects of human activity on the climate is challenging, the rest of his answer is wrong.

Pruitt asserts that there is “tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact” (of human activity on the climate). This is incorrect. There is general agreement that increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere due to people burning carbon fuels is warming the Earth. In the various models, as in all scientific endeavors, models and theories produce somewhat different predictions based upon different starting points, different methods, and different interpretations. All professional studies of the effect of the increasing CO2 agree that it will increase the Earth’s temperature. Some predict an increase of, say, 2 C, in 50 years given no changes in present fossil fuel use, others 4 C. None predict no effect. None predict that there will be a cooling. Pruitt says that because some scientists say 2 C and some 4 C, they have no idea what the warming will be. This is the claim of many opponents of scientific knowledge, that if scientists don’t know everything about a phenomenon to infinite precision, then they might as well know nothing.

All climate researchers would agree that neither they, nor anyone else, knows all there is to know about the climate. Contrary to Pruitt and to many other global warming deniers, the climate researchers know plenty, and, as it typical in research, they have sought the causes of the big effects first. Those are well-known and have been for decades, some more than a century.
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