30 April 2018

A tree falls in the forest

I've started the process of deleting my facebook account. It's simple enough - you say you want to delete it and unless you log in again, the account is deleted after 14 days.

I still feel like I have something to say sometimes, but facebook has pretty much obliterated the idea of someone posting their thoughts on a blog and having their friends read it.

For now, I'm remaining on Instagram, but it's on somewhat thin ice.

So I'm going to try to post stuff here, even though it is very much the proverbial tree falling in the forest.

I found that after a hiatus in the earlier incarnation of this blog, I used the tree/forest thing.  
I've deleted all of the old posts; I can't really say why, it just seemed appropriate.

06 August 2017

Late to the Party

It rained like hell in New Orleans yesterday. That happens sometimes. The drainage pumps in New Orleans can drain 1" of rain in the first hour, and 1/2" per hour after that. That's 2" in three hours, so if, as yesterday, more rain than that falls, there will be water in the streets.

I'm currently 500 miles away, so it's easy for me to take a dispassionate view. But when the streets are filling and you're watching the waterline relentlessly climb your driveway, it's hard not to get emotional. I have lived through it; nobody likes feeling powerless.

A friend of a friend posted on FB yesterday something to the effect of: "I *know* the pumps aren't on, so glad the confederate monuments are gone". Of course, the city insists that the pumps were on, and really there's no reason to believe they weren't. Eventually, the pumps caught up and the streets are drained.

In May of this year, the city of New Orleans removed four monuments to the Civil War and its aftermath. If you're not from New Orleans, you probably know little or no context. The four monuments are (were):
  • Battle of Liberty Place Monument - Read about the events it commemorates and decide how proud you'd be of it.
  • Jefferson Davis Monument - Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy. He died and was originally buried in New Orleans. He certainly visited New Orleans many times, but he doesn't have a particular connection to the city.
  • Robert E. Lee Monument - Robert E. Lee passed through New Orleans several times while he was an officer in the United States Army. Like Davis, Lee was commemorated not for any connection or service to the city, but because he was a leader of the Confederacy.
  • General Beauregard Equestrian Statue - P. G. T. Beauregard, like Lee, attended the US Military Academy at West Point, and was an officer in the US Army before resigning his commission to lead Confederate forces. Beauregard ordered the first shots fired in the war. Unlike Lee (and Davis), Beauregard was a New Orleans native and lived in the city after the Civil War.
The monuments were dedicated many years after the war (and notably, after Reconstruction). The Lee monument was dedicated in 1884, the Davis and Beauregard monuments were dedicated in 1911 and 1915 respectively. All four monuments were, at the time, statements of defiance.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu led an ultimately successful legal battle to remove the monuments from their positions. These positions ranged from largely hidden from view (Battle of Liberty Place Monument) to prominent (Lee Circle).  All four have existed for the entire lives of the current residents of New Orleans, and Lee Circle especially has served as a landmark. It's not surprising that some people objected to the removal.


The South was wrong in almost every way.

It was immoral. The Confederacy was created primarily to preserve the institution of human slavery.

It was illegal. The Confederate Army was guilty of treason by the Constitutional definition (they were pardoned after the war).

It was murderous. More Americans died as a result of the Civil War than all other military conflicts combined.

It was counter-productive. The white residents of the former Confederate states are immensely better off as part of the United States than they would have as the Confederacy. It should go without saying that this is true of the black residents.

It was petulant. Abolition was inevitable.

Even for generations after abolition. the treatment of black Americans in the South was shameful. Reconstruction was awful but it was a response to the obstinate refusal of the South to accept that black Americans were now to be equal in rights to whites. In the 1960's the last legal vestiges of racial inequality were finally removed but it would be naive, if not disingenuous, to suggest that racial equality has been achieved.

In the end, I'm not personally harmed by the removal of the monuments (the courts agree). The presence of the monuments, among other things, was a reminder to black New Orleanians that whites held power over them.

New Orleans has bigger problems than Confederate monuments. But a city can't just stack rank problems and only work on the top one exclusively until it's resolved. Murder is worse than robbery, but you'd like the police to work on both.

It's long past time for the South to move on from the Confederacy. I like being from the South. I wish there were a symbol of southern heritage that wasn't steeped in racism. Unfortunately, the Confederate Battle Flag isn't that.

Opposition to the remove of Civil War monuments doesn't prove you're a racist. But it definitely doesn't disprove it. Find something else to be outraged about. The murder rate might be a good place to start.

Update: It turns out that many of the pumps were not working. There's been a whole lot of outrage about that, and I don't know enough to talk about it. Apparently, some of the pumps were down for maintenance, and there were also some power supply problems. 

09 October 2016


For the most part, I've managed to avoid giving my opinion on FB on this election. I've hidden a lot of people who were unable to keep from spamming their timeline with politics, so I thought it'd be a little hypocritical of me to post something like this there.

I'm not a fan of Hillary Clinton, but I will be voting for her next month. I think a lot of people are hung up on their tribal allegiance, and have allowed confirmation bias to support their position.

I no longer belong to either tribe. The first crack in my loyalty was when David Duke ran against Edwin Edwards. I knew what Edwards was, but voted for him anyway, as the alternative was, well, a Nazi.

I voted libertarian in 1996, because my party loyalty wouldn't let me acknowledge that Bill Clinton was actually a pretty good president. But I didn't want to encourage the Republican party's choice, Bob Dole, who was never going to capture anyone's imagination.

The last straw was in 2004, after it was obvious that the Bush administration had gotten us into a war in Iraq either because they were lying (they knew there were no WMDs) or incompetent (they didn't know there were no WMDs). People make mistakes all the time, but the standard for how certain you need to be is very high when you're starting a war.

So, I don't feel panicked at the notion of Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office. She is qualified for the job. The American government system of checks and balances means any president will struggle to effect dramatic changes. For all of the rhetoric, there's not a huge difference between America today and eight years ago.

I could talk about ACA (Obamacare), but again, I think the rhetoric doesn't match up to the small difference it has made to most peoples' lives.

Anyway, here's the thing about Trump.

1) There is nothing to suggest he is qualified to be president.

2) I don't think he actually would want the job if he knew what the day-to-day life of a president actually involves.

3) His financial ethical standards are, well frankly, absent. He doesn't believe in paying his debts. He thinks that leaving his children in charge of his businesses were he president removes conflict of interest.

4) I suspect he's not really as racist has a lot of his supporters are. But he's, at best, tone deaf to it.

5) He has at best a tenuous relationship with science, facts, truth, consistency and responsibility. That's not true. I don't think he sees any value in any of those things.

6) The latest tape has caused a number of people to "rethink" their position on Trump. I find that astonishing. This tape merely confirms what was pretty evident all along.

Trump's essential position is that the problem with America is there isn't enough privilege for old white guys.

Even if I didn't think Trump was very likely the worst major party candidate for president in our country's history, I'd likely still be voting for Hillary. Trump is a ridiculous circus clown, but he's merely a caricature of how the Republican party has been trending. The party's rejection of science and compromise in favor of pandering, religion, and intolerance means that I no longer vote for any Republican candidate. I'm open to it, but first they'll have to, oh I don't know, acknowledge the possibility that climate change is real.