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.

But.

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

Trump

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.

22 December 2014

Rolling Stone

I've avoided reading what almost anyone thinks about the Rolling Stone UVa story, so it's a little unfair that I'm imposing my opinion on you. Don't think that's going to stop me.

I think it must be one of the highest-profile examples of poor journalism.

Maybe, maybe, this fraternity is completely innocent. Even if Rolling Stone got everything wrong (and they got a lot wrong), even if none of the events reported actually happened at all, that doesn't mean that fraternities aren't frequently cesspools of entitlement and misogyny.

24 July 2014

The world we live in

Well. That was a trillion dollars well spent.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28466434#TWEET1192582

20 December 2013

Duck Dynasty

Or whatever is the name of that brain dead redneck show on A&E.

The first amendment protects our right to free speech. It doesn't mean we can say whatever we want, whenever we want, without consequences.

If you're publicly and vocally homophobic in America in 2013, that pretty much makes you an asshole. If you think the bible backs you up, that's even more fucked up. So here's the thing. Believe that "god" hates queers if you want, but if you say it in front of me I'm going to tell you what I think. And you probably won't like it.

20 October 2013

Bum

Bum Phillips died this week on his Texas ranch. Even though he didn't manage to bring the Saints to its first .500 season, his .391 career winning percentage was at the time the high water mark for Saints coaches. The early Saints were plagued by institutional ineptness. Owner John Mecom loved the team, but in the end he was a dilettante.

Early Saints teams were awful. In their first eleven seasons, they managed between two and five wins eleven times.

After watching a succession of untested coaches fail, Mecom made a high profile hiring. Hank Stram, who had a Super Bowl and three AFL championships under his belt, couldn't overcome the lack of talent. He gave up after two years with no success on the field to show for it.

Dick Nolan followed, and building on Stram's squad produced the two most successful seasons the Saints had experienced to that date. The Saints were expected to contend for a playoff spot in Nolan's third season, but instead suffered their worst season ever, and Nolan was fired after the team lost its first twelve games.

Phillips had been fired by the Houston Oilers in spite of leading them to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. His first draft with the Saints produced an impressive list of perennial starters: Rickey Jackson, George Rogers, Hokie Gajan, Frank Warren, Hoby Brenner and Jim Wilks. His first season was a rebuilding one at 4-12, and his second season was the strike shortened 1982 campaign. That year the Saints missed their first playoff spot by the narrowest of margins, the Detroit Lions advanced on a tie-breaker.

Phillips had been a true innovator on defense. Unfortunately he was also intensely loyal; and time can ruthlessly punish loyalty in professional athletics. Phillips attempted to replicate his Houston success, often using the same players. He traded quarterback Archie Manning, the team's most popular player, for the once excellent offensive lineman Leon Gray. He signed 37 year-old Ken Stabler from the Oilers, then gave up a first round pick for Earl Campbell. Campbell rushed for fewer than 1000 yards over two seasons before retiring, hardly a first-round contribution.

Under Phillips, the Saints had again returned from its historical ineptitude to competitive. They weren't quite good enough for the playoffs, but at least had left the realm of comic relief. Phillips's last season started OK; they were 3-2 after five games, but the team deflated and ran off six consecutive defeats. The Saints won in week twelve, and Phillips chose to go out on a winning note. He was replaced by the team's defensive coordinator, his son Wade.

Less than a year after Mecom sold the Saints to Tom Benson, Bum followed his old boss to retirement in Texas. More so than with Nolan, Bum's Saints felt like they might really finally deliver a winning season and maybe even the playoffs. Had Phillips not filled the roster with Houston's jetsam, they might well have. The following season saw the hiring of Jim Mora and the first real success of the New Orleans club. But that success was possible because of the players drafted by Phillips.

08 October 2013

Conflicted

I'd really like to be talking about some mundane part of my life like my running or a new cocktail recipe. Unfortunately, I can't escape a feeling of doom. I just see little reason for long term optimism. I'm not worried about the shutdown which, while stupid and ultimately pointless, is unlikely to do significant permanent damage. I am worried about the "debt ceiling" nonsense, because the people forcing the issue seem so blithely ready to ignore the fourteenth amendment or the economic realities of sovereign debt.

Nominally, the current government shutdown is supposed to be about fiscal responsibility. Republicans think the government spends too much (and they're half right), and so they're not bothered by paralyzing the government. Except now they've guaranteed that all furloughed employees will get back pay. Which means that we're actually accumulating more debt in exchange for, well, nothing.

The hurricane trackers (before the back pay guarantee) were working for free. Because they care about doing their jobs (saving lives). Congress apparently considers them non-essential. Sorry, "non-exempt".

Some Republicans, speaking out of both sides of their mouths, have said "see, we shut the government down and no one notices" and "what an outrage that children aren't allowed into our national parks". Most of the "non-exempt" jobs might not be so immediately evident. But researchers have been sent home from the National Institute of Health.That means that they're not working on next year's flu vaccine. What's the worst that could happen?

A non-trivial part of the right apparently has been so adamant about the second amendment because they believe they'll have to overthrow the government. That almost makes me feel conflicted about the NSA overreach.

I think it's time for reasonable Republicans to disavow the tea party. But there's no sign of that happening. The only hope I have is that eventually, demographics are going to overwhelm the right. Hopefully though we won't just be trading the loonies from the right with counterparts from the other side.