Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Headlines About California Highways – August 2017

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Sep 01, 2017 @ 7:00 pm PDT

August — The month for roadtrips. Hopefully, some of you have been having fun on California’s roads. Me? It’s been a roadtrip to Madison Wisconsin via I-15, I-70, I-76, I-80 and US 151. The return, through St. Louis, has been an equal roadtrip: I-90, I-39, I-55, I-44 (US 66), I-40 (US 66), and I-15. Of course, in and out of LA, we did the high desert route: Route 18, Route 138, and Route 14. If you want to read about those trips, I’ve done three posts: (#1: Get Your Kicks on Route 66; #2: The Evolution of the Hotel; and #3: Confederate Statues and Route 66). Of course, if you just want to read about what’s happening in hot California, here are the headlines I’ve accumulated this month:

  • OCTA Secures $629 Million Federal Loan for I-405 Improvement Project. A loan secured by OCTA marks a major milestone in funding the I-405 Improvement Project while saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Last week, OCTA signed the final documents with the U.S. Department of Transportation for the $627 million loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The TIFIA loan will pay for a major portion of the $1.9 billion worth of freeway improvements set to begin construction early next year.
  • I-5 South County Improvements Project Overhead Sign Work is Completed. Construction crews have completed the overhead carpool sign installation on southbound and northbound I-5. The lane and full freeway closures for this work on I-5 are now complete. The construction on the I-5 South County Improvements Project began in 2014. The project will add nearly six miles of carpool lanes in each direction from Avenida Pico in San Clemente to San Juan Creek Road in San Juan Capistrano. The overhead sign work is part of the project’s San Juan Creek Road to PCH Segment. The remaining work on this portion of the project includes realignment of the median barrier, landscaping installation and final striping.
  • Highway 1 to be rebuilt on top of Mud Creek Slide. Here’s how Caltrans will do it. Drivers on Highway 1 will be going over — not around or through — the Mud Creek Slide when the coast route reopens. “The new roadway will be realigned across the landslide,” the agency said Tuesday in a news release, adding that the highway will be “buttressed with a series of embankments, berms, rocks, netting, culverts and other stabilizing material.”

(more…)

Share

Confederate Statues and Route 66

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Aug 31, 2017 @ 4:12 pm PDT

While riding along Route 66 and stopping for lunch in Seligman, AZ, an odd thought popped into my mind. It was amplified, a bit, by listening to a 99% Invisible Podcast on a Plaque for Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis. That podcast pointed out that monuments don’t just appear in the wake of someone’s death — they are erected for reasons specific to a time and place.

I noted in a past post how many towns along Route 66 are dying or waning, but have a growing business in Route 66 tourism. There are loads and loads of Tourist / Money Separators being produced with variants of the Route 66 logo. But there’s no love for Route 6 or 60 or 70 or 80 or 99. There’s just a little love for the Lincoln Highway (US 30 / US 40). Why so much love for Route 66?

But then I began to think about the nostalgia, and who you see in the material. I thought about the Green Book, the guide for Negro motorists that told them where it was safe to travel. I thought about the implicit Jim Crow rules in many states, and wondered how many Negros and minorities traveled US 66. Remember, the heyday that is being remembered is from the Steinbeck days to the Eisenhower era and the starting of the Interstates. That was the period of loads of discrimination, even in non-Southern states (think about Las Vegas and the Casinos, for example).

I then begin to think about Trump, “Make America Great Again”, and the nostalgia for the “Good ‘Ol Days”. Often, that is code speak for the days when men had the privilege, when more specifically, white men had the privilege. The 1930s through 1950s, those “Happy Days” that were lily white, except for that jungle rock music.

And so I wondered: Could the Route 66 nostalgia be similar to Confederate Statues? Could it be a veiled longing for when America was last perceived to be great, the days when minorities were in their place, when the White Male breadwinner could get behind the wheel of his gleaming Buick or Chevrolet and motor down the road, secure in the knowledge that they could find a clean motor court that would accept them, and gas stations with servile attendants to address their every need. Even during the dustbowl migration, when the great road was a path for survival, it was survival for the White Farmers escaping Kansas, looking for work in the fields of California, which didn’t have the need to import those braceros.

I thought about it, and the romance of the Mother Road wasn’t quite so romantic anymore. Bringing down the statues is raising awareness of many other ways of memorializing.

 

Share

The Evolution of the Hotel

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Aug 31, 2017 @ 4:05 pm PDT

Subaru UserpicAs we drove the “Mother Road” and along other former US highways and byways (US 6, US 151, US 30, etc), I couldn’t help but notice the evolution of the roadside motel and its branding. In the early days of the US highway system, things were mom and pop motels, local to the area. In the heydays of the Interstate and as the US system was bypassed, these became chains like Best Western, Travelodge, Motel 6, and Holiday Inn.

Today? We’ve seen very few Travelodges, Best Western has gone upscale and the motels have lost their “individually owned” character. We’ve seen nary a highway Holiday Inn. The old motels have moved their affiliations to American’s Best Value Inn, Knights Inn, and Budget Host, to name a few (the first two are now the budget brands of Wyndham). These brands seem to take the old hotels and keep them viable with a network, but leave the improvements up to the owner. Former budget chains — Ramada, Holiday Inn, etc., have gone upscale and disgorged their older properties. Perhaps the franchisee requirements and new standards were impossible for the older hotels to meet.

When looking at highway motels, it is clear which are loved, which are not, which are attempts to make money, and which are dying. It is easy to see the growing conformity of the franchise — travelers know what they get, and often pay extra for that conformity. Yet in our travels we’ve seen the hotelier who loves the business, and who care about their customers, and those are still nice to see. So is it still worthwhile to see out the individual hotel, the unique, the special? I think so, but I note that you can find that even in some chain hotels (as we did).

Share

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Aug 31, 2017 @ 2:55 pm PDT

We just got back from a long roadtrip: Los Angeles to Madison WI to St. Louis MO and back. We went out through the mountains (I-15 to I-70 to I-76 to I-80 to US 151), down through the heartland (I-39/90 to I-39 to I-55 to I-270), and back along former US Route 66 (I-44 to I-40 to I-15, with numerous digressions to the historical route). Here are a few observations on the trip:

  • Nevada/Arizona (I-15). Although the stretch to Las Vegas is well known, the drive further N through the canyons before St. George UT is beautiful. The Arizona stretch of I-15 is interesting when you understand that there is no accessibility to it from elsewhere in Arizona — ADOT must get to it through either NV or UT. In any case, the chiseling out of those canyons was remarkable, and it is just a great drive. I’ll also note that Nevada DOT does some beautiful bridges and interchanges.
  • Utah (I-15/I-70). The stretch of UT up to I-70 was an interesting drive, but even more interesting was I-70 through Utah. It was some of the most remarkable scenery I have ever seen — bluffs and plateaus and wonderful rock formations. Kudos to those who constructed the highway in this area for their hard work, and just imagine how hard it was for pre-Interstate travelers. The views are just spectacular, and the vista points are worth the stop. UDOT also does some beautiful bridges and interchanges.
  • Colorado (I-70). The stretch in Colorado between Grand Junction and Denver is spectacular as you drive along the origins of the mighty Colorado river, and through beautiful mountains and passes. Just… wow.  Also, we could tell we were moving east as the houses changed from stucco and brick to siding and brick. This is one stretch of I-70 with little to no cellular reception, at least W of Denver through Vail.
  • Colorado/Nebraska (I-76, I-80). This stretch is dull country. Flat fields of corn. You would tend to think of the plains as vast openness. Well, it is, plus corn and cows. The small towns are, well, small. Driving these roads, however, you can begin to get a sense of where Trump’s support comes from. These are very heterogeneous communities: mostly the same race, the same background, the same church. They have been hit hard by economic woes, by the money moving to the urban coastal towns, by the jobs that the legal immigrants are willing to take and do (and they don’t see in the faces the distinction between legal and illegal, so they are lumped together). The other — the person from outside their community, from outside their frame of reference — is to be feared, and Trump just played to that. I don’t think we saw a single synagogue in the small towns; the Jewish population must be negligible. This, I think, emphasizes the point that the best solution to racism is eliminating the bars of segregation. Intermingling changes people from “the other” to “my neighbor” — and it is true for race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or any other point of division you can think of.
  • Iowa (I-80). Rolling hills of farmland. It was weird driving it at night, seeing all the red lights on the wind farm towers without the ability to see them for what they were. Landing lights? Power lines? Nope, wind farm. I hadn’t realized how hilly Iowa was. Driving through Cedar Rapids on our way up US 151 to Dubuque was a land of farms, leading us into picturesque Wisconsin. We stayed at a small motel in Stuart, just outside of Des Moines. This was an example of a well-cared for old motel, unlike the motel in Julesberg CO.
  • Wisconsin (US 151). This is what farmland should look like. Postcard perfect. Beautiful country. Great cheese. Most importantly, it is where are daughter is, so “Go Badgers!”. Driving around the UW-Madison campus showed how pretty it was, and the town was easy to navigate.
  • Illinois (I-90, I-39, I-55, US 66). Our first impression of Illinois was having their hand out for a toll road: I-90 for the segment before I-39 splits off. After that, it was farmland, and highway signs that were much too wordy. We followed US 66 in some stretches paralleling I-55 for a bit, and it was well marked, although many of the 66 towns were dying or clearly dependent on 66 tourism. This was on the day of the eclipse, which we really didn’t see as we were in Rochelle IL where it was very cloudy. We did, however, see the incredible traffic on I-55 between St. Louis and Bloomington — all the people returning from viewing the eclipse. Bumper to bumper.
  • Missouri (I-270, I-44). First, I must note that St. Louis and its suburbs is still one of my favorite cities, and home to some of my favorite people. Driving through the Ozarks was interesting: I hadn’t realized that it was so forested and there were so many trees and streams. Beautiful country.
  • Kansas (US 66). We took US 66 out of Joplin because Oklahoma doesn’t make their turnpike prices and policies easy to find for tourists. This meant we actually traversed the portion of US 66 that cuts a corner of Kansas. These are towns that are clearly facing away thanks to the rerouting of 66.
  • Oklahoma (US 66, I-44, I-40). As noted above, Oklahoma does not make turnpike policies easy to find, and so we tried to follow 66. That didn’t always work, especially in Miami OK where 66 isn’t signed well when it meets US 59/69. This lead us in the wrong direction, and then nav took us even further afield. We eventually make it to Tulsa, however, and then to Oklahoma City where we were finally turnpike free. I-40 and following US 66 was much easier W of OK City, where it is signed as OK 66. Long flat prairie. Lots of dying towns.
  • Texas (I-40, US 66). US 66 was pretty easy to follow in Texas. Again, long flat prairie, with towns dependent on US 66. Amarillo had a load of construction along I-40 that made it hard to follow the frontage road. I really hate the frontage road onramps to I-40 that are neither well-marked, nor provide safe access. Only in Texas would the hotels have waffle makers shaped like Texas. I did have fun playing a lot of “I’m leaving Texas” songs as we left the state.  I did try to find the Cadillac Ranch, although I couldn’t find the cars.
  • New Mexico (I-40, US 66). Long, flat, and straight. That’s I-40 in New Mexico E of Albuquerque, with the occasional ride through US 66 towns such as Tucumcari. Albuquerque is neat: they are preserving the Route 66 neon along Central Ave, even if they aren’t preserving the buildings. There is also an incredible amount of public art in the city. Central Ave is really gentrifying. We also knew we were back in the West again, as stucco reemerged. The NM-DOT interchanges in Albuquerque are also quite nice; however, they make it a real pain to get on the freeway with the long frontage roads — especially near the I-25 / I-40 interchange. I’ve also decided that Santa Fe exists to separate wealthy people from their money. West of Albuquerque is flatland, with increasing bluffs and some lovely Route 66 diversions in both Grant and Gallop. Former trading posts along Route 66 were being replaced by Native American Casinos (I’m guessing slot machines are an easier way to separate tourists from their money than selling pottery and blankets). There are still Native American stores near the highway, and a few of the “old school” shops exist in the larger Route 66 cities. However, the merchandise seems mostly to be the same everywhere (including the jewelry), making me wonder how much is Native American made, vs. Native American ordered. New Mexico does a pretty good job of signing historic Route 66, but it is clear that many of the towns are highly dependent on Route 66 tourism and nostalgia — and there are so many dead / dying motels and gas stations. One other oddity: Unleaded gas is 86 octane in both Texas and New Mexico, not the 87 we’ve come to expect — which is a pain when your manual insists on 87 or higher.
  • Arizona (I-40, US 66). In many areas, the old 66 trading posts still exist, and seem nicer than the touristy ones. We particularly liked the ones just across the AZ/NM border in Lupton AZ. As we noted in NM, a lot of the old trading posts have been upsized into full casinos to separate the tourist from their money. We did take a number of US 66 diversions, especially those that were also Business I-40 loops. This included the classic towns like Holbrook and Winslow. Loads of loads of dead motels along the way (and dead gas stations). Were I still in the photography mode, there could be some beautiful photo-essays there. I still remember the dead outposts at Meteor City (the exit before the actual crater), Fort Courage, and a number along the path in Holbrook and Winslow. However, classic trading posts such as those in Lupton and the Jackrabbit are still around. As the “Route 66” song says, we didn’t forget Winona, although it was very forgettable — perhaps two gas stations. It was also well off the road and not on a Business 40 routing — you took County 515 up past Winona to US 89, and then US 89 into Flagstaff. Given there is a different routing now for former 66, I think the routing past Winona was an older one from perhaps the 40s, and was replaced by a more southerly routing that leaves 40 near exit 204 (then again, it could have been that Winona was near the highway, and was so dead with missed it and thought it was further up the mountain). and well off the road). ADOT doesn’t do pretty interchanges, and tends not to maintain old 66 except in the major Business 40 towns.
  • California. It is so nice to see postmiles and Botts Dots again (even though the latter is going away). California is doing a better job of signing Historic Route 66 along I-40, although it tends to spell it out vs. using the historic sign. However, they refuse to use the Business I-40 shield: they would rather spell it out. Seeing the SBD CR 66 sign reminded me of my role in getting that route created: they came to me for the sign specifications (and it should have been either N-66, P-66, R-66, or S-66 to be proper, given the county group). There are many dead hotels and gas stations in Needles, and an increasing number in Barstow. Next stop: Home!

We also noticed, along the road, the dearth of decent coffee shops. You only found good local coffee and tea — or even marginal Starbucks — in the larger cities. At the truck stops and gas stations along the major interstates — no decent coffee. In many of the small and dying towns — no decent coffee. It appears that Starbuck-style coffee shops, as opposed to diner-style coffee shops, only exist in areas with sufficient disposal income.

As for our thoughts on where we stayed, which will eventually go into reviews:

  • La Quinta, St. George UT. Very nice hotel. Some portions were under-construction, but no big deal. Very pet friendly, nice breakfast. In fact, it was so pet friendly that they had a “pet row” on the first floor; it turned out that next to us was the wife an Aerospace employee with her pet. It reminded how much we liked the La Quinta chain; when we last did Route 66 we stayed at a number of their properties.
  • Motel 6, Grand Junction CO. Cheap and clean, although you paid extra for the WiFi. Spartan furnishings, but worked well for the pet. And I do mean Spartan: thin smaller towels (but clean), lighter blankets, not updated for a lot of plugs, paying extra for the wi-fi, smaller rooms. But they were clean and everything worked. Motel 6 is what it advertises itself to be: clean and cheap. But that is also why we normally don’t stay there, except when I’m having to pay for two rooms and to have a pet-friendly motel.
  • Budget Host Platte Valley Inn, Julesburg CO. An old highway motel, pet friendly but that’s about it. Restaurant closed, about to reopen. Our daughter’s room smelled of animal urine (as the pet room), but then had a roof leak from an air conditioner so they moved her. Bathroom skimpy. The place needs some TLC. No working ice machine. Note that there are no restaurants nearby, and the ones somewhat close are closed by 8pm. Your best bet is to go to Big Bs Bar and Grill in Ovid — we had some great ribs there. (It turns out they used to run the restaurant at the hotel, but that’s a long story)
  • Stuart Motor Lodge, Stuart IA. Yet another old highway motel, but this one was loved. Nice room, nice amenities. Clean and cared for. Yelp reports it as closed, but it is open and we liked it quite a bit. I did get a chuckle from the sign at checkin that indicated that locals could not stay in the hotel. Hmmm. As for the hotel: Nothing particularly fancy, but we didn’t require fancy. It worked very well for my daughter’s dog.
  • Best Western East Towne Suites, Madison WI. The first hotel that didn’t need to be pet friendly. Nice, clean, comfortable, with a good breakfast. Good location: near I-90, and easy to get to our daughter’s room with lots of shopping nearby. When we go back to Madison, we’ll certainly consider this place.
  • Comfort Inn and Suites, St. Louis (Westport) MO. Not as nice as the reviews made it out to be. The Ice machine on the first floor wasn’t working, and the parking left a lot to be desired. We had some sort of water leak near the A/C that we realized the 2nd day, which left our room a bit musty. Still, for what we were doing, the location was nice.
  • Country Inn, Tulsa OK. Nice hotel with nice personnel. Decent breakfast. We’ve always liked this chain. They were easy to get to.
  • Sleep Inn and Suites, Amarillo TX. What is it with the Choice Hotel chain and water? First the door key wouldn’t work, so they moved us to a different (and much nicer room). Kudos to the very receptive front desk staff on duty that evening. This would have been great… except that there was a water leak by the A/C that left 1/3 of the room with a sopping floor, and although there was a TV for the in-room whirlpool, there were no controls for the TV. The Waffles were in the shape of Texas — only in Texas. Alas, the front desk staff didn’t stay good: we never got a receipt because the front desk clerk couldn’t be bothered to do it, insisting instead that our third-party booking company (AAA) would send us one. They never did.
  • Econolodge Old Town, Albuequerque NM. One of the nicer motels we’ve been at — good breakfast, good people. This was clearly an older hotel that had been updated by an owner that cared about the property. They even had posole out in the evening for guests, and made their typical breakfast very nice. One oddity: Their wireless network keeps changing its identification from “Econolodge N” to “Econolodge N+1”. We’re now up to 4. This isn’t a new network, mind you — you stay connected, you don’t have to re-login. It seems to be just a new name. The water problem here? The vanity sink drained slow — that was about it. So Econolodge was the best of the Choice chain.
  • Green Tree Inn, Flagstaff AZ. Nice room, no identifiable problems (except for the couple in the room next to us who were loud). The hotel has gone green, meaning pump bottles of amenities instead of little bottles. They also had an interesting stall shower instead of the usual tub/shower combination. They also had the largest bath towels of any of the hotels on this trip — a win in my book.  They were the only hotel to provide two luggage racks — another plus. They were in this area with loads of hotels off former 66, right next to I-40 where I-17 ends, over by NAU.
  • River Valley Inn, Needles CA. This is an older Route 66 hotel, but again well maintained. No breakfast. The room did have a ceiling fan, which was useful. But clean room (modulo the occasional small desert flying bug that goes with the territory), well insulated, that didn’t cost much.

On the whole, we put almost 4900 miles on the car in just under 3 weeks. The Subaru was a champ on the road, although it did have a bit of effort at the higher altitudes. But then again, so did I. The best full tank “milage to empty” was 690; typically it was between 500-560. A few more Mother Road observations in some follow-on posts.

Share

Pardon Me

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Aug 27, 2017 @ 9:16 am PDT

userpic=trumpAs I read all the discussions around Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, a few articles keep sticking in my head:

  • The Power to Pardon. First, to set the context, listen to this excellent TrumpConLaw podcast on the Pardon Power. In short, the President can pardon whomever he wants, but only for Federal crimes, only after the crime has been committed, and it can’t be a pardon from impeachment. Most Presidents (and Trump isn’t “most Presidents”) pardon on the recommendation of the Justice Department, only after some jail time has been served, and for the controversial ones, as their last action as President before they leave so they don’t have to suffer the political ramifications. But, as I noted, Trump isn’t “most Presidents”. He’ll get to deal with the fall out.
  • Why He Did It? (Take One). Vox has an interesting explanation of why he did it: To send a message that the enforcement of law and order takes priority over the actual laws. Arpaio was convicted of violating civil rights in order to enforce his interpretation of law and order, which is congruent with Trump’s interpretation. Or, as Vox put it, “Joe Arpaio recognized the fundamental truth of Trump’s worldview even before Trump did: that promising “law and order,” and protection from social disorder in the form of unauthorized immigration and street crime, didn’t require you to actually adhere to the rule of law.” This sends message #1 from Trump: “If you are doing what I like, I’ll protect you from the law.”
  • Why He Did It? (Take Two). The LA Times presents a different take on the subject: the Federal Government expects local help on dealing with immigration issues, to the extent they will shield those who violate civil rights to take actions against immigrants. It sent the message that using racial profiling was acceptable in Trump’s book.
  • Why He Did It? (Take Three). The Atlantic captures yet a third message in Trump’s pardon: Contempt for judges and the rule of law. As the Atlantic writes: “The Arpaio case was the very integrity of the federal judiciary. He was not convicted of an ordinary crime, but of deliberately disobeying a federal court order and lying about that; but beyond that, during the litigation that led to his conviction for criminal contempt, he hired a private detective to investigate the wife of a federal judge hearing a case against his office. Any judge can understand the threat posed by law enforcement personnel who seek to strike back at judges and their families, perhaps for purposes of blackmail or revenge—and the deep arrogance of a president who regards such behavior as praiseworthy. In fact, since even before the election, Trump has brandished his hostility to judges almost as aggressively as his disregard of racial decency. When federal district Judge Gonzalo Curiel was assigned the Trump University civil fraud case, Trump attacked the Indiana-born Curiel in front of a campaign rally as “Mexican” and “a total disgrace.” When Judge James Robart (a George W. Bush appointee) of the District of Washington enjoined the first version of Trump’s “travel ban,” Trump on Twitter dismissed Robart as a “so-called judge” and told his supporters “If something happens blame him and court system.”  When another District Judge enjoined his “sanctuary cities” defunding order, Trump publicly threatened to break up the Ninth Circuit. When a terror cell carried out a car attack in Barcelona earlier this month, Trump immediately zeroed in on the “travel ban” case, now pending before the Supreme Court: “The courts must give us back our protective rights,” he tweeted. Every indication is that Trump will respond to an adverse Supreme Court ruling on any important issue with a full-throated assault on the court and on the very idea of judicial independence. That the court’s majority is conservative and Republican won’t matter.”

In short, the simple takeaway is this: As President, Trump has the authority to pardon whomever he wants for a Federal crime. Once pardoned, one cannot un-pardon. However, the President has to deal with the fallout of his actions, and this will add to Trump’s shedding of any discretionary supporters. All that will be left is the hard-core (“rabid”?) base of those that place ideology and hatred of “the other” over the laws of this country. Trump never had any progressive support, and those who were supporting him for fiscal conservatism are coming to realize that there are better ways to achieve their goals, and better politicians to back to do so.

Share

Degrees of Removal | When Are We Going Too Far?

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Aug 23, 2017 @ 9:20 am PDT

The other day, I saw an article about the potential renaming of a “Jefferson Davis Highway” to something that didn’t celebrate the President of the Confederacy. It got me thinking about the cost of renaming things, and created the urge in me to explore it with a post:

  • Removing Statues. What is the cost of removing a statue celebrating a son or daughter of the Confederacy? First and foremost, there is the surface cost of removing the statue and moving it somewhere that places it in historic context. This, in general, is a cost incurred by government, not private organizations. There likely aren’t significant other references to the statue; it is relatively straightforwards.
  • Changing a Mascot. The next step up is changing a mascot, such as is common with schools that have a “Southern Rebel” as their mascot. In general, this would involve getting a new costume, perhaps renaming a building and changing a few signs. The impact on tradition is harder to cost.
  • Renaming a School or Building. A step up the cost ladder happens when we rename a building. What happens when we rename a public school from “Robert E. Lee Elementary School” to “Sojourner Truth Elementary School”. There is likely the cost of new stationary and new websites, and the cost of resigning the school. There is the association of the old with the new, and how one might deal with old yearbooks and such.
  • Renaming a Street. Here we see a significant cost increase. Changing Jefferson Davis Highway to Emancipation Highway impacts much more than a map. There is significant cost to government: street signs must be changed, directional signs on freeways require update. Property mapping databases require update. Similar updates must occur in all mapping services — an impact not to just the government, but many private organizations. Then there are all the businesses on the street that must update their advertising material and stationary, orders, and such. Homes must order new checks and such. This is a significant impact on private citizens, with no recompense from the government. How do we balance that cost against the impact of the name? Can there be a compromise of changing it to a less offensive name (perhaps dropping “Jefferson”)? This is a much harder question.

Then, of course, there is the overreaction renaming, such as ESPN pulling a sportscaster from a game because his name was “Robert Lee”, or similar reactions to the numerous folks named Jeff Davis and such. That is clearly stupid, and an overreaction (deserving of ridicule).

Share

Erasing Offense

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Aug 23, 2017 @ 8:49 am PDT

userpic=divided-nationI have friends on FB of all political stripes, and I’ve recently been seeing some common themes from conservative friends that are starting to irk me — and so I’d like to expound upon them for a bit.

  • Erasing History. I have been seeing many conservative folks stating that the removal of Confederate Monuments is an attempt to erase history. Such an opinion reflects I biased misunderstanding of the rationale for removal. History, in general, cannot be erased. It leaves marks much deeper than monuments. The Civil War left a divided nation: a nation whose divisions (and their mishandling by the Democratic party of that era — which is different than the Democratic party of today) lived on in Jim Crow laws and racial segregation in the South. Blacks may have become citizens, but they never achieved full civil rights until somewhat recently. Most of the statues that went up in the 1910-1940 periods (and I’m distinguishing them from plaques recognizing actual burial places of soldiers) were put up not to remember the South’s loss in the war (which is what the history was), but to remind people of the “good old days” and what the South was fighting for — slavery and the subjugation of the black and poor. And yes, that is what the South was fighting for: cheap labor in the form of slaves. The recasting of the war as one for states rights was the real erasure of history, an attempt to play down the racial aspects of the war and to play up the economic. But if the war was for states rights alone, it would have been fought in the courts. Removing statues doesn’t erase history. Changing the narrative does. I strongly recommend that those who want to learn more about the statues listen to the Backstory Podcast episode that explores the battle over Confederate monuments. Lastly, I’d like those who still believe the removing the monuments is erasing history to consider this: Germany lost World War II. Do you see monuments in Germany to Adolph Hitler or major World War II German generals? Does the lack of those monuments diminish at all how the history of World War II is told? How would the presence of those monuments (if they existed) be viewed by Jews living in modern Germany? Would they be viewed as a gesture that reminds them of how the German culture and country wanted to exterminate and subjugate them, and is celebrating that aspect of their history? If you think about those questions, you’ll understand why the Confederate monuments are problematic.
  • It Offends Me. Another common thread I see on Conservative feeds is something along the lines: “X offends me, I want it removed.”. This is a play on the Conservative stereotype of the “Snowflake” — someone who protests at any offense. It also plays to the notion that the statues were offensive. That, to put it politely, is a pile of 💩. Simple offense is not cause for removal. The ability to offend is protected speech, and there is no restriction to being offended by what someone says. Trust me, if that were a reason for removal most of my Conservative friends wouldn’t be on Facebook, and they would have removed me as well, and FB would be a very empty place. However, there is a distinction when the speech is being made by the government, and the purpose of that speech is to impact a protected class — that is, a class that had no choice in the aspect that creates offense. Examples would be skin color, sex, sexual orientation (which isn’t a choice), and in some cases religion, which some groups believe is transmitted by blood. The Confederate monuments aren’t being removed because they offend in a broad sense, but because they are a government celebration of discrimination against a protected class. That is something different. I’ll note you’re seeing the push for removal against statues placed by governmental organizations or in public spaces. Private expressions and private spaces are up to the owner of their space, and the customers that owner wishes to court.

More on a similar and related issue this in my next post…

Share

The Last Battlefield

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Aug 15, 2017 @ 8:15 am PDT

We saw history happen last weekend in Charlottesville. History as significant as the shots fired at Fort Sumter. Just as with the Civil War, this is the beginning of a significant battle brought to the surface by, you guessed it, the election of Donald J. Trump. It is a battle that might leave our country in disarray, weakened for another power to come in, if we aren’t careful. And remember, there is one big difference between now and Civil War days: Russia is awake.

This musing was prompted by a piece in the LA Times that indicated how, after Charlottesville, cities were rushing to take down any Civil War statues before White Supremacists could rally around them. These Supremacists, awakened by the election of Barack Obama, called out of the dank recesses by the dog whistles of the Trump campaign, and emboldened by the subsequent non-discouragement of said administration, feel empowered in a way that hasn’t been seen for almost 80 years. As the LA Times has written:

To the white supremacists who gathered from across the country, the havoc in the Virginia college town and the international attention it earned them marked a win. To the counter-protesters, widespread acknowledgment of the threat posed by racism — evident in television images of Nazi symbols and other blatant bigotry — was proof they had prevailed.

It remains unclear what will happen to the racist movement that has been energized by the election of President Trump and was laid out for all to see in Charlottesville. But one thing seems certain: The fighting is not over. Both sides are gearing up for more.

White nationalists and pro-Confederate groups quickly announced rallies and speaking events in Virginia, Texas and beyond, gaining throngs of online supporters while the people who live in those places are already taking to the streets to warn them to stay away.

When Trump had his surprise victory, I felt that this was the final rally of the “White Privilege” folk — a final exercise in protest of the coming shift in America — a shift where the overall non-white or non-Christian population becomes the majority in this country, a shift heralded by the election of Barack Obama to a leadership that looks a lot more like our diverse nation than does the homogeneous complex we see these days. And Mr. Trump has been true to form: selecting individuals as leaders that reflect the White Christian view set, that work to undo advances that helped the minorities, to quick-cement in place privilege and power to those that have long held it — the upper white class.

Charlottesville has brought this to the fore. What could have been a simple exercise of free speech like the marches in Skokie turned — as the organizers likely intended — into violence. When the President did not immediately and swiftly condemn the specific cause of that violence, they were further empowered. His specific condemnation yesterday, read from a teleprompter, was “too little, too late”, especially when he followed it quickly with tweets complaining about how the media had blown this situation all out of proportion. Those who oppose the White Supremacists saw it as an insincere message written by the staff and not really felt by the President; the Supremacists saw it as a further insult by the leadership of the nation and wanted to fight more.

And so we have it now: The battle for the future of this nation. Does it move, as the President and Stephen Bannon’s factions want, to a more White and more Christian nation — a nation much like the United States of the period from 1860 to 1950? Or does it move to a Nation of the 1990s and 2000s: a nation that celebrates both the strength that comes from its diversity and the strength that comes from the unity of that diversity. Does it move to a nation that truly stands for the words in the Pledge of Allegiance: not specifically “under God”, but “with liberty and justice for all”? Does the influence of God in this great nation present itself in enforcement of the punitive restrictions of the Bible — hatred of gays, hatred of other nations, women as a distinct and hidden second class, punishment for abortion, or does God’s influence present itself in the compassionate aspects of the Bible: remembering that it is we too who were slaves and foreigners, that it is our job to help the captive, heal the sick, pick up the downfallen, aid the poor and show mercy (just as, as this non-Christian understands it, Christ showed mercy to Mary Magdelaine)? I know who I want to win.

Share