ASSESSING TEDDY ROOSEVELT

Future generations may look back at 2020 as the Year of Madness. In the name of racial justice, statues of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant – the two men most responsible for the eradication of American slavery – have been defaced. The destruction in Madison, Wisconsin of the monument to Hans Christian Heg may mark the nadir of the inanity. Heg, a Norwegian immigrant, devoted his life to the abolitionist cause, fought bravely in several Civil War battles, and died leading a charge against a numerically superior Confederate force. His statue was torn down, decapitated, and thrown into a lake.

The equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History is another target of our national Cultural Revolution. The monument features Roosevelt on horseback, with a Native American on one side and an African on the other, both on foot. According to James Earle Fraser, the sculptor, the two figures at Roosevelt’s side “are guides symbolizing the continents of Africa and America, and … stand for Roosevelt’s friendliness to all races.” According to John Russell Pope, the Museum architect, the three figures together comprise “a heroic group.”

Teddy Roosevelt Statue

The statue will be removed because some object to the fact that Roosevelt occupies a position of prominence, seated in the center on horseback while his Indian and African guides stand on either side. The configuration, socially conscious critics insist, signifies that the Indian and African are inferior.

Of course there is another, less contentious explanation for Roosevelt’s central placement:  the statue was erected to honor him. Roosevelt was a devoted conservationist and the author of many books on natural history. As President, he placed some 230 million acres of land under protection. His father was a co-founder of the Museum, which has enjoyed a long association with the Roosevelt family. He occupies the central position for the same reason a newly wedded couple occupies the center of a family photograph. It doesn’t signify that the family members off to the sides are inferior; it simply means that they are not the main subject of the photograph.

The fact that removal has been ordained by the Museum Board itself, rather than by a mob, should fool no one. The Board acted under the same pressure animating the rest of our Cultural Revolution.

Rather than organize counter-mobs to protect such statues, perhaps the best response may be to use these events to educate the public.  As the destruction of the Hans Christian Heg statue demonstrates, much of the current madness arises from plain ignorance. The best cure for ignorance is knowledge. Continue reading

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WINSTON CHURCHILL’S LIFE MATTERED

In the wake of the George Floyd killing, protests have erupted around the world. Now Winston Churchill has been caught up in the maelstrom.

His monument in London’s Parliament Square has been boarded up after protesters daubed “was a racist” in red paint on it. His granddaughter Emma Soames told the BBC that the statue may have to be placed in a museum for its own protection.

The Churchill monument is by no means alone in attracting controversy. Confederate statues have been removed or covered with graffiti all over the South. Statues of Columbus have been toppled or vandalized in Miami, Richmond, and St. Paul. Those actions, whatever one might believe about their propriety, are at least understandable. It is hard to make sense of some of the other statue protests. In Boston, a memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first black volunteer infantry unit in the Civil War, was defaced, and a petition to take down a statue of Abraham Lincoln has attracted 7,000 signatures. In Leicester, England,  a petition to remove a statue of Churchill’s erstwhile foe Mahatma Gandhi has received nearly 5,000 signatures.

One can only say, with Mark Antony: “Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt.”

But is the assault on Churchill’s monument mere mischief? Or was he in fact a racist?

In these times of upheaval and uncertainty, an answer of absolute conviction is due. So the only proper response to that question is an adamant: “Yes, but.”

Churchill Monument

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THE PROP 209 LOCKDOWN CAMPAIGN

“Never allow a crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff to President Obama, said in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. He repeated the quip last March, in the wake of the coronavirus economic meltdown. In both cases, Emanuel saw these disasters as opportunities to advance the progressive agenda.

The same opportunistic spirit has surfaced in Sacramento, where, in the midsts of the Covid crisis,  a group of Democratic legislators have introduced ACA 5, a bill to repeal Prop 209, the California measure which outlawed racial and gender-based preferential treatment in public education and contracting.

California State Capitol

Prop 209 was added to the California constitution by a ballot initiative in 1996. It won by a decisive 54.6 to 45.4% majority, despite the fact that nearly every major corporation, institution, and celebrity in the state lined up against it. Even the Republican Party kept its distance, which turned out to be a tactical error: Bob Dole garnered only 38% of the state popular vote that year, meaning that Prop 209 was almost 17 points more popular than the GOP ticket.

Why did Prop 209 pass? The simple answer is that most people, regardless of race, agreed with its fundamental message. A poll conducted on the eve of the election by the UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies found that majorities of all four major racial groups – 69 percent of whites, 64 percent of Asians, 63 percent of Latinos and 59 percent of blacks – preferred that job advancement and college admissions be based solely on merit rather than on a system considering race and gender.

Of course, those numbers did not reflect how the members of those racial groups actually voted. Some people probably voted against Prop 209 because they saw government-sponsored racial and gender-based preferential treatment as a necessary and temporary evil. Discrimination designed to help the poor or socially disadvantaged is one thing. But the poll numbers confirm that discrimination on the basis of race or gender has never been popular, whether that discrimination is used to help or hinder a particular group.

Following the passage of Prop 209, opponents predicted that minority representation at California’s university system would plummet. The actual results, however, have been very different. Continue reading

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Winston Churchill Versus Winston Churchill: The True Story of a Trademark Coexistence Agreement

Although perhaps best known to history as the man who stood up to Hitler, Winston Churchill, an English journalist, warrior, and statesman, also made great contributions to American trademark law. Indeed, Churchill was a pioneer and one of the first proponents of trademark coexistence agreements.

A short primer on trademark coexistence agreements is in order. Trademark coexistence agreements are peace treaties under which the owners of similar marks agree to forgo war and to divide the marketplace instead. The division may relate to goods, with one owner, for example, using its mark on raisins while the other uses its similar mark on oranges. The boundary may be geographic, allowing one party to market products on the West Coast while the other markets on the East Coast. Or the division may involve incorporating subtle distinctions in the marks themselves.

In the case of Churchill—while certainly more modest than saving civilization from Nazi conquest—his major contribution to trademark law involved a trademark dear to his heart: his own name.

Young Winston Churchill

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HER FINEST HOUR

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, known by her professional name Queen Elizabeth II, spoke to the world about the Covid-19 pandemic Sunday night. Her speech demonstrated why modern skeptics – including small-d democrats and small-r republicans — still find themselves awestruck by the ancient institution of monarchy.

Of course, Queen Elizabeth is not just any monarch. She carries with her person the aura of lengthy history. When she first addressed her realm she was a 14-year old Princess. World War II was in its early stages, Winston Churchill had been Prime Minister for only 5 months, the United States was neutral, and Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany were cooperative partners in a non-aggression pact. Her speech was designed to comfort evacuated British children who had been sent to the Commonwealth nations and the United States for safety. The broadcast was Churchill’s idea. He thought to use the young Princess to charm America into entering the war on Britain’s side.

On her 21st birthday, when she addressed her people again, she spoke as a confident young woman, who was nobody’s tool. She said: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Her life has certainly been long. She is almost 94 years old. She has ruled Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 68 years, longer than any other British monarch: 20 years longer than her namesake Queen Elizabeth I, and 5 years longer than her paternal great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

Her reign has had its share of successes and scandals, of family heroism and squalor. Just a few months ago, before anyone had heard of Covid-19, the press was full of stories about Prince William, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry: where they were living, who was talking to whom, and other such delectable irrelevancies. None of that seems to matter now. On Sunday night, the Queen spoke as if her long and eventful life had been a preparation for the moment.

Queen Elizabeth

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SOCIALIST OR DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST: DOES IT MATTER?

The highway of Democratic Party presidential contenders has converged into a two-lane road, and Bernie Sanders seems consigned to the slow lane. That may be the result of public unease with his socialist economic views. Perhaps sensing the danger, the Sanders campaign has studiously avoided using the term “socialist” by itself. Instead, it always pairs it with “democratic.”

Is Bernie Sanders a democratic socialist instead of a regular, run-of-the-mill socialist? And is there any meaningful difference?

Socialist Sanders

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THE TRUMP IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: WILL THE JUDICIARY BE COLLATERAL DAMAGE?

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 4.

By the time you read this post, the impeachment proceedings against President Trump may have wound down to their inevitable conclusion. This was only the third such trial in our nation’s 230-year history, which renders such occasions as rare as Halley’s Comet. Like the Comet, they are worth careful observation.

Much of the debate has centered on the nature of impeachable offenses. Are such offenses limited to criminal conduct?  Or may non-criminal conduct – such as abuse of power – qualify? Both sides have recognized that this issue affects not only President Trump but also future presidents.

Very little has been written or said, however, about another group of public officials affected by this question: federal judges.

constitution

We have all heard repeatedly that Article II, Section 4 provides for removal from office only after “Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” But we rarely hear the words preceding it: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States.” Federal judges are civil officers of the United States, so whatever precedents may be created by the trial of President Trump, they will apply to judges as well. Continue reading

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WHY NOT A 1776 PROJECT?

Last August, the New York Times launched The 1619 Project, an ambitious effort to educate the public on the role of slavery in shaping America. The Project began with an issue of the Times Sunday Magazine devoted entirely to the subject of slavery. It has grown to include a podcast, and curriculum materials for schools. A book is planned. There is reason to believe that a generation of young, impressionable students will form their historical outlooks based on the Project.

Its title says much about its purpose: to challenge the notion that 1776 is the birth year of America. According to the Times, 1619, when slaves are said to have first arrived on our shores, “is the country’s very origin.”

It’s worth noting at the outset that the title of the Project may be misplaced.  According to Professor Nell Painter, the first Africans to arrive on our shores in 1619 were indentured servants, not slaves — a status they shared with many impoverished white arrivals. Racialized slavery did not emerge in Virginia until the 1660s. But setting aside the question of dates, the abominable institution of slavery took root in the New World and two centuries would pass before it was extirpated.

chains

Now any project that aims to educate the public on our nation’s history should be lauded. Much of the information imparted by the 1619 Project is thought-provoking and valuable. But its central theme should not go unchallenged.

Project creator Nickole Hannah-Jones, in her introductory essay, describes this theme:

Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere. In London, there were growing calls to abolish the slave trade. This would have upended the economy of the colonies, in both the North and the South…. In other words, we may never have revolted against Britain if the founders … had not believed that independence was required in order to ensure that slavery would continue. … [S]ome might argue that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy.

If these statements were true, if the purpose of the American Revolution was to preserve slavery, then our nation was founded in evil, and every American should properly feel some element of shame in his or her heritage.

But these statements are not true. They are wrong. Continue reading

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TIME TO RETIRE PEOPLE ‘OF COLOR’?

People “of color” are everywhere. We are here referencing the term, not the people.  “Debate so white: candidates of color miss out as Democratic field narrows” a recent headline in The Guardian informs us. “Physicians of color are far too rare” worries the Philadelphia Inquirer. “People of color win majority of acting Oscars for the first time in history” announced the headline of Entertainment Weekly in the wake of the awards last February.

The history of the term “of color” is, well, colorful. Its use dates back at least as far as the 1790s, when French colonists coined the term “gens de couleur” to refer to light-skinned people of mixed African and European heritage. In the Deep South, freed blacks called themselves “people of color” to distinguish themselves from African slaves. During the Civil War, Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Rochester, New York, entitled “Men of Color, To Arms!” urging African Americans to enlist in the Union Army.

MEN OF COLOR TO ARMS

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ERDOGAN THREW IT ON THE GROUND

I go to my favorite hot dog stand
And the dude says,
“You come here all the time! Here’s one for free”
I said, “Man! What I look like? A charity case?”

I took it and threw it on the ground!
I don’t need your handouts!
I’m an adult!
Please!
You can’t buy me hot dog, man!

The Lonely Island (“Threw it on the Ground”)

In his Threw It On the Ground video, Adam Samberg demonstrates to an energy drink salesman, a hot dog vendor, his girlfriend, and others, that he is not a man to be trifled with. Whether he is handed a free sample drink, a complimentary hot dog, or a cellphone on which his Dad is calling, he shows his fierce independence by throwing it on the ground.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not exactly throw President Donald Trump’s October 9, 2019 letter on the ground, but he was animated by the same defiant spirit when he visited the White House and returned the letter to its author.

Adam Samberg   Erdogan

In fairness to the Turkish President, President Trump’s letter could be viewed, much like the hot dog man’s gesture, as an attempt to buy him. The U.S. leader had written that in return for halting his invasion of Syria, Trump would help him “make a great deal.”  Not only that, but also: “History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way.”  He warned him not to be “a tough guy” or “a fool.”

According to early reports, Erdogan threw the letter, not on the ground, but in the garbage bin. Continue reading

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