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Civil Warring

Robert E. Lee -- American hero? American traitor? Also: Ethanol on the cob, and other gas pains. Nuclear wasted. Plus much more.

1.30.07

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CIVIL WARRING
Re: H.W. Crocker III's Robert E. Lee: Icon of the South -- and American Hero:

I cannot believe your publication would refer to Robert E. Lee, the military leader of a treasonous rebellion, as an American hero. If a man who tried to destroy this country can be described as a "hero" then the word has no meaning.

I will no longer purchase your publication, nor read your website.
-- Matt Patterson

Concerning H. W. Crocker's article on Robert E. Lee, while I agree that Lee had many admirable personal qualities, I nevertheless have to recognize that he was effectively fighting for slavery and disunion, and that he needlessly prolonged the Civil War, resulting in more deaths and suffering in both sections of the country. That is why this Southern white man would no more consider Lee a great national hero than he would Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the Japanese General recently memorialized by Clint Eastwood in Letters from Iwo Jima. Great generals, yes, fine human beings, maybe so, great Americans, no.
-- C.J. Evans

I am writing concerning the article asking why Robert E. Lee is no longer revered as he once was. As an American whose has an ancestor who came to this country in 1574 and has numerous ancestors who fought primarily in the North during the American Civil War let me offer reasons why Lee is no longer given the respect he once was.

First, he was a traitor. Regardless of the high intellectual arguments about state's rights the truth is he fought for these rights using Slavery as the reason for secession. I must confess to throwing snowballs at a statue of his in a Park near where we live thinking that because of his treachery and beliefs many more people died than would have had he offered his services to the Union where they belonged.

Also, as a student of modern history, one can't help thinking what would have happened if we had let the South succeed. No rational person believes that everything would have been peaceful between the two "countries." We would have fought with them all the way across the continent, in much the same way that Pakistan and India fight over the Kashmiri region or European countries have fought with each other over a multitude of reasons. It would have been never ending. This country would never have been united and there would have been further fractionation over every little disagreement once the precedent had been made for secession. Again, examine India where every state wants its independence and autonomy, and the violence that is engendered through these fights. Or more recently examine the former Yugoslavia.

While anyone who has read about Lee would not deny that he was a complex man and even an honorable man I do not believe that he deserves the American Hero label any more than Aaron Burr. I believe that his previous popularity had more to do with his military genius, his fighting on even in the face of what became certain defeat, and his charisma which lasted for a long while after his death.

I think it is a strange and indeed a specious argument that people are uncomfortable with Lee's religious sensibilities in a time when everyone expressed themselves in Christian terms, especially President Lincoln.
-- M.J.M. Spano

Excellent article.

And today, perhaps Lee's noblest moment is set off in stark relief. At the end of the war, at Appomattox, several of Lee's staff, doubtless reflecting widespread opinion in the army, wanted to continue the war with guerilla war. Lee said no. The issue is settled. Guerilla war would destroy the country.

Thus, Lee turned his back on the endless violence that we see, for instance, in the Middle East today, the endless refighting of historical battles. Lee's prestige was so great that his opinion became the opinion of the South. In fact, history has no instance of two greater souls making peace than Grant and Lee at McLean's house in Appomattox. Grant offered a generous peace and Lee accepted it. And the country was rejoined.

There is a famous story that 19-year-old Henry Wise, Jr. the son of Confederate general and former governor of Virginia, Henry Wise, returned home after the war only to find his father barring the door to the family house.

"You cannot enter," the elder Wise told his son. "You have disgraced our family by seeking a parole from those Yankees."

"But father," the son said, "that is what General Lee said I should do."

Silence.

"Oh. That's different. If General Lee said that's what you should do, then that is the right thing to do, regardless of any other consideration whatsoever."

If Lee helped to split the country, he helped even more to bind it back together. If for nothing else, that alone would make him a hero.
-- Greg Richards

Hate to burst your bubble but Lee is not the great person you would like him to be. Yes, he was a Christian and his military prowess is legendary. He was also a very gentle, nice person. However, for all that, he did betray his oath of allegiance to the United States and its Constitution. He decided that his state of Virginia and its secession from the union was more important. He participated in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil war. Down south some places revere him almost as deity. I know, my son-in-law is from Alabama. However, for all his greatness, he did commit treason against this nation and through his actions, caused many a good man to lose his life. We vilify Benedict Arnold as the epitome of traitor and for good reason. Is Robert E. Lee to be sanctified for his actions, though nobler, still all the same treasonous? My great-great grandfather fought at Gettysburg with the 14th Vermont and was part of the flanking movement that broke Pickett's charge. Over 50,000 men died in that battle (North and South) , some to preserve this great union, and the others to render it asunder, and for what? So some Southern plantation owners could hold in slavery human beings, under the guise of states' rights? That is what Lee chose over his nation and oath.
-- Pete Chagnon

So The American Spectator is suddenly playing catch-up on this one with the libertarian-antiwar gang down at LewRockwell.com, where almost daily Lee is commended for his virtue and heroism and the 19th-century South in general (but particularly its antebellum proponents of the right of secession) is patted on the back for its political percipience and true grit.

Well, I can never "congratulate" the South on the mess that its attempts at secession left a reunited Union to deal with. And I'd only be inclined to honor Lee as an American hero if he hadn't been so big on killing his fellow Americans and if his generalship of forces devoted to just that hadn't been so damn good at it. I wouldn't exactly term Lee a "traitor" (but then, had you asked me 1861-1865...), but he is certainly someone who made a VERY wrong political and emotional choice (and apparently, to go by the lachrymose pleadings of his defenders, almost purely an emotional choice). Thus to honor him for the Union and Confederate dead his military skill led to seems, at least to me, quite wrongheaded. Even shameful.

Funny, we never quite treat, say, German WWII generals of equal if not greater skill such as von Manstein, von Mantueffel and Guderian in the same kindly fashion. Not even (unless we're way, way out on the left) General Giap of Vietnamese fame. Hell, we're not even half-kind in this manner, provided we remember their names in the first place, to those subsequently executed German officers whose plotting against Hitler (surely a Martha-like "good thing") led to the 20 July, 1944 bomb planted by Count Klaus von Stauffenberg. Yet Lee, proven bloodthirsty, gets a pass. Really, "appreciation" of this kind should belong more to the libertarian self-righteous on Lewrockwell.com than on the website of The American Spectator.
-- Richard Szathmary
Clifton, New Jersey

Thanks to H. W. Crocker III for remembering the 200th anniversary of General Lee's birth. Be prepared, though, for indignant attacks from race-baiters and Northeastern intellectuals. A lifelong admirer and student of the General's life and character, it has always seemed to me that the furious academic attacks against Lee's reputation over the last 50 years have been inspired by the Marxist dictum that it is easier to rule a nation if you first destroy its heroes. I've always been impatient with the term "icon" as applied to Lee -- to me there is no more human hero in all of American history. Perhaps that is what draws the liberals' hatred; can you imagine the vapors they'd have if the General and his army, that full-bloodedly American array of "bright muskets and tattered flags," were to reappear on the American scene?
-- W. G. Wheatley

Excellent work by H. W. Crocker III in his piece on Robert E. Lee. When I was a cadet. I studied Lee's military campaigns, which led me to read his biography. He was everything that Mr. Crocker writes, and more, in my estimation. My oldest son graduated from Washington and Lee University, with the result that he, and my wife, also have an understanding and appreciation of Lee's greatness. I fear we have no leaders of his caliber today, and, worse, we never again will.
-- W. B. Heffernan, Jr.

Yes, Robert E. Lee was handsome, dignified and articulate. A great soldier. But he trashed the oath of allegiance he took when he accepted a commission in the United States Army and he fought effectively to preserve human slavery. In defeat, he got off lightly. Too lightly.

Another Virginian, George Thomas, saw his duty and upheld it. He would become the "Rock of Chickamaugua."
-- William McTernan

Great piece. I too, as a Civil War buff, have always admired Lee and Jackson. If only we had great leaders like that today, we would be such a better country for it. I admire your courage to write about this American Hero, even though the Left would call it politically incorrect. There is nothing incorrect about this great man. I wish more media members would talk about Lee and his life so that more Americans can learn about him and follow his example. Please keep up the good work.
-- Dan Scouler
Manhattan Beach, California

I don't want to be unkind but contrary to your suggestions one of the reasons Lee's reputation has faded so much is that it was always wildly, and unjustly, inflated. I'm not suggesting he was a bad general, but much, perhaps nearly all of his battlefield success had to do with the appalling incompetence of the Union generals. Remember George McClellan? The reasons for this incompetence are hard to fathom now, but these were real. In addition, Lee's order for Pickett's charge at Gettysburg was a catastrophic error for which many in the South never forgave him.
-- Erick Blair

Wonderful article -- very inspirational. Thank you for this.
-- Sherry Johnson
Texas

GAS PAINS
Re: William Tucker's Bush the Gasoholic:

William Tucker suggests that the U.S. should conserve gasoline and ease "into a situation of scarcity with some kind of carbon levy," but he doesn't indicate what should be done with the revenues from a carbon tax. If a carbon tax is necessary, thought should be given to the reduction of payroll taxes. Daniel Hamermesh, a leading labor economist who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, has estimated that, "cutting payroll taxes by ten percentage points would increase employment roughly three percent in the short-term and perhaps by as much as ten percent long term."

In Europe, the debate over payroll taxes and their impact on employment is considerably more advanced than it is here. In recent years, several European nations have cut payroll taxes. And more payroll tax cuts are coming. In Germany, the conservatives last year campaigned on a pledge to boost employment by reducing payroll taxes by 2 percentage points. Italy is committed to expanding employment by reducing payroll taxes by 5 percentage points. In France, payroll taxes on minimum wage employees working in small businesses are being abolished. Sweden is doing the same. Slovenia last year approved a plan to abolish its payroll tax by 2009. Two years ago, Russia slashed its payroll tax rate by ten percentage points. While many of the payroll tax cuts have come in nations with relatively high payroll taxes (e.g., Belgium), even nations with low payroll tax rates (e.g., Denmark) have recognized the value of cutting non-wage labor costs. In an increasingly competitive world, where labor costs are driving business to outsource jobs or relocate manufacturing facilities overseas, all nations -- including the U.S. -- need to be mindful of the impact that non-wage costs, like payroll taxes, have on employment levels.
-- Bob Walker, President
Get America Working
Arlington, Virginia

I was amening Tucker in his article "Bush the Gasoholic" until he made a nod toward a carbon tax. Tucker seems convinced that we're running out of oil, so he thinks it would be nice to ease us into higher prices with higher taxes on gasoline now. Let me see if I have the logic correct here: higher gasoline prices are coming in the distant future, which will shoot our economy in the foot, so let's blow off our knee caps now in order to make the pain of future price increases more bearable. Seriously, I can't understand the logic. If we fear higher prices in the future, why artificially create higher prices now?

The key to energy security is a free market. In a free market, prices naturally rise as the supply falls. Higher prices signal businessmen to invest in greater production or alternatives. Free markets will make the transition much less painful than any government-engineered process. Few people know about the transition from whale oil to petroleum that our country made in the middle of the 19th century, because it was relatively painless, and it was painless because the government at that time had the good sense to stay out of the market. On the other hand, the Federal government has made a complete mess of energy since Nixon's price controls in the early 1970s while wasting hundreds of billions of dollars through the Dept of Energy on fruitless research and welfare checks to major agri-businesses, such as Cargill and Archer Daniel Midland, for ethanol.

As for the love of Tucker's life, nuclear power, I'm all for it if the government would end the subsidies to it and make it recycle the fuel, as they promised in the beginning of the nuclear industry, instead of storing it under someone's mountain. Federal programs to store spent uranium are just another welfare check to an industry that refuses to pay its own way in life and distorts the free market.
-- Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Your article is ahead of any other journalists I have read today. Wait until the public goes out to buy corn on the cob for their summer backyard parties and find the price $18.00 a dozen. I have been an executive in the energy industry for 40 years and can tell you we do not need any imported oil. We need imported back bone.

In the four corners area (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Idaho) where they have pilot plants for converting oil shale into oil we have a county smaller than Rhode Island that contains more oil shale than is currently produced by all of Saudi Arabia. It was stopped when they found they could not produce it at a selling price of $45.00 a barrel. Today I think that price would be a bargain.

In the Gulf of Mexico only 20 percent of the oil has been retracted. Eighty percent remains if they could only come up with a system of deep well drilling. Well, today they have one and can drill in the same holes that have been capped. It's called backbone.

Nice article Bill.
-- Kenneth Parady

As fledgling engineer in the mid '70 working on development of nuclear fuels for power reactors, I was encouraged by President Nixon's bold strategy to make the U. S. independent of foreign oil. A major element of this program was nuclear energy. My future was certain; I was in on the ground floor of an important new technology that was certain to grow with the economy. Within a few years I was not only not on the ground floor but in the basement after the politicians bowed to the environmentalist, the bumbling bureaucrats at the Department of Energy failed in their mission to bring nuclear on line in reasonable timetable and their failure to address the waste problem, and the sensationalizing of the press scaring the hell out of the general public. Thirty some years ago the U.S. was the leader in nuclear technology, now we not only rely on foreign oil but we also have to import nuclear fuel technology from the French of all people.
-- Tom Bullock
West Covina, California

I found Mr. Tucker's observations on President Bush's energy "policy" to be pretty much spot on, especially as regards the feckless environmental movement and their "Too late to agree with us; we've changed our mind." approach to environmental problems. This has been a constant theme as far back as I can remember: hysterically overreact to a perceived problem, demonize dissidents, then backpedal or move on as sober reflection or facts change the public perception.

I would add only that the generation of hydrogen via nuclear power is even better than it seems at first, because hydrogen can be stored, and thus generated off-peak. Simply build the capacity to supply ample electricity at peak load, and then produce hydrogen at other times to utilize the excess capacity.

Hydrogen still remains problematic for private transportation because of storage capacity problems, but it can usefully be deployed for public transportation and fixed locations needing power. As an interim solution, hydrogen can also be used to convert coal to methane or liquid hydrocarbons, with half to two thirds the carbon dioxide release per unit of energy of coal. Not perfect, but a good first step. Newer technologies (pebble bed reactors) may be able to produce hydrogen directly from water without generating electricity, if regulations allow them to be built.

I have two minor quibbles with Mr. Tucker's prescription. First, I remain unconvinced on the value of a carbon tax, because, as with tobacco and alcohol, government quickly becomes addicted to the revenue and loses interest in the original problem. Second, I'm afraid we'll never hear President Bush pronounce "nuclear" power. After six years, I still cringe when he says "nucular." This mispronunciation, although common enough among government officials, is a favorite target of Bush haters everywhere.
-- Rick Skeean

One thing that occurred to me is that paying more than $2.30 per gallon of heating oil, oil is so expensive that we are at break-even to substitute electric heat for oil furnaces, and I mean straight electric heat, not heat pumps. Propane is similarly expensive. That is, if electricity had stayed at 7 cents per kilowatt-hour that it had been for many years. Lately, electricity has gone up in price to 10 cents in many part of Wisconsin, 12 cents in Madison, and even higher in other locations. Part of this could be, ahem, expansion of the money supply. Part of it is the use of expensive natural gas to generate electricity. I am thinking that part of it is that any expansion of electric transmission is caught up in regulatory gridlock, and there is a constituency for expensive electricity to promote windmills and the like.

If you think that electric heat is wasteful, there is a technology called integrated-gasification combined cycle to make efficient use of coal. Coal is heated in a retort and combined with water to produce a synthesis gas consisting of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and some hydrocarbons. Ash is removed from this gas along with sulfur and other pollutants -- it is easier to remove these substances from a smaller quantity of synthesis gas than to scrub the much larger stream of stack gases from a pulverized coal plant that has the combustion air mixed in. The synthesis gas is burned in an aviation-derived gas turbine engine, similar to what powers a jumbo jet, and the exhaust heat from the turbine runs a boiler for a secondary steam turbine. The record efficiency for a combined-cycle power plant is 60 percent, well in excess of the mid-30s of a conventional steam-turbine pulverized-coal power plant. The head of EPRI was advocating this style of power plant for carbon-dioxide emission reasons -- China will be burning coal, and it would be much better to have this technology so China and everyone else could burn coal much more efficiently.

Thus the technology exists to perform a direct substitution of coal (and also nuclear) generated electricity for just about all of the oil and propane used for residential space heating.
-- Paul Milenkovic
Madison, Wisconsin

Yup, there we go again. The fuel fiasco, and Bush missed it again -- poor ol' incompetent Dubya continues to be way off the mark (he's not quite as bad a president as Carter, but seems to be closing in) with his inaction and meaningless verbiage

It takes more fuel to make that questionable ethanol into a fuel than the ethanol itself delivers. It takes lotsa electricity to make hydrogen a viable fuel, far more than it supplies! Congress's "cafe" standard band-aid approach is stupid and insufficient. And, speaking of wimps, has our so-called president or any of his cowardly party really pushed for retrieving our oil from ANWR or the Gulf? Shameful! And speaking of ANWR (with enough oil to replace that imported from the Saudis), the humongous (squared) amounts of natural gas there in Alaska too; forests for wood (a renewable resource), more clean-burning coal -- talk about an untapped source of all kinds of fuel, without appreciably disturbing its Politically Correct environment?

Gadzooks, the president and his party continues to suffer from terminal cowardice while the demented Democrats are held hostage by the Sierra Club, its fellow travelers, and their belief that the bureaucracy can force their non-solutions on us without a whimper -- like, they conveniently forget to mention the batteries of those hybrid cars are a major source of pollution when their usable life is over. Tsk-tsk.

Cleaner-burning diesel has become pricey because our outmoded refineries lack sufficient capability -- and, talking about price, if our nation had the guts to actually build a new nuclear plant (or three), with all the supercilious new bureaucratic regulations tacked on to the already high costs?

Wish I could feel some optimism, but I fear we're surrounded by pontificating, delusional creeps 'most everywhere, and leadership is sorely lacking. Sad.
-- Geoff Brandt
Quintana, Texas

I look at the carbon trading schemes like flooding the market with junk bonds or counterfeit money. Real money or real commodities have a utility that underpins their apparent value. Pound for pound, I think hula-hoops are more valuable than carbon dioxide. Also, if the real purpose of carbon trading was global warming, I would expect methane to trade at 23 times the price of carbon dioxide. Water vapor should also trade at a very high level compared to carbon dioxide.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

BIG SPENDING, LITTLE BORDERS
Re: W. James Antle III's Cracking Up Is Hard to Do:

Enjoyed your article, but you missed the main reason for the recent Republican defeats. I and many of my friends who did not choose to vote in the recent elections did so because of the president's failure to protect the borders. It is beyond comprehension how he can ignore the virtual invasion at the borders. The Republican base will never return until something constructive (not amnesty) is done about our illegal immigration problem.
-- Carl R. White

It's not hard to see why Republicans are surveying the wilderness. It's because they are not serving their constituents well. Government is expanding at a record pace, and Republicans have been instrumental in its expansion. Tax cuts will expire, but spending and debt will continue to grow. And Bush is directing American tax dollars towards public works in Iraq. Republicans have little or nothing to show for their years in power, and the electorate is trying to figure out what it is that conservative politicians can do for them. The sad little 100 hours program put forth by Nancy Pelosi was more than Republicans offered. If the GOP wants to regain office, then they will have to explain to the public why they are better than their opponents and what they can do to improve the country.
-- Ian Callum
Roswell, Georgia

Let me start of my saying I held my nose and did vote Republican in November, but it was not because I believed in what they offered. I am all for winning in Iraq, but all these years we have not been trying to win, we have been fighting a PC war and it does not work.

I am all for immigrants, but only legal ones and don't think the ones that have broken our laws to come here should have amnesty. In fact they should not be getting anything with tax payer money. The babies of illegals should NOT be make citizens at birth. What part of the word ILLEGAL don't the politicians understand? Visas should not be passed out just because a company wants cheaper workers. Companies that hire illegals should have to pay large fines and for the second offense some jail time.

This nonsense of making ballets for voting in any language but English should be stopped. NOW.

Anyone that is able to work, should be working not setting at home on welfare. At the very least pay the money when they have picked up trash or some other community work and passed a drug test. Employers are requiring drug tests before starting work. That should be done before getting TAX DOLLARS.

The Republicans in both houses are turning into Democrats and I can understand why people voted for them, figuring may as well vote for the real thing instead of a RINO.
-- Elaine Kyle

LEFT BEHIND
Re: Christopher Orlet's Breaking With Left Fascism:

The left hates the U.S. in general and President Bush in particular because it and he obstruct them in the pursuit of their goal: world domination. On the other hand the left was just fine with the Cambodian holocaust, for example, because it furthered the cause of communism. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara's brutality was also fine with them for the same reason. The left has no particular love for Islam; they just favor anything that fights against the US. The fact that the left hates President Bush is a sure indicator that he's doing something right. They also hated Ronald Reagan and for the same reason.

Conversely, the left loves Boy Clinton because he was quite willing to cede the US's sovereignty and power to any and all in the pursuit of his megalomania. Witness the standing ovation he received from the UN at the height of his Monica Lewinsky scandal. For that bunch of US-haters to do such a thing is inexplicable unless one realizes that he and they are on the same side. Similarly the left loves Carter and his love of dictators, also for the same reason.

It is no surprise that the forces of evil align themselves to fight the forces of good. I'm glad to read that Mr. Cohen has begun to realize on which side he's been fighting and seems prepared to swallow his pride enough to acknowledge it.
-- R. Trotter
Arlington, Virginia

ADJUSTING POETIC CLAIMS
Re: Hal G.P. Colebatch's reply (under "Three Mails and a Bed") in Reader Mail's An Inspired Profession:

Wallace Stevens was high level executive with an insurance company.

He managed to write a few decent poems.
-- Randy Ferrari, Claims Adjuster
Western Springs, Illinois

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