Chris Powell: Native Americans could be pretty nasty, too

A man displaying himself as a Pequot warrior at the  Pequot Museum  at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut

A man displaying himself as a Pequot warrior at the Pequot Museum at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut


Replacing Columbus Day with "Indigenous Peoples Day" on its school calendar, Manchester's Board of Education has concluded that the Italian navigator sailing for Spain should not be considered such a hero after all, since, in discovering the New World, he began the colonial subjugation of its natives.

This is fair criticism, and people are always free to change their minds about who should be honored with holidays, statues, and such. But the school board does not seem to have explained why "indigenous peoples" are any more deserving of special honor than Columbus himself. After all, these days nearly everyone in the United States is "indigenous," and back in Columbus' time and throughout the colonial era in the Western Hemisphere "indigenous" people weren't the noble savages of romantic myth but carried the same character and cultural flaws as the rest of humanity.

The "indigenous peoples" of old warred against each other as much as the European settlers warred against them. They even made alliances with the Europeans against other aborginals. Though it does not seem to be taught in many schools in Connecticut, this is precisely the state's own story. Indian tribes living here invited the Europeans in Massachusetts to settle among them as allies against the Pequots, an aggressive tribe that had moved into the area and was preying on the other tribes and whose very name is said to have meant "destroyers."

Before long the Pequots were destroyed themselves, nearly all of them exterminated, including noncombatant women and children, in what was essentially genocide committed by the warriors of an alliance of the Europeans and the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes.

Of course tribal wars go back through the Bible to the beginning of human history. There have always been aggressors and victims, and being "indigenous" never automatically conveyed virtue any more than it does today. So while there is a case for demoting Columbus and leaving his day unmarked, the only purpose of putting "indigenous peoples" in his place on the calendar is to advance the politically correct proposition that all of American history has been dishonorable and thereby to induce guilt to intimidate the public in the face of the PC agenda generally.

This political correctness contaminates public education throughout the county and now, with Indigenous Peoples Day, reigns in Manchester's schools as well as Bridgeport's, New London's, and West Hartford's.

But despite its many ugly aspects, American history on the whole exemplifies what used to be called the Ascent of Man, the gradual but steady extension of liberty and democracy and the improvement of living standards. The sacrifices made in pursuit of these objectives are profound though not always well-taught.

There is another reason Manchester's school board has not just erased Columbus Day from its calendar but declared it a different holiday to honor a whole class of people good and bad. That is, Columbus Day remains by law a state holiday for which government employees must be paid without working.

The board can call this paid day off whatever it wants, but until the General Assembly and the governor erase him, Connecticut is still honoring Columbus, and politically incorrect as he may have become, crossing the government employee unions is considered worse than politically incorrect -- politically fatal.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn,

The ambiguities of the Amazon mercantile jungle

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

Boston did well in failing to snare an Amazon “Second (or is it third?) Headquarters’’. The hysterically hyped project would have overwhelmed city services; stolen a lot of tech talent from the startups that are the foundation of the region’s economic future; worsened the city’s traffic woes, and driven up already sky-high housing costs.

And it’s unlikely that Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would have come up with a bribe to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos that would have been big enough to offset Boston’s drawbacks, especially that it’s probably too small for the likes of Amazon. Despite the company’s show of looking all over America as a place for a “Second Headquarters (which of course turned out to be two “Second Headquarters’’ – New York and metro Washington, D.C.), it probably always planned to set up in cities too big to be overwhelmed by it, and with many, many techies already in residence. The apparently bogus national auction seems to have raised the bribe money that New York and Virginia, whose Washington inner suburb of Arlington, Va., won the prize, were willing to pay. Amazon says it will put 25,000 employees in each place.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh were unwilling to get into a bidding war with the rest of the country for the projects.

New York State is giving the company a package that includes $1.525 billion in incentives, including $1.2 billion over the next 10 years as part of the state’ s Excelsior tax credit. The state also will help Amazon with infrastructure upgrades, job-training programs and even assistance “securing access to a helipad”. There’s still some confusion about the total package, but by one measurement, it works out to $48,000 per job.

Virginia, for its part, is giving the company an incentive package worth $573 million, including $550 million in cash grants – and a helipad (for Bezos’s convenience to commute to his Washington Post?) in Arlington, right across the river from Washington, D.C. The Old Dominion also pledged $250 million to help Virginia Tech build a campus in Alexandria, near the Amazon site, with a focus on computer science and software engineering degrees. Folks are still trying to figure out the precise total cost.

By one estimate in this rather confusing bag of bribes, the basic package works out to $22,000 per job. We’ll see.

(As sop to the Heartland, Amazon will also put a 5,000-person facility in Nashville, at an estimated $13,000 a job.)

So the individuals and companies already in New York and Virginia will subsidize through their taxes an enterprise that had $178 billion in 2017 revenues and is run by the world’s richest person. And of course it’s impossible to know how well Amazon will be doing in a decade. Might it become the online version of Sears? Nothing lasts.

Think of how much stronger their economic development would be if New York and Virginia had put the bribe money into improving transportation infrastructure, education and other stuff that would make their markets better for everyone!

And will Amazon keep its promise to create all those jobs? Don’t bet on it! Big companies are notorious for breaking employment promises. An irritating recent example:

Wisconsin, with an outrageous $4 billion subsidy, lured Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer infamous for not keeping employment promises, to the state with the promise of 13,000 jobs. But the company now plans to employ only a quarter of that; much of the work will be done by robots. You can bet that Foxconn would like all of the work done by robots! One estimate is that the project works out to $500,000 per Foxconn job.

No wonder that Scott Walker, the Republican governor who pushed for this deal, just lost his re-election bid. But then, Democratic and Republican governors and mayors do these deals with enthusiasm.

The politicians know that such extravaganzas sound great, for a while, and that few citizens look into the fine print or scrutinize these sweetheart deals for their long-term macro-economic effects. And by the time that the full bill comes due, the politicians who initially got credit have moved on to something else.

Anyway, such places as tech-rich Greater Boston (and less tech-rich Providence) would do better to make their communities better places in which to start and nurture companies than to break their banks by trying to get big ones from far away whose loyalty is apt to be remarkably evanescent. That isn’t to say that Boston (which already has a couple of thousand Amazonians) and Providence (with its graphic and other designers) won’t benefit from spillover Amazon jobs from the New York operation. They probably will.

A March 2018 report by the Brookings Institution says that state and local governments give up to $90 billion worth of subsidies to individual businesses each year. How much of this is worth it? To read the report, please hit this link.

Columbus, Ohio, offers an example of how an economic-development policy delighting in diversification, encouraging local startups, and improving local amenities and infrastructure, as opposed to focusing on luring a big, fat famous company, as well as strong civic engagement by a city’s established business community, can pay off.

From 2000 to 2009, Columbus added 12,500 jobs. From 2010 to the present, it has added 158,000!

To read more, please hit this link.

Don Pesci: The Antifa fascists

Statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle on Manhattan.

Statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle on Manhattan.

On Aug.  21,  The Baltimore Sun reported that a monument to Christopher Columbus had been vandalized by vandals, a perfect word to describe the members of Antifa, a group that claims to be anti-fascist but does not scruple to employ the methods of fascists, including the beating of non-violent protesters by masked, black-clad brownshirts.

The destruction of the oldest monument to Columbus in the nation occurred one week after city fathers had decided to remove “four controversial monuments: a statue of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate Women’s monument, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument and a statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who authored the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery.”

Columbus, we may state with certainty, was not a fascist. We know this because fascism dates from Mussolini’s reign in Italy, well after Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. Neither did Columbus approve of slavery; nor did his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. According to a story printed in The Hill, a Washington, D.C.,  publication, “it was Spain that forbade slavery of most Native Americans and made them Spanish citizens.” The Hill also noted “that Columbus seems to have faced arrest by his fellow explorers for punishing — even executing — those who had abused Native Americans.” The zealot “most often cited in smearing Spanish exploration and with it Columbus,” The Hill noted, was “Bartolome De Las Casas … the one who proposed African slavery for the New World.”

One can’t expect the Antifa brownshirts to take notice of such exculpatory data before they deface statues or infiltrate peaceful protests for the purpose of creating havoc and suppressing free speech. Fascists, nihilists and anarchists are not likely to be dissuaded by sweet reason, which appears to infuriate them. The defacement of the Columbus monument in Baltimore was recorded on YouTube by the defacer for posterity and the delectation of fellow brownshirts.

The past, we all know, is the gateway to the future. George Orwell knew this, as do most historians. William Faulkner used to say that the past is not over; it’s not even past. Stalin, Hitler and Mao claimed the future by refashioning the past according to their ideological predispositions. Orwell’s Big Brother, patterned after Stalin, was a successful revisionist. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past,” wrote Orwell in “1984.”

Buffeted by three major forces, the Soviet Union – which, like Hitler’s Third Reich was supposed to last a thousand years – at long last began to crumble. When Pope John Paul II set his foot on Polish soil in 1979, Poland’s past, phoenix-like, rose from the ashes. Once again, the country began to live its history, which had long been suppressed by Communists. Shackles on souls were loosened, minds were liberated. The publication of The Gulag Archipelago, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, resurrected the real de-romanticized past of Soviet Communism, as had Khrushchev’s earlier denunciation of Stalin in a special address to Communist Party comrades three years after Stalin’s death.  History’s boot was crushing the hobnailed boot of Communism.

The past is too important to leave to the new revisionists – Antifa, nihilists, masked anarchists, and the anti-Columbus crowd.

Before we can understand Antifas, America’s new fascist party, we must make an attempt to understand what fascism is. Fascism, like anarchism and nihilism, is ungoverned dynamism. It is pure spirit, void of reason, murderously directed to an end – the destruction of life, property and culture.

As early as 1914, Albert Camus tells us in his book The Rebel, Mussolini “proclaimed the ‘holy religion of anarchy,’ and declared himself the enemy of every form of Christianity.”  Camus adds, “Men of action, when they are without faith, never believe in anything but action… To those who despair of everything” – here Camus had in mind post World War I Germany – “not reason, but only passion, can provide a faith.” Dynamism for dynamism’s sake is an act of contempt of both past and future. Camus again: “Fascism is an act of contempt, in fact. Inversely, every form of contempt, if it intervenes in politics, prepares the way for, or establishes, Fascism.”

Camus's book, not much read in political philosophy classes these days, earned him the contempt of Sartre and other proto-Communist philosophers in France. The Rebel should be on the bedside table of anyone in our increasingly secular culture who wants to know something about the forces arrayed against the Western experiment in liberty and law.

There are people among us – nonanarchists – who do not believe that this experiment should continue, and these are dog-whistling the contemptuous enemies of the Western world, like the fellow who took a sledge hammer to the Baltimore Columbus statue. It is easy to assault a statue, more difficult to strike through the mask at the reality that lies behind it. That would require intelligence and a due regard for reason and order. But as soon as one allows oneself to be guided by reason and order, he leaves anarchism, undifferentiated dynamism, far behind him.  The Antifa fascist who struck the Columbus statue in Baltimore was expressing through his thoughtless contempt for the Columbus he does not know his boiling contempt for America. And that is really the point of all these ungrateful, disordered anarchists: contempt is the opposite of gratitude.

I’d like to place one more point on the shelf before ending these comments. Columbus and those who still admire him, while conscious of the defects he shared with his own age, can never be friendly towards Klu-Kluxery. The fury of the KKK was of course directed pitilessly at African Americans. But the KKK was also contemptuous of Jews and Catholics, and this boundless contempt was expressed in violent acts against the faith of non-Protestants who were not Anglo Saxon.  The African American antifa who destroyed the Baltimore statue of Columbus was, by his act of contempt, marching hand in hand with the Klu-Klux-Klan.

So, what are we to make of someone like Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio, whose knees shake whenever antifas whispers “fascist” or “KKK”? The mayor of New York City, still teeming with Italians, is considering removing a statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle. DeBlasio is Italian; he must have learned something about Columbus sitting on his father’s lap as a young boy. DeBlasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is African American. Surely both know that Italians, many of them Catholic, in addition to Jews and African Americans were victims of the KKK and other deeply prejudiced Americans.

The monument in Columbus Circle was dedicated in 1941, 50 years after the largest mass lynching in U.S. history. The lynching of 11 Italian Americans occurred after a trial in which 19  Sicilians had been indicted in the murder of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy. The jury regarded the evidence presented at trial as highly suspect and insufficient. Six defendants were acquitted and a mistrial was declared for the remaining three because the jury failed to agree on their verdicts. A mob incited by a lawyer, William Parkerson, and led by John Wickliffe, editor of the New Delta newspaper, advanced on the prison shouting “We want the Daqoes!” and murdered the exonerated Sicilians.

Most newspapers of the day approved of the vigilantly injustice. The New York Times, covering itself in blood and shame,  editorialized, “These sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins, who have transported to this country the lawless passions, the cut-throat practices, and the oath-bound societies of their native country, are to us a pest without mitigation. Our own rattlesnakes are as good citizens as they...Lynch law was the only course open to the people of New Orleans.”

The modern descendants of the lynch mob – including the KKK and Antifa – have now taken to lynching statues of Columbus, erected in part as a rebuke to lawless anarchy and the terrible silence surrounding prejudice that makes lynching possible.

I will close by pointing out that these are issues long resolved. We could let the dead bury their dead, and certainly there is no need to fight the Civil War all over again. However, the attack on Columbus is now, and always has been, an assault, waged these days mostly by nihilists and anarchists, on the very foundation of the American experiment in liberty. In law and life, silence signifies assent.

“Silence in the face of evil,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer, hanged by Nazis in 1945, “is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Camus, an atheist, no doubt would agree. Silence in the face of anarchy and cultural dissolution is itself an approval of anarchy and cultural disintegration. In an anarchic universe, we have nothing to lose -- but everything.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based essayist.

Those confusing brands of Indians




Images by ANNU PALAKUNNATHU MATTHEW,  in a show called "Annu Palakunnathu Matthew: An Indian from India,'' at the Art Gallery of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth's New Bedford campus Nov. 13-Jan. 25.


The gallery's notes say:

 "The idea, though humorous at first glance, is actually a challenging mediation on the legacies of colonial pasts that were marked by painful attempts to 'civilize' native people - if not reduce them to nameless types.''
The naming of Native Americans (a more precise phrase would be Siberian Americans) as "Indians'' by Columbus, who thought he had reached India instead of a whole new hemisphere, speaks to this comical/sad confusion.

Chris Powell: 'Indigenous people' were pretty nasty, too


Because some of Yale University's most politically correct students prevailed on  New Haven Mayor Toni Harp,   this Oct. 13 wasn't just Columbus Day throughout Connecticut. In New Haven it was also Indigenous People's Day, a protest against the traditional honoring of the Italian seafarer, who, in his less well known career as Spanish colonial governor in the Caribbean, was pretty nasty.

With all the trouble in the world, the Yalies might have found something a little more compelling to get agitated about. After all, while New Haven has many residents of Italian descent and is the headquarters of the great Catholic charitable order, the Knights of Columbus, whose clamor accomplished the federalization of the holiday in 1934, ethnic loyalty to Columbus faded away decades ago, and even the knights themselves now do little celebrating of their patron.

Besides, the celebration of "indigenous" people is in general as ridiculous as celebration of Columbus. For these days everyone in the country is indigenous, belonging to the place where he lives, except the illegal aliens cultivated by New Haven and other politically correct "sanctuary cities." And while they are often romanticized as noble savages, few aboriginal people -- a better term, signifying the earliest known inhabitants of a territory -- were much better than those who arrived later to compete for the land.

Connecticut's history is typical. The Indian tribe famously associated with the state, the Pequots, was no more "indigenous" to the area than other tribes, and its aggressiveness (its name is thought to have been an Algonquin word for "destroyers") prompted the other tribes to appeal to English settlers in Massachusetts to settle in Connecticut as potential allies. Eventually the Pequots indeed were wiped out by an alliance of those other tribes and the English settlers, the only remnant of the Pequots today being a gambling casino, a political contrivance arising from misplaced but cleverly exploited guilt.

Most Americans today likely would acknowledge and regret the often genocidal treatment of the Indian tribes as European settlement of the country expanded westward. Indeed, there would be far more justice in eliminating Columbus Day than in changing the racial name of the professional football team in Washington, D.C., which somehow has become an objective even dearer to political correctness.

But Columbus Day is a legal holiday for which state employees are paid to stay home contemplating their other extravagant fringe benefits, and repealing it would have to be negotiated with their unions. It's one thing to indulge a few politically correct Yalies with a mayoral proclamation, quite another to curtail the privileges of Connecticut's government class.

* * *

President Obama and Governor Malloy are touting the usual pre-election decline in the heavily manipulated unemployment rate. The national and state rates are said to have fallen below 6 percent.

What the president and governor don't tout is that the labor-participation rate, the share of the adult population gainfully employed, has been falling steadily along with the unemployment rate -- to less than 63 percent, the lowest labor-participation rate in 37 years.

That is, unemployment is falling only because people are giving up on finding a job and are settling for life on government stipends like Food Stamps and disability pensions. Further, most of the gain in employment lately has involved workers 55 and older who have taken service jobs, many remaining in the workforce because they can't afford to retire, the Federal Reserve having driven interest rates down to zero, rescuing big banks only by destroying savers.

Inflation-adjusted wages have fallen for decades, signifying a long decline in living standards. Both major political parties share the blame for this but it's always the incumbents who lie most about it.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.