Unclaimed U.S. Lynching Monuments Display Lack of Redress

I found the following reflection on the national lynching memorial interesting because it shows the power of subtraction to display a failure in redress.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history at the Harvard Kennedy School who studies truth and reconciliation efforts from Belfast to Rwanda, believes that memorializing victims of structural racism is an important part of a larger movement of racial reckoning in the U.S. but that memorials alone are “insufficient to the harder work of transforming a society.” These efforts don’t go far enough, he told me, because they are too “passive” and easy to skip. He cited the importance of Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial being placed in the heart of downtown, and said that memorials need to “confront the spatial segregation that exists” and “penetrate areas that people cannot avoid.” A museum in Africatown, he worried, would allow people to “opt out” of learning about the history of the Clotilda.

Stevenson, the civil-rights lawyer and founder of the national lynching memorial, addressed this problem by adding a second set of steel rectangles to the memorial, each one representing a U.S. county where lynchings took place. He invited the respective counties to claim their monuments and to establish a memorial on their home ground to lynching victims. He also required each county to demonstrate that its community was taking steps toward economic and racial justice before acquiring its column. The unclaimed monuments that remain on display at the national lynching memorial serve as a reminder of the lack of redress across the country.

It’s deep within a story about the Clotilda, last known slave ship to enter the United States.

Why Winston Churchill Named America’s M4 Tank “Sherman”

In 1915 a man named Winston Churchill funded development of a novel giant “landship” concept meant to break through trenches, barbed wire and machine gun nests.

Prime Minister Herbert Asquith received a suggestion from a colleague: “It would be quite easy in a short time to fit up a number of steam tractors with small armoured shelters, in which men and machine guns could be placed, which would be bullet-proof. Used at night, they would not be affected by artillery fire to any extent. The caterpillar system would enable trenches to be crossed quite easily, and the weight of the machine would destroy all barbed-wire entanglements.” The writer was Winston Churchill. His letter marked the first step toward the practical evolution of the tank in World War I.

Initial engineering, of what essentially was an armored Ford tractor, impressed the British War Office so much by February 1916 they ordered hundreds built under the strictest secrecy.

In other words the “landship” concept was prohibited from being called that in order to deny German spies any insight. A “Landships Committee” had been flagged by late 1915 as a risk — requiring rename. A senior officer (likely Major General Ernest Swinton) then proposed documents and designs use instead the phrase Water Carriers (WC).

Churchill (and others) supposedly reacted to this with such laughs, given the idea of government committees and departments using the comical initials WC (toilet), that a synonym was immediately injected — the result was “water tanks”. A Tank Supply (TS) Committee was deemed acceptable as cover for quickly increasing “landship” production.

An alternative story (always possible given such secretive history) is that shop orders managed by Sir William Tritton (landship designer and builder) used the phrase “water carrier for Mesopotamia” while managing hull production (developed in secrecy and only later to be mounted).

Either way the super secret project went from WC to WT. And that’s how the codename was born and continued onward… water obviously had to be dropped once people realized what was being built, and to this day we still say tanks.

Fast forward to WWII and Prime Minister Churchill told the Americans shipping tanks to Britain that they needed to use a simple name convention.

The British took the American M3, for example, and named it a General Grant. An American configuration of the M3 was named the General Lee. There’s a lack of documentation for how and why Lee’s name was brought in *cough* to honor segregation/racism *cough*.

Several of [America’s] most prestigious army posts honor the enemy. The War Department named them during WWI and WWII when the army was a segregationist institution, and the South was a racial police state. Black people did protest these names, but they had been violently excluded from voting and could not change it. But to me it’s outrageous that the US Army, the most diverse workforce in the country, honors the enemy. An enemy who fought for slavery and killed US Army soldiers. […] Lee served in US Army for over 30 years before choosing treason to preserve slavery.

Because the M3 configuration assigned to Americans (a turret change obvious to any onlooker) was called the Lee, it meant British associated Grant’s name to their own deployments, which seems exactly backwards except for the part about winning battles. Grant was one of the best generals in history. Lee was one of the worst.

You have to wonder why any American even at this time would agree to serve in a tank named for their historic enemy, the awful and traitorous General Lee. Even if very overtly racist British military officers had named it as such, who enabled them? Lee was undeniably racist and pro-slavery, a ruthless butcher who tortured and killed American soldiers, even murdering POW, earning a record that should have made him unsuitable for any recognition.

Historian protip: Churchill was an opportunist racist. His opinions of Lee not only were wrong, but also reinforced Churchill’s own worst facets. For example when Churchill proclaimed he “did not really think that black people were as capable or as efficient as white people” his views of Lee gained important context.

Or who can forget Churchill’s War Cabinet decision of 13 October 1942?

…we need not, and should not, object to the Americans [segregating] their coloured troops.

Did anyone feel a need to object to Americans being put in a tank named after their enemy? Perhaps the U.S. Army should have instructed the War Office to name their M3 the Napoleon.

Churchill also is said to have removed “General” from names of tanks as he believed it a source of confusion in discussing military events.

After the M3 Grant, came the M4. Churchill apparently had declared by early August 1942 as it arrived into Egypt (codename “Swallow”) that this new tank would be named for General Sherman. He did not want to use what he called the “gibberish” of American tank designations (e.g. the American Medium Tank M4 to M4A4 variants were renamed the Sherman I to V).

General Sherman was one of the best in American history, and he had served under the best (Grant), so such naming makes sense from that perspective. In addition Sherman had a rather important ethical advantage over the enemy.

His logic was indefatigable — bring peace quickly that would quell the heart of pro-slavery militias, end their domestic terrorism that had plagued America for decades.

Now, my friends, I know there are parties who denounce me as inhuman. I appeal to you if I have not always been kind and considerate to you. [Cheers.] I care not what they say. [Bully for you and cheers.] I say that it ceased to be our duty to guard their cities any longer, and had I gone on stringing out my column, little by little, some of your Illinois regiments would not have come home, but would have been crushed. Therefore I determined to go through their country, and so I took one army myself and gave my friend George Thomas the other, and we whaled away with both. [Loud cheers.] Therefore we destroyed Atlanta, and if we had destroyed all the cities of the South in order to bring about the result in view it would have been right. [Loud cheers…] Now I can go, and anybody can go with a single horse a way out to the limits of Kansas, or even to Colorado, without an escort, and that too at the close of a long and terrible war.

The considered thought about stability, prosperity and preservation of life comes through from Sherman as fundamentally opposite to the disloyalty and barbarity of Lee.

Sherman’s ethical foundations in war were to engage in the destruction of enemy infrastructure (constraining enemy ability to produce war) as far better than any loss of human life.

He endeavored to quickly end what he cited as inherent cruelty of war through decisive force as quickly as possible, focusing on what really mattered.

Union military strategy thus emerged not only victorious but also morally superior to the infamously selfish and corrupt Confederate Generals: in Sherman’s view the southerners should have been far less “outraged” when their “property” was seized or destroyed and far more concerned about the human beings they enslaved, murdered and sacrificed needlessly.

It’s not just history though. An important dichotomy highlighted by Sherman still is found in America even to this day. When “Black Lives Matter” groups protest loss of human life they run into denouncement from groups concerned primarily that streets are being blocked or damage was done to a car or building.

On the eve of the battle of El Alamein, Egypt in October 1942 over 250 American M4 Sherman tanks made their combat debut in the forward elements of the British Eighth Army. It was a decisive battle and turning point in WWII. From that point on Shermans helped drive Nazis completely out of Africa, before rolling across the world as one of the best tank designs.


Sherman II tanks of the Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards), 2nd Armoured Brigade, moving up to the Alamein line, 24 October 1942. More than 15,000 75mm armed Sherman tanks had been supplied to Britain by 1944. Source: IWM photo E18380.

General Sherman in 1864 had helped end the world’s first concentration camp. Then 80 years later in 1944 the M4 tanks named after him helped liberate concentration camps… thanks to Churchill.

An American tank rolls down the main street of the Mauthausen concentration camp. Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum photo 10251

Student Arrested for Threatening Nuclear Attack Over Sports Event

It kind of reads to me like this student might be getting the wrong ideas somewhere.

…police say she threatened to detonate a nuclear reactor if the Utes football team didn’t win on Saturday. The 21-year-old woman was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of making a threat of terrorism.

She said she was just joking, yet of course police had to take her seriously.

Meanwhile her likely inspiration over in Moscow said…

After a series of losses on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an ambiguous yet ominous threat to use a nuclear weapon.

SF Recognized for Prioritizing Pedestrian Safety

San Francisco gets a nod from the BBC as one of four cities in the world that are making positive change by actively reducing vehicle traffic, which of course increases quality of life.

This northern California city moved quickly during the early pandemic to launch Slow Streets – a programme that used signage and barriers to limit car traffic and speeds on 30 corridors in an effort to make them more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly. According to data collected by the city, the programme saw a 50% reduction in vehicle traffic, a 17% increase in weekday pedestrian traffic and a 65% jump in weekday cyclist traffic.

Bike lane “guerrilla” action by the SFMTrA catalyzed change in SF after its Critical Mass rallies became too controversial

Lawfulness or Unlawfulness of Hackbacks

This week I’ll be presenting my latest thoughts to law students on the technical and ethical foundations for “hackback”.

I’ve been asked to present on the ever popular slides from 2012 CONSEGI in Brazil called CyberFall: Active Defense (sometimes called by others my peak “letters of marque” period).

IT is a matter of when, not if, your systems will be breached by attack. Many security experts argue against an active defense plan for fear of legal ramifications, harm to innocent bystanders or risk of failure. This presentation takes the audience through the heart of the debate; participants will learn key legal, ethical and business considerations to practice technical self-defense in cyberspace. The latest trends in threat innovation and actions are contrasted with conflict theory in order to offer the philosophical, political and economic framework of a successful active defense. As Carl von Clausewitz might say: “CyberFall is the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means”.

My belated thanks to Canada for providing such a wonderful escort home from South America. Probably should have said that sooner.

I wonder to this day who was operating the Mercury outboard if their Navy was sitting with me.

Kidding of course. I’m sure they used Honda inboard by then.

I’ll also be discussing with students the online casebook by Robert Chesney, “Cybersecurity Law, Policy, and Institutions” pp. 185-208, especially the pages on “hackback” lawfulness or unlawfulness (pp. 201-208).

…we should note that there is some disagreement regarding the proper meaning of the term “hackback.” Some use it to refer to any defensive measure adopted by a potential victim where the measure will have a downstream effect inside an adversary’s system. On that view, even a simple beacon would count. Others would reserve the term for more aggressive forms of self-defense, limiting it to measures that have a disruptive effect on the adversary’s system or that provide the victim (or whomever is assisting the victim, for the victim may turn to an outside security vendor for help) with ongoing unauthorized access to some part of that system. Those who take this narrower view sometimes distinguish between “hackback” and “active defense,” with the latter referring to less-aggressive measures (like beacons) that are not disruptive and that do not provide ongoing access. On the other hand, you sometimes will see the phrase “active defense” used more broadly to span across this entire category. The important point, at any rate, is that you should make sure to make clear how you are using these labels, and likewise that you understand how others use them. For the sake of convenience, I will use “hackback” as a catch-all phrase meant to encompass the entire category of self-defense measures that might have an effect within the attacker’s own system.