Category Archives: History

Every July 4 . . .

. . .  we celebrate our independence. Because 238 years ago a brave group of revolutionaries threw off a colonial power. That’s something that has happened around the world many times – both before and since. But . . .

. . . I think our greater achievement is this: for 225 years we have maintained a continuity of government (even in war), peacefully transferring power (that one’s just since Washington to Adams, so 214 years) over and over . That’s a testament to the brilliance of our constitution and our continuing respect for it. Good for us!

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Evolution. Yup.

10386243_767794219928117_4042458720422955744_nLooks about right to me.

Ornstein says ‘nihilists’ and he always knows what he’s talking about

Norm Ornstein chimed in this morning on the near future of the GOP. He views Cantor’s loss less as the beginning of a populist trend and more a preview of intracine battles yet to come in the party. It’s here.

He sets it up with pitch perfect – and delightful – disdain for our fickle media narrative:

The new dominant narrative, of course, is that the Tea Party rose up, struck back, showed its muscle and has the party establishment on its heels. That replaces the previous narrative, that the establishment rose up, struck back, and has the Tea Party on its heels.

And wraps with this:

American political parties always face a tension between their establishment and ideological wings. On the Republican side, going back more than a hundred years to the Teddy Roosevelt era, that was a struggle between moderate progressives and conservatives.

Now it is different. There are no moderates or progressives in today’s GOP; the fight is between hard-line conservatives who believe in smaller government and radical nihilists who want to blow up the whole thing, who have as much disdain for Republican traditional conservatives as they do for liberals.

Always worth a look is old Norm.

Executive Orders – a journey through time

Here are totals by President for all Executive Orders (numbers from The American Presidency Project, a fascinating data-loaded site).

The WW presidents – Wilson, FDR, Truman show big numbers which is logical. Hoover was the Depression. TR and Taft: that was the trust-busting era so maybe that explains their big numbers. But mostly, there’s not much of a story to be told here – they go up and they go down. Regularly.

At five years in, Obama looks like he could fall behind every president but two since WWII.

George Washington 8
John Adams 1
Thomas Jefferson 4
James Madison 1
James Monroe 1
John Quincy Adams 3
Andrew Jackson 12
Martin van Buren 10
William Henry Harrison 0
John Tyler 17
James K. Polk 18
Zachary Taylor 5
Millard Fillmore 12
Franklin Pierce 35
James Buchanan 16
Abraham Lincoln 48
Andrew Johnson 79
Ulysses S. Grant 217
Rutherford B. Hayes 92
James Garfield 6
Chester Arthur 96
Grover Cleveland (I) – 113
Benjamin Harrison 143
Grover Cleveland (II) – 140
William McKinley 185
Theodore Roosevelt 1,081
William Howard Taft 724
Woodrow Wilson 1,803
Warren G. Harding 522
Calvin Coolidge 1,203
Herbert Hoover 968
Franklin D. Roosevelt 3,522
Harry S. Truman 907
Dwight D. Eisenhower 484
John F. Kennedy 214
Lyndon B. Johnson 325
Richard Nixon 346
Gerald R. Ford 169
Jimmy Carter 320
Ronald Reagan 381
George Bush 166
William J. Clinton 364
George W. Bush 291
Barack Obama 168

A re-telling: ‘Fridays at the Pentagon’

image002 (3)I came to be familiar with the writings of Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, in the early days of the Iraq war via Eric Alterman’s blog  Altercation, then housed at Media Matters, where Bateman was a frequent contributor and where this story first appeared. I posted it in 2012. So here again – for Memorial Day 2014 – as Eric used to say: “here’s Bateman”:

“It is 110 yards from the ‘E’ ring to the ‘A’ ring of the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is newly renovated; the floors shine, the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the walls. There are thousands here.

“This hallway, more than any other, is the ‘Army’ hallway. The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 is around the corner. All Army. Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other, cross the way and renew. Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center. The air conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies in this area. The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares.

“10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outermost of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

“A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence. He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.

“Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden … yet.

“Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier’s chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel.

“Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

“11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady applause. My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my own head. ‘My hands hurt.’ Christ. Shut up and clap. For twenty-four minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this hallway — 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts.

“They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the generals. Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience. Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade. More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly.

“There are families with them as well: the 18-year-old war-bride pushing her 19-year-old husband’s wheelchair and not quite understanding why her husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who have, perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an appreciation for the emotion given on their son’s behalf. No man in that hallway, walking or clapping, is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few cheeks. An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to better see. A couple of the officers in this crowd have themselves been a part of this parade in the past.

“These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our brothers, and we welcome them home. This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all year long, for more than four years.”

 

In so many ways . . .

. . . we are really two different countries and the similarities to Civil War era America abound.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

And there’s this too  – the ten poorest States. I got it from a 2011 story at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze where commenters were not surprised, reasoning that that’s what Obama had done to us in just 20 months. The man worked fast!

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. Tennessee
  4. West Virginia
  5. Louisiana
  6. Montana
  7. South CArolina
  8. Kentucky
  9. Alabama
  10. North Carolina

How about teen pregnancies? Below the mid point and dominating the list for ‘least teen pregnancies’, all of New England and most of the NorthEast. And what region dominates the list for ‘most teen pregnancies’? Lookee here:

STATES WITH MOST TEEN PREGNANCIES:
New Mexico – 93/1,000
Mississippi – 90/1,000
Texas – 85/1,000
Nevada – 84/1,000
Arkansas – 82/1,000
Arizona – 82/1,000
Delaware – 81/1,000
Louisiana – 80/1,000
Oklahoma – 80/1,000
Georgia – 78/1,000

STATES WITH FEWEST TEEN PREGNANCIES:
Iowa – 51/1,000
Nebraska – 50/1,000
Utah – 48/1,000
Wisconsin – 45/1,000
Maine – 43/1,000
Massachusetts – 42/1,000
North Dakota – 42/1,000
Minnesota – 42/1,000
Vermont – 38/1,000
New Hampshire – 33/1,000

How about high school dropouts by State? A pattern emerges.

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Just sayin’

Rep. Steve King:

“I think it’s a constitutional violation” and “We’ve never had a president with that level of audacity and that level of contempt for his own oath of office.”

House Speaker John Boehner:
“There’s a Constitution that we all take an oath to, including him!”
And then, of course, there’s this:

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) said Tuesday night he left President Obama’s State of the Union speech early after “hearing how the president is further abusing his Constitutional powers.”

“I could not bear to watch as he continued to cross the clearly-defined boundaries of the Constitutional separation of powers,” Stockman said in a press release shortly after Obama’s speech ended. “Needless to say, I am deeply disappointed in the tone and content of tonight’s address.”

Stockman said Obama was promising to “break his oath of office and begin enacting his own brand of law through executive decree.”

Too soon?

If it is, let this one be seen as a genuine historical artifact. (Has anyone living today even heard of Dennis Day?) Because I had Irish grandparents, Day was well known in my family. An Irish Tenor with a brogue claiming Christmas for the Irish? Those grandparents loved the damn thing. (Listen for the “Santy” instead of “Santa”. My father was the only person I ever heard say it that way; probably came from his own childhood.

So it’s late. . .

. . . and by almost two weeks. I meant to put this up on the 22nd; still, it remains  relevant and reminds us of how twisted our politics can get. The more things change, the more . . . .

He believed in our better natures

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble Nelson Mandela6a00d83451f25369e200e54f0c830c8833-800winelson_mandela-               go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

“I am not saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice”

MANDELA6X432(Sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with his one time jailer, South African President de Klerk.)

I remember everything. Every piercing painful moment.

This should qualify as a perfect trifecta for Moe. It all comes together right here in a single number – an oldie, politics, and an anniversary. Plus Frank Sinatra. So why am I so sad?

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Wear one today

It’s the eleventh day of the eleventh month . . .

75 years ago tonight

Kristallnacht – when the rancid talk of ‘the other’ heats up, as it does all too often these days, we should all remember November 9, 1938.

http://lordalton.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/fasanenstrasse-synagogue-in-berlin-after-kristallnacht.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2b/Germans_walk_by_a_Jewish_business_destroyed_on_Kristallnacht.jpg

 

The day democracy died in Iran they weren’t wearing burkas

Iranian men and women (note the Western clothing) demonstrating in the streets of Tehran in the early 1950’s, calling for nationalization of the oil industry. Mohammed Moussadek, their democratically elected President made it happen and that made us angry.

Almost immediately, the CIA and British Intelligence orchestrated a coup, arrested the President and installed Shah Reva Pahlavi, who then – over a quarter century – destroyed democratic institutions, jailed dissidents and ruled as a Dictator. And oh yeah, the British got their oil back.

Having lost any political voice, Iranians turned to their clerics and it was in the mosque that anti-Shah sentiments were nurtured. Imams preached Islamism and radicalism. The early goal of restoring their treasured democracy stolen by the West was replaced by growing anti-Western attitudes and a commitment to overthrow the Shah.

We all know what happened 25 years later. And we’re all too familiar with the Iran of the 25 years since then. Blowback, the very definition of.

https://i1.wp.com/img1.imagesbn.com/p/9780805094978_p0_v2_s260x420.JPGFor all of that, we can thank two men: the then Director of the CIA Allan Dulles and his brother US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, the same boys who shortly thereafter brought us Guatemala and Vietnam.

I just added to my reading list The Brothers,the story of how their belief system was formed, and how it – for a decade or more – became the very basis of American foreign policy.

Good Riddance to Daylight Savings Time

Have I mentioned lately that I hate/resent/dread Daylight Savings Time? Always have. Always will. And here in The Sunshine State it’s an especial torture when,  every summer, we take an hour away from the coolest part of the day and tack it on to the hottest part of the day.

indian_daylight savings timeSo thank you National Geographic for putting it out there.  First, the premise put forward in 1917 that DST would energy has little relevance 100 years later.

In their 2008 National Bureau of Economic Research study, the team found that lighting demand dropped, but the warmer hour of extra daylight tacked onto each evening led to more air-conditioning use, which canceled out the gains from reduced lighting and then some: Hoosiers paid higher electric bills than before DST, the study showed . . . During the 2000 Sydney Olympics, parts of Australia extended daylight saving time while others did not . . . the practice did indeed drop lighting and electricity use in the evenings—but that higher energy demands during darker mornings completely canceled out the evening gains. . .

“Everywhere there is air conditioning, our evidence suggests that daylight saving is a loser,” Wolff said.

And, oh yeah, gas.

“When you give Americans more light at the end of the day, they really do want to get out of the house. And they go to ballparks, or to the mall and other places, but they don’t walk there. Daylight saving reliably increases the amount of driving that Americans do, and gasoline consumption tracks up with daylight saving.”

Conventional wisdom is that DST was begun to help farmers. Not so. Farmers found it disruptive to livestock and crops.  Who else doesn’t like it?

  • Orthodox religions with traditional prayer schedules have long fought against DST
  • The TV industry hates it and fights it, and
  • Arizona thinks it’s stupid and does not participate.

 

If you’ve nothing else to do at the moment, how about some geography?

For those who think about issues like our odd quirk of a weirdly unrepresentative Senate – or those who enjoy thinking about historical what-if’s – this is a short, fun (albeit whimsical) read. The author asks should we redraw the State lines and he says it’s not a new question.

How about States based on geography? Or population? Or cultural similarities? Or watersheds? Perhaps invite Canada to the party?

Here’s a possible 50-state map based on population. (Would someone please explain to Sarah Palin where most Americans live? Thank you.)

Here’s one that contemplates State borders based on shared history and culture.

The author of this ‘cultural’ map notes that:

Ohio is the quintessential swing state because, Woodard says, it’s partitioned. The state’s northeast was once part of Connecticut, so it’s populated by Yankee settlers who did things like found Oberlin College. Moving south, there’s a strip of peaceable Midwesterners living in what Woodward calls The Midlands, and then farther south you get to Appalachia, the political opposite of Yankeedom. “Those two things do not work together at all, and yet they both ended up in the same state,” he said

Priorities people, priorities!

According to The Wall Street Journal, developing the health insurance exchange site so far . . .

. . .  has cost at least $360 million, and possibly as much as $600 million.

Then there’s the F-22. Developing that baby cost a mere $42 billion and while the planes themselves are a steal at only $150 million per, it was nine years before a single production model was delivered to the Air Force.  Wikipedia:

During the development process the aircraft continued to gain weight at the cost of range and aerodynamic performance, even as capabilities were deleted or delayed in the name of affordability

F-22 production was split up over many subcontractors across 46 states, in a strategy to increase Congressional support for the program.[29][30] However the production split, along with the implementation of several new technologies were likely responsible for increased costs and delays.[31] Many capabilities were deferred to post-service upgrades, reducing the initial cost but increasing total project cost.[32]Each aircraft required “1,000 subcontractors and suppliers and 95,000 workers” to build.[33] The F-22 was in production for 15 years, at a rate of roughly two per month.[34]

Now that’s some bureaucracy there! It’s really a marvel the thing flies.

Things you miss when you don’t watch CSPAN: Oh my.

For Facebook/Star Trek fans: Who was the speaker at the National Press Club lunch this month just broadcast on CSPAN2? Why, George Takei was the speaker.

george takeiGeorge_Takei_Sulu_Star_TrekHe is surprised to find himself a celebrity again – at age 70 –  a Facebook phenom with millions of followers. As a follower myself, I was interested to learn that when he first turned to Facebook, it was with a mission in mind –  to educate younger generations about the WWII Japanese internment in the US. Takei grew up in a camp.

Hey, he thought, maybe use some humor to get a few people to his page. Maybe that would drive some traffic. And maybe he could toss in some advocacy for gay rights? That could help a little. Maybe.

4.9 million Facebook followers says he was right. Oh my.

Maybe if we all close our eyes and say ‘sidney’ three times . . .

Calling the ex-Presidents! Calling the . . . .

Lessons learned? Nah, the righteous don’t need no stinkin’ lessons

From Ezra Klein (Wonkblog) this morning:

Thursday’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll hit the Republican Party like a bomb. It found, as Gallup had, the Republican Party (and, separately, the Tea Party) at “all-time lows in the history of the poll.” It found Republicans taking more blame for the shutdown than they had in 1995. It found more Americans believing the shutdown is a serious problem than in 1995.

Even worse for the GOP is what the pollsters called “the Boomerang Effect”: Both President Obama and Obamacare are more popular than they were a month ago. Obamacare in particular gained seven points.

The Boomerang Effect – yup, that’s exactly what happened after the GOP impeached Clinton (instead of doing the nation’s business). His favorability, which had been lackluster before the impeachment, soared.

Lessons never learned I guess.

While the House burns like Atlanta . . .

UPDATED BELOW: From Forbes magazine this morning:

But a new survey of 1,976 registered voters finds that only 33 percent believe that the health law should be repealed, delayed, or defunded. 29 percent believe that “Congress should make changes to improve the law,” 26 percent believe that “Congress should let the law take effect” and see what happens, and 12 percent believe that the law should be expanded. The bottom line? Voters are skeptical that Obamacare will live up to Democrats’ hype. But they also believe that it should be given a chance to succeed.

Universal health care (which Obamacare is most assuredly not – at least not yet) has been a political objective, indeed a platform goal, of the Democratic Party  since Truman (Teddy Roosevelt and Nixon liked it too). So it has been a stated goal of at least half this nation for decades. It is now the law, as passed by the Congress, signed by the President, upheld by the US Supreme Court, and reaffirmed by the American people when they re-elected the President who sponsored it. That’s exactly the way our Federal government was designed to work.

The House GOP is not pursuing the will of the American people, they are pursuing a Party objective. They forget that they are only one of three branches of government (and only half of that branch!). 

Our Founders knew well to build in protections against a tyranny of the minority. UPDATE: commenter Alan Scott points out – correctly – that I am wrong here. Our Founders built in protections against a Tyranny of MAJORITY. My bad.

The minority half of one branch of our government is on the wrong side of this.

Good old Ike – he didn’t think anyone would take these guys seriously. He was wrong.

http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MjAwWDIwMA==/z/PVMAAMXQ0pNRpPzs/$T2eC16R,!y0E9s2S6cbQBRpPzsNBgg~~60_35.JPG?set_id=8800004005As we approach the start of the GOP’s Annual Hunting Season To Capture and Kill Legislation (Social Security from the 1930’s, Medicare from the 1960’s, and those 21st Century obscenities, Bush’s Medicare Part D Rx plan, and Obama’s nose under the door of universal health care), I like to remember this guy. Here’s then-former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a 1954 letter to his brother.

Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this–in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything–even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon “moderation” in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas.Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

 

Pedestrian. Equivocating. Backward looking. Full of cliches.

My review of the speech given by President Obama at the ceremony marking the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

The end.

On an anniversary 2

I just listened to John Lewis being interviewed in his Congressional office by Gwen Ifil for The News Hour. Lewis is the last surviving speaker from the 1963 March; he was also the youngest – just 22 years old. It was a moving interview, well  worth seeking out at pbs.org.

On an anniversary

This was the anthem. Then – and always.

Some things are not like other things

Using prostitutes. Check. Cheating on your wife. Check. Hitting on women employees. Check. Doing any of that while President. Yeah, check. Sexting pictures of your penis while calling yourself Carlos Danger. Huh?

One of these is not like the others.

Now, we know that boys will be boys – always have, always will. We almost bestow a sort of cultural acceptance on very bad behavior, especially when teh sex is involved.

Except when it’s icky. Really really icky.

Oh joy! Today is an excuse to post these

James Cagney was the ultimate song and dance man. I’m pretty sure Michael Jackson watched these moves over and over . . .

and how about this for pure grace . . .

and you can’t beat this for pure wonderful schmaltz . . .

 

 

On the Fourth of July . . .

. . .  I choose to celebrate the continuity of our government. We’ve managed it for  237 years. That’s an achievement and a testament to the brilliance of our constitution and our continuing respect for it. So good for us. Herbunk created this a few years ago and he just reposted for 2013. Also, it may be the best morph ever.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

And for ‘me’, read the United States of America.

According to Ramzy Mardini, someone who knows (caution – NY Times possible paywall):

The Syrian revolution isn’t democratic or secular; the more than 90,000 fatalities are the result of a civil war, not a genocide — and human rights violations have been committed on both sides.

Moreover, the rebels don’t have the support or trust of a clear majority of the population, and the political opposition is neither credible nor representative. Ethnic cleansing against minorities is more likely to occur under a rebel-led government than under Mr. Assad; likewise, the possibility of chemical weapons’ falling into the hands of terrorist groups only grows as the regime weakens.

And finally, a rebel victory is more likely to destabilize Iraq and Lebanon, and the inevitable disorder of a post-Assad Syria constitutes a greater threat to Israel than the status quo.

Mardini concludes:

Syria is like Iraq. But worse.

I like this picture

presidents

It’s an illustration of one thing that we’re still doing right – this picture reminds me that for two and a quarter centuries we’ve managed a peaceful transfer of power every few years. That counts for something.