Tag Archives: history

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 . . . .

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?

Image

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.

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

Want to see some income inequality? This is ugly

With a hat tip to blogfriend Tit4tat, here is a nice clear depiction of what’s really been going on. Most economists place the beginning of the income stagnation somewhere in the late 1970’s. And then along came Reagan; from there it was full speed ahead.

http://scotterb.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/chart.jpg

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.

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.

pino asks “Are we born tribal?”

It’s a fascinating question. So far only he and I are talking, but I’d be interested, as I’m sure would he, in your thinking on the subject. Go on over.

Ahhh, the good old days of government propaganda

During the 20th Century’s two World Wars, the Federal government pumped out an impressive body of propaganda, much of it on film. For WWII, the Feds turned to the pros and a lot of the product came from Hollywood.  Besides video shorts, there were also  full length feature films (some pretty good actually). That propaganda was an essential part of keeping the country committed to the war effort and supportive of it. And it worked.

Then came the early days of the Cold War and the Feds thought if it had worked before, it would work again. It didn’t really; these films were too blatant and very clumsy.

I just came across this. Really?

Guns, damn guns and things I didn’t know: Part the gajillionth

During the American Revolution, local militias –  who played the role of today’s  National Guard – had no collective arms and depended entirely upon the arms and ammunition of private citizens. (Okay, I knew that part.)

american-colonial-militia-rifleman-randy-steeleTo facilitate response time (the British are coming! the British are coming!), they often stockpiled their arms in one place for easy access. Basically, an armory.

Before the Revolution and in its very early days, the British – the ‘central government’ of that day – took to seizing those arms, something the good folks  took personally – those guns were private property after all. (Might that be the origin of our love affair with personal weapons – well, public weapons as well, since we are the largest arms exporter in the world.)

There are several references to militias in The Constitution (which I did not know; I thought it was only addressed in the Second Amendment). Article I assigns Congress the power to:

. . . provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; [and]

To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing of such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States.

(I’m getting this from Jeffrey Toobin’s terrific 2012 book about Obama and the Roberts Court by the way.)

Toobin goes on:

Article II says the president is C in C of the army, navy and “Militia of the Several States when called into the actual Service of the United States”. It wasn’t until the Militia Act of 1903 that their functions were formally subsumed into other agencies, like the National Guard . . .

And this: in the first 200 years of our existence, the Supreme Court discussed the Second Amendment exactly once, in 1938. It – U.S. v. Miller – was a challenge to the National Firearms Act passed in 1934 in response to the gang violence of the day and in particular to the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, which horrified the country not least because ‘machine guns’ were used. The Court ruled – unanimously – that the Act complied fully with the Second Amendment. Justice McReynolds spoke for the Court, saying they’d concluded that the Second Amendment existed to preserve the rights of militias – not individuals – to keep and bear arms.

And the issue disappeared once again, resurfacing only after the Kennedy assassinations.

massacreThe Gun Control Act of 1968 had widespread public support including the strong support of the NRA (when they still represented actual gun owners). 

IRONY ALERT: That didn’t change until Ronald Reagan’s 1976 campaign for the presidency. Writing an article for Guns and Ammo in 1975, he set off an entirely different conversation about guns, working opposition into a libertarian message, even insisting that the Second Amendment prohibited gun control – so much so that the 1976 Republican platform proclaimed a new-found opposition to gun control, reversing its previous 1972 platform supporting gun control. And in 1977, hard-liners staged a coup d’etat at the NRA to align with the new position). Everything changed.

But back to 1939. Toobin calls the U.S. v. Miller decision:

entirely originalist in its reasoning. The opinion quoted the provisions of Article I  dealing with the powers and then stated “With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces, the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.”

Toobin continues:

Indeed, if the Second Amendment were intended by its framers to give individuals a right to keep and bear arms, the initial militia clause [“A well-regulated Militia  being necessary”, etc.] would be both unnecessary and meaningless.”

I find the reasoning of both that 1939 Court and of Jeffrey Toobin to be impeccable. (And as proof that I care, know that I had to type all this . . . no cut and paste from da books!)

We just did it again – 224 years of smooth presidential transitions

Another birthday – Nixon at 100

Yes, I know. Dead.

For all his darkness – and that ran deep – Richard Nixon was an intriguing president. I think I’ve read half a dozen biographies (ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone); hell, I’ve even read a few of his own books. He was a fine writer and that, in my little book of life, forgives many other sins.

nixonMr. William Shakespeare would have loved the guy but they didn’t share a timeline. For anyone interested, the best Nixon book I ever read – in fact one of the best contemporary histories – is Nixonland by Rick Perlstein. Simply terrific book. Highly recommended, if you have a free weekend.

Elected.

I’m happy to post this for the second time.

Another Hundred Years War? I’m sure the Three Amigos* would like that, but

Romney aside, Obama aside, serious things appear to be happening.

The usual noise machine is going all ‘we can’t let this stand’. I assume they want to shoot someone.

Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia . . . shall we wage war on all of them? (Hey, war with a billion people would be awesome!)

War with a billion people who mostly don’t want war with us.

War with a billion people because of the actions of  a hundred thousand? A few hundred thousand? The militants among the billion? The Islamists amongst a billion Muslims? Wage war on a billion people?

If the neo-con dreams come true, that’s what we’ll have. And Saudi Arabia couldn’t stop it; the Saudi royal family would probably be wiped out early on. They’ve been in Al Qaeda’s gun sights for some time.

You think it can’t happen? Check out the 11th and 12th Centuries.

* Messers McCain and Lieberman and Ms. Graham of the United States Senate.

I was remiss

From 2004:

Oh fer gawd’s sake . . .does Eric Cantor really think he can fly this one?

I’m a day late with this, but now that I’ve seen it, it must be shared! Here’s a Labor Day thought from a leading light in the Republican leadership of the Congress of the United States.

As for the little people – you know, the ones who did things like build the Hoover Dam and the Brooklyn Bridge and the ones who died fighting for the eight-hour day – those people? La.zy.

Capitalism has three legs: resources, capital and labor. It needs all three.

A not famous Factoid

The Pledge of Allegiance, the one we all recited as school children (although mine most assuredly did not include under God* in the early grades) and still do at public events, was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. It started out as part of a marketing plan to offer flags to schools that subscribed to The Youth’s Companion, but quickly became a sincere patriotic effort. We all know how successful it was.

And Mr. Bellamy? Well.

Bellamy was a Christian Socialist[3] who “championed ‘the rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources, which he believed was inherent in the teachings of Jesus.'”[2] In 1891, Bellamy was forced from his Boston pulpit for his socialist sermons, and eventually stopped attending church altogether after moving to Florida, reportedly because of the racism he witnessed there.[4]

* The words Under God were added in 1954 to protect us from godless Communism – by our feckless Congress Critters who, in matters sacred (like American uteri), were just as vigilant then as they are now.

(h/t Crazycrawfish for the info.)

Choice is about more than abortion and let’s stop pretending it isn’t

In spite of the legions of sincere people who support pro-life policies, the impetus for the movement itself is the never-ending assault on women by those who deeply resent the counter movement toward gender equality. The forces propelling the likes of Todd Akins only pretend a tolerance for equality. They want their sovereignty back.

In a comment thread below, Patsouthward pointed me to an article on CNN by  a rape victim who had her child, now being sued by her rapist:

It would not be long before I would learn firsthand that in the vast majority of states — 31 — men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy. When no law prohibits a rapist from exercising these rights, a woman may feel forced to bargain away her legal rights to a criminal trial in exchange for the rapist dropping the bid to have access to her child. . . . I know it because I lived it. I went to law school to learn how to stop it.

This looks to me just like the campaign to deny women the right to abortion, where men – and the state – have sovereignty over a  woman. It’s the exact same thing.

A ‘scolds bridle’ used to silence wives and legal up to the 19th century

The kerfuffle of the day is not just about Todd Akin and his knuckle-dragging (to quote the Speaker of the House) cohorts who claim to be Christian but adhere to the Old Testament . . . it’s about attempts to restore the millennial old definition of women as property.

That was a concept in law right into the 19th century, not ancient history but from the  ‘modern era’. Here are a few examples (first photo and quote from tumblr, here) :

The “curb-plate” was frequently studded with spikes, so that if the tongue moved, it inflicted pain and made speaking impossible. Many men sustained in this “husband’s right” to “handle his wife”, and to use salutary restraints in any case of “misbehavior” without the intervention of what some court records of 1824 referred to as “vexatious prosecutions.” Generally a husband would need only to accuse his wife of disagreeing with his decisions, at which the Branks could be applied. The woman would then be paraded through the streets, or chained to the market cross where she was exposed to public ridicule. Wives that were seen as witches, shrews, gossips, nags and scolds, were forced to wear a brank’s bridle, which had been locked on the head of the woman and sometimes had a ring and chain attached to it as a leash so her husband could parade her around town and the town’s people could scold her and treat her with contempt; at times smearing excrement on her and beating her, sometimes to death.

No divorce for you!

Here’s another one – from England – just before our Civil War (here):

Once married, it was extremely difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce. The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 gave men the right to divorce their wives on the grounds of adultery. However, married women were not able to obtain a divorce if they discovered that their husbands had been unfaithful. Once divorced, the children became the man’s property and the mother could be prevented from seeing her children.

Not much has changed in that other Philadelphia

Remember Philadelphia Mississippi, that quaint little Jim Crow town in the deepest of the deep South?

You don’t? Let me refresh your memory . . .

. . .  it had long disfranchised  African Americans and subjected them to racial segregation and Jim Crow laws. Philadelphia in June 1964 was the site of the murders of thee civil right activists: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. . . .

Ku Klux Klan members (including Cecil Ray Price, the deputy sheriff of Neshoba County) released the three young men from jail, took them to an isolated spot, and killed them.

The film, Mississippi Burning tells the whole sordid tale.

Philadelphia changed on the surface, but as the years went on politicians running for office knew its heart was as black as ever. So it was just 14 years later that the most cynical and blatant dog-whistle ever heard from a political figure was delivered to the good folks of that very town. The location, of course, was the statement, as much as the words.

On August 3, 1980, Ronald Reagan gave his first post-convention speech at the Neshoba County Fair after being officially chosen as the Republican nominee for President of the United States. He said, “I believe in states’ rights … I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment.” He went on to promise to “restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them”.[

Philadelphia made a little news again just yesterday.

PHILADELPHIA, Mississippi — Gov. Phil Bryant said Thursday it is “unfortunate” that a predominantly white church in the state wouldn’t allow a black couple to get married in its sanctuary.

. . . The Rev. Stan Weatherford, pastor of the church, married the Wilsons at a predominantly black church nearby. The wedding was moved after some congregants at First Baptist told Weatherford they opposed allowing black people to marry in the church.

“As hard as we work to try to convince the rest of the world that Mississippi has changed — and, in fact, we have — to see an unfortunate situation like that occur is very disappointing,” Bryant said Thursday in response to questions from The Associated Press.

William Faulkner, the most famous literary Son of the South, observed back in the 1950’s, “the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.” Yup.

The timeless truth

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.     – Margaret Mead

Exactly: “The Roberts Court is born”

And this is why I always thought the Chief Justice would find a way to uphold Obamacare.

 Had Obamacare been voided, it would have inevitably led to charges of aggressive judicial activism.  Roberts peered over the abyss and decided he didn’t want to go there.

Roberts’ decision was consistent with his confirmation hearings pledge to respect the co-equal branches of government, push for consensus, and reach narrow rulings designed to build broad coalitions on the Court. He promised to respect precedent. His jurisprudence, he said, would be marked by “modesty and humility” and protection of the precious institutional legitimacy of the Court.

Today, the institutional legitimacy of the Court was buttressed. President Obama wasn’t the only winner at the Supreme Court today. So was the Supreme Court itself.

So this case was the one where he finally decided to adhere to those oft stated principles, which he’s previously ignored. But he has also expressed the hope that he could loosen the partisan divide on the Court, reduce the number of 5-4  votes, and has said he would like more unanimous decisions.

Just imagine this today

In 188650, President Grover Cleveland got married in the White House. He was 50-years old. The bride was 21.

A bit of trivia from history as we wallow in our Season of Perpetual Faux Outrage Over Genuinely Stupid Stuff.

And they damn well know it!

In the mid-80’s, Ronald Reagan sat down with Speaker Tip O’Neill and crafted a few fixes to secure Social Security as a self-funding program for the next quarter century. It worked, just as planned. They knew, as did congress then and as does congress now, that future congresses would be required to do the same from time to time. They knew then as they know now, that Social Security is sound policy and a sound program, unless . . . .

For nearly a century, this marvel of policy engineering has kept generations of our elders out of poverty.

For all of that time, it’s also had enemies, determined to destroy it. In the 80’s, Reagan and O’Neill and the sensible policy establishment (much more centrist then) in Washington hadn’t yet heard of Newt Gingrich or Grover Norquist or Pete Peterson (well, those aforementoined  ‘enemies’ had heard of Peterson all right – he financed them).  Nor did they know that a well-funded campaign was already underway to convince younger Americans that SS wouldn’t be there for them, while quietly engineering its destruction.

They’ve pretty much succeeded. Because they knew that all it would take to break Social Security was to refuse to fix it.