Archive for category American History

When Racism Died a Little in Utah

Villa Theatre in it's heyday

Villa Theater in it’s hey-day

I don’t know what it is about fried chicken restaurant chains and Salt Lake City, but we somehow played host to the birth of two popular ones last century. Obviously, Kentucky Fried Chicken is still around, but the other one, which was also opening outlets around the country is gone. I’ll get to that later.

I’m old enough to remember what the original KFC, which is still located at 3900 south State Street, looked like. It featured a very large painting of a butt naked child with the caption, “Come As You Are!” Probably something you wouldn’t see today.

The picture above is obviously not a chicken restaurant. It’s the facade of the old Villa Theatre, which was later changed into a rug outlet, at great expense, to keep the structure similar to what it was. The theater was actually pretty famous for it’s day and as late as 2001, was named on a list of ten great classic Theaters in the United States by USA today.

When I was six years old the Villa theater was showing “South Pacific”, and I remember very well how the songs from that movie were being played and sung all over town. The Creators of the play that the movie was based on ran into trouble because of a song in the play called “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”, but demanded the famous anti-racism song be included in the production.

From Wikipedia:

Rodgers and Hammerstein risked the entire South Pacific venture in light of legislative challenges to its decency or supposed Communist agenda.


James Michener, upon whose stories South Pacific was based, recalled, “The authors replied stubbornly that this number represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in.

Also from Wikipedia:

In 1958, the [Villa Theatre] became famous for showing a 10-month-long run of South Pacific, drawing Patrons from as far as Idaho and Nevada.

If I recall correctly, another great anti-racism movie, (West Side Story), played in Salt Lake for almost 2 Years. I always like to accentuate the good in my community because I’ve lived here all my life. After the Villa put up their huge Cinerama screen, which, at first, required three different synchronized projectors to play a film, I saw some great ones, including my favorite: “2001 A Space Odyssey”. I was buzzing with excitement after that one.

The Villa theatre was a place of wonder, but just down the street was the other national fried chicken chain that had it’s birth in Salt Lake.

My family had a get together and we were going through some very old pictures, when I saw something unbelievable.

If you want to look at something really ugly, CLICK HERE for page two.


Now I’m Really Upset About Daylight Savings!

That’s it!

This is just crazy!

Daylight savings time is one of my pet-peeves, because it seems like a totally unnecessary annoyance in our increasingly annoying existence. Just one more thing to elevate my blood pressure. This morning, I was watching a program I like on CBS, because it’s not as angering as almost everything else you can see on the public airwaves. It’s called “CBS This Morning” and it usually features interesting stories from almost anywhere that tend to make you feel good.

If I hadn’t called my mother last night, I would have missed the first hour of the show because I wouldn’t have remembered to set my clock forward for daylight savings.

Today’s show included one of those little factoids that you sometimes get before a station break. It said that Benjamin Franklin had originally introduced the idea of daylight savings time for the purpose of saving candles.

I always understood the time was changed to make it easier for farmers somehow, but my mom, who also dislikes daylight sayings time and grew up on a farm, says the only thing it did was confuse the cattle twice a year.

Well, the candles don’t seem worried, the cattle are still confused, and so am I.

Maybe somebody in the congress can tell us why we still do this, but I, seriously, doubt it. What could he/she possibly say?


Mythical Religious Persecution Narrative and a New Jim Crow

Earlier this week, a story spread like wildfire about two pastors threatened with jail time and massive fines for not performing gay weddings. Attorneys from the right wing ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the pastors. The story was breathless, controversial and inaccurate.

The pastors in question run a for profit business that as recently as two weeks ago was very clear that they offered both religious and civil ceremonies. They run a marriage mill, performing something like 1400 weddings per year. Oh, and the big error? The city of Coeur d’Alene had not threatened them with fines or jail time, there have been no complaints filed against them. The couple in question asked the city attorney what would happen if they failed to comply with the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance and refused to marry a same-sex couple; the city attorney spelled out the possible legal consequences. End of story. Not really. I’ll let Jeremy Hooper explain:

When I first learned about the story of Idaho’s Hitching Post, which was suddenly the far-right’s latest marriage “victim” for supposedly being threatened by the city of Coeur d’Alene for not marrying a same-sex couple, I thought the whole thing was too coincidental to be true. I didn’t focus on it in my last post on the subject since I had the much more newsworthy discovery that the business had changed its website so that they could seem much more faith-driven than they had been operating in the past. But a part of me was wondering how the same business that went to the press back in May with its preemptive marriage fears, well before Idaho had marriage equality, could now be in the spotlight in such a major way. it just seemed too perfectly orchestrated.

To wit (Gridley is the city attorney):

“Their lawsuit was something of a surprise because we have had cordial conversations with them in the past and they have never disclosed that they have recently become a religious corporation,” Gridley wrote.

Gridley wrote that the city will not prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies or other exempt organizations or anyone else as a result of their lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion.

In addition to exempting those groups, Gridley wrote that the anti-discrimination ordinance states that it “shall be construed and applied in a manner consistent with First Amendment jurisprudence regarding the freedom of speech and exercise of religion.”

When contacted by The Press for comment, Don Knapp said the Hitching Post is not operating as a not-for-profit religious corporation. He also said he does not know ADF Attorney David Cortman.

Let’s be clear – almost everything you’ve heard about the case is wrong. No complaint has been filed against The Hitching Post. If they are a legitimate religious organization, they are exempt from the city’s ordinance. (It’s worth noting that they have been an ordinary, for profit business up to this point and have a history of performing both religious and civil ceremonies; they have not been, up to this point, a church or religious organization.)

The facts haven’t stopped hosts of religious people sanctimoniously declaring that “no one should be forced to do something that violates their conscience” and “no one should be forced to participate in a same sex wedding.” Utah legislators have obviously seen the story and are alreayd discussing a bill that would allow people to declare they have a religious objection and exempt themselves from participating in same-sex weddings (if history is any guide, the bill will pass, but will be so overly broad it will fail constitutional muster and be struck down, leading to all sorts of public hysterics over activists judges and repeated sharing of bathetic overhyped tales of bakers and florists and photographers and poor picked on pastors). It’s clear that a great many religious persons oppose same-sex marriage, and believe their opposition is entirely based on theological reasons and fear that at some point, some legal change will force them to “accept” same-sex marriage.

I don’t want to minimize the difficulty marriage equality presents for many religious persons. People do not lightly give up tradition or traditional teachings about sexuality and relationships.

Until very recently, most people casually accepted the idea that something was “wrong” with gay and lesbian persons. The idea that sexual minority persons are not inherently sick, immoral or incapable of forming long-lasting, stable relationships is relatively new in our society. The idea of same-sex marriage is also relatively new (although the Boston Marriage is a fascinating bit of history). Many socially and religiously conservative persons continue to embrace the belief that gay persons can become straight through therapy and prayer, that being gay is a choice and a bad one.

For some persons, the idea of a same sex couple marrying seems absurd at best. These individuals define marriage as a man and a woman and exclude anything else (one suspects Utah State Rep. Kraig Powell is such a person). It’s not uncommon in discussions to hear someone declare that marriage is between a man and a woman and anything is fake and the law can’t make “real” what isn’t real. The “love the sinner hate the sin” motto employed by religious persons reveals more than most people think – for many religious persons, gay people are less than straight people and same-sex couples are less than heterosexual couples.

With the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the various cases coming to them, the number of states in which same sex marriage is legal increased dramatically in one week (at JoeMyGod, Joe observed that there had been 9 separate marriage equality maps in the week of October 6).

Religious conservatives have very visibly and vocally expressed their dismay. We’ve heard all the usual buzzwords about out of control judges, judicial activism, and the usual predictions of coming tyranny. Religious conservatives are asking “What next?” with a combination of weariness and trepidation.

There is a challenge for religious conservatives. They’re being asked to acknowledge and live with the reality that same sex marriage is legal and to recognize that means some changes on how they conduct their business. I am certain there will be some lawsuits when religious business owners try to refuse family insurance coverage to same-sex spouses. We will, no doubt, hear paeans to the free market and dreamy invocations that gays can just go elsewhere for jobs and services. Thus far, the courts have not be amenable to such arguments. From a legal standpoint, a marriage is a marriage. Treating married couples differently will not be acceptable.

Religious conservatives are also going to have to face activism within their churches. Although legally there’s no reason to fear that churches will be forced to recognize same-sex marriage, gay persons can be incredibly effective activists. Churches will feel pressure to perform marriages for same-sex couples.

The Hobby Lobby case was probably the most high profile but it is one of many in which the religious right is trying to carve out a separate public and legal sphere for itself in which the devout serve solely the devout and can refuse to serve the sinful masses – a modern Jim Crow – using religious freedom as the rationale. I get this – I’ve read Martha Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity: Disgust Shame and the Law – it’s about fear of moral contagion. Although it’s emotional appeal is undeniable, I think it will ultimately fail of its own weight.

This afternoon, I read that The Hitching Post has re-incorporated itself as a religious corporation. The ACLU and the city of Coeur d’Alene agree that in keeping with their newly filed corporate status, The Hitching Post is a “religious corporation” and exempt from the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. IOW, the whole brouhaha has basically evaporated.

The public spaces from which religious conservatives can exclude gay people are going to become increasingly constrained. The option of declaring one’s self a religious corporation isn’t going to be available to a great many religious conservatives. If, however, claims of religious freedom and religious conscience become publicly linked with discrimination – against women, gays and lesbians, “immoral people” – then very quickly the mythical “war on Christianity” will become a very real public disgust for anyone claiming to be Christian and for Christianity itself.


Colorado students learned their civil disobedience lessons…

Colorado students and teachers alike have been staging walkouts over the new conservative version of history that is being forced on schools by the rightwing school board. And this story is just full of irony. For one thing, among the subjects being removed is all mention of civil disobedience. Thus the students are teaching the topic to the school board. At least a thousand students walked out of class Tuesday, at three separate schools. More followed Wednesday and still more were planned for today.
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Are we (finally) seeing the end of US Imperialism?


The Obama administration’s foreign policy approach (Don’t do stupid stuff) has been unbelievably better than the Bush administration’s approach (do as much stupid stuff as possible).
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What’s the worst that can happen?

This is a question that must have been asked 12 years ago when the US invaded Iraq. Well the initial predictions were positive. The war will be quick, cheap, we will be hailed as liberators, there will be peace, so on and so forth. Of course none of that happened. They were dead wrong, but even me when I witnessed the reports of chaos in Iraq, I could not comprehend that this would happen. What is the worst that can happen? ISIS can happen. The relatively new Islamic terrorist group is different from other organizations because they are successful. They have the oil fields, they are surrounding Baghdad, they have both Iraqi and American weapons in their inventory and they are gaining more ground. This is made worse by their tendency to be very destructive. So far, over 1,700 Iraqi troops have been executed. So yes, that is the worst that can happen and the Bush administration is completely at fault no matter how indirectly this is. Maybe this is a question Obama should consider, especially with an upcoming midterm and a country filled with pissed off liberals.

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Everybody Should See This Film

According to the description on this YouTube post, Michael Moore didn’t make any money off this film, even though it’s another masterpiece by the worlds best documentary artist who has a knack for making people laugh at tragedies which must be fixed.

I hope I’m not helping to deprive Mr. Moore of any earnings, but he is known for not trying to squeeze every last penny from his works, and just wants to help America break free from the capitalist’s embarrassing stranglehold on the citizens who worked really hard to get them where they are.

You should buy the film on Blue-ray to get the extras, which add greatly to the film and offer solutions by American businesses and leaders who want to do things to bring capitalism back into a workable sphere.



Mrs. Heimann’s Mother (reprint)

This post is a reprint from December 2007.

It feels relevant today.


Some 20 years ago, I was taking an evening German course from a woman named Phila Heimann. Mrs. Heimann recounted her experiences in the US. For instance, as recent immigrants, during World War Two, her school-aged children faced discrimination from their American born peers. When asked “Are you Germans?” her kids responded proudly, “No, we are Austrians and we speak Austrian, not German!”

Mrs. Heimann introduced me to a powerful book – a photojournalists book of photos of buildings in an around Vienna. There were two photos of each site – a pre-war and post-war photo, the post war photo showing the ruins. The book was called The Pearl of Vienna in Hitler’s Setting (I think the German was Die Perle Wien Im Hitlers Fassung).

Anyway, I’m thinking about Mrs. Heimann’s mother today.

When she was 5, little Phila went with her mother to watch the troops march off to fight what we know today as World War One. Surrounded by cheering crowds, her mother was weeping. Phila asked, “Why are you crying? Everyone else is happy?” And her mother replied,

“All these men are going to die. They won’t be coming home.”

War is never good, never a grand and glorious thing. It is always and forever a tragedy. No matter what our leaders say or believe or want us to believe, war is always and forever a failure.


June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in the streets of Sarajevo by a man named Gavrilo Princip. The Archduke’s assassination sparked World War One. That was one hundred years ago.

I wonder if we learned anything in the intervening, bloody century.


The Problems in Iraq are Just More of Bush’s Toxic Legacy

Ed Kilgore has a good rant on Bush’s Toxic Legacy:

The mess in Iraq right now, along with the remarkably limited options for any constructive U.S. action to avoid humanitarian and political disaster, and the hostility of American public opinion to doing anything at all, provide fresh reminders that Barack Obama will leave office as he entered it: dealing with the unfinished business and toxic legacy of the George W. Bush administration. From Iraq, to Gitmo, to the NSA, to the housing sector, to the banking sector, to a completely fouled up non-system of campaign finance, to an out-of-control fossil fuel industry, to a long-range structural budget deficit, to a politicized judiciary, and to a radicalized Republican Party: the trouble never ends, and all created by a swaggering crew that inherited peace and prosperity and a budget surplus after the most dubious ascension to power in American history.

It’s worth pondering isn’t it?


Veterans Hospitals..the Truth

The yammerings of the Republicans, and even some Democrats, about VA hospitals, show no trace, not even a trickle of a trace, of institutional and personal memory, let alone history. This is always true, for most people and all institutions. None have historical perspective beyond that of a Snail Darter. Remember, dear friends, that George Bush the Less, and Dick Cheney, the Dark Lord; and Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, started two wars of choice that will fill up to overflowing for at least fifty and likely a hundred years, all our hospitals. The impact of wars, so easy for stupid, venal, misinformed people to start and , in a sense, impossible, ever, to stop , is obvious. World War One is still very much alive, after destroying the twentieth Century, the Century of Total War. And the Bush administration severely cut the funding for our VA hospitals. All hospitals are effected by this avoidable tragedy, the greatest of our time. Our jails, our mental homes, our suicide prevention systems; our broken families and children without mothers and fathers, shooting crime statistics up into the stratosphere, ripple on forever.

The entire world, out into and through the cosmos, suffer from this violation of all that is decent and good, not to mention the laws of war. If the Nuremberg principle were applied to us and not just Nazi Germany, this dark band of brothers would all be in jail, or executed for the hundreds of thousands of murders that they accomplished. George W. Bush placed us squack in the middle of a civil war in Islam, which has been going on time out of mind.(we had our civil wars of religion that followed 400 years of Crusades from the 10th to the 14th centuries, the Renaissance and Reformation and the Enlightenment which gave us a rule of law community not shared by any state in the Middle East, except Israel; and no secular state in the Middle East except Turkey, thanks to Ataturk. The Treaties of Westphalia and Utrecht ended religious-based states in Europe and North America, and in their place we have had, with never a backward step, secular states, thank God (and I’m not being ironic), territorial nation states without any church in charge. (Utah is another matter.) Islamic civil war is not our business. It took us many centuries to build these rule of law communities throughout Europe and North America. Do you really think that Afghanistan will somehow, willy nilly, become democratic? Really? or Iraq?

Now, a huge portion of the Middle East, very understandably, see us as their premiere enemy. And much of Africa. And most other Islamic nations. Add to that what the Dulles brothers did in Iran, in deposing an popularly appointed tradition, conservative ruler, Mohammed Mossadeq, to put the Shah back on his throne and his bloodthirsty killers over the military and the police (the CIA’s war; just like Laos; just as we now do in Pakistan, way way before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Pakistan is the most dangerous nation in the world, because it is the Islamic nuclear missile state and George Bush’s wars threaten always to bring any reasonable government down. I’ll bet World War Three starts there); and what we did in murdering an African head of state (both CIA assassins); and one Latin American democratically elected president assassinated under Nixon’s orders,why not see America as the Great Satan? There is blood on the hands of this dark band of brothers, and Karma, dark amoral Karma, that has nothing to do with God.

Of course we should do more for our veterans. But these tragic events play out, literally, forever. Remember: the Great Depression of our time began under Bush the Less. It had been building ever since Ronald Reagan created street people by refusing to fund mental homes and hospitals and put these people in jails and on the streets, so he could raise the military budget three and a half times over. He ran deficits like no Democrats before him. Then came the crash that remains very much with us still. So many millions of unemployed we don’t even count, because they’ve given up, and have taken themselves out of the workforce. How can the Republicans do this with a straight face? Well, they now are consummate liars, after decades of practice. Some in the Democratic Party do this too. Neither party has a monopoly on lying. BUT this is not to say there is equivalence. With the Tea Party, now absorbed within the Republican Party, truly inexperienced and terribly undereducated people rule the day. I believe the Republicans will gain seats in the House and narrowly take the Senate. All because most people and all institutions lack any trace of historical memory. ed firmage xoxo


Why I’m Not Going to Visit the 9/11 Museum

I’m big on history, and that means we remember both the good and the bad stuff that happens in the world. OTOH I have never been to the Holocaust Museum, and probably won’t ever go. The 9/11 Museum that opens this week in New York has already been added to my list of places to avoid. It’s not just the $24 admission fee. Why did they think it was a good idea to plop a gift shop and a cafe literally on top of a repository that contains 8,000 unidentified body parts from victims of the terrorist attacks? A monument would have been enough. A museum (which includes President George W. Bush’s bullhorn*) is pushing it. A store that sells 9/11 coffee mugs and t-shirts is too much.

On Think Progress, Jessica Goldstein makes the case for the gift shop, which in her mind amounts to: “every other museum has one.”

[* I hope the museum also prominently displays the secret memo Bush didn’t bother to read— the one that warned, “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.”]

More info:

9/11 Memorial Museum’s Admission Fee, Gift Shop Spark Controversy
The 9/11 museum’s absurd gift shop


A Confluence of Events

I was sort of hoping somebody was going to hide marijuana joints all over my apartment for me to find and smoke tomorrow, but I doubt it’s going to happen. :(


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