Archive for category American History

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.

Enjoy:

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Mrs. Heimann’s Mother (reprint)

This post is a reprint from December 2007.

It feels relevant today.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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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

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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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Federal Judge Strikes Down Amendment 3

I’m stunned.

A federal judge in Utah Friday struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

“The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby. “Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”

And amazed:

“Applying the law as it is required to do, the court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same- sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law,” the judge wrote. “The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.” Read more at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=28099570#JEOfBdYmOobFv7r6.99

Apparently the judge didn’t stay the order which means . . . .

“A federal district court judge in Utah just issued a decision striking down Utah’s marriage ban on the grounds that it violates the fundamental right to marry and lacks even a rational basis. This is the first decision since Perry–and the first after Windsor–striking down a marriage ban under the federal constitution. The judge did not stay his decision, so same-sex couples in Utah are applying for marriage licenses now.”

I don’t think anybody saw this one coming.

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November 22, 1963

If you can remember that day, then you look at history and politics just a little bit differently. Despite the Cold War and clashes over civil rights, Americans were much more optimistic in 1963.

More info:
Online, a digital trove of JFK material

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Are we at the beginning of a period of political instability and violence?

Peter Turchin seems to believe so – although he also says that it’s not pre-ordained.  I don’t have time for a deeper examination right now, but it’s worth delving these two articles.

A couple key passages:

The US elites, similarly, took the smooth functioning of the political-economic system for granted. The only problem, as they saw it, was that they weren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts. Feelings of dissatisfaction ran high during the Bear Market of 1973—82, when capital returns took a particular beating. The high inflation of that decade ate into inherited wealth. A fortune of $2 billion in 1982 was a third smaller, when expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, than $1 billion in 1962, and only a sixth of $1 billion in 1912. All these factors contributed to the reversal of the late 1970s.

And this:

Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020. In other words, we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the US will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval. This prediction is not a ‘prophecy’. I don’t believe that disaster is pre-ordained, no matter what we do. On the contrary, if we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.

And finally this one:

How does growing economic inequality lead to political instability? Partly this correlation reflects a direct, causal connection. High inequality is corrosive of social cooperation and willingness to compromise, and waning cooperation means more discord and political infighting. Perhaps more important, economic inequality is also a symptom of deeper social changes, which have gone largely unnoticed.

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‘Government of the People, by the People, for the People, Shall Not Perish From the Earth’

From Ken Burns’ documentary “The Civil War” (1990). Today marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s 269-word Gettysburg Address.

More info:
Ken Burns: Learn Lincoln’s words by heart

UPDATE: Fox’s Obama Derangement Syndrome: Gettysburg Edition

UPDATE: Right-Wing Noise Machine Fabricates Gettysburg Address Omission To Attack Obama

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Shared Ideological Ground Between The Militia Movement and the Tea Party

I’m sure some very smart person has written about this topic and I didn’t see it.  What the heck, I’ll plunge boldly ahead.

Manuel Castells’ three volume study The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture includes a section, in volume two, The Power of Identity, discussing the militia movement.  Castells discusses the ideology, values and roots of the militia movement.  The following are quotes from The Power of Identity: Read the rest of this entry »

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