Archive for the ‘history’ tag
CHICAGO — Police destroyed a million-dollar racket when they trapped a powerful gang of counterfeiters dealing in American Express Company’s travelers’ checks. Working on information received from a stoolpigeon in the underworld of Pittsburgh and aided by the double-crossing of several of the gang’s Eastern distributors, police arrested nine men, including the notorious George H. (“Bugs”) Moran, once claimant to the throne of Chicago’s gangdom. The counterfeiting gang was organized on the ruins of the mob which once ruled Chicago’s North Side under the iron leadership of Moran. The thugs who made up the old mob were killed or scattered in gang warfare with the henchmen of Scarface Al Capone, the South Side mobster who is now serving an eleven-year term in Alcatraz for income-tax evasion. A remnant of the old gang carried on until the repeal of prohibition broke its back. Police heard little of Moran until about six weeks ago. …
1938 Al Capone’s Arch Foe is Arrested
I have nothing to add to the discussion re: the horrible events at the Boston Marathon, so I’ll echo what Wittgenstein wrote in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
I did wonder what the phrase: false flag attack meant. The right-wing nut jobs accuse the government of setting the bombs off for whatever twisted reason the nut jobs came up with. Seems ludicrous to you and me, but then we are sane.
Philip Bump of the Atlantic explains:
What is a “false flag” attack?
The term originates with naval warfare. For centuries, ships have sailed under a flag identifying their nationality. During times of war, ships would sometimes change the national flag they flew in order to fool other vessels that they sought to attack or escape from. They would fly, in other words, a “false flag.” The term then expanded to mean any scenario under which a military attack was undertaken by a person or organization pretending to be something else.
What the questioner was asking, then, was: Did the United States government orchestrate this attack, pretending to be a terrorist organization of some sort, in order to justify expanded security powers?
Is There Historical Precedent for Such a Move by a Government?
The most famous example, however, is contentious. Conspiracy theorists (of which there are a lot in America) often suggest that the 1933 fire at the Reichstag in Berlin was a “false flag” operation by the Nazis to consolidate power and undermine the Communist Party. This is still a subject of debate among historians, some of whom think the man convicted of the crime, Marinus van der Lubbe, was actually responsible. In 1998, a German court exonerated van der Lubbe.
The nexus of fascist government manipulation and phony disasters has proven difficult for theorists to resist. Following most attacks similar to Monday’s bombings, there have been accusations that they serve as a tool of government oppression.
For example, the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary were quickly labeled a “false flag” operation by conspiracy theorists, the implication being that the Obama administration wanted to use the tragedy to tighten gun restrictions. If that was the president’s goal, the Senate wasn’t on board with it.
(click here to continue reading What Is a ‘False Flag’ Attack, and What Does Boston Have to Do with This? – Philip Bump – The Atlantic Wire.)
I guess I knew what that meant after all, just didn’t know the exact historically accurate phrase. I truly doubt the government decided to use Boston marathon runners as fodder in expanding the War on Terror, or the War on Gold, or whatever the nut jobs are speculating about.
From Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon:
On his radio show, Jones speculated that it may have to do with the sudden drop in the price of gold, a favorite commodity of paranoids everywhere. “With gold plunging, what could this signify?” he asked rhetorically. He also noted that Boston has special significance in American history, and because it’s where one of the planes took off from on 9/11. “I said on air that they’re getting ready to blow something up. To fire a shot heard round the world like at Lexington and Concord, and then they do it at this same place on the same day!” he said.
As Alex Altman of Time noted on Twitter, “Today is Patriots’ Day, which has significance for militia movement. McVeigh bombed Murrah Bldg on Patriots’ Day in 1995.” Patriots’ Day, a civil holiday in Massachusetts, commemorates those battles outside Boston that sparked the American Revolution. The holiday is now celebrated on the third Monday of April, though the battles actually took place on April 19, meaning the two dates are often conflated.
In addition to the Oklahoma City Bombing, which occurred on the 19th, the date also coincides with the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. As John Avalon wrote for the Daily Beast in 2010, the day has “emerged as a ‘Hatriot’ holiday for some anti-government activists and militia groups.”
This year, Patriots’ Day also falls on Tax Day, another important date for right-wing extremists. For all these reasons, Jones predicted that while “they might blame it on the Muslims, they’re going to blame it on the Tea Party.”
(click here to continue reading Alex Jones: Boston explosion a government conspiracy – Salon.com.)
There is usually a bit of history behind nearly every human endeavor, in this case, brandy.
Sometimes the influence of history is much less ideological. In fact, sometimes it can come down to something as base as money. The perfect example of this is Cognac. The origins of one of the world’s best-known digestifs is tied purely to commerce and geography.
The Charentes region, just north of Bordeaux, has produced wine since Roman times. During the 13th century, as international commerce began to develop, the region also was a source of salt. The Dutch, who were the world’s shippers at that point, started shipping the local wine as well as the salt. Because the region is also very close to the Limousin forest, where oak trees in particular grew, the container of choice became the oak barrel. Even today, oak sourced from the Limousin forest is the wood of choice for Cognac makers.
But there was a problem — the wine would often spoil during transport.
As a result, during the 17th century the Dutch began to distil the wine. Distillation involves boiling the wine and essentially concentrating it, with the result being a high-alcohol liquid. The name for this in Dutch was “Brandt Wein,” which translates as “Burnt Wine.” Eventually, it became known simply as brandy.
I have heard a few stories as to why they did this, aside from the spoilage factor. One was that barrels of “table wine” took up a lot of space on the boats and shippers were taxed based on the quantity of liquid that they were exporting. Another was that they could add this alcohol to drinking water to keep it from spoiling for their seamen as they travelled the world. This could explain why South Africa, which was also a Dutch colony, became known as a producer of brandy.
However, what happened was that both the Dutch and the French producers began to see that leaving this alcohol, or eau de vie, in oak barrels for prolonged periods actually improved it.
And so, a new type of alcohol product was born, purely out of the need to export.
(click here to continue reading Some historical influences help explain wine, spirits.)
Reading this article in the NYT recently, made me think…
Forty years ago, Mr. Morse would snowshoe into the forest with his father to collect sap from galvanized buckets and load them onto a tractor. The farm has not changed much since then, but the winters have. So has the maple syrup ritual itself.
Scientists say the tapping season — the narrow window of freezing nights and daytime temperatures over 40 degrees needed to convert starch to sugar and get sap flowing — is on average five days shorter than it was 50 years ago. But technology developed over the past decade and improved in recent years offers maple farmers like Mr. Morse a way to offset the effects of climate change with high-tech tactics that are far from natural.
Today, five miles of pressurized blue tubing spider webs down the hillside at Morse Farm, pulling sap from thousands of trees and spitting it into tubs like an immense, inverse IV machine. Modern vacuum pumps are powerful enough to suck the air out of a stainless steel dairy tank and implode it, and they help producers pull in twice as much sap as before.
(click here to continue reading Maple Syrup Takes Turn Toward Technology – NYTimes.com.)
Forty years ago? That would be in the 1970s, and as it happened, I witnessed first hand such production at my family’s 100 acre spread called Frostpocket. I put out a call for some photos of it, and so far, have received three.
Frostpocket Maple Syrup Shack, originally uploaded by swanksalot. [scanned from a print, and slightly retouched in Photoshop]
The site of the Frostpocket Maple Sugar shack (photo taken a few years after we moved away)
As part of our family history, partially excerpted from:
In the spring of 1974 George tapped a few maple trees around his house and made five gallons of maple syrup. His evaporator was an old-fashioned flat steel pan that had been given to him by Wilfred. The next year George surveyed the hillside between Randy’s house site and south of the log cabin and found places for 288 taps. That spring he had the help of Greg Sperry and Bie Engelen, who had wintered over in the cabin, and of Colleen, who was pregnant with Katie.
George placed the old flat pan outdoors near his house and carried the sap to the pan in the old fashioned way, in buckets. The first run of sap was on April 7 followed by runs on April 15 and 16, April 20 and 21 and on April 22 and 23. Colleen pulled a muscle while carrying buckets of sap through the deep snow and her doctor ordered her to stop. She devoted her time to curing and smoking last year’s hams and starting tomato plants for the garden while George and Bie continued working in the bush until the weather turned warm and the sap stopped running. George made 25 gallons of syrup that year, much of which was amber or dark. George sold some of the syrup and used the rest at home as a sweetener. In the fall of 1975 a shed was built in the flats below the log cabin and the evaporator pan moved there. A large quantity of standing dead balsam fir trees were cut from the edges of the clearing and stacked near the shed for use as firewood the following spring.
Per my dad: “homemade tubing washer, taken about 1978.”
The eroded granite hills of the Eagle Lake Uplands are an ideal environment for the rock or sugar maple and the sugar maple is the dominant tree on the stony hilltops of Machar Township. The first generation of pioneers placed a high value on maple sugar and brought sugaring off equipment with them when they settled the township in the 1880s. By the 1970s there were half dozen maple syrup producers in the Uplands community.
The boiler where we made maple syrup, after about ten years of neglect.
For the 1977 sugar season, George designed a system of dump stations to reduce the effort needed to collect the sap. Gathering the sap from the sap buckets and hauling it to the evaporator is the most laborious part of making maple syrup. At least once a day when the sap is running, every bucket has to be emptied and the sap delivered to the evaporator and boiled to syrup as quickly as possible. On a warm day any delay might result in a finished product that is “dark”.
If the sap is left in the buckets overnight and the temperature stays warm throughout the night the sap may begin to ferment and will spoil. The spoiled sap can still be boiled into syrup but is will be very dark, have an after taste and be difficult or impossible to sell. Furthermore the spoiled sap will contaminate the buckets, tubing and storage tanks making any syrup produced thereafter more likely to be dark.
Most modern sugar bushes use a system of tubes that moves the sap directly from each tap to the evaporator house without the use of buckets. In January or February 1977 George and Philip set up 22 dump stations connected by black plastic PVC tubing to one of two storage tanks. One storage tank was mounted next to the evaporator in the sugarhouse. The other was a transfer tank located in a low spot between the log cabin and George’s house.
The men used a gas-driven gear pump to move the sap from the transfer tank to the storage tank in the sugarhouse. The sap was collected from the buckets hanging from each tap in the usual way but instead of carrying the sap to the evaporator, it was carried to the nearest dump station. From the dump station the sap flowed by gravity through the tubing to one of the storage tanks. Whenever the storage tank was partially full, George would build a fire under the evaporator and began to boil the sap into syrup. As the level in the evaporator dropped he would open a valve to move sap from the storage tank into the evaporator.
The old flat evaporator made syrup in batches. When all of the syrup in the pan was ready, George poured the finished syrup into retail containers and then sealed the cans. In 1977 he purchased a more modern evaporator that had partitions built into it. The sap continuously entered at one end of the pan and moved slowly to the other end where it was taken off as syrup.
George always made the syrup while Philip and Debbie emptied the sap buckets and carried the sap to the dump stations. When the storage tank was near empty the sap in the transfer tank was pumped over to the storage tank and George continued to make syrup until both tanks were empty. After a good run the evaporator was kept boiling until late into the night.
and to quote myselffrom 2010:
Maple syrup season was always my favorite time of year as a kid: spring meant snow was beginning to melt, plus there was lot of opportunity to play in mud as I walked the mile home from where the school bus dropped me off. I didn’t participate much in the actual maple harvesting process, but it does have an evocative smell which I can still recall after all these intervening years.
I don’t plan on joining in on the Ten Years After song and dance routine currently stumbling down Bad Memory Lane – Operation Iraqi Liberation was always a boondoggle, and I don’t feel celebratory towards its inception, nor nostalgic for those days when liberals were accused of being traitors, or worse. There were those of us who did march the streets in opposition to the invasion of a sovereign country on the flimsiest of pretexts, but then, as now, our voices were ignored and marginalized. This tiny blog itself1 was created because I needed somewhere to vent about the ridiculousness of it all.
Charles Pierce writes along the same lines, albeit with more vitriol, about war mongers like Bill Keller, Richard Perle and David Frum:
And precisely what risk did you “manage” ? What chance did you take? You gambled with other people’s children in a game you’d helped rig. What cost was exacted from you, sitting your fat ass in a swivel chair at a wingnut intellectual chop-shop while kids are still staggering around the wards without legs and arms, or the cognitive functions to get them through the day? What price did you pay? You have to send out for lunch one day? Show me the butcher’s bill for the Perle household, you vampire son of a bitch.
And let us not forget Perle’s onetime co-author, David Frum, who’s mysteriously been allowed through the tradesmen’s entrance back into the discourse conducted by decent people. It should be recalled, before we all start doing that which Winston Wolf cautioned us not to do, that Frum did a lot more than write one speech in 2002. Two years later, he also wrote a discreetly McCarthyite book with the aforementioned Perle called An End To Evil. If we’d found a single cache of biotoxins anywhere in Iraq, Frum would have been waving his warrior dick at CPAC last weekend. Instead, we hear about Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair, and how really sorry David Frum is for the hand he played in the deaths of so many people who are not named David Frum.
Shut up, all of you. Go away. You are complicit in one way or another in a giant crime containing many great crimes. Atone in secret. Wash the blood off your hands in private. Because there were people who got it right. Anthony Zinni. Eric Shiseki. Hans Blix. Mohamed ElBaradei. The McClatchy Washington bureau guys. Dozens of liberal academics who got called fifth-columnists and worse. Professional military men whose careers suffered as a result. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets around the world. The governments of Canada and France. Those people, I will listen to this week. Go to hell, the rest of you, and go there in silence and in shame.
(click here to continue reading Iraq War Anniversary New York Times – Pleased To Be Shutting The Piehole Now – Esquire.)
There were other chicken hawks and war mongers equally as vile, like Andrew Sullivan:
Andrew Sullivan is re-publishing his posts as a war blogger: March, 2003 bit.ly/Z05QkS For the purpose of showing how wrong he was.
— Jay Rosen(@jayrosen_nyu) March 4, 2013
The horrible irony is that thanks to our collective amnesia, most people today mistakenly identify Andrew Sullivan’s punditry with intellectual courage — that he turned against Bush’s war earlier than most of his fellow neocon pundits, supposedly at great risk to his reputation and “brand” because he turned on the very same bloodthirsty war mob he’d been organizing and firing up for years — lending him contrarian credibility… despite his record of viciously attacking critics of Bush’s war as traitors, collaborators with terrorism and evil, at a time when being targeted as a national traitor by a major media figure like Sullivan was genuinely dangerous to a critic’s career.
People are already forgetting the ugly explosion of McCarthyism in this country around the invasion of Iraq and the months afterwards, just as they’ve forgotten the attack dog role that Andrew Sullivan played in all of that, before his allegedly “brave” turn away from Bush and towards a safer weathervane politics of libertarianism and Obama-boosterism.
(click here to continue reading If Andrew Sullivan Is The Future of Journalism Then Journalism Is Fucked.)
On the tenth anniversary of the American-led invasion of Iraq, Media Matters looks back at the work of some of the media’s most prominent pro-war voices. Instead of facing consequences for backing the invasion based on information that turned out to be false and criticizing war opponents, many of these media figures continue to hold positions of influence and continue to provide foreign policy reporting and commentary.
Paul Gigot / Wall Street Journal Editorial Page
Fred Hiatt / Washington Post Editorial Page
(click here to continue reading Where Are The Media’s Iraq War Boosters 10 Years Later? | Research | Media Matters for America.)
Eric Boehlert adds a thought: could those of us gnashing our teeth in 2002 have been able to reach the corporate media through Twitter? And changed the trajectory of that sad history? Probably not, but maybe…
Thinking about the historic failure of the Times and others in the media a decade ago, I couldn’t help wish that Twitter had been around during the winter of 2002-2003 to provide a forum for critics to badger writers like Keller and the legion of Beltway media insiders who abdicated their role as journalists and fell in line behind the Bush White House’s march to war. I wouldn’t have cared that recipients might have been insulted by the Twitter critiques or seen them as mean and shallow, the way Keller does today. Sorry, but the stakes in 2003 were too high to worry about bruised feelings.
Looking back, I wish Keller and other pro-war columnists had been “bullied” (rhetorically) as they got almost everything wrong about the pending war. I think the revolutionary peer connection tool would have been invaluable in shaming journalists into doing their jobs when so many failed to. (Keller later admitted the invasion was a “monumental blunder.”)
Twitter could have helped puncture the Beltway media bubble by providing news consumers with direct access to confront journalists during the run-up to the war. And the pass-around nature of Twitter could have rescued forgotten or buried news stories and commentaries that ran against the let’s-go-to-war narrative that engulfed so much of the mainstream press.
Considering the central role the lapdog media played in helping to sell President Bush’s pre-emptive invasion, I wonder if Twitter could have stopped the Iraq War.
Make no mistake, the nascent liberal blogosphere was raising its collective voice against the war in 2003 and calling out the press for its lapdog ways. In fact, one of the catalysts for the rapid expansion of the liberal blogosphere one decade ago was the ingrained sense of frustration. Progressive often searched in vain for passionate and articulate anti- war voices within the mainstream media. (And when they found a champion, Phil Donahue, he was summarily fired just weeks before the invasion.) Denied a voice, they created their own platform, liberal blogs.
The problem was the liberal blogosphere got the war story right, but they did it in something of a bubble. It was a bubble the mainstream media bolstered to isolate their progressive critics; to isolate and marginalize the new band of rowdy citizen journalists. Still new enough in 2002 and 2003 that they didn’t necessarily command journalists’ respect, and lacking the technological ability to reach into newsrooms, liberal blogs were often ignored by media elite, despite the fact the blogs were raising all the questions about the pending war.
(click here to continue reading Could Twitter Have Stopped The Media’s Rush To War In Iraq? | Blog | Media Matters for America.)
via Matt Wuerker, a final thought…Footnotes:
US Saigon Rift.PNG
The BBC has disclosed troubling history of Richard Nixon’s actions during the 1968 election, news I’ve not seen reported elsewhere. I just searched again, and for instance, The New York Times hasn’t mentioned this revelation, nor has The Washington Post, nor The Wall Street Journal. I wonder why? I’m not a conspiracy minded person, but it is a bit ironic that a British paper scooped the American press on a bit of American history.
Anyway, the BBC reports that Richard Nixon definitively sabotaged the peace talks between North and South Vietnam on the eve of the 1968 election by promising the government of Nguyen Van Thieu they would get a better deal if they waited until Nixon won the election. Foolishly, the South Vietnamese took this advice, and the Paris peace talks ended. Of course, the Vietnam War didn’t end for another 5 years, with thousands of U.S. casualties and thousands more Vietnamese casualties needlessly incurred.
There is no two ways about this: Richard Nixon deemed his own election chances more important than his country. Treasonous fuck.
The idea that Johnson might have been the candidate, and not Hubert Humphrey, is just one of the many secrets contained on the White House tapes.
They also shed light on a scandal that, if it had been known at the time, would have sunk the candidacy of Republican presidential nominee, Richard Nixon.
By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks – or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had “blood on his hands”.
It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign.
He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault (born Chen Xiangmei – Chinese: 陳香梅), a senior campaign adviser.
At a July meeting in Nixon’s New York apartment, the South Vietnamese ambassador was told Chennault represented Nixon and spoke for the campaign. If any message needed to be passed to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, it would come via Chennault.
In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.
Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.
So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out.
He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador’s phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault’s calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to “just hang on through election”.
Johnson was told by Defence Secretary Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace.
In a series of remarkable White House recordings we can hear Johnson’s reaction to the news.
In one call to Senator Richard Russell he says: “We have found that our friend, the Republican nominee, our California friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends both, he has been doing it through rather subterranean sources. Mrs Chennault is warning the South Vietnamese not to get pulled into this Johnson move.”
(click here to continue reading BBC News – The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’.)
And yet, Johnson never went public with Nixon’s treasonous behavior. I wonder if LBJ had, and the country became understandably outraged, would Nixon have won the election? Probably not as it was so close. Also, would Regan’s team been bold enough to rig the end of the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1980? Also, probably not.
Update, at least one major news outlet has covered the story: Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. She compares Richard Nixon’s treason with the intentional misinformation in the run-up to the Operation for Iraqi Liberation, as the Iraq War was originally called before they realized the joke (O.I.L.) was a bit too obvious.
my attempt at making a Rabbie Burns aka Robert Burns cocktail…
The peculiar habit among Americans to call Burns “Bobby” (or “Bobbie”) has long been an object of derision. Ogden Nash proclaimed in the New Yorker: “That hero my allegiance earns/Who boldly speaks of Robert Burns.” His 1951 poem “Everything’s Haggis in Hoboken” lampoons “coy and cute” faux-Scots who “turn all doch-an-dorris” at the mention of Burns. “I have an inexpensive hobby,” Nash wrote, “Simply not to call him Bobby.” Noting that he would no more speak of Tommy Hardy or Bernie Shaw, Nash penned this indelible couplet: “And I yearn to shatter a set of crockery/On this condescending Bobbie-sockery.” Nash liked a drink, but he wouldn’t have dreamed of ordering a Bobby Burns.
In the U.K., the problematic diminutive isn’t Bobbie, but “Rabbie.” Many Burnsians take it as a mark of the neophyte or poseur when they hear someone praise dear old “Rabbie.” Others get downright offended. Cranky Glaswegian politician John S. Clarke wrote in 1925: “To refer to Burns as ‘Rabbie’ at this stage in world history is a piece of disgusting insolence.” I quail to think what Clarke would have said of the Bobby Burns cocktail.
The drink makes one of its first appearances in the 1930 “Savoy Cocktail Book,” published in London. The cocktail is called the Bobby Burns, and is made with Scotch, sweet vermouth and a bit of Benedictine. But that may not be the original Burns Cocktail. “Old Waldorf Bar Days” was published in 1931, but its recipes were those served at the Waldorf Hotel before Prohibition. The book includes not a Bobby Burns but a more formally titled Robert Burns. (The author, Albert Stevens Crockett, isn’t sure whether the drink was christened for the famous poet or for a local cigar salesman of the same name.) Instead of adding Benedictine to the Scotch and vermouth, the Waldorf’s Robert Burns cocktail calls for a dash of absinthe.
Further complicating matters, the Burns hasn’t always stuck to Benedictine or absinthe. Kingsley Amis, in his book “Every Day Drinking,” stated that “Bobbie Burns” cocktails were to be made of Scotch, vermouth and Drambuie. He had good reason for this recommendation: David Embury, author of the indispensable 1948 “Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” defines a Bobbie Burns cocktail as a “Rob Roy with the addition of 1 dash of Drambuie.” Embury notes that “Benedictine is sometimes used in place of Drambuie,” but he says that “Drambuie is preferable because it is made with a Scotch whisky base.”
Embury also suggests adding a dash of Peychaud’s bitters to the mix. I’m not so sure about the Peychaud’s, but I do prefer the drink made with Drambuie. You may disagree — it’s worth trying the Burns cocktail all three ways to find out how you like it best.
(click here to continue reading A Birthday Toast to Scotland’s Bard – WSJ.com.)
For the record, I tried all three (using only 1 oz of Scotch, and other ingredients proportionately adjusted), and liked the Benedictine version best, the Drambuie variant second best, and the Absinthe version was a bit overpowered by the Absinthe. Final verdict was: worth trying if you want to drink a Scotch cocktail. I’ve had this bottle of Dewar’s White Label for a long, long time, might as well drink it up, and celebrate the poet.
Burns, in common with many other great figures in history, did indeed have a colorful and eventful life during his 37 short years upon this earth, his early demise due in no small part to the doctors of the time who believed that standing immersed in the freezing waters of the Soiway Firth would benefit his failing health.
But his lifestyle is not the reason for his everlasting fame. That is due simply to the wonderful legacy of poems and songs that he left to the world, and which most certainly deserve to be read more than once a year.
Robert Burns was a man of vision. He believed absolutely in the equality of man, irrespective of privilege of rank or title. He detested cruelty and loved the gifts of nature.
It is undeniable that Burns liked the company of women, but what is not generally recognised is that he was a strong advocate of women’s rights, at a time when few men were.
He despised false piety and consequently was unpopular with the church as he mocked their preachers mercilessly.
I have, however, heard an eloquent Church of Scotland minister describe some lines from the Bard’s works as being no less than modern proverbs, and it is difficult to disagree with that statement when one considers the depth of meaning in some of the words that Burns wrote.
‘The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley!’
‘Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!’
‘O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!’
‘An honest man’s the noblest work of God!”
The works of Robert Burns are indeed full of wisdom!
Burns’ poems and songs are wonderful to read, but as many are composed in what is virtually a foreign language to the bulk of English speakers, they can be heavy going to the non-Scot, or non-Scots speaker.
This book contains a varied selection of Burns’ works, some well known, others less so.
(click here to continue reading Understanding Robert Burns.)
Nobody is sure who the real Robin Hood was, or even if there was a real Robin Hood; and it’s certainly not known when or how he died (although the fictional Robin, in one account, was killed by an evil abbess). The earliest any authority says he arrived on the scene is 1190, and some have him wandering in as late as the 1320s. Two plausible candidates for the historical Robin Hood have been identified: Robert Hood of Yorkshire, AKA “Hobbehod,” who was recorded in 1228 and 1230 as having been an outlaw and fugitive (which constitutes the sum total of information known about him); and Robert Hood of Wakefield, also in Yorkshire, who lived in the early 1300s.
The Straight Dope: Was there really a Robin Hood?
Same argument raged when I lived in Austin – does everything old have to vanish to focus on what’s new and sleek? Les Ami, Captain Quakenbush’s, and many, many other institutions of the Austin I grew up in are no more.
Old Austin clashes with New Austin nearly every day, causing much worry among the city’s natives: Will these new condos and luxury hotels rub out everything that makes their weird city great? Will the shows for hipster musicians dry up? Is $10 guacamole really worth it?…
A generation of Austinites has unsuccessfully battled against losing iconic institutions like the Armadillo World Headquarters, Liberty Lunch and Las Manitas — all razed to make way for New Austin. But one developer is trying to prove that the old and new can cohabit.
For the last eight months, the developer, Transwestern, has been overhauling a seven-acre plot in South Austin. The area is a mess: bulldozers and excavators sit among tall piles of dirt and rock; 20-foot-high concrete piers jut out of the ground; and a jagged eight-foot trench is framed by hundreds of feet of orange-and-white highway barriers lining the road’s shoulder.
At the center of this chaotic scene sits an old, squat red building, dwarfed by pipes and slabs, looking like the last proud holdout in a world gone mad. This is the Broken Spoke, and it is arguably the greatest honky-tonk of all time. The Spoke, which was built by James White in 1964, has hosted everyone from Bob Wills and Willie Nelson to an unknown George Strait. It attracts tourists from Japan and England and celebrities from Hollywood. They gawk and drink and dance at the most famous club in a city that bills itself as the Live Music Capital of the World.
(click here to continue reading In New Austin, Accommodating the Broken Spoke Honkey-Tonk – NYTimes.com.)
Of the places mentioned in this NYT article, I’ve been in the Broken Spoke, eaten eggs many times at Las Manitas, and where I first stayed in Austin1 was a scant two blocks from the Armadillo2, but by far the biggest loss to me was Liberty Lunch. I went to probably over 100 live music events there, from the time I was a snot-nosed 15 year old in the mosh pits, up until I moved away. I saw punk rock, heavy metal, reggae, acts like Thomas Mapfumo, Burning Spear, Sonic Youth, Bob Mould, Timbuk3, yadda yadda. I would have seen The Pogues, circa 1989, but I got too drunk and fell asleep on the Congress Avenue bus. J’Net Ward was some sort of business partner at the restaurant I worked at to put myself through school3, and I always remember her being an all-around cool person.
Anyway, let’s hope the Broken Spoke doesn’t get plowed under too.
1938 Beer Baron Seized
BARCELONA — “Kid Tiger” Sikowsky, fugitive American beer baron, who has sought in vain to find refuge in most European countries, was arrested here yesterday [Jan. 11]. Sikowsky says he not only was a member of Al Capone’s gang, but that Capone, Chicago hoodlum and vice racketeer, was under his orders. Undesirable because of his criminal activities in America, and wanted there for income-tax invasion, Sikowsky has been ordered out of one country after another. The arrested man was allegedly invited to Spain, where he attracted the attention of the police by the way he squandered money. He is expected to be expelled from Spain as he was from Andorra. “I’m no criminal. I only owe some income taxes, that’s all. And say — tell me anybody who doesn’t try to dodge his taxes, anyway.”
Beer Baron Seized – 75 Years Ago – NYTimes.com
It’s one of favorite talking points of the good-’ol-boys power network that plotted beyond closed doors to destroy Bertrand Goldberg’s landmark Prentice Hospital: We don’t need Prentice because we’ll still have Marina City – if you two world-renowned masterpieces, why wouldn’t anyone not want to make it just one? (The next court hearing on the lawsuit to save Prentice is tomorrow, January 11th. Stay tuned.)
The irony of all this, of course, is none of these bulldozing power brokers who profess such love for Marina City have lifted a finger to give it landmark protection, allowing the indignities foisted upon this global symbol of the greatness of Chicago to continue unabated.
Trouble is, Hitler never made such a speech in 1935. Nor is there any record that he ever spoke these particular words at all. This little “speech” was obviously written for him, many years after his death, by someone who wanted you to believe that gun registration is Hitler-evil.
What he did say, 7 years later, was this: “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.” So it’s fair to conclude that he believed “gun control” had its uses. But that’s quite a different thing from claiming that “gun control” was instrumental in the NAZI rise to power.
And the truth is that no gun law was passed in Germany in 1935. There was no need for one, since a gun registration program was already in effect in Germany; it was enacted in 1928, five years before Hitler’s ascendancy. But that law did not
The Myth Of Hitler’s Gun Ban « The Propaganda Professor
Interesting. I’ll have to get a better photograph of this place.
Much less well-known is the West Chicago Street Railroad’s (WCSR) former powerhouse, still standing in the West Loop at Washington Street and Jefferson Street. Equipment in this building drove two cables: one that pulled cable cars through the tunnel under the Chicago River along Washington Street and around the downtown and another shorter cable that pulled cars from Washington Street and Jefferson Street to Madison Street and DesPlaines Street.
This former WCSR powerhouse at Jefferson and Washington streets drove the cables that pulled West Side cable cars through the tunnel under the South Branch of the Chicago River and around two downtown loops. It is now the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134. The building was vacated in 1906, and for decades it housed the Chicago Surface Line’s Legal and Accident Investigation Department. Subsequently, it was modified—more substantially, perhaps unalterably, than the NCSR’s powerhouse on LaSalle Street. Several dormers were added at the roofline, the rear portion of the building was extended, and the smokestack was removed. Most significantly, a large stone wall covers much of the first floor. Today, the building serves as headquarters for Local 134 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which also hosts the monthly meeting of the 20th Century Railroad Club.
(click here to continue reading Cable Car Remnants | Forgotten Chicago | History, Architecture, and Infrastructure.)
Update: a better photo
Norquist’s actual power in Washington and within the GOP is illusory. In terms of stature and public prominence, he’s been a major beneficiary of the party’s opposition to tax increases – but he hasn’t been the driving force behind it. The real story of the GOP’s modern evolution on taxes played out in several stages, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.
The first key moment was the advent of supply-side economics in the late ‘70s, the theory that minimizing income, corporate and investment taxes would result in perpetual economic growth that would benefit everyone. It was a fringe idea at first, championed by economist Arthur Laffer and a handful of Republican members of Congress, most notably Jack Kemp.
Republicans’ tax insanity – Salon.com
A book that I’ve been meaning to read as well…
I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People (iBook) Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.
But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?
In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey.
And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.
(click here to continue reading When right-wing blather killed – Salon.com.)
and Joan Walsh’s thumbnail review:
A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book, “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.
Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.
So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”
Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.
Laura Miller adds:
The Irish economy was backward and precarious, but for Trevelyan the failure of the potato crop presented not a life-or-death crisis but an opportunity to forcibly modernize it. He agreed to a limited public works program (in which out-of-work laborers were paid a pittance to build roads to nowhere) because he believed it would break the peasant class of its reliance on barter and subsistence farming. The idea was to sell them corn imported from overseas because the grain couldn’t be cultivated in Ireland, thereby accustoming them to using money. However, when Ireland’s mercantile men objected to the price-depressing effects of government-funded grain, Trevelyan vowed not to sell it too cheaply, claiming that high prices would promote foreign imports.
These strategies amount to the 19th-century version of what Naomi Klein has dubbed the “Shock Doctrine”: an attempt to force economic reforms on a population reeling in the aftermath of a disaster. Kelly intersperses the nitty gritty of the shifting Irish economic situation with horrific glimpses of its human toll: streets jammed with gaunt, half-naked wraiths who had sold their clothes for food, families gathered mutely in miserable cottages to die, unburied corpses by the roadside, entire hamlets razed by landlords seeking to evict “dead weight” tenants they’d otherwise have to help. If only these unfortunates could have sought comfort in “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”!
Recognizing that the British handling of the famine was “parsimonious, short-sighted, grotesquely twisted by religion and ideology” rather than deliberately genocidal is important because while powerful, paranoid, racist madmen like Hitler are relatively rare, our own time is replete with men like Trevelyan. The Moralists saw the famine as a combination of divine judgement on the Irish people and the market working itself out in accordance with God’s plan, an equation of brutal capitalism with pseudo-Christian piety that can be just as destructive as outright malevolence. That version of the story may not be as satisfying dramatically and morally as the one with the evil, homicidal Englishman, but it does do what history does best, which is to show us how not to repeat it.
(click here to continue reading “The Graves Are Walking”: Was the Great Potato Famine a genocide? – Salon.com.)