B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘history’ tag

Ten Years Gone – Operation Iraqi Liberation

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Six Thousand Thirteen Too Many
Six Thousand Thirteen Too Many

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.)

The Cost of War - 2008
The Cost of War – 2008

There were other chicken hawks and war mongers equally as vile, like Andrew Sullivan:

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.)

None of the people on this list2 should be allowed in polite company, much less still employed.

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.

Fred Barnes

Richard Cohen

Thomas Friedman

Paul Gigot / Wall Street Journal Editorial Page

Sean Hannity

Stephen Hayes

Fred Hiatt / Washington Post Editorial Page

Bill Keller

Charles Krauthammer

Bill Kristol

Judith Miller

Joe Scarborough

(click here to continue reading Where Are The Media’s Iraq War Boosters 10 Years Later? | Research | Media Matters for America.)

Defunct Tweets
Defunct Tweets

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…

Matt Wueker - Congressional Dunces

Matt Wueker – Congressional Dunces

Footnotes:
  1. in an earlier incarnation, mostly all lost now []
  2. which is not even close to comprehensive []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 20th, 2013 at 8:32 am

Posted in politics

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The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s treason

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US Saigon Rift
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.

Richard Nixon Waves

Traitor Richard Nixon Waves

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.

War Memories
War Memories

——

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon, Traitor

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.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 19th, 2013 at 9:30 am

Posted in politics

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A Birthday Toast to Scotland’s Bard

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Rabbie Burns Cocktail
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.)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 19th, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Food and Drink

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The Straight Dope: Was there really a Robin Hood?

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Preoccupied With His Vengeance

Earlier today…

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.

 

Via:
The Straight Dope: Was there really a Robin Hood?
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Written by eggplant

January 18th, 2013 at 10:05 am

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In New Austin, Accommodating the Broken Spoke Honkey-Tonk

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Vintage
Vintage

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.)

Waterloo Records
Waterloo Records

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.  

Your So Happy (sic)
Your So Happy (sic)

Anyway, let’s hope the Broken Spoke doesn’t get plowed under too.

Willie Nelson Blvd
Willie Nelson Blvd

Footnotes:
  1. in the summer before my entire family moved to Austin []
  2. even though it was already shut down by then, about to be replaced by a corporate park []
  3. Magnolia Cafe South []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 13th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Beer Baron Seized – 75 Years Ago – NYTimes.com

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Earlier today…

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.”

Via:
Beer Baron Seized – 75 Years Ago – NYTimes.com
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Written by eggplant

January 12th, 2013 at 1:33 pm

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ArchitectureChicago PLUS: At Marina City – Bertrand Goldberg: Screwed Again?

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Earlier today…

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.

Via:
ArchitectureChicago PLUS: At Marina City – Bertrand Goldberg: Screwed Again?
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Written by eggplant

January 12th, 2013 at 10:50 am

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The Myth Of Hitler’s Gun Ban « The Propaganda Professor

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Earlier today…

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

Via:
The Myth Of Hitler’s Gun Ban « The Propaganda Professor
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Written by eggplant

January 12th, 2013 at 10:35 am

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Cable Car Remnants in Chicago

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IBEW 134 is supporting Obama

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

Former Powerhouse of West Chicago Street Railroad

Written by Seth Anderson

December 30th, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Republicans’ tax insanity

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Ben Sargent - Tax Cuts for the Rich

Ben Sargent – Tax Cuts for the Rich

Earlier today…

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.

Via:
Republicans’ tax insanity – Salon.com
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Written by eggplant

December 5th, 2012 at 9:33 am

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When right-wing blather killed

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Fingerlings from Kamehachi
Fingerling potatoes from Kamehachi

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.

No Dumping Potatoes
No Dumping Potatoes

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.)

Steel cut Irish Oatmeal
Steel cut Irish Oatmeal

Written by Seth Anderson

November 26th, 2012 at 9:01 am

Posted in Books,politics

Tagged with , ,

Climate Change and Cities

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99 in the Shade
99 in the Shade

I moved to Chicago in 1994, and the heat-wave of 1995 surprised me. I was used to living in extreme heat in Austin, several of my cheap apartments didn’t have air conditioning. But Chicago was not culturally or politically prepared to deal with the heat of that summer. This year’s heat-wave was taken a lot more seriously by city officials, as Eric Klinenberg reports:

the most visible human drama of climate change is happening in cities. Cities are not merely the population centers where dense concentrations of people are trapped and exposed during dangerous weather events. They are also “heat islands,” whose asphalt, brick, concrete and steel attract the heat while pollution from automobiles, factories and air-conditioners traps it. City dwellers experience elevated heat at all hours, but the difference matters most at night, when the failure of high temperatures to fall deprives them of natural relief. For the most vulnerable people, these “high lows” can be the difference between life and death.

Americans began to take urban heat seriously after 1995, when a record-breaking heat wave — three days of triple-digit heat — baked Chicago. Ordinarily, heat waves fail to produce the kind of spectacular imagery we see in other disasters, like earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. Heat doesn’t generate much property damage, nor does it reveal its force to the camera or naked eye. Heat waves are invisible killers of old, poor and other mostly invisible people. Until the summer of 1995, medical examiners and media outlets often neglected to report heat-related deaths altogether.

But the great Chicago heat wave changed things. It caused so much suffering that at one point nearly half the city’s emergency rooms closed their doors to new patients. Hospitals were not the only institutions stretched beyond capacity by the heat. Streets buckled. Trains derailed. The power grid failed. Water pressure diminished. Ambulances were delayed.

There were “water wars” in poor neighborhoods, where city workers cracked down on residents who opened fire hydrants for relief. There were surreal scenes at City Hall, where members of the mayor’s staff declined to declare a heat emergency, forgot to implement their extreme heat plan and refused to bring in additional ambulances and paramedics.

And there was Mayor Richard M. Daley, telling reporters: “It’s hot. It’s very hot. But let’s not blow it out of proportion,” while the morgue ran out of bays and the medical examiner had to call in a fleet of refrigerated trucks to handle the load. When the temperatures finally broke, 739 Chicagoans had died as a result of the heat wave.

Chicago learned from the disaster, and today it is a national leader in planning for the next acute heat emergency. The city compiles a list of old, isolated and vulnerable residents, and public workers contact them when dangerous weather arrives. City officials and community organizations promote awareness and encourage residents to check in on one another. The local news media treat heat waves as true public health hazards. Everyone knows how perilous the new climate can be.

Unfortunately, Chicago keeps getting reminders. In the early July heat wave, despite its improved emergency response system, Chicago reported more heat deaths than any other city or state. And this week the Union of Concerned Scientists released “Heat in the Heartland,(PDF)” a study that reports an increased incidence of dangerous hot weather throughout the Midwest in the past 60 years, including elevated evening temperatures and more heat waves lasting three days or longer. Along with Chicago, the report singles out St. Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis and Cincinnati as being at risk, but also cites public health research predicting more heat waves in towns and cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast.

(click here to continue reading Is It Hot Enough for Ya? – NYTimes.com.)

Help Me Make It Through The Night
Help Me Make It Through The Night

Rising temperatures are not just a concern for the future. Dangerously hot weather is already occurring more frequently in the Midwest than it did 60 years ago.

The report, Heat in the Heartland: 60 Years of Warming in the Midwest, presents an original analysis of weather data for five major urban areas — Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis, and St. Louis — as well as five smaller nearby cities.

The results from the analysis are clear: Hot summer weather and heat waves have been increasing in cities in the nation’s heartland over the last six decades on average. The report documents this trend, explores its health implications, and looks at what the largest cities are doing to adapt to these changes and protect their residents.

High temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and deadly heat stroke. Very hot weather can also aggravate existing medical conditions such as diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and heart disease.

Urban populations, the elderly, children, and people with impaired health and limited mobility are particularly susceptible to heat-related illness and death.

(click here to continue reading Heat in the Heartland: The Growing Health Risks of Heat Waves and Hot Summer Weather in the Midwest (2012) | Union of Concerned Scientists.)

Now if only someone could come up with a good (non-financial) reason for the Tea Party and other GOP factions to support a national policy dealing with climate change…

Written by Seth Anderson

August 5th, 2012 at 8:21 am

Romney, and Aryan Racial Theory as a basis for Foreign Policy

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Whitney - Graceland
Whitney – Graceland

Dr. Juan Cole discusses a bit of European history in context of Romney’s Aryan Nation remarks.1 Talk about dog whistles: Romney is talking to a very specific type of racist, whether intentional or not.

Anyway, Dr. Cole writes, in part:

I really dislike Nazi references. They are for the most part a sign of sloppy thinking, and a form of banal hyperbole. But there just is no other way to characterize invoking the Anglo-Saxon race as a basis for a foreign policy relationship, and openly saying that those of a different race cannot understand the need for such ties. It is a Nazi sentiment.

If you would like some evidence for what I say, consider Adolf Hitler’s own point of view:

For a long time yet to come there will be only two Powers in Europe with which it may be possible for Germany to conclude an alliance. These Powers are Great Britain and Italy.”

Of the two possible allies, Hitler much preferred Britain because he considered it higher on his absurd and pernicious racial hierarchy. Indeed, Hitler held Mussolini a bit at arms length while hoping for a British change of heart, a hope only decisively dashed in September, 1939, when Britain declared war.

Hitler complained that colonialism was in danger of diluting Aryan European strength, weighing down the metropole powers. He contrasted this situation with that of the white United States, blessedly possessing its “own continent.” Indeed, it is, he argued (genocidal crackpot that he was), Britain’s special relationship with the Anglo-Saxon-dominated United states that kept it from being overwhelmed by its subhuman colonials:

“we we too easily forget the Anglo-Saxon world as such. The position of England, if only because of her linguistic and cultural bond with the American Union, can be compared to no other state in Europe.”

The argument of Romney’s advisers has exactly the same shape as Hitler’s, only it is being made from the American point of view rather than the European.

And, if we had a Jewish president at the moment, couldn’t the Romney camp make exactly the same argument, that the person didn’t appreciate the importance of the Anglo-Saxon heritage and ties? Is this really the discourse you want to engage in just before you arrive in Israel?

Romney has to find out who told Swain these things, and fire them. He has to publicly disavow these racist sentiments. They pose the danger for him of raising again the question of his own attitude to African-Americans as a young man in the 1970s before the Mormon church stopped discriminating against them on the grounds that they bore the mark of Cain.

Beyond the distasteful resemblances of this white supremacist discourse to the worst forms of rightwing extremism, the allegation astonishingly neglects to take account of who Barack Obama is.

Obama’s maternal grandfather, Stanley Armour Dunham, had English ancestry (among others), and some genealogists trace him back to the Earl of Norwich, who was a surety baron of the Magna Carta. Moreover, Stanley Dunham served in the US military in London and then on the continent during World War II, and was involved in saving Britain from Nazi Germany. You’d think that would be a basis for pretty warm feelings. And remember, it was Stanley Dunham who actually raised Barack Obama; he did not know his father.

In contrast, the Romney clan’s only practical relationship to Britain aside from ancestry was trying to convince Scots in Edinburgh in the 1920s to give up alcohol and caffeine and become Mormons. Aside from explosive mirth, I don’t know what other emotion that record might evoke among English Anglicans of the sort Romney appears to want to rub up against, but it certainly would not be warmth.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the whole idea of “Anglo-Saxon” England is a myth. Historical geneticist Eric Sykes has found in hisSaxons, Vikings and Celts that the genetic mix in England is not for the most part different from that in Wales and Scotland and Ireland. There are, here and there, signs of Norse or German (Angles and Saxons) settlement, but they are minor and have to be looked for and are mainly in the y chromosome markers, i.e. on the male side of inheritance. The women are virtually all “Celts.”

But even “Celts” are a historical construct as a matter of “race.” In his Seven Daughters of Eve, Sykes had found that almost all Europeans are descended from only seven women who lived sometime in the past 45,000 years, one of them from the Middle East. These seven haplotypes or genetic patterns show up in all European populations, including the Basque (in the mitochondria, the power plant of the cell, which is passed on through females and does not change in each generation).

There simply are no distinctive “races” in Europe.

(click here to continue reading Romney, and Aryan Racial Theory as a basis for Foreign Policy | Informed Comment.)

Footnotes:
  1. quote: “suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa. “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney” []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 25th, 2012 at 9:57 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

Bloomsday 2012

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Didn’t end up reading much of Ulysses, but still had fun photostrolling with some Flickreenos in Graceland Cemetery and nearby area. I had never been to Graceland Cemetery before, but it most certainly merits another visit, presumedly on a day where the temperature isn’t approaching that of the sun…

Bloomsday 2012
Bloomsday 2012

Analog Light Meter
Analog Light Meter

Zeiss Ikon
Zeiss Ikon

O'Shaughnessy's Corned Beef Hash
O’Shaughnessy’s Corned Beef Hash

O'Shaughnessy's Irish Breakfast
O’Shaughnessy’s Irish Breakfast

Bloomsday Fish and Chips
Bloomsday Fish and Chips

In Honor of Service In the War of 1812
In Honor of Service In the War of 1812

Ebert
Albert Ebert

Girl In A Box
Girl In A Box – Inez Clarke

I Will Ransom Them From The Power of the Grave
“I Will Ransom Them From The Power of the Grave”

Seth Taylor - Graceland Cemetery
Seth Taylor – Graceland Cemetery

Escaping the Crypt
Escaping the Crypt

Daniel Burnham -1846-1912
Daniel Burnham -1846-1912

McClurg and Moe
McClurg and Moe

Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum Duotoned
Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum Duotoned

Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum
Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum

The Crusader aka Victor Lawson
The Crusader aka Victor Lawson

More later.

Click an image to embiggen, and probably learn more about it.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 17th, 2012 at 6:44 am

Posted in Photography

Tagged with , ,

Easy Useless Economics

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dismissals
dismissals

Paul Krugman muses on the dismal science a bit, and the dismal scientists known as structural economists

So what’s with the obsessive push to declare our problems “structural”? And, yes, I mean obsessive. Economists have been debating this issue for several years, and the structuralistas won’t take no for an answer, no matter how much contrary evidence is presented.

The answer, I’d suggest, lies in the way claims that our problems are deep and structural offer an excuse for not acting, for doing nothing to alleviate the plight of the unemployed.

Of course, structuralistas say they are not making excuses. They say that their real point is that we should focus not on quick fixes but on the long run — although it’s usually far from clear what, exactly, the long-run policy is supposed to be, other than the fact that it involves inflicting pain on workers and the poor.

Anyway, John Maynard Keynes had these peoples’ number more than 80 years ago. “But this long run,” he wrote, “is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the sea is flat again.”

I would only add that inventing reasons not to do anything about current unemployment isn’t just cruel and wasteful, it’s bad long-run policy, too. For there is growing evidence that the corrosive effects of high unemployment will cast a shadow over the economy for many years to come. Every time some self-important politician or pundit starts going on about how deficits are a burden on the next generation, remember that the biggest problem facing young Americans today isn’t the future burden of debt — a burden, by the way, that premature spending cuts probably make worse, not better. It is, rather, the lack of jobs, which is preventing many graduates from getting started on their working lives.

So all this talk about structural unemployment isn’t about facing up to our real problems; it’s about avoiding them, and taking the easy, useless way out. And it’s time for it to stop.

(click here to continue reading Easy Useless Economics – NYTimes.com.)

I vowed I was going to stop making drive-by posts1 like these, but here’s the quandary. I know next to nothing about economics and even economic history, so I can’t dispute or amplify what Dr. Krugman asserts. However, I like his turn of phrase, and his reasoning sounds plausible. Maybe in the future, I’ll be able to use this post as a footnote to a different post?

What do I know about partying or anything else?

Footnotes:
  1. posts where I don’t add much to the discussion []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2012 at 7:26 am