Posts Tagged ‘history’

Milbank on Reform

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Dana Milbank has a good column in last Sunday’s Washington Post: “Health reform and the specter of Alf Landon.”

Landon, you might recall, ran against FDR in 1936’s presidential election – the most lopsided election in the history of the United States in terms of electoral votes (I don’t want to spoil it, but FDR creamed him).

Additionally the 1936 presidential election, you might recall, was the one in which Maine lost its place as the bellwether presidential elections.

For the hundred years prior Maine had almost consistently predicted the Presidential winner. See, back then our statewide elections were in September. In the presidential election years we oftentimes voted in the governor or senators from the party that would go on to win the presidential election. The political wisdom of the time became “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.”

Then 1936 happened.

Only Maine and Vermont voted for Landon.

Thus the phrase jokingly became “As goes Maine, so goes Vermont.”

Anyway, check out Milbank’s article.

Never Be President

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

So I was just re-reading the Fourteenth Amendment (what, you don’t read the Constitution for fun?) and I came to a horrible conclusion – it’s possible I won’t be able to run for Congress or the Presidency because of our insurrection when George W. Bush won in 2004 (see 83 Portland Rd Succeeds from Union).


Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Of course, we could try and get two-thirds of Congress to help, but that doesn’t seem likely …

98 Years of Health Care

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I love the New York Times interactive timelines. Here’s one that’s just fantastic: “A History of Overhauling Health Care.”

Jefferson on Liberty

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

In the John Lewis piece the other day I quoted Thomas Jefferson, his “tree of liberty” quote. I mentioned how the militias and the other hate groups of our time love that shit.

Well I love history, I love Jefferson, and I love proving people wrong. So lets delve into this a little more, shall we?

The quote references an 1786 armed uprising of farmers in western Massachusetts called Shays’ Rebellion. If you’re not familar with that incident, go read the wikipedia entry. I’ll wait.

There. Now here’s a good chunk of the letter in question that TJ wrote from France about Mr. Shay and his pals:

Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.

It’s so rich! And so much more complex than the one line that hateful bastards put on tee-shirts.

What does TJ say? That rebellions such as Shays’ are necessary in our government, for lethargy is “the forerunner of death to the public liberty.”

However, the “people cannot be all, & always, well informed.” Sometimes they’re just ignorant, not wicked.

And then this: “The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.”


But how do we fix this?

“The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them.”

Everyone needs the facts straight.

Especially on this quote.

“Hummel from Alcatraz, out.”

John Lewis

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Have you seen this yet: “Spitting and Slurs Directed at Lawmakers?”

Tea Party protesers apparently spit on House of Representative members, yelled gay slurs at Barney Frank and the “N-word” at African-American members.

That’s it. The Tea Party has jumped the shark. Everyone out of the pool.

Now, I don’t side with the demonstrators – I’d very much like government health care, please – but I think it’s fair that they’re allowed to display their opinion. Everyone should be allowed to assemble peaceably.

But racial epithets slung towards John Lewis?

That gets my ire up. My blood boiling.

Although he does it so often it’s a bit like crying wolf, this deserves a Keith Olbermann rant.

So I’ll take a shot.

John Lewis is, well if not a “hero” then he’s certainly “heroic”. He’s faced the darkest, most evil aspect of America, risen up and changed the system.

John Lewis is, by my account, the living embodiment of the possibility of America.

Here he is after being attacked by white segregationists at a bus station in Montgomery, Alabama during the Freedom Rides:

The caption that I cut off? “Jim Zwerg [the white Freedom Rider on the right] is checking how many teeth he has left.”

Here’s Lewis, as the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, being beaten by state trooper during an attempt to march on the Alabama state capitol in March of 1965:

I don’t even have a photo from his beating during the Selma to Montgomery marches, which left head wounds that are still visible 45 years later.

The Tea Party crowd, and before them the Militia-folk of the 1990s, like the Thomas Jefferson quote “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants”.

John Lewis, patriot, has shed his blood for our country.

Our country.

Part of the reason that protestors today are not mercilessly beaten is the lessons we as a country learned after the Civil Rights movement. The photos of dogs, water hoses and billy clubs being used on human beings as they tried to exercise their right to peaceably assemble were so violent, so excessive that it sickens us still a half a century later.

Disagree with his politics, that’s fine. Assemble in peaceful manner to do so. Heck, go on Fox News and complain. But don’t do this.

National Education

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I’m still mulling over Susan Jacoby’s Op-Ed from yesterday’s New York Times: “One Classroom, From Sea to Shining Sea.”

Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason is a brilliant book, but I’m very wary of her plans for a national school curriculum.

Oddly, this week actually I went to my first school board meeting in 16 years – have I mentioned here that Lake Region was branded as one of the ‘lowest-achieving’ in Maine?

I’m against removing the principal (and possibly half the staff) in that case.

I find issue with several parts of the process in that case – testing with the SAT (only reading and math), trending over only three years, the legality of charter schools in Maine … it’s a mess.

But more importantly, I think the teachers should teach what they want. Local issues, local heroes, local science – in eighth grade we made maple syrup (40 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup) partly because there were maple trees on the Middle School property, and partly the teacher (who happened to be my father) knew that it was a fun learning activity.

Oh, wait, no – it was hands-on, designed for multiple intelligences to promote life-long learning.

(That’s the correct jargon, right?)

Either way, now, 20 years later, I’m still looking forward to Maine Maple Sunday in two weeks.

But then there’s the flip-side: the crap in Texas with the board of education changing history, literally re-writing the books.

In that case I’m all for federal standards.

See my quandary?


Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Did you see that Fess Parker passed away today?

Reminds me of a story about Daniel Boone.

And no, this has nothing to do with Parker being a Disney Legend for playing Boone on TV.

It’s about a statue of Boone. Up until 1958 – my parents’ lifetime – there was a statue on the steps of the US Capitol Building of Boone stopping a tomahawk-wielding Indian from killing his frontier family.

Yes, on the steps of the US Capitol Building.

Tomahawk-wielding Indian.

My parents’ lifetime.

Photo in the public domain as a work of the Federal Government

When I first read about this years ago in a history book I thought it was a mistake. How insanely racist!

On the steps of the US Capitol Building!

For more, check out the wikipedia page for The Rescue.

Oh, and rest in peace, Fess.

Don’t Mess With Texas

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Not sure if you’ve been following the story of the Texas board of education and how they’ve been throwing their conservative weight around with school book publishers. Things like asserting the Christian faith of the founders and lessening the role of Thomas Jefferson in the founding (he who coined the damned “separation between church and state”), pointing our flaws in the Great Society (damned Civil Rights, federal education funding and poverty war), playing up the violence of the Black Panthers, giving the Reagan Revolution more time … just a whole host of things with which I do not agree.

The New York Times has more on the subject: “Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change.”

To be fair, I’m not terribly familiar with Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address as President of the Confederacy, one document they want to elevate. So maybe that should be taught.

Although phrases such as “it is a gross abuse of language to denominate the act rebellion or revolution” and “the rights of person and property have not been disturbed” or “no intention or design to invade the rights of others” or “a desire to protect and preserve our own rights” might ring hollow to a student in the 21st century who was descended from those held in slavery.

Here’s an article from the Houston Chronicle written by a historian: “State education board keeps itself in the news.”

Key quote:

During the discussion, one participant argued that individuals in the guidelines should be limited to “correct historical figures.” I am uncertain what she meant by “correct,” but the suggestion has the ring of paternalism. At the very least, it undermines the purpose of critical thinking. Rather than have a state agency trawl through our past and provide a “correct” list, the guidelines should be seen as opportunities for the display of historical analysis and pedagogical skill.

The Gardner Heist

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

It was 20 years ago today that the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Back Bay Boston was broken into. In total thirteen works were pilfered. The thieves were never captured.

I haven’t been there in years, since sometime in college, but I heard there’s a whole expansion set to open in 2012. That’ll be something.

Robert Foster’s Autobiography

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I’ve been thinking about that new Disney book Project Future that I was telling you about yesterday (see New Disney Book).

I’m psyched for it, but there’s another book that I really want to read.

Sadly, it’s unpublished.

I swear I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t find the link. See, in the late 1960s when Walt Disney wanted to build what became Walt Disney World he sent a company lawyer to Florida to start buying up land.

And that lawyer, Robert Foster, wrote his story down.

From what I know it’s a story of pseudonyms and shell companies, determining who owned the land (and the mineral rights to said land) – probably all of the stuff in the new book above.

Sadly, Foster, who used the name “Robert Price” to keep his identity secret, never got his book published.

(And Foster/Price shouldn’t be confused with Harrison “Buzz” Price, whose Walt’s Revolution!: By the Numbers is a nerdy good read).

Foster/Price did, however, get a window on the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, USA as both “Foster” and “Price”, a rare feat.

Digital Archives

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Fantastic article about digital preservation in Monday’s New York Times: “Fending Off Digital Decay, Bit by Bit.”

First dotcom

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Missed this one yesterday – the first .com domain was registered on March 15, 1985.

Twenty-five years ago linked to a – you guessed it – now-defunct computer manufacturer.

My only question, if it was the only website on the internet, who went to it?

New Disney Book

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

How have I not heard of this book?!

If this were any more up my alley I would have written it! Check out this Orlando Sentinel article: “Talking With Chad Emerson: A ‘spy-like’ start for Disney.”

It’s out now, and affordable for someone’s birthday two weeks from today … (cough link cough).

Who’s Wallace?

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

This entry has to do with the television show Lost. If you watch the show but you missed last week’s episode, you might want to skip this as I might give a few small things away. And if you don’t watch it, you actually might want to read this because I mock several of the conventions of the show.

So I’ve finally had some time to think about “Lighthouse”, this week’s episode of Lost.

In fact, I went back and took a screenshot of the dial in the lighthouse, specifically, who was Candidate #108:

Screenshot of Lost

It appears to me that someone named “Wallace” must factor in heavily to the show. But as the name’s crossed out, it must be someone who’s dead, right?

My first guess? Biggie Smalls.

Yes, rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s real name was “Christopher Wallace”. And he’s dead.

But what would the Island want with him? He’d probably bring Puff Daddy along, and who really needs that kind of drama?

So we move to our second choice – William Wallace.

Hey, if you were stuck on a jungle island with a smoke monster, wouldn’t you want Braveheart around?

Third choice? Surprisingly Wallace of “Wallace and Gromit” fame.

Although I’m not sure he’s dead, so he might not qualify.

Another Wallace who is dead, and who really should have been shipped off to an island somewhere, is George Wallace, racist, er … “segregationist” governor of Alabama.

Although if he ended up on the island, he’d probably be able to walk again. Don’t know if we need that.

And lastly, for the Mainers out there, I present Senate Minority then Majority Leader Wallace H. White, Jr. Not much to say there, except I like to throw a little history at you, on occasion.

So who do you think it is? Or was Candidate #108 merely a ruse to get Hurley and Jack into the Lighthouse? I’m sure we’ll find out soon …

William Edwards Moves to Otisfield

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

A little Edwards family history story for Tuesday. It was 213 years ago today that my ancestors moved to Maine. My great-grandfather’s great-grandfather, William Edwards, made the trek from Gilmanton, New Hampshire to Otisfield arriving on February 16, 1797.

Luckily the story was recorded by one of his descendants and published in 1916. Llewellyn Nathaniel Edwards, the gentleman who was the engineer on the Cribstone Bridge between Bailey Island and Orr’s Island in Harpswell wrote A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of John Edwards from which we borrow the following:

“William arrived in Otisfield, Me., Feb. 16, 1797. On the way from Gilmanton, he stopped in Gorham, Me., taking dinner with his brother, Richard. His son Simeon had previously come to Gorham and stayed with his uncle until the arrival of his father, when he accompanied him to Otisfield. The family and all household possessions were moved on a single ox sled. Over the stakes of the sled bed quilts were drawn to protect his wife and children and to furnish them shelter at night. The last eight miles of the journey was through the virgin forest, over trackless snow, “blazed” trees being the only guidance.

“It had been agreed between William and another party, probably the Proprietors of Otisfield that “they would have his house built by Feb. 15th.” As only the walls, however, were up, the family was obliged to pass the first night in a house which had the starry vault of a February sky as a roof.” (pg 220)

What kills me, I mean, besides the “not having a roof”, is that the last eight miles was forest. And that it was February.

Oh yeah, another thing. William’s wife Lydia (Baker) Edwards was pregnant, I’d say about six months so. She gave birth to baby Ephraham on May 17, 1797.

Ephraham ended up having a baby boy named … Joshua Edwards. He died in New Orleans during the Civil War, but that’s another story for another day.