Category - Histories

Slaughter on Eighth Avenue: A St. Patrick’s Day Commemoration

Pando, By John Dolan, March 17

St Patrick’s Day, a glum and murky occasion.

The Irish are nothing in America now, which is why they’re fit to be patronized once a year. They’re not much, at the moment, on the home island either. I suppose you can’t blame the Dublin-suburb junior execs swarming over the planet; when Ireland joined the EU, the doomstruck islanders found themselves, for the first time in centuries, ruled by people who actually liked them, goofy but generous postwar Teutons. You can’t grumble too much at the young Dubliners for groveling to Brussels, but you can’t warm up much to the current incarnation of Irish either, with their secondhand motivational clichés.

It’s a necessary stage, I get that. It had to change. I read an interview with a Maasai woman once (there’s more between Irish and Africans than anyone likes to admit) who grieved for the loss of the old ways but then shrugged and said, “Still…No one now would agree to suffer as our mothers suffered.” It was always the women who bore the brunt. Which is why I have to fast-forward through the Mrs. Doyle scenes of Father Ted, and waste many an hour on stupid dreams about a time machine, a suitcase nuke, and a one-way trip to London, 1850.

It’s just not practical, all that baggage. Somebody told me once, “The past is past,” and though I nodded, I never got that idea. How can the past be past? That makes no sense to me, never has.

What they really mean is, “The past can’t be fixed.” Now that, I get. But “can’t be fixed” is not the same as “past.” May as well be, maybe, but not actually the same.

The month that killed the middle class: How October 1973 slammed America

From the Arab oil embargo to the auto workers strike, one month more than 40 years ago changed this nation forever

Salon.com, By Edward McClelland, March 7

Early in 1974, Don Cooper, an autoworker at an Oldsmobile plant in Lansing, Michigan, was demoted from his coveted job in the crankshaft department to the final assembly line, where he had started out as a rookie nine years earlier. Cooper hadn’t done anything wrong. Rather, he was a victim of events 6,000 miles away.

The previous October, Egypt had invaded Israel. When the United States provided military aid to the Jewish state, Saudi Arabia retaliated by cutting off oil exports to Western nations. The Arab Oil Embargo raised the price of gasoline from 36 to 53 cents a gallon — when drivers could get it. To prevent hours-long lines, filling stations sold to cars with odd-numbered license plates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, even plates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Oldsmobile, known for burly, dynamic cars powered by its eight-cylinder Rocket engine, was offering its usual stable of bad-ass American iron: a Cutlass with a 270-horsepower engine; a 98 that measured 19 feet 4 inches from chrome bumper to chrome bumper. But suddenly, customers weren’t buying those gas guzzlers. And when cars weren’t selling, Oldsmobile didn’t need as many crankshafts. So thanks to the latest Arab-Israeli War, Cooper was back on the line.

“That was a rude awakening to go back to final assembly,” Cooper recalled. “I was back on the frame line. I had to ground a radio strap to a firewall, and tighten a brass nut on an air conditioning unit. It was torture to go back.”

Previously: Decline and fall: how American society unravelled

Archaeologists unearth lost fortress of Genghis Khan in western Mongolia

Asahi Shimbun, By Kunijiko Imai, Febrary 26

Japanese and Mongolian archaeologists said Feb. 26 that they have discovered the remains of a 13th-century military outpost established for Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227) in southwestern Mongolia.

The joint research team said the discovery could be useful in learning about the Mongol Empire’s strategy on western expansion and trade routes.

“We hope the discovery will be useful in ascertaining the history of the Mongolian Plateau between the 13th and 14th centuries,” said team leader Koichi Matsuda, professor emeritus of Mongol Empire history at Osaka International University.

Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History

Think Progress, By Judd Legum, February 17

An Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History class, persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students “what is bad about America.” Other lawmakers are seeking a court ruling that would effectively prohibit the teaching of all AP courses in public schools.

Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher (R) has introduced “emergency” legislation “prohibiting the expenditure of funds on the Advanced Placement United States History course.” Fisher is part of a group called the “Black Robe Regiment” which argues “the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.” The group attacks the “false wall of separation of church and state.” The Black Robe Regiment claims that a “growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.”

Fisher said the Advanced Placement history class fails to teach “American exceptionalism.” The bill passed the Oklahoma House Education committee on Monday on a vote of 11-4. You can read the actual course description for the course here.

Bonus, Wonkette: Tennessee Makes Jesus Your Savior for You, How Nice

Mysterious Indo-European homeland may have been in the steppes of Ukraine and Russia

Science Magazine, By Michael Balter, February 13

What do you call a male sibling? If you speak English, he is your “brother.” Greek? Call him “phrater.” Sanskrit, Latin, Old Irish? “Bhrater,” “frater,” or “brathir,” respectively. Ever since the mid-17th century, scholars have noted such similarities among the so-called Indo-European languages, which span the world and number more than 400 if dialects are included. Researchers agree that they can probably all be traced back to one ancestral language, called Proto-Indo-European (PIE). But for nearly 20 years, scholars have debated vehemently when and where PIE arose.

Two long-awaited studies, one described online this week in a preprint and another scheduled for publication later this month, have now used different methods to support one leading hypothesis: that PIE was first spoken by pastoral herders who lived in the vast steppe lands north of the Black Sea beginning about 6000 years ago. One study points out that these steppe land herders have left their genetic mark on most Europeans living today.

The studies’ conclusions emerge from state-of-the-art ancient DNA and linguistic analyses, but the debate over PIE’s origins is likely to continue. A rival hypothesis—that early farmers living in Anatolia (modern Turkey) about 8000 years ago were the original PIE speakers—is not ruled out by the new analyses, most agree. Although the steppe hypothesis has now received a major boost, “I would not say the Anatolian hypothesis has been killed,” says Carles Lalueza-Fox, a geneticist at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, who participated in neither of the new studies.

Up until the 1980s, variations of the steppe hypothesis held sway among most linguists and archaeologists tracking down Indo-European’s birthplace. Then in 1987, archaeologist Colin Renfrew of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom proposed that PIE spread with farming from its origins in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, moving west into Europe and east further into Asia; over time the languages continued to spread and diversify into the many Indo-European languages we know today.

Scientist considered father of birth control pill dies

AP, January 31

San Francisco — Carl Djerassi, the chemist widely considered the father of the birth control pill, has died.

Djerassi died of complications of cancer in his San Francisco home, Stanford University spokesman Dan Stober said. He was 91.

Djerassi, a professor emeritus of chemistry at Stanford, was most famous for leading a research team in Mexico City that in 1951 developed norethindrone, a synthetic molecule that became a key component of the first birth control pill.

“The pill” as it came to be known radically transformed sexual practices and women’s lives. The pill gave women more control over their fertility than they had ever had before and permanently put doctors — who previously didn’t see contraceptives as part of their job — in the birth control picture.

In his book, “This Man’s Pill,” Djerassi said the invention also changed his life, making him more interested in how science affects society.

In 1969, he submitted a public policy article about the global implications of U.S. contraceptive research, according to the Stanford News Service. In 1970, he published another article about the feasibility of a birth control pill for men.

“The thoughts behind these two public policy articles had convinced me that politics, rather than science, would play the dominant role in shaping the future of human birth control,” he wrote.

[…]

“He also is the only person, to my knowledge, to receive from President Nixon the National Medal of Science and to be named on Nixon’s blacklist in the same year,” Zare added.


SF Gate: Stanford chemist who developed birth control pill dead at 91

Mr. Djerassi was not humble about his role in the invention. He wrote three autobiographies, including “The Pill, Pygmy Chimps and Degas’ Horse,” “In Retrospect: From the Pill to the Pen,” and, on the 50th anniversary of oral contraception, released a book called “This Man’s Pill,” but his immodesty was well-earned, said colleagues and peers.

Mr. Djerassi had a compelling and lifelong interest, both as a scientist and as an artist, in issues of “individual agency,” and he took pride in the social and cultural shifts that were brought on by the Pill, said Darney. He got to know Mr. Djerassi well during the 1980s, when they worked to bring RU-486 — a drug now called mifepristone that is used to terminate pregnancies — to the United States.

“Carl was interested particularly in individual freedom and self-determination, and believed that all of us, women included, should have that opportunity,” Darney said. “He saw birth control and access to abortion as agents of that opportunity.”


Statement of the Family of Dr. Carl Djerassi, January 30, 2015

Dr. Carl Djerassi, renowned scientist, author, and philanthropist, died peacefully, surrounded by family and loved ones, in his home in San Francisco, California on Friday, January 30, 2015. Dr. Djerassi’s death resulted from complications due to cancer. He was 91. His life and career included remarkable productivity and achievement in science, academia, and the arts, as well as personal tragedy in his expulsion from his childhood home following the Nazi Anschluss in 1938 and the death of his daughter in 1978.

Dr. Djerassi is survived by his son, Dale Djerassi, stepdaughter Leah Middlebrook, and grandson, Alexander M. Djerassi. He will be missed dearly.

How the CIA made Google

Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet—

Medium, By Nafeez Ahmed, January 22

INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’
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The Inside Information That Could Have Stopped 9/11

Newsweek, By Jeff Stein, January 14

Just before Christmas, former FBI special agent Mark Rossini greeted me with his usual good cheer when we met for drinks in a midtown Manhattan restaurant. He told me his life had finally taken a turn for the better. He’s spending most of his time in Switzerland, where he works for a private global corporate-security firm. “Life’s good,” he said.

Good, but with a few major changes. Rossini was drinking club soda instead of the expensive cabernets he quaffed when I first knew him as a high-flying FBI official in Washington a decade ago, when he was a special assistant to the bureau’s chief spokesman, John Miller (now with the New York City Police Department). “I’ve cut back,” he said. “Feeling good.”
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Yves Smith: Something That Changed My Perspective: Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation

Naked Capitalism, By Yves Smith, January 2

The first Christmas-New Years period for this site, in 2007, we featured a series “Something That Changed My Perspective,” which presented some things that affected how I viewed the world. The offerings included John Kay on obliquity and Michael Prowse on how income inequality was bad for the health even of the wealthy.

Perhaps the clearest and most important illustration was the the must-see four-part Adam Curtis BBC series “The Century of the Self.” If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to make it a priority for this weekend. Even though you may think you know about propaganda, this program is likely to be an eye-opener. As Curtis says:

This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.” It focuses on how Sigmund Freud’s ideas were used by business and government, far more deliberately and extensively than one might imagine, during the 20th century to achieve what Freud’s nephew and creator of the public relations industry Eddie Bernays called “the engineering of consent.

The Curtis documentary and the works I highlighted weren’t simply informative. They actually covered a fair bit of ground I thought I knew. But by filling in key gaps and providing a new context, they allowed me to observe phenomena that I thought I understood differently, and I’ve found I’ve incorporated that new vantage going forward.
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Our New Politics of Torture

NYRB, Mark Danner, interviewed by Hugh Eakin, December 30

New York Review contributor Mark Danner has been writing about the use of torture by the US government since the first years after September 11. Following the release this month of the Senate’s report on the CIA torture program, Hugh Eakin spoke to Danner about some of the most startling findings of the investigation and what it reveals about the continued political debate surrounding the program.
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The Cartel: How BP Got Insider Tips Through a Secret Chat Room

Bloomberg, By Liam Vaughan, December 29

Halfway down a muddy, secluded road on marshland in suburban Essex sits Wharf Pool, a lake stocked with some of the biggest freshwater fish you will ever see.

A white sign with red lettering reads: “Private Syndicate: Strictly Members Only.” A metal gate, a barbed-wire fence and two CCTV cameras bar the way. Anglers hoping to spend time on the lake’s carefully tended banks must join a waiting list. Those who make it to the top pay a membership fee that buys them the chance to catch a carp that weighs more than a Jack Russell. There are hundreds of them swimming beneath the surface. It’s close to shooting fish in a barrel.

An hour away by train, in London’s financial district, the lake’s owners ply their trade. Wharf Pool was purchased for about 250,000 pounds ($388,000) in 2012 by Richard Usher, the former JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) trader at the center of a global investigation into corruption in the foreign-exchange market, and Andrew White, a currency trader at oil company BP Plc. (BP/)

With revenue of almost $400 billion last year and operations in about 80 countries, BP trades large quantities of currency each day. Traders at the company regularly received valuable information from counterparts at some of the world’s biggest banks — including tips about forthcoming trades, details of confidential client business and discussions of stop-losses, the trigger points for a flurry of buying or selling — according to four traders with direct knowledge of the practice.

Zero Hedge picks up the story: The Rigging Triangle Exposed: The JPMorgan-British Petroleum-Bank Of England Cartel Full Frontal

Massive ancient underground city discovered in Turkey’s Nevşehir

Hurriyet Daily News, By Erdinç Çelikkan, December 28

Ankara – With 2014 soon coming to an end, potentially the year’s biggest archeological discovery of an underground city has come from Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, which is known world-wide for its Fairy Chimneys rock formation.

The city was discovered by means of Turkey’s Housing Development Administration’s (TOKİ) urban transformation project. Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nevşehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started.

TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan said the area where the discovery was made was announced as an archeological area to be preserved.

“It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered,” said Turan.

The city is thought to date back 5,000 years and is located around the Nevşehir fortress. Escape galleries and hidden churches were discovered inside the underground city.

[…]

Hasan Ünver, mayor of Nevşehir, said other underground cities in Nevşehir’s various districts do not even amount to the “kitchen” of this new underground city.

Revealed thirty years on … the secret role that America’s Henry Kissinger played in the Bhopal tragedy

The Herald (Scotland), By Rob Edwards, December 7

Bhopal – Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger put pressure on the Indian Government to agree a legal settlement that let the American chemical company Union Carbide off the hook for the 25,000 people killed by the toxic gas disaster in Bhopal 30 years ago.

A letter released under freedom of ­information legislation reveals that the late Indian steel magnate JRD Tata wrote secretly to the Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1988 conveying ­Kissinger’s concern about the delays in reaching agreement on the compensation to be paid to victims.

At the time, Kissinger – who became notorious around the world in the 1970s for being involved in some of most hawkish US foreign policy decisions – was an adviser to Union Carbide and other major US corporations.

Kissinger thought the company was prepared to make a “fair and generous settlement” that “would effectively counter any attack or criticism” because it was more than interim amounts suggested by Indian courts, Tata wrote. In February 1989, the Indian government agreed a settlement of $470 million (£300m).

This has since been widely derided as completely inadequate given the horrendous scale and persisting legacy of the disaster on December 3, 1984. Crucially, as part of the deal, all charges against Union Carbide and its managers were dropped – though this was subsequently overturned by India’s Supreme Court in 1991.

Also, The Baffler: The Worst Industrial Disaster in the History of the World

War by Media and the Triumph of Propaganda

Counterpunch, By John Pilger, December 5

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.
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#CrimingWhileWhite

As you may know, one of the responses on social media like Twitter and Facebook to the tragic grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, as well as to the countless stories of police abuse of power specifically against black men and boys, is for white people to contrast the treatment by cops.

The theme is for a white person to post their worst crime that they got away with, then attach the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite.

For blacks and Latinos, a similar trope of #AliveWhileBlack calls for a person to post the most dangerous encounter with either the cops or a white person that they survived.

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