Tag: history

Oct 29

When Mercenary Armies Go Crazy

One of the things that always troubled me about the application of the term “Machiavellian” to the zany antics of the Bush misadministration is the extent to which Rovian Math – and even Cheneyian Cloak & Daggerism – ignores the master manipulator’s precepts.  Indeed, like a conservative Christian who cherry-picks Leviticus, the architects of the failed philosophy of neoconservatism ignored some of the Prince’s very clear warnings about things like rulers relying on hired soldiers to look out for their interests – and look at the quagmire of black water it’s gotten us into.

Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight we’ll look into another occasion in which the use of mercenaries has bitten an empire in the ass.  As usual, we Americans are by no means the first to experience the sort of happening-since-at-least-the-time-of-Rome setback that so shocks (shocks!) the neocons every time one of them so predictably comes to pass.

Oct 22

When Kings Go Crazy

Hey, it happens.  History is replete with stories where the good guys don’t win in the end, where horrific acts go unavenged and unpunished, where leaders of nations descend into madness, dragging their countrymen down with them.  At many various times and in many various places, peoples have found themselves saddled with rule by psychopaths, paranoids, and delusional megalomaniacs of all stripes – and simply being alive now, in the “modern” age, is no guarantee that it can’t, won’t, or hasn’t happened again.

Far be it from me to try to psychoanalyze any contemporary political figures, but it recently occurred to your resident historiorantologist that, given the proverbial insanity of American policymaking over the past few years, a look at a couple of the less-balanced monarchs who have walked the tightrope of power in the past might be in order.  Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight the tortuous paths of logic will take us from Rome to a fairy-tale castle in the Bavarian Alps…with absolutely no implied connection to anything happening in Washington today.  😉

Oct 17

The neoliberalism-shock therapy connection: Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine

This is a review of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, a detailed, journalistic history of neoliberalism which emphasizes its connection to “shock therapy,” torture, and other means of tearing down people and society so that they can be rebuilt along the lines of “perfect,” ideological models.  My review differs from others in that it focuses upon a sequential review of important themes and close analysis of key quotes within the book.

Oct 15

Strikes & Boycotts, Historically Speaking

Throughout the long ages, the proponents of societal reform have traditionally found themselves with the fuzzy end of the lollipop when it came to battling the entrenched Powers That Be’d, at least in terms of military strength.  In dozens of eras and in hundreds of contexts, however, those who would change society have learned that the force of numbers is where the power of the people lies, and from this they derived and perfected several ways of exerting considerable (sometimes government-changing) pressure upon the oligarchs, tyrants, and unprincipled politicians of their day.

Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight your resident historiorantologist will offer for progressive consideration a look at a handful of the means our side has traditionally employed when all appeared lost and the aristocrats were running amok.  As we begin, please direct your gaze toward the Eternal City on the Seven Hills, and one of the first successful general strikes…

Oct 02

For the Love and Rememberance of…..


This weekend was chock o’block full of mind altering talks. First a panel, held during the Santa Barbara Book & Author’s Festival, discussing the future of newspapers. Followed by a talk given by Naomi Klein on her new book The Shock Doctrine and later a discussion with friends over coffee and dessert about the lecture.

Then, there was the Annual Planned Parenthood Booksale and it’s myriad of donated selections…including cookbooks. So, what’s all the fuss and a diary about cookbooks? I’ll try to explain below the fold.

Oct 01

Progressive Epilogue

It was a third party that captured 22 electoral votes and 4 states in a presidential race, elected governors in 7 states, sent dozens of legislators to Congress, and controlled all or part of numerous state Houses and Senates – yet it was only prominent on the national scene for a decade or so.  The People’s (a/k/a Populist) Party was born of anger and frustration at the failure of either major party to look after the concerns of a large segment of their ostensible constituency, and in the course of their stampede across the American political landscape, they shifted Overtons, crashed gates, and exerted their forceful, righteous will upon the craven Democrats and sold-out Republicans of their day.

It’s a good thing we’re safely removed from that sort of (way) pre-9/11 thinking – it allows us to historiorant in peace about a time when conflicts of class, pretense, and presumptuousness rent asunder the House of Donkey, and ushered onto the stage a cast of characters straight out of The Wizard of Oz.

Sep 23

These were the bad old days…

A couple of days ago, someone tried to chase me out of his diary about sex discrimination because, you know, only women can be victims of sex discrimination.  Put me in my place he did.  To him, I’m not a woman.  So I was never a victim of sexual harassment in my place of work, but maybe some other kind, I guess.

But he has “impeccable liberal credentials,” so, you know, I should just shut up.

I can’t do that.  I am morally and ethically incapable of shutting up.

So I remembered a piece from long ago, written in June of 1994, less than a month before the beginning of Diary.

Sep 17

March of the Progressives

The little guy, whether he lived in a tenement in the city or in a ramshackle house on the plains, was getting trampled by the money trust and the captains of industry.  Disgust with both major parties was growing as pandering pols refused to take a decisive stand on the major issues of the day, and the White House seemed incapable and/or unwilling to change things.  Money and cynicism were inseparable from the political process, and tabloid journalism ruled the media, fanning the flames of America’s basest passions and prodding the nation toward an imperialist horizon.

No, this isn’t another story from the Cave’s BREAKING!!! desk – but it could have been, a little over 100 years ago.  Join me, if you will, for a look at how turn-of-the-century Progressives dealt with issues not all that dissimilar from the ones currently being bungled and shied away from in Washington…

Sep 15

Genocide & Intent Of The Infected Blankets

Plains Indian Smallpox

Indian genocide is a controversial subject on the internet and on this site. Genocide and Holocaust are words that are easy to throw around, often to grab a reader’s attention, but proving them is something else. What one group calls genocide, another group may call progress. This statement is used in the same context as the saying…one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

The argument for Indian genocide is based primarily on letters written by General Jeffery Amherst during the French and Indian War.Letters by General Amherst and Colonel Bouquet mentioning spreading smallpox to Indians does not mean that this was ever carried out.
Assumptions derived from letters and oral traditions are not proof of anything.

Sep 09

Nous Sommes Tous Américains, and The Death of Irony

This diary is a submission for Progressive Historians’ symposium on 9/11.  Details here.

Let’s look at two famous articles from the immediate aftermath of the events in the U.S. on 9/11/2001. 

The first, and the more famous of the two as being emblematic of international attitude, was the front-page editorial on France’s Le Monde: “Nous Sommes Tous Américains” (We’re All Americans), by Jean-Marie Colombani.  The article is often cited as a sign of world solidarity behind the United States in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon (the latter often left out of discussions, for whatever reason), and the failed attack on the White House.  This was the main headline on the largest-circulation newspaper in the most traditionally anti-American of our allies.

The second, and the source of an endlessly regurgitated soundbite over the following years, was an article in Vanity Fair by Graydon Carter predicting the new age of sincerity, a sentiment soon echoed in newspapers around the country.  Carter (and others) were convinced that among the ways the United States would change irrevocably was in the adoption of a new seriousness in our attitudes, and an inability to treat everyday life with the same flimsy, fluffy detachment that had been so “cool”.  In Time, Roger Rosenblatt gave the sentiment its most repeated form: after so great a tragedy, irony was dead

It’s easy enough to criticize these sentiments with the benefit of hindsight, just as it’s easy to score a quick laugh by juxtaposing the two soundbites in the title (as I did, shamelessly).  What interests me instead are two phenomena: the way the myths of those articles have overshadowed the articles themselves (and their contexts), and the strange fittingness of Colombani’s title – whether he intended it or not.

Load more