Entries Filed in 'Neil Rolde'
President Barack Obama, photo by Ramona du Houx
History, as we know, creates many parallels. A favorite saying of people who promote the teaching of history is that “Those who ignore history are forced to repeat it.” Illustrations of this phenomenon are too numerous to quote in a single blog. Rather, I intend to focus on a single situation of the early 20th century, occurring in another country, which may offer lessons for today’s United States.
That country is France –the France that existed between the end of World War I and its collapse and surrender to the German Nazis and their fascistic French allies in 1940 – a dire situation that lasted until the Liberation in 1944.
The parallel with today in the U.S. involves President Barack Obama and the prominent French leader of the 1920’s and 1930’s, Leon Blum.
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Tags: History in Politics
With Christmas upon us, productions of Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol, adopted for stage and screen, are popping up everywhere as they have for generations. In this redemptive tale that has so caught the imagination of the English-speaking world, Dickens has really fashioned a religious drama in which the message of Jesus during the celebration of his birth is brought home to a single individual and releases him from the mean, selfish, bitter inner misanthropic image that he projects.
Ironically, when we think of Ebenezer Scrooge, whenever we speak his name even, we conjure the first impression he makes upon us. We do not consciously acknowledge his conversion. Scrooge has become almost a noun, meaning someone who is not only a miser but also a disbeliever in the words and admonitions of Jesus Christ. The early Ebenezer neither accepts nor practices the idea of doing unto others what you would have done to yourself.
By the end of the story, however, the old gentleman has changed. A kindly side emerges. The spirit of the holiday reaches him through a series of ghosts and he arrives in the sunlight of sharing a charitable disposition with his fellow Londoners, employees and relatives. Ebenezer Scrooge is re-born, so to speak.
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President Obama gives historic economic speech
Slightly more than a full century separates two presidential visits to the small town (population about 4,500) of Osawatomie in the middle of Kansas. The second instance, the arrival of President Barack Obama on December 6, 2011, is not only an event with a history behind it but a direct use of history in the interplay of today’s politics. The first instance, of course, was Theodore Roosevelt’s appearance on August 31, 1910. Both men had chosen this out-of-the way venue as the launching pad for important speeches.
Actually, when Teddy Roosevelt came to Osawatomie in 1910, he was no longer President. His second term had ended with the election of 1908. Rather than run a third time (he could have done so legally then), he chose his Vice-President William Howard Taft to succeed him as the Republican standard bearer. With TR’s help, Taft won, but he proved to be a disappointing protégé for Roosevelt and his ideals. Taft showed his conservative streak by supporting the most reactionary factions within the GOP. As the presidential election of 1912 approached, TR found that in order to effect a progressive change in the U.S., he would not be able to run on a Republican ticket. Thus, in 1912, he launched the Progressive Party, nicknamed the Bull Moose Party, and ran independently. But early on, such as at Osawatomie in 1910, he was already putting forth a stunning platform to end the domination of American politics and economy by certain “business interests,” as he called them, dedicated to severe income inequality, benefiting what today we would deem the “1 percent”
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the "wild frountier"
Where are the Republicans headed? What is their dream of perfection? When they get through with their current shenanigans in Washington and elsewhere, what will the United States of America look like?
One not wholly facetious answer was given in the following manner. How about a country where there are no taxes, no government, and everyone has a gun. And, folks, such an entity is not beyond probability. We have a living example in our own day and age of the GOP nirvana.
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U.S. Supreme Court, Washington D.C.
The recent 5-4 decision by the United States Supreme Court in a case brought before them through the intervention of a group known as Citizens United has created a major sensation on the American political scene. It joins other landmark cases such as Roe Versus Wade and Brown Versus School Board in its making of waves, and some commentators have even dipped into the deep past and likened it to the Dred Scott case on slavery prior to the Civil War and Plessy Versus Ferguson on segregation after 1865.
What the Supreme Court decided by a one vote margin was that money equaled free speech and its use could not be curtailed by State laws during elections. To the dissenters, this meant that elections in America now could be legally “bought.”
So what do we know about this group that successfully challenged spending limits on the amount that individuals (which include corporations and labor unions) can use to support candidates who, from their point of view, if elected, will favor their donors in the passage of legislation?
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A protester of Occupy Wall Street. The movement is similar to the Bonus Army protests.
Needless to say, various commentators on today’s economic and financial climate in the United States, have seen parallels with the time of the Great Depression. Admittedly. that economic disaster triggered in 1929 by conditions over here similar to ours at the end of the George W. Bush Administration, hit Americans on a much bigger scale. Unemployment, for example, was 25 percent, not 9.1 percent, which is high enough certainly, given that one major political party, the Republicans, have dedicated themselves to keeping it at that level.
Recently, the amazing overnight growth of the OWS, [Occupy Wall Street] movement has brought to mind a similar activity in the early 1930’s, albeit in this case on a much smaller extent compared to the flood of occupiers worldwide at the present time. It then involved the “occupation” of only a single city, Washington D.C., by some 40,000 people, mostly comprised of military veterans of the First World War and their families. They are known to history as the Bonus Army, although in their own eyes they preferred the term Bonus Expeditionary Force, reflecting the name, the “American Expeditionary Force,” under which they were sent to Europe in 1917-1918.
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Tags: History·Maine History
Graph by Occupy Wall Street, Washington branch
Given the present day orientation of the G.O.P. (the “Grand Old [Republican] Party”) as fanatic defenders of the very rich and apostles of fiscal inequality, it is fair for Americans to conclude: “My God, they’re trying to turn us into a Banana Republic.”
The term Banana Republic apparently was coined by none other than the famed American short story writer O.Henry in a book of his, Cabbages and Kings, based on a stay he made in Honduras from 1896-97. The expression, not a flattering one, has been defined by Wikipedia to apply to “a politically unstable country…ruled by a small self-elected wealthy group who exploit the country by means of a politico-economic oligarchy.” The banana part was applicable to Honduras at the end of the 19th century and start of the 20th because the monopoly industry growing the yellow-skinned fruit there so dominated that nation. To be sure, the phenomenon that originated in Central America and on the Caribbean islands has since expanded elsewhere and also refers to commodities other than just bananas. Christopher Hitchens, a wasp-tongued British writer turned American citizen has penned an article entitled America, the Banana Republic, stating that his dear adopted land was putting itself “on a par with Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea.”
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Mitt Romney, left, and Rick Perry were at the center of the Republican debate on Sept. 7, 2011. courtesy photo
Since Governor Rick Perry of Texas has entered the Republican Presidential Primary, he seems desperately anxious to distance himself from remarks he made not long ago about his State’s seceding from the Union. Having a Jefferson Davis in the White House, he realizes, is probably not something most Americans would welcome, even in the South.
However, if I were a reporter covering Mr. Perry, I would confront him on this issue with a number of direct questions. Like: “Governor, if you were President and a State – say it was your own Texas – said it was determined to secede, would you let them go or would you, like your fellow Republican Abraham Lincoln refuse to allow them to break up the United States of America and use force if necessary?”
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Cantor and other House and Senate leaders meeting with President Barack Obama in November 2010.
A recent front page photo in the New York Times showed job seekers lined up at a jobs fair in Arlington, Virginia. An unremarkable illustration of the plight of the American middle class all over the country, this scene is only noteworthy due to where it is happening. For this portrayal of desperate job searching was occurring in the bailiwick of Eric Cantor, the third ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives and a loud proponent of the GOP movement to bring us back to the days of Hoover, Coolidge and Harding.
I cite Cantor because of the contrast between the image of his fellow Northern Virginians currently seeking jobs and his own recent pronouncements on the future of unemployment insurance.
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Leona Mindy Roberts Helmsley died in 2007, enormously rich but still burdened by her status as an ex-convict who had served time in Federal prison for tax evasion. Even more of a weight on her persona was a remark she supposedly made to one of her housekeepers. “We don’t pay taxes,” she had boasted, speaking of herself and her billionaire husband, Harry Helmsley, New York City real estate mogul and luxury hotel owner. “Only the little people pay taxes,” she continued, a statement that to paraphrase FDR, has lived in infamy, Harry Helmsley and has never been more pertinent than in America’s current economic and political climate.
Leona Helmsley had become famous for the ads she ran promoting the Helmsley Hotels, playing the part of the “Queen,” who with royal hauteur pursued every avenue of producing perfection for her guests.
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