"The blog has made Glab into a hip town crier, commenting on everything from local politics and cultural happenings to national and international events, all rendered in a colorful, intelligent, working-class vernacular that owes some of its style to Glab’s Chicago-hometown heroes Studs Terkel and Mike Royko." — David Brent Johnson in Bloom Magazine
Ironic, isn’t it, that on the 50th anniversary of Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous stand in the schoolhouse door it’s entirely possible that Nelson Mandela may take leave of this very, very weird proposition we call life?
Mandela’s in bad shape, laying in a South African hospital bed with a serious lung infection, surrounded by his family. His former wife Winnie even stopped by yesterday. You know, if you’re 94 years old, already sickly, in intensive care fighting a recurring lung infection for the third time in six months — and you’re ex-wife shows up to pay her respects — you’ve got to figure the curtain’s about to fall.
One more bad sign: South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, says folks in that country ought to pray for the former prez. Politicians don’t pray for each other for because they have head colds.
Mandela’s Robben Island Home During The Reagan Years
July goddamned 2008!
Anyway, George Wallace dramatically blocked the entrance of a couple of black kids to the University of Alabama on this date in 1963.
Here’s the official text of Wallace’s speech at that door, delivered moments before federalized Alabama National Guard soldiers escorted Vivian Malone and James Hood into the school so they might become students there. It’s a long, convoluted argument for the sovereignty of his state and you might not have the time or inclination to read it all. So, as a public service, I’ll provide a condensed version of it here:
We don’t want no niggers in our white schools.
A mere five years later, George C. Wallace ran for president of the United States, carrying five states with nearly 10 million votes, or 13.5 percent of the national total. As if Wallace’s own philosophies about his fellow human beings weren’t hair-raising enough, his running mate, former US Army General Curtis LeMay, suggested late in the campaign that this beacon of democracy just might have to use nuclear weapons to settle its little tiff with the Vietnamese.
The Youth Candidate?
You want more? Fine. Wallace and LeMay were the preferred ticket of the majority of young white men in the entire nation that year.
And you’re surprised Me Party-ists and other patriots are so freaked out over the presidency of Barack Obama?
“The flood of money that gushes into politics today is a pollution of democracy.” — Theodore H. White
SUMMERTIME AND THE BREATHIN’ IS WHEEZY
Hooray for summer! Today’s the first Ozone Action Day of 2012 for the Bloomington area.
Do everybody’s lungs a favor: take the bus, ride your bike, or walk. And lay off the power mower for a few days.
HOT SPELL IN EGYPT
I called it a year and a half ago when Hosni Mubarek was overthrown in Egypt.
Everybody was jumping for joy over the Arab Spring. I cautioned, Be careful what you wish for.
Egypt may tumble into civil war in the wake of some controversial supreme court rulings this week. It must be said, Egyptians have a choice in who crushes their dreams of freedom: the Muslim Brotherhood or the military.
An Egyptian Military Council Leader
I’m no jingoist but the situation in Egypt does remind me that the American revolution turned out not so bad after all. And many, many of the tyrannies that the Founding Daddy-os neglected to toss out have been addressed in the ensuing two and a half centuries.
Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is far superior. And if you prefer a less iconic choice, how about Thomas Berger’s “Little Big Man”?
In fact, I’ll take LBM over TAoHF. Berger’s epic recounting of late 19th Century American history through bullshitter-supreme Jack Crabb’s eyes is America. Crabb was “Zelig” before Woody Allen even thought of the man who was everywhere.
Adolf Hitler, natch, tops the list, garnering a few more votes than his on-again, off-again ally Joe Stalin. Three of Hitler’s henchmen (Himmler, Goebbels, and Mengele as well as his idiot son Mussolini also make the list).
George W. Bush ranks No. 20 which is ludicrous. His inclusion on the list shows that liberals verey, very often can be as knuckleheaded as conservatives. Well, not very, very often. Actually, not even often at all. Occasionally.
Anyway, here’s my own list of The Worst Americans in History, in no particular order:
J. Edgar Hoover — One of the few Americans who would have fit in well with the Fuehrer’s crowd.
George Wallace –“Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever!”
Orval Faubus — Arkansas governor who called out the National Guard to stop black students from attending a predominantly white school in 1957.
Curtis LeMay — Even though he was instrumental in the US victory over Japan in World War II, LeMay was nuts. I suppose if you’re fighting a “good” war, you want generals who are more whacked-out than the enemy’s. LeMay was brilliant, daring, innovative — and whacked-the-fk-out. Ran with Wallace as a third party candidate in the ’68 presidential election.
Oh, and Paris Hilton. I know she’s yesterday’s news but, still, she represents everything bad about the celebrity culture, nonproductive wealth, women-as-objects, arrogance, and a host of other American ills.
“O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee of the refuge of the grave and denied it.
“For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
“We ask it in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.
Jones railed about what he perceives to be an attempt to excuse the soldier. He also expressed a fear that the incident may lead to a web of deceit or even unlock secrets about greater atrocities.
At which point, I mused that, rather than look for individual bad guys to string up, thereby making ourselves feel better about this nasty business of war, we ought to look upon the killings as a natural result of war.
War, I said, pushes all its participants to the edge of civility and even sanity. The most fragile of those participants, I concluded, often snap.
Were Jones an orator of my school, he would have said bullshit. Unfortunately, the vocabulary imposed upon him by academia precludes him from employing such piercing and effective terms.
Still, my hypothesis was, in Jones’s estimation, full of crap.
“Then we should have opened up the doors to all the jails that held those who participated in the Holocaust,” Jones said.
Really, all wars are carried out so that “good” will prevail. Leaders of nations are opportunistic and duplicitous, sure, but none has ever been so brazen as to try to convince his people they should sacrifice their lives because theirs is Lucifer’s mission.
But even the defeated Germans and Japanese today acknowledge that the beating they took in the 1940s was deserved.
The United States won its war with Japan for a variety of reasons. The outcome of the war, essentially, was sealed only six months after Pearl Harbor when the US Navy decimated the Japanese fleet at the Battle of Midway. Had Japanese leadership not been so bloodthirsty and ambitious, that nation would have sat down with the US to negotiate a peace soon after.
But Japan didn’t. The war would rage on for another three years. Millions of lives were lost because the Japanese bosses couldn’t bear to accept reality.
It was feared that the only way to end the war would be to invade the Japanese mainland. That meant we needed a fighting force even more bloodthirsty than the Japanese had.
As a rising star in the Army Air Corps, LeMay earned a reputation as a demanding, innovative, brilliant, cutthroat strategist and leader. Robert McNamara described him in a report as “the finest combat commander of any service I came across in war. But he was extraordinarily belligerent, many thought brutal.”
LeMay was transferred from the European to the Pacific theater in 1944. He rose to become the commander of air operations against the Japanese mainland. In his new role, he instituted the practice of massive nighttime, low-altitude, incendiary bombing raids on Japanese cities.
Under this plan, American bombers attacked 64 Japanese metropolitan areas. Most Japanese housing was constructed of highly flammable wood and paper. The bombing raids, carried out from March through August, 1945, destroyed 40 percent of the structures in those cities.
That’s the equivalent of an enemy destroying almost half the land area of every US city ranked by population from New York to Anchorage, Alaska. One raid took place on March 10th over Tokyo. The ensuing firestorm killed 100,000 civilians and destroyed 250,000 buildings. Estimates of the number of civilians killed in all the raids range from a quarter to a half a million. Some five million Japanese were made homeless.
The Day After
Another aspect of LeMay’s strategy was called Operation Starvation, aimed at disrupting Japan’s food distribution channels. Its name alone says all you need to know about it.
LeMay himself was quoted as saying he would have been tried as a war criminal had the US lost the war.
Then the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two attacks served as exclamation points for America’s argument that Japan should surrender unconditionally. The war ended six days after Nagasaki.
The Good War.
Again, even the Japanese today agree that the good guys won.
Curtis LeMay, therefore, was one of the good guys.
“In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.” — Fran Lebowitz (h/t to RE Paris)
GOOD RIDDANCE, ANDREW BREITBART
“I’ve never killed a man but I’ve read several obituaries with glee.” — Mark Twain
Andrew Breitbart is dead. The Earth is now a better place.
Like Twain, I don’t care much for gloating when a bad guy dies but in this case, Whoopee!
Gone, Baby, Gone
Breitbart was a character assassin, an amoral ideologue, an agent provocateur, and, well, a dick of the highest order.
Here’s the difference between a warthog like Breitbart and a human being of decency. When Shirley Sherrod heard about his death, she said, “The news of Mr. Breitbart’s death came as a surprise to me when I was informed of it this morning. My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart’s family as they cope during this very difficult time.”
Sherrod: A Gracious Victim
This from a woman whose career serving in government was derailed by a phony-assed, maliciously edited video produced by none other than Mr. Breitbart.
And speaking of phony-assed, maliciously edited videos, it was Breitbart’s airing of the ACORN footage that led to that social service organization’s eventual bankruptcy and demise. Nice work, Andy-baby, pissing on all those folks who need food, housing, and legal services for your own professional advancement.
Naturally, the Republican candidates for president are mourning his passing as though a great public servant is gone from the scene. Rick Santorum calls his death a “huge loss, in my opinion, to our country.” Mitt Romney remembers him as a “loving husband and father.”
“Aw, He Was Such A Nice Guy.”
Reminds me of when any notorious Outfit boss kicked the bucket back in Chicago. No matter that he’d been responsible for corrupting labor unions, forcing the Mob’s way into legitimate businesses, and murdering loan sharks, recalcitrant shopkeepers and potential witnesses, his neighbors would say he was such a nice guy and a real fine family man.
Hey, people, even A. Hitler was kind to his dog Blondi. That doesn’t excuse him for his evil acts.
Anyway, Breitbart — though not Hitler or a capo, but profoundly destructive in his own way — joins such luminaries as J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace, Orval Faubus, Curtis LeMay, and Lee Atwater in the pantheon of dead evil Americans.
It’s irrelevant that he was “a loving husband and father.”
“Welcome To Hell, Andy!”
PAYING THE PIPER
Now that Mayor Mark Kruzan doesn’t have to worry about reelection for a while, he can level with Bloomington voters about the state of the city’s finances.
They ain’t good.
Kasey Husk of the Herald Times reports this morning that Kruzan says there are “dark clouds on the horizon” for us.
Potential Cover Shot For Bloomington’s Annual Financial Report
The reason Kruzan waited until now to drop the bomb on us, apparently, is the potential that voters could have blamed him for the economic mess we’re in. That would have been stupid, of course, but then again no one ever accused the electorate, either here or nationally, of being remarkably brilliant.
Smart Enough To Know We’re Not All That Smart
Hell, an entire major political party is fired up by proud anti-intellectualism. (I won’t even link to that party — you can guess which one I mean.)
So no, the city’s empty pockets aren’t Kruzan’s fault.
But we know where the blame primarily lies — all those clever, conniving, duplicitous investment banking house unindicted felons who played our economy for hundred of billions of dollars in fees and bonuses and left it dry.
Check out Michael Lewis’s book, “Liar’s Poker” for an early snapshot of the unregulated, greenback-worshipping, hyenas that populated Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street money-squeezers back in the mid- and late-80s.
Not a one of those reprobates has ever served a minute in jail. Yet guys like Mark Kruzan have to worry that voters may turn on them because of the sins of Wall Street.
We can only hope there is a hell so that Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and the rest of their aiders and abettors can join Andrew Breitbart in it.
IT’S ALL RELATIVE
With Russia’s presidential election three days away and Vladimir Putin looking like a shoo-in, we’re being inundated by news stories and commentary about what a despot the former KGB spook is. Deep thinkers are howling about how un-democratic the supposedly-now-democratic heart of the former Soviet Union is.
No doubt Putin’s goons have had “meetings” with dissenting journalists, his spies have added a dash of “strychnine” to the soup of neighboring pols or fed polonium pellets to expat whistle blowers, and his PR flacks are hard at work manipulating the minds of Russian couch potatoes.
That’s all true. Plus, Putin is such a charismatic tough guy that when he met the notoriously untraveled George W. Bush, this holy land’s president-at-the-time tumbled into a deep man-crush over him.
Yesterday, though, I caught another side of the story. Former IU writing professor Erlene Stetson and her husband visit us at the Book Corner nearly every day when they’re in town. Her husband was born in Germany and they keep homes in both countries.
The husband — whose name I never catch because we start talking about world events and history immediately, leaving little time for idle chit-chat and social niceties, so let’s call him Mr. Stetson — started ruminating about Putin and Russia.
“It is amazing,” Mr. Stetson said, “how things have changed in Russia.”
He was talking about the Russia of today vis-a-vis that of such sweethearts as Joseph Stalin and his successors.
Mr. Stetson pointed out that even if the Russian press and TV outlets are manipulated and intimidated now and again, they’re still a hundred-fold freer than the old state media apparatus was under the Communist General Secretaries.
He also says the recent mass protests against Putin and Russian voter fraud would never, ever have been tolerated in the Soviet days.
Eastern Europeans of a certain generation view the new Russia in a state of near-awe these days, according to Mr. Stetson. Not that they envy Muscovites and the like, just that the relative relaxation of traditional Russian authoritarianism is so jarring in comparison to the bad old days.
Of course, it’s easy to look good when the object of comparison is a tyranny that, under Stalin, murdered tens of millions of people to maintain discipline, advance ideology, and just for the fun of it.
This reminds me of revisionist historians who decry the so-called Fathers of Our Country for owning slaves and treating women as decorative appendages.
White men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did indeed “own” human beings, including their lovely brides.
Viewed through today’s lens, Washington and Jefferson appear to be monsters.
In their own day, though, the framers of the US Constitution were the most progressive thinkers on the face of the Earth. They eschewed divine authority and legislated nobility out of existence. Yes, the only US citizens that counted were white male land-owners.
But that was a hell of a leap forward from previous social set-ups. We’ve been taking leaps in fits and starts ever since.
As the late, astute Molly Ivins once wrote, “It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”
“The Lord” and Money — perhaps this should be our national anthem.