Roundup: Talking About History
This is where we excerpt articles about history that appear in the media. Among the subjects included on this page are: anniversaries of historical events, legacies of presidents, cutting-edge research, and historical disputes.
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (9-29-09)
On Sept. 16, the blockbuster film The Founding of a Republic was released to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, which occurs Thursday, Oct. 1. Featuring more than 100 big-name mainland and Hong Kong actors including Jackie Chan and Jet Li, one of the more poignant moments occurs when the actor playing Mao Zedong holds back tears and emotionally proclaims on the eve of the rise of a new and independent country, "The Chinese people have stood up." The film then awkwardly hurries forward to December 1978, when Deng Xiaoping heralds the era of "opening and reform" in the Middle Kingdom.
It is undoubtedly a propaganda film, as would be expected of anything conceived by the Beijing Municipal People's Political...
SOURCE: The Christian Science Monitor (9-28-09)
Lobbyists have besieged the US government for as long as it has had lobbies.
One of the first was William Hull, an ex-Revolutionary War officer who in 1792 was hired by fellow veterans from Massachusetts to press a claim for back pay they felt the nation still owed them for winning its liberty. Mr. Hull – a proud-looking sort with luxuriant hair – traveled to Philadelphia (then the nation’s capital) and discovered that no other state had sent a similar representative.
So he did what any modern K Street operative might do – he rounded up a coalition. He sent letters to veterans groups around the country, urging them to dispatch agents just like him to help Congress make up its mind.
Unfortunately, at the time, US finances were not exactly stable (sound familiar?) and Hull failed, mostly.
Later in life, he became the first governor of the Michigan Territory, and...
SOURCE: The Jerusalem Post (9-23-09)
On the afternoon of August 7, 1933, at 76 Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin, on a day when well-dressed Jews in Germany could not step into the street without fear, when laboring kibbutzniks in Palestine proudly swept the midday perspiration from their foreheads, when anxious German businessmen worried the next telegram would cancel yet another order for increasingly unsellable Reich goods, when Nazi organizers throughout Europe gleefully reviewed statistics on Jewish populations and Jewish assets within their midst, when Polish blackshirts viciously beat Jews in town squares, when ordinary jobless Germans wondered where they could find enough money for the next meal, when young Jewish boys in German schools were forced to stand...
SOURCE: NYT (9-24-09)
In an interview near the end of his two terms in office Bill Clinton talked about wanting to “demystify the job” of being president. “It is a job,” he declared, and “there’s a lot to be said for showing up every day and trying to push the rock up the hill.” His folksy, down-home style of campaigning and his lackadaisical 2004 memoir “My Life” promoted this accessible view of the presidency, as does “The Clinton Tapes,” a book based on nearly 80 conversations recorded during his years in the White House with his longtime friend Taylor Branch.
This messy, longwinded volume — which is less interesting for its tidbits of news than for its overall picture of a presidency — leaves us with an intimate portrait of the commander in chief hanging out with an old pal, occasionally posing for history, but more often using Mr. Branch as a late-night sounding board and...
SOURCE: The Huffington Post (9-25-09)
In the first year of his first elected term, Lyndon Johnson made the presidency look easy. Landmark bills on education, health care and civil rights were flying through Congress. He put a new justice on the Supreme Court, escalated Vietnam and invaded the Dominican Republic. Johnson could do anything.
But he stayed out of New York politics.
In June of 1965, three-term Democratic Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr., turned the city on its ear when he announced he had changed his mind and would not seek re-election. An ideological array of Democrats crowded the field headed for a September primary.
This was no good. Wagner had been a shoo-in for the Liberal Party's endorsement, ensuring the Democrats would keep the thousands of progressives voters who pulled the third party's lever. The Liberals didn't care to wait to see who the Democrats picked, especially when they were being courted...
SOURCE: Time (9-24-09)
But Detroit, once our fourth largest city, now 11th and slipping rapidly, has had no such luck. Its disaster has long been a slow unwinding that seemed to remove it from the rest of the country. Even the death rattle that in the past year emanated from its signature industry brought more attention to the auto executives than to the people of the city, who had for so long been victimized by their dreadful decision-making...
... If, like me, you're a Detroit native who recently went home to find out what went wrong, your first instinct is to weep. If you live there...
SOURCE: The Chronicles of Higher Education (9-21-09)
Visitors leaving Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport today can purchase a box of chocolates in the duty-free shop with a replica of a poster from the 1930s on the back, in which Stalin grasps the great wheel of the ship of state as it heads into storm clouds gathering in the distance. The caption reads, "The captain of the country of Soviets leads us from victory to victory!" That far-seeing Stalin piloting his people to safety inevitably collides with the brutal image of the dictator responsible for the displacement, death, and degradation of millions, whose terrifying legacy is amply attested to in books published throughout the world, and in the memory of the Russian people. On the streets of Moscow...
SOURCE: Kafka's Mouse (P.D. Smith website) (9-22-09)
On 13 November 1984, a Soviet missile was launched from Kapustin Yar, east of Stalingrad. About forty minutes later an R-36M intercontinental ballistic missile blasted off from an underground silo in Kazakhstan. Known to Western intelligence experts as the SS-18 Satan missile, it was capable of carrying either a single 24-megaton warhead or eight independently targeted 600-kiloton warheads. The bomb that killed some 200,000 people at Hiroshima was just 12 kilotons.
The launch was monitored by the West’s spy satellites. But it was an unexceptional moment in the history of the arms race and soon forgotten. Only after the Berlin Wall had been breached, and the ice of the cold war began to thaw, did military analysts realize the significance of these...
SOURCE: Charleston Mercury (9-22-09)
The Civil War has been heavily studied and written about, though few are aware of the fact that it was not strictly an American affair. Nor was Charleston’s role in the conflict.
Before the secession crisis began in 1860, strong ties existed between the Southern ports and Liverpool, England, owing to trade. “King Cotton” was a necessity not just to the South’s economy, but to northwest England, as well. Bales of the valuable product arrived at Liverpool by the shipload and were immediately transferred to the cotton manufacturing county of Lancashire. Needless to say, Liverpool’s shipping industry largely relied upon cotton, much of it coming from Charleston Harbor.
One of the chief firms supplying the product to England was Charlestonian George A. Trenholm’s John Fraser...
SOURCE: The New Nixon (9-23-09)
Today is the fifty-seventh anniversary of the speech that changed the course of RN’s life and of politics as practiced in America.
It was also the first of the remarkable comebacks from defeat or adversity that marked his long career.
Garry Wills described the spectacular risk RN took, and the stunning success he achieved:
Nixon first demonstrated the political uses and impact of television. In one half hour Nixon converted himself from a liability, breathing his last, to one of the few people who could add to Eisenhower’s preternatural appeal — who could gild the lilly. For the first time, people saw a living political drama on their TV sets — a man fighting for his whole career and future — and they judged...
SOURCE: Truthout (9-23-09)
On August 19, 2009, former Army Lt. William Calley spoke to a Kiwanis Club meeting in Greater Columbus, Georgia, and for the first time publicly admitted his regret for his role in the My Lai massacre. "There is not a day that goes by, " he said, "when I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."
For those of us who grew up in the intensity of the 1960's and in the pain of the Vietnam War, this long-awaited admission stirred deep emotion. Calley had always been symbolic of the brutality of...
SOURCE: The National Security Archive (9-22-09)
Sixty years ago this week, on 23 September 1949, President Harry Truman made headlines when he announced that the Soviet Union had secretly tested a nuclear weapon several weeks earlier. Truman did not explain how the United States had detected the test, which had occurred on 29 August 1949 at Semipalatinsk, a site in northeastern Kazakhstan. Using declassified material, much of which has never been published, this briefing book documents how the U.S. Air Force, the Atomic Energy Commission, and U.S. scientific intelligence worked together to detect a nuclear test that intelligence analysts, still unaware of the extent to which the Soviets had penetrated the Manhattan Project, did not expect so soon.
Stalin and the Soviet Politburo were probably stunned by Truman's announcement; they did not know that Washington had a surveillance system for detecting the tell-tale...
SOURCE: The Cutting Edge (9-21-09)
In a stunning new court filing, Coca-Cola has been accused of near-criminal collusion in Egypt’s program of ethnic cleansing and property seizures targeting Jews during the 1960s.
The long-standing case involves Egyptian Jewish businessman Refael Bigio and his family against his former partner, Coca-Cola in the illicit takeover of the family bottling business and property near Cairo. The conflict was covered extensively last year by The Cutting Edge News in a special report (see April 14, 2008 Page One, “Coca-Cola and Confiscation: On Passover, an Egyptian Jew Battles Coca-Cola in the USA for a Modern Day Injustice”)
The Egyptian government takeover occurred in 1962 during the openly anti-Jewish regime of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Coca-Cola joined in the process by purchasing the Bigios’seized property for a relative pittance. The process is...
SOURCE: Flare (9-22-09)
SOURCE: Salon (9-22-09)
You could do a lot worse with the next 220 days of your life than to begin each one by reading an entry from the freshly published "A New Literary History of America" -- the way generations past used to study a Bible verse daily. You could do a lot worse, but I'm not sure you could do much better; this magnificent volume is a vast, inquisitive, richly surprising and consistently enlightening wallow in our national history and culture.
Editors Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors have pitched the biggest tent conceivable, pegging each of the chronologically arranged essays in the book to "points in time and imagination where something changed: when a new idea or a new form came into being, when new questions were raised, when what before seemed impossible came to seem necessary or inevitable." With this in mind, they've produced a compendium that is neither reference nor criticism, neither...
SOURCE: NYT (9-21-09)
Irving Kristol was born into a fanatical century and thrust himself into every ideologically charged battle of his age. In the 1930s, as a young socialist, he fought the Stalinists. In the 1940s, as a soldier, he fought fascism. In the decades beyond, as a writer and intellectual, he engaged with McCarthyism, the cold war, the Great Society, the Woodstock generation, the culture wars of the 1970s, the Reagan revolution and so on.
The century was filled with hysterias, all of which he refused to join. There were fanaticisms, none of which he had any part in. Kristol, who died on Friday, seemed to enter life with an intellectual demeanor that he once characterized as “detached attachment.”
He would champion certain causes. He could arrive at surprising and radical conclusions. He was unabashedly neoconservative. But he also stood apart, and directed his skeptical gaze even on his own positions,...
SOURCE: JapanFocus.org (9-21-09)
The August 15, 1945 announcement by the Japanese Emperor declaring Japan’s intention to accept the Allied forces’ terms of unconditional surrender sent Koreans throughout the empire into the streets in celebration. For the first time in decades they could freely associate with their fellow countrymen, communicate in their native language, and wave their national flag (taegeukgi) as Koreans without fear of punishment.
Reports authored by United States government agencies, relying on Japanese statistics, estimated that...
SOURCE: The Chronicles of Higher Education (9-21-09)
One hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud arrived in the United States on his first and only visit. As the George Washington pulled into New York Harbor, he supposedly remarked to Carl Jung, who accompanied him, "They don't realize that we are bringing them the plague." His more vociferous contemporary critics would probably agree.
Freud came to deliver five lectures over five days in September 1909 at Clark University. Its president, G. Stanley Hall, had invited a number of leading thinkers to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Clark. Clark? For our rank-obsessed society, that might seem surprising. Not Chicago or Princeton or Columbia but a small Massachusetts university with...
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal (9-19-09)
The financial collapse of 2008 and the Great Recession have had, not surprisingly, a major adverse impact on the economy of the country's financial center, New York City. There have been over 40,000 job losses in the financial community alone and both city and state budgets are deeply dependent on tax revenues from this one industry. There has been much talk that New York might take years to recover—if, indeed, it ever can.
But if one looks at the history of New York there is reason for much optimism. The city's whole raison d'être since its earliest days explains why.
The Puritans in New England, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Catholics in Maryland first and foremost came to what would be the United States to find the freedom to worship God as they saw fit. The...
SOURCE: SF Gate (9-18-09)
A significant piece of U.S. aviation history was made 100 years ago on September 21, 1909, in the skies over my hometown, Oakland, CA, and the small city of Piedmont, which is completely surrounded by Oakland.
It's a little known history in Oakland, Piedmont, California, and the United States, but in China, it's a big deal.
That's because the man who made the first self-propelled mechanized flight on the west coast of the United States was Feng Ru, aka Feng Yu and Fung Joe Guey, who was born in Guangdong Province, China, in 1883 and came to California when he was 12.
Largely unschooled, he taught himself the workings of various machines and was inspired by the Wright Brothers' historic flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in late 1903.
He was 26 years old when he made the first Pacific coast flight, and he...