This Discussion Says It All, IMO

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A Missed Opportunity

Jim Wheeler:

I think Elise’s outstanding memoir is perfect material for thought on this Veteran’s Day. See if you agree.


Originally posted on FiftyFourandAHalf:

Dammit.  I missed it

Nuremberg.  The Nuremberg trials. Of course I wasn’t born yet.

I also missed the 70th Anniversary Commemoration.  At least I think I did.  I just Googled “70th Anniversary of Nuremberg” and I’m a little bit confused.  The 276,000 hits I got (in 0.64 seconds) give dates all across the spring of 2015.  I was reminded of the Anniversary when I saw that MSNBC has made a documentary about the trial.  I imagine I missed that, too.

Yup.  I missed all of them.  And while I regret not paying more attention to the 70th Anniversary (whenever it actually is), there is one Nuremberg-related thing that I truly regret, and I always will.

Did you ever see the movie Judgment at Nuremberg?

It’s a great movie.  Amazing performances by a phenomenal cast — Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark.  Even William Shatner somehow got…

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10 Reactions To Joe Biden’s Decision Not To Run For President

Jim Wheeler:

Another hilarious list from X. Aside from pure humor, it occurs to me how modern political news coverage is essential to public understanding that powerful people are ever so human. Well done, X!

Originally posted on List of X:

A rare photo of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden engaged in the White House Whitest Smile contest. Image source: Wikipedia A rare photo of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden engaged in the White House’s Whitest Smile contest.
Image source: Wikipedia

The 2016 presidential election campaign has been in full swing for the last several months, with dozens of officially declared candidates (mostly Republican). And while there is some serious competition in the Republican primary, most of the intrigue in the Democratic primary stemmed from the question whether sitting Vice President Joe Biden will declare himself as a candidate or not. For the last several months, this question was subject to intense speculation, until finally this Wednesday, Biden has officially announced that he is not running. Here are 10 reactions to Joe Biden’s decision.

1)  Barack Obama:  “I think Joe made a right decision. The country, and I, need him here, in Washington, doing his job – sitting in a locked office and waiting for me to drop dead.”


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10 Reasons Why Republicans Postponed Speaker Election

Jim Wheeler:

The split in the GOP is so historic, mere prose doesn’t do it justice. Here is a post by List Of X that sums it up brilliantly!

Originally posted on List of X:

A couple of weeks ago, Republican John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced his retirement, and this Thursday the Republican party was scheduled to have a closed party election to fill the position. However, the election has been indefinitely postponed. Supposedly, the reason for delay was that the House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy, who was widely expected to win the election, unexpectedly withdrew from the race yesterday: McCarthy had admitted that the purpose of Benghazi investigations was to lower Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, and this unfortunate episode of truth-speaking called McCarthy’s political competence into question. However, this wasn’t the only reason, and here are 10 other reasons why the vote was postponed.

1)  Every Republican politician who could have been interested in the Speaker job is already running for president.

2)  The Republican Party has other priorities – the government isn’t going to shut down itself, you know.

3)  Since Americans…

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The Fadingly Infamous Walter Palmer

I, like many people, was disgusted with the slaying for “sport” of a semi-tame lion in Tanzania, but I never saw a good articulation of just why the act engendered such strong emotion. Until, that is, when after half a century I recently re-read a fiction story by the great John D. MacDonald. The third in his Travis McGee series, A Deadly shade of Gold contains a commentary on the phenomenon that is as pertinent now as it was when it was written in 1965.

After slaying his wounded lion while surrounded by his $50,000 coterie of trackers and protectors, Walter Palmer is apparently back drilling teeth these days, his notoriety fading even as Cecil’s noble head graces the wall of his den. But the distaste lingers and the coarser elements of human nature endure. Here’s how Travis McGee put it 60 year ago:

I do not like the killers, and the killing bravely and well crap. I do not like the bully boys, the Teddy Roosevelts, the Hemingways, the Ruarks. They are merely slightly more sophisticated versions of the New Jersey file clerks who swarm into the Adirondacks in the fall, in red cap, beard stubble and taut hero’s grin, talking out of the side of their mouths, exuding fumes of bourbon, come to slay the ferocious white-tail deer. It is the search for balls.

A man should have one chance to bring something down. He should have his shot at something, a shining running something, and see it come a-tumbling down, all mucus and steaming blood stench and gouted excrement, the eyes going dull during the final muscle spasms. And if he is, in all parts and purposes, a man, he will file that away as a part of his process of growth and life and eventual death.

And if he is perpetually, hopelessly a boy, he will lust to go do it again, with a bigger beast. They have all their earnest rationalizations about game control. It is good for animals to shoot them. It may serve some purpose to gut shoot them with a plastic arrow. We have so bitched up the various ecologies in all our areas, game control is a necessity. But it should be done by professionals paid to do it, the ones who cherish the healthy flocks, the ones who do not get their charge out of going bang at something with thrice the animal dignity they can ever attain.

I do violate my own concepts by slaying the occasional fish. And eating him. But spare me the brotherhood of the blood sports, the hairy ones, all the way from Macmillan and his forty grouse a day to some snot kid who tries to slay every species of big game in the world, with the assistance of his doting daddy.

There is one thing which strikes me as passing strange. Never have I met a man who had the infantry memories, who had knocked down human meat and seen it fall, who ever had any stomach for shooting living things. I could not imagine Paul Dominguez ever shooting even a marauding crow. He would need no romantic fantasies about himself. His manhood would need no artifical reinforcing.

Source:  Macdonald, John D. (2013-01-08). A Deadly Shade of Gold: A Travis McGee Novel (pp. 311-312). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.  A true copy except that I have fiddled with the paragraphing some.

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Last Sunday a local columnist here in Joplin, one Geoff Caldwell, wrote that Senate Democrats had dishonored all on the 9/11 anniversary, and that includes all the war dead from ” . . . Valley Forge to Vicksburg, Bastogne to Baghdad, to the 9/11 sky above Pennsylvania, . . . ”  Their sin?  They used the filibuster to prevent the president from having to veto a bill condemning the anti-nuclear treaty with Iran.  Of course, for some reason the writer failed to call for an end to the filibuster rule.

I was inspired to write the following letter to my editor:


credit: democratic

Demagogue. n. Someone who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.

A demagogue is identifiable. He generalizes the opposing party as collectively faulty or evil. He wraps himself in the flag and proclaims the other party unpatriotic or even traitorous. (Perhaps surprising to some, Democrats can be patriotic.) He directly or by inference denigrates cultures and religions different from his own. He promotes American military action as the prime solution to world problems, this despite the obvious nation-building failures of Vietnam and the trillion-dollar mistake that was the second Iraq war. War is cathartic and quick, the aftermaths not so much.

He appeals to fear, such as fear of terrorism. But according to the NY Times, since 9/11:

 . . . nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists . . .



In his farewell address, George Washington spoke of the dangers of political parties, something he knew well from Europe’s experience. John Adams agreed. They knew that compromise and cooperation were essential. Their fears have proved well founded. Partisanship reached the breaking point in 1861 and has resulted in gridlock and near government shutdown during the past 7 years. The American experiment is in danger. Two wars proved that military might alone can not fix the world and we cannot afford to rebuild the world in our image, even if it would accept the offer.

Demagoguery is thick in the current primary campaigns. Will “we the people” let it win the day?

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A Cautionary Tale of Two Religions

The evening television news has of late been reporting on a massive migration of refugees out of the warring regions of Libya, Syria, and Somalia into Europe. A van filled with some 50 dead bodies of men, women and children was found in Austria. Dismal tent cities have sprung up, including one near the French end of the Chunnel where nightly forays are made by desperate people wanting to walk 31.4 miles to England. One might think that such things are unprecedented but they are not, nor is the the kind of religious hatred powering the wars.

This was brought home to me by a shocking article in the New Yorker magazine’s issue of June 29. Titled The Great Divide, it reviews the causes and events of the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent by its British colonial masters in August, 1947, two years after World War II and at a time when the 10-year-old me was learning in my geography and history books about quaint foreign cultures. So far as I know, those text books never did catch up to the reality that was happening and despite having bachelor’s degree and a master’s, and despite having a lifelong interest in history and the news, I was ignorant of the details until now. An excerpt of the article:

In August, 1947, when, after three hundred years in India, the British finally left, the subcontinent was partitioned into two independent nation states: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Immediately, there began one of the greatest migrations in human history, as millions of Muslims trekked to West and East Pakistan (the latter now known as Bangladesh) while millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed in the opposite direction. Many hundreds of thousands never made it.

DAMASCUS, SYRIA - JANUARY 31:  In this handout provided by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2014 in Damascus, Syria. The United Nations renewed calls for the Syria regime and rebels to allow food and medical aid into the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. An estimated 18,000 people are besieged inside the camp as the conflict in Syria continues.  (Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images)

These are Syrian refugees, but the message is the same. Credit:

Across the Indian subcontinent, communities that had coexisted for almost a millennium attacked each other in a terrifying outbreak of sectarian violence, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other—a mutual genocide as unexpected as it was unprecedented. In Punjab and Bengal—provinces abutting India’s borders with West and East Pakistan, respectively—the carnage was especially intense, with massacres, arson, forced conversions, mass abductions, and savage sexual violence. Some seventy-five thousand women were raped, and many of them were then disfigured or dismembered.

Nisid Hajari, in “Midnight’s Furies” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), his fast-paced new narrative history of Partition and its aftermath, writes, “Gangs of killers set whole villages aflame, hacking to death men and children and the aged while carrying off young women to be raped. Some British soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Nazi death camps claimed Partition’s brutalities were worse: pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies; infants were found literally roasted on spits.”

By 1948, as the great migration drew to a close, more than fifteen million people had been uprooted, and between one and two million were dead. The comparison with the death camps is not so far-fetched as it may seem. Partition is central to modern identity in the Indian subcontinent, as the Holocaust is to identity among Jews, branded painfully onto the regional consciousness by memories of almost unimaginable violence. The acclaimed Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal has called Partition “the central historical event in twentieth century South Asia.” She writes, “A defining moment that is neither beginning nor end, partition continues to influence how the peoples and states of postcolonial South Asia envisage their past, present and future.”

After the Second World War, Britain simply no longer had the resources with which to control its greatest imperial asset, and its exit from India was messy, hasty, and clumsily improvised. From the vantage point of the retreating colonizers, however, it was in one way fairly successful. Whereas British rule in India had long been marked by violent revolts and brutal suppressions, the British Army was able to march out of the country with barely a shot fired and only seven casualties. Equally unexpected was the ferocity of the ensuing bloodbath.

The question of how India’s deeply intermixed and profoundly syncretic culture unravelled so quickly has spawned a vast literature. The polarization of Hindus and Muslims occurred during just a couple of decades of the twentieth century, but by the middle of the century it was so complete that many on both sides believed that it was impossible for adherents of the two religions to live together peacefully. Recently, a spate of new work has challenged seventy years of nationalist mythmaking. There has also been a widespread attempt to record oral memories of Partition before the dwindling generation that experienced it takes its memories to the grave.

I submit that the parallels to the second Iraq War are unmistakable. Angrily

Credit:  Time, Inc.

Credit: Time, Inc.

determined to round up the usual suspects because of 9/11, America attacked the thuggishly brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, confident in our hubris that we would be greeted as saviors and would thereby make out of the two conflicting religions an island of peace in the Middle East.  The control Hussein wielded over the majority

Sunni’s was broken and we made everything worse, much worse.

How could this happen? I don’t think I am the only one with delayed knowledge of this historical catastrophe?  There was no shortage of egg heads in the Bush administration who should have known of it, not least of whom was Dr. Condoleezza Rice who held three degrees in political science and had served one term as National Security Adviser. Perhaps her text books also omitted from essential history events that society prefers to ignore. Even now there is a strong movement in the GOP to deemphasize from history text books material that is critical of our nation. Even more to the point, ought we not think soberly about this example as we consider the statements of contenders for the presidency during the present campaign?   Do they have a sense of history?  Do they have gravitas?  Do they react emotionally?  Do they take slights personally?  Do they display some humility about power?  These things matter.  Stuff happens.

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