Tags: history lesson

Me 2


My October 14 post about Trump claming that Nothing in his Administration will become him like the leaving of it has not aged as well as I would have liked in the wake of Wednesday's coup attempt. I admit, I did not anticipate him sending a mob to lynch Congress.

Although I'm not sure how much of Wednesday's mob action was planned by Trump. First, he's just not much of a planner. Second, he's personally a coward. I suspect his "plan" for whatever values of planning actually occurred was for the Congress to be intimidated by protestors, possibly including "protestors" roaming the halls of Congress. (Think the various right-wing anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests in statehouses of late.)

This does not absolve him of the blame for the coup or the deaths. If you play with matches and gasoline, the fire is your responsibility. It does point out that Trump is more symptom than problem.

There are large groups of Americans who are angry enough to resort to violence for political ends. That's the problem. And no, they are not, by-and-large, "blue collar" people. We've seen CEOs of companies and people who chartered private jets to fly into Washington in order to attack the capitol. We've also seen some people in the mob who clearly came to lynch politicians. (Dudes with zip ties and flak jackets - Google it yourself.)

Fixing this will require a lot of work, and not just by politicians. Some, most of the work will have to be done by society. It will start by shaming those who engage in violence, much like we've shamed those who are openly racist. Yes, some people are without shame, but the goal is to keep the number of people we need to worry about as low as possible. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/750350.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2


I'm glad to see that the Republican Party is the party of law and order. Blue lives matter! (That's sarcasm, for those unclear.)

Calling Trump's coup yesterday half-assed is an insult to half-assedness, which is par for the course with Trump. And yes, it was a coup attempt, and even after half-assed coups you need to remove the coup plotters.

You see, if you plan to overthrow the government by shutting down the legislature, you need to do three things. One, send in a mob. Two, make sure that, imbedded in said mob, are some people who can take out key targets under cover of the mob. Three, be able to show up on a white horse and restore order. Fortunately, Trump's too stupid and lazy for steps 2 and 3. We got lucky.

In related thoughts, I whole-heartedly agree with John Scalzi when he says Trump is the worst President ever. From Scalzi: James Buchanan allowed the country to fall into the Civil War because he believed (erroneously, in my opinion) the principles of the country could not stop it from happening. He was wrong, terribly wrong, but at least there was a principle behind it. Trump, it is now perfectly and unambiguously clear, would be delighted to have the country fall into a civil war, not for principle, but simply for ego. He would destroy our country and democracy because he can’t abide what he now is: a loser.

Lastly, we've seen police can be polite to rioters, as long as said rioters are white. Good to know. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/750121.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

New Years - Battle of the Bulge Edition

When I was a small boy, too young to stay at home by myself, my parents went out for New Year's Eve. I stayed with my grandparents. For some reason, WGN seemed to think that the movie The Battle of the Bulge was the thing to show. When the (shortened for TV) movie was over, they'd cut to a hotel ballroom where Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians would ring in the New Year in the Central Time Zone. Guy's long dead, but I decided to revise the tradition and watch Battle of the Bulge last night. As history, it's not very good, even by Hollywood standards. As a movie it's quite good.

Let's get the history out of the way first. The movie was filmed in Spain, so even when they remember to put snow on the ground it doesn't look very much like Belgium. Also, they couldn't get Sherman or King Tiger tanks, so they used American tanks, specifically M-24 Chafees (which were at least around in WWII) and post-war M47 Pattons with German markings painted on them. All the tanks were provided with drivers and support crew by the Spanish Army from their then-current inventory.

Composite characters are used, which for the Germans obfuscates moral responsibility for the Malmedy massacre. Lastly, the plot makes it look like the Germans were much closer to victory then they were. This point is probably what caused Dwight Eisenhower to come out of retirement and hold a news conference complaining about the movie. To be fair, the moviemakers knew they weren't filming history - there's a written disclaimer in the end credits.

But as a piece of entertainment, the movie was quite good. Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw and Charles Bronson chewed a lot of scenery, Telly Savalas (who got special billing in the credits) played a fairly complex character and the (albeit historically inaccurate) battle scenes were well done. My on-demand copy was the long version that played in theaters, and included a pre-credit musical overture, a musical intermission, and a musical "exit music" after the final credits. Overall, an interesting way to see out the year 2020. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/750009.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

People vote, not cows and cornfields

On my Facebook page, somebody pointed out that Trump won more counties than Biden. Here's my edited comment to that.

Here in the US, people vote, not cows or cornfields. Here in the US, people live in cities and suburbs. Making an argument about how many counties somebody won is stupid.

For example, Biden won DuPage County, getting 281,000 votes. That's 3 times more votes for *Biden* than total ballots cast in Champaign County (96,185). (BTW, Biden won Champaign County with 57,067 votes.)

There are a lot of really empty counties in the US. The least-populated county in Illinois, Hardin County, only has 4,300 people. The least-populated county in the US, Loving County in Texas, only has *86* residents.

(You can do your own Google for these numbers) This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/748903.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

Qanon, the new Millerites

I suspect most people have heard of the Qanon movement. This is a group of people that believe Donald Trump is in a secret war against a legion of pedophiles who are in various high-ranking government and business posts. The Qanons expect that Trump will any day now launch massive arrests and bring down the whole business.

Back in the 1840s, there was a religious movement led by a man named Miller (hence the "name Millerite) that believed the world would end on one of several dates in the mid-1840s. Obviously, the world did not end, leading to the Great Disappointment. I suspect something similar is forthcoming regarding Qanon.

Simply put, reality is like gravity; it never quits and it always wins in the end. There are pedophiles, but there is no organized legion of them, and nor is Trump especially focused on the problems of pedophilia or sex trafficking. When Trump leaves office and there are no mass arrests, this will become obvious. Millerism eventually morphed into Seventh-Day Adventism. I have no idea what Qanon will morph into. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/745476.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

Thoughts on a Monday

Various thoughts on a Monday.

Thought #1

I was with my Rotary club working both the National Night Out event and a festival in Darien. I was struck by some of the outfits people wore to the various events.

Thought #2

Via my LinkedIn feed, I found this site: Google Project Sunroof. It allows you to put in your street address and get an estimate of whether or not solar power panels on your roof would save you money or not. For my address, the savings were substantial. I don't know how they were calculated so I don't know how accurate they were. I pass the link on for entertainment value.

Thought #3

Last week, ICE raided seven plants in Mississippi to arrest ~700 illegal immigrants. None of the managers were arrested. It is clear to me that ICE is being used to do what American businesses have done since the Revolution, namely keep wages low by bringing in new immigrants whenever the old immigrants start demanding a fair deal. The swamp is not being drained.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/730375.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

Golden Spike and Gentiles

On my trip to Utah, I visited the Golden Spike National Historical Park in Promontory Utah. Promontory is the name for a bit of high ground just north and west of the Great Salt Lake. Back in 1869, it was picked as the site to link up the first Transcontinental Railroad, not because it had any intrinsic value, but because it was a handy spot on the map. So, on May 10, 1869, they held a ceremony to complete the railroad. Basically, by nightfall that day, everybody was gone and the place was just a stretch of railroad track in the middle of nowhere.

It's still in the middle of nowhere, except now there's a National Park with a rather spare visitor's center. If you go, you can see replica steam-powered locomotives roll down the tracks, and on weekends they reenact the ceremony. It's a nice way to spend a couple of hours.

Of note to the title is the closest town to Promontory, namely Corinne, Utah. The town was founded less than a month after the railroad was finished, and for a decade or so thereafter, it was the site of a serious attempt to create a second power structure (other than the Mormons) in what was then the Utah territory. The attempt failed, and the town eventually became a sleepy Mormon farm village.

As far as Promontory, in 1904, the Union Pacific built the Lucin Cutoff, a route that crossed over the Great Salt Lake near Ogden Utah, cutting over a hundred miles off of the route. As a result, the old tracks (except for a few miles that tied Corinne into Ogden) were abandoned. In WWII, the tracks themselves were pulled up and recycled for the war effort. It wasn't until the late 1950s that tracks came back when the site went into government hands.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/728340.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

Keeping Them Down On The Farm

Dr. Sarah Taber, an agricultural specialist, has up a fascinating Twitter thread on agricultural farm labor. It starts with this note: the first mechanical cotton harvesters were invented in the 1830s. But because slave labor was so cheap, nobody bought them.

Other highlights of the thread:
1) The Great Migration of blacks from the south started in 1916. By the 1940s, (accelerated by the labor demands of WWII) there weren't enough people in the South willing to pick cotton, at least at the rates farmers were willing to pay. Therefore, mechanical cotton pickers became a thing.

2) A key part of the KKK was an attempt to terrorize blacks to stay put and work on the cotton farm. It was economic - an attempt to ensure a cheap labor source.

3) Now, we're seeing the same economic dynamics in fruit and vegetable farming. Immigrants really don't want to pick fruit; they do so because that's the job they can get. As immigrant labor dries up, now mechanical options become viable.

4) We have this myth that outside of the South, farms were mostly family-owned. Not so - in the early 20th century, tenant farm rates were the same nationwide. As tenant farmers moved to cities, mechanization became important. The self-same mechanization and depopulation helped dry up small-town America.

Fascinating stuff.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/723130.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

The Favourite

Just before going downstate for the holiday, I saw the new movie The Favourite at my local dine-and-watch AMC theater. It was an unusual and entertaining movie.

First, a bit of historical accuracy. The movie concerns machinations between Sarah Churchill (of that Churchill family) and her cousin Abigail Hill for the favor of an ailing Queen Anne. All of these people were real and did in fact have a conflict. What's not accurate is that, in the movie, Sarah Churchill is shown as waiting on Queen Anne hand-and-foot. In reality, Sarah's frequent absences from court were a bone of contention between the two.

Having said that, Sarah in the movie and in real life was very outspoken and much more involved with business and politics then a typical woman of the era. She was also quite frank with Queen Anne, another bone of contention. Finally, Queen Anne was very sick and by the time the events of the movie occured. She had also experienced 17 pregnancies and was a widow. Most of her pregnancies had ended in miscarriages or stillbirths. None of the few live births resulted in a child living to adulthood.

The movie itself was a fascinating look at a very decadent society. It was shot in several very ornate British manor houses. Notably, on multiple occasions the camera had a fisheye lens effect, giving us wide shots when typically we'd get back-and-forth closeups. It was not your typical movie.

Also notable was the sexual relations. On several occasions, women were asked if they had been raped or discussed the threat of rape with all of the apparent concern one would show for a mild headache. It was quite striking. The Favourite is not an action movie, but very interesting indeed.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/714418.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

Getting Out of the House

As a (temporarily) unemployed person, I find it needful to occasionally get out of the house. As a Rotarian and the webmaster for our club, I am on several emailing lists, including one from our Forest Preserve Commissioner, Linda Painter. She sent me and several thousand of her closest friends a notice that this past Saturday the Peabody Mayslake Estate was having an open house. I went.

So I first became aware of Mayslake years ago. The mansion is visible from the road I took to work every day, and as a Forest Preserve property, they had a local Shakespeare in the Park operation (First Folio). I had attended a couple of the plays, and was always curious about the house. Herewith is what I learned.

The house was built in the very early 1920s by Francis Peabody, founder of Peabody Coal and Peabody Energy. Like many Gilded Age rich folk, he wanted a country estate, and so he bought 800 acres in then rural DuPage County and hired an architect to build him a replica of a 1500-era English manor house. Alas, he died only 13 months after the house was complete and his widow sold it to the Franciscans who used it for a retreat. They sold off all but about 80 acres and had the final chunk on the market when a local referendum was passed to buy it and give it to the Forest Preserve.

For the most part, the Forest Preserve just uses the grounds as a park. The actual mansion was allowed to get seriously run down, and private money is being raised and spent to (slowly) restore it. I found the tour, which included the rarely-used second floor and the prison-like servants quarters to be interesting and educational. It was a pleasant way to kill an afternoon.

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