Thursday, April 28, 2016

Homefront: How WWII and the US Military Provided the First Spark for the Civil Rights Movement 2 / 2

by Nomad

In Part One, we took a look at how the approaching World War provided an opportunity to reform hiring practices in the defense industry.
In this part, we examine the post-war years and the momentum from that initial reform were about to push for an even more astounding shift in attitudes.


Upon Roosevelt's death, the torch was passed to Truman who was far less reserved support for income equality for all. After the war was over, the pressure was off the defense industry to hire minorities.
The question was: would the federally-imposed hiring practices for the defense industry during the war be recognized as a standard for all hiring?


G.I. Bill and the Discovery of Two Americas

As we mentioned in the first installment in this series, Roosevelt signed the G.I Bill of Rights on June 22, 1944.
It was an attempt to prevent the miserable situation that Depression-era veterans faced. The Bonus Army March on Washington was a shame for the entire country and, the president felt, should never be allowed to happen again.

In real terms, the law provided enough support so that vets who had served their country should not be burdened economically after his service.

Among the benefits offered to veterans: low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend university, high school or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation

Professor Suzanne Mettler, Cornell University, points out:
Four out of five men born in the United States during the 1920s served in the military, and about half of them used the G.I. Bill for education and training.... Vocational training also led to jobs with middle class incomes and benefits.... The G.I. Bill helped make U.S. democracy more vibrant in the middle of the twentieth century.
By 1947 half of all college students were veterans and thanks to the G.I. Bill, one-fifth of all single-family homes built in the 20 years following World War II were financed with help from the GI Bill's loan guarantee program, symbolizing the emergence of a new middle class.

The rise of the middle-class in the Eisenhower years was, it has been argued, based on the positive economy-enhancing effects of the G.I. Bill. 

The results of Roosevelt's law enriched the prestige of the future administrations and gave the post-war American society was transformed from the days of the Great Depression and the austerity that followed.
By the time initial GI Bill eligibility for World War II veterans expired in 1956 – about 11 years after final victory – the United States was richer by 450,000 trained engineers, 240,000 accountants, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 22,000 dentists, and more than a million other college-educated individuals.
*   *   *
According to the law, these benefits were open to all veterans, regardless of race. However, in practice, it was a different story. Discrimination was such a widespread feature of American society at the time that its unequal application was practically guaranteed.

Monday, April 25, 2016

McConnell's Supreme Court Gamble and Ted Cruz's Scare Tactics Spell Disaster for the GOP

by Nomad

Candidates are apt to get a bit carried away while they are on the campaign trail. However, when it comes to Ted Cruz's stoking the fears about the Supreme Court, there's been a whole new level of manipulation, misrepresentation and just plain old nonsense.


One Justice Away

Late last year, Ted Cruz hit upon the phrase "we are just one liberal justice away from...."  He has used the heck out of it, building upon that opening statement well beyond reason and into a strange hysteria.

He told the Des Moines Register in October that we are all just one liberal Supreme Court Justice away from utter disaster. Calamity and catastrophe will follow unless he becomes president and prevents liberals from causing mayhem. Why, it's going to be so bad that we won't even recognize the nation
Are you frightened yet?  
"One more liberal justice and our right to keep and bear arms is taken away from us by an activist court. One more liberal justice and they begin sandblasting and bulldozing veterans memorials throughout this country. One more liberal justice and we lose our sovereignty to the United Nations and the World Court."
In January he warned his supporters what could happen to the high court if a Democrat became the next president. This time he upped the imagery. (That's always a clear sign of manipulation.)
"We're just steps away from the chisels at Arlington coming out to remove crosses and stars of David from tombstones."
In Cruz's world, teams of determined liberal masons with chisels sandpaper and hammers will soon be scouring the cemeteries, mandated to remove all traces of the religious symbols on the tombs of dead war heroes. 

It's the kind of thing that post-midnight radio call-in shows used to discuss. Today these ideas are being spread by the candidate the Republican Party offers as the sane alternative to Donald Trump.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Homefront: How WWII and the US Military Provided the First Spark for the Civil Rights Movement 1 / 2

by Nomad

When it came to the civil rights movement, the US military played a surprisingly important and largely under-recognized role. And it began much earlier in the story than a lot of people realize.  


War is hell on Earth. You'd think that people would have had enough of it. Yet, there's always somebody somewhere declaring war on somebody else, expending vast sums of money, and terrorizing and killing thousands of innocent people and wrecking the otherwise pleasant planet we live on.

On very rare occasions, we can look back and (with a great deal of hesitation) , say that something not all that bad resulted from the war. Scientific advancements, like the mass production and use of antibiotics, are usually cited.
Sometimes, there are more subtle unexpected effects that take years to mature.

In the Name of National Defense

In the spring of 1941, months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was a blue-collar employment boom, particularly in urban areas. Preparation for the US entry in World War II required re-tooling not only of American industry but of the profile of the American workers that serviced that industry.

A significant number of African-Americans had moved to the cities in the north and west and were at that time applying for work. However, when it came to jobs in the defense industry, many African Americans were met with discrimination and sometimes violence. The trickle-down theory- even in these circumstances- seemed to stop at the feet of the black American. 

Enter one of the Civil Rights largely forgotten warriors, the ideological father for future civil rights leaders a generation later. His name was Asa Philip Randolph.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Human Rights Watch: The Politics of Fear is the World's Number One Threat

by Nomad

In the midst of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt famously told the nation that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Though the sources of fear may be different today, the effect is the same.


The Many Facets of Fear

An essay by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, explores what he sees as the root cause of many of the world's problems today: Fear.
Fear stood behind many of the big human rights developments of the past year. Fear of being killed or tortured in Syria and other zones of conflict and repression drove millions from their homes. Fear of what an influx of asylum seekers could mean for their societies led many governments in Europe and elsewhere to close the gates. Fear of mounting terrorist attacks moved some political leaders to curtail rights and scapegoat refugees or Muslims.
And fear of their people holding them to account led various autocrats to pursue an unprecedented global crackdown on the ability of those people to band together and make their voices heard.
The 2016 Human Rights Watch World report summarizes key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide. Globally, Roth explained in his keynote essay , the politics of fears impacts human rights policy in two different ways.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Study Suggests Over-40 Workers Should Be Scheduled Shorter Work Week for Peak Performance

by Nomad


You aren't getting any younger, you know. 
None of us are.
The American workforce is aging too.
In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of this moment in time, one-third of the total U.S. workforce are 50 years or older and one in every five American workers is over 65. 

Barring some unforeseen factor, this progression will continue and by 2050, the US Census predicts that roughly 19 percent of the total workforce will be over the age of 65 years, growing by 75%.

The bottom line is the American workforce is aging. This fact of life will become an increasingly important consideration in business management in the next decades. 

The question for management is how will this shift in worker ages affect the labor performance and how can the highest level of performance be maintained.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Scrub: How the EU's "Right to be Forgotten" Policy Highlights the Internet's Built-in Shortcomings

by Nomad

The Internet is a "gift from God," said Pope Francis and yet that it comes with some dangerous limitations. For good reasons and bad, that divine offerring is under threat.


The News Written on the Wind


Most of us didn't think too much when the Internet ground print media into the  dust.
It was a breakthrough.
An astonishing step forward. If the former system of print media disappeared, then that's what progress looks like. The hard copy was dead, silently murdered by the website.

It was certainly more convenient and in many ways, it led to a revolution when it came to access to news and information. There's no question that it allowed news addicts their daily (hourly) hits. When it came to breaking news, the Internet outstripped CNN, a network that once broke the speed barrier for the live broadcast and the on-the-scene interviews. 

As the Internet became the predominant means for the average citizen to get the news, few considered the very real difference between them. I am not referring to the vast amounts of propaganda- that's nothing new. I am not speaking about faulty information online, especially given the rise of "fake news" and spoof sites. 

The problem with using the Internet as your only information source is its uniquely ephemeral (and indeed its rescindable) nature. Things appear and disappear seemingly at random.
Despite impressive efforts, the sheer volume of information makes any comprehensive attempt to archive the information fairly impossible.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Wall So High: Senator Sam Ervin and North Carolina's Controversial Potty Police Law

by Nomad

With his Southern drawl, dry wit, and country-lawyer persona, Senator Sam Ervin became a national hero to many during the Watergate hearings. Yet, here was a staunch conservative Democrat- a Dixie-Crat.
Today he very likely would be disgusted by what's going on in his state. 



Remembering Senator Ervin

Most of us of a certain (unspecified) age recognize the name, Sam Ervin. During the long painful summer of 1973, Congress convened a special session in order to get down to the bottom of an extraordinary White House scandal, involving a contracted break-in of opposition offices and a badly-handled coverup by the president.

Starting from May 17, 1973, the Senate Watergate Committee began its nationally televised hearings and throughout that summer, the nation stood witness to every detail of Nixon's dirty tricks and his vain attempts to keep them from wrecking his presidency. 
At the helm of that committee was a flabby-jowled Democratic Senator named Ervin.

Ervin was a treat for those of us- like me- incapable of understanding the Washington proceedings or of appreciating history in the making.

As I recall, he came across initially as a rather slow, rather amusing grandfatherly type. It was easy enough to dismiss him as a bumbler or cartoon character.
In fact, it was soon understood that Ervin was sly fox and resolution determined to get the facts.
Some 319 hours were broadcast overall, and 85% of U.S. households watched some portion of them. The audio feed also was broadcast gavel-to-gavel on scores of National Public Radio stations, making the hearings available to people in their cars and workplaces...
Over a year later, the president- who had assured the American public he was not a crook- was forced to step aside, unable to clear his name and unwilling to be held accountable. On August 8, 1974, Nixon, with a weary salute from the steps of his presidential helicopter, became the first president in US history to resign from office.

Ervin took a lot of heat during the Watergate hearings. Rolling Stone noted at the time:
Jim Fuller of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reports his newspaper gets calls at all hours of the day and night, some from as far away as Houston, demanding that "that fat, senile old man" lay off the President. "The most common threat," Fuller says, "is castration." Ervin doesn't look worried.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Republican Party's Suicide Squad: Is Hollywood Taking the Mickey out of the GOP?

by Nomad

The plot of the summer blockbuster, Suicide Squad, seems so familiar for some reason. 


As far as I can remember, I haven't done a film review on this blog. 
There are reasons for that. I have been called a snob when it comes to film preferences. The kinds of films I usually like are not what most people do.
"Quirky tastes," I think was how one person defined by film preferences. I wouldn't deny that.
So I lay off the film critiques.

The last film I sized up was as a budding journalist at my high school newspaper. I wrote that "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" was a better film than "Star Wars." ("What's up with that chick's hair??")
And that pretty much ended my career as a film reviewer. 
In any case, there's a new film about to be released that caught my attention.  Technically, since I haven't actually seen the film, this is actually more a comment on a film than a review of it.

Here's a synopsis of the new film Suicide Squad:
Assemble a team of the world’s most dangerous, incarcerated Super Villains, provide them with the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal, and send them off on a mission to defeat an enigmatic, insuperable entity.
It's yet another one of those films based on comic books for audiences that like that sort of thing. Frankly I am getting sick to death of them when there are so many more interesting stories to tell.
Just say it already. "Snob!"


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mob Control: Do Trump's Mafia Connections Reflect His Lack of Ethics and Accountability?

by Nomad

Any presidential candidate should expect some in-depth scrutiny about his business relationships. In Donald Trump's case, his past contact with the Mafia opens up a lot of questions.


As a rule, front-runner presidential candidate Donald Trump likes to denigrate reporters who report things he doesn't like. Or things he doesn't want the public to become aware of.
As an egomaniac, he likes to be in control of the message. And the message must always display the positive side of the Trump story.

For instance, when New York journalist Wayne Barrett published an unauthorized biography of Trump, Trump blasted the author and his reputation.
Insinuating that the author was on some kind of personal vendetta, Trump called Barrett “a second-rate writer who has had numerous literary failures" and his book "boring, non-factual, and highly inaccurate.”

In fact, Barret has been an investigative reporter and senior editor for the Village Voice for over 20 years. Trump might try to paint Barrett as some kind of tabloid columnist but Barrett is currently a Fellow at the Nation Institute and contributor to Newsweek.
Barrett's bio reads:
He has been an adjunct at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism for years, teaching courses on investigative and political reporting, as well as advising students on investigative projects.
In addition, Barrett was awarded the 1990 Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Alumni Award as well as numerous other journalism prizes.
As far as the book, James B. Stewart, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, has called it "exhaustively researched"a penetrating portrait" and "the definitive account of how Trump got ahead and why he fell." If Trump fell, he was not too badly bruised or otherwise traumatized.

Trump might think otherwise or he might wish the rest of the world to think Barrett is "second-rate" but Barrett is no hack. Not any more than Trump is a failed real estate mogul.

Of course, the tycoon-turned presidential candidate has every reason to consider the author a threat and was apparently ready to silence him. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Political Theater: How Orson Welles Used Julius Caesar to Warn Against The Rise of Fascism

by Nomad

This post will take us on a merry ride through history, both ancient and modern. It involves a murder of a tyrant and a play about that murder and how that play served as a warning about the rise of another, more ruthless, dictator.


Like a Colossus


When the 22-year-old Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre players took on a Broadway production of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, he made some interesting changes. 
Only a man like Welles would have had the audacity to "streamline" Shakespeare, but he dared to do so for a very good reason. 

In fact, anybody coming to see a Shakespeare play or yearning for a play of spectacle and diversion would have been in for a shock. For one thing, a modern-dress with sparse stage decoration.  But it wasn't just about costumes. 

For the audience, there could be no mistaking the references Welles was making. Welles had cleverly turned the 340-year-old play in an innovative comparison to contemporary Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany
In the play, Caesar was portrayed not as the proto-typical ruler of the Roman world, but as a political gangster. Charles Higham writes:
Caesar wore a Sam Browne belt and a dark green uniform, exactly like Mussolini; the conspirators bent on the assassination of Caesar wore fedora hats turned down at the brim and turned-up coat collars, like gangsters in Hollywood “B” movies; and Brutus wore an ordinary civilian suit, not unlike that which a politician might sport during a campaign.
In addition to the costumes, the stage lighting provided another unmistakable reference. Welles mocked the lights Hitler had used at the Nuremberg Conference
And when the lines were said:
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs,and peep about 
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
everybody in the audience knew exactly to whom the words referred. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Czar Vladimir: How Putin Wasted Russia's Best Chance for a Liberal Democracy 3 / 3

by Nomad

In this final installment of the three-part series, we turn to the realities of Putin's attempt at empire-building and the tragedy of lost opportunities. We also ask "Quo Vadis, Mother Russia?"


Part One
Part Two


A Very Dangerous Neighbor

Although he might be nostalgic for the good old days of the Soviet era, Russian President Putin is intelligent enough to know there's little hope of returning to that time. One of the main drawbacks to that period was the failure to move hearts and minds. The dull and drab years could not possibly inspire a nation.

He seems much more interested in a revival of Russian imperialism, steeped in a largely imaginary czarist past and supported by a national religion.
Author of the book, Putin’s Wars : The Rise of Russia’s New Imperialism, Marcel H.Van Herpen notes:
This official revival of old imperial pomp and glory coincided with an increasingly aggressive behavior vis-à-vis the former Soviet republics.
In 2009, Putin's policies really moved out of the domestic arena. In August of that year, a new law came into effect which allowed the use of Russian troops in foreign countries “to protect citizens of the Russian Federation.” 

The threat of the law lay in its interpretation and application.
These measures seemed to be meant as a legal preparation for eventual armed interventions in Russia’s Near Abroad and were interpreted as a growing Russian bellicosity, experienced as a threat by its neighboring states.
As we have seen, those fears about the implications of the law were entirely justified with the invasion of Ukraine.

In 2014, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attempted to justify the use of Russian troops sent into neighboring Ukraine’s Crimea region as a necessary protection for his country’s citizens living there.
Lavrov told the UN Council on Human Rights in Geneva:
“We are talking here about protection of our citizens and compatriots, about protection of the most fundamental of the human rights – the right to live, and nothing more.”
He assured the audience:
“Human rights are too important to make it a bargaining chip in geopolitical games, to use it to impose one’s will on others; less so to instill regime change,”
However,  absolutely nobody was fooled by Lavrov's remark.


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