Tag Archives: history

2nd Amendment and Kathy Weppner

29 May

According to the silly lady, the founders of our country supposedly included the 2nd Amendment so that our servicemen and women could keep their arms and use them to commit treason and insurrection. 

I’m pretty sure the intended purpose of the 2nd Amendment was the exact opposite of that. But here’s a chillingly awful video that Tea Party Kathy released on her husband’s YouTube account. My favorite is when she stuffs the pistol in her pants. 

UPDATE: As you can see, Weppner removed this video. I looked at her other accounts – Friends of Kathy Weppner and Weppner for Congress, and it doesn’t appear there, either. Most of her videos appear on an account labeled “Dr. Weppner”

Weppner has already made herself famous by scrubbing just about any trace of her pre-2014 existence from the internet. Now, the scrubbing takes place in real time. 

74 Years Later

18 Feb

Apropos of nothing, here is a picture I found of Nazi-occupied Colmar, in France’s Alsace-Lorraine region. It had been a province of Imperial Germany from 1871 until 1918, and Hitler re-took it in 1940 and integrated it into the state of Baden. It reverted to France after the war. Here is the corner of Rue Kleber and Boulevard du Champ de Mars in Colmar in 1940, soon after the German annexation: 

 

Here is what it looks like today: 

 

Things for Thursday

3 Jan

A few things I found online in the last few days: 

1. Remember a few weeks ago, when NRA CEO and infamous goon Wayne LaPierre blamed everything but guns on the massacre of teachers and first graders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT? LaPierre didn’t just stumble on being a hateful lunatic – this is something that is apparently part of his job qualifications. Back in 1995, after the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrated by WNY native Timothy McVeigh, LaPierre said things so horrible and conscious-shocking that former President George H.W. Bush publicly rebuked him and resigned his NRA membership. Bush wrote, 

I was outraged when, even in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of N.R.A., defended his attack on federal agents as “jack-booted thugs.” To attack Secret Service agents or A.T.F. people or any government law enforcement people as “wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms” wanting to “attack law abiding citizens” is a vicious slander on good people.

Al Whicher, who served on my [ United States Secret Service ] detail when I was Vice President and President, was killed in Oklahoma City. He was no Nazi. He was a kind man, a loving parent, a man dedicated to serving his country — and serve it well he did.

In 1993, I attended the wake for A.T.F. agent Steve Willis, another dedicated officer who did his duty. I can assure you that this honorable man, killed by weird cultists, was no Nazi.

We can have a debate and discussion about guns, gun rights, and limitations on both – but calling people Nazis isn’t part of it. 

2. When it came to slavery, Thomas Jefferson was kind of a jerk. He was kind to some (especially if there were rapes to be had), and particularly cruel to others. He was happy to take out mortgages against his slaves, to have them flogged, and even refused to carry out a request contained in Polish General Kosciusco’s will, wherein money was set aside for Jefferson to buy out and free his slaves.  

The critical turning point in Jefferson’s thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, “I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers.” His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable.

In another communication from the early 1790s, Jefferson takes the 4 percent formula further and quite bluntly advances the notion that slavery presented an investment strategy for the future. He writes that an acquaintance who had suffered financial reverses “should have been invested in negroes.” He advises that if the friend’s family had any cash left, “every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. per cent in

this country by the increase in their value.”

The irony is that Jefferson sent his 4 percent formula to George Washington, who freed his slaves, precisely because slavery had made human beings into money, like “Cattle in the market,” and this disgusted him. Yet Jefferson was right, prescient, about the investment value of slaves. A startling statistic emerged in the 1970s, when economists taking a hardheaded look at slavery found that on the eve of the Civil War, enslaved black people, in the aggregate, formed the second most valuable capital asset in the United States. David Brion Davis sums up their findings: “In 1860, the value of Southern slaves was about three times the amount invested in manufacturing or railroads nationwide.” The only asset more valuable than the black people was the land itself. The formula Jefferson had stumbled upon became the engine not only of Monticello but of the entire slaveholding South and the Northern industries, shippers, banks, insurers and investors who weighed risk against returns and bet on slavery. The words Jefferson used—“their increase”—became magic words.

Jefferson’s 4 percent theorem threatens the comforting notion that he had no real awareness of what he was doing, that he was “stuck” with or “trapped” in slavery, an obsolete, unprofitable, burdensome legacy. The date of Jefferson’s calculation aligns with the waning of his emancipationist fervor. Jefferson began to back away from antislavery just around the time he computed the silent profit of the “peculiar institution.”

And this world was crueler than we have been led to believe. A letter has recently come to light describing how Monticello’s young black boys, “the small ones,” age 10, 11 or 12, were whipped to get them to work in Jefferson’s nail factory, whose profits paid the mansion’s grocery bills.

Much of the information in this Smithsonian story has been carefully excised from our Jefferson hagiography because 150 years later, we still can’t come to terms as a country with our history of slavery and racial animus and discrimination. 

3. Just because you employ someone doesn’t mean you have the right to inject your own opinions on their healthcare decisions. Hobby Lobby, which has two outlets in western New York, has gone to the Supreme Court to seek injunctive relief so that it would not have to provide health insurance coverage for contraception for its employees under Obamacare. Why their employees’ sex lives are any of Hobby Lobby’s business is a mystery for sure, but Obamacare doesn’t force Hobby Lobby to hand out the morning after pill with every paycheck – it merely requires the health insurers to offer contraceptive coverage. Aside from the fact that the employees affected work for Hobby Lobby, the company has no further mandate set upon it. If it doesn’t agree with contraception, it is free to hold that belief, but should not be free to impose it on its employees, or to have its employees’ rights become less than those of workers elsewhere. Justice Sotomayor rejected Hobby Lobby’s request for injunctive relief. As a shopper for crafty things and toys for grownups, you may choose to use this information to direct your hobby dollars accordingly. 

 

We Are the Job Creators

17 May

A lot of what I learned as a political science major in the late 1980s is now obsolete – with a particular interest in Eastern European studies, all of my textbooks became woefully outdated between August and December 1989.  

But among my studies of why Weimar failed and analyses of Milovan Djilas’ New Class, I also recall that the American struggle for independence, the Civil War, and the European upheaval of 1848 were “bourgeois revolutions” and direct or indirect offspring of the Enlightenment.  A phrase that gets thrown about quite frequently in contemporary American politics is “class warfare”, but that’s absolute nonsense. The United States doesn’t have anywhere near the class conflict of, say, the UK. After all, we banned nobility and titles. 

The irony, of course, is that the notion of class struggle being a political struggle is an inherently Marxist concept. So, welcome to Marxism, Republicans!

These bourgeois revolutions generally replaced nobility and power-through-hereditary-entitlement with the rule of law and representative democracy. Some worked, others didn’t.  But in the United States, at least, the post-Civil-War 14th Amendment paved the way for the society we have today. But our national priorities and policies since the early 1980s have uniformly helped the very rich and harmed the middle class and working class. Unions are weaker, your purchasing power is stagnant, your earnings have stayed about the same.  Average Americans’ savings have declined, debt is up, trickle-down is a myth, and wealth has become ever-more concentrated, rather than spread around widely. 

So, as part of its “Ideas Worth Spreading”, the TED series of talks invited Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer to speak on March 1 at the “TED University conference”.  Hanauer’s topic was income inequality, and he argued that it was the middle class, and not wealthy entrepreneurs who are the true “job creators”.  TED, however, won’t release video of the speech. Too political. Too controversial. So, here it is

It is astounding how significantly one idea can shape a society and its policies.  Consider this one.

If taxes on the rich go up, job creation will go down.  

This idea is an article of faith for republicans and seldom challenged by democrats and has shaped much of today’s economic landscape.

But sometimes the ideas that we know to be true are dead wrong. For thousands of years people were sure that earth was at the center of the universe.  It’s not, and an astronomer who still believed that it was, would do some lousy astronomy.  

In the same way, a policy maker who believed that the rich and businesses are “job creators” and therefore should not be taxed, would make equally bad policy.  

I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.

That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is a “circle of life” like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than a capitalist like me. 

Continue reading

Food for Thought

19 Apr

Two additional items I came across this morning: 

1. Rod Watson’s column in the Buffalo News is fantastic. It succinctly breaks down our civic outrage, and how we prioritize nonsense and largely ignore really important stuff. 

2. This story from the BBC details how Jewish composers imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp during World War II wrote music in cabaret style – music that has been largely forgotten, until now. A show in Tel Aviv features that music, which was recovered almost archeologically through interviews and demonstrations the organizers conducted with about 20 survivors from that camp. The survivors say that the finished product faithfully recreates what the music sounded like at the time. It’s a testament to the human spirit even at its most hopeless. 

Canalside & a Sense of Tacky Place

10 Jan

Both Chris and I have written extensively over the past several years about what’s going on at the Inner Harbor. (Unfortunately, links will have to wait).

In late 2010, the planning for Canalside was co-opted by a crowdsourcing process that provided all of the ills of central planning with none of the decision-making efficiency. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a facile “placemaking” exercise by uncredentialed huckster Fred Kent of the Partnership for Public Spaces, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation retained consultants to help flesh out the historical/cultural aspects of the Canalside project.

While the district had historically been a wetter, be-bricked version of Mos Eisley, the “history” that will be reproduced at Canalside was always going to be sanitized through contemporary biases.  While Chris and I advocated for the notion of giving people things to do and see, we were vilified for our suburban-colored glasses and our cultural, architectural, and artistic ignorance.

We merely traded a political planning elite for a cultural planning elite.

And the cultural elite’s Cultural Masterplan is out & embedded below.

Initially, Canalside will feature a Children’s Museum, which will fill a gaping hole in our city – one that Explore & More temporarily filled by bringing certain exhibits to a tent at Canalside during the temperate months. It was like the #Occupy version of a children’s museum. But another feature is something Mark Goldman personally lobbied for incessantly – a “solar powered carousel”, and an interpretive “how Buffalo fed America” look back at the times before the St. Lawrence Seaway and interstate network.

When it comes to the historical significance of the canal terminus, there’s a fine line between education and nostalgia porn.

Longer term, the plan is in deep Niagara Falls fail territory with a “4D theater production” depicting a balloon ride, which will “immerse visitors in a ‘you are there’ journey, with 4D effects such as falling snow, wind gusts, rumbling seats, scents, surround sound…”  The cost of re-making the “MOM” ride at Massachusetts’ Jordan’s Furniture and the 4D rides in the Falls will be $25 million, plus operating costs of about $1.3 – 1.7 million per year.

$25 million to take something that was supposed to be “authentic” and give one a “sense of place” and turn it into sideshow tack and a snack shack. This entire placemaking exercise has been an absolute crock of crowdsourcing nonsense that has let dozens of unelected people with tiny constituencies promote their personal biases and prejudices in the name of the entire community.

They sold us on “authentic”, and “lighter, quicker, cheaper”. We’re getting fake, phony tack. Where’s the sense of place?

Does this follow the 2004 Master Plan?

Authenticity?

Sense of Place if Buffalo is Jurassic Park

 

CanalSide Cultural Masterplan Final Report

A presentation to accompany the report is here:

Cultural Master Plan Presentation(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

On a side note, renderings of a summertime and wintertime Aud block at Canalside look quite inviting. Let’s stick to this:

Artist Rendering of Aud Block in Summer with Public Canals

Artist Rendering of Aud Block in Winter with Public Canals


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The Plutarchy

9 Aug

Note: This was published last Friday, and I think you should read it. It doesn’t matter what you think of Michael Moore or unions or Ronald Reagan – you should read it anyway, because it sets forth an argument that the Reaganist Republican war on the poor and middle class has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Whether you call it trickle-down, voodoo, or Reaganomics, the obliteration of America’s middle class to further enrich and empower the wealthiest Americans, being embroiled in military action throughout the Middle East, and Supreme Court jurisprudence that has all but banned restrictions on money in politics, is doing tremendous – but not irreperable – harm to America. 

The middle class is under siege, and those who dare to defend it are labeled as fringe leftists. 

I don’t know what the answer is to this. I don’t know how you begin to undo 30 years of what has become almost an economic religion, based more on faith than empirical fact. But Obama apparently isn’t the guy to fix it – how can he? If he does anything to the left of Reagan, he is accused of Marxism. 

Meanwhile, Canada has genuine universal health care, minimal foreign entanglements, a functioning parliamentary democracy, a functioning and regulated banking industry, a middle class that has certain rights and guarantees of benefits, family time, and vacation, and 7.6% unemployment. 

August 5th, 2011 3:00 PM

30 Years Ago Today: The Day the Middle Class Died

By Michael Moore

From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, “When did this all begin, America’s downward slide?” They say they’ve heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent’s income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how “lowly” your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.

Young people have heard of this mythical time — but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, “When did this all end?”, I say, “It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981.”

Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to “go for it” — to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves.

And they’ve succeeded.

On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) who’d defied his order to return to work and declared their union illegal. They had been on strike for just two days.

It was a bold and brash move. No one had ever tried it. What made it even bolder was that PATCO was one of only three unions that had endorsed Reagan for president! It sent a shock wave through workers across the country. If he would do this to the people who were with him, what would he do to us?

Reagan had been backed by Wall Street in his run for the White House and they, along with right-wing Christians, wanted to restructure America and turn back the tide that President Franklin D. Roosevelt started — a tide that was intended to make life better for the average working person. The rich hated paying better wages and providing benefits. They hated paying taxes even more. And they despised unions. The right-wing Christians hated anything that sounded like socialism or holding out a helping hand to minorities or women.

Reagan promised to end all that. So when the air traffic controllers went on strike, he seized the moment. In getting rid of every single last one of them and outlawing their union, he sent a clear and strong message: The days of everyone having a comfortable middle class life were over. America, from now on, would be run this way:

* The super-rich will make more, much much more, and the rest of you will scramble for the crumbs that are left.

* Everyone must work! Mom, Dad, the teenagers in the house! Dad, you work a second job! Kids, here’s your latch-key! Your parents might be home in time to put you to bed.

* 50 million of you must go without health insurance! And health insurance companies: you go ahead and decide who you want to help — or not.

* Unions are evil! You will not belong to a union! You do not need an advocate! Shut up and get back to work! No, you can’t leave now, we’re not done. Your kids can make their own dinner.

* You want to go to college? No problem — just sign here and be in hock to a bank for the next 20 years!

* What’s “a raise”? Get back to work and shut up!

And so it went. But Reagan could not have pulled this off by himself in 1981. He had some big help:

The AFL-CIO.

The biggest organization of unions in America told its members to cross the picket lines of the air traffic controllers and go to work. And that’s just what these union members did. Union pilots, flight attendants, delivery truck drivers, baggage handlers — they all crossed the line and helped to break the strike. And union members of all stripes crossed the picket lines and continued to fly.

Reagan and Wall Street could not believe their eyes! Hundreds of thousands of working people and union members endorsing the firing of fellow union members. It was Christmas in August for Corporate America.

And that was the beginning of the end. Reagan and the Republicans knew they could get away with anything — and they did. They slashed taxes on the rich. They made it harder for you to start a union at your workplace. They eliminated safety regulations on the job. They ignored the monopoly laws and allowed thousands of companies to merge or be bought out and closed down. Corporations froze wages and threatened to move overseas if the workers didn’t accept lower pay and less benefits. And when the workers agreed to work for less, they moved the jobs overseas anyway.

And at every step along the way, the majority of Americans went along with this. There was little opposition or fight-back. The “masses” did not rise up and protect their jobs, their homes, their schools (which used to be the best in the world). They just accepted their fate and took the beating.

I have often wondered what would have happened had we all just stopped flying, period, back in 1981. What if all the unions had said to Reagan, “Give those controllers their jobs back or we’re shutting the country down!”? You know what would have happened. The corporate elite and their boy Reagan would have buckled.

But we didn’t do it. And so, bit by bit, piece by piece, in the ensuing 30 years, those in power have destroyed the middle class of our country and, in turn, have wrecked the future for our young people. Wages have remained stagnant for 30 years. Take a look at the statistics and you can see that every decline we’re now suffering with had its beginning in 1981 (here’s a little scene to illustrate that from my last movie).

It all began on this day, 30 years ago. One of the darkest days in American history. And we let it happen to us. Yes, they had the money, and the media and the cops. But we had 200 million of us. Ever wonder what it would look like if 200 million got truly upset and wanted their country, their life, their job, their weekend, their time with their kids back?

Have we all just given up? What are we waiting for? Forget about the 20% who support the Tea Party — we are the other 80%! This decline will only end when we demand it. And not through an online petition or a tweet. We are going to have to turn the TV and the computer and the video games off and get out in the streets (like they’ve done in Wisconsin). Some of you need to run for local office next year. We need to demand that the Democrats either get a spine and stop taking corporate money — or step aside.

When is enough, enough? The middle class dream will not just magically reappear. Wall Street’s plan is clear: America is to be a nation of Haves and Have Nothings. Is that OK for you?

Why not use today to pause and think about the little steps you can take to turn this around in your neighborhood, at your workplace, in your school? Is there any better day to start than today?

P.S. Here are a few places you can connect with to get the ball rolling:

Main Street Contract for America
Showdown in America
Democracy Convention
Occupy Wall Street
October 2011
How to Join a Union by the AFL-CIO (they’ve learned their lesson and have a good president now) or UE
Change to Win
MoveOn
High School Newspaper (Just because you’re under 18 doesn’t mean you can’t do anything!)

A Trip Down Market Street 1906

18 Oct

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The complete film, as seen on last night’s 60 Minutes.  A stunning look at a chaotic but everyday scene in San Francisco 104 years ago.  This was filmed just a week before the Earthquake of 1906.

On September 11th

11 Sep

Because today is September 11, 2001, I’m not going to go into a maudlin recitation of anger or sadness.  Instead, I’m going to keep calm and carry on, to evoke the WWII-era British response to the German invasion that never came.  One of the many ways to defeat terror is to not live your life in fear.  We remember the dead and remember the horror, but life in America, as Americans, goes on.

So instead, I’ll say that if you haven’t seen the 9/11 exhibit at Washington DC’s Newseum, please do yourself a favor and do so next time you’re down there.

Erie County Savings Bank ca. 1908

18 Jul

Here’s what the location of the Main Place Tower looked like a century ago, courtesy of Shorpy. You can clearly see the Guaranty Building in the left-hand corner, down to Franklin & Court. Again, with Shorpy posts, the beauty is looking at the full version of the photograph and examining the little details – like the stop sign suspended in the air above the street, or the mix of horse-drawn carriages and motor vehicles.

Someone posted a comment to the original post that included slides of this building being demolished in order to make way for the Main Place Tower and Mall back in 1968 – the tower may be doing well, but the mall is a forgotten and anachronistic piece of dreck, existing only to provide space for computer companies and as an elaborate roof for an underground parking garage.

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