Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Free State Of Jones

Sunday Liz and I and some neighbors went to see the movie: The Free State of Jones.

Don't miss it.

It is a very well researched and well produced movie about events during the Civil War in Jones County, Ms. involving Newt Knight, his paramour, an escaped slave named Rachel, and their neighbors and families. The story seems fantastic in many ways, but is mostly true.

It ties Civil War events together with Reconstruction and with a 1946 trial of a descendant of Newt and Rachel, who was charged with violating Mississippi's anti-miscegenation laws by marrying a white woman.

The film has obvious connections with current events in Ferguson, Mo., Charleston, etc.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow objects to the film. I think he misses the point. He actually misses several points.

So I want to offer some thoughts that differ from Blow's analysis (

1. The film depicts the origin of the observation that the Civil War was a "Rich Man's War and a Poor Man's Fight;
2.  The film shows people, both white and black standing up against the power structure of the day, but imperfectly;
3.  There are no heroes, just people who did what they had to do;
4.  The Civil War was a lot more complicated than Gone With The Wind

I'll say no more for now.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Next To Last Doolittle Raider Passes - Only One Left

David Thatcher, an Army Air Force gunner decorated for helping save the lives of four seriously wounded fellow crewmen in the Doolittle Raid on Japan of April 18, 1942, America’s first strike against the Japanese homeland in World War II, died Wednesday in Missoula, Mont. He was 94 and the next-to-last survivor among the mission’s 80 airmen.

While it was not a large action, it was the most imaginative and perhaps the most consequential early action in the war. Among the consequences was that Japan removed a large carrier task force from the Indian Ocean to their home waters and goaded them into the disastrous (for them) attack on Midway.

Here  is a link to the NYTimes article about Thatcher.

If you have not seen the movie, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, I strongly recommend it.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mohammad Ali: The Greatest; 1942 - 2016

It was sad to learn of Muhammad Ali's passing.

He was a truly great American. Not just because he was a great heavyweight boxing champion, but because he was a strong man of principle.

We watched the History Channel remake of "Roots" last week. It wasn't about Muhammad Ali, but it put Ali's life and that of all descendants of slaves in the historical context of slavery in America. This is an American saga. I can't say it is enjoyable, but we all need to watch it.

So often our children only learn about this saga during Black History Month. I find that objectionable - this isn't "Black History" - it is American History and we need to own it.

Last night we watched "Red Tails," the story of the Tuskegee Airmen in combat against Germany. It is a good movie, which I hadn't seen before. I lived in Mississippi during the war, and I know what it was like for African Americans.

In recent years, we have heard a lot of talk about "American Exceptionalism." I agree we are exceptional. We are exceptional in part because of people like the Tuskegee Airmen, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Louis Armstrong, Hank Greenberg. We laughed at observations by Will Rogers, a Cherokee. We simultaneously cheered and discriminated against Jackie Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente, Roy Campanella. We march to tunes by John Philip Sousa (hispanic). The list of our inner contradictions goes on and on.

Can you imagine America without Jazz and Ragtime? Without Cajun music and cuisine? Without Mexican, Puerto Rican, Chinese and Japanese cooking?

What other country of European origin would have elected Barack Obama and reelected him four years later? That's pretty exceptional. And yet our legacy of past dominance by white supremacists isn't over. As William Faulkner once wrote - "The past isn't dead - it isn't even past."  We need to fix that.

We are great because of our diversity. We should celebrate all Americans.

You got a problem with that?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Where Hillary is Coming From

Some Young people don't identify with Hillary Clinton. They should. The days Hillary Clinton lived through could come back again. Without an Equal Rights Amendment, there's no guarantee they won't.

Here's some background: ""

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Jackie Robinson, American

Last night and tonight we watched the Ken Burns documentary about Jackie Robinson.

The movie reminded me not only what a great athlete he was, but what a strong-willed and courageous man. And his wife Rachel was extraordinary.

Born in 1919, son of a sharecropper, grandson of a slave, a man of skill and determination.

Last night's episode showed the baseball season of 1947 when Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and led them to the World Series.

I was ten years old and was learning the finer points of the game.

We lived in Midwest City, Oklahoma, east of Oklahoma City, just across the street from Tinker Air Force base, where my father was stationed. He managed the base fast-pitch softball team, and taught me the finer points of the rules, including how to keep score. I became the team's official scorekeeper.

We went into Oklahoma City a few times to watch the Oklahoma City Indians play in the Texas League. I kept a score card for those games as well, and that summer listened to major league games over the Mutual Broadcasting System. That's how I knew about Jackie Robinson.

We all knew that Jackie Robinson was a negro and that he played for the Dodgers.

The significance of a negro playing in the major leagues went over my head. It was just a fact that I knew.  I didn't know if there were others or if there would be others. I just knew that he was a good player and clearly belonged there.

My fifth grade teacher was a baseball fan. All of the games were played during the day but the teacher brought her radio to class and let us listen to the game.

Since I knew how to keep score, I drew a giant score card on the black board and recorded everything that happened.

I rooted for the Dodgers, but it didn't matter. On Monday, October 6 the Yankees on the seventh and final game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Jackie Robinson got seven hits, stole two bases and scored three runs in his first World Series.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Courage, Mes Amis!

I've been watching the Republican Presidential debate. It is not a pleasant experience.

I can't believe the most reasonable voice on foreign policy in that party is Rand Paul.

Donald Trump just emphasized that immigrants must come here legally. I can't help noting that Donald Trump's immigrant grandfather [Drumpf] met all of the requirements to immigrate in 1885: 1) He proved he was not Chinese; 2) paid a $50 head tax.

I can't believe the hysteria over Syrian refugees. Why Syria? We've never had a terrorist act by a Syrian immigrant. Where have our terrorists come from? Most of them have been home grown white Christians (and a few Jews). But incidents involving immigrants seem to more frequently involve Saudis and Pakistanis than anyone else. As for "Radical Islamic Jihadism" (or whatever magical incantation Republicans want to use) the foundation of that movement is the radical fundamentalist form of Islam nurtured in the Wahabbi sect in Saudi Arabia, funded by the Saudi state. The other troubling source of terrorism has been Pakistan and the region just across the border in Afghanistan.

This group is mostly not rational.

They live in a fantasy world and have magical solutions to imaginary problems.

Heaven help us!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

May Day, 1960

May Day, 1960, CIA pilot (former Air Force officer) Francis Gary Powers, flying alone at more than 70,000 feet, was on his 27th U-2 mission, flying over Sverdlovsk in the Soviet Union. The CIA estimated the altitude of the U-2 was above the reach of any Soviet missile or aircraft. That estimate proved to be too optimistic, and Gary Powers was shot down on one of the biggest Soviet holidays.

Contrary to the CIA's expectations in such an event, Powers survived and was captured.

Stephen Spielberg captures much of the drama of that time in the Cold War in his new movie,Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks. The main hero of the story is a New York lawyer who negotiated the eventual release of Powers. A second important character is the Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel, who was offered in exchange.

It is mostly a true story, with some embellishment for effect. Here is a useful comparison of the true events with the fictional movie version:

Go see Bridge of Spies.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Julian Bond: 1940-2015

Julian Bond was a smart, articulate, handsome leader of the American Civil Rights movement at a crucial juncture in our history. I was saddened today to learn of his passing. He served his country well.

Not all heroes are military ones.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cuba: 1955 - 2015

Watching the news this evening reminded me of the first time I saw Cuba. It was 1955, I was aboard USS Iowa (BB-61) for a training cruise - it was early August, and we were sailing along the southern coast on the way to Guantanamo Bay.

We could see smoke from campfires in the Sierra Maestra mountains, which we were told was home to a guerrilla uprising. Nervous about the welfare of the midshipmen, Naval authorities didn't allow us off of the naval base at Guantanamo. Over the 60 years since then, I was to visit Gtmo about half a dozen times, but never set foot off the base.

Now that we have established diplomatic relations, I hope to visit Cuba someday soon.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The German Question

It is becoming pretty clear that the most urgent question facing today's Europe is the German question.

Paul Krugman sees Germany as killing the European project:  I agree, and have been commenting on the looming disaster for about three years now. The biggest surprise to me is how patient the long-suffering public has been. I hope Greece uses whatever time they have gained by this weekend's deal to print bales of new drachma and prepare to exit the Euro. Spain and Italy should do so as well.

Roger Cohen of the New York Times  claims we thought we had solved the problem of Germany in 1945. I take issue with that, though I think we did believe we had solved it by embracing Germany within the stifling arms of NATO and the Western European Union. As NATO's first Secretary General explained, the purpose of NATO was to keep the Germans down, the Russians out, and the Americans here. To Europe, NATO was at least as much about Germany as it was about the Soviet Union. From 1945 for more than four decades, NATO publicly blamed the Soviet Union for a divided Germany and privately hoped the division would continue. It was Germany under Willy Brandt whose "Ostpolitik" began chipping away at the barriers between East and West for the purpose of making German reunification possible. In the United States, we studied what might happen after Tito died, but never examined the implications of a reunited Germany. Everyone knew that could never happen. Everyone was wrong.

The late George Kennan had some thoughts on Germany, which we should have considered, but of course no one did:

More recently, the economic historian Brad Delong had some interesting thoughts in response to Simon Wren-Lewis' ruminations on the Euro: "And we are seriously considering, after reading him, whether the Euro project needs to be blown up--indeed, whether the fundamental flaw was in U.S. occupation authorities allowing the formation of the Bundesrepublik, because a European Union that now had five members named "Brandenburg", "Saxony", "Bavaria", "Rhineland", and "Hanover" would be likely to have a much healthier politics and economics than our current one, with one member named "Germany":"

That's a thought worth retrospective consideration. It is a much more creative idea than the quickly-abandoned "Morgenthau plan."

It's very hard to get toothpaste back in the tube.

Did we waste a whole war?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Iran Nuclear Negotiations

I hear a lot of hysterical hyperbole coming out about negotiations with Iran.

I am glad the negotiations are going on. The opponents seem to want war with Iran. Bad idea.

Most of the opponents are right wing neocons, who seem to be afraid of everything and everyone.

I want to share a link to an article by a retired Navy commander and Naval War College professor on the subject. I don't know Commander Dolan, but I think he is pretty close to the mark. There is more that could be said about Munich, but the main point is to analyze the events in the real historical context.

Here is Commander Dolan's article.

Cox v. Town Of Oriental: The Real Story

A lot of nonsense has been promulgated by Oriental Town Government about why I filed suit against the Town over closing of Avenue A and South Avenue.

It was about taking away public rights, but it was very much about defending private property rights.

I call it a swindle. It can also be called theft. Constitutionally, it was a "taking." Takings can be lawful, if taken for a public purpose. But this was neither an exercise of eminent domain nor an exercise of the state's "police power." The only other circumstance in which a street closing is clearly authorized by case law is if all the property owners in a subdivision agree to it.

The Town's attorney Clark Wright knows this. Mayor Bill Sage knows this. But they wanted to do what they did, and they didn't even want to protect public access to the "donated property" by a public dedication, a deed restriction, or any other measure that would protect the public in the future.

It changed the face of the Town forever, and since I have now withdrawn my suit, it can't be undone by the courts, even if it is unlawful.

It isn't really complicated, but the Town Board and its attorneys spent (they say) $80,000 to protect the deal by keeping it from the Court of Appeals.

Here's my story:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Me And Joe Willy 1942

Here is a picture of me and my playmate Joe Willy taken at my grandparents' place about four miles East of Cruger MS (Holmes County) in about 1942.

Joe Willy was the son of my grandmother's maid, Evelyn. His father worked for my grandfather, who was a county road district superintendent.

I envied Joe Willy because he was allowed to chop wood with an axe and I wasn't.

My grandmother called Joe Willy "Sambo," as a term of affection. Joe Willy never complained, but I could tell he didn't like it.

I learned a lot from Joe Willy and from my visits to Cruger.

I learned, for example, that white people almost never did any actual work. If a white person needed something done, he got a black person to do it. I never saw any actual money change hands in return for work.

White people "supervised." So far as I could tell from watching my grandfather's road crews at work, they didn't need any actual supervising.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Tradition, Confederate Battle Flag, And Nonsense

Hotty Totty, goshamighty, who in the hell are we?
Hey! flim flam, bim bam, Ole Miss, by damn!

Does this make any sense?

It's tradition.

When I arrived at the University of Mississippi as a (barely) seventeen year old freshman in 1954, we had to learn many traditions.Hotty Totty was one of them.

Another was at half time in football games when a group of students carried an enormous Confederate battle flag held horizontally like a tent over the heads of the marching band. Somewhere in my memorabilia is a photograph of the scene. Students, alumni and cheerleaders all waved the Confederate battle flag.

Until Robert Khayat, a former star placekicker for Ole Miss and for the Washington Redskins became Chancellor of the University. (He had previously served for many years as Dean of the Law School).

Bob Khayat was handsome, athletic and smart. He sometimes attended our Methodist Church in company with a young woman who was attractive, intelligent and talented - Mary Ann Mobley, who eventually became Miss America and a professional actress.

By the time Bob Khayat became Chancellor, enrollment was falling, and coaches were having trouble recruiting athletes.

Bob decided to find out why. Here's the story.

Before long, the University discarded its mascot, "Col Rebel" and the Confederate Battle Flag.

Probably only a historic football hero could have pulled it off.

Now the Republican governor of South Carolina has called for the battle flag to be removed from the grounds of the state capitol.

I wish her well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

US Heavy Weapons In Eastern Europe

Today's New York Times reports the US is planning to preposition heavy weapons in new NATO countries in Eastern Europe:

The purpose is to send a message to our new allies and to Russia's Putin that the US is prepared to quickly come to the assistance of those countries closest to Russia. a half century ago, we would have called this an act of deterrence.

Deterrence was a much simpler concept when we thought we were living in a bipolar world. If we were talking about nuclear deterrence, we called it "mutual  assured destruction." But we no longer live in a bipolar world, if ever we did.

So how do we compel other states to do our bidding? Defense intellectuals spend their lives examining such questions. The answers aren't obvious. Failure is more common than success.

The situation can be very perilous when a stable system of international order falls apart, at least until a new system emerges. We have been in such a period since the late 1980's. It isn't over yet. 

I'll have a few thoughts over the next few weeks about the period's challenges and the historical setting. It isn't just about Russia. It is also about Germany.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How Long Do Wars Last?

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Germany and V-E (Victory in Europe) Day. WWII between the United States and Germany lasted from December 10, 1941 until the surrender on May 8, 1945. Almost exactly three years and five months.

This coming August 13 will be the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender (V-J Day). Our war with Japan lasted from December 7, 1941 until August 13, 1945, or three years, eight months and six days.

March 8, 1965 - first American combat troops (Marines) landed at Danang. March 29, 1973 - last US combat troops leave Vietnam. Duration: eight years, three weeks.

More recent: Iraq? Afghanistan? Middle East? Who knows?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Seventy Years Ago In Europe - The End Approaches

In early May, 1945, the German Army began collapsing. Soldiers on the Western Front were surrendering right and left. Here is one story of a German Army (150,000 men) surrendering to an American Division (10,000 men).

Monday, April 27, 2015

South Avenue And Watergate

Last month, the Town of Oriental issued a "press release" ostensibly announcing a settlement agreement between me and the Town of Oriental ending my law suit against the Town concerning the closing of South Avenue. I have no direct knowledge of the anonymous author of the "press release," but that person inadvertently hit on the essence of my suit by tying it to Watergate.

The connection? Neither Richard Nixon in 1972 nor Mayor Sage and the Town Board in 2012 wanted their hands tied. Mayor Sage put his concerns in writing here. I called my post of July 3, 2012 "The Heart of The Matter." It remains the heart of the matter.

I was seventeen years old, learning to be a naval officer, when it was first impressed on me that government officials, even naval officers, were constrained by law. That's what Rule of Law is about - tying government's hands. That's what Senator Sam Ervin thought, and I am proud to join his company.

For what it's worth, I served in the Pentagon from 1972 through 1975, had a good friend on Vice President Ford's staff, three friends on the National Security Council staff, and was good friends with some Republicans in high places. I had no inside knowledge, but knew a bit more than the Washington Post printed. It was about Rule of Law.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—March 17, 2015—Oriental, NC
To paraphrase Gerald Ford, “Our long David Cox nightmare is over.” A full release including a dismissal with prejudice of all lawsuits and appeals filed against the Town by Oriental resident David Cox has been executed by Cox and Oriental Mayor Bill Sage on behalf of the Town...."
I'm not sure the author of the Town's press release, who concealed his or her identity, really understood Watergate. For those whose memory is a bit hazy, here's a link to a musical account of the scandal.

Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
Performed by The Creep
Recorded 1973
Written by Bob Warren

We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
The way we've been treated is really obscene
To think that a bug worth hardly a shrug
Could end up by getting us tossed in the jug
We all got the gate for no reason or rhyme
You'd think we committed some horrible crime
Our minds may be dirty but our hands are clean

We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
Our job was to see that the White House stayed green
We might have had flaws, like bending the laws
But God only knows it was for a good cause

There's no power shortage where we were concerned
And what little profit resulted we earned
For lovelier fellows you never have seen
Than Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
Our pasts have been fat but the future looks lean
With back to the wall, we're taking a fall
But dammit we only robbed Pete to pay Paul

Just when we were getting to be well-to-do
The Watergate turned into our Waterloo
And now everybody is out to demean
Poor Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
Yes we're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
We're perfectly willing to spill every bean
We've nothing to hide, with God on our side
He knows we were only along for the ride

And so it will come as a terrible blow
There's one little thing that we think you should know
Whatever we say isn't quite what we mean
We're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean

Oh yes we're Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean
Things won't be the same when we're gone from the scene
But people will still recall with a thrill
A sell-out performance on Capitol Hill
It just isn't fair to take all of the blame
When all we were doing was playing the game
Now all of Washington's caught in-between
Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean

[lyrics transcribed by listening. Send corrections via the contact link on the main page]