Sunday, December 7, 2008

Have Yourself A Merry Little Solstice


Have Yourself a Merry Little Solstice,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight...

Have yourself a merry Saturnalia,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away...



People worldwide observe a multitude 0f seasonal days of celebration during the month of December. Most are based around religious holy days, and are linked in some way to the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. On that day, due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis, the daytime hours are at a minimum in the Northern hemisphere, and night time is at a maximum. In the southern hemisphere, the summer solstice is celebrated in December, when the opposite occurs -the longest daylight hours occur. Which is also cause for much celebration.

JPC Artworks has a selection of free solstice cards available in December that you can Email to a friend. See: http://www.jpc-artworks.com/


There are approximately 2.1 billion Christians in a total world population of 6.6 billion, making it the largest religion worldwide, But there are many other cultures and religions holding sacred celebrations during December. Though Christianity is the largest religion, the majority of the Earth's inhabitants ( 4.5 billion) are not Christians.

Remains of ancient stone structures can be found in Europe dating back many millennia. Some appear to have a religious or astronomical purpose; others are believed to be burial sites. One can only speculate on the importance of the winter solstice to the builders, but it obviously was significant. Two examples -At Newgrange, in Brugh-na-Boyne, County Meath, in eastern Ireland. It is perhaps the most famous of the 250 passage tombs in Ireland. It covers an area of one acre, and has an internal passage that is almost 60 feet (19 m) long. The tomb has been dated at about 3,200 BCE; it is one of the oldest structures in the world -- and the roof still doesn't leak after 5,200 years! (They sure knew how to make 'em back in the good 'ol days, huh? Above the entrance is a stone "roof box" that allows the light from the sun to penetrate to the back of the cairn at sunrise on the winter solstice. The horizontal dimension of the box matches the width of the sun as viewed from the back of the passage. Believed to have been constructed by neolithic farmers, one must take into account that the Earth's tilt on its axis has changed from about 24 to about 23 degrees since then. As a result, the sun rises farther south today. The monument is surrounded by a circle of standing stones that were believed to have been added later, during the Bronze Age.

Click Here To See Last Years Winter Solstice at Newgrange in Ireland. (click on "view archive").

My own personal view on this is people should value the range of December celebrations, because it is evidence of diversity of beliefs within our common humanity. We can respect our own religious traditions and those of other beliefs for their ability to inspire.


Religion often borrows existing cultural icons and uses them to promote itself.


Though I myself cannot identify any particular system as my own, (I lean towards Nudism (just fooling; Buddhism, though I would not be seen a classical Buddhist) I hold no claim in any deity, deities, or lesser semi-supernatural beings. That being said, I recognize some humans need the threat of eternal damnation of one sort or anther to lead more ethical lives. The radio personality Rush Limbaugh, for instance, could not understand what prevented an atheist from murdering people. ( I must assume then that Rush wants to murder people and the only thing preventing him is his fear of eternal punishment. Why else would he say this?)




Though religion has been the cause of much of the worst harm humanity has had to bear, it also has done some good too. I like the system of writing music we use today which was derived from Pope Gregory's (or his compatriot's) handiwork regarding notating Plainsong.
Many of the teachings of various religions have positive messages (Peace on Earth, Good will towards men, love one another, etc.) these are sadly often trumped by acceptance of dogma injected for political expedience, personal gain, or ignorance over the years.
But at this time of year let's focus on the positive side. If we see religious diversity as an influence that, if viewed in the light of allegory, is a positive force; then we can all find something to appreciate in these diverse and often beautiful customs and celebrations. Here is a look at some of the Festivities that occur this time of year:

In the Roman Empire Saturnalia had begun as a feast day for Saturn on DEC-17th and of Ops on DEC-19th. About 50 BCE, both were converted into two day celebrations. During the Empire, the festivals were combined to cover an entire week: DEC-17 to 23.

Saturnalia

By the third century CE, there were many religions and spiritual mysteries being followed within the Roman Empire. Many, if not most, celebrated the birth of a god-man near the time of the solstice. Emperor Aurelian (270 to 275 CE) blended a number of Pagan solstice celebrations of the nativity of god-men/saviors such as Appolo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus, and Theseus into a single festival called the "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" on DEC-25.

The Romans adapted gods from conquered lands and included them in their pantheon.

At the time, Mithraism was the most popular religion. (Christianity was #2). The Emperor Aurelian had declared Mithraism the official religion of the Roman Empire in 274 CE.
Christianity became the new official religion in the 4th century CE when Emperor Constantine claims to have had a dream in which he was told to paint Christian symbols on his shields, he did, and after winning the battle converted to Christianity himself, though his behavior was not particularly Christian. For example in A.D. 326 he killed his wife by having her boiled alive in a bath and then killed his son too.
Ziggurat of MardukAround 2000 BC, the Ancient Mesopotamians marked the Winter Solstice with a festival celebrating the god Marduk’s victory over darkness. The Marduk ziggurat was set within the vast sacred precinct on the southern end of the town of Babylon, surrounded by the river, a canal, a double wall and a processional way. Its Sumerian name was Etemenanki which means "The Foundation of Heaven and Earth." It was probably built by Hammurabi.


Ra
The Egyptians welcomed Ra’s triumph over death which the Solstice symbolized for them.
Ra was the Egyptian sun god who was also called Re-Horakhty, which means Re is Horus of the Horizon. The early Egyptians believed that he created the world, and the rising sun was, for them, the symbol of creation. The daily cycle, as the sun rose, then set only to rise again the next morning, symbolized renewal and so Ra was seen as the paramount force of creation and master of life.

Ahura Mazda

The Persian Zoroastrians dedicated the day after the Solstice to Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom with the Daygan festival.

Maenads prepare to feast on Dionysus

In the Ancient Greek Festival of Lenaea, Often called the "wild women festival", wild women tore the harvest god Dionysus to pieces and ate him, then presided over his rebirth. The lucky guy who got be Dionysus was fortunately replaced with a bull in later times. In Greek mythology, Maenads was the name given to female worshippers of Dionysus, the Greek god of mystery, and wine. The word translates as "raving ones". They were known as wild, insane women who could not be reasoned with. The mysteries of Dionysus inspired the women to ecstatic frenzy; they indulged in plentiful amounts of violence, bloodletting, sex, intoxication and mutilation. They were usually pictured as crowned with vine leaves, clothed in fawnskins dancing with the wild abandonment of complete union with primeval nature.

The Druids

The Druids celebrated Alban Arthuan, (the “Light of Arthur”). They believed that during the 3 days before the Solstice, the Sun God journeys through Annwn, (the underworld), to learn the secrets of life and death.

Shabe-Yalda

Shabe-Yalda also spelled (Shab-e Yaldaa) is celebrated in Iran by followers of many religions. It originated in Zoroastrianism, the state religion which preceded Islam. The name refers to the birthday or rebirth of the sun. People gather at home around a korsee (a low square table) all night telling stories and reading poetry. They eat watermelons, pomegranates and a special dried fruit/nut mix. Bonfires are lit outside.


Inti Raymi - festival of the Sun

Solstices and equinoxes figure in to many native American's spiritual beliefs. In South America, The ancient Incas celebrated a festival called Inti Raymi at the time of their Winter Solstice (June). It celebrates Viracocha, the god of the Sun, Ceremonies were banned by the Roman Catholic conquistadores in the 16th century as part of their forced conversions of the Inca people to Christianity. The flogging will continue until morale improves!
Sacsayhuaman
A local group of Quecia Indians in Cusco, Peru revived the festival in 1950. It is now a major festival which begins in Cusco and proceeds to the gigantic monolithic ancient site of Sacsayhuaman, a few miles away.




On DEC-8th, or on the Sunday immediately preceding, Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day (sometimes called Rohatsu). It commemorates the day in 596 BCE, when the Buddha achieved enlightenment. He had left his family and possessions behind at the age of 29, and sought to find the meaning of life. Particularly, the reasons for its hardships. He studied under many spiritual teachers without success. Finally, as he sat under a pipal tree and vowed that he would stay there until he found what he was seeking, on the morning of the eighth day, he realized that everyone suffers due to ignorance. But ignorance can be overcome through the Eightfold Path that he advocated. This day is generally regarded as the birth day of Buddhism. We celebrate the point in time when the Buddha achieved enlightenment and escaped the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. An idea adopted by many other belief systems.


If there was a historical record of the date of birth of Yeshua of Nazareth (later known as Jesus Christ) it has been lost. There is in the Gospels some indications that Yeshua was born in the fall, but this seems to have been unknown or completely irrelevant to early Christians. By the beginning of the 4th century CE, however there was a drive to choose a day to celebrate Yeshua's birthday. The western church leaders selected DEC-25 because this was already the date recognized throughout the Roman Empire as the birthday of various Pagan gods. Since there was no central Christian authority at the time, it took centuries before the tradition became accepted:
  • The church in Jerusalem began recognizing Christmas in the 7th century.
  • Ireland began recognizing Christmas in the 5th century
  • Austria, England and Switzerland in the 8th
  • Slavic lands began in the 9th and 10th centuries.
According to the Venerable Bede in his History of the English Church, the legendary King Arthur was crowned by St. Dubricius on Christmas Day, around the very time St Augustine came to Britain with his missionary monks from Rome baptizing 10,000 Brits into the faith on Dec. 25th, 598.

Many of the symbols and practices associated with Christmas are of Pagan origin: holly, ivy, mistletoe, yule log, the giving of gifts, decorated evergreen tree, magical reindeer, etc. were all part of earlier Pagan traditions. Polydor Virgil, an early British Christian, said "Dancing, masques, mummeries, stageplays, and other such Christmas disorders now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalian and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them." And some Christian faith groups do not celebrate Christmas at all for this reason.

Puritans- frowner's on all things merry, including Christmas.

In Massachusetts, Puritans unsuccessfully tried to ban Christmas entirely during the 17th century, because of its heathenism. Ironically after a few years of life in America most colonists began practicing naturalism and Paganism. Hence the burnings will continue until morale improves! At the time of the signing of the declaration of independence between 5 and 7% of the colonists identified themselves as belonging to any religion.

The Reformation brought about by King Henry VIII did not recognize Christmas. The English Parliament abolished Christmas in 1647. Christmas was actually banned.

Anyone found making Christmas pies was arrested and soundly chastised as an example to others.

During this time all the customs began to die out, because anyone found celebrating was punished. Priests were hiding.


Though light and bonfires are a common theme in winter festivals,
Only Puritans and other fanatic Christian groups stuck people in them.
Few people managed to attend the old 'Christe-Masse.' No singing in the streets; people were forced to work on Christmas Day, and there was no feasting or decorating of houses or streets.

After the restoration of the King (Charles II) in 1660, things improved, but after over 100 years of reformation and puritan brow-thumping, many of the old customs were lost. Mostly, it was country people who held onto them, and although there was an element of the 'Christmas of Olde England' in Georgian England, for many townspeople the customs were just gone. It was not until Victorian scholars began to research old documents, and talk to very old people surviving in villages and hidden areas of the North of England, where change came slowly, that the old customs would be practiced again. Sadly, much of the symbolism and reasons behind the Christianized versions of these customs were lost to history, the custom of mistletoe and kissing for instance. (One can appreciate the the work of Dickens a bit more in this light.)

Jews celebrate an 8 day festival of Hanukkah, (which is also called Feast of Lights, Festival of lights, Feast of Dedication, and spelled Chanukah, Chanukkah, or Hanukah). It recalls the war fought by the Maccabees in the cause of religious freedom. Antiochus, the king of Syria, conquered Judea in the 2nd century BCE. He proclaimed worship in the Temple illegal, and stole the sacred lamp called the menorah, from the altar. At the time of the solstice, they rededicated the Temple to a Pagan deity. Judah the Maccabee took back Jerusalem with a band of rebels. They restored the temple and lit the menorah. It was exactly three years after the flame had been extinguished -- at the time of the Pagan rite. Although they had found only sufficient consecrated oil to last for 24 hours, the flames burned steadily for eight days. "Today's menorahs have nine branches; the ninth branch is for the shamash, or servant light, which is used to light the other eight candles. People eat potato latkes, exchange gifts, and play dreidel games. And as they gaze at the light of the menorah, they give thanks for the miracle in the Temple long ago."
The modern-day celebration of Hanukkah honors the occasion by lighting one candle for each of the eight days the menorah burned. Once viewed as a minor festival, it has been growing in importance, perhaps because of the hype of Christmas.

Most of the midwinter festivities have their roots in light conquering darkness, the return of the sun as days begin to get longer- The winter solstice.

A poem by Robert Frost-

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.









Sources for the article include:
  • Charles Panati, "Sacred origins of profound things: The stories behind the rites and rituals of the world's religions," Penguin Arkana, (1996)
  • B.G. Walker, "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets," Harper & Row, (1983), Page 166 to 167.
  • Mike Nichols, "Yule: Circa December 21," at: http://paganwiccan.about.com/
  • Ramadan on the Net, at: http://www.holidays.net/
  • "Hanukkah: The festival of lights," at: http://www.education-world.com/
  • A. Hirschfelder & P. Molin, "The encyclopedia of Native American religions," Facts on File, (1992).
  • J.W. Mavor & B.E. Dix, "Manitou: The sacred landscape of New England's Native Civilization." Inner Traditions (1989).
  • Stephen M. Wylen, "Holidays mark victory of light over darkness," The Bergen Record, 1999-DEC-2. The essay is online at: http://www.bergen.com:80/

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Repeal Day! - Thanks FDR!


Thank you FDR! Up yours Hoover! Bottoms up America!
Dec. 5th is the anniversary of the repeal of The "Volstead Act," the popular name for the National Prohibition Act, which notoriously passed Congress over a Presidential veto from Woodrow Wilson on October 28, 1919 and established the legal definition of intoxicating liquor providing for enforcement of Prohibition.
Most everyone realizes the Republican president Herbert Hoover's economic policies were disastrous. That prosperity was no more "just around the corner" than Richard Nixon was a great president. Herbert Hoover on prohibition: "Prohibition is a great social and economic experiment—noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose." Right.

Legislating morality does not work. Making a product illegal only creates a black market. (Well black markets are the only true "free" markets - lazy fairy capitalism's only real practitioners).

Spineless politicians thought they could suck up to what we could easily define as "the religious right" of that time who were getting lots of press with "temperance leagues" and such. Somehow these cretins managed to get enough votes to outlaw alcoholic beverages. Prohibition became increasingly more unpopular during the Great Depression. With the election of Roosevelt, repeal was eagerly anticipated. Roosevelt delivered. Within 2 months he signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, allowing the manufacture and sale of certain kinds of alcoholic beverages. And within a year of his inauguration Americans were free to enjoy their libations of choice with the passage of an amendment to the constitution, Upon signing the amendment, Roosevelt made this famous remark; "I think this would be a good time for a beer."

Happy Days Are Here Again!


The Eighteenth Amendment was repealed with ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, on December 5, 1933. No wonder FDR's theme song was "Happy Days Are Here Again"! No wonder he was elected president 4 times.

Celebrate Repeal Day!



Politicians should look at other "prohibitions" wasting public funds being enforced today. One rightfully should inquire who gains from them? Follow the money.

Propaganda poster
(Geez-the kid probably wouldn't have been born if not for alcohol...)
Down the Hatch!
Cheers America!





Monday, December 1, 2008

AMISS, AWRY, & ADRIFT - HISTORY'S BIGGEST BOZOS

Humanity has suffered the witless and the wicked, the rotten and the wrong, the inbred and the inferior, the dullard and the dip. Too long the names and deeds of history's jerks and jackasses lay fallow in the fields of repute! Today we "celebrate" their contributions to humanity's regression and ills. Their stain on the human condition is both onerous and odorous! We salute the vapid and the vacuous with Bronx cheers, in hopes that their history is without repeat . Now, without further trumpery, I give you the gallery of gimps... the moronic museum... the hall of hubris itself! A spotlight on a few of History's Worst Assclowns!

For the sake of expediency we will ignore the contemporary crop of crustacean craniums currently darkening our towels. (George Bush and the like, c'mon -that's just shooting fish in a barrel of monkeys and lawyer's faces, and after all; their exploits are well documented and looped in 24 hour cycles for your viewing displeasure). In no particular chronology here they are...you keep 'em, I don't want 'em.

Worst Wanker #1 --Cosimo Caccini, a self-seeking simpleton who shames the Florentines for having been born in their locale. Caccini became a Franciscan monk and was known for being a gasbag from his pulpit of putridity. He used his position to vilify condemn and denounce. So much so, the (I didn't make the title up folks...though I would have...) Archbishop of Bologna was brought in to reprimand him for creating scandals.

He frequently stunk up the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence with his hateful disdain, which would later be the site of his most infamous blathering. A century earlier, A Father Savanarola had preached there, and the legacy of this monk's oratory skills lived on. Caccini, envious of Savonarola's reputation; soon showed that he had a knack for longwinded balderdash and inflammatory babbling.
Soon after his novitiate he was preaching Lenten sermons (The big show!). His reputation as a verbose snake oil salesman spread like a rash, and he was invited by churches in other cities to perform the same act. Caccini was, however, was nothing more than a pale imitator of Savanarola. A fanatic egotist, his personal ambition for advancement within the Dominican order was the inspiration for his sermons condemning everyone but his bosses. He chose to take the name Tommaso, as he saw himself as the new Thomas Aquinas, the order's (and the Church's) greatest theologian. But in truth, his published works were derivative third-rate crap.

Cacinni would just be another ambitious carnival side show barker, unworthy of mention except for one thing. His shtick, if you will; was condemning anyone who threatened church doctrine no matter how demonstratively wrong it was. Doctrine was absolute and unquestionable. Now right about this time people, Galileo was discovering the four largest satellites of Jupiter. He observed that the planet Venus exhibited a full set of "phases"(like the Moon does). Both of these discoveries supported the heliocentric model of the solar system developed by Copernicus.
(The idea that the Sun was the center, not the Earth).

Galileo

Galileo was the first westerner to report sunspots (Mayan and Chinese astronomers seem to have been 1st) . He argued from the occultation of stars (visible only through a telescope) that the Moon is not a perfect sphere but has mountains. His experiments in dynamics paved the road for Kepler's and Newton's laws of motion. He was also one of the first scientists to use the experimental method. His study of balls rolling down inclined planes convinced him that falling objects are accelerated independent of their mass, and that objects retain their velocity unless a force acts on them. Galileo observed that a pendulum's swing always take the same amount of time, a discovery which made precise clocks possible. Galileo was both an accomplished scientist and a Christian believer. A Catholic. But for publishing his observations, thanks to the self serving sanctimonious swift-boating provided by Caccini. Galileo would be jailed.
Historian Andrew Dickson White wrote:

"The Dominican Father Caccini preached a sermon from the text, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" and this wretched pun upon the great astronomer's name ushered in sharper weapons; for, before Caccini ended, he insisted that "geometry is of the devil," and that "mathematicians should be banished as the authors of all heresies." The Church authorities gave Caccini promotion. Father Lorini proved that Galileo's doctrine was not only heretical but "atheistic," and besought the Inquisition to intervene. The Bishop of Fiesole screamed in rage against the Copernican system, publicly insulted Galileo, and denounced him to the Grand-Duke. The Archbishop of Pisa secretly sought to entrap Galileo and deliver him to the Inquisition at Rome. The Archbishop of Florence solemnly condemned the new doctrines as unscriptural; and Paul V, while petting Galileo, and inviting him as the greatest astronomer of the world to visit Rome, was secretly moving the Archbishop of Pisa to pick up evidence against the astronomer. But by far the most terrible champion who now appeared was Cardinal Bellarmin, one of the greatest theologians the world has known. He was earnest, sincere, and learned, but insisted on making science conform to Scripture. The weapons which men of Bellarmin's stamp used were purely theological. They held up before the world the dreadful consequences which must result to Christian theology were the heavenly bodies proved to revolve about the sun and not about the earth. Their most tremendous dogmatic engine was the statement that "his pretended discovery vitiates the whole Christian plan of salvation." Father Lecazre declared "it casts suspicion on the doctrine of the incarnation." Others declared, "It upsets the whole basis of theology. If the earth is a planet, and only one among several planets, it can not be that any such great things have been done specially for it as the Christian doctrine teaches. If there are other planets, since God makes nothing in vain, they must be inhabited; but how can their inhabitants be descended from Adam? How can they trace back their origin to Noah's ark? How can they have been redeemed by the Saviour?" Nor was this argument confined to the theologians of the Roman Church; Melanchthon, Protestant as he was, had already used it in his attacks on Copernicus and his school."
On June 22, 1633, the Roman Inquisition started its trial against Galileo, a 69 years old man who pleaded for mercy, based on his failing health . The inquisition responded by threatening him with torture, imprisonment and death on the stake.
The mockery of a trial forced Galileo to "abjure, curse and detest" his work. He was forced to swear to denounce others who held his prior viewpoint. Galileo did everything the church requested him to do. The threat of torture and death Galileo was facing was a real one. In the earlier trial against Giordano Bruno, he was burned at the stake for holding a naturalistic view of the universe. The Grand Duke Ferdinand II de' Medici asked for lenience regarding Galileo, and it's likely without the Duke's influence, Galileo would have been ignited on a stake as well.

Galileo on trial

Galileo was put under permanent house arrest, Because of a painful hernia, he requested permission to consult physicians in Florence, which was denied by Rome, warning that further such requests would lead to imprisonment. Under arrest, he was forced to recite penitentiary psalms regularly, and his social contacts were highly restricted, but he was allowed to continue his less controversial research and publish under strict rules of censorship. He went blind in 1638 (his petition to the Inquisition to be released was rejected, but he was allowed to move to his house in Florence where he was closer to his physicians). His Dialogue, in which one of the conversationalists suggests the planets and sun do not revolve around the earth was put on the Index librorum prohibitorum, a black list of banned books, until 1822.

Let's hear that Bronx cheer for Caccini and of course again for his cohorts.
Though many were involved in the tormenting and suppression of Galileo, without Caccini beating the war drum he may well have remained unmolested. One must question all those who fight new ideas in favor of mere convention. History has not once revealed them in a favorable light. All progress comes from those who question status quo, not those who defend it.




Worst Wanker #2 --Tennessee Governor Austin Peay

Tennessee Governor Peay

Peay signed the Butler Act into law on March 21, 1925.
Americans, after the turmoil of World War I were generally seeking out the nostalgic normalcy of their prewar society . In rural areas, particularly in the South and Midwest, Fundamentalist preachers preyed on their yearnings by suggesting the cause of turmoil was because people didn't believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, particularly "their" interpretation. These Americans found a degree of comfort and stability in these new religions which sprung from door to door salesmen, hucksters and flimflam men with little or no theological education. This was the era when many Americans lost their faith in more metaphysical aspects of religious philosophy and embraced the one dimensional simplistic fundamentalist religions that required no thinking but demanded blind adherence from their followers. Fundamentalists, who believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible, hated Darwin and the theory of evolution referring to evolution as "the most present threat to the truth they were sure they alone possessed" (Sherwin D. Smith, "The Great 'Monkey Trial,'" New York Times July 4, 1965 ) With evolution as the enemy, they set out to eradicate it.

By 1925, Oklahoma, Florida and Mississippi had such laws, and narrow margins determined those in North Carolina and Kentucky. In Tennessee the Butler Law passed in early 1925, for although the governor was not a fundamentalist, many of his constituents were. As he said, "Nobody believes that it is going to be an active statute". And this is why he is singled out as a buffoon. He knew this law was nonsense, but passed it anyway to get votes from the bible thumpers. The ACLU set out to initiate a court case to test the constitutionality of the Butler Law. The entertaining Scopes monkey trial ensued. At least it made for a good Spencer Tracy movie.
The Dayton Monkey Trial
More a festival of opportunism than anything else, the streets of Dayton turned into a small-town fair, with people selling food, souvenirs and religious books. On the side of the courthouse ran a banner blaring "Read Your Bible Daily!" The media came from as far away as Hong Kong, and more than two million words were published during the trial. (H.L. Mencken of the Baltimore Sun, known for his caustic wit and cynical observations had much to make hay of.)

William Jennings Bryan

According to "Scopes Evolution Trial" (from Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Summer, 1981)

"Into this media circus meets religious revival rolled two of the greatest legal minds of the time, facing off to battle each other. William Jennings Bryan called the trial a "contest between evolution and Christianity ... a duel to the death". Known as The Great Commoner to the people, Bryan was a three-time presidential candidate and former Secretary of State to Woodrow Wilson. After a few years of retirement, he joined the Chautauqua circuit to rail against Darwin in tent revivals across the country.

Across the courtroom at the defendant's table was Clarence Darrow, with a sharp criminal lawyer's mind and an infamous reputation. To Bryan, he was "the greatest atheist or agnostic in the United States." Darrow himself joined the defense table because "for years," he said, "I've wanted to put Bryan in his pace as a bigot".

From the moment of Bryan's arrival in Dayton, the weight of public sentiment was in his favor. The records of the trial indicate that the townspeople came out for the trial in record numbers, packing the small country courthouse. Cries of "Amen" peppered the trial proceedings until the judge had to ask the observers to lower the noise level. Bryan planned to end the trial with a speech consummating his lifetime of preaching, one he had been preparing for seven weeks. Darrow, however, had other plans. Since the intention was to test the constitutionality of the Butler Law, Darrow wanted the jury to find Scopes guilty, so he could then appeal the decision in a higher court. He did not, however, plan to call Scopes to the stand, for if he were to do so, it might surface that Scopes had, in fact, not even been in school on the day mentioned in the indictment. He was meticulous in his effort to keep the trial free of technicalities. Just one could get the case thrown out with the law itself yet untested. Darrow also planned to call expert witnesses to give testimony about evolution. But when the judge ordered that Darrow could not call the scholars as witnesses, he shifted his plans.

After the judge moved the trial outside because of the 100-plus degree heat inside and the instability of the courtroom floor under the weight of so many spectators, Darrow, in a fantastic gesture, called William Jennings Bryan to the stand. The interchange which follows targets the essence of Darrow's argument and signals the turning point in the trial, which brought public sentiment decisively over to Darrow's side:


Clarence Darrow
"You have given considerable study to the Bible, haven't you, Mr. Bryan?"
"Yes, sir; I have tried to ... But, of course, I have studied it more as I have become older than when I was a boy."
"Do you claim then that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?"
"I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there ..."

Darrow continued to question Bryan on the actuality of Jonah and the whale, Joshua's making the sun stand still and the Tower of Babel, as Bryan began to have more difficulty answering.
Q: "Do you think the earth was made in six days?"
A: "Not six days of 24 hours ... My impression is they were periods ..."
Q: "Now, if you call those periods, they may have been a very long time?"
A: "They might have been."
Q: "The creation might have been going on for a very long time?"
A: "It might have continued for millions of years ..."
Darrow had set his trap and Bryan walked right in.

The monkey business, the contempt for intellectual honesty, continues to this day. OK ready? THREE CHEERS (Bronx style) for Austin Paey and political opportunists everywhere!





Worst Wanker #3-- Robert Mugabe In 28 years he has managed to take one of the wealthiest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and ruin it in a stupefying variety of ways. He annihilated the agricultural sector (once a leading exporter of corn and tobacco) by seizing commercial farms and giving them to cronies who failed to use the land at all. He prosecuted a kleptomaniacal war in the Congo, spending $1 million (U.S.) a day in hopes of stealing enough land and resources from the Congolese to make a profit.
When Zimbabweans have tried to vote him out of office, he has punished them with violence and economic repression. A passage from "The State of Africa," by Martin Meredith, recalls the explanation offered to citizens for cutting off their food supplies: "First you will eat your chickens, then your goats, then your donkeys. Then you will eat your children, and finally you will eat the dissidents."

Zimbabwe's leader gets the razz. Technically he is a contemporary, but because he has been destroying Zimbabwe for over 30 years...I think he is quite eligible and certainly deserving.




Worst Wanker #4 --Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig

The Somme battlefield in northern France is largely a matter of going from one cemetery to another. The graveyards are everywhere, some of them very small, comprising only a handful of white Portland marble stones, many bearing the inscription, A Soldier of the Great War / Known unto God. One sees so many of these cemeteries and so many stones—along with the vast memorial at Thievpal bearing the names of some 70,000 British soldiers whose bodies were never recovered—that after a few hours of it, you are numb. Overwhelmed.

The volume of the battle still stuns one's imagination. The Somme was an epic of butchery and futility alike; a profligate waste of lives and material such as the world had never seen.

On the morning of July 1, 1916, 110,000 British infantrymen went “over the top.” In a few hours, 60,000 of them were casualties. Nearly 20,000 of these were either dead already or would die of their wounds, many of them lingering for days between the trenches, suffering in no man’s land. The attacking forces did not gain a single one of their objectives.

A staff colonel had the balls to write: “The events of July 1st bore out the conclusions of the British higher command and amply justified the tactical methods employed.”

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, chief of staff of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and architect of the battle, agreed. On the day after the debacle, stating that the enemy “has undoubtedly been shaken and has few reserves in hand,” he discussed with subordinates methods for continuing the offensive.

Which he did, with a kind of transcendent stubbornness, for another four months, until winter weather forced an end to the campaign, if not the fighting. By then, Haig’s army had suffered more than 400,000 casualties. For the British, in the grave judgment of noted military historian John Keegan, “the battle was the greatest tragedy…of their national military history” and “marked the end of an age of vital optimism in British life that has never been recovered.”

But Haig was not done yet.

The great commanders of history intrigue us, and we read their biographies looking for insight into character attributes which might have accounted for their success. For instance Napoleon, we might think imagination. In General Lee, we see audacity. Wellington seemed to possess composure. Hannibal exemplified daring. Of course, great generals seem to possess all these qualities to some degree. They are artists in some sense blending intelligence, intuition, courage, calculation and many other traits that allow them to see what others cannot and to act in a rhythmic certainty. In military history, the question of what makes great commanders is an inexhaustible one.

Unsuccessful generals are seldom discussed any more than we like to read about mediocre runners who never won a race or ballplayers who hit .200 lifetime. There is nothing terribly enlightening in the biography of, say, Ambrose Burnside or any of the other Union generals tormented by Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.

But Douglas Haig is the exception to the rule. Because in spite of the multitudes of graveyards and inconclusive, costly battles; some claim he was not unsuccessful. At the end of the war, after all, the army he had almost ruined—was, (victorious may not be the word) on the winning side.

Haig did not merely fail to achieve his stated objectives in the great battles of the Somme and Ypres. He failed in a much larger sense; in the fashion of Pyrrhus, who lamented after the battle at Asculum, “Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone.”

Bronx cheers galore. It takes more than a stiff upper lip to make Haig appear palatable.






Worst Wanker #5 -- Whoever invented this:


I mean why run on a treadmill or run outside if you can run on a treadmill outside?
Why indeed! Well at least it isn't fossil fuel powered and has no beer can holder built in.
(they sell it separately).



Bonus Bozos- Tied for Worst Wanker #6 are 10 leaders of nation who lined their pockets at their countries expense. (I know, it's so common it would be more of a news item if we found someone who didn't rob and pilfer.)
Thieving Corrupt Leaders!
NamePositionFunds embezzled2
1. Mohamed SuhartoPresident of Indonesia (1967–1998)$15–35 billion
2. Ferdinand MarcosPresident of the Philippines (1972–1986)5–10 billion
3. Mobutu Sese SekoPresident of Zaire (1965–1997)5 billion
4. Sani AbachaPresident of Nigeria (1993–1998)2–5 billion
5. Slobodan MilosevicPresident of Serbia/Yugoslavia (1989–2000)1 billion
6. Jean-Claude DuvalierPresident of Haiti (1971–1986)300–800 million
7. Alberto FujimoriPresident of Peru (1990–2000)600 million
8. Pavlo LazarenkoPrime Minister of Ukraine (1996–1997)114–200 million
9. Arnoldo Alem├ínPresident of Nicaragua (1997–2002)100 million
10. Joseph EstradaPresident of the Philippines (1998–2001)78–80 million
1. Defined as former political leaders who have been accused of embezzling the most funds from their countries over the past two decades.
2. All sums are estimates of alleged embezzlement and appear in U.S. dollars.
Source: Transparency International Global Corruption Report 2004.




Worst Wanker #7 -- Former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin
When you eat the brothers, they tend to frown on you. ..enough said.


Worst Wanker #8 --Jack Whitehead
The first "King of Strike Breakers" --through the significant numbers of strikes during the 1890s and very early 1900s, strike breaking by recruiting massive numbers of replacement workers became a noteworthy activity. Jack Whitehead saw opportunity in labor struggles; while other workers were attempting to organize unions, he walked away from his own union to organize an army of strike breakers. Whitehead was the first to be called "King of the Strike Breakers"; by deploying his private workforce during steelworker's strikes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Birmingham, Alabama, became quite wealthy. By demonstrating how lucrative strike breaking could be, Whitehead inspired a host of imitators who further "perfected" the art.
Companies lavished money on violent union busters like James Farley and the Bergoff brothers.
By the 1930s, agencies began to rely more upon the use of informants and labor spies.

Spy agencies hired to bust unions developed a level of sophistication that could devastate targets. "Missionaries" were undercover operatives trained to use whispering campaigns (unfounded rumors to create dissension) on picket lines and in union halls. The strikers themselves were not the only targets. Often female missionaries might systematically visit the strikers' wives in the home, making up a sob story of how a strike had destroyed their own families. Missionary campaigns have been known to destroy not only strikes, but unions themselves. In the 1930s, the Pinkerton Agency employed twelve-hundred labor spies, and nearly one-third of them held high level positions in the targeted unions. The International Association of Machinists was damaged when Sam Brady, a veteran Pinkerton operative, held a high enough position in that union that he was able to arrange a premature strike. All but five officers in a United Auto Workers local in Lansing, Michigan were driven out by Pinkerton agents. The five who remained were Pinkertons themselves. Nathan Shefferman committed numerous illegal actions, including bribery, coercion of employees and racketeering. Shefferman built his business on a foundation of lies and deceit. The history of the suppression of labor organizing is dark and loathsome. Violence and murder were no strangers here.



Worst Wanker #9 --Joseph Kony, Commander of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
Uganda is spotlighted again! Quote: "[The spirits] speak to me. They load through me. They will tell us what is going to happen. They say 'You, Mr. Joseph, tell your people that the enemy is planning to come and attack.' They will come like dreaming; they will tell us everything."

Yes another religious wingnut, this one is a Christian, who during two decades of civil war, killed more people than al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.

Kony, a former altar boy, aims to overthrow the Ugandan government and establish a regime based on the Ten Commandments. In pursuit of this goal, the LRA has abducted over 20,000 children to serve as soldiers and sex slaves, often forcing them to kill their own parents.

Have an extra crispy KonyDog, no that ain't ketchup.


Worst Wanker # 10 --Dov Lior, Head rabbi of Kiryat Arba settlement, a Jewish settlement near the turbulent West Bank town of Hebron, and leads the council of rabbis for the West Bank settlements. He has stated repeatedly that the killing of Palestinian civilians is compatible with Jewish law and that the commandment "thou shalt not kill"applies only to Jews. He has claimed "A thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew's fingernail." Lior has also issued a religious ruling forbidding Jews from employing Arabs or renting them property. Nice!
Getting tired of razzing? Use a whoopie cushion.



Last but not least Wanker (for this post) --Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary-General of Hezbollah
who said "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak, and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli." Nasrallah and several colleagues formed Hezbollah in the wake of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Since then, the group has become a unique political entity - an Islamist political party, a terrorist militia, and a state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah's 2006 battle with the Israel Defense Forces has surely boosted its prestige. Nasrallah studied Islam at a seminary in Najaf, Iraq, as a teenager and follows the brand of Shiite Islam developed by Iran's late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is a major power broker in Lebanese government. Though Nasrallah has stopped calling for an Islamic revolution and seems willing to work within the state, he has not moderated his stance on Israel, and still calls for the "Zionist entity" to be wiped off the face of the Earth.

Instead of the traditional Bronx Cheer, let's cleanse our pallets with Lennon's vision of a world at Peace...Imagine!









Monday, November 24, 2008

FDR- Greatest Modern President

“Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”

Franklin D. Roosevelt had campaigned against Herbert Hoover in the 1932 presidential election saying little about what he might do if he were elected. It seems the president-elect’s most intimate associates did not feel they knew him well, with the exception perhaps of his wife, Eleanor. His enemies absolutely detested him. Colorful stories about his detractors include radio manufacturer Atwater Kent who retired because he would not do business while "That Man" was there. J. P. Morgan's family was ordered to keep newspapers with pictures of Roosevelt out of his sight, and in one Connecticut country club...mention of his name was "forbidden as a health measure against apoplexy." In Kansas a man went down into his cyclone cellar and announced he would not emerge until Roosevelt was out of office. (While he was there, his wife ran off with a traveling salesman...really!)

Yet look around you, this is not Stalin's world. His view of the world came to a monolithic collapse. It is not Churchill's world either. Empire (with perhaps a brief attempt by the "Neoconservative" movement to try their hand at it) is a thing of the past, a dodo bird, a tyrannosaurus. No, the world we see today is Roosevelt's world. His vision and courage have, frankly; dwarfed all those who have followed. (Of course he was re-elected 3 times, so he had more time in office than any other president.)

Roosevelt was an affable man. Known for his wit, he used his personal charm to keep most people at a distance. In his campaign speeches, he was often buoyant and optimistic. He spoke with a somewhat calm gentle tone spiced with humor. But his first inaugural address took on an unusually solemn quality. Not without reason—by 1933 the depression had reached its unfathomable dreadful depth. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address outlined how he hoped to proceed and insisted that that the nation’s “common difficulties” concerned “only material things.”


History...are we condemned to repeat it? the 1930s shattered blind faith in capitalism ("the free market'') as an engine of social progress. Over time American leaders sold us the same failed theories that proved so disastrous in 1929. These same miscreants have tried to revise history to make Hoover's inactive "hands off" approach more palatable. Those who lived through those times, and those of us lucky enough to have talked at length with these people simply know better. It is ridiculous to claim Hoover's policy would have worked eventually. That is plainly unknowable. It is equally ridiculous to claim FDR's programs "lengthened" the depression. It is mere hyperbola.
Only a fool would deny the dynamics that led to the great depression were not repeated in the current fiasco. The FDR inaugural address is of more than just historical interest because in so many ways we stand at very similar crossroads today.

Presented in it's entirety here is FDR's Inaugural Address.

ROOSEVELT'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS

(listen to it in real audio)

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.

More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.

Hand in hand with this we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land. The task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly.

Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people’s money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.

There are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the several States.

Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time and necessity secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy. I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.

The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in all parts of the United States—a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will endure.

In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others—the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.

With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.

It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.

I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.

But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis—broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less.

We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of the national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life.

We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.

In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.

Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933, as published in Samuel Rosenman, ed., The Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Volume Two: The Year of Crisis, 1933 (New York: Random House, 1938), 11–16.


By the time Roosevelt was sworn in, national income had been cut in half. More than fifteen million Americans were unemployed. Every state had closed its banks or severely restricted their operations. The New York Stock Exchange had shut down. For many, hope was a distant memory. "Now is the winter of our discontent the chilliest," wrote the editor of Nation's Business. "Fear bordering on panic, loss of faith in everything, our fellowman, our institutions, private and government. Worst of all no faith in ourselves or the future. Almost everyone ready to scuttle the ship, and not even women and children first."

My Favorite photo of FDR, clowning with his cousin.

The following is an account from The FDR Years -On Roosevelt and His Legacy
By William E. Leuchtenburg:

After Roosevelt took office, the nation seemed markedly changed. Gone was the torpor of the Hoover years; gone, too, the political division and paralysis. "The people aren't sure...just where they are going," noted one business journal, "but anywhere seems better than where they have been. In the homes on the streets, in the offices there is a feeling of hope reborn." Again and again, observers resorted to the imagery of darkness and light to characterize the transformation from the Stygian gloom of Hoover's final winter to the bright springtime of the First Hundred Days. Overnight, one eyewitness later remembered, Washington seemed like Cambridge on the morning of the Harvard-Yale game: "All the shops were on display, everyone was joyous, crowds moved excitedly. There was something in the air that had not been there before, and in the New Deal that continued throughout. It was not just for the day as it was in Cambridge." On the New York Curb Exchange, where trading resumed on March 15, the stock ticker ended the day with the merry message: "Goodnite. ...Happy days are here again."

It was altogether fitting to choose the words of FDR's theme song, for people of every political persuasion gave full credit for the revival of confidence to one man: the new president. FDR's "conspicuous courage, cheerfulness, energy and resource," noted the British ambassador at Washington, Sir Ronald Lindsay, contrasted so markedly with the "fearful, furtive fumbling of the Great White Feather," Herbert Hoover, that "the starved loyalties and repressed hero-worship of the country have found in him an outlet and a symbol." In March a Hoover appointee from the Oyster Bay branch of the Roosevelt family wrote his mother, "I have followed with much interest and enthusiasm Franklin's start. I think he has done amazingly well, and I am really very pleased. One feels that he has what poor Hoover lacked, and what the country so much needs - leadership." A month later the Republican Senator from California, Hiram Johnson, acknowledged:

The admirable trait in Roosevelt is that he has the guts to try. ...He does it all with the rarest good nature. ...We have exchanged for a frown in the White House a smile. Where there were hesitation and vacillation, weighing always the personal political consequences, feebleness, timidity, and duplicity, there are now courage and boldness and real action.

On the editorial page of Forum, Henry Goddard Leach summed up the nation's nearly unanimous verdict: "We have a leader."

The Conservation Corps and WPA put unemployed Americans to work building public works projects, teaching various skills, farming, bricklaying, and electrifying rural areas.

According to Leo Rosten, FDR's manner at his first press conference as president, on March 8, 1933, became "something of a legend in newspaper circles"

Mr. Roosevelt was introduced to each correspondent. Many of them he already knew and greeted by name - first name. For each he had a handshake and the Roosevelt smile. When the questioning began, the full virtuosity of the new Chief Executive was demonstrated. Cigarette-holder in mouth at a jaunty angle, he met the reporters on their own grounds. His answers were swift, positive, illuminating. He had exact information at his fingertips. He showed an impressive understanding of public problems and administrative methods. He was lavish in his confidences and "background information." He was informal, communicate, gay. When he evaded a question it was done frankly. He was thoroughly at case. He made no effort to conceal his pleasure in the give and take of the situation.

Reporters were simply jubilant. Transformation in the White House was astounding. Relations were hostile with Roosevelt's predecessor, Hoover. (he was accused of actually using the Secret Service to stop leaks and of launching a campaign of "terrorism" to get publishers to fire newspapermen who wrote about him in a poor light. Hoover finally discontinued press conferences altogether. And Hoover, like Harding and Coolidge who held the office before him, had insisted on written questions submitted in advance.

Roosevelt, to the delight of the Washington press corps, immediately abolished that requirement and said that questions could be fired at him without warning. At the end of the first conference, reporters did something they had never done before - gave the man they were covering a spontaneous round of applause.

According to "The FDR Years" By William Edward Leuchtenburg, the good relations with the press continued even though Roosevelt was sometimes testy. ( he told one reporter to go off to a corner and put on a dunce cap) "but, for the most part, especially in the New Deal years, he was jovial and even chummy, in no small part because he regarded himself as a longtime newspaperman, having been "president" - that is, editor-in-chief - of the Harvard Crimson. He also saw to it that every nervous newcomer on his first White House assignment was introduced to him with a handshake, and he made clear that members of the Fourth Estate were socially respectable by throwing a spring garden party for them at the White House."


Yes, musicians suffered from rampant unemployment like everyone else in the Great Depression. And yes, there were jobs for them as well in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Roosevelt made plenty of enemies, both while in office and in posthumously. In fact he asked to be judged by his the enemies he made. But the overwhelming majority of historians rate his presidency as 1st, 2nd or 3rd greatest. (The other 2 most often cited are Lincoln and Jefferson). So the claim that he is our greatest modern president has the backing of historians.
The courage to take bold steps, to also admit if they didn't succeed and try something else, the challenges met, the polio.
All too much for this one article.
But here are a few parting thoughts...
We sometimes hear those who would vandalize FDR's accomplishments claim he was a socialist.
The truth is that most socialists of the day opposed him for saving capitalism from the Depression; which they (correctly) believed was the inevitable result of unconstrained oligarchy.

Roosevelt went to great lengths to downplay his struggle with polio.
This photo was taken 2 years after his legs became paralyzed.
I can't help but notice how thin his legs are. He combated the disease's progress by swimming.


While we are talking about presidents, which president said this?
"In some countries, this notable president stated, "a few families are fabulously wealthy, contribute far less than they should in taxes, and are indifferent to the poverty of the great masses of the people. A country in this situation, is fraught with continual instability."
So who spoke this "spread the wealth around" statement over 50 years ago?
Had to be some commie like Fidel Castro, or some leftist anti-American pinko anti-war peacenik, right?
...Well it was Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(How far has the Republican party de-evolved since then?...well McCarthy was doing his thing around the same time... he might be the Father of the modern GOP. )

A dust storm in Kansas during the Great Depression



To those who speculate that the Great Depression would have been shorter without the New Deal, (a somewhat popular, purely unprovable bit of woolgathering among certain New Orleans-abandoning, torture-sanctioning, 9/11-Tourette's sufferers) I offer this bit of nostalgia.
In the summer of 1932 John Maynard Keynes, the brilliant economist credited with saving capitalism from eating itself the last time it tried to, was asked by a journalist, whether there had ever been anything before like the Great Depression. The unflappable Keynes said: "Yes, it was called the Dark Ages, and it lasted four hundred years."

If Keynes saw the Great Depression as something that would have lasted a long time without intervention, I question whether these armchair quarterbacks (watching the game 70 years later from their cozy abodes on their 60 inch flatscreens with a snifter of cognac in hand, after driving home on a road the Conservation Corps built) have anywhere near the insight of Keynes.
And if you really believe you could have done better, go directly to Washington D.C. right now and tell your senator YOU know how to fix the economy quickly. I know you will!


"The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit." ...Indeed!


The Funeral Train Carries Franklin's Body back to his beloved Hyde Park.
FDR died of a cerebral hemorrhage while serving his 4th
term as President in 1945.



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