“We’ve had enough and we can’t take it any more!”

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Cracked History

 

Famous Acts of Protest

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Did you notice?

On October 16, 1968, 2 U.S. Olympic athletes on the medal podium raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the American national anthem to protest the status of human rights in the U.S., particularly in regard to African-Americans.  What is hardly remembered is that both African-American medalists also wore no shoes and instead stood there in black socks to symbolize Black poverty in the US.  Both of the Americans as well as the silver medalist from Australia wore “Olympic Project for Human Rights” badges and some other symbols of protest.   An irate International Olympic Committee expelled the 2 Americans from the Olympics, but their message was certainly delivered; millions of people would see the iconic event in photographs.  Here 9 such famous acts of protest by individuals or groups are listed. (Of course, all revolutions and rebellions are also acts of protest, as are riots.) What acts would you include?

The reasons behind……

9. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Raised Fists at the Olympics, 1968.

Often referred to as a “Black Power” salute, it involves the raising of the right hand in a black glove.  John Carlos used his left hand.  Both he and Tommie Smith later said their gesture was a “Human Rights” salute.   Smith also wore a black scarf to show “Black Pride,” and Carlos had left his track suit partly unzipped to show unity with blue collar workers and wore a beaded necklace in memory of Africans and African-Americans who had been lynched, murdered, tarred and feathered or thrown over the sides of slave ships.  Americans were split, largely along racial lines, as to whether these 200-meter dash sprinters were heroes or traitors.  Smith and Carlos both later played in the American National Football League (NFL) and had distinguished careers in other fields as well.  The Australian, Peter Norman, was regarded as a pariah by his countrymen for siding with the Americans and although he qualified for the next Olympic games, he was left off the team.

8. Thich Quang Duc, Self-Immolation, 1963.

Duc, a 66-year-old Buddhist monk, protested the South Vietnamese government’s persecution of Buddhists by burning himself to death in public.  Photos of Duc’s dramatic act are among the most famous photos in history, and even President Kennedy said they had generated more emotion than any other news photos.  Copycat self-immolations by other Buddhists monks and nuns who eventually achieved their goal of toppling South Viet Nam’s government followed.  In the ensuing years, many brave and selfless people on very continent have resorted to this measure to protest a variety of political and social complaints.

7. 4 Dead in Ohio, Kent State University Shootings, 1970.

Although there were many protests during the Viet Nam War years,  it is the Kent State University shooting death of 4 young people by the Ohio National Guard  while students were protesting the invasion of Cambodia that symbolizes the anti-war movement.  Far from being a peaceful demonstration, not only was the ROTC building burned, but the Guardsmen had been pelted with rocks.  Though it is tragic that four students died, at least one of them had been distributing and throwing some  of the rocks.  Pictures of the dead were published worldwide, and the anti-war sentiment increased.  The shootings led to further protests on  a multitude of college campuses and general unrest in the nation.

6. Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955-1956.

Boycotts are a form of peaceful protest whereby protesters simply refuse to patronize a business or institution or to buy a product.  The most famous American example is the boycott in Montgomery, Alabama of segregated buses.  When African-American Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to go to the black section in the back of the bus, African-Americans and sympathetic white people refused to use the public transit system, opting instead to walk, to ride their bikes or to car pool.  This year-long boycott was one of the most successful civil rights protests of the 1950s, and it resulted in the Supreme Court declaring segregation on buses to be unconstitutional.

5. Occupy Wall Street, 2011.

Triggered by the economic collapse of 2008, the occupation of Wall Street was a peaceful protest that took the “sit ins” of the 1960s and 1970s a little further by having throngs of people camp out and not leave.  This protest was not even American in origin; it was thought up and promoted by the Canadian magazine Adbusters.  Mainly against economic inequality and unfair practices of greedy banks and financial firms, this protest spawned other similar “occupy” protests around the country.  Their motto, “We are the 99%,” indicated the protesters’ displeasure with the wealthy top 1%.  It is unclear whether any of the goals of the protests were accomplished.

4. Marches on Washington, 1894-Present.

Starting with Coxey’s Army marching in 1894 to protest unemployment, marching on Washington has become a popular American form of protesting a variety of complaints. One notable early march is the Bonus Army of 1932, in which American World War I veterans, because of the Depression, demanded an advance in the bonus money that had been promised to them.  Another early march was in 1925 when 50,000 Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members descended on Washington.  Civil rights leaders organized several marches in the 1960s and more recently,, in 1995 the “Million Man March” to protest the negative image of black males and the disparate treatment of African-Americans.

3. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Civil Disobedience, 1915-1948.

Known by the honorific title “Mahatma,” Gandhi is the man most identified with peaceful protest.  He led in India in protest against various British policies, and campaigned for the independence of his country, which was finally granted.  He also fought for civil rights (freedom of religion, women’s rights, retirement of the caste system) and set himself as a symbol of tolerance.  One example of his idea of being civilly disobedient was to sit at a spinning wheel and make thread to weave his own cloth, as the British had specified that India must buy all its cloth from Great Britain even though the cotton had originally come from India.  Often jailed, he is also famous for his hunger strikes, however, it took an assassin’s bullet in 1948 to bring about his demise.

2. Johnny Cash, “The Man in Black,” 1970s.

One of country music’s biggest stars, Johnny Cash only wore black clothing when performing.  His preferred long black coat is a stark contrast to the colorful outfits generally worn by other singers.  He explained in a song why he did this; he hoped that through his clothes he could  remind people of those who were poor or hungry, of prisoners in jail, of lives ruined by war, of those addicted to drugs, of the old and infirm and of anyone who was down and out.  Although a quiet form of protest, Cash’s stature as a star meant that his message about the less fortunate was heard and seen by millions of his people across the globe.

1. “Tank Man,” Tiananmen Square Massacre, 1989.

During the protests in China that became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, somewhere between 240 (government estimate) and over 2,000 (non-government estimate) protesters were killed by the Chinese army that was equipped with tanks, armored personnel carriers and automatic weapons.  Amid the chaos and carnage, a single, anonymous man stood in the path of a tank with his hands by his sides, ready to be run over if the tank did not stop.  His act of defiance was photographed and has become one of history’s most famous, electrifying and inspiring photos.  The tank did stop, and it is believed the man did not get killed.  Time magazine named this unknown protester one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

“We’ve had enough and we can’t take it any more!”

World Wide Words Issue 900 – WIF Style

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Issue 900

Issue 900

 

World Wide Words

Issue 900: Saturday 18 October 2014

 

Feedback, Notes and Comments

Immensikoff. Hilary Powers commented, “One reason for the name’s attachment may be its appropriateness for the garment described in the quote — the greatcoat in question was clearly a shuba, a fur-lined overcoat designed for the Russian winter. I can still remember my college Russian teacher describing such coats with wonder: ‘Dazhe norka!’ (‘Even mink!’) they could be lined with, and they could almost double the size of the wearer. I got one from a thrift shop once: outer wool as thick as a navy peacoat, then a thin layer of padding, then spotted skunk, then heavy satin — a treasure, but no California winter was ever cold enough for it.”

Several readers recalled a music-hall favourite of the 1880s, words by Will Herbert and music by Bessie Belwood (real name Kathleen Mahoney) , with the title What Cheer ’Ria , in which Ria (short for Maria) splashes out a whole shilling to sit in the stalls, only to have all her pals in the gallery mock her, “Oh ’Ria she’s a toff and she looks immensikoff”. The word clearly had an enduring legacy in its original sense of somebody trying to rise above their station in life.

Kathleen Dillon wondered if immenseikoff was a fake Yiddish word with the intended meaning of “big head”. That sounds highly probable, though as always the lack of evidence is a nuisance.

Some subscribers were astonished and horrified that there were a couple of typing errors in the piece, caused by a hasty last-minute revision. It may be hard to believe, but I do occasionally make mistakes.

Sic! or not? Last week Bill Clarke reported printed instructions from a doctor: “put one drop in the eye four times per day while awake.” This prompted physician Duncan Salmon to write, “I can remember more than once finding out that my frazzled but compliant patient was taking the instructions ‘every 6 hours’ or ‘four times a day’ quite literally, setting alarms at 6 and 12 am and pm which usually woke up the spouse as well. I suspect that the ‘while awake’ phrase is a way of avoiding this too-literal interpretation of the instructions.”

Zoilism

A correspondent identified only as J Hooker wrote a disgusted letter to the Lady’s Newspaper of London in January 1863 about slovenly and unhygienic rural servants in France:

If I were to do more than hint at their hydrophobic habits, their pulicidal, pulicivorous, and even phtheirophagous propensities, I should call down, not undeservedly, the Zoilism of our correspondents.

The writer — from the tone of the piece he is likely to have been Joseph Dalton Hooker, a famous biologist — must have had an uncommonly large vocabulary, or a talent for word coining, for that set of alliterative insults is uncommon. The first two — pulicidal and pulicivorous — have not reached the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary, though their form suggests “flea-killing” and “flea-eating”, from Latin pulex. The third word in the set, phtheirophagous, is from Latin, based on a Greek word that literally means louse-eating but was used figuratively for persons with unsavoury habits. The original epithet was applied by the Roman writer Strabo to a tribe living near the Black Sea, the Sulae, whom he disgustedly renamed the Phthirophagi.

Zoilism is another unfamiliar term. This is Greek and its initial capital letter gives the clue that it’s an eponym, a noun derived from a personal name. Zoilus was a Greek grammarian of the 4th century BC, who wrote savage criticisms of such Greek literary worthies as Homer, Plato and Socrates. He gained the nickname Homeromastic, one who assaults or chastises Homer.

Writers with good Greek but poor knowledge of word histories assumed that Zoilus and Zoilism were from the Greek word for zeal. This usually means an enthusiastic devotion to something (originally religion) but at one time could also imply jealousy or envy. This false connection caused people to assume that critics described as Zoilist were panning the work of others through resentfulness or spite.

There having never been any shortage of critics, Zoilus gained the plural Zoili. It and the other terms are now almost unknown, though bitter and carping criticism by envious hacks has not yet vanished from the world.

Fish-faced

Q. From Katya Epstein: In the movie The Producers , Max Bialystock says to Leo Bloom, “Am I correct in my assumption, you fish-faced enemy of the people?” Does fish-faced have a specific meaning, or did Brooks write this because Gene Wilder looks kind of like a fish?

A. You may say that of Wilder. I’m staying quiet.

It’s been a long time, I suspect, since this playground taunt, meaning that the person so described is ugly or stupid-looking, has suggested that a person’s face literally looks like that of a fish. We may guess it started out describing a person either with bulging eyes or a receding chin that pushed the mouth forward..

I can remember it from my school days, a lot longer ago than I care to think about. But I also associate it with P G Wodehouse and was delighted to find that the Oxford English Dictionary concurs, since its only example of the insult is from his Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves , published in 1963: “He’s no worse than that fishfaced blighter.”

However, it’s much older than that. Raymond Chandler wrote in a short story in 1938 about “fish-faced blondes trying to shake a hangover out of their teeth.” George Orwell’s novel of 1936, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, has “Flaxman was propping up the bar with two fish-faced pals who looked like insurance-touts of the better type.” The American author and actor Emery Pottle, better known in the movies from 1921 onwards as Gilbert Emery, wrote in a story about the theatre in 1910:

It made me sore to see the fish-faced chump who had to make love to her in the piece. One night I punched the fish-faced boy’s eye because he got too gay with her. And there was a row and he got me fired.

Racine Daily Journal, 30 Dec. 1910. Making love at this date meant either flirting or courting and to be gay was to be light-hearted, carefree or flirtatious .

It’s easy to take the expression back even further. George Augustus Sala, a British journalist with a name to remember, wrote a piece in the Temple Bar magazine in 1875 about a painting: “It was a half length of a fish-faced gentleman, in oil”. It makes him sound like a sardine.

All these must bow before Four Plays in One, conventionally ascribed to Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher around 1610, though scholars now doubt the former was involved. In a scene set before the walls of Athens, the authors have the philosopher Socrates say to two captains who were discussing executing him, “Away, ye fish-faced rascals!”

It’s far distant in time and context from those insults in the playgrounds of my youth, but not so far in spirit.

Letters

Sic!

Perpetuity isn’t what it used to be, Rob Bernstein discovered on reading an advertising email: “Buy a one year perpetual license for Iron Speed Designer and receive an extra year of updates and support for free!”

Lee Schlesinger was amused by a headline in the Boston Globe of 9 October: “Police detonate ordinance handed over by Cohasett resident”. Not just breaking the law but pulverising it.

A subscriber who perhaps ought to remain anonymous reports “An email from our company’s CEO about a competition the company is currently running: ‘Any shops caught cheating will be illuminated’.”

World Wide Words Issue 900 – WIF Style

Cocaine, Stones, Shrouds & the Terra Cotta Army – Mysteries to this Day

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Telephones for Six Year Olds – WABAC to Where the Madness Started

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Let’s go WABAC to when wireless telephones were the size of a brick.”
“Do you mean the Stone Age?”
“No Sherman My Boy, the Analog Age.”

October 13, 1983: First American Cell Phone Network Opens in Chicago

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Don’t hang up…

On October 13, 1983, with a network in the Chicago area, Ameritech Mobile Communications (later renamed Ameritech Cellular and then AT&T Mobility) opened the first mobile phone service in the United States.

A World without cords……

Cracked History trivia:  The Guinness Book of World Records claims that David Cotorno, one of the early Chicago-area customers, has had the same cell phone number since August 2, 1985, longer than anyone else!  He has been with Ameritech all along.

Some more Cracked History trivia:  The term “cellular phone” or “cell phone” is actually a misnomer, as the phones are not cellular, the network is.  They are mobile phones that operate in a cellular network.

The concept of wireless communication goes as far back as the early 20th century, when a British cartoon from 1907 depicted a dating couple talking on mobile phones.  In 1918, the Germans started experimenting with mobile phones on their railroad system, and in 1926, German first-class passengers could make calls while riding on the train.

It was not originally planned for mobile phones to be powered by radio towers (cell phones are really radios) that dot the landscape.  The original mobile radio phones required pressing the send button to talk and releasing it to listen, similar to a walkie-talkie radio.  These radio mobile phones were available from the 1940s on, with calls going to an operator who manually connected the mobile user to a landline telephone.  Over the next few decades, the systems were improved, but such phones were fairly uncommon, and calls were expensive.

In 1947, Bell Labs came up with idea of an hexagonal-shaped pattern of cell towers placed across populated areas.  In 1979, Japan and Scandinavia opened the first analog cellular networks, and the US followed suit in 1983.  In the 1990s, the analog systems were replaced by digital systems, and as more and more cell towers were erected, coverage improved, and prices started lowering, causing the number of customers to skyrocket.

In 1993, IBM introduced the first “smart phone.” Known as Simon, this smart phone was capable of making phone calls and faxes and had paging abilities and PDA functions.  Text messaging was introduced  in 1992, and cars have been crashing ever since.  The photo and video features of current cell phones have resulted in a cornucopia of scandalous images that have ended up on the internet.

Cracked History fact:  Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all robberies are thefts of cell phones.

Telephones for Six Year Olds – WABAC to Where the Madness Started

Philosophical Differences – In America (of all places)

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Top Ten6

10 Great American Philosophers

 

When one thinks of great philosophers (which probably isn’t too often), one most likely thinks of dead Europeans. Almost all writers studied in a philosophy class will be European, and in some classes there will be absolutely no mention of American philosophers at all. There are good reasons for this —

America really hasn’t existed for all that long, and there perhaps hasn’t been as much general emphasis on philosophy as in some other countries like the big three of France, Germany and Great Britain. But in its relatively short life span America has produced some great thinkers, including…

10. John Dewey

Portrait of John Dewey

John Dewey was a leading scholar in the American philosophical school of pragmatism. This isn’t the same pragmatism spoken of by politicians, but is instead a rejection of the notion that thought is meant mainly to describe or mirror reality. It could be described as a realist point of view — essentially, it claims that most philosophical topics should be viewed in terms of their usefulness, as opposed to purely on their representative accuracy.

Although he made contributions to philosophy and psychology, perhaps Dewey’s greatest impact was as an educational reformer. In Dewey’s view, it’s vital that classroom activities focus on meaningful activity in place of rote learning. Students should be invested in what they are learning and the curriculum should seem relevant to their lives. He viewed learning by doing to be an important factor missing from American education. In the early days of American education there was a great focus on memorization, such as remembering all the state capitals. But the influence of Dewey and others started to move education towards focusing on teaching children how to think critically.

9. John Rawls

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John Rawls was one of the most important political thinkers of the 20th century. After serving in the Pacific during World War Two, he came back and got a PhD in moral philosophy from Princeton, and would go on to teach there and atCornell, MIT and Harvard. Rawls is best known for his defense of egalitarian liberalism in his work A Theory of Justice.

In the book, he attempts to find common ground between the two seemingly conflicting concepts of liberty and equality. Rawls ultimately concludes that it’s important that we define justice as fairness. He states that “each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty,” meaning freedom of thought, freedom of expression, etc. In Rawls’ view, we have certain basic rights that should not be infringed upon. He also claims that we should have a “fair equality of opportunity.” This means society and government should be set up to give equal opportunities to each person, as best as can be done. Because of these two requirements, Rawls views both strict communism and laissez-faire capitalism as unjust. And so, we as a society must strive for a middle ground, trying our best to find a balance between liberty and equality.

8. Jonathan Edwards

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Jonathan Edwards was one of the greatest influences on American protestant theology. Born in Connecticut in 1703, Edwards was one of the leaders of the Puritan movement, which seeked to distance Protestantism from Catholicism. Puritans believed that the Bible itself should be the final word on what we should do, and disliked the Catholic traditions that didn’t come from the Bible directly.

Because of this focus on the Bible, education and literacy was emphasized. Edwards himself attended Yale University at age 13, and would go on to write extensively on religious topics ranging from metaphysics to ethics. Perhaps Edwards’ most influential idea was his defense of theological determinism, within which he stated that God is the ultimate and final cause of everything that happens. This has had both positive and negative effects — if people believe God is the ultimate cause, then they will believe it vital to do what God has ordained. This could vary from something as noble as feeding poor children to something as stupid as “witch” burning. So, for both good and ill, Edwards had a huge impact on American religion and, by extension,  society.

7. Cornel West

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Cornel West is one of the most publicly known philosophers today, and perhaps the most well known African American philosopher. While West has taught at Harvard, Princeton and Yale, he is also a very active social commentator and political activist. His writings tend to deal with relevant real world issues — in his books, he has analyzed wide ranging social problems having to do with race, class and justice.

Many of his main beliefs stem from his Christian background, which he mixes with his belief in democratic socialism, a somewhat rare combination. Growing up he was influenced largely by the church his family attended, but also by the Black Panther Party and the writings of Karl Marx. West has sometimes come into conflict with administrators because of his activism, which eventually led to his resignation at Harvard. His most famous and influential book was Race Matters, a series of essays that came out soon after the Rodney King beating. In it, he discussed the problem of African American poverty, and argued against recommendations from black leaders that he felt were unlikely to solve the problem.

6. Michael Sandel

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Michael Sandel, a professor of government at Harvard, is most likely the most popular living political philosopher. He is very well known for his lectures and books, even outside academia. His class on justice at Harvard routinely has more than 1000 students, and he has taken an adapted lecture version on the road, speaking in America, India and countries in East Asia. The entire course can also be viewed on Harvard’s website for free.

Sandel believes that in order for us to be good citizens we must first grapple with hard ethical choices. In his lectures he acts somewhat like Socrates did, asking questions of his audience and expecting answers. In this way, he engages the audience and encourages them to question why they believe what they believe. Sandel thinks this is especially important considering the modern emphasis on being neutral. He argues that we can’t really be neutral, and will always make value judgments of some kind. Because of this, it’s vital that we confront our beliefs and engage in deep reflection over what it means to be good.

5. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson was the leading figure of American Transcendentalism, and had a great influence on later thinkers. Transcendentalism was largely a reaction against rationalism and Calvinism. In his book Nature, Emerson argues that nature acts as an intermediary between man and the divine. Emerson thought that it’s possible to legitimately have beliefs that are not falsifiable. He believed we should look within ourselves to gain “transcendental” knowledge, or intuitive belief we derive from our inner mentality.

Because of this, Emerson was a great believer in the supremacy of the individual over the group, a viewpoint rarely held throughout history. Transcendentalists like Emerson believed that groups corrupt the individual, and thus it’s crucial to decide for ourselves what’s important. This focus on the individual would greatly influence the thought of American intellectuals and the public.

4. Charles Sanders Peirce

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Charles Sanders Peirce was a mathematician, chemist, and geodist (a mixture of applied math and earth science), but he considered scientific philosophy, particularly the study of logic, to be his calling. He had an extraordinary range of interests, writing on subjects as different as astronomy and economics. In his most well known writings, he argued that the scientific method was the superior method for determining truth. Pierce is known as the founder of pragmatism, but he disliked the way others used the term. In fact, he was so concerned about misuse he relabeled his own method as pragmaticism, to distinguish it from pragmatism’s new meanings.

He also argued against determinism, the idea that all events are ultimately decided outside of will. He believed that the universe displays degrees of habit, but even with the same input there is variation. Because of his greatly varied contributions, Pierce is something different to different people. A psychologist, a logician, a physical scientist and a philosopher will all have something to learn by studying different aspects of his writing.

3. Thomas Jefferson

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Thomas Jefferson is of course best known for being one of the founding fathers of the United States. He wrote much of the Declaration of Independence and served as the third President. He was a politician, but his political actions and beliefs were greatly influenced by his basic philosophical beliefs. In fact, Jefferson was a member and, for a time, the president of the American Philosophical Association.

Much of his writing described abstract principles as opposed to concrete political doctrines. Jefferson was a defender of democracy, and he argued for a will of the people. But he also realized that the majority could abuse those not in agreement with them, and so he was one of the first defenders of civil rights in America. Unfortunately, his belief that “all men are created equal” didn’t extend to non-white men, as he was a slave owner all his life. Despite this hypocrisy, his philosophical arguments for freedom put forth in the Declaration were eventually used by others in various human rights movements that extended civil rights farther than they had ever been. Because of his wide ranging influence, Jefferson is certainly one of the most important political philosophers in American history.

2. Henry David Thoreau

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Henry David Thoreau held many occupations during his life — teacher, lecturer, surveyor, naturalist, head of a pencil company (seriously, his family sold pencils) — but he always thought of himself as a writer. He probably began writing poetry while in school at Harvard, but his most influential writings would be his philosophical essays and nonfiction. He is often grouped with Transcendentalism, a religious movement that promoted individualism and believed in the inherent goodness of people.

The subject of individualism is perhaps where Thoreau did his greatest writing. In an essay on civil disobedience, Thoreau argued that individuals have an obligation to determine what is right and what is wrong for themselves — just because society says something is correct doesn’t make it so. This applies both to laws and unwritten mainstream beliefs. He believed it critically important for individuals to think for themselves. Part of what differentiated Thoreau from many other philosophers is that he didn’t prescribe one form of the good life; he believed that each person had to figure it out for themselves. He told people not to emulate him, but to search inside themselves to discover what was important to them. This made him a unique modern philosopher, and one of the most important influences on American thought.

1. William James

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William James made important early contributions to both psychology and physiology. Those two fields were where he focused much of his life, but he always threw in some philosophical analysis and would turn increasingly towards philosophy as he aged. His 1,200 page book The Principles of Psychologylaid much of the groundwork for modern psychology, and greatly influenced both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. But it included not only pure psychology, but also philosophy and personal reflection that influenced many important later philosophers, including Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

James also wrote much about religion from a relativist position, discussing the commonalities of all religions and whether or not religion and science can coexist. He argued against extremism on both sides, coming to conclusions on his own as opposed to always agreeing with one side or the other. Because of the great diversity of subjects that he wrote about, and the ways he mixed them together, William James was one of the most influential thinkers in American history.

Philosophical Differences – In America (of all places)

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Crooks, Cronies, Corruption & Cookie Jars

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9 Sensational, Sorry, Stupid and Sordid Political Scandals

 History is there to remind us…

On October 10, 1973, Spiro Agnew, former Governor of Maryland and current Vice President of the United States, resigned his office following criminal charges.  Agnew’s crimes and subsequent resignation constituted one of the worst political scandals in U.S. history, as he was only the second U.S. vice president to resign and the only one to resign because of crimes.  Just like other people, politicians sometimes do the wrong thing, however when they do, and it becomes public knowledge, a scandal often ensues.  Here 9 such scandals are listed.  For similar stories, please also read the Cracked History articles: 10 US Politicians Who Have Done or Said Racist Things; and10 Famous Politicians and Their Salacious Sex Scandals.  Special thanks to Joe McCarthy, the one-man political scandal, for providing so much material.

Sorting thru the trash…

9. Judge Samuel B. Kent, Sexual Harassment, 2009.

As a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Samuel B. Kent should have known better than to sexually harass someone and then to lie about it.  He was sentenced to 33 months in a federal prison as a result.  Before entering prison, he attempted to retire due to disability but was forced by irate members of the House Judiciary Committee to resign instead so that he would not collect a lifetime pension of 100% of his salary.  In another scam effort to retain his lucrative pension, he then tendered a resignation that would not be effective for another year.  This, however, was rebuffed by the House of Representatives that then voted to impeach him, at which time he finally resigned for good.  He pled guilty to 1 count of obstruction of justice.

8. ABSCAM, Government Bribery Sting, 1978-1980.

ABSCAM was the name of an investigation in the late 70s and early 80s when the FBI ran a sting on politicians by setting up fake Arab oil executives to bribe susceptible government employees and office holders.  Dozens were investigated, and convictions came for 1 US Senator, 6 US Congressmen, the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, a New Jersey State Senator, a Philadelphia councilman and several other civil servants.  Numerous other representatives and senators were also involved, and some of them only narrowly avoided prosecution.

7. The Spiegel Affair (West Germany), 1962.

The Spiegel Affair was a scandal that involved the leading German news and political magazine Der Spiegel and the West German Minister of Defense Franz Strauss.  Spiegel had run stories investigating the possibility of bribery in the Defense Ministry and alluding to West German lack of military preparedness, infuriating Strauss who in turn had the author of an article and the editors arrested.  Police occupied Der Spiegel’soffices, and riots over the arrests which had been conducted without the participation of the Justice Ministry broke out.  This was the first episode of mass public dissent since World War II.  The end result was Der Spiegel-1, Strauss-0, and although Strauss’ political career was damaged, he was neither fired nor prosecuted, as he claimed he thought he was acting legally.

6. Jesse Louis Jackson, Jr., Resignation and Felony Conviction, 2012-2013.

The son of prominent civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, Junior was a congressman who represented Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives when he was accused of fiscal irregularities and the misuse of campaign funds.  He resigned his seat and pled guilty to 1 count of mail and wire fraud and received a 30-month sentence.  He had been a member of Congress since 1995 and even served as the co-chairman of Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign.  When he resigned, he revealed that he had been suffering from clinical depression, bi-polar disorder and abdominal problems (probably a result of being investigated).

5-3. “Tail gunner Joe” McCarthy, Numerous Items, 1947-1957.

Before entering politics, McCarthy had been a tail gunner on an American bomber during World War II and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross.  It was afterwards that he became one of the biggest jerks in U.S. political history.  His time as a US senator from Wisconsin was marred by several shameful episodes, largely having to do with laying false accusations on a number of different people and groups.

First, he angered many fellow veterans by lobbying for the commutation of sentences for the German SS murderers who had massacred US POWs at Malmedy, France in 1944; he had accused the U.S. Army of torturing the defendants and otherwise improper handling of the case but never provided a shred of evidence to support this.

His lack of evidence (basically he kept lying) became his hallmark as he accused government employees and private citizens of being communists (or sympathizers) or homosexuals.

Finally, McCarthy was accused by the U.S. Army of trying to force them to give his friend, a soldier named G. David Shine, special treatment.  Meanwhile, McCarthy was making false accusations about Army personnel being communists or spies.  The back and forth with the Army in Congress was televised, and the desperate McCarthy came across as a nut to Congress and the American public.  In the words of Joseph N. Welch, counsel to the Army, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last…?” He was finally censured by the Senate in 1954 and died (possibly of alcoholism) before he could serve another term.  He continued his anti-communist rants almost to his death.

 Trivia: McCarthy also accused General MacArthur’s enemies of getting President Truman liquored up in order to get MacArthur fired.

2. Vice President Agnew, Various Crimes and Resignation, 1973.

During his second term as vice president, Spiro Agnew was charged with extortion, tax evasion, over $100,000’s worth of bribery and conspiracy for incidents both before and after becoming vice president.  Part of the plea deal was that he resign, which he did.  Members of the press were somewhat smug about Agnew’s downfall as he had been particularly hard and demeaning to them.

1. President Nixon, Watergate and Resignation, 1972-1974.

The grand-prize winner of scandalous politicians, Richard Nixon is the only U.S. president to resign, which he did in 1974 to avoid impeachment and certain conviction.  Nixon’s reelection campaign had burglarized the rooms of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Office Complex in Washington, D.C. prior to the 1972 presidential election, and the burglars were caught.  Investigation eventually led right to President Nixon who had not authorized the burglary but had tried to illegally cover it up.  Members of Nixon’s staff were also implicated and some of them were convicted.

 

 

Crooks, Cronies, Corruption & Cookie Jars

I’m Radioactive! – WABAC to Chernobyl

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Put on your HAZMAT suit Sherman My Boy & let’s head to 1986 Russia.”