Medal of Honor Citations

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Some fascinating stories if you take the time to browse through a few. The one below is from WWI.

CALL, DONALD M.

Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, 344th Battalion, Tank Corps. Place and date: Near Varennes, France, 26 September 1918. Entered service at: France. Born: 29 November 1892, New York, N.Y. G.O. No.: 13, W.D., 1919. Citation: During an operation against enemy machinegun nests west of Varennes, Cpl. Call was in a tank with an officer when half of the turret was knocked off by a direct artillery hit. Choked by gas from the high-explosive shell, he left the tank and took cover in a shellhole 30 yards away. Seeing that the officer did not follow, and thinking that he might be alive, Cpl. Call returned to the tank under intense machinegun and shell fire and carried the officer over a mile under machinegun and sniper fire to safety.

Worst President Ever?

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Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties — Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush — have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures — an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

Chips down, Bush prepares a Hail Mary bet

Very well written article about Bush’s crumbling presidency.

Now, here he is, sitting right next to all the other countries at the Big Table, representing America, it’s little Dubya Bush, stewing in his own juices, his poll numbers hovering right near Nixon levels, mumbling to himself, smelling vaguely of sawdust and horse manure and dead Social Security overhaul plans.

He is pockmarked by scandal, buffeted by storms of disapproval and infighting and nascent impeachment. He authorized the leak of classified security information merely to smear an Iraq war critic, he lied about WMD and lied about Saddam and lied about making the United States safer and lied about, well, just about everything, on top of launching the worst and most violent and most expensive, unwinnable war since Vietnam.

His pile of betting capital is down to a tiny lump, nothing like back when he had the table rigged and all the pit bosses worked for him and the pile was as big as a roomful of Texas cow pies. But now, fortune is frowning. In fact, fortune is white-hot furious at being so viciously molested, spit upon, raped lo these many years. The truth is coming out: Bush has now lost far, far more bets than he ever won.

What’s to be done? Why, do what any grumbling, furious, confused, underqualified alcoholic gambler does: reach down deep and say, “To hell with the nation and to hell with the odds and to hell with the rest of the planet,” and pull out one more desperate, crumpled war from deep in your pants, slap it on the table and hear the world moan.

But this time, try to make it serious. Do not rule out the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Do not rule out another massive air strike, ground troops, special forces, a strategy so intense it makes Iraq look like a jog in the park. Think of yourself as creating a masterful legacy, going down in history as the guy who “saved” the world from Iran’s nukes while protecting American oil interests. Yes? Can you smell the oily sanctimony in the air? Is God speaking to you again, telling you to damn the torpedoes and kill more Muslims? You are the chosen one, after all.

(via Daily Kos)

Daily Dose of Ingersoll

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The doctrine of eternal punishment is in perfect harmony with the savagery of the men who made the orthodox creeds. It is in harmony with torture, with flaying alive, and with burnings. The men who burned their fellow-men for a moment, believed that God would burn his enemies forever.

— Robert Green Ingersoll, “Crumbling Creeds”

The Future of Journalism as Told by Hilaire Belloc in 1918

An interesting NY Times piece on the “blogs” of the earliest twentieth century England:

The free press that Belloc describes was a horde of small, highly opinionated, sometimes propagandistic papers that arose in reaction to “the official Press of Capitalism.” What characterized the free press, Belloc wrote, was “disparate particularism.”

As he says, “the Free Press gives you the truth; but only in disjointed sections, for it is disparate and it is particularist.” (For “particularism,” Belloc offers the synonym “crankiness.”) To get at the truth by reading the organs of the free press, you have to “add it all up and cancel out one exaggerated statement against another.” But his point is that you can get at the truth.

There are whole paragraphs in Belloc’s essay where, if you substitute “blogs” for “the Free Press,” you will be struck by the parallels. He notes that the journals of the free press seldom pay their way and that they often suffer from the impediment of “imperfect information,” simply because it is not in the politicians’ interests to speak to them. They tend to preach to the converted. And they are limited by the founder’s vision. “It is difficult,” Belloc writes, “to see how any of the papers I have named would long survive a loss of their present editorship.”

Belloc’s point is not to expose the limitations of bloggers — excuse me, the Free Press. It is to show how, imperfect as they are, they can contribute enormously to our ability to learn what’s going on. Anyone who spends much time reading political blogs will hear a familiar note — in far greater prose — among Belloc’s certainties. He writes, in short, as a blogger of his own time.

Project Gutenberg has “The Free Press” as a free download.

The Armenian Genocide

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Wikipedia’s entry:

May 25, 1915 – by orders from Talat Pasha (Minister of the Interior) for the forced evacuation of hundreds of thousands – possibly over a million – Armenians from across all of Anatolia (except parts of the western coast) to Mesopotamia and what is today Syria. Many went to the Syrian town of Dayr az Zawr and the surrounding desert. The fact that the Turkish government ordered the evacuation of ethnic Armenians at this time is not in dispute. It is claimed, based on a good deal of anecdotal evidence, that the Ottoman government did not provide any facilities to care for the Armenians during their evacuation, nor when they arrived. The Ottoman troops escorting the Armenians have been implicated in not only allowing others to rob, kill and rape the Armenians, but often participated in these activities themselves. In any event, the foreseeable consequence of the government’s decision to move the Armenians led to a significant number of deaths.

It is believed that twenty-five major concentration camps existed,[1] under the command of Şükrü Kaya, one of the right hands of Talat Pasha.

The majority of the camps were situated near what are now the Iraqi and Syrian frontiers, and some were only temporary transit camps.[2] Others are said to have been used only as temporary mass burial zones—such as Radjo, Katma, and Azaz—that were closed in Fall 1915.[3] Some authors also maintain that the camps Lale, Tefridje, Dipsi, Del-El, and Ra’s al-‘Ain were built specifically for those who had a life expectancy of a few days.[4] Like in the cases of the Jewish KAPOs in the concentration camps, the majority of the guards inside the camps were Armenians.[5]

Even though nearly all the camps, including all the major ones, were open air, the rest of the mass killings in other minor camps, was not limited to direct killings; but also to mass burning,[6] poisoning[7] and drowning.[8]

More on the genocide at the Armenian National Institute.

PBS recently aired a documentary on the Armenian Genocide which some stations, such as Boston’s WGBH, refused to air.

Andrew Goldberg realized how powerful a word could be — particularly a powerful word like ”genocide” — when he got a call, several years ago, from a PBS station in Fresno, Calif. A studio full of Armenians, answering phones for a pledge drive, had been watching his 2001 film ”The Armenians: A Story of Survival.” When a Turkish scholar acknowledged that his country’s massacre of Armenians was genocide, the room burst into applause.
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For decades, the Turkish government has resisted the ”genocide” label for the events of 1915-1918, insisting that the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians were part of a civil war. Turkey has lobbied vigorously to keep the US government from declaring the killings a genocide. The New York Times only officially added ”Armenian genocide” to its stylebook in 2004. The Globe, before 2003, would only use the term ”genocide” in direct quotations when referring to the Armenian genocide.

So it is significant that Goldberg’s latest documentary, which airs tonight at 10 on Channel 2, is called ”The Armenian Genocide” — no equivocation, no hint of doubt. And, in a sense, it’s surprising that PBS decided to air the film, title and all. ”I shopped it at multiple cable networks,” Goldberg said. ”Nobody would touch this thing.”

PBS, he said, ”never wavered. They were strong. I really appreciated that.”

Critics have accused PBS of squandering that good will by commissioning a companion piece: a half-hour panel discussion that includes Turkish scholars who deny that a genocide took place. Armenian-Americans and their allies say the forum gives voice to an untenable point of view; some have compared it to following a World War II film with a panel stocked with Holocaust deniers. Several major PBS stations, including Boston’s WGBH, have chosen not to air it.