Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The GI Bill: A Curse or a Blessing?

My Grandfather, an 87 year old World War II Veteran has a heart of gold and mind as sharp as a World War II sniper. He's also got an opinion. He and I often debate sports, history and politics. I thoroughly enjoy his input and I cherish every moment of it. When he found out I was blogging about history, he wanted to add his two cents. He's earned it. He's part of "The Greatest Generation". He's put in his time. He's allowed to be crotchety. What would this world be without curmudgeons? And I mean this is in the best possible way.

Please find below his thoughts on the GI Bill, immigration and American laziness.

"I believe The GI Bill (Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944) was the best and worst thing in American history. Before WWII the USA was a country of family oriented God loving people. Who raised their families, feared God and worked hard; something that brought from the hamlets of Europe. Then came the Great War, and to thank them, the good men in Congress passed the GI BILL.

We were able to buy homes at 4% mortgages, go to college based on time served and of the 11 million, many of us jumped. We became educated and educated our children. Then our children started to ask questions. We never wanted that type of depression to affect our own, so we made a relief program.

This was fine if you were educated and lost your job temporarily. This relief came in the form of The 52 --20 club. You could get $ 20.00 for 52 weeks. Many of our “ethnic” took advantage of this. Get a job work for a couple of months. Get laid off and go on relief. With nothing to do they fostered children who followed their fathers. Not everyone did this but enough to cause a problem.

Then the educated ones found fault with Vietnam but having developed a liberal attitude they followed Kennedy and Johnson who escalated the WAR. Protests resulted following the feudal instincts of Europe and are still present in the near and far east. Ours was not as great. Just enough to break down what our ancestors had built up. However, this has started what happened to all great nations; Greed within.

The lackadaisical belief in GOD, THE BREAK DOWN OF FAMILIES. Greed sent our family overseas. We probably have more billionaires than millionaires, and we want more. I fear for my great grandchildren and I pray that GOD will return strong. This will keep our promised land. Unfortunately our existence is being questioned by people who want to change our basic principles and Congress is letting them do it. Take down those signs that show four languages, when you by many products only print instructions in English. Its fine to let people come here but they must speak English.

If you are going to help them, give them 52-20. ONCE. And they can’t bring their families until they themselves are established as tax paying CITIZENS.


GP = Grandpop

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

The 10 Worst Presidents

This week's edition of US News and World Report ranks The 10 Worst Presidents. I like US News and World Report for several reasons. First, because of its conservative slant, it is a great compliment to my Time magazine. I always recommend reading two sides of a story before making any judgement. The second reason is that it has a lot of articles about American history.

If you can get past the ads aimed at our older Americans, America's most conservative thinkers, those that Tom Brokaw calls "Our Greatest Generation", then it is a pretty good magazine. I don't mean to offend "the generation" but I know when I see Ed McMahon promoting a bathtub that opens from the side so that you don't have to step over the edge, there is a possibility that the product is not aimed at me. I think we can agree the magazine has conservative readership.

Now to the business at hand, The 10 Worst Presidents of the United States.

According to USNews, their list is as follows... (worst being at the top)

1. James Buchanan
2. Warren Harding
3. Andrew Johnson
4. Franklin Pierce
5. Millard Fillmore
6. John Tyler
7. U.S. Grant
8. William Harrison
9. Herbert Hoover / Richard Nixon
10. Zachary Taylor

A pretty good list with the usual suspects rearing their ugly heads.

The essence of the article is about whether or not these lists can be viewed as accurate based on the political ideology of the president versus that of the public at that time. Harvard historian, Arthur Schlesinger Sr. believes that what weighed most heavily in determining the worst president was whether they "took the side of the progressivism and reform, as understood in their day." In other words. any president who did not agree with the majority of public opinion during their tenure is most assuredly viewed as a poor president.

George Bush, for example, is already being penciled in as a failure and will undoubtedly join the list when his administration is distinguished.

Many of these presidents are listed in the bottom ten due to inactivity or passiveness in times of American strife or historical challenge.

U.S. Grant (#7) and Warren Harding (#2) turned a blind eye to corruption within their administrations. Herbert Hoover(#9) did nothing to get America out of a depression. James Buchanan, who preceded Lincoln, did not believe there would be a Civil War and his decision not to deal with secession is ranked as the worst presidential mistake of all time.

In ranking the presidents there is a bias towards activism. Those that do, don't make the list. Those that don't, do! Unless the action is misplaced or controversial, like Nixon (tied for #9) and Watergate or Lyndon Johnson, who didn't make the list.

The USNews list is derived from the average of "five major and relatively recent" presidential polls, which spawned a more accurate representation of the least successful presidencies. Because of a tie at #9, there are actually 11 in the list.

To be fair, here is another list from the book Presidential Leadership, which ranks all the presidents. I'll include only the bottom 10.

1. James Buchanan
2. Warren Harding
3. Franklin Pierce
4. Andrew Johnson
5. Millard Fillmore
6. John Tyler
7. Jimmy Carter
8. Zachary Taylor
9. Richard Nixon
10. Herbert Hoover

Jimmy Carter, U.S. Grant and William Harrison are the only presidents who made only one list. That said, I think we can get a pretty good idea that the remaining leaders can be considered, failures.

FYI -- The only three presidents to be considered "Great" according to Presidential Leadership's criteria, are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and FDR. No surprises.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cherokee People?

On February 21, 1828, the first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix was printed, both in English and in the newly invented Cherokee alphabet.

This is especially newsworthy today based on the fact that NPR reported that a federal court hearing has Native Americans arguing against the descendants of African slaves once kept by Cherokee tribal members. The Cherokee Nation has moved to expel the people known as Cherokee Freedmen.

The Freedmen argue that a 140-year-old treaty protects their citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. Which puts the tribal member in a tight spot trying to argue against a long standing treaty.

The Cherokee was always one of the largest and wealthiest of all native american tribes. Many were landowners and owned up to 100 african slaves. It was these slaves who were granted citizenship when there names were included on a federal government list of all Cherokee citizen's called the "Dawes Roll".

The ancestors of these slaves are now arguing that they should be included in the Cherokee nation and are only being excluded because of the color of their skin.

The Cherokee argue that "It's an Indian thing, we do not want non-Indians in the tribe, our Indian blood is what binds us together".

It was after fighting for the losing side in the Civil War that the Cherokees decided to grant their newly freed slaves citizenship in the tribe. The Cherokee Freedmen believe that they helped sustain Cherokee life as much as an 'original' tribe member and deserve to be part of the Cherokee Nation.

I guess the courts will have to decide.


Friday, February 16, 2007

The Spanish-American War

On February 15, 1898, an explosion of unknown origin sank the battleship U.S.S. Maine in the Havana, Cuba harbor, killing 266 of the 354 crew members.

The sinking of the Maine incited United States passions against Spain, eventually leading to a naval blockade of Cuba and a declaration of war.

But was the USS Maine, or was the United States really just looking for an excuse to claim some land?

Let's take a look, shall we.

The USS Maine was sent to Cuba to protect American interests after some riots had broken out in Havana. The ship, one of America's first battleships which cost nearly $2 million dollars, was reportedly blown up by a mine. The first report from the U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry originally didn't blame any single person or country.

Public opnion however began to blame the Spanish military who was occupying Cuba at the time. Diplomatic communications between the US and Spain did not resolve the matter, and thus the United States was at war with Spain by April of 1898. The Spanish-American war had begun. It was the war that made Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders famous. Roosevelt, popular for stomping out the little guy in the interest of expanding American "interests", won one of the war's major battles at San Juan Heights eventually forcing a surrender.

First, lets take a look at the US "interests" in Cuba and determine why we were so concerned about the riots in Havannah.

Long before 1898 America had bought up large tracts of land in Cuba for sugar (azucar en espanol). By 1895 the United States had more than $50 million dollars invested in Cuba. Annual trade with Cuba, mostly in sugar, was worth twice that. Put simply, the United States had a stake $100 million dollars per year in Cuba and sugar.

The United States, wanted to ensure that they could continue to use Cuba to produce sugar and probably weren't that concerned with the well being of the country, but rather the well being of their sugar price.

Despite the fact that President Grover Cleveland signed a proclamation of Neutrality on June 12, 1895, fervor for war grew.

Cuba, still owned by Spain, was placed under martial law in February of 1896 by General Valeriano Weyler of Spain and thus heavily guarded by Spanish troops. Within a month, President Cleveland reversed his neutrality proclamation and stated that he might intervene if Spain did not end the crisis in Cuba.

By this time, March of 1897, President William McKinley had taken office, and he became even more anxious to intervene in the Cuba/Spain conflict, especially since he was criticized by the Spanish Foreign Minister in a letter published in a New York Journal on February 9, of 1898.

After the explosion of the USS Maine on February 15th, the United States moved quickly passing a law on March 9th to allocate $50 million dollars to build up the military.

March 28, it was decided that a mine had blown up the USS Maine. On April 21st, McKinley orders a blockade of Cuba, and four days later the United States Declared War.

Read McKinley's War Message to Congress.

The result of the Spanish-American War was bringing Guam, the Philipines, Cuba and Puerto Rico under US control. As part of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, which ended the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded the Phillipines, Cuba, Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States

It was an age of American Imperialism.

So why did we go to war? Was it because of the USS Maine? Was it to protect our "interest" in sugar? Did McKinley declare war to disprove a foreign naysayer? .

Around the same time, Hawaii was also annexed for sugar. Guam, on the other hand served as a pit-stop or waystation for American ships going to the Phillipines. The Phillipines opened the door for the United States in the Pacific. Imperialism was upon us. And the imperialistic ideals would continue when Spanish-American War hero Theodore Roosevelt would succeed McKinley as our next president.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Losing Trust in the American Government.. is nothing new.

If you've lost trust in the Government from Watergate and beyond, then you've been misinformed of the ills of our Government from the many years before that. Not unlike 'democratic' Governments of Ancient Greece and Rome, our United States government has not earned the trust of the American people from day one.

Let's begin with the original writing of the Constitution. The original constitution left a lot to be desired as far as human rights were concerned. The main articles of the constitution did a good job explaining the legislative process but didn't quite complete the job with the inclusion of the rights of the people.

The 'Elastic Clause' as it has come to be named, leaves an open door for the Legislative Branch to do whatever they'd like as long as the deem it 'necessary and proper'. Which is a phrase, much like the rest of the Constitution, that is ambiguous and can be interpreted many different ways.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18, states:

"The Congress shall have the Power... ...To make all laws which shall be
necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all
other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States,
or in any Department or Office thereof."

In other words, if it is NOT written in the constitution, then congress can decide what should be written there if they consider "necessary and proper" for that given moment. Put frankly, it left the door open for them to fill in the blanks.

The second way our original Constitution was not to be trusted was with the absence of our individual rights. The constitution gave plenty of rights to the government, namely the Congress, the Courts and the Executive Branch, but didn't list ANY right of the citizens. Many states would not ratify the constitution for this reason. The authors of the famous Federalist Papers were in favor of this 'big government' and were persuading the public to support the new Constitution.

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, just might be the first politicians to try and pull the wool over our heads. Their Federalist Papers tried to convince t he public to ratify the Constitution, as is. But many anti-federalists demanded that individual rights be included in the new constitution, and they were.

Thus, the first 10 Amendments, or changes were made to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights serve as a reminder that the Government can't get away with everything. Had nobody fought for our rights in the 1787 and 1788, when the Constitution was being debated, then our world would be entirely different.

Thank you Thomas Paine!

The list of Government mistrust goes on and on. We could talk about Andrew Jackson and his spoils system, the Election of 1824, the corrupt Presidencies of U.S. Grant and James Garfield, or any politician during the Gilded Age. But I think the strongest argument can be said for the precedent set by the Constitution and its original inability to provide for the common good of all men.

PS. Despite my accusations of the authors of the Federalist Papers, I think the views of all the founding fathers were instrumental in creating our great democracy. Incidentally, Alexander Hamilton is one of my favorite 'fathers' for his efforts with the banking system and the economy.