Monday, February 27, 2006

The Real Legacy of Ronald Reagan

The Real Legacy of Ronald Reagan. Essay asserting Reagan did not serve the interests of the majority of the people, and in fact impacted the country and the world in some very negative and even devastating ways.

I have not posted any articles negative on recent Presidents lately. I do not really want this blog to be political. I am more interested in history instead. However, I thought this anti-Reagan rant was interesting in how one-sided it presents facts. Every possible negative version of an event has been included while ignoring any more favorable interpretation.

It also just seems to get some stuff wrong. For example, here is comment on Reagan's handling of the Air Traffic Controllers Strike:

But one of the worst thing she did was wage war on the labor force, and particularly on labor unions. This began when Reagan fired and replaced 13,000 air traffic controllers in 1981 after they staged a work stoppage to bring attention to their plight. He abused his power to break their union.

Well, as the air traffic controllers were federal employees, they broke the law by going on strike in the first place. And in the process, they endangered the lives of everyone who used a plane to travel. Reagan really had no choice but to stop the strike. That hardly is an abuse of presidential power.

Another interesting (but flawed) claim:

Another myth is that Reagan won the Cold War. Reaganites erroneously claim that Reagan's Star Wars Initiative, his tough rhetoric in his (Soviet) "Evil Empire" speech, and his costly defense buildup in particular were all part of a successful strategy to defeat communism and win the Cold War. Not true.

Maybe Reagan did not win the Cold War alone, but it is very hard to deny that he had a role in the fall of the Soviet Union. Even if you want to deny this, the evidence cited by the author is not significant enough to draw this conclusion which is at odds with most historians.

Anyway, this essay is part of a bigger site called "Real Prophecy Revealed." If that sounds good to you, check out the whole site. Maybe the rest of the content is more balanced and less politically skewed.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

And Ulysses S. Grant helped preserve our young nation’s very existence by vanquishing the Confederacy while drinking enough whiskey to...

While doing some research on President Grant yesterday, I came across this quote from Modern Drunkard Magazine:

And Ulysses S. Grant helped preserve our young nation’s very existence by vanquishing the Confederacy while drinking enough whiskey to flood the Potomac.

I knew that Grant had a drinking problem. However, was he really that much of a drunk during the Civil War?

The same magazine also noted this:

A perpetually loaded General Ulysses S. Grant saves the Union from destruction. President Lincoln, when informed that General Grant preferred to guzzle whiskey while leading the troops, replies, "Find out the name of the brand so I can give it to my other generals."

I realize that Modern Drunkard Magazine is not a good source for accurate facts but can anyone recommend any good sources for Grant and his drinking during the Civil War? A quick search at the library here turned up very little.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

ERIC Digests on the American Presidency

ERIC Digests on the American Presidency. ERIC Digests are short reports (1,000 - 1,500 words) on topics of prime current interest in education. There are a large variety of topics covered including teaching, learning, libraries, charter schools, special education, higher education, home schooling, and many more.

The ERIC Clearinghouse System was eliminated in 2003 by the US Federal Government. However, before it went away, it produced several ERIC Digest relating to the American presidency.

These include:

Teaching about the U.S. Presidency - Many consider the U.S. presidency to be the most powerful office in the world. What are its constitutional foundations? How has the role of the chief executive changed through the years? What World Wide Web resources are available for teaching about the U.S. presidency?

The Election of 1800: Teaching about a Critical Moment in the History of American Constitutional Democracy - This Digest connects the election of 1800 to the social studies curriculum, summarizes core content on this key event in American history, proposes the use of historic documents by teachers and students, and recommends World Wide Web sites as sources of documents and related information.

Teaching about George Washington - Do most students understand the importance of George Washington as a military and political leader during a time that demanded extraordinary leadership? The bicentennial of Washington's death in 1999 is an appropriate time to reflect upon his role and place in the school curriculum.

Teaching about Presidential Elections - This ERIC Digest describes legal and extralegal requirements and traditions of presidential elections, processes by which people seek and gain the office of president, and resources for teaching about presidential elections.

Teaching about the Louisiana Purchase - This Digest discusses (1) President Jefferson's decision to purchase the Louisiana Territory, (2) the significant consequences of this decision in American history, and (3) methods of teaching about the Louisiana Purchase.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Click2History: Political Cartoons of American Presidents

Click2History: Political Cartoons of American Presidents . Happy President's Day! I hope everyone finds a small way to honor the past American Presidents today.

The blogged site of the day features Herb Block's caricatures from a Library of Congress collection in a virtual tour to examine spoofs on several presidential administrations. It also includes links to primary sources.

Making fun of the President seems to be a time honored American tradition on President's Day and through the whole year.

From the site:

People say “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But when it comes to politics, it’s probably more accurate to say a picture is better than any words.

Political cartoons have jabbed at national leaders for hundreds of years. Using presidential phrases like “I am not a crook” or “I did not have sex with that woman,” cartoonists ridicule the obvious disparities between words and conduct. Each cartoon implicitly asks its subject, “How stupid do you really think the public is?!”

Some of the most famous political cartoons are maintained by national archives. Let’s take a look at the best of Herb Block as profiled by the Library of Congress.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Great Romances - The Trumans

Great Romances - The Trumans. I know I am a few days late for Valentine's Day but I enjoyed reading this and thought I would highlight it anyway.

This is a nice article on the relationship between President Truma and his wife Bess. It started in Sunday School at the age of six...

From the site:

He first saw her in Sunday school when he was six years old and she was just five. "She had golden curls and beautiful blue eyes," he recalled. They graduated from high school together in 1901, but went their separate ways -- he moved to Kansas City and she to Colorado for a year -- until becoming reacquainted nine years later. It was then that Truman, who once wrote of Bess, "I thought she was the most beautiful and the sweetest person on earth," began his first and longest campaign -- to win the heart of Bess Wallace.

Bess lived in her family home in Independence, Missouri. Harry was a hard-working farmer from Grandview, twenty miles away. So he courted her, in part, by mail. Their correspondence would continue for nearly fifty years -- an exciting ride through nine years of courtship, fifty-three years of marriage, family, career changes, and political fortunes that thrust them to the very center of the world stage. More than 1300 letters from Harry to Bess Truman survive in the Truman Library collections.

Sadly, most of her letters to him have been lost to history. After showering Bess with attention and letters for more than a year, Harry proposed to her in 1911, but she turned him down. He persisted, and eventually she fell in love with him. He had a standing invitation to dinner at the Wallace home on Sundays, often sleeping across the street, afterwards, on the floor of his cousins' house because travel between Grandview and Independence was arduous. To win her favor -- she was from a wealthy family -- and better his prospects, he entered into a series of business ventures -- mining, drilling for oil, and other speculations -- most ending in disappointment. Although he also served as Grandview postmaster and as a county road overseer, his future remained uncertain

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

We'll Sing to Abe Our Songs

We'll Sing to Abe Our Songs. Sheet music about Lincoln, Emancipation and the Civil War from the American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress.

From the site:

"We'll Sing to Abe Our Song!": Sheet Music about Lincoln, Emancipation, and the Civil War from the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana includes more than two hundred sheet-music compositions that represent Lincoln and the war as reflected in popular music. The collection spans the years from Lincoln's presidential campaign in 1859 through the centenary of Lincoln's birth in 1909. This music was compiled by Alfred Whital Stern (1881-1960), who is considered the greatest private collector of materials relating to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Stern presented his collection to the Library in 1953 and it continues to grow through an endowment established by his family. Today, the Alfred Whital Stern Collection comprises more than eleven thousand books, pamphlets, manuscripts, prints, and posters, as well as a variety of ephemera. This project is being supported by a generous gift from Donald G. Jones, Terri L. Jones, and The Jones Family Foundation.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Second Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Second Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt. This is the text of this speech given by FDR on January 20th, 1937. This is the first time that the Inauguration of a President was done in January rather than March.

From the site:

When four years ago we met to inaugurate a President, the Republic, single-minded in anxiety, stood in spirit here. We dedicated ourselves to the fulfillment of a vision--to speed the time when there would be for all the people that security and peace essential to the pursuit of happiness. We of the Republic pledged ourselves to drive from the temple of our ancient faith those who had profaned it; to end by action, tireless and unafraid, the stagnation and despair of that day. We did those first things first.

Our covenant with ourselves did not stop there. Instinctively we recognized a deeper need--the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization. Repeated attempts at their solution without the aid of government had left us baffled and bewildered. For, without that aid, we had been unable to create those moral controls over the services of science which are necessary to make science a useful servant instead of a ruthless master of mankind. To do this we knew that we must find practical controls over blind economic forces and blindly selfish men.

We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable. We would not admit that we could not find a way to master economic epidemics just as, after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we had found a way to master epidemics of disease. We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

If We Want to Rein in the Imperial Presidency We Have to Grade Presidents Differently

If We Want to Rein in the Imperial Presidency We Have to Grade Presidents Differently. Laura M. Brown wrote this interesting essay on strong American presidents. She writes that, "If we want presidents to respect separation of powers and defer to Congress, then we need to reconsider our definitions of presidential leadership and greatness." She notes that strong presidents in the past like Lincoln and FDR are treated favorably by historians. Hence, she contends that the current and future presidents may also mimic these well regarded strong presidents so that they may also be treated well by future historians.

Of course, her argument is stronger and more elaborate than this. Please read the whole article. However, I think I have at least given a decent summary here.

I am not sure how much of this actually impacts presidents. Yes, they all want history to look back on them in a favorable manner. But, how many men (or women) who have personalities that will allow them to commit "extra-constitutional actions" are going to actually alter their behavior because historians may decide to downgrade them later? I think the personality of individuals who become strong presidents are mostly immune to the media and historical critics.

Despite my above comment, I think this is an interesting and though provoking essay.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

President Zachary Taylor and the Laboratory: Presidential Visit from the Grave

President Zachary Taylor and the Laboratory: Presidential Visit from the Grave. This is a brief but interesting account of how President Taylor was exumed in 1991 to determine if his death was due to poisoning. However, testing proved that the President had not been murdered.

From the site:

Shortly after breaking ground for the Washington Monument on July 4, 1850, President Zachary Taylor, a hero of the Mexican War, fell ill. When he died suddenly a few days later, the cause was listed as gastroenteritis--inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

Some historians suspected that Taylor's death may have had other causes, and in 1991 one convinced Taylor's descendants that the president might have suffered arsenic poisoning. As a result, Taylor's remains were exhumed from a cemetery in Louisville and Kentucky's medical examiner brought samples of hair and fingernail tissue to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for study.

In the Chemical and Analytical Sciences Division, Larry Robinson and Frank Dyer headed the Taylor investigation, using neutron activation analysis to measure the amount of arsenic in the hair and nail samples. After placing the samples in a beam of neutrons from the High Flux Isotope Reactor, Dyer and Robinson looked at the gamma rays coming from the samples for the distinctive energy levels associated with the presence of arsenic. Arsenic is among the easier elements to identify through neutron activation and can be detected in a few parts per million. Most human bodies contain traces of arsenic, so the essential issue in the Taylor case was whether the samples from Taylor contained more arsenic than would be normal after 141 years in the crypt.

Working late in the evenings, Dyer and Robinson in a few days calculated the arsenic levels in the samples and sent them to the Kentucky medical examiner for his decision. After reviewing the test results, the examiner announced that the arsenic levels in the samples were several hundred times less than they would have been if the president had been poisoned with arsenic.

This finding acquitted several of Taylor's prominent contemporaries of the suspicion of murder and proved that history and science share a common quest for truth.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Flashback: The 70th Anniversary of FDR's Fireside Chats

Flashback: The 70th Anniversary of FDR's Fireside Chats. This is an article discussing FDR's famous Fireside Chats by Diana Mankowski and Raissa Jose. It also provides audio access to all 31 of the chats.

From the site:

In the midst of the Great Depression, America in 1933 was suffering. One-third of its work force was unemployed, every bank had been closed for eight days, and the public was barely surviving through a combination of barter and credit.

On Sunday evening, March 12, a troubled nation sat down by its radio sets to listen to their president. With his calm and reassuring voice, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt explained how the nation was going to recover from the current banking crisis.

That evening marked the beginning of FDR's historic Fireside Chats, thirty-one radio addresses that covered issues like the renewed Depression and America's role in World War II. In his Fireside Chats, Roosevelt shared his hopes and plans for the nation and invited the American people to "tell me your troubles."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

2006 State of the Union Address

2006 State of the Union Address. Go to this site to find the text of the State of the Union Address for 2006 by President Bush.

On the whole, I liked the speech. Much of it was predictable but Bush is good at delivering speeches. (As well he should be by now!) The ceremony at the beginning of every State of the Union is always fun to watch. The transcripts of SOTU's though never pick that up.

From the site:

Thank you all. Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, members of the Supreme Court and diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens: Today our nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream. Tonight we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King. (Applause.)

Every time I'm invited to this rostrum, I'm humbled by the privilege, and mindful of the history we've seen together. We have gathered under this Capitol dome in moments of national mourning and national achievement. We have served America through one of the most consequential periods of our history -- and it has been my honor to serve with you.

In a system of two parties, two chambers, and two elected branches, there will always be differences and debate. But even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of goodwill and respect for one another -- and I will do my part. Tonight the state of our Union is strong -- and together we will make it stronger. (Applause.)