Tag Archive: Pseudo-random Wiki-link


Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York Wold-Telegram & Sun Collection, via The Library of Congress and Wikipedia)

Preaching nonviolence, Martin Luther King Jr. was a key figure in the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. His career as a civil rights activist began with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began in response to Claudette Colvin, who refused to give her bus seat up to a white man, and later, Rosa Parks who was arrested for not giving up her seat. His famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech can be recognized by just about any person who hears it as it is one of the most famous speeches by any American ever. His efforts pressured the U.S. government to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed most forms of discrimination against African Americans. As a result, he became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize to date.

After his civil rights victories, Martin Luther King Jr. began to press for worker’s rights. In this efforts, he supported unions and cast a wide net, supporting the rights of white and black workers alike, though his final few days were spent during a rally in Memphis in support of black sanitary workers who were sent home on a day with bad weather, receiving 2 hours of pay, though white workers in the same department were compensated for an entire day. There was a lot of tension in the air and there had been death threats against Reverend King and it was on this day in 1968, that he was assassinated, ostensibly by James Earl Ray, and a good deal of work in the areas of human and workers rights remains to be done.

Wikipedia: Martin Luther King Jr.

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A portion of the cover of Orwell's 1984 by Signet (NetCharles.com)

In George Orwell’s book 1984, the Memory Hole was chute, down which workers at the Ministry of Truth would throw old news articles, books and documents that contained evidence contrary to the current (and frequently changing) position of the Government. Articles, documents and books were rewritten so that the frequently changing positions of the Government had always been true in the eyes of the public. The chute led to an incinerator where old evidence was instantly destroyed.

Today’s widespread use of electronic media creates the very real possibility that if data archives were held by only a small number of individuals, they might be able to edit, revise, or delete documents to suit their interests. The effect would be the same as that of the Memory Hole in 1984: the new prevailing opinions of those individuals would always have been true and the evidence to the contrary could disappear without a trace.

The best defense against such a thing would be to ensure many people hold copies of the same documents on personal hard drives – especially when engaging in “cloud computing” whenever the “cloud” is controlled by a major corporation or the government.

Wikipedia: Memory Hole

Mercury (MESSENGER)

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and it is also the smallest planet in the solar system, now that Pluto has been demoted. Until now, Mercury has been the only major body in the inner solar system that has not been orbited by human spacecraft. As of Thursday, NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging probe, aka MESSENGER, (what an acronym!) successfully entered orbit around the planet, after two flybys of Venus, 3 of Mercury and one of Earth itself. There, it will map the surface and study the environment around Mercury. There are a number of mysteries surrounding the planet, including why it has such a large iron core. There are also a number of questions about strange and bizarre terrain found opposite the planet from a huge 1,550 km-wide impact basin.

Mercury’s next visitors will arrive as part of a joint European Space Agency and Japanese Space Agency project, BepiColombo, that is expected to reach the planet in 2019.

Wikipedia: Mercury

Aerial view of the Red Forest, near Chernobyl, Ukraine, 2007 (Wikipedia)

Formerly called the Wormwood Forest, the region was devastated when Hydrogen gas from the Chernobyl nuclear power planet exploded, releasing radioactive material over a wide region. All of the conifers in the surrounding forest died rapidly and when their needles dried up, their reddish-brown color led to a new name: The Red Forest.

Wildlife returned to the area once humans deserted it, including endangered species. The wildlife has been effected by the radiation as well, leading to a number of mutations in plants especially.

Wikipedia: The Red Forest

Hearst's New York Journal front page giving a biased, pro-war account of the explosion on the U.S.S. Maine (Wikipedia)

By the end of the 19th century, Cuba had long been seen as a potential acquisition for the expanding United States. By the 1860s, Cuba was importing many of their goods from the United States, who purchased most of the sugar that the island produced. Several attempts to purchase the island from Spain were aborted due to shifting political fortunes within the U.S. Large American companies had a significant financial interest in lowering import tariffs on the sugar, while at the same time the mindset of “Manifest Destiny” – the drive to expand the U.S. throughout the Western Hemisphere – was beginning to take hold.

Enter the media. Beginning in the 1890s, William Randolph Hearst, Joseph Pullitzer, and other members of the media began to conjure and over-report ‘attrocities’ that they claimed had been perpetrated by the Spanish Empire, which was now in steep decline. During this time, Hearst’s New York Journal and Pullitzer’s New York World entered into a fight for readership. They began to employ strategies to gain readership that would later be called “Yellow Journalism”. This included publishing morality plays, showing “nudity” (or the closest Victorian equivalent), and sensational political articles about sometimes fabricated scandals.

During the 1890s, Cuba began a struggle for independence against Spain. Hearst and others could see the potential for readership in the headlines. At one point, World correspondent as James Creelman wrote in his log, he sent a message from Cuba to Hearst saying “There will be no war.” Hearst replied, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

Later, the U.S. sent a dreadnought, the U.S.S. Maine to Havana to guard American interests as hostilities broke out there. It sank, likely the result of an internal boiler explosion, but Hearst’s headline was “MAINE EXPLOSION CAUSED BY BOMB OR TORPEDO”. Pullitzer’s Journal screamed, “DESTRUCTION OF THE WAR SHIP MAINE WAS THE WORK OF AN ENEMY” above an illustration of a terrible explosion splitting the ship in two pieces. The headlines helped to begin the Spanish-American War.

Three years later, Ambrose Bierce claimed that Hearst’s reporting led Leon Czolgosz to shoot President McKinley. These claims devastated Hearst’s hopes to become president himself, but he denied it to be the case.

Later, in 1941, Frank Luther Mott gave a description of signs of “Yellow Journalism”:

1. scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
2. lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
3. use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudo-science, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
4. emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
5. dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system.

How many are still in use today?

Wikipedia: Yellow Journalism

Minneapolis Truckers' Strike of 1934 (Minnesota Historical Society)

Minneapolis had been a non-union city because business leaders had kept the unions at bay through the Citizens Alliance, a populist sounding group of business leaders and supportive lackeys who served to enhance the power of millionaire plutocrats – the Tea Party of today. The excesses of industry had bought about the Great Depression and by the time the economy had ebbed to the depths of those in 1934, unions were even gaining strength in Minneapolis. During the month of May that year, over 3,000 truckers began a strike that crippled transport of goods in the hub of Minneapolis. They were led by a local Trotskyist group. Only certain farmers were allowed to transport food into town and the strikers had shut down most markets. At one point in July police shot to kill, taking aim at peaceful picketers and the governor declared martial law. The National Guard raided the strike headquarters but the protesters retook control the next day. By August 14th, the military was shipping goods in and out of town but the strike continued until August 21st, when the union won each of its major demands. After the strike, more unions began to organize in Minneapolis and across the country.
Wikipedia: Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934

"In memoriam -- our civil service as it was", Thomas Nast (Harper's Weekly, 1877. via Wikipedia)

Prior to Andrew Jackson’s presidency, each newly elected president had been rather circumspect regarding the transfer of power from one administration to the next. Andrew Jackson changed that in a big way. An office-seeking horde descended upon Andrew Jackson’s inauguration after Jackson had promised friends, allies and cronies alike positions within his new administration. The new process of appointing people due to political ties rather than competence represented a marked change from the past in the 1830s. This new Jacksonian system, the Spoils System derives from a quote by the Jacksonian Democratic Senator William L. Marcy of New York: “To the victor belong the spoils.” The system remained in place until the 1860s, when the public began to demand an increasingly large number of civil services to be administered by the federal government. The system did not end, however, until the Pendleton Act passed in 1883, however, which established a bipartisan board that would select applicants for work within the government. Later, the Hatch Act of 1939 prevented government employees from taking part in many political activities.

Wikipedia: Spoils System

Bunny! (Wikipedia)

Why bunnies? Because on some days the news is so bad that you just have to try to find a way to smile.

Wikipedia: Bunny

"Miner strikes the owner" (Judge, via Wikipedia)

Bituminous coal miners had gone on strike in 1897 and had won a resounding victory. With success, the unions grew rapidly in size and spread to anthracite coal miners by 1899 and 1900. During that time, owners acquiesced to labor demands rather than impose on Republican William McKinley’s chances in the upcoming election. But in 1902, anthracite coal miners still lacked recognition for their unions and they did not have much say in the decisions that shaped their industry. Unwilling to concede even more, the company bosses refused arbitration and 100,000 United Mine Workers of America, comprising up to 80% of the workers in Pennsylvania, went on strike.

J.P. Morgan, owner of the Reading Railroad (of Monopoly fame) and financial autocrat, played a significant role in the negotiation process after intrigues involving the Federal mediation, the National Guard, Police and spies, but after 163 days, the strike ended with another labor victory. In the end, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed that the government sought to ensure a “Square Deal” (first usage ever) to both sides. The strike was a victory for the workers and help lead to Progressive Era reforms.

Wikipedia: Anthracite Coal Strike

The Supporters (Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press)

As the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen in the United States, the nation risks falling even deeper in to a non-democratic system of governance: Plutocracy. In a plutocracy, wealthy members of society have much more say than everyone else. This system has historically led to a good deal of financial and political instability where ever it has arisen, especially as the population at large becomes increasingly isolated and victimized by its isolation from the political process.

Wikipedia: Plutocracy

1952 Steel Strike (Life)

Born out of a disagreement between Labor and the Steel Industry, the beginnings of the 1952 Steel Strike can be found in 1951. The stakes were quite high when negotiations began to break down between companies such as U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel and the United Steelworkers labor union. The United States was involved in the Korean War and President Truman had been briefed that an interruption of steel production could severely hamper the war effort.

After talks broke off in April, fearing the pending announced strike, President Truman nationalized the steel mills on public television an hour and a half before the strike was to begin. The strike was immediately called off and the steelworkers went to work on the morning the strike had been planned, April 9th, 1952. The steel companies went to court and eventually succeeded when the Supreme Court declared that President Truman had overstepped his authority when he nationalized the factories inYoungstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer at noon on June 2, 1952. The steel companies were returned to their owners that afternoon and the Steelworkers left the factories on strike all on the same day.

Collective bargaining began on June 5th, but by June 17th, defense plants that built tanks and other arms began cutting back to 1/4 time due to a lack of raw materials to continue. Meanwhile, the unions bargained with the steel industry rather than a single company, but it also negotiated in a divide and conquer manner with weaker plants in order to maximize benefit from the workers. By June 23, the strike ended in a victory for the Steelworkers who managed to gain nearly everything they had proposed in the Autumn of 1951.

Wikipedia: 1952 Steel Strike

Eleanor Roosevelt holding the UN Declaration of Human Rights (Wikipedia)

With workers around the world marching for the right to live in democracies and for the right to unionize, it is entirely appropriate to mention that neither of these are new ideas. Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most popular women in the entire world and her work to create the United Nations as well as to craft the UN Declaration of Human Rights played no small role in that matter. Let’s allow the declaration to speak for itself with a few selected pieces:

Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 3
Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.
Article 4
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Article 5
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 22
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Article 23
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Article 26
Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Wikipedia: UN Declaration of Human Rights

Danish Flag

According to Sarah Palin, American is at risk for falling into SOCIALISM! Oh no! Oh the humanity!
Oh if only everyone had the same problems as Denmark….

A Scandinavian-style social welfare state, the nation routinely ranks ahead of the United States in terms of Human Development, Health and Healthcare, Education and Take-home pay (even after their ~55% tax rate!) With such high taxes, you may think that the people are impoverished and miserable. But no – Denmark is routinely considered the Happiest Nation in the World. Of course, that could be due to their 6 weeks of paid vacation per year or due to the fact that low-income groups receive 120% of their pre-retirement incomes for their pensions. This country with few natural resources has invested heavily in its own citizens. As a result, Denmark holds the most Nobel Prizes per capita of any nation. It also has one of the most uniform distributions of wealth in the world, coupled with a standard of living that is higher than that of the U.S. (a seemingly good mix). Yet with all of that social spending, in fact because of it and because everyone is on board, the nation has been able to create a national budget surplus, its unemployment is at an all-time low, and the Great Recession (now long gone) barely left a mark due to a strong regulatory environment in finance. In fact, there is currently a shortage of skilled labor. As you can see, Sarah Palin has been right all along – who in the U.S. would want any of those problems that are the scourge of the Danish state?

Scene from the Epic of Gilgamesh on a rolled wax seal (Montclair State University Classics Dept.)

Beginning around 12,000 – 14,000 B.C.E., animal husbandry had developed in central north Africa. By 9,000 B.C.E., agriculture had matured in Mesopotamia to the point that it allowed the construction of some of the world’s first cities. Agriculture afforded the new city states the luxury of free time. No longer did everyone have to hunt and scavenge for food each day, because there were now reserves of grain that aided people when game was scarce. No longer required to be hunters, many urban dwellers could specialize and they often constructed tools and implements that farmers could use, so there developed a symbiosis between the city and the countryside.

That symbiotic relationship figures heavily in metaphorical form in the Epic of Gilgamesh, where the to key characters (both male) Gilgamesh and Enkidu represented the city (Uruk) and Enkidu the country. The Epic highlights the mutual interdependence of the city with the country by informing the reader that the two characters were surprisingly intimate (shall we say liberal?) for what we may today na├»vely consider the perceived mores of the ancient Middle East. But this metaphor is representative of the founding of urban culture itself – the interdependence of roles in society, despite farmers and urbanites living very different lives.

One of the world’s oldest extant pieces of literature, the oldest cuneiform tablets with early portions of the story date to as far back as 2150 B.C.E., though the oral tradition may be far older. It also describes an account similar to the Biblical flood – though its clay tablets were enscribed before the Bibllical scrolls. Most of all, the Epic of Gilgamesh describes some beliefs and conditions (natural and supernatural) that people enscribed into clay tablets very long ago. It is worth a read simply to find out how people thought and communicated back then and to learn what things in society then are similar to today and what things are different.

Works Progress Administration (vis Wikipedia)

During the deepest depths of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the largest federal agency as part of the New Deal. In its beginnings in 1935, the WPA cost $1.4 billion, growing in size to $11 billion by 1943 (this is equivalent to expenditures of $25.6 billion and $136 billion per year in 2009 dollars). This mammoth undertaking employed 8 million people to construct and revitalize the national infrastructure. WPA construction projects, like CCC projects are everywhere – nearly every city in the country has at least one. The workers in the WPA built bridges, libraries, roads, dams, power plants, post offices, parks, schools, and shelters. Many of these projects are still around and in use today. A large people were also employed to distribute food to the needy, there were education programs, and there was a good deal of investment in the arts, media and community theater. By 1943, the unemployment rate had shrunk to very low levels due to the high demand for labor to build arms and munitions for World War II and the WPA closed its doors after building public infrastructure that later fueled the economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

Wikipedia: Works Progress Administration