Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

The War of 1812

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

So I’m moving on to a War of 1812 documentary (man, I love these History Channel documentaries) as part of my daily exercise regimen (mental exercise, physical exersion) since I want to learn more about James Madison and his wife Dolley (she’s one of my favorite American patriots in history and has been for a long time), who single handedly preserved numerous artefacts of the American Revolution and prevented them from being burned by the British onslaught of Washington. Really. Dig. This. History. Thing.

I also just started reading a recent (September 2006) Biography of Thomas Paine (Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations) by Craig Nelson. Fantastic stuff, Nelson really helps me to understand the man more and the really unfortunate treatment he got – Roosevelt would later call him a “dirty little atheist” despite the fact that he was actually a Freemason (and therefore believed in the Supreme Being) and a deist. People really misunderstood this man and continue to do so, despite the great things he did for the United States. It makes my blood boil, for some reason, at the injustice of it all. I’ve spent a few hours over the last few evenings sitting in Boston, drinking various herbal teas and reading this book – it’s better than watching TV.

Paine’s writings were a battle cry against the British Government, his work directly lead to American Independence, helped the French Revolution against their Monarchy and first coined the term “The United States of America”. But because he also happened to criticise the established Church of the day, he was alienated by those who knew him – a man before his time in many ways. For all his good deads, he died a lonely, hated man whose remains would later be dug up in a stuff-of-fiction late night grave digging and lost to history. He’s the only Founding Father who has no giant statue celebrating his life (excepting the one in Thetford, UK) and I think that’s a truly sad state of affairs. Maybe, once we as a nation finally learn to accept that not everyone has to be overtly supportive of established religion (and that it’s ok to reason about it) then he’ll get his statue.

Part of me wishes they’d taught us American history in school, it’s far more interesting than British Monarchs I could never get excited about (because they’re unelected and I detest that). The history in this part of the United States is just mindblowingly interesting – it’s not all great (and there are many historical compromises that we have come to denounce), but it’s very very interesting stuff.


P.S. I enjoyed reading about The News Of The World Getting Fucked Over. They deserve it – a truly horrible “newspaper” from Murdoch’s empire and I hope they get everything that’s coming to them for tapping phonecalls of the rich and famous (I may not like the Monarchy, but this is unacceptable).

“Former defense secretary”

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

That’s got a nice ring to it. Let’s say it again: “Former defense secretary”. i.e. no longer in office, not able to warmonger, not able to spout off about wars on pointlessness. I loved watching the recorded press conference Bush gave earlier today in which he looked visibly humbled by the election result from yesterday. And I loved watching him cut Rumsfeld. Nobody will miss him.

But I’d rather it hadn’t been Iraq that won the election. I’d rather it had been about education, social reform and programmes, and all that jazz. But if it takes Iraq to help kill off a few Republican seats, then so be it. And they took the Senate too! Woooooo! Let’s hope they don’t waste it (and that impeachment hearings aren’t impossible). Hopefully, Bush is a lame duck.

Isn’t it cool? :-)


War on Republicanism

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Deval Patrick just became the first black governor of Massachusetts (first time for the Dems in 16 years), leaving MA well and truly a Blue state. CNN is also predicting the Democrats will take 16 seats in the House, giving them overall control. This is going to be a really bad day for poor old King George – hopefully it’ll get worse (the Idiot-in-chief has to work with Democrats for the next 803 days), but the full results aren’t in yet.

Interesting news from Missouri. I’m pleased to hear that McCaskill has taken the Senate seat there – especially interesting to hear that most residents are in favor of stem cell research, though there’s not enough data yet to see whether this issue won the seat. However, nationwide, I am dissappointed to hear so many people voting against allowing same sex marriage – hopefully a few more Republican/Religious scandals can help fix that next time around.

Both the BBC and CNN have done a pretty good job tonight, too.


2006 US Mid-term elections today

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

So, I’m waiting with semi-partially baited breath to see if the least worst viable candidate party can take control over the US Congress later on today. I obviously can’t vote but I would encourage US citizens to go out and exercise their democratic right. For me to take sides would obviously be cheap point-scoring and a complete waste of screen real-estate…

(because sanity is a great thing when exercised en masse)


Hanging out in Boston

Friday, July 14th, 2006

So I made it to the United States and am hanging out in Boston/Westford for a couple of days prior to OLS. I was staying close to downtown Cambridge yesterday, but today I’m out in the woods due to the logistical benefit and my lack of driving/car ownership. I’m enjoying my trip so far insomuch as I expected to be busy but also have time to reflect upon the whole relocation thing. And in summary, I expect that my life will become even more hectic, but that I’m going to enjoy it in the longer term (remind me I said that in a year from now), though I do need to find a place that’s near Cambridge if I’m going to avoid 6am introspective blogging such as this.

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and got to my hotel with just enough time to remove plane-smell before going out for the evening. The flight in from IAD was interesting in a “on time departure”, “sitting on the runway for 40 minutes” let’s-all-play-with-statistics kind of way. Anyway, a bumpy ride followed by traffic, trains and a cab soon put that behind me. A half bottle of wine, a few pints and some interesting live music later, and I was feeling much better. I woke up the next day with no real side effects and having had some of the best sleep in a long time. In fact, I should probably tire myself out like that more often. I’m now almost running properly on EST and it’s only been one full day so far. Now I’m looking forward to next week when I’ll probably have virtually no sleep during the entirity of OLS.

In other news, I’ve decided it’s a recurring theme that I always go after the unobtainable. It’s a curse. And anyway, there’s just something about having your beating heart ripped from your chest that makes that worthwhile. I’m quite certain that somebody somewhere would have a whole heck of a lot of psychobabble to describe these situations I get myself into. Anyway, the lesson to be learned here is you can be as smart as you like and yet still understand nothing about the needs of other real-life human beings. I’m adding “distance” and “youthful optimism” to my list of things that piss me off about myself, the world, and everything.


Anti/Pro Americana?

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

Let’s clear this up…

I am not now, nor have I ever been “anti-American” nor necessarily “pro-American” in the way that people would like to think I might be. I have believed for a long time that the US has a very flawed foreign policy, that the Republican party is extremely damaging to the country as a whole, that modern day isolationism doesn’t work and that Canada’s previous Liberal government made a number of much more enlightened decisions than their neighbor (which I expect Harper’s Conservative government to screw up as quickly as possible). I am, however, very much pro the reasons for the founding of the United States and the ideology underpinning the whole thing, I just feel that there are a few bad apples trying to ruin it. But the same is true of most western[ized] countries.

Actually, I’ve been remarkably consistent in my geopolitical views for a long long time (there’s more than one reason for the blue theme on this blog…), it’s just that interpretation will inevitably follow whatever I choose to talk about. If I decide to write about how I think Independence was a good idea then I’ll be accused of being “pro-American” by some people. But if I decide to criticize the Iraq war as an unjustified conflict retrospectively relabled as a liberation excise to calm those with short memories (as I have done many times), then the inverse will be deemed true too by some people. Most people have a mixture of views on different subjects, not always in line with one overall viewpoint or another.


4th July

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Photo: My alter ego, Team America Jon comes to save the day.

So, just in time for Independence Day to be over, my order for large US flags was fulfilled and I became the proud owner of one too many of them. I’ve now got 4 5×3 feet flags, one 3×2 and a giant cotton flag on order that I’ll pick up in the US next week. That’s not counting the original Star Spangled Banner t-shirt I ordered on cafepress over the weekend. Betsy Ross would be proud (and a little disturbed, I’ll reckon). There’s no particularly good reason for this, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. I don’t like to do such things in half measures.

The Declaration of Independence

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security” — Declaration of Independence (backdated July 4th 1776).

Anyway, 230 years ago on Tuesday, 56 brave people signed a declaration that changed the world forever. In case you’re interested, five of them were later caught and died (read: brutally and horribly murdered for treason) at the hands of the British (it’s arguable whether they died specifically for signing it or just because the British didn’t think too kindly of them in a cup-of-tea? let’s all go to war fashion). These weren’t poor men either – amongst them were lawyers, farmers and other men of notable means. They knew their lives would never be the same, but they believed in something. In fact, they believed that they were morally obligated to effect positive change on the world around them because they were in a position to do so. And I think that’s amazing.

What the British did wrong

The full list of charges in the declaration against the British waste-of-time Monarch – George III – included some fantastic farces:

  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

1776 was hardly the finest hour for the British and what’s most annoying to me is that we don’t learn in school about that history. In fact, few people in the UK can be aware of the true extent to which we were utterly evil and reprehensible in our actions (we burned the library of Congress in the War of 1812 too – so the British did know in history how to burn books). For if they did, it might get a little more attention in the media next 4th July. It’s not just an American holiday, it’s a reminder that we in the United Kingdom weren’t always whiter than white either.

And the point is

Learning about the history of the United States (trivia: did you know Texas was an independent nation for only 9 years?) makes me think differently about events that came later – for example the American aid in WWII that helped us out of a real jam. I now understand the isolationist viewpoint of the US in earlier times, though I’m glad the world of today is very much a more connected one. My point? For all the Republican right-wing crap of the modern day United States of America, it’s a great nation that’s done a lot of good in the world too.

In the future, I have no doubt that the United States will address a few of the efforts to undermine democracy in the modern age. Illegal spying and other government interference in due process that goes against all that the Founding Fathers believed in. That declaration of Independence was made 230 years ago this week, I think it’ll still be good in another 230 years – and no, neither this nor the constitution is “just a piece of paper”. No matter how hard Bush and elements of the Republican party try to destroy the values of these historical documents, they’ll still be there.


Update: I just ordered a copy of Common Sense and Rights of Man by Thomas Paine from Amazon. Common Sense is one of the books that kickstarted the American Revolutionary War and describes Britain in no uncertain terms for how it treated its North American colonies in the 18th century. Paine described the “royal brute of Britain” using language that appeals to me. And yes, I’m anti-unelected unrepresentational Monarchy. I think that’s pretty obvious. Monarchy is antiquated crap.