Tag: History for Kossacks


Some diseases are worth bragging about – how many times, after all, have we heard Denny Crane blame something or another on his Mad Cow, or seen Peter Griffin utilize a bizarre ailment to justify even more bizarrely cartoonish behavior?  In non-tropical circles, certain maladies are conversation stoppers; it’s tough not to ask a follow-up question when someone tells you she was once afflicted with break-bone fever, nor to listen without morbid curiosity to someone telling a story of having a brush with African sleeping sickness.

There are other diagnoses, though, that we tend to keep to ourselves – and some these might be appropriate for an historiorant coming the week after many a misspent New Year’s Eve.  Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight we’ll take a look at the odd story of one such affliction-that-must-not-be-named.  Ladies and gentlemen, an STD that’s changed world history… Syphilis!

Project Acoustic Kitty

The kids in my classroom don’t remember the Cold War, most of them having been born after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  The only enemy they’ve ever known are a few tens of thousands of religious fanatics; they don’t remember the days when entire nation-states aimed nuclear missiles at one another in pursuit of foreign policy goals that extended past the 24-hour news cycle.  This makes it hard to explain that the threat posed by the Soviet bloc was the type that could cause a country to do some pretty extreme things to “protect” itself – not that it rose to the sort of “terrorists made me do it” waterboarding that we see today, but back in the heady days of the Iron Curtain, for example, the thought of surgically implanting a live cat with eavesdropping equipment wasn’t considered outside the realm of ethical behavior.

Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight we’ll take a short romp through the CIA’s litter box of secrets.  Among the “presents” we’ll unearth:  a Frankensteinish feline, paranoia-induced stupidity not equaled until recent times, and $20 million turd of an idea.

Right-Wing War on Christmas Vets: Why They Fight

Among the mouth-breathingest of mouth-breathing Republicans, it’s a well-known fact that every November or so, we libruls gather in our covens and plot the paganization of Christmas.  In theirLeft Behind-style fantasies, we are the legions of Satan, come upon the Earth to foist secular ideas and Godless traditions upon the flock of the Lamb.  They claim that only the Bible stands in defense of the faithful against the pernicious attacks of the heathen First Amendment, and that we will not be satisfied until we have, Egyptian-like, eradicated every trace of monotheism from our once-God-fearing civilization.  Each year, the scarred veterans of the (self-)Right(eous) stir their zealots to action, and in public squares and mangers throughout the land, battles over the soul of American culture are waged.  

As in all wars, sometimes an enemy’s gallantry on the field of battle impresses even a bitter foe – Napoleon, remarking on the Russian cavalry then crashing into his lines, said “Now these are Kossacks!” – and it’s in this spirit that Brandon Friedman suggested we take a moment to cite the valor of our opposition.  Others (links below) have done a great job “honoring” individual wingnut actions – now join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where we’ll take a look at what, exactly, they’re fighting for.

A Pharaohship to Forget

He thought he knew better than his people; thought he could, through sheer force of will, change a public mindset centuries in the making.  He was an iconoclast (literally) 2000 years before the term would be coined by medieval Byzantines, but within a couple of decades after his rule, the enemies he’d created had obliterated nearly every trace of his reign, as well as the monotheistic religion he had promulgated as a state faith.  A victim of an histoicide of staggering proportions, his name was virtually excised from the public record, his monuments altered and defaced, and he was forgotten for almost three millennia.

Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight we’ll take a look at the sort of thing that would cause a civilization to try to erase one of its own leaders from history.  With all the talk of Romney’s misunderstanding of the nature of freedom and religion in America, not to mention the ongoing historical embarrassment that is the Bush Administration, it only seems appropriate.  It’s not meant, however, to assert that either the clearly-megalomaniacal President, or his would-be successor is the mental or spiritual equal of the thoroughly remarkable “heretic pharaoh” Amenhotep IV, who called himself “Akhenaton” and whom history sometimes terms the world’s “first individual.”

Starting a Great War

Historical analogies that rely for strength upon generally-held assumptions – often exemplified by a folksy appeal to authority in the form of the phrase, “they say” – carry with them both advantage and disadvantage.  The recognition of human nature (“power tends to corrupt…”) does make for convenient shorthand, but as with all generalizations, these little chestnuts also run the risk of imprecision when the discussion goes beyond the super-broad.  “They” say, for example, that those who fail to learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them, which for an historioranter raises a few interesting questions: What if the circumstances of the times have few, if any, precedent?  What if leaders of narrow vision had at their disposal technology that could kill on a scale that had theretofore been unimaginable?  What if ideology replaced common sense as a guiding political force?

Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight we’ll look at the origins of the last war to be called “Great.”  Along the way, we’ll encounter nations which based policy around the concept of their peoples’ historical destiny, some guys with great facial hair, and analogies that may fall apart on the micro scale, but get damn scary when looked at through a wider-angle lens.

Vice Presidential Treason, 1807-style

“There! You see?  I was right!  I was only thirty years too soon.  What was treason in me thirty years ago, is patriotism now.”

                — Aaron Burr, upon hearing of the Texas Revolt, 1836

Perhaps someday, if the neocon plan works out and America does manage to establish itself as the master of a global hegemony of subject nations and enslaved peoples, the 9% of our fellow citizens who don’t think Dick Cheney sucks will be able to point to some future event and try to use it to vindicate not impeaching the current veep now – but I rather doubt it.  History is not kind to fools and poor leaders – and only occasionally rewards the schemers and the scammers – yet it has always been notoriously difficult to pry such men from perches of power, since the people with the ability to do so often lack the chutzpah of their intended target.  

Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight we’ll meet a veep whose poor decision-making skills (and chutzpah) may have actually eclipsed those of Fourthbranch.  We’ll also contemplate the scary truth that it wasn’t until after he’d left office that our first Treasonous Veep engaged in his zaniest schemes of usurpation.


Part One of a collaborative two-diary, cross-curricular series – look for pico‘s diary on Gilgamesh in Tuesday’s Literature for Kossacks.

One of the moonbatisms that least endears me to the faculty of my school’s Language Arts department is my relatively frequent assertion that all English teachers are, in fact, wannabe Social Studies teachers.  It’s really only a joke – in truth, I recognize that the one can hardly exist without the other.  Without history, literature has no context; without storytelling, history becomes a dry pile of dates, names, and un-understood, colorless societies.

Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight your resident historiorantologist will attempt to avoid the latter fate in setting the stage for pico‘s upcoming piece on that Sumerian par excellance, Gilgamesh the Wrestler.  Our tale begins, appropriately enough, at the very dawn of civilization itself…

Il Congresstrati

From the 16th century to the dawn of the 20th, a special choir sang at the pontiff’s pleasure, grown men with the voices of angels and the range of female sopranos.  There was a simple reason for their abilities: each had had his gonads surgically removed prior to achieving puberty.

I don’t know why, but the other day, while pondering the castrati (It., “castrated ones”), I started thinking about the 110th Congress.  Could it be, I wondered, that we are witnessing the political equivalent of a choir of the ball-less pandering to the whims of a theological autocrat? 

Naw, I thought, not our Dems – our guys are descended from the tradition of FDR and “The Buck Stops Here” Harry!  We have a heritage of Massive Brass – New Deals and Great Societies that had to be shoved down the throats of backward-looking Republicans.  There’s no way that folks of such stock could ever be compared to emasculated servants performing at the whim of a king, nor to the haunting voice of the very last castrati, the only one whose voice was ever recorded.

Or could they?

When Mercenary Armies Go Crazy

One of the things that always troubled me about the application of the term “Machiavellian” to the zany antics of the Bush misadministration is the extent to which Rovian Math – and even Cheneyian Cloak & Daggerism – ignores the master manipulator’s precepts.  Indeed, like a conservative Christian who cherry-picks Leviticus, the architects of the failed philosophy of neoconservatism ignored some of the Prince’s very clear warnings about things like rulers relying on hired soldiers to look out for their interests – and look at the quagmire of black water it’s gotten us into.

Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight we’ll look into another occasion in which the use of mercenaries has bitten an empire in the ass.  As usual, we Americans are by no means the first to experience the sort of happening-since-at-least-the-time-of-Rome setback that so shocks (shocks!) the neocons every time one of them so predictably comes to pass.

When Kings Go Crazy

Hey, it happens.  History is replete with stories where the good guys don’t win in the end, where horrific acts go unavenged and unpunished, where leaders of nations descend into madness, dragging their countrymen down with them.  At many various times and in many various places, peoples have found themselves saddled with rule by psychopaths, paranoids, and delusional megalomaniacs of all stripes – and simply being alive now, in the “modern” age, is no guarantee that it can’t, won’t, or hasn’t happened again.

Far be it from me to try to psychoanalyze any contemporary political figures, but it recently occurred to your resident historiorantologist that, given the proverbial insanity of American policymaking over the past few years, a look at a couple of the less-balanced monarchs who have walked the tightrope of power in the past might be in order.  Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight the tortuous paths of logic will take us from Rome to a fairy-tale castle in the Bavarian Alps…with absolutely no implied connection to anything happening in Washington today.  😉

Strikes & Boycotts, Historically Speaking

Throughout the long ages, the proponents of societal reform have traditionally found themselves with the fuzzy end of the lollipop when it came to battling the entrenched Powers That Be’d, at least in terms of military strength.  In dozens of eras and in hundreds of contexts, however, those who would change society have learned that the force of numbers is where the power of the people lies, and from this they derived and perfected several ways of exerting considerable (sometimes government-changing) pressure upon the oligarchs, tyrants, and unprincipled politicians of their day.

Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight your resident historiorantologist will offer for progressive consideration a look at a handful of the means our side has traditionally employed when all appeared lost and the aristocrats were running amok.  As we begin, please direct your gaze toward the Eternal City on the Seven Hills, and one of the first successful general strikes…

Progressive Epilogue

It was a third party that captured 22 electoral votes and 4 states in a presidential race, elected governors in 7 states, sent dozens of legislators to Congress, and controlled all or part of numerous state Houses and Senates – yet it was only prominent on the national scene for a decade or so.  The People’s (a/k/a Populist) Party was born of anger and frustration at the failure of either major party to look after the concerns of a large segment of their ostensible constituency, and in the course of their stampede across the American political landscape, they shifted Overtons, crashed gates, and exerted their forceful, righteous will upon the craven Democrats and sold-out Republicans of their day.

It’s a good thing we’re safely removed from that sort of (way) pre-9/11 thinking – it allows us to historiorant in peace about a time when conflicts of class, pretense, and presumptuousness rent asunder the House of Donkey, and ushered onto the stage a cast of characters straight out of The Wizard of Oz.

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