This is a tale of a place you know from your time in America, but have never heard of. Until the 1960s, two-thirds of Chinese immigrants came from a single mid-size city in Guangdong Province in southern China. Its language is a dialect incomprehensible to anyone in the rest of China. The city tells its own stories: There is the story of China's collectivist past and relentlessly capitalist present, and there is the story of the people who left, and those who returned: its arcade market buildings, now in various states of disrepair, show the Western architectural heritage that many of the immigrants brought back with them when they returned to a place called Toishan. Photographer Alan Chin shows and tells in a New York Times essay about his ancestral home. [more inside]
President Obama spoke at length to House Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore, responding to questions after his remarks. Video (also here). Transcript. [more inside]
In the wake of the Civil War, fifty Americans (audio alert), Union and Confederates both, accepted commissions in the Egyptian army. One of the most notable was William Wing Loring who wrote A Confederate Soldier in Egypt about his experiences.
"When the day's activities include the likelihood of getting your brains shot out, maybe a little slap and tickle - while not desirable - is not the end of the world."
The New York Times examines several reports of sexual harassments and assaults on women in the US Military. In the article's comments, current and former troops chime in to suggest that this is an inevitable result of including women in combat zones. [more inside]
David Bowie's response to his first American fan letter. In 1967, 14 year old Sandra Adams wrote a letter to Bowie. According to Bowie himself, this was his first bit of fan mail from the States. The response, though brief, is funny and sincere.
Today, the State of Washington becomes the first state in the history of the United States to pass a law supporting the equality of same-sex partners by popular vote. [more inside]
The Decline: The Geography of a Recession Flash animated map showing county unemployment rates from Jan 2007 until Sept 2009
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is a survey that rated the 50 states of America from most to least happiest, based on things like emotional health, job satisfaction, and healthy decisions. The top states may surprise you.
In 2010, Obama will have a miserable year, NATO may lose in Afghanistan, the UK gets a regime change, China needs to chill, India's factories will overtake its farms, Europe risks becoming an irrelevant museum, the stimulus will need an exit strategy, the G20 will see a challenge from the "G2", African football will unite Korea, conflict over natural resources will grow, Sarkozy will be unloved and unrivalled, the kids will come together to solve the world's problems (because their elders are unable), technology will grow ever more ubiquitous, we'll all charge our phones via USB, MBAs will be uncool, the Space Shuttle will be put to rest, and Somalia will be the worst country in the world. And so the Tens begin.
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
Britain: the birthplace of globalisation in the 19th century; ruler of a worldwide empire. But why, over a century later, is the UK still appearing as a major player on the political world stage? Its entire population of around 60m is comparable only with the population of California and Texas combined. Geographically it is a smaller size than Texas, and cut off from the larger and potentially more-politically-influential Eurozone. Is it relying on its history as a superpower, or on its current relations with superpowers? [more inside]
America on Stone: 19th Century American Lithographs is a browsable collection of lithographs on topics from advertising to uniforms. The viewer includes pan and zoom functions. (Harry T. Peters, who amassed this collection, was particularly interested in Currier & Ives.) Lithography became popular very quickly after its discovery at the end of the eighteenth century, rapidly finding its way into such commercial uses as sheet music covers. Needless to say, it also came in handy for far more exalted applications. (For previous MeFi adventures in lithography, try these posts.)
"At 83, he has lived through one third of the lifespan of the United States. If anyone incarnates the American century that has ended, it is him. He was America's greatest essayist, one of its best-selling novelists and the wit at every party. He holidayed with the Kennedys, cruised for men with Tennessee Williams, was urged to run for Congress by Eleanor Roosevelt, co-wrote some of the most iconic Hollywood films, damned US foreign policy from within, sued Truman Capote, got fellated by Jack Kerouac, watched his cousin Al Gore get elected President and still lose the White House, and – finally, bizarrely – befriended and championed the Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh." Johann Hari meets Gore Vidal
Stuff Christian Culture Likes - A preacher's daughter marries another preacher's son and offers an insider's perspective about youth leaders, tips and hawks, sexual jewelry, hot wives, drama teams, video games, Jumbotrons, coffee, graphic design, typography and more.
The healthcare debate explained on the back of 4 napkins. Napkin 1: The health care equation. Napkin 2: It's not about health care. Napkin 3: The plans on the table. Napkin 4: What's it mean to me?
Suburban farming, an idea whose time may have come. Short and sweet SLYT from the Wall Street Journal about people growing herbs and vegetables in their own yards in American suburbia.
A simple question shows how complex the issue is. Chris at "Cynical C" asks his fellow citizens where they get thier health care (insurance) from and the incredible diversity of the current options and situations is immediately apparent. Quite spontaneously (but surely not unexpectedly), the question of "How much does it cost you?" becomes an essential part of the answers. Outsiders opine and tell stories and commiserate. [more inside]
Geoff is on a road trip around the lower forty-eight United States visiting cities and towns with the same names as London's tube stops. He's calling it Underground: USA. [more inside]
Overly confident in the economic health of the United States? Feeling sanguine about current spending levels? Haven't yet been scared out of your wits about your financial future? No worries! The U.S. National Debt Clock page is for you! Your one stop shop for all things financial meltdown related: Total debt, debt per citizen, budget deficits and spending year-to-date, total governmental bailouts, and much much more!
The Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that military scientists tested hundreds of chemical and biological substances on them, including VX, tabun, soman, sarin, cyanide, LSD, PCP, and World War I-era blister agents like phosgene and mustard. The full scope of the tests, however, may never be known. As a CIA official explained to the GAO, referring to the agency's infamous MKULTRA mind-control experiments, "The names of those involved in the tests are not available because names were not recorded or the records were subsequently destroyed." Besides, said the official, some of the tests involving LSD and other psychochemical drugs "were administered to an undetermined number of people without their knowledge."
PDX History is a veritable treasure trove of information about (and pictures and postcards of) the history of Portland (Oregon). Department stores, streetcars, long-dead amusement parks (yes, Jantzen Beach was once much more than a dying mall surrounded by big-box stores) and more. The web design leaves a bit to be desired, but the site is wonderful nonetheless.
[E]ven if you are unemployed you still receive a base amount of [vacation money] from the government, the reasoning being that if you can’t go on vacation, you’ll get depressed and despondent and you’ll never get a job.After a year and a half of living in the Netherlands, American writer Russell Shorto compares the Dutch "welfare state" to the tax, health care and social security systems of the United States.
But does the cartoon image of [the Dutch system] — encapsulated in the dread slur "socialism," which is being lobbed in American political circles like a bomb — match reality? Is there, maybe, a significant upside that is worth exploring? [...] I think it’s worth pondering how the best bits might fit.
In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda In Southern California 1933 - 1945, a digital exhibition from the Oviatt Library at Cal State Northridge. "The Nazi Propaganda period, 1933 to 1945, chronicles a crucial twelve years in American history. This exhibit's story about the local threat to American ideals demonstrates how European events reached across the ocean and affected people in Southern California -- in our own backyard." Magazines, pamphlets, newspapers, stickers and more. [more inside]
The Average Man's Tax Dollars from thetoiletpaper.com
The End of Christian America. The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. How that statistic explains who we are now—and what, as a nation, we are about to become.
Open For Questions. Metafilter's Own™ box and klangklangston "skim the White House's Open For Questions, posting the best and brightest queries the American public can manage." [via mefi projects] [more inside]
“There’s culture shock, and then there’s the culture shock of moving to a country that started a war in your home.”
"The war has uprooted 4.7 million people from their homes. So where are they?" With the election of Obama and the economic crisis, the topic of Iraq has fallen by the wayside. As hard as things may be right now, Iraqis have been going through far worse for years now. If you're curious about what they have to say, hear them tell it in their own words. Iraqi Refugee Stories. [more inside]
What has long been touted as the world's longest undefended border (that running between Canada and the United States) has undergone many changes since 9/11. In an effort to secure its Northern border, the U.S. now employs Predator drones, Blackhawk helicopter patrols, high speed boats, and Google searches. There may even be a big fence in our future. More troubling still are increased demands for information on Canadian citizens, and increased searching powers of U.S. border guards. And don't ask them to say please either.
A new report by the Pew Center of the States finds that 1 in 31 U.S. Adults is currently under Community Supervision. (Full report pdf). Georgia currently tops the charts, with 1 in 13 adults under correctional control. [more inside]
" ... the recession, particularly if it turns out to be as long and deep as many now fear, will accelerate the rise and fall of specific places within the U.S.—and reverse the fortunes of other cities and regions." From The Atlantic Online - How the Crash Will Reshape America
The Top 10 Rightblogger Stories of 2008. Can it really have been almost two months since the U.S. presidential election? It seems like a long time ago that bloggers on the right were claiming Obama killed his grandmother and denouncing WALL-E, but this list does a pretty good job of summarizing what got them all riled up in 2008.
America has come a long way. There is the official version of history or the peoples' version. There are artifacts and rankings. They had some quirks and were occasionally men of their time. If you prefer audio or visual references those are available as well. Common knowledge has it that one GW was our first President but the title of first is under dispute. 230 years later another GW is making a run for worst. That is also under dispute by the nations best brains. For better and worse, the story of the Presidency is the story of America.
Team Lioness is the name given to a group of female soliders, (and the documentary about them) who were some of the first women in modern American warfare to engage in frontline combat — something that is officially forbidden by the military. "The female support soliders were assigned to the 1st Engineer Battalion and they were recruited to accompany Marine units during raids. Originally, the female soldiers were there to search and detain any women they came upon and to guard the unit's Arabic interpreter. Over time, however, as the situation in Ramadi deteriorated, the Marine units transitioned into a more offensive role, baiting insurgents into firefights in order to draw them out. Until officers higher up the chain got spooked over the possibility of a female soldier killed in combat and quietly disbanded the unit, members of Team Lioness were often right in the thick of things, including some of the fiercest urban firefights of the Iraq War."
"US helicopter raid" in Syria. Could this be an October Surprise? Many have hinted this election's October Surprise will be the capture of Osama Bin Ladin or a resurgence of terrorist activity. As we recall, news media had jumped on a McCain Aide who claimed a terrorist attack would benefit McCain in the Election.
The United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 — Authorized and funded by the U.S. government, six ships sailed with 346 men (including officers, crew, scientists, and artists) on a four-year scientific and surveying mission, logging 87,000 miles around the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. Two ships and 28 men were lost, and the Expedition's contentious commander Charles Wilkes was court-martialled for his erratic behavior, and was sued by former officers and crew members. During the Civil War in 1861, he boarded a British ship, seized two Confederate agents, and nearly provoked military retaliation by England (he was court-martialled once again in 1864 for insubordination.) Wilkes' 1845 Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition and the Ex. Ex.'s journals were published by Congress, and some 40 tons of Expedition specimens and artifacts became the foundation of the Smithsonian Institution's collections. [Nathaniel Philbrick (video lecture) chronicles this almost-forgotten voyage in his 2003 book Sea of Glory (NYT review).]
Retiring hedge fund manager Andrew Lahde: "All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America."
The Iron Heel, published a century ago this year, is a novel by Jack London about socialist revolution in the United States. It is set mostly between 1912 and 1932, with a foreword and numerous footnotes written from the point of view of a historian who has just discovered the manuscript some 700 years later. Here is an excerpt (which is printed on the back cover of some editions) from chapter five:
"This, then, is our answer. We have no words to waste on you. When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and purpled ease, we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be couched. We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain. As for the host of labor, it has been in the dirt since history began, and I read history aright. And in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine and those that come after us have the power. There is the word. It is the king of words--Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power."
As we approach Nov. 4, I'm reminded that an estimated 5.3 million Americans are prohibited from voting because of a felony conviction. The ACLU breaks it down by state.
As simple as a typo. Your vote in the 2008 U.S. election won't [2:00-9:00] count if voter caging parties can help it. Vote caging works basically like this - (1) Send do-not-forward mail to the address listed on your registration. (2) If it comes back return to sender, your registration is challenged and can be thrown out without notice. "A challenged voter will likely cast a provisional ballot....Nearly a third of all 1.6 million provisional ballots cast in 2004 were thrown out." Previously (somewhat). [more inside]
A People's History for the Classroom [pdf] is a high school history lesson plan/workbook based on Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. The entire 124-page workbook available for free as a downloadable PDF, as part of the Zinn Education Project, supported by Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. You must enter an email and agree to take a later survey to download.
Humorist and candidate for the US Senate for Minnesota Al Franken draws a map of the United States from memory.
WWJD (Which Words Jefferson Digested) Some Flash
50 Bands, 50 States: The Boston Phoenix declares the best all-time band, best all-time solo artist, and best new band from each state. [more inside]
In honor of the Fourth, I give you the 50 States and their Capitals, the U.S. Presidents, and in hopes for a better future, what the hell, all the Nations of the World. [more inside]
Stemming from a lawsuit that has gone on for several years, a recent Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. government must make bills with distinguishable tactile features to benefit the blind. While the U.S. government disagrees, the judges say: "The government might as well argue that, since handicapped people can crawl on all fours or ask for help from strangers, there's no need to make buildings wheelchair accessible." Not all blind people agree with the decision. [more inside]
The Rise of the Rest. Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek article about a "post-American" world.