Monthly Archives: March 2015

Something Else We Ought to Remember on St. Patrick’s Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the Zinn Education Project is highlighting emerging scholarship that calls into question our assumptions about the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1852). Here is an excerpt from the article:

…Throughout the Irish potato famine there was an abundance of food produced in Ireland, yet the landlords exported it to markets abroad.
During the first winter of famine, as perhaps 400,000 Irish peasants starved, landlords exported 17 million pounds sterling worth of grain, cattle, pigs, flour, eggs, and poultry—-food that could have prevented those deaths.
The school curriculum could and should ask students to reflect on the contradiction of starvation amidst plenty, on the ethics of food exports amidst famine. And it should ask why these patterns persist into our own time… (read more)

Another article in the Daily Kos may shock us with facts regarding another disaster that befell the Irish nation– slavery!

We’ve all been taught the horror’s of the African slave trade. It’s in all the school books and in plenty of Hollywood movies.
But for some reason the largest group of slaves in the British Colonies in the 17th Century doesn’t get mentioned at all: the Irish… The English had been practicing a slow genocide against the Irish since Queen Elizabeth, but the Irish bred too fast and were tough to kill. On the other side of the Atlantic, there was a chronic labor shortage (because the local natives tended to die out too quickly in slavery conditions).
Putting two and two together, King James I started sending Irish slaves to the new world… By the 1630’s, Ireland was the primary source of the English slave trade… the exact same language and logic used to justify enslavement of the blacks was used to justify enslavement of the Irish.
It is something for those who think slavery was simply a matter of skin color to consider.

As for the Irish slaves, Cromwell specifically targeted Irish children.

 “During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, [Oliver] Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.”

For some reason, history likes to call these Irish slaves as ‘indentured servants’. As if they were somehow considered better than African slaves. This can be considered an attempt at whitewashing the history of the Irish slave trade.
There does exist indentured servitude where two parties sign a contract for a limited amount of time. This is not what happened to the Irish from 1625 onward. They were sold as slaves, pure and simple.
In reality, they were considered by some to be even lower than the blacks... Because Irish slaves were so much cheaper, the loss of investment from torturing and killing them was not considered an effective deterrent. In an ironic twist, this caused some to recommend importing African slaves instead for humanitarian reasons(read more)

A sobering thought as we’re sipping our soapy pints. Sláinte! Éirinn go Brách!

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The Treason of the Senate

Treason is a word that rolls easily off the lips of self-styled patriots on both sides of the political aisle. This week a group of 47 members of the Senate signed a letter to Iran’s leadership threatening to scuttle any nuclear agreement made with the Obama administration. In its headline The New York Daily News called them “Traitors!”

Of course, efforts to undermine a sitting president’s foreign policy are not the exclusive modus operandi of the GOP. Democrats have occasionally engaged in this form of international grandstanding as well. Such sabotage, while certainly reprehensible and dysfunctional, has been a part of Washington politics since the beginning.

What seems more treasonous in this case, however, is the flagrant scheming of elected officials who are more beholden to moneyed interests than to the American people. Their leader, freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, according to the website, received millions for his recent campaign from sources outside the state : most notably billionaires Paul Singer and Sheldon Adelson, both known for their desire to dynamite any possible negotiations with Iran and to promote a first strike against that country’s nuclear capabilities. Cotton has also had the financial backing of the Emergency Committee for Israel, run by neocon political analyst Bill Kristol. The Intercept’s Lee Fang reported that the day following the release of the Senators’ letter, Cotton was scheduled to speak at a closed-door meeting of the National Defense Industrial Association, a powerful defense industry lobbying group.

What would President Eisenhower say about this confluence of political power and the for-profit arms industry ? His dire warnings to the nation upon leaving office are well-known and ought to be memorized along with the Gettysburg Address:

“…This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together…”

Why was Ike so grim, so Cato-like in his conjuring such a bogeyman ? Remember, as a general he had fought a long and bloody war against European fascism, one of whose characteristics is the joining at the hip of government and the weapons industry. This was also 1961. The Soviets had launched Sputnik, sending the US into a tizzy of a national debate about military readiness, fueled by propaganda from the defense industry.

In 1906 a series of articles appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine that both scandalized and galvanized a nation. Written by novelist David Graham Phillips, “The Treason of the Senate” exposed the corrupting and unwarranted influence of corporations in the legislative process and called for direct popular election of senators. The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution followed as a measure to reign in the power of big money. “Treason is a strong word,” Phillips writes, “but not too strong to characterize the situation in which the Senate is the eager, resourceful, and indefatigable agent of interests as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be.” Well said.

What could be more hostile to the interests of the American people than to scuttle peaceful negotiations and to provoke war? What could be more treasonous than to risk the lives of American men and women in order to profit a few corporations or one’s own religious ideology? Men like Sen. Cotton are doubly dangerous because they combine political corruption with religious zeal. Lord, please save us from such “true believers.” Whatever happened to “Blessed are the peacemakers”?

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