Tag: history

FACT: Hitler gassed his own people

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post quotes a Wikipedia article that includes a graphic description of atrocities that occurred as part of the Holocaust. Reader discretion is strongly advised.


The Jewish holiday of Passover began at sunset yesterday, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer marked the occasion by saying this about the Holocaust:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, in an effort to shame Russia’s alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his use of chemical weapons, said Tuesday Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” during World War II.

While Hitler did not use chemical weapons on the battlefield, Hitler and the Nazis used gas chambers to exterminate Jews, disabled people and others.

Here’s the truth about the Nazis’ use of gas to kill millions of Jews, people of other ethnic groups, and disabled people as part of the Holocaust:

Starting in December 1939, the Nazis introduced new methods of mass murder by using gas. First, experimental gas vans equipped with gas cylinders and a sealed trunk compartment, were used to kill mental-care clients of sanatoria in Pomerania, East Prussia, and occupied Poland, as part of an operation termed Action T4. In the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, larger vans holding up to 100 people were used from November 1941, using the engine’s exhaust rather than a cylinder. These vans were introduced to the Chełmno extermination camp in December 1941, and another 15 of them were used by the Einsatzgruppen in the occupied Soviet Union. These gas vans were developed and run under supervision of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office) and were used to kill about 500,000 people, primarily Jews but also Romani and others. The vans were carefully monitored and after a month of observation a report stated that “ninety seven thousand have been processed using three vans, without any defects showing up in the machines”.

[…]

All prisoners arrived by train at the extermination camps of Operation Reinhard. At Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and Majdanek, entire trainloads were sent straight to the gas chambers. At Auschwitz, the camp officials on duty subjected individuals to selections. A small percentage of new arrivals deemed fit to work were sent to slave labor; the majority were marched from the platforms to a reception area where all their clothes and other possessions were seized. They were then herded naked into the gas chambers. Usually they were told these were showers or delousing chambers, and there were signs outside saying “baths” and “sauna.” They were sometimes given a small piece of soap and a towel so as to avoid panic, and were told to remember where they had put their belongings for the same reason. When they asked for water because they were thirsty after the long journey in the cattle trains, they were told to hurry up, because coffee was waiting for them in the camp, and it was getting cold.

According to Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz, bunker 1 held 800 people, and bunker 2 held 1,200. Once the chamber was full, the doors were screwed shut and solid pellets of Zyklon-B were dropped into the chambers through vents in the side walls, releasing toxic HCN, or hydrogen cyanide. Those inside died within 20 minutes; the speed of death depended on how close the inmate was standing to a gas vent, according to Höß, who estimated that about one-third of the victims died immediately. Johann Kremer, an SS doctor who oversaw the gassings, testified that: “Shouting and screaming of the victims could be heard through the opening and it was clear that they fought for their lives.” When they were removed, if the chamber had been very congested, as they often were, the victims were found half-squatting, their skin colored pink with red and green spots, some foaming at the mouth or bleeding from the ears.

Sean Spicer has no clue of what he’s talking about. It’s an indisputable fact that Hitler gassed his own people. There might be differences between how Hitler and al-Assad used gas to kill their own people, but they both gassed their own people.

The first Olympic broadcast on U.S. television lasted only 28 minutes

AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: This blog post contains a video that is in the public domain due to said video being an official work of the United States federal government.

AUTHOR’S NOTE #2: For the purposes of this blog post, “Games of the Olympiad” refer to the Summer Olympics.


Starting Wednesday, August 3 at 9:30 A.M. CDT (10:30 A.M. EDT), NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air a round-robin stage women’s soccer match between Sweden and South Africa in the women’s soccer tournament at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. NBCSN’s broadcast of the first event of this year’s Olympics kicks off a whopping 6,755 hours of combined television and internet livestream coverage (schedule here) across several broadcast and cable/satellite networks that are part of the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal media conglomerate and the NBC Olympics website. Since Rio is only two hours ahead of U.S. Central Daylight Time during the month of August (due to Rio being south of the equator, Rio observes daylight savings time from mid-October to mid-February, not in August), much, but not all, of NBC’s Olympic coverage in 2016 will air live. NBC Olympic television coverage will air in English on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Bravo, Golf Channel, NBC Olympic 4K, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, and NBC Olympic Basketball Channel, and in Spanish on Univision and NBC Universo.

However, NBCUniversal’s extensive coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics pales in comparison to the minimal U.S. television coverage that the 1952 Summer Olympics received. However, what little television coverage that American viewers saw of the Helsinki Olympics of 1952 was, to my knowledge, the very first time the Olympics was broadcast on American television in any form.

The first time the Olympic Games were broadcast on American television was a 28 minute broadcast (not counting any commercials that may have aired on the television broadcast) of a documentary about the Games of the XV Olympiad in Helsinki, Finland in 1952, which officially opened on July 19, 1952 and officially closed on August 3 of the same year. Back then, there was no high-definition coverage, there was no digital television coverage, there was no color television coverage, there was no live coverage of the Games, there was no Spanish-language coverage, there was no coverage of Olympic events during the Games, and there wasn’t even television coverage of the Games during the year in which they were held! Instead, American television viewers saw a documentary, produced by the U.S. Army as part of the television documentary series The Big Picture, circa early 1954 (exact air date is lost to time, although the episode in question was the fifth episode following a Christmas-themed episode dated 1953), approximately one and a half years after the closing ceremony of the Helsinki Olympics! The production was a black-and-white documentary, with English-language narration provided by members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps (USASC), of highlights of the Helsinki Olympics. The highlights focused mainly on members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were competing for Team USA in the Helsinki Olympics.

According to Central Illinois television historian and WCCU-TV weather anchor Doug Quick, The Big Picture was aired across the ABC network, although some broadcast stations that either were affiliated with other networks or were independent broadcast stations aired the program as a syndicated program as well. It’s not clear which stations, or even how many stations, aired episode TV-250 of The Big Picture, which is the episode containing the documentary about the Helsinki Olympics.

You can watch the full documentary of the Games of the XV Olympiad here:

Ted Cruz gets his history wrong about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff

In tonight’s Republican presidential debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), one of four Republicans seeking the GOP’s presidential nomination, claimed that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff led to the Great Depression.

This is yet another right-wing lie from Cruz.

The truth of the matter is that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff was enacted in response to the Great Depression, not before the Great Depression. Although economic problems that led to the Great Depression had been building up for years prior to the 1929 stock market crash (most notably rampant income inequality), the crash is seen as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and is viewed by many historians as the beginning of the Great Depression. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff, named after then-Sen. Reed Smoot (R-UT) and then-Rep. Willis C. Hawley (R-OR), was signed into law by then-President Herbert Hoover in June of 1930, nearly nine months after the Black Tuesday stock market crash of 1929.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff failed to reverse the extreme economic decline for a number of reasons. First, the tariff was completely reactionary and not designed primarily to protect American manufacturing jobs or bring manufacturing jobs that went overseas back to America. Second, there wasn’t much in the way of social safety net programs or public works programs that any revenue generated by the tariff could be used to pay for back in 1930, as many of them still in place nowadays were enacted either as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal or as part of other policies enacted by subsequent presidents.

Ted Cruz, as well as many of the people he associates himself with, has a habit of lying through his teeth, and he’s proven that yet again. If you’re looking for a presidential candidate who will rebuild America and take on Wall Street greed, he’s not on stage tonight…he’s Bernie Sanders, and he’s seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Donald Trump erected a phony Civil War monument at his golf club in Virginia

Donald Trump erected a phony Civil War monument at his golf club in Virginia

While I’d never support an overt racist like Donald Trump for president or any other public office, one thing that I have in common with Trump is that I like the sport of golf. Although I’ve never played on a regular golf course (I’ve played miniature golf a couple of times, and I’m absolutely terrible at it), I’ve come to like the sport of golf enough that I’ve started watching the four major men’s golf tournaments (The Masters, U.S. Open, The (British) Open Championship, and PGA Championship) on television each year.

However, unlike me, who has never owned, built, or designed a golf course, Trump owns many golf courses, two of which are located at Trump National Golf Club in northeastern Loudoun County, Virginia (TNGC DC).

There are three phony claims made by Trump, both of which involve TNGC DC.

You only need to bring up TNGC DC’s website to find the first phony Trump claim involving TNGC DC: the golf club is not actually located in Washington, D.C., as Trump himself claims on TNGC DC’s website in a signed statement on the front page. However, the course is located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, as Loudon County, Virginia is part of the DC metro area.

For the other two phony claims from Trump, you’ll need to actually play one of the courses at TNGC DC, although this article from The New York Times gives a partial description of the location where the second and third phony claims can be found. Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the two courses at TNGC DC (the NYT article did not specify which course), there is a monument that commemorates a Civil War battle that didn’t happen:

Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club’s two courses, Mr. Trump installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque purportedly designating “The River of Blood.”

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” the inscription reads. “The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ ”

The inscription, beneath his family crest and above Mr. Trump’s full name, concludes: “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!”

There’s actually two phony claims made by Trump on that monument. The first phony claim is Trump’s claim that he preserved the section of the Potomac River that runs next to TNGC DC, which is false, since Trump had hundreds of trees chopped down as part of the renovation of TNGC DC, which Trump purchased in 2009. The second phony claim is the claim by Trump that a large number of casualties occurred at the location where the monument is located. As historians who are experts on Civil War battles in Northern Virginia will tell you, this is a false claim:

The club does indeed lie a stone’s throw from Rowser’s Ford, where, as an official historical marker notes, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart led 5,000 Confederate troops including cavalry across the Potomac en route to the Battle of Gettysburg.

But no one died in that crossing, historians said, or in any other notable Civil War engagement on the spot.

Donald Trump has a habit of telling tales that are taller than the trees that he had cut down when he renovated TNGC DC. Even his monument on one of his golf courses at TNGC DC includes inaccurate claims!

Hillary Clinton’s claim on the rationale behind Bill Clinton’s support for DoMA is total bull

In case you missed it, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was caught red-handed trying to rewrite history. Specifically, Hillary tried to claim that the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996, was a defensive measure designed to appease religious conservatives, who were pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have banned same-sex couples from getting married anywhere in the country.

A 1996 memo, written by Clinton Administration officials Jack Quinn, George Stephanopoulos, and Marsha Scott, gives some insight as to the rationale behind what prompted Bill Clinton to sign DoMA, which was passed by a Republican-controlled Congress with all but one Republican and many Democrats voting for it, into law. While the memo mentioned efforts to enact marriage equality at the state level in Hawaii in the mid-1990’s, nowhere in the memo does it reference any kind of movement to enact a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In fact, the memo clearly referenced the fact that Bill opposed marriage equality in 1996.

Chris Geidner has done a ton of research on Bill Clinton’s role in regards to DoMA, and he has found zero evidence to back up Hillary’s claim that Bill supported DoMA as any kind of defensive measure to prevent religious conservatives from enacting a federal constitutional amendment enshrining anti-LGBT bigotry in the U.S. Constitution. To put that another way, Hillary’s claim on Bill’s rationale for supporting discriminatory legislation that was struck down by a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court long after Bill was out of office is a bunch of bull.

I’m from an area of Illinois that is full of Religious Right extremists, and I’m very familiar with the Religious Right’s political modus operandi. If they had enough support to amend the U.S. Constitution to enshrine their bigotry in the Constitution at any point in modern American history, they would have done so as quickly as possible. Their whole political modus operandi is to do everything possible to shove their religious beliefs down everybody else’s throats. For the Clintons to try to rewrite history by claiming that DoMA was some kind of defensive measure designed to ward off the Religious Right’s attempt to enshrine their bigotry in the Constitution is flatly absurd.

We celebrate our independence from the British monarchy, not our own government, on July 4

We celebrate our independence from the British monarchy (Queen Elizabeth II pictured at top), not our own government (U.S. Congress depicted at bottom)
We celebrate our independence from the British monarchy (Queen Elizabeth II pictured at top), not our own government (U.S. Capitol pictured at bottom)

On July 4 of every year, we, the people of the United States of America, officially celebrate Independence Day, our national holiday. While people usually associate the Fourth of July with fireworks, barbecue cookouts, and NASCAR racing at Daytona International Speedway, there is an official reason why we celebrate the Fourth of July that far too many people don’t understand, including certain elected officials in this country.

One of those elected officials is Scott Walker, the Republican Governor of Wisconsin and one of many candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination. Walker has repeatedly claimed that we celebrate Independence Day as a day commemorating how we somehow gained our independence from our own government, and he took to Twitter earlier today to make that claim once again:

I don’t remember winning our independence from the federal government, and that’s because…we never did. Long before any of us who currently live in the United States were born, we won our independence from the British monarchy, not our own government. In the mid-to-late 18th Century, King George III of the United Kingdom and the British Parliament, which, at the time, controlled the American colonies that became the first 13 states in our Union, began imposing taxes on the colonies, despite the fact that the American colonies had no voting representation in the British Parliament. That led to the American Revolutionary War, which was fought between those who sought American independence and the British and began in April of 1775. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, a temporary national government established during the Revolutionary War, which had been ongoing for over a year at the time, officially voted to secede from Britain. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence, which formally proclaimed the United States of America, was officially ratified and ordered to be published. So, the Fourth of July is a holiday commemorating the ratification and publication of the Declaration of Independence, not a holiday commemorating the American people winning independence from its own government.

If it weren’t for the American Revolution, we would still be under the control of the British Sovereign, currently Queen Elizabeth II, and the British Government, currently led by Prime Minister David Cameron of the British Conservative Party, without any representation in the British Parliament. Because of the American Revolution, we have our own government, our own president, our own Congress, and our own court system, regardless of whether or not we like the people in positions of power in this country.

Many on the far-right in this country, including Scott Walker, incorrectly believe that the Fourth of July is a holiday commemorating American freedom from taxation imposed by our own government. That’s simply not true. The Fourth of July is a holiday commemorating American freedom from taxation imposed by the British government without representation in the British parliament (i.e., taxation without representation), not non-existent American freedom from taxation imposed by our own government. For Walker and others on the far-right to claim that the Fourth of July commemorates American independence from our own government is absolutely false and pure revisionist history.