Dean Clough

August 23, 2021

Portico Darwin: In Defense of Jimmy Carter + Other Untold Stories

I recently read this excellent article in the Associated Press about how scholars are reevaluating the presidential tenure of Jimmy Carter.  I had forgotten these highlights of his presidency, which the article describes:

  • It was Carter, not Reagan, that began the deregulation of airlines, trucking and other major industries 
  • Carter was way out ahead on climate change - and suffered for it
  • It was a Carter appointee, Paul Volker, that brought inflation under control - not Reagan nor an appointee of his
  • Carter negotiated the SALT II treaty, setting up Reagan for his big wins with Gorbachev
  • And it was Carter that negotiated the release of the US hostages being held in Tehran - but their captors held them until after Reagan's election 

Yes, his presidency had trouble, but which don't, and I've always felt he's wrongly regarded by history.  I hope you'll read the AP piece as evidence.  If you'd like to understand more about this great man, I can absolutely recommend President Carter's excellent 2005 book, "Our Endangered Values", which I myself am going to re-read once I finish this doorstop.

And as if encouraging a re-think of Jimmy Carter isn't incendiary enough, how about a re-think of America's role in World War II and since?  As have many, I've been pondering our place in the world in light of yet another war debacle (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and now Afghanistan; there are others), and that led me to again view Oliver Stone's 10 part series "Untold History of The United States".

Despite its title, it only covers the post-WW II era.  And despite being from Stone, I don't find it divisive.  For example, in later episodes, he skewers Bush/Cheney for Iraq and Afghanistan, but that now seems about right?
I think anyone that is reading this, of any political persuasion, would enjoy the entire series.  It provides a nearly Gladwellian revisionist history that few/none of us have ever received as children or adults.  In fact, in his introduction, Mr. Stone tells us his inspiration for making the documentary (originally broadcast on Showtime in 2012) was his children.  He wanted them to have information he felt hadn't been provided.

What information you ask?  Well, I'd suggest watching the series.  But here are a few highlights - some you may know, some not.  All are interesting at a minimum; some are stunning.  

  • It was the Soviet Union that for the most part defeated Nazi Germany, and suffered the most for it - see below
  • Our invasion of Europe ("D-Day") was late by at least a year
  • The fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo were in some ways as horrific as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; also see "Fog of War"
  • Henry Wallace, FDR's VP for his 3rd term, January 20, 1941 - January 20, 1945 is a key, yet forgotten player; Wallace was a progressive whose central tenet was working for "the common man"
  • Wallace would have become president when FDR died, not Truman, if not for some very unusual activities at the 1944 Democratic National Convention
  • Japan was ready to surrender prior to us using nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki:  they knew they were finished when the Soviet Union invaded Manchuria and thus entered the war in the Pacific against Japan
  • At the time of his assassination, JFK was determined to end our adventures in Vietnam and southeast Asia

Here is some interesting data, casualties by country during World War II.

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I know I was taught that America's sacrifice was the equal of (or greater than) any other during World War II, apart from the victims of The Holocaust.  This chart - not debated by any historian - tells another story.

Now, we are talking about Oliver Stone here.  Some of what he posits has been dismissed as nonsense by actual historians.  He in some ways glosses over Stalin's atrocities in the interest of shedding light on the USSR's important contributions in defeating Germany, Italy, and Japan.  His stuff on JFK's murder, as you'd imagine, is out there.  And as usual with Stone, the series has a tone that a conspiracy of some kind undergirds most everything.

But like with Critical Race Theory, I am in favor of having more information and more context about what's happened in history.  I believe that makes it more likely to make better decisions today.  If nothing else, Stone's series reminds one of how the hubris of American Exceptionalism can damage us and the world.

Because America is a great country, maybe the greatest.  But we're not perfect and the sooner we accept that the better off we and the world will be.

The kudos for my champagne wishes and caviar dreams - in terms of travel - came in fast and hot.  Fi Deuce, herself no stranger to world travel, offered these kind words:

"Love the travel dreams and reality! We need to make a list."

Yes:  the passage of time knows no boundaries.  MIC DROP!

And from another gal not unfamiliar with travel, the budding equestrian Dr. Doreen Downs expressed a beautiful sentiment and shared with us her own recent travels.

"I hope you and Julie live long and healthy lives so that you can realize your long and impressive 'bucket list' of places to travel. 

I've just returned from an awesome trip to Redwood National and State Parks, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and an idyllic wedding in Seattle."

Nice!  Professor Downs, Julie and I will be conquering California's central coast via horseback next Saturday - you can count on a full report, assuming I don't fall off my horse, or have too much fun at Sam's Chowder House afterwards.

I will close by sharing a tribute my cousin and famed artist Cyd Pepfog Darwin wrote about a recently deceased contemporary of his, Chuck Close

"Farewell Chuck Close—
(He) was on an NEA panel that gave me a grant when I needed it
a friendly conversationalist, seemed to attend every opening I went to...
Leaves an astonishing body of work!"

Cuz, he ain't the only one with an astonishing body of work.  

Thank you to any one that is reading this blog.

It is sad that this album was released in 2004, at a time when many were starting to question the wisdom of Bush's limitless "War on Terror".  This band's ask and the prescient warnings contained in the album mostly went unheeded, which is why it's sad - seventeen years later, we're in worse shape, if anything.

Here are the one-time Bay Area residents Green Day and the titanic "American Idiot". 

Fun fact:  I hired Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt's father to a consulting gig in 1994 while I was running technology at Epigraphx.  Nice guy and I remember him saying his son's band were just starting to break through - "Dookie" came out soon thereafter.

Screw it:  no mention of Green Day is complete without highlighting what I feel is the single greatest cover tune of all time.  Here is a super-special bonus track, Green Day performing a pitch-perfect and balls-to-the-wall cover of The Kinks' "Tired of Waiting For You".

Screw it again:  I saw this beautiful coyote on Saturday early morning and I am including it because I can.  National Park or National Recreation Area, The Presidio is singular - this is about 5 minutes from our house.

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About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.