July 28

Ep. 0016: The First World War, part 1

Since World War I officially began 100 years ago today (that is, July 28th 1914), I decided it would be an opportune time to kick off a multi-part series on this conflict.  (As of right now, I’m not 100% sure how many episodes this will encompass, but I think probably around 4.)

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • Why he thinks WWI is actually the single worst thing that ever happened in modern history
  • Origins of the war, in terms of immediate causes as well as long-term, deep-seated ones
  • The alliances, rivalries, and plans that made Europe a powderkeg just waiting for ignition
  • The spark that lit it, and how the dominoes fell until every Great Power of the time was at war
  • Some thoughts on why the war ultimately proved more costly than prior wars (the state’s software is actually more important than its hardware, Prof CJ thinks)
  • The Christmas Truce of 1914 and its implications
  • War against civilians in terms of illegal, total blockades (which the British, not the Germans, started first)

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July 24

Ep. 0015: The Age of Classical Liberalism in Europe

The episode following this one (ie, Ep. 0016, due out Monday the 28th) will begin a multi-part series on the First World War.  So I figured it would be a good idea to give an overview of what Europe was like before that huge turning point conflict.  The 99 years from 1815 (when Napoleon was finally defeated for good) to 1914 (when WWI started) were years in which the dominant ideology in most of Europe (especially the more advanced parts of Western Europe) was that of ‘Liberalism,’ in the old sense of the word — or what today we have to call ‘Classical Liberalism.’

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  •  A brief explanation of classical liberalism as an ideology
  • Some quotes and information about 19th century Europe that illustrate some ways in which things were better than in the 20th century (especially compared to the era of the World Wars)
  • How classical liberalism was never fully implemented anywhere in the world — even countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, which were strongholds of the ideology, still had significant deviations from it
  • The worldwide trend towards centralization between roughly the 1860s and 1900, which boded ill for classical liberalism and which can be seen in varying forms in the US, Japan, Canada, Italy, Germany, France, and Russia, among other countries
  • Tools of centralization, which included compulsory social insurance programs, compulsory state education; and military conscription
  • Some brief highlights of France, Britain, and Germany in the decades prior to the Great War
  • How mass democracy was a key factor in bringing down classical liberalism as an influential ideology European governments, because working-class voters tended to vote either for nationalist/imperialist parties, or for socialist parties, leaving classical liberalism as a doctrine without a mass constituency.  (In other words, the masses preferred to vote for varying flavors of collectivism.)
  • The fatal flaw of classical liberalism as a political belief system, which the bloody 20th century gruesomely illustrated

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July 21

Ep. 0014: The Collapse of the Soviet Empire

Join Prof. C.J. as he discusses:

  • The proximate causes of the fall of the Soviet Empire, i.e., the long term/inherent problems of communism as an economic system, which are the incentive problem & the calculation problem
  • How the Soviet system could produce AKs but failed at such basic things as agriculture and consumer goods
  • How the Soviets’ renewed aggressiveness after America’s failure in Vietnam may have led to Soviet overextension
  • Immediate causes (that caused the Soviet system to fall when it did): an unwinnable, costly war (in Afghanistan of all places!); a lack of good leadership (exemplified by the dimwitted & senile Brezhnev); and nationalist unrest (sometimes combined with religious unrest) in the satellite states, starting with the Polish Solidarity movement
  • Symptoms of decline & milestones in the loss of legitimacy for the Soviet regime in the 1980s
  • The rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985
  • Gorbachev’s 3-pronged plan to ‘fix’ communism:  glasnost; perestroika; and peredyshka
  • The success of (mostly nonviolent) resistance in the satellite states, culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989
  • Gorbachev’s renunciation of the use of force and the Brezhnev doctrine
  • The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan
  • Political reforms within the USSR, which led to its disintegration
  • How the US disbanded NATO and drastically slashed its defense spending, because after all, the Soviet Union was gone, the Cold War was over, so the rationale for those things no longer existed.  (Oh, wait, that last part didn’t really happen.  Actually, the opposite happened.)

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July 17

Ep. 0013: Artifacts of American Progressivism

Those early American Progressives we talked about last time left the United States with a lot of physical and cultural artifacts that seem omnipresent through to today.  Many things that Americans take for granted as timeless examples of Americana are less than a century old and were Progressive innovations, sometimes ironically in light of how many modern-day “conservatives” love some of them.  Some of the details and origins of these artifacts are more troubling than you might think at first glance.

[BTW, this one was recorded in my noisy old car – I think the last thing I ever recorded in it before trading it in, at which point it was 11 years old and had 170K miles on the odometer.  (As you can surmise, history hasn’t exactly made me rich yet.)  Hopefully podcasts recorded in my new car will have a little less background vehicle noise!]

Join Prof CJ as he discusses the origins and details of:

  • The Pledge of Allegiance (which was written by a Socialist in 1892), and why rightwingers should abhor the pledge (if they actually knew history and were consistent with the beliefs they profess)
  • The Lincoln Memorial (completed 1922), which is actually a temple, deifying a dead politician and the central government for which he waged war
  • The presence of fasces in the Lincoln memorial (which can also be found in a surprising number of other US government buildings, monuments, and insignias, some of which are mentioned)
  • The Mercury Dime
  • The Lincoln Penny (the first time in US history that a politician – rather than Lady Liberty or an American Indian – appeared on US coinage)
  • How earlier American leaders – such as George Washington – opposed the idea of putting politicians on money

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July 14

Ep. 0012: American Progressivism (c. 1890s-1920)

Here we’re going to dig into the beliefs of the original American Progressives (c. 1890s-1920), and we’ll see that they’re a bit different (and more troubling, if you happen to support things like self-ownership and property rights) from what you’ve probably been told about them.

Join Prof. C.J. as he discusses:

  • Quotes from leading Progressives
  • How Progressives like to deliberately conflate “state” and “society”
  • Analysis of what Progressives really believed on such topics as government, the economy, religion, the American Constitution, education and more
  • The reality that Progressives were (contrary to the established narrative) more likely to be working on behalf of, rather than against, the interests of big business in order to corporatize/cartellize the economy
  • Differences between Progressives and Populists
  • The affinity of many Progressives for eugenics
  • The European origins of Progressive ideology, including British Fabians and Prussian/German statism
  • How Progressives stole the label “Liberal” for themselves starting around the 1930s, but have in recent decades returned to the label “Progressive” because “Liberal” had too much negative baggage (which is why Progressives had abandoned the P-word back in the 1920s)

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July 10

Ep. 0011: DHP Hero: Karl Hess

From time to time, I’m going to cover some people I see as Heroes and Villains.  These will be individuals whom I find very intriguing (and therefore think/hope you’ll find them intriguing as well), either in a good or bad way.

In the case of Heroes, I think it’s important to mention that I don’t believe in fawning hero-worship type stuff.  I also think that “hero worship” can be very dangerous, because it can prevent you from being your own hero.  It’s very easy (I know because I’ve been there) to start deifying your ‘heroes’ (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many people use the word ‘idol’ in this context), and in so doing feel that you are not and never could be their equal, let alone their better, when the reality is that you can equal or better almost anyone in almost any regard, provided you have the will to put in the work in whatever field it is that you want to be a hero.

Nonetheless and all that said, I think it’s important to have some positive examples of individuals whom you admire for some reason(s).  History is so replete with villains that every now and then you have to stop and smell the roses, by which I mean read or listen or learn about a Good Guy or Gal.

Our first Dangerous History Podcast Hero that we’ll cover is Karl Hess (1923-1994), who I think is a strong contender for a real-life Most Interesting Man in the World.

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • Karl’s early childhood, and how his mother put him on the path to being an autodidact
  • His early success as a writer and entry into politics, including work as a speechwriter and platform writer for the Republican Party
  • His involvement with the ill-fated 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, and how Karl left the GOP in its aftermath
  • Karl’s involvement with the New Left and Counterculture, and his ultimate embrace of libertarianism and anarchism, during which time he wrote an influential essay entitled “The Death of Politics” and became a tax protestor, hounded for the rest of his life by the IRS
  • His involvement in the early phases of what today we think of as the prepper/self-sufficiency movement, including his relocation to a self-made home in rural West Virginia
  • Karl’s love of tools, including guns
  • Some parting thoughts from Prof CJ on Karl, including Karl’s DIY ethic, and his embodiment of three of Prof CJ’s ideals:  the Autodidact, the Polymath, and the Renaissance Man

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External links:

  • Karl’s famous 1969 essay, “The Death of Politics”
  • An excerpt featuring Karl from the 1983 documentary (which is definitely worth watching in its entirety) Anarchism in America
  • A playlist of segments from the 1981 short documentary Karl Hess:  Toward Liberty (not sure if/where the full film can be found, but I think these clips cover most of it, as the full film is supposedly under 1/2 hour long.)  BTW, clip #6 is in my opinion the best — it’s where Hess talks the most about alternative technology & liberty, and also sounds the most Zen/Taoist.

July 7

Ep. 0010: The Myth of Reagan

Ah, the Gipper!  He reversed (or at least significantly slowed) the growth of the post-New Deal/Great Society Leviathan federal government in the US, right?  I mean, he sure did take a rhetorical ax to the government….

But what if it was all just talk?  What if conservatives love and liberals hate Ronald Wilson Reagan, but for things that aren’t even real?

(BTW, I apologize for the intermittent background noise.  A cable was rubbing on the mic and I didn’t notice it until after I’d recorded the whole episode!)

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  •  The Mythical Story of Reagan-as-Gov’t-Cutter
  • Supply Side theory & practice
  • Candidate Reagan’s platform c. 1980
  • Reagan’s record on such things as deregulation, taxes, spending, borrowing, money, and federal programs & departments
  • Some excerpts from David Stockman’s excellent book, The Triumph of Politics, on how & why the Reagan Revolution didn’t really happen
  • The Prof’s thoughts on how figures like Reagan (and Obama) seem to emerge whenever there’s a real possibility of the Anti-Establishment Left & Anti-Establishment Right getting together (such as in the late-70s & circa the end of George W. Bush’s presidency), and successfully 1) re-divide the Left and Right sides of Anti-Establishmentarianism and 2) co-opt & defuse the energy and anger of their respective side (as Reagan did for much of the Anti-Est. Right of the 1980s and Obama did for much of the Anti-Est. Left in recent years.)

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July 3

Ep. 0009: The Philippines War, Part II

Here it is — part II of Prof CJ’s take on the American war against the Filipinos.

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • How Americans had little to no sympathy for Filipinos
  • The ‘pacification’ of the island of Samar & the court-martial of Major Waller
  • How imperialists vilified their political opponents as unpatriotic traitors rather than principled dissenters
  • Characteristics of imperialists, including their youth & their Progressive ideology (in other words, Imperialists were Progressives & vice-versa – exhibit A being Teddy Roosevelt himself)
  • How the US declared victory in 1902 (even though fighting wasn’t quite done in some places)
  • Quotes looking back on the war from contemporary imperialists & anti-imperialists
  • Some closing thoughts and observations about this war and its troubling legacy, including Americans’ eagerness then (as now) to quickly self-induce amnesia in order to forget morally dubious wars
  • How unhappy truths are some of the most important truths with which one must come to grips, if one wishes to avoid future ills
  • In the words of Patrick Henry:  “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it.”

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June 30

Ep. 0008: The Philippines War, Part I

I started off intending this to be a single episode, but after working on it for only a short while, I realized it was going to take two to get through everything I wanted to say about this war.

This is not a happy subject, but sometimes uncomfortable truths are among the most necessary to come to grips with.  Be warned:  My coverage of this war is brutally honest, and at times I’ll use some rough language (generally when quoting commentators of the time period.)

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • The outbreak of fighting between Filipino nationalists and American occupying forces
  • How the Treaty of Paris passed & the United States ‘acquired’ the Philippines
  • Contemporary quotes both for and against keeping the Philippines
  • How American military leaders led the Filipino leaders (during the war with Spain) to believe that America supported Filipino independence, but then denied anything of the type once McKinley decided to keep the archipelago for the US – alienating and angering many Filipinos who initially regarded the US in a friendly, positive light
  • How the war against the Filipinos quickly turned nasty, characterized by war crimes & atrocities (including, but not limited to, the “water cure” depicted in the photo above)
  • The capture of Emilio Aguinaldo 1901, and how that seemed to signal the beginning of the end (though it really wasn’t)

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June 26

Ep. 0007: The Spanish-American War

Join Prof CJ as he discusses:

  • How tensions between the US and Spain over Cuba escalated in 1898, giving the Large Policy clique (covered in our last episode) the opportunity they’d been waiting for
  • Spanish abuses (real, exaggerated, and fabricated) in Cuba, including those by Spanish General Weyler (a professed admirer of the American General W. T. Sherman), culminating in a policy of reconcentracion
  • The explosion of the USS Maine in Havana, and some evidence as to what probably happened
  • How the jingoistic Large Policy clique, uninterested in evidence, immediately pinned it on the Spanish and upped their drive for war (assisted by the press)
  • How Theodore Roosevelt used his job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to put the Philippine Islands in Uncle Sam’s crosshairs, though it was on the other side of the world from Cuba
  • Quotes from the warhawks, many of which are dripping with references to manliness and virility (see the George Carlin routine linked in last episode)
  • How many Southerners were happy to assist the US federal government (which had brutally subjugated them just 30 years previously) to conquer Spaniards, and after them, Filipinos
  • A smattering of antiwar quotes
  • How Spain bent over backwards trying to avoid war and conceded to almost every American demand, to no avail – the American war party got its war
  • The real story of the Teller Amendment
  • A brief overview of the brief war against Spain
  • The highlights & lowlights of the American war effort
  • A cynical (realistic?) look at TR’s wartime experience
  • Side effects of the war, including a major effect on the state of Florida; a new cocktail (the Cuba libre); and the North-South reconciliation brought about by the two regions teaming up against foreign enemies; and its role in Anglo-American rapprochement
  • This war led directly to a nastier, longer, and costlier war, against the Filipinos, which we’ll cover next episode

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