Tag Archives | American History

The Official History of Monopoly Is a Fraud

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First page of patent submission for second version of Lizzie Magie’s board game, submitted in 1923 and granted in 1924.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of America’s best-selling board game, Monopoly. And while many folks might fib about their age, Hasbro’s accounting of the game’s birth is quite the tall tale.

The true story is revived in a new book by journalist Mary Pilon, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, just released by Bloomsbury. I also cover the game’s origins in my documentary PAY 2 PLAY: Democracy’s High Stakes, showing how a folk game was co-opted by a big company to become a billion-dollar industry.

I had set out to use a Monopoly metaphor to make the issues of campaign finance more relatable. Since practically everyone played the game in childhood, it has a nostalgic connection, though in hindsight it does teach some rather insidious lessons, such as felony crime.

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The Train To Crystal City

[Excerpted from The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster.]

Trains are a primary symbol of World War II. During the war, life and death revolved around the arrival and departure of trains. American troops boarded Pullman cars with signs on them that said HITLER HERE WE COME and ON TO TOKYO. Along the tracks, American workers, who saved rubber tires and tin for the war effort, waved their arms to the troops, saluting them with smiles. Trains led soldiers to ships and to battle. Women waited at train stations for the return of their husbands and lovers and kicked up their heels when their men disembarked. In Germany, more than 6 million Jews were shipped in cattle cars, floors strewn with straw, to concentration camps.

And then there were the trains that transported people to Crystal City, Texas. Week after week, month after month, from 1942 to 1948, trains with window shades pulled shut carried approximately six thousand civilians from all over the world across miles of flat, empty plains to the small desert town at the southern tip of Texas, only thirty miles from the Mexican border.… Read the rest

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Five Surprises About American Internment During World War II

The general history of America’s internment of its own citizens during World War II has focused on the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese, 62 percent of them American-born, who were forcibly evacuated from the Pacific coast after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

But few people know that Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt, which permitted the roundup of Japanese and their American-born children, also paved the way for the arrest of Germans and Italians who the FBI considered security risks and labeled as “enemy aliens.” Indeed the day before Roosevelt signed the order FBI agents had arrested 264 Italians, 1,296 Germans, and 2,209 on the East and West Coast. The hunt for perceived enemies was on.

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The Crystal City Internment Camp in World War II

Here are five surprising facts about the extent of FDR’s internment program:

Fact One: The arrests of suspected enemies extended far beyond our national borders. Under provisions of the Enemy Alien Act of 1798, the same act that allowed Presidents George W.… Read the rest

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How To Think About The Origins Of The American Surveillance State

slaveryMatt Stoller on understanding that the United States was birthed as a surveillance society:

American political surveillance is older than the republic itself.

Think about it this way. Slaves were controlled in a largely totalitarian society, even before the American Revolution, and this lasted until the Civil War. This society involved radical restrictions on peoples’ ability to read, travel, work for pay, trade, own property, marry, and not be physically and mentally abused. At the core of slavery was an aggressive need for control, it was the mother of all totalitarian surveillance cultures. This surveillance didn’t just involve slaves, but surveillance of those who sought to free slaves via such institutions as the Underground Railroad.

After slavery and a brief interlude of Reconstruction, sharecropping and segregation took its place, and sharecropping was enforced by a reign of terror by both legal institutions like local police and commercial monopolies of credit, railroads, and farm supplies, and extra-legal institutions like the KKK.

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A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination

Longtime disinformation collaborator Bryan Young (producer of the classic obesity film Killer At Large) has a new book in the works and he’s looking for funding via Kickstarter. He has our backing and we endorse the project should you care to lend yours.

Here’s their project description:

A Children’s Illustrated History of Presidential Assassination is a beautifully illustrated book born of a child’s desire to learn and a father’s belief that gaining knowledge should be fun and uplifting. It is designed to educate, entertain, and enlighten children from ages 1 to 100.

A couple of years ago, while visiting Washington D.C. for a writer’s workshop, author Bryan Young visited Ford’s Theatre, the site of John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. When he returned home, he showed his children the many pictures he had taken from his trip. To his delight and surprise, his daughter Scout was incredibly interested in the subject of Lincoln’s assassination, and Presidential assassinations in general.

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How The U.S. Air Force Nearly Nuked North Carolina

Long-serving disinfonauts may remember Disinfo Dave recounting the tale of the USAF B-52 that dropped two nuclear bombs on North Carolina for Canadian TV host Strombo (for those who never saw it, here’s Dave…).

Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser picks up the thread in his new book on nuclear weapons, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, reviewed here by Mother Jones:

On January 23, 1961, a B-52 packing a pair of Mark 39 hydrogen bombs suffered a refueling snafu and went into an uncontrolled spin over North Carolina. In the cockpit of the rapidly disintegrating bomber (only one crew member bailed out safely) was a lanyard attached to the bomb-release mechanism. Intense G-forces tugged hard at it and unleashed the nukes, which, at four megatons, were 250 times more powerful than the weapon that leveled Hiroshima. One of them “failed safe” and plummeted to the ground unarmed.

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What If European History Was Told Like Native American History?

european historyAn Indigenous History of North America inverts the norm by imagining a U.S. school textbook devoted to the intricacies of indigenous societies in the Americas, with a few paragraphs covering the history of Europe:

The first immigrants to Europe arrived thousands of years ago from central Asia. Most pre-contact Europeans lived together in small villages. Because the continent was very crowded, their lives were ruled by strict hierarchies within the family and outside it to control resources. Europe was highly multi-ethnic, and most tribes were ruled by hereditary leaders who commanded the majority “commoners.” These groups were engaged in near constant warfare.

Religion infused every part of Europeans’ lives. Europeans believed in one supreme deity, a father figure, who they believed was made of three parts, and they particularly worshiped the deity’s son. They claimed that their god had given humans domination over the earth. They built elaborate temples to him and performed ceremonies in which they ate crackers and drank wine and believed it was the body and blood of their god, who would provide them with entrance into a wondrous afterlife called heaven when they died.

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Remains Uncovered Of 14-Year-Old Girl Cannibalized At Jamestown Colony

jamestown cannibalismIs cannibalism the seed from which the United States sprang? Historical accounts have long hinted that the settlers at Jamestown, the first English colony in America, survived the harsh winter by feasting on the dead. Via CNN, researchers now have physical evidence in the form of bodily remains:

The winter of 1609 to 1610 was treacherous for early American settlers. Some 240 of the 300 colonists at Jamestown, in Virginia, died during this period, called the “Starving Time.” Desperate times led to desperate measures. New evidence suggests that includes eating the flesh of fellow colonists.

Archaeologists revealed Wednesday their analysis of 17th century skeletal remains suggesting that settlers practiced cannibalism to survive. Researchers unearthed an incomplete human skull and tibia in 2012 that contain several features suggesting that this particular person had been cannibalized. The remains come from a 14-year-old girl of English origin, whom historians are calling “Jane.”

There are about half a dozen accounts that mention cannibalistic behaviors at that time.

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