Dec 31, 2005

Toledo Riot Pictures

Nazi Bill White (ANSWP) and unidentified NSM supporter before North Toledo riotBill White and unidentified NSM supporter before the 2005 North Toledo riot

Unidentified Toledo police officer during 2005 North Toledo riot Unidentified Toledo police officer during 2005 North Toledo riot

Rioters facing off police during 2005 North Toledo riot Rioters facing off police during 2005 North Toledo riot

Photos copyright 2005, IsisDC

Dreary Weather, Buoyant Thoughts


(Toledo, OH) Even on a gloomy, slushy Saturday morning, the fact that a new year is about to begin is not lost on me. I have always used this day as an opportunity to look ahead and imagine what might happen in the future.

There have been a few times in which cynicism dominated my thinking on New Year's Eve; 1998 was a particularly rough year, and I recall watching the ball fall in Times Square on a television at a party while I was in a serious funk. I remember thinking that I was looking down into a metaphorical abyss, and the worst was yet to come.

My outlook on life, however, got much better, and I can look back and see that even the darkest of days eventually give way to better fortunes. Some of the difficult challenges I faced ultimately prepared me for opportunities that later arose; of course, in those hours of despair I could not envision the possibilities that were just beyond the horizon.

My resolutions:
1. By June, to lose this 20 pounds that I have added in the past 5 years.
2. Exercise daily.
3. Increase my volunteer work.
4. Settle on my field of specialization in my doctoral work.

Wherever you are, and whatever your situation, I hope that 2006 is a happy, healthful, and prosperous year for you and your family.

Dec 30, 2005

Lathrop House Sits...And Waits

The Lathrop House is a nineteenth-century building in Sylvania, OH with purported connections to the Underground Railroad, and a considerable body of historical evidence links the site to the larger effort of transferring slaves from bondage to freedom. It was recently shorn from its foundation and moved to a new location in Sylvania’s Harroun Park.

There is substantial evidence that the site may indeed be worthy of its rumored status as a Railroad station. A wide variety of documents from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries make mention of the site and its oral history. In addition, one of the early owners, Reverend Lucian Lathrop, was a politically active, avowedly anti-slavery citizen; among other doings, he attended the Free Democratic Party convention in 1849, which adopted a platform stating “slavery to be a moral, social and political evil."

I have a lengthier essay on the history of the Lathrop House here.

The Metropark system now owns the building, but it appears that little activity has taken place since the building was relocated. The Metroparks website says that "through a partnership with the City of Sylvania, Metroparks has agreed to restore the home and provide future public programming."

At the moment it does not appear that much activity has occurred in the 18 months since the building was moved from its original site. Protective fencing around the house has been torn down.

In the meantime, the building suffers the fate of any vacant structure; windows are broken by vandals, wind, rain, and snow take their toll on the exterior, and small animals begin to make the building their new home.

The contributions of the Lathrop family to the abolition movement and to the Underground Railroad have a longstanding oral tradition, and numerous family documents attest to Reverend Lucian Lathrop’s role as a conductor. I trust that Metroparks administrators are keeping this important piece of local history - as well as that of the Undergound Railroad - on their collective frontburner.

Dec 29, 2005

Thaw And Rain Lead To Flood Warnings

Left: The normally docile Ten Mile Creek is a raging torrent in downtown Sylvania; photos by historymike.

(Toledo, OH) Heavy rains and rapid snow melt have contributed to the issuance of flood warnings for most of Northwest Ohio, including Fulton, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Wood counties.

Flood stage on the Maumee River occurs at 15 feet; the National Weather Service projects that the Maumee will crest at 17.4 feet tomorrow morning.

Ten Mile Creek, which later becomes the Ottawa River, is currently overflowing its banks in Sylvania. Parking lots along Monroe Street will soon be filled with water.

Native Toledoans, of course, know that the area is built upon the remnants of the Great Black Swamp, largely drained in the nineteenth century. It does not take much rain to remind residents of Northwest Ohio that the Swamp only needs a few inches of precipitation to reclaim its turf.

Addendum, 5:00 PM:

The Ottawa River has already begun to overflow its banks; this photo was taken near Bancroft Street where there is a considerable flood plain. Homes near the Ottawa generally are safe due to the extensive parkland nearby, but there will likely not be any golfing at Toledo's Ottawa Park any time soon.

This small creek near my house usually trickles along at a depth of a few inches, but today is over four feet deep. Recent drainage improvements by the city reduced the likelihood of flooding in the area; such unglamorous works projects are an oft-ignored legacy of Jack Ford's term as mayor.

The aforementioned project is also supposed to prevent flooding on Douglas Road, which used to flood at every heavy rain. We shall see if this is the case in today's and subsequent flooding conditions.

Dec 28, 2005

Editorial: Back In The Race Again?


Left: Toledo city council rep Bob McCloskey; photo courtesy of Toledo Free Press

(Toledo, OH) Toledo city council rep Bob McCloskey's on-again, off-again flirtation with running for council president has returned to the active mode. Matt Zapotosky of the Toledo Free Press has an interview with McCloskey in which he claims that fellow rep Frank Szollosi told him that the Toledo Blade would back off in its investigations and negative editorials if McCloskey supported Szollosi.

Szollosi categorically denies McCloskey's claims.

I have editorialized on McCloskey numerous times in the past (here, here, and here, for starters). In short, he is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with Toledo politics, and elevating McCloskey to the position of council president is an affront ot the voters of Toledo.

In addition, McCloskey is weighed down with numerous legal difficulties, including accusations that he attempted to extort a $100,000 "gift" from a firm doing business with the city.

Bob - do the right thing and remove yourself from the running. Toledo has enough problems without entertaining the thought of the ethically-challenged Bob McCloskey as city council president.

Dec 27, 2005

2005 - "Year Of The Racist Right?"


Left: NSM members at the October 15 rally; photo by historymike

There has been a visible resurgence this year in the number of racist groups making a bid for power, and I believe that this portends a disturbing trend in American politics. 2005 may become known, among other things, as the “Year of the Racist Right.”

One of the most active groups has been the National Socialist Movement (NSM), which has staged rallies in Yorktown, VA as well as two in Toledo, OH. The first Toledo rally, which was cancelled when police began to lose control of the crowd, resulted in a four-hour riot. The second rally, on December 10, saw a force of 700 officers from local, state, and federal police agencies crack down on protesters; nearly three dozen anti-racist activists were arrested.

The racist right often finds a local disturbance as a means of invading an area. A November 19 rally in Kingston, NY was called by Internet white power podcaster Hal Turner after a black teen assaulted a white teen at the local high school. The first Toledo NSM rally has its origins in a dispute between two neighbors over garbage and graffiti.

Turner’s show has repeatedly advertised an imaginary product called the “Portable Nigger Lyncher.” Here is the text of the parody ad that Turner ran:

“Does the community where you live tend to be getting darker and darker? Are you looking for an evening of entertainment with your friends and family? Well, folks, this is the answer to your prayers. The one and only PNL — Portable Nigger Lyncher. Complete with two ropes and custom hand-tied nooses.”

2005 was also the year that the Minuteman Project was launched, and many people fear that the “Internal Vigilance Operations” and “Civil Defense Corps” will degenerate into vigilante forces of racists and neo-Nazis.

On December 15 US House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced anti-immigrant legislation that would categorize as felons the entire undocumented population; this figure also includes 1.6 million children. The House Judiciary Committee is also debating the efficacy of constructing a border fence in parts of Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico to stem the flow of migrant laborers.

One of the ironies of the white supremacist movement is that its extremist members make “traditional” conservatives seem more palatable. More than a few pundits have suggested that money links exist between mainstream conservative groups and the racist extremists; at any rate, the growth of the racist right certainly cannot hurt the GOP.

Finally, as a historian I am always drawn to parallels between the present and the past. Today’s growing white power movement has eerie similarities with the growth of Hitler’s Sturmabteilung (SA), and the fears of terrorism among Americans make the possibility of a domestic vigilante force seem all the more plausible.

This essay also appears on the Clamor magazine website.

Dec 26, 2005

New Restaurant Review Site


(Toledo, OH) As promised, here is a link to my new restaurant review site. I plan to post at least one review per week, depending on my schedule and incoming contributions.

I welcome submissions by readers, as well as suggestions on restaurants to review. Contributors can use their real names or a nom de plume.

My goal is to create an objective site by which readers can make informed dining decisions. Restaurant reviews will not be limited to the Toledo area, although I suspect that ninety percent of the reviews will be of Northwest Ohio eateries.

I worked in the restaurant business for 25 years in every position between dishwasher and owner. While I hope that I never work in a restaurant again, I think that I am uniquely qualified to write about my experiences.

The Best of Toledo - 2005


(Toledo, OH) This is the time of year in which Americans like to put together Top Ten lists for the past twelve months (there is probably an essay into why we are so obsessed with categorizing, counting and ranking, but that is for another time).

That being said, I am soliciting from readers the best moments of 2005 in Northwest Ohio. People, events, places - may your imagination be unlimited; let's assemble a list of everything that makes this area a worthwhile place to live.

I am turning back on the anonymous post function so that there are a higher number of posts, but be forewarned that I have a hair-trigger on the Delete button...

Dec 24, 2005

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Rapturous Yule, and Joyful Kwanzaa


(Toledo, OH) I wanted to pass along glad tidings to all of the people who pass by this site during this holiday season, and I hope that whatever form your celebration takes, you will find this time to be restful and blessed.

This is a time to set aside those concerns that weigh us down, and for families to rediscover the bonds that keep us from wandering through the world alone.

I will be taking a day or two away from this blog (barring anything newsworthy that kicks in my front door, since I hope to not leave my house for the next 36 hours).

May the New Year bring even better fortune, health, and happiness your way!


Michael Brooks

Dec 23, 2005

Personal Dilemma


(Toledo, OH) A certain neo-Nazi individual, about whom I have editorialized in the past, has decided to train his sights on a respected local journalist named Clyde Hughes. The title of the ridiculous, asinine missive is "Clyde Hughes In Journalism Newspaper: Now I Know Why He's Such A Shitty Reporter -- He's Black."

(I am not even going to bother to link the fecal matter being passed off as journalism, just so I do not contribute to the traffic; if you want to read it, you'll have to search it out yourself).

My dilemma is this: if I follow my instincts and step up to defend Clyde (who I know to be a decent, hardworking man), I then feed into the megalomania of the neo-Nazi writer, thus giving him that quantity he so desperately craves - publicity.

If I choose to ignore the obvious attempt by this neo-Nazi to bait a response by me (or any other thinking person from this area), then I in essence allow this attack to go unanswered, and a modicum of hate, ignorance, and evil is permitted to stand as "fact."

If you were in my shoes, what would you do? I will follow the anticipated collective advice, assuming there are enough responses to warrant a quorum.

Pragmatic Materialism:The Epistemological Evolution Of Jeffersonian Beliefs And Their Continued Influence


The Jeffersonian period is often characterized as an era heavily influenced by Enlightenment thinkers. The influence of rationalist philosophy certainly can be detected in the writings of such men as Benjamin Rush, David Rittenhouse, and Jefferson himself, and Enlightenment beliefs with regard to individual liberties, private property, and oppressive monarchies are evident in most of the theorists falling under the label “Jeffersonian.”

However, it is overly simplistic to shrug the philosophies of this period off as second-rate or neo-Enlightenment derivations, for the Jeffersonians developed a philosophy of pragmatic materialism that should be recognized as an advanced epistemological system in its own right. Moreover, this practicality influenced not only the earliest years of the republic, but also generations of American thinkers; by extension, it is not an overstatement to argue that the pragmatic materialism espoused by the Jeffersonians was a primary developing factor in the evolution of the market-focused America of the postmodern world.

The Components of the Pragmatic Materialism of the Jeffersonians

It is important to note that members of Jefferson’s inner circle of like-minded thinkers did not subscribe to an organized theological or philosophical school per se, save the umbrella-like American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Each individual possessed unique religious beliefs, and there was some variety between Jeffersonians in the manifestation of their respective views. Nonetheless, the high degree to which Jeffersonians agreed on philosophical issues makes a strong case for the validity of a model of “typical” Jeffersonian beliefs.

The Jeffersonians believed that the human mind and the process of thought were material entities, and that physical forces caused them to act as they did. Rush, for example, argued that the Divine creation of man, depicted in the “breath of life” passage in Genesis, “thus excited in him [man] animal, intellectual, and spiritual life, in consequence of which he became an animated human creature.” This physical process of jump-starting the lungs provided the force that drove every human function, including mental activities. For Jeffersonians, the human mind and thinking were active, material processes, and they scoffed at metaphysical explanations for thought. Jefferson himself argued that thought was “an action of a particular organization of matter,” much like magnetism and gravity. Continuing on this track, Jefferson questioned how a metaphysical, non-material entity like spirit, “which has neither extension nor solidity, can put material organs into motion.”

Concurrent with this belief in the material basis for human thought was the Jeffersonian conviction that the great variety in human minds reflected the variety found in the physical attributes of any animal. Rush declared that the differences in the minds of men were akin to differences in human physiques. Jefferson argued that “[a]s the Creator has made no two faces alike, so no two minds, and probably no two creeds.” Thus intellectual, political, and theological conformity were not ideals to the Jeffersonians any more than, say, blond hair, green eyes, or any other physical characteristic. The development of ideal standards of thought ran counter to the designs of the Creator, in whose infinite wisdom begat intellectual variation among humans. To attempt to build such models of ideal thinking not only risked offending God, but were the vainglorious blunders of fools.

In keeping with their materialist philosophy, Jeffersonians believed that the human conscience was also a physical process; they called this the “moral sense,” and it functioned in the same manner as any of the five classic senses: taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing. Man, according to the Jeffersonians, was the only creature hard-wired for the moral sense, and it was this characteristic that most set man apart from lower forms of life. Jefferson argued that “the moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm.” Physical forces acted on the moral sense and produced effects, and the Jeffersonians believed that man’s environment could either improve or degrade his conscience. Rush believed that this principle was best demonstrated in the example of alcohol:
The effects of certain drinks upon the moral faculty are not less observable than upon the intellectual powers of the mind. Fermented liquors, of a good quality, and taken in a moderate quantity, are favourable to the virtues of candour, benevolence, and generosity; but when they are taken in excess, or when they are of a bad quality, and taken even in a moderate quantity, they seldom fail of rousing every latent spark of vice into action.

Immoral behavior, then, was a function of physical factors, such as environment, heredity, and experience. Individuals could make choices, but stronger or weaker moral senses could lead men astray. Morality was a matter of health, not spirituality; to cure men of immoral behavior required a physician to treat the underlying causes of the dysfunctional moral system. A moral code would be no more useful than an attempt to legislate ideal levels of hearing or sight. However, Jeffersonians believed that the removal of factors causing a degraded moral sense could bring about an improvement in behavior. Rush has been called the Father of Temperance not because he took a strong stance against alcohol consumption, but because he lent scientific credibility to the argument that restricting alcohol use would lead to a rise in the general level of morality in a given population.

The key to promoting moral behavior, to the Jeffersonians, was to educate citizens on the ways in which optimal moral health might be obtained. Priestly and Rush each produced texts that purported to demonstrate the role of good habits in producing a healthy moral sense. Moderation in earthly delights was important to a healthy morality, and Jeffersonians advocated physical exercise combined with hard work as necessary elements. The rural homestead was the ideal environment for the strengthening of moral sense, as the vices so often concentrated in cities would not find an advantageous growth medium on the farm. In addition, Jeffersonians believed that the isolated nature of agrarian life acted as a shelter against the morality-degrading elements of the city.

While influenced by the skeptical views toward religion by Enlightenment thinkers, Jeffersonians nonetheless maintained beliefs in a Creator. In general, they can be categorized as Deists, although each retained individual religious views and attended a variety of types of churches. Boorstin argued that a more accurate description for the religious beliefs of the Jeffersonians would be to use Paine’s “Religion of Humanity.” Mainstream Christians they were not, although Jeffersonians viewed Christ with awe and respect. His message, though, had been distorted and perverted by dogmatic organized religions, in the eyes of Jefferson.

Like all elements of Jeffersonian philosophy, the Creator was a material being. Priestly argued that, by defining the Creator as a material being, “He was ultimately more real than the spiritual God of the metaphysicians.” Jeffersonians scoffed at the logical paradoxes of Christianity, such as the belief in the Trinity, divine communication through spiritual revelation, and the idea that a non-material Creator could bring forth a material world. Jefferson and most of the members of his circle viewed Christ not as a divine Messiah, but as a great social reformer and the greatest classical moralist.

The Residual Effects of the Pragmatic Materialism of the Jeffersonians

Students of history have a tendency to compartmentalize the period being studied as somehow removed from relevance to their world. One can, for example, examine the horrors and excesses of the European witch craze, and derive consolation from the “fact” that humans have evolved since that time, or that humanity has somehow learned from its past mistakes. This approach, of course, ignores more recent acts of genocide, such as the policies flowing from the minds of leaders like Hitler, Pol Pot, or Pinochet. Separating oneself from the past also prevents people from recognizing how past beliefs can have influence that extends into modernity. Jeffersonian materialism helped shape the nascent United States, and this pragmatic philosophical outlook is still evident in contemporary American society.

The previously noted effects of Jeffersonian materialism – in particular the pragmatic medicine of Benjamin Rush – on the temperance movement can also be seen in its modern equivalent: the American war on drugs. Like the Jeffersonians, today’s drug crusaders do not appeal to Biblical sources for morality, but instead draw connections between drug use and immoral behavior. Users are portrayed as degraded, beast-like creatures whose craving for intoxicants causes them to engage in the most reprehensible behavior; these actions, however, are the direct result of the introduction of the material that destroys morality, and are not attributed to metaphysical causes. For both Jeffersonians and modern anti-drug devotees, alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases that can be treated, and addicts are simply people whose vices have eroded their moral faculties.

The overt anti-Calvinism of the Jeffersonians has shaped contemporary American attitudes toward the intersection of religion and politics. It was important for Jeffersonians that people of different faiths achieve social harmony, and they were believed that religious orthodoxy would likely lead to theocratic tyranny. Jefferson himself frequently spoke out against the threat of religious despotism, as evident in the following quote:
(T)o compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness.

In a letter to Prussian naturalist and explorer Baron Alexander von Humboldt, Jefferson further refined the disfavor with which he held the prospect of a society dominated by religious orthodoxy:
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.

The Jeffersonians were a group of thinkers whose faith in man’s ability to subdue the forces of nature led their collective belief in progress and a promising future. In this respect the Jeffersonians are perhaps most influential into modernity, for many Americans still hold fast to the cultural doctrine of America as a land of perpetual progress. This faith in progress and the image of the can-do nature of Americans have unbroken connections to the pragmatic materialism of the Jeffersonians.

These men loathed the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, and took issue with the idea that man of was incapable of actions that would affect his destiny. The Jeffersonian belief that man could effect change and improve his lot in life is one of the most sacred tenets in the mythology of modern America, and many people still cling to the conviction that this is a land of opportunity for hard-working individuals. The rhetoric of last November's Presidential campaign provided plenty of examples of 21st-century Americans who espouse beliefs in the Jefferson-inspired ideology of America as a nation of perpetual progress. Witness the remarks of President George W. Bush to the annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges:
And it's one of the reasons why I'm optimistic that America will lead -- continue to lead the world when it comes to innovation and change. And that will be good for our people. That will be good for the revitalization of what I call the American spirit and the American dream.

Senator John Kerry is also no stranger to the concept of an optimistic future for the United States. In his speech to the Democratic National Convention, Kerry invoked rhetoric that surely draws its inspiration from the Jeffersonians:
So much promise stretches before us. Americans have always reached for the impossible, looked to the next horizon, and asked: What if? Two young bicycle mechanics from Dayton asked what if this airplane could take off at Kitty Hawk? It did that and changed the world forever. A young president asked what if we could go to the moon in ten years? And now we're exploring the solar system and the stars themselves. A young generation of entrepreneurs asked, what if we could take all the information in a library and put it on a little chip the size of a fingernail? We did and that too changed the world forever… It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come. Goodnight, God bless you, and God bless America.

Though dead nearly 200 years, Thomas Jefferson and his circle of like-minded thinkers continue to influence the way in which Americans think about themselves, their government, and their future.

This is an umpublished essay that I need to motivate myself to do something with; comments are always appreciated

Dec 22, 2005

A Long Way Until Spring Training

Left: St. Clair Street view of Toledo's snow-covered Fifth Third Field; photo by historymike

(Toledo, OH) I wistfully stood outside the stadium yesterday and took this photo; no Mudhens were in sight.

The team captured the IL crown this season, only its second title in 109 years. We are a long 104 days away from opening day, and this fan is looking forward to a few lazy evenings on the third base line next summer.

Let's hope 2006 is as rewarding as 2005.

On "Pocahontas" And Ohio History

I am reprinting this short essay today because I am looking for reader feedback

Left: 1616 engraving of Pocahontas by Simon van de Passe

A recent survey of 57 students in a survey-level history course at the University of Toledo provided interesting data on the general awareness of this sample group toward the history of indigenous peoples who formerly populated Northwest Ohio. For the purposes of the study, students who were raised outside the rough parameters of “Northwest and Northern Ohio and Southeastern Michigan” were eliminated from the analysis, since they would ostensibly have less connection to the history of the area. The remaining students, who numbered 49, were asked to name any Native American groups that they believed once lived in this region.

While the survey size was relatively small, the results provided some meaningful data. Nearly 37% of respondents could not name any Native American group, or felt compelled to jot down answers outside the purview of the survey. Approximately 22% of respondents answered with a Native American group, such as the Seminoles, that did not have a direct historic connection with the region in and around Northwest Ohio. Only 20% of respondents could name 2 or more Native American groups. Finally, out of 49 respondents, exactly zero could name the Potawatomi as a group of people who once populated the Great Black Swamp and surrounding areas.

The recollections that students had from childhood, pop culture, and secondary schools provide insights into the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of social studies curricula in regional schools. Students were much more likely to recall information on Native American groups from movies than from secondary schools.

Not surprisingly, students most frequently noted the Disney film “Pocahontas” as their number one source for information about Native Americans. In fact, over 42% of survey respondents claimed that their secondary schools provided little or no instruction on Native American history or culture, or that they have no recollection of this material being presented to them. A number of students pointedly chastised their schools for a curricular focus that was almost entirely 20th century and American in its coverage of history.

While the sample size in this survey was small, the results unquestionably indicate a general lack of awareness among college students on the indigenous peoples who lived in Ohio.

The questions now before us: Should we care, and should we rely on the Disney Corporation to provide education on Native Americans?

What does the history of indigenous peoples mean for neo-European Americans?

Dec 21, 2005

Downtown Vignettes

Left: Ice cracking on the Maumee River with the new I-280 Veterans Memorial Bridge in the background; all photos by historymike

(Toledo, OH) What I thought would be a mundane trip downtown today turned quite interesting; I am glad that I had my digital camera with me. The weather has thankfully begun to warm up, and we may hit forty degrees by Friday.

This is certainly good news, as Northwest Ohio has been in a 4-day blast of Arctic air that took a long time to move out of the area.

Left: "Flarp" at the Wintergarden

I met someone at the downtown branch library for an interview shortly before noon. My attention wavered when music began to drift toward me; a flautist and a harpist were performing as part of the library's "Sounds of the Season" series, which continues through tomorrow. I have always enjoyed the soft plunk of harp strings, which seem to resonate deep within my soul. The duo goes by the name of "Flarp," but I was not able to get the names of the individual musicians who graced the Wintergarden with evocative holiday music.

Left: Father Frost at the downtown post office

After being frustrated earlier in the day by the long line at the Franklin Park post office, I resolved that I would visit the downtown location. Not only was this branch uncrowded, I met Father Frost (or Ded Moroz; in Russian - Дед Мороз), the traditional Russian version of Santa Claus who was clad in green. He apparently finds the US Postal Service to be a cost-effective means by which to deliver presents to Orthodox children.

From Wikipedia:
After the Russian Revolution, when in 1920s Bolsheviks started to wage a campaign against religion and superstitions, Ded Moroz and the New Year Fir Tree were banned. Joseph Stalin restored the tradition in 1935. In 1937, Ded Moroz for the first time arrived to the Moscow Palace of Unions. Since this time an invitation to the Fir Tree at the Palace of Unions became a matter of honor for Soviet children. Several times the coat of Ded Moroz was changed to be not confused with Santa Claus to a long blue coat. Joseph Stalin ordered Palace of Unions' Ded Morozes to wear only blue coats.

Left: The Cherry Street Mission

Jarring me back to reality was a drive past the Cherry Street Mission, the most prominent of Toledo's homeless shelters. Those of us with a few extra dollars this year might consider a donation to this worthy institution, which has served the homeless in Toledo since 1947. In an average year the mission provides shelter for many hundreds of local homeless, and has served as many as 71,000 meals to the needy.

Most people are only a few small paychecks away from finding ourselves clients of such institutions, so give what you can to this most deserving of charities.

Arrested Protesters Speak Out Against Police Response


Left: Toledo Police pull over car carrying anti-Nazi protesters from Illinois on December 10; photo by historymike

(Toledo, OH) The December 10 neo-Nazi rally at One Government Center was not accompanied by a repeat of the violence and rioting associated with the October 15 rally.

Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre estimated that 700 officers from a wide variety of local, county, and state jurisdictions participated in maintaining order at the second rally at a cost of an estimated $300,000.

Questions have been raised, though, about possible infringements upon civil liberties. Nearly three dozen anti-Nazi protesters were arrested on an assortment of charges.

One of the arrested was Scott Rogers, who traveled with three friends from Illinois to take part in the protest.

“We saw some notices on the Internet that people were meeting at local libraries and then heading downtown,” he said. “We showed up at the West Toledo branch on Sylvania and a police officer told us to leave, and that he could have a paddy wagon there in two minutes.”

Rogers said that several local residents asked them for a ride downtown and climbed in the station wagon the protesters drove in.

“As soon as we pulled out onto Sylvania, a police car pulled us over. He said we had too many people in the car,” he said. “Within five minutes there were over 20 officers on the scene.”

Officers made the group get out of the car and walk into a nearby parking lot.

“We were forced to kneel on the parking lot for an hour with our legs crossed behind our backs,” said Alex Maromyguin, also an Illinois resident. “They tied our hands with plastic restraints that cut off the circulation of my fingers. Between the cold and the plastic ties, it got to the point where I couldn’t even move my fingers. It reminded me of a photo from Abu Ghraib.”

Another member of the group, Rehana Khan, said that the police refused to tell the protesters why they were being detained.

“When we would ask them, they would tell us to shut up,” she said. “A girl from Toledo started talking about her civil rights, and a cop knocked her over and smashed her face in the snow.”

Khan objected to the lack of notice about the temporary restraining order banning protests away from the official rally site.

“We were en route from Chicago when the court decision came down, and never heard anything about this ridiculous order,” she said. “Besides, we weren’t even protesting outside the zone. We left the library as soon as the officer told us to leave.”

Jeremy Hammond, among the seven protesters arrested on Sylvania, said that there are many misconceptions about the protesters.

“There were outrageous media reports – planted by Bill White of the NSM - that we were planning to ‘attack’ the Nazis, and that we were transporting weapons,” he said. “The police seized a can of black spray paint we used for protest signs and a $5 slingshot I bought at Meijer’s many months ago. The idea that we were here for violence is preposterous.”

Rogers noted that the Illinois protesters have been blamed for all sorts of problems.

"Bill White claims on his website that we called him and threatened him, and that we were outside his motel," he said. "The problem is we were too busy being arrested 15 miles from his motel to have bothered him when he claims, and we don't even know his phone number. Some of the Nazi websites also claim we were the ones who bricked the tattoo parlor, which of course we would have had to accomplish while we were in jail."

Another misconception about the group is that they are part of some secret conspiracy, said Rogers.

“We are friends who happen to share a belief that neo-Nazi philosophies of genocide and racism are dangerous and should be opposed,” he said. “We drove here not as members of some organized group but as concerned citizens.”

A local protester, who declined to give her name on record, said that her experience mirrored those of the Illinois protesters.

“I showed up at a local library branch to protest, but people said the police were not allowing any protest there,” she said. “I chose instead to go to the downtown rally.”

When she returned to her car after the rally, police surrounded her vehicle.

“All of a sudden there were eight cruisers surrounding my car,” she said, adding that she believes her car must have been followed from the local library. “They arrested me for disorderly conduct, took me to jail, and impounded my car.”

In the holding cell, inmates were not provided with food, she said.

“Many people had not eaten since breakfast, and the guards said that they do not normally provide meals,” she said, noting that she was not released until 10 PM. “In the meantime, the break room for the officers was right in front of us, and some of the guards made a point of walking past us and showing off their food.”

George Windau, a local labor activist, said he witnessed three protesters get arrested for sitting in a car on Michigan.

"We were turned away from the rally because one of the people I was with had metal studs on his jacket. We decided that since all of us couldn't get in, we would leave," he said. "The car was parked in on Michigan by the public library. They got in their car, and while I was talking on my cell phone, a bunch of police cruisers roared up."

Windau said that he and another protester were not detained, but the three in the car were.

"It was very arbitrary," he said. "The only thing different about the people in the car is they had on anti-Nazi T-shirts, while we did not. The police arrested them for illegal demonstration."

Hammond said that the arrests will also be the subject of protest.

“We plan to hold a short rally in January when our cases come before the court,” he said. “People of conscience should be horrified that these unconstitutional and arbitrary arrests occurred.”

Police Chief Mike Navarre defended the department’s actions.

“We were very pleased with how the rally went on December 10,” he said. “We made it very clear that in the days and weeks before the rally that there would be zero tolerance for criminal behavior.”

Navarre believes that the department’s approach to the second rally was critical to avoiding a repeat of the October violence.

“The zero tolerance policy was very successful. No one was injured, no police officers were injured, and there was no property damage,” he said. “As for individuals who feel they were unlawfully arrested they are certainly entitled to due process, and that is what the court system is for.”

A condensed version of this article also appears in this week's Toledo Free Press.

Dec 20, 2005

Bill White: A Study In Narcissism And Delusion

Left: Bill White, before the aborted October 15 rally in Toledo; photo by historymike

(Toledo, OH) A few weeks ago Bill White of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) wrote several scathing articles about DC photographer Isis, with whom I have had the pleasure of working in the past. White made some bizarre claims about Isis making "unwanted sexual advances to myself and other NSM members," and claimed that she was "stalking" them.

At the time I just assumed this was just Bill's sinister attack mode, and that he was merely engaging in disinformation to disparage a journalist.

Today, however, the misogynistic mind of Mr. White went after Nicole Nichols, who runs the Citizens Against Hate website. His latest missive is entitled "Nicole Nichols Is In Love With Me."

I will save readers the trouble of reading White's delusional rants by summarizing the article: a) Bill believes that Nicole engages in sexual fantasies about him; b) Bill believes that Nicole is substituting him for her ex-husband; and c) Bill believes that white supremacists who disagree with him are effeminate.

I have had conversations with both women, Bill. Let me pass along something to you: in general both of them find you disturbed, repulsive, and filled with anger, although they acknowledge your high intelligence. Any thoughts you have that Isis or Nicole wish to be romantically or sexually involved with you exist only in your head.

Of course, the worst position to be in is to be an ex-girlfriend of White's; Erica Hardwick found herself repeatedly attacked after she and White broke up (formerly Erica Hoesch, she later joined the anti-racist movement). Most of White's invectives against Hardwick are not worthy of reprinting here due to their pornographic and libelous nature, so I will not provide a link. White's site does, however, have a search engine for those who insist on reading his warped hallucinations.

In short, Bill White has some serious interpersonal issues with women. I hesitated writing this because I do not wish to feed into the megalomania that is the psyche of White, but I decided that White's gynophobic spasms against two people I know to be decent, hardworking women warranted an editorial response.

Unfortunately, White will continue this behavior regardless of what this writer thinks, but I cannot sit idly by and watch these vicious diatribes go without a response from a detached observer.

Reviewing Restaurants


(Toledo, OH) I am going to embark on a culinary and rhetorical journey into the world of restaurant reviews. I am looking for feedback as to whether I should create a separate blog or whether to include said reviews in my already-schizophrenic collection at this site.

What do you think? Would a weekly restaurant review clog up this site, add to it, or provide a change of pace? Would you out-of-town readers be turned off by posts about mostly Midwestern eateries?

My reasoning is simple: I like to eat, I like to write, and I am uniquely qualified, as I spent 25 years working in the restaurant business in every position between dishwasher and owner. I have worked in fast food, casual restaurants, and fine dining, and I know a good restaurant when I visit one.

Anyways, thanks in advance for any comments on this topic...

18 Below Zero Wind Chill

Left: 8:00 AM temperature map, courtesy of

(Toledo, OH) I normally like winter. I like the feeling of cold air on my face in the morning as an invigorating start to the day.

To a point.

I woke up this morning feeling like a hibernating bear; my joints creaked, and for a moment I think I saw my breath hanging in the air above my head like a frozen mist.

In my house.

Toledo is collectively shivering through its coldest day of the year at the moment, as temperatures dipped to 7, 8, or 9 degrees last night (depending on which forecaster you heard). Artic winds drove the wind chill down to 18 below zero last night.

This is beyond "bone-chilling" weather; it is the kind of cold that makes people want to put on three layers of clothing and entomb themselves in a thermal sleeping bag until it passes.

Of course, my 17-year old son with bronchitis decided to go out with friends last night.

Wearing only a hooded sweatshirt. Best line: "Mom, what does it mean when your chest hurts when you cough?"

(historymike bit his tongue and DID NOT say: "It means you are a blithering idiot, son.")

If only there was some way to merge the energy of youth with the wisdom gained in one's thirties.

Dec 19, 2005

Trilby: The Search For A Vanishing Ohio Village

Left: 1913 photo of Trilby School

A cursory glance through any of the telephone directories that clutter my living room yields several dozen listings for businesses containing “Trilby” in their names. From Trilby Animal Hospital to Trilby United Methodist Church, the amorphous locality known as Trilby survives in a number of Toledo businesses, churches, and even an elementary school.

The old Trilby fire station, however, recently fell to the wrecking ball to make room for (what else?) another drug store.

If a West Toledoan with any significant period of residence is asked about the physical location of Trilby, the usual answer runs along the lines of “the Alexis and Secor area.” Indeed, it is possible to strike several Trilby establishments with a metaphorical thrown stone while standing at this intersection.

The logical questions (at least to this historically-minded writer) upon discovering the wealth of Trilby-laden monikers would be: What, exactly, is Trilby, and why does it no longer exist as a political entity? In addition, why are these questions relevant to a twenty-first century Toledoan?

The inhabitants of Northwest Ohio at the time of the arrival of white settlers belonged to a wide variety of Amerindian groups; chief among these were the Ottawa, Potawatami, Delaware, and Shawnee. The Treaty of Greenville (1795), orchestrated by General Anthony Wayne, legally cordoned off Northwest Ohio from white settlement, but western migration of settlers eventually resulted in the erosion of Native American presence in the area.

In the nearly bloodless Toledo War of 1835, militia units from Ohio and Michigan tracked each other through the plentiful swamps; the forces were dispatched by the respective governors during a dispute over a 468-acre section of land that was known as the “Toledo Strip.” Inaccurate surveys commissioned during the territorial years of both Ohio and Michigan created ambiguity as to which state owned the marshy terrain. The area later known as Trilby was part of the land upon which this quarrel centered. Ohio finally gained control of the Toledo Strip in a compromise that gave Michigan the mineral-rich Upper Peninsula; modern readers can judge for themselves as to which state “won” the war in the long run.

Settlement in the Trilby area can be documented as early as 1835, when a 40-acre parcel of land was purchased by an Irish immigrant named Thomas Corlett. The land, located directly northeast of today’s Secor-Alexis intersection, changed hands several times over the course of the next decade. A small schoolhouse was eventually built on the property in the 1840’s, beginning the Trilby tradition of education that continues today.

Local legend holds that Tremainsville Road was once an Indian footpath; the track supposedly picked back up at present-day Whiteford Center Road. Nineteenth-century maps depict a large frog pond just north of the present Alexis-Secor intersection; perhaps the trails that predated Whiteford Center and Tremainsville Roads were one and the same, snaking their way around the pond.

Tremainsville Road was named after a Mr. Calvin Tremain, a businessman who immigrated to the area from Vermont in 1832. Tremainsville was also the name of a small settlement near Ten Mile Creek and present-day Detroit Avenue; Toledo Raceway Park is the current inhabitant of the land where once stood the village of Tremainsville.

More to follow on this reprinted essay; it is a work in progress, and I am interested in your feedback.

Dec 18, 2005

John Ulmer - On the Ropes?

Left: John Ulmer, courtesy of Real Wealth Expo website

(Toledo, OH) Lucas County Common Pleas judge Thomas Osowik agreed to a preliminary injunction last week against the Westhaven Group and several affiliated companies owned by John Ulmer. This is the latest in legal actions against Ulmer-related businesses over the past few years.

Community activists have long complained about the allegedly predatory practices of the Westhaven group, which uses investor monies to buy dilapidated properties, improve them, and sell them to sub-prime (read: poor and/or poor credit) buyers at double-digit interest rates. Ulmer has been accused of selling properties with major undisclosed problems, selling to people who could never make the high payments, and repossessing properties on the most marginal of contractual technicalities.

The Toledo Blade's Mike Wilkinson, one of the principal writers in the Coingate/ Tom Noe series that uncovered a web of influence peddling and corruption in Ohio state government, has been working hard on this story. There have been several references to the Coingate saga in the latest flurry of articles into Mr. Ulmer's dealings.

At first I just assumed that this was an effort for the Blade to play off the glory of Coingate. Heck, if I had a story that hot I would be milking it for all it was worth, too.

However, I don't think the Blade can be taken to task on this one. Ulmer's latest troubles seemed to surface after authorities recovered $1 million of state monies that Noe invested in the Westhaven Group.

What would be the consequences of a firm like Westhaven suddenly having to return $1 million in investments? That amount represents about 4% of the unprofitable firm's total investments. My guess: returning the BWC investment has crippled Ulmer's cash flow, and this may be the death knell for Ulmer.

There will likely be criminal charges filed against Ulmer for selling unregistered securities, making false representations in the sale of securities, and engaging in securities fraud. Some have likened Ulmer's businesses to Ponzi schemes with new investors paying off the old; time will tell if this is the case.

I interviewed a homeowner last year who bought a home from the Westhaven Group. After she got in the house she learned about serious problems with the electrical wiring that took $3000 to repair. She also learned that the house had undisclosed problems with lead paint, and found to her horror that her 1-year old granddaughter showed elevated lead levels.

Eventually Westhaven and the city of Toledo's Housing Department worked out a deal with the woman to get her into a new property. To my knowledge, the troubled property remains vacant.

Defenders of Westhaven point out that Ulmer's company deals with inexperienced clients, and the high interest rates merely reflect the increased costs of doing business with high credit risk homeowners.

I have been in exactly one house sold by Westhaven, so I am not in any position to speak for all of the thousands of properties the company has bought and sold.

The house I saw, though, was sold at a price at least forty percent over its true value, and the 14% interest rate seemed to me to be an abomination.

But hey - that must just be the latent bleeding heart liberal in me, right?

Dec 17, 2005

Mysterious Bus Bench


(Toledo, OH) I have passed this bus bench on Monroe Street near the corner of Douglas Road for some time now, and I am puzzled as to the meaning of the letters inscribed on it by an unknown painter.

The bench is owned by Bench Billboard Company, which is based in Cincinnati. This bench appears to have been pirated by a guerilla artist with an unknown agenda.

So I call out to Toledoans, anagram enthusiasts, and code breakers to solve this odd puzzle, which has been driving me batty for a few weeks.

What, in your opinion, did the artist have in mind when he or she painted these letters? First person to correctly solve this mystery gets my undying gratitude, as well as a gold star on your forehead.

Diehard Brave Cold For Shot At XBox

(Toledo, OH) While running errands this evening I came across a group of the hardiest, most fanatical video game enthusiasts I have ever seen.

There were about 30 people spending the night outside of the Best Buy on Monroe Street to get a shot at purchasing the new XBox 360.

"I read online that they were getting 36 of the new XBoxes in tonight," said Brian Grady of Toledo. "I wanted to make sure that my kids get one for Christmas."

Another man, whose name I did not catch, said he had been there since 2 PM today; this will mean an 18-hour wait overnight in temperatures dipping down into the low teens.

"I have on three layers of clothing plus this thermal blanket," he said. "We were taking turns waiting in my friend's car until his battery died."

The Xbox 360 Core lists at $299.99, and the "premium" version costs $399.99. On sites like eBay XBoxes have been fetching two to three times the retail prices.

Industry analysts debate whether Microsoft deliberately shipped an insufficient supply of XBoxes or whether this is a massive failure by the suppliers to the corporate behemoth to deliver the game consoles.

Molly O'Donnell, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, told the Washington Post that the company had projected that it would sell 3 million XBox 360s in the first three months, and that it is still on track to hit that goal.

On iPods and Walkmen

This is an unpublished essay that has been bouncing around on my laptop for a few months; I am looking for feedback on themes I may not have considered...thanks!

Headphones, those aural attachments linking people and machines, are found in almost every setting that features human activity. As my children left for school recently, chief among their concerns was to make sure that they brought headphones and music. Boarding the bus that carried them to school, headphones were donned and each wearer traveled to the accompaniment of an individualized soundtrack.

Headphones and portable music devices, of course, are no longer novel products. Sony launched the first Walkman in 1979; it was initially called, variously, the “Soundabout,” the “Stowaway,” and the “Freestyle” in different world markets. The birth of the Walkman signaled a new era in personal entertainment. The iPod, while offering digital technology and unlimited programming possibilities, is really just a more evolved concept of an older machine. Users of both devices tune in to music that they have personally chosen, while they simultaneously tune out from the rest of humanity.

I was struck by the sight of over half the students on the school bus, quietly ensconced in their own musical refuges. The lack of connection to the outside world seemed to me to be analogous to social changes wrought by the consumerist mentalité honed in these recent decades of hyper-capitalism; under the guise of personal choice and individual freedom, human interaction appears to be increasingly seen as a distraction, rather than an integral part of life.

Hearkening back to my childhood, I thought of my own experiences on busses or in automobiles. One of the best ways to pass the time was to engage in song – the louder the better. As I traveled with other children on field trips, vacations, or visits to relatives’ houses, the defining event on such excursions was group singing, especially such wonderful ditties as “99 Bottles of Beer”:

99 bottles of beer on the wall
99 bottles of beer,
If one of those bottles should happen to fall,
98 bottles of beer on the wall.

Despite the protests of any nearby adults, the communal joy of group song united us youngsters and awakened a sense of the power of social bonds. There was still freedom for the individualists, who could interject lyric changes (“99 bottles of pee on the wall”) or magnitude shifts (“a million bottles of beer on the wall”). Free market aficionados – usually parents or employed older siblings - could also negotiate the terms of group solidarity (“I will give each of you a dollar to be quiet for the next hour”). Ultimately, even this attempt to bribe the silence of the nascent group consciousness only reinforced the collective sense; the same could be said for desperate authoritarian measures, as found in a weary parent demanding silence.

Pre-Walkman teens engaged in a variety of communal experiences involving music. Eagerly anticipated by any young person with a radio was the weekly countdown. There were, of course, plenty of songs that any given listener hated, but always a few worth waiting for. The rise of FM radio in the 1970s increased the number of choices, but groups became defined by their stations of choice. Powerful car stereos, for the most part, blasted the stations in which the listeners identified. If eight-tracks or cassettes were played, the group still listened – sometimes grudgingly – to the consensus choice.

Even the boom-box, despite its intrusion into the domiciles of neighbors, possessed an element of community. Megawatt entertainment centers, usually propped upon the shoulder of the possessor, broadcast musical selections hundreds of yards. Whether one loved, despised, or remained indifferent to the box owner’s musical taste, every person within earshot shared the experience.

The Walkman, however, added a completely new element to the mix – the isolated musical consumer. One no longer joined others on a musical excursion, put up with the choices of the group, or remained resigned to the cacophonous choices of others. Largely cut off from the outside world, Walkman owners temporarily plugged into a sonic universe of self-seeking detachment in which, like an aural opiate, offered an escape from reality.

The iPod, like the Walkman, isolates the listener from the people around them. The owner of the device, however, is in a sense even more removed, as the very playlist is individualized. Alone in a musical oasis, the iPod owner becomes separated from humanity, and contact with others is seen as an intrusion, rather than an integral part of human existence.

And the band played on…

Dec 16, 2005

On Police Chief Mike Navarre

Left: Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre, talking with protesters before the October 15 NSM rally

(Toledo, OH) I visited a funeral home yesterday; the father of a friend of mine passed away. I did not know the man except through the anecdotes that my friend shared with me about her father.

I looked up and to my surprise Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre came into the room. He walked over to the casket, watched the video profile of my friend's father, talked with many of the people in the room, and left after about an hour.

The man who passed away was a Toledo Police officer who retired in 1985. Twenty years have passed since he left the force, and yet Navarre took time out of his evening to pay his respects to a good man he may not have seen in years.

This quiet, low-key chief, in my opinion, has been unfairly blamed for the riot that occurred on October 15 after the failed rally by the National Socialist Movement (NSM). The incident involving Captain Diana Ruiz-Krause is completely irrelevant to the violence that happened, as Ruiz-Krause is the public information officer for the department. Navarre was well within his rights to make a simple personnel decision - allowing Ruiz-Krause to attend a family event - especially when she left at a time when the crowd was peaceful.

Note: I have heard favorable comments from TPD officers about Captain Jack Smith, Navarre's apparent replacement in January. I trust that mayor-elect Carty Finkbeiner has done his homework and picked a capable administrator.

The department has achieved distinction in Navarre's tenure as chief. The report from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) noted that TPD ranked in the top five percent of police agencies nationwide, confirming what most Toledoans know: Mike Navarre has performed admirably in his role as chief.

I have great respect and admiration for Mike Navarre, and he has been a straightforward and honest administrator in the dealings that I have had with him. The attacks on Navarre, in my opinion, are completely unwarranted, and reflect the ugly political nature of a government bureaucracy.

Mike Navarre, you will be missed.

Dec 15, 2005

Benjamin Rush: Revolutionary Psychology


The following is an excerpt of an article I recently submitted to an academic journal; I am reprinting it on my blog today because I have some last-minute, end-of-semester loose ends to gather.

Left: Rush's "tranquilizing chair"

American medical philosophy drew heavily from European models in the colonial period, in large part due to the dearth of formal medical schools. Such institutions serve as the training facility for the next generation of physicians, but, more importantly, medical schools also function as important sources of the practical experimentation and theoretical discourse that push forward the knowledge base of the field of medicine. This lack of prestigious medical schools drove Benjamin Rush, like so many of his colonial American compatriots, overseas to complete his medical instruction.

Rush traveled to Edinburgh and London to study under what were then the world’s preeminent medical instructors. The influence of European instruction is evident throughout his writings, but the medical philosophies of Benjamin Rush were equally the product of a mind that was shaped by the American Revolution and the earliest years of the young republic.

In addition to his influence on American medicine, Rush was also noteworthy for his innovative work in the nascent fields of psychology and psychiatry. He led a drive in 1792 to force state funding for a ward for the insane at the Pennsylvania Hospital, arguing that mentally ill patients were deserving of humane treatment. Rush’s practical work with such patients provided the foundation for his theories on the causes of mental illness, and it was in this environment that he developed the material for his well-attended lectures on the nature of the mind.. This series of lectures, developed over a period of nearly three decades, demonstrate the depth and uniqueness of the philosophies of Rush. The collection Benjamin Rush’s Lectures on the Mind bolsters the case for Rush’s reputation as the “father of American psychiatry,” and provides a massive database of the material that influenced thousands of the first American physicians.

Rush, like the rest of the Jeffersonians, was an avowed materialist, and there was a physical basis for every process, including the realms of thought and religion. Rush, however, avoided the label “materialist,” given the association that often existed between materialists and atheists. It is important to note that members of Jefferson’s inner circle of like-minded thinkers did not subscribe to an organized theological or philosophical school per se, save the umbrella-like American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Each individual possessed unique religious beliefs, and there was some variety between Jeffersonians in the manifestation of their respective views. Nonetheless, the high degree to which Jeffersonians agreed on philosophical issues makes a strong case for the validity of a model of “typical” Jeffersonian beliefs.

Rush believed that the human mind and the process of thought were material entities, and that physical forces caused them to act as they did. He argued that the Divine creation of man, depicted in the “breath of life” passage in Genesis, “thus excited in him [man] animal, intellectual, and spiritual life, in consequence of which he became an animated human creature.” This physical process of jump-starting the lungs provided the force that drove every human function, including mental activities. In his Lectures on the Mind, Rush left no room for debate on his beliefs over the material basis for the mental faculties:
…there is no such thing as a mind either immaterial or material, but that thought, and all the operations of what is called mind, are the effects of external and internal impressions upon the brain…thought is as much the result of the organization of the brain, as vision is of the structure of the eye, or hearing of the structure of the ear…

For Rush and the Jeffersonians, the human mind and thinking were active, material processes, and they scoffed at metaphysical explanations for thought. Jefferson himself argued that thought was “an action of a particular organization of matter,” much like magnetism and gravity. Continuing on this track, Jefferson questioned how a metaphysical, non-material entity like spirit, “which has neither extension nor solidity, can put material organs into motion.”

Concurrent with this belief in the material basis for human thought was the conviction that the great variety in human minds reflected the variety found in the physical attributes of any animal. Rush declared that the differences in the minds of men were akin to differences in human physiques. Thus intellectual, political, and theological conformity were not ideals to the Jeffersonians any more than, say, blond hair, green eyes, or any other physical characteristic. The development of ideal standards of thought ran counter to the designs of the Creator, in whose infinite wisdom begat intellectual variation among humans. To attempt to build such models of ideal thinking not only risked offending God, but were the vainglorious blunders of fools.

Benjamin Rush, while firmly ensconced in both the philosophy of the eighteenth century and the western European religious traditions, nonetheless advanced the nascent American traditions of psychology and psychiatry. Mental illness was no longer a sign of demonic possession or moral failure, but was seen by Rush and his adherents as a physical disease; this vision of a holistic approach to medicine and psychology has only recently come to bear fruit. We know today, for example, that there is a chemical basis to mental processes, and that any abnormalities are likely the result of an imbalance of neurotransmitters. Modern psychiatry owes a significant debt to the work of Benjamin Rush.

By extension, the demystification of mental illness brought about a revolution in the care of patients with mental illness. Patients were no longer to be feared as agents of Satan, or as moral degenerates who could corrupt those with whom they came in contact. Instead, persons with mental illnesses could be treated with humane measures, and began to receive compassion from the larger society in place of scorn. Rush and his teachings brought the study of the mind to a more elevated science, and imparted a uniquely American imprint upon the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and psychology.

Dec 14, 2005

On The Australian Riots And The Racist Right

The riots that have erupted in the Sutherland Shire district of Sydney over the past week featured white hooligans engaging in retaliatory violence against members of the local Lebanese community.

Dozens of Sydney residents have been injured, and the arrest tally may break 100 before calm is restored.

Like the violence in my city of Toledo on October 15, I trust that the perpetrators of violence, looting, and vandalism will be duly prosecuted.

What is interesting to me is the rhetoric of the racist right toward the white rioters. One would think that rioting would be abhorrent to all sentient beings.

Not so with people like Hal Turner. He believes that the "white rage" is justified, and that white rioters are merely patriots taking back their land (I'll leave aside the irony of Australians making claims to be indigenous to the continent). Here is a December 7 quote by Turner:

This is the perfect, right thing to do when non-whites get out of line! Those who claim "violence doesn't solve anything" are WRONG. Violence solves everything.

When non-whites engage in violence, Turner usually uses derogatory terms like "savages" or "beasts." When whites commit acts of violence, he sympathizes and says that "whites retaliated with cold, white justice."

Turner warned the world that rioting by African Americans unhappy with the Tookie Williams verdict should warrant this response: "IF YOU RIOT WE WILL GUN YOU DOWN IN THE STREET LIKE THE SAVAGE APES THAT YOU ARE...The days of filthy nigger savages running riot are OVER."

Violence should be condemned irrespective of the skin color of its perpetrators. Turner's rants merely expose his fraudulent philosophical foundation, and demonstrate him to be the violence-loving cretin we have always suspected that he was.

City Survives Return Of Nazis

Left: Riot police in formation; all photos by historymike

(Toledo, OH) Saturday’s neo-Nazi rally at One Government Center turned out to have a far different outcome than an earlier event.

The deployment of 700 local and state police officers – with help from some federal agencies – prevented a repeat of the riot that swept through North Toledo six weeks ago.

Approximately 40 members of the National Socialist Movement arrived for the hour-long rally, which started 45 minutes late. There were about 90 people in the “official” protest zone, and perhaps an equal amount milling about around the perimeter of the cordoned area.

George Windau, a local labor activist, said that many of the anti-Nazi protesters chose to boycott the rally.

“What the police wanted – and got - is a small, docile crowd that was easy to control,” he said. “Many of the anti-fascists did not want to get stuffed in a cage.”
Left: One of the many anti-Nazi protesters who opted to boycott the "official" protest zone

Windau said that the effort to protect the freedom of speech of the Nazis resulted in the repression of freedoms of everyone else.

“Toledo is a test area for a new form of fascism,” he said. “People have been frightened into submission, but I hope that enough people will become angry about the violation of their civil liberties that we have witnessed today.”

The October 15 rally by the NSM cost an estimated $336,000 in expenditures on police and safety personnel. Nearly 140 people were arrested, stores were looted, and a local bar burned.

Police clearly had the upper hand at Saturday’s rally. There were no reports of violence, and police quickly responded to break up any potential sources on unrest before they could solidify into active resistance.

Anti-Nazi activists planned to use local branches of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library as staging areas for protests, but police quickly dispersed gathered groups. Seven people were arrested on Sylvania Avenue across from the West Toledo Library at approximately 12:15 PM.

Other plots, including a group of anarchists who intended to “welcome” the Nazis at the motel in which they were staying, were also broken up. Police and sheriff’s cruisers spotted the anti-Nazi activists before they could leave their cars.

Three teenagers were also arrested sitting in a car in front of the downtown library at approximately 3:15 PM.

Left: The Toledo Journal's Jeff Willis gets taken away

At the rally, police wasted no time in arresting protesters who they believed to be engaging in illegal behavior. There were at least a dozen undercover officers milling in the crowd, identifying “problem” protesters for arrest.

In addition to the arrested anti-Nazi protesters, at least three journalists were detained for interfering with police business. One of those was Jeff Willis of the Toledo Journal, who tried to avoid a skittish police horse and inadvertently placed a foot across a police line.

“What did I do?” asked a bewildered Willis as he was led away.

A Toledoan named Molly Nolan unveiled a pro-Nazi sign in the protest area.

Left: Toledoan Molly Nolan being escorted from the anti-Nazi protest zone

“I am here to support the NSM,” she said to the angry crowd, which chanted some colorful retorts. Police and peace team activists escorted her from the protest zone.

“I just wanted to stand up for what I believe in,” said Nolan, who added that her husband is in a Michigan prison and is an Aryan Nations member.

Police were aided by temperatures in the low 20s, with wind chill readings dipping into the single digits.

“Everyone I talked with said that they were not going to come out in this weather,” said Antoine Bennett of Toledo. “Last time it was like summer, and everyone was out.”
Left: Peace team members try to stay warm

Residents of the near North End were among the counter-protesters.

“I came to the rally because I'm completely against the neo-Nazis and I wanted to help drown their message out,” said Nicole Creech. “My overall impression is that the Nazis are all talk and no action in response to what they promise the rally will be. The counter protestors were successful in drowning out the scum bags.”

Most of the scheduled rally speakers could not be heard very well in the protest area. The chanting of the protesters, the great distance at which the Nazis were located, and a malfunctioning PA system all contributed to an NSM message that was largely inaudible.

Some protesters decried the quickness with which protesters were arrested.

“People got arrested who did nothing more than yell at the Nazis,” said Kerry Martin of Toledo. “One woman was standing right next to me and then whoop – she was taken away.”
Left: Toledo Police arresting seven protesters on Sylvania Avenue

Other protesters were unhappy with the symbolic manner in which the Nazis returned.

“They walked right out the front door of our city hall to shout their hate messages,” said Danita Watkins of Toledo. “It’s just like the city rolled out the red carpet for them. They are up there acting like they own the city now.”

Police Chief Mike Navarre estimated that the cost of the operation “will likely exceed $300, 000,” but indicated that the city’s response was a metaphorical “home run.”

“We put forth a much better image to the world today than on October 15,” he said.

This article appears in this week's Toledo Free Press.

1300 Writers

NSM's Bill White, who lied in court under oath (Toledo, OH) It is interesting to note that there was a noticeable work stoppage among the 1300 writers utilized by from 8:01 PM on Thursday, December 8 until 11:01 AM on Sunday, December 11.

Bill White, spokesman for the National Socialist Movement (NSM), testified in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on Friday that his website features the work of "1300 writers," and he thus could not verify the authorship of an October 4 article on Overthrow entitled: "NSM To March Against Nigger Gang Crime In Toledo?"

Perhaps the 1300 writers were taking some collective bargaining action. The work environment at the Overthrow world headquarters might be such that a work stoppage was called to protest pay or conditions.

Or maybe the 1300 writers were among the multitudes of NSM supporters White claims were denied entry into the Toledo rally by police on Saturday December 10.

Whatever the case, approximately 63 hours passed between posts on Overthrow, which may be close to a record for the normally busy site, which has averaged about 7 posts a day since 2002.

It appears, though, that the 1300 writers have reached some accord with Overthrow. Since Bill White returned to Roanoke, VA there have been 15 posts; his return must have been just the medicine the 1300 writers needed to get the creative juices flowing once again.

Dec 13, 2005

Power And Privilege: The Undercurrents Running Through John Singleton Copley's American Portraiture


Left: “Young Lady with a Bird and a Dog,” currently housed at the Toledo Museum of Art

John Singleton Copley’s career in colonial America brought him into an elite circle of privileged citizens: politicians, educators, and the wealthy. Paul Revere, John Adams, and Patrick Henry are some of the more noteworthy subjects who sat for Copley . As one of the most prominent colonial American artists, his work had great influence on his peers; his greater legacy, however, was the effect that his paintings had upon the understanding of colonial America by future generations.

“Young Lady with a Bird and a Dog” is typical of the work Copley developed prior to leaving for Europe in 1774. The portrait is that of a prepubescent girl, perhaps eight years old, who is clothed in a flowing silk gown of a bright pink color. A black-and-white spaniel flanks her; the girl is grasping a ribbon held taut by a knot on the arm of what appears to be a George II or Chippendale library chair. Perched upon the teal ribbon is a small turquoise bird, which is perhaps an Australian Little Lorikeet, whose face is an iridescent red. In the scene, the subject is kneeling on a plum-colored suede pillow with tassels.

Behind the girl is a crimson velvet drapery trimmed with a goldenrod material. The drape nearly conceals an immense pillar, and the existence of a rural landscape behind the drapery perhaps suggests that the column supports some type of manorial portico.

The lighting used by Copley is focused on the young girl; it is clear that he intends for the piece to be centered upon her. The pets, as well, direct their reverential gazes towards the girl, suggesting that this child of privilege commands respect simply by nature of her birth. The lighting also creates an almost three-dimensional effect, as the young girl seems to move out of the painting.

Copley’s brush techniques vary throughout the painting; the silk dress, for example, is composed largely of smooth, even strokes, while the brass studs on the library chair are raised nearly one-quarter inch from the canvas. The thick coat of the spaniel appears to have been constructed of many paint layers, making the dog stand out from the picture.

The overcast setting in the background, though, provides a sharp contrast to the idyllic childhood scene in the foreground. This thematic conflict could represent some coming turmoil in the child’s life; the utilization of stormy weather as a metaphor for crisis travels across cultural and historical borders. It could be argued that this was a subversive effort on the part of Copley to introduce an element of discordant protest into what was nominally just another portrait-for-hire.

The tempest might also represent an attempt on the part of the artist to establish a sense of Gothicism into the scene; perhaps Copley is seeking to create an impression of tragic valor in his young model. It is possible that Copley was simply trying to create an image of nascent nobility in his depiction of this progeny of prosperity.
Clearly the subject is depicted in a manner suggesting considerable wealth; whether this child was indeed the daughter of a family of great means, or one that wished to produce this aristocratic impression remains unknown. A researcher has posited that the girl was Mary Warner, daughter of a wealthy Bostonian. The fine silk clothing worn by the child and the luxurious accoutrements would only be considered archetypal for members of a prosperous segment of society. In addition, ownership of extravagant pets such as tropical birds and specialty dog breeds would be beyond the means of all but the wealthiest members of colonial culture.

The architecture of the scene, whether genuine or contrived, leaves little doubt that Copley intended to create a portrait that evokes a mood of unmistakable affluence. Peasants and the middling sort, if they could even afford portraiture, would not wear the garb of a well-to-do member of society. Furthermore, the scene projects a sense that this particular child has both plenty of idle time and expensive playthings with which to fill this time.

This artwork illustrates one end of the income spectrum in eighteenth-century colonial America; Copley, as one of the preeminent artists of the era, distinguished himself with his portraits of society’s most influential members. One source has calculated that over 60% of his subjects had income ranked as “high” or “very high” (“high” being defined as greater than 300 pounds per year, and “very high” being defined as greater than 500 pounds per year) . His greater influence, however, may be on successive generations, as his works helped define a historical epoch.

By focusing almost exclusively on wealthy subjects, Copley’s portraits and their popularity have inadvertently skewed modern American understanding of colonial America. The common perception among contemporary Americans is that the colonies were populated, in large part, by free Anglo-Saxon persons of considerable material wealth; this romantic notion of a noble American heritage stands in stark contrast with the fact that the great majority of inhabitants were poor, of ethnicity other than English, and likely to be enslaved or in some form of bonded servitude.

The painting, while providing a glimpse into the life of the child of privilege, is also revealing by that which it does not depict: the austere life in colonial America that awaited persons without money or influence. The work has no representatives from lower classes in colonial society; this is most likely due to the wishes of the person who commissioned the work, instead of being a statement on the artist’s class-consciousness. Nonetheless, since works like Copley’s have seemingly cornered the market in American colonial imagery, the net effect is the same: extant images create lasting impressions, while history not recorded in canvas, folklore, or print is relegated to the ash heaps of obscurity.

The young girl in Copley’s painting surely enjoyed a life not removed from the finer comforts of the day; she most likely grew up in a large house with servants in an important colonial city, like Boston or Philadelphia. It is to be expected that her father was an important figure in his chosen field, whether commerce, politics, or law.

The educational opportunities enjoyed by wealthy young women certainly exceeded those of their less well-to-do contemporaries; however, by today’s standards, colonial women received an inferior education in comparison to colonial men. Children were generally separated, with girls attending “dame schools” to learn basic skills like reading and writing.

Our young maiden was subject to many of the epidemic diseases of the period, particularly smallpox , scarlet fever , and yellow fever. There were no miracle medicines to cure the ailments of the eighteenth century; survival was largely a matter of genetics and luck. The likelihood that this child would live to age 20 was not a safe bet; it is not until that age that children typically had been exposed to the most dangerous diseases.

In addition, she shared the same poor sanitary conditions as her contemporaries: no running water, lack of septic systems, and wells that often were contaminated by privies. The elite of the eighteenth century lacked the health and sanitary services that are taken for granted by the poorest modern Americans.

Proper nutrition for Copley’s young girl was also a dubious proposition; nutritional knowledge was in its infancy, and diet-related disorders like rickets, scurvy, and anemia were endemic to colonial America. In addition, such nutritional deficiencies negatively impacted the body’s ability to resist and fight infection, making the sufferer of nutritional disease even more likely to succumb to passing epidemics.
Modern notions of the noble colonial American of English aristocratic extraction may make excellent fodder for a romantic novel or television miniseries, but they bear little resemblance to the harsh realities of colonial life.

While certainly a renowned painter by both colonial and modern standards, John Singleton Copley nonetheless distorted the picture that future generations would have of colonial America by his subject selection. While his motives may have been simply those of the opportunistic entrepreneur, the end result remains unchanged: Copley’s body of work contributed to an inaccurate portrayal of colonial America by future historians.

I needed a break from the neo-Nazi nonsense, so I am reprinting an as-yet unpublished essay.