Saddam Hussein

“In opposing Iraq, the administration and Bush himself pointed to Saddam’s brutality, the dictatorial nature of his regime, and claimed atrocities committed during its occupation of Kuwait (some of which were made up for the purpose).” p. 410


The fifth president of Iraq worked with the United States government before he became their public enemy number one. U.S supplied Iraqis with arms when it benefited them during Iran-Iraq War, as they did in various other conflicts before (Cuba, Vietnam etc.). Additionally, no actions were taken by U.S against Hussein during extermination of Shia Muslims in Iraq. It is only when Saddam’s forces invaded Kuwait, the Bush administration started taking actions. America’s primary concern was oil, not Kuwaitis. George H. W. Bush feared that if Saddam Hussein wasn’t stopped in Kuwait, he would advance on Saudi Arabia and in turn control most of the oil production in the Middle East. To add legitimacy to their cause, the U.S government secured military backing and funding of international community. Iraqi troop were driven out of Kuwait; Saddam would remain president until the 2003 U.S invasion of Iraq. He would go into hiding but soon captured and subsequently executed for his crimes in 2006.

Boris Yeltsin

“An August 1991 coup by communist leaders opposed to Gorbachev’s reforms fell apart after three days as a result of popular opposition, including large demonstration led by Boris Yeltsin, who headed the Russian Federation.” p. 403


The election of Boris Yeltsin as the first president of Russian Federation becomes a very significant event for many reasons. First, it leads to the dissolution of Soviet Union which gives independence to former Soviet states like Ukraine and Belarus. Second, by losing sovereign states, Russia loses the status of a world superpower. In fact, the first decade of its existence proves to be economically disastrous. In that time, United Stated pulls far ahead, essentially winning the Cold War. Yeltsin bans Communist Party of the Soviet Union which had been in power since 1917, completely reshaping the political status of Russia on international level. In a way, he becomes a leader of a brand new country with a brand new regime. His tenure will fall under a lot of criticism, but given the circumstances, he establishes a decent foundation for Vladimir Putin’s policies of 2000s that regained Russia much of its credibility as a world power.


Eminem – Hello

First of, “Hello” is not exactly my favorite song, although it is probably in the top 20 or so. The lyrics are great, but I picked this song primarily because of the feeling I get while listening to it. Its a feeling from the time I was 17, and just finished my junior year of high school. For the first time ever, my parents left on vacation without me, which meant that I had the house all to myself for about a month. I had no responsibilities, work, school, or SAT to think about. It was a glorious care-free summer, and I was enjoying every minute of it.

It just so happened that Eminem released his Relapse album that summer after taking a five year break from rap. Naturally, his album was playing non-stop at my house. Since then, whenever I listen to “Hello,” I briefly get that same Summer 2009 feeling. First few notes conjure images of parties, barbeques and friends. Its hard to imagine that life was once care-free, but the song certainly helps. I think most of us have a song that transports them to that special care-free time in their lives.

Listen here.

“Harlan County” Reflections

This “silent” documentary did an excellent job portraying an age-old conflict between the worker and the boss. For a man of 2013, what stands out the most is how little the workers were prepared to settle for. The working conditions of Harlan county miners are incomprehensible. Perhaps even less comprehensible is their eventual success in securing an employment contract from Duke Power Company. This success was celebrated by the miners all over the country and sparked future protests. The United Mine Workers of America showed us how little power did the labor unions have in 1970s, yet all members of the union and even their wives believed in power of unity. They persevered through disregard, threats, violence and murder. As I predicted while watching the documentary, Duke Power officials resisted contract demands primarily to avoid opening a Pandora’s Box. The victory over bosses gave miners confidence to challenge them further and demand more than they would ever before.

Personally, I think that the actions of Harlan county miners were heroic and necessary. The documentary exposed us to awful working conditions of coal miners, and lack of power to defend themselves against oppressive company heads. The fact that we cannot imagine anything similar happening in our day and age is indicative of the significance that the actions of Harlan county miners had on the history of labor in America.

Which side are you on?

Anita Bryant

“As with the anti-ERA movement, the anti-gay rights movements gained national attention through its embrace by an effective leader, in this case pop singer and former beauty pageant contestant Anita Bryant, who was the national spokesperson for the Florida orange juice industry.” p. 341


The author mentions Anita Bryant as one example of a prominent anti-equal rights movement figure. In response to Equal Rights Amendment, conservative women like Bryant and Phyllis Schlafly rallied people around them to thwart any attempts of expanding gay and women’s rights. The efforts were largely the consequences of futile activism in the political arena, yet they gained much momentum as “anti-movement” leaders were succeeding at scaring people with unsupported claims. The transformation of American society in the late 70s and early 80s spawned a multitude of social issues that people like Anita Bryant were still unprepared to deal with. Preserving the old way of life and maintaining certain gender roles was the only way for them to slow down the inevitable progress.



Francis Ford Coppola

“..Coppola’s 1979 Academy Award-winning Apocalypse Now, rendered a sprawling vision of an American army that had lost all moral bearings, a drugged, disintegrating arm of a failing empire.” p. 310-11


The author mentions Coppola’s movie as an analogy for socio-economic environment of United States in the 1970s. He characterizes American society as “dystopian,” pointing to the downturn of the economy, as well as feelings of uncertainty and pessimism to politics and culture. The defeat in Vietnam caused most of the negative sentiments, which is why Apocalypse Now became such a hit. People’s worst suspicions were “confirmed” upon the release of the film. They were relating all their problems to the over-dramatized vision of Francis Ford Coppola. Other forms of art had adopted a similarly dark tone, contributing to the theme of decline that had become synonymous with the 70s.

Gangs of New York

“The best single thing that has happened on the streets on New York in the past ten years is the re-emergence of teenage gangs… These young people are standing up for life, and if their courage lasts, they will help this city to survive.” p. 49


The re-emergence of gangs became a consequence of urban renewal ushered in by Robert Moses, the burnings, and financial downturn of the time. Land redevelopment and the construction of Cross-Bronx Expressway turned South Bronx into a Necropolis. Those who could afford it moved out, but the majority lived on through the destruction of their homes and neighborhoods. Businesses were closing, people were losing their jobs. Nobody cared about the affected population of poor Hispanics and blacks.

Then the slumlords stated burning buildings. Apartments abandoned by those escaping the Bronx, became primary targets for insurance arsonists. Burning became so profitable that buildings were set on fire every day in the mid 1970s. The burnings symbolized the figurative and literal destruction of the Bronx at the same time. On one hand, whole blocks were cleared out by fires, and on the other, burnings seemed like an appropriate response to the growing sense of abandonment that was felt by the inhabitants of Bronx.

And with that sense, unemployed and angry young men found solace in the gangs. Most referred to them as families, and its members as brothers and sisters. Gangs presented a chance to be a part of something, to be around like-minded people. They gave a sense of purpose and freedom. And they certainly presented plenty of chances to take out all the built-up anger. Gangs existed as long as there was conflict. Constant struggle for turf and respect kept pouring fuel into the “fires” of Bronx. Gang activity bred more gang activity. Kids started joining at younger ages, seeking protection or even just friends. As something that spawned from the socio-economic decline of South Bronx, at their peak, the gangs started to turn against poverty and violence. Relabeling themselves as “peace organizations,” they started advocating for truth and peaceful co-existence between gangs.

Jeff Chang describes peace between gangs as the first step to their eventual decline. Without fuel, the “fires” in the Bronx subsided. When New York Post columnist Pete Hamill wrote that, “(gangs) will help this city to survive,”  I think he was referring to the effect their eventual demise would have on the city.

“Black Power” Groups

“Often lumped together under the label ‘Black Power,’ these groups, though differing in their programs and beliefs, commonly had all-black memberships; rejected deference to white authority; asserted the right to armed self-defense; stressed black pride, unity, and internationalism; had acute understanding of the daily problems of ghetto life; and appealed in particular to urban youth, who were in many cases drawn by the discipline and purposefulness they provided.” p. 258


African-American movement was exemplified by The Nation of Islam and Black Panther Party. These so-called “Black Power” groups propagated nationalist ideas and did not shy away from violent resistance. Their primary success was in mobilization of black population all over the country. African-Americans were winning unprecedented amount of political seats. Increased awareness and a sense of purpose in black youth was a result of these groups. They were insuring that the younger generation was growing up resisting racial inequality rather than being used to it. Moreover, the work of “Black Power” groups largely inspired other movements in the 1960s.

Warren Court

“During the sixteen years Earl Warren served as chief justice of the United States (1953 to 1969), the Supreme Court reinterpreted federal law and the Constitution to a greater extent than during any equivalent period in the past.” p. 236


Although the Warren Court did overturn an extremely high number of previous Supreme Court rulings, the changes were catching up with shifting social and political values. Eliminating anticommunist sentiment from the legal system confirmed the ushering of post-Cold War era. Eliminating segregation from matrimonial law proved to be an important step in civil rights movement. Other important rulings included decriminalization of contraceptives, which would prove crucial in Roe v. Wade years later. Perhaps the biggest changes were made to the criminal procedure. All major federal crime defenses were to be applied in state courts as well. Such drastic changes drew some public criticism but, overall, the Warren Court did a phenomenal job of appeasing the public and fixing the law.