History Commons Groups

February 16, 2013

What We’re Reading: Three by Robert Parry


Derek, our executive director, sent me three books from the Consortium News’s Robert Parry, the site’s founder and lead investigative journalist. The books are: Lost History, Neck Deep, and Secrecy and Privilege. In the coming weeks and months, you’ll see material from those books finding their way into the Civil Liberties, Iraq, Iran-Contra, Domestic Propaganda, and other projects.

Have you read any of these? Let us know what you think.

February 13, 2011

New Posts This Week


Hm, I thought “biweekly” meant twice a week, not once every two weeks. Sorry about that.

Many more entries in the Plame-Niger timeline.

1 new entry in the Complete 9/11 Timeline; look for more in this project coming soon.

Tons more in the Domestic Terrorism timeline, one of my personal pet projects at the moment.

Many more entries in the Domestic Propaganda timeline.

After a hiatus, the Kosovar Albanian Self-Determination timeline is active again.

And finally, lots of entries related to football (soccer to the Yanks out there) and football-related economics in the Miscellaneous timeline. These will form the basis of a new, standalone project soon.

Let us know what you think, what you’d like to see, and most importantly, if you’d like to step up and start contributing.

January 26, 2011

New Posts This Week


Second in a biweekly series of updates. Like last week, we’ve posted lots of new material on WikiLeaks, domestic terrorism, the Plame-Niger and the finances behind European football.

We’ve added half a dozen or so WikiLeaks entries in the Domestic Propaganda project, with one crossposted in Iraq under US Occupation.

Several new entries are now in the Iraq-Uranium subproject.

Lots of new entries are in the Domestic Terrorism project, including material on US militias, environmental and animal-rights activists, and early entries in the Branch Davidian subproject.

And we’ve done a fistful of entries on the finances behind European football (soccer for the Americans) in the Miscellaneous project. Still pondering over the best permanent home for these.

If you’re not writing for the History Commons, give it a spin, we’d love to have you. And we are always financially strapped, so anything you can donate will be very welcome.

January 23, 2011

This Weekend’s Postings


First in a new and hopefully daily (or at least biweekly) series. This weekend, we’ve posted a good bit of new material. Lots of material on WikiLeaks, domestic terrorism, and the finances behind European football.

Almost a dozen new WikiLeaks entries in the Domestic Propaganda project, with one crossposted in Iraq under US Occupation.

Two new entries in the Iraq-Uranium subproject.

Lots of new entries in the Domestic Terrorism project, including material on US militias, environmental and animal-rights activists, and early entries in the Branch Davidian subproject.

Finally, a fistful of entries on the finances behind European football (soccer for the Americans) in the Miscellaneous project. We’re still pondering over the best permanent home for these.

If you’re not writing for the History Commons, give it a spin, we’d love to have you. And we are always financially strapped, so anything you can donate will be very welcome.

February 10, 2010

Wonders Will Never Cease: An Intelligent Book about Conspiracy Theories


In Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11, University of California, Davis, History Professor Kathryn Olmstead takes a refreshing look at conspiracy theories. Almost nobody will agree with every word she wrote, but what makes it different to the usual dross others turn out on the topic is that Olmstead can think out of the box some. This is best illustrated by the “conspiracy theories” she covers: Woodrow Wilson manipulated the US into World War I, Pearl Harbor, McCarthyism, JFK, Watergate, the CIA’s “crown jewels,” aliens, Iran-Contra, 9/11 and others. This is a really interesting cross-section and not one usually found in such books—while most people would probably strongly doubt aliens exist, is there anybody out there that doesn’t think Watergate was a conspiracy?

The main question analysts of conspiracy theories try to answer is this: why do people believe them? Usually, the conclusion is packaged in psycho-babble, but Olmstead has a much better response: people believe conspiracy theories because the government sometimes lies to the people and conspires against them. Take the introduction, she kicks off with 9/11,  name checks Loose Change (which she obviously doesn’t agree with) and asks why people believe this stuff: “Here’s one reason: it has happened before.” Then she goes into Northwoods.

Later on, we get this, on why Americans believe conspiracy theories:

First, as the government grew, it gained power to conspire against its citizens, and it soon began exercising that power. By the height of the cold war, government agents had consorted with mobsters to kill a foreign leader, dropped hallucinogenic drugs into the drinks of unsuspecting Americans in random bars, and considered launching fake terrorist attacks on Americans in the United States. Public officials had denied potentially life-saving treatment to African American men in medical experiments, sold arms to terrorists in return for American hostages, and faked documents to frame past presidents for crimes they had not committed.

The second reason is that the government is itself constantly packed with conspiracy theorists. The chapter on 9/11 is particular instructive in this regard as she draws a very extensive parallel between Neocon attempts to pin the attacks on Iraq and the idea that the 9/11 was performed or facilitated by elements inside the government. You might not agree with this, but it at least demonstrates that Olmstead has committed the sin of independent thought instead of trotting out the usual rubbish.

Or take the JFK chapter. She clearly does not think elements inside the government murdered JFK, but she doesn’t have much time for the Warren Commission, which she calls a coverup. I like this part especially, about the assassination researchers:

Over the years, they would convert millions to their cause. They had the virtues of dedication, diligence, and almost messianic belief in the righteousness of their cause. They also had the advantage of being partly right.

Towards the end she takes a pop at Paul and HC, which I obviously disagree with, but you don’t have to agree with every word of a book to find it interesting.

Overall, well worth reading. This is the last paragraph:

Since the First World War, officials of the U.S. government have encouraged conspiracy theories, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes intentionally. They have engaged in conspiracies and used the cloak of national security to hide their actions from the American people. With cool calculation, they have promoted official conspiracy theories, sometimes demonstrably false ones, for their own purposes. They have assaulted civil liberties by spying on their domestic enemies. If antigovernment conspiracy theorists get the details wrong—and they often do—they get the basic issue right: it is the secret actions of the government that are the real enemies of democracy.

January 10, 2010

Update: Iraq-Niger/Plame Wilson


As some of you are aware, I am working diligently to construct a complete and accurate timeline of events surrounding the Iraq-Niger uranium controversy — where Bush officials used forged documents to claim that Iraq had attempted to buy weapons-grade uranium from Niger, presumably to construct nuclear devices — and the subsequent outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, whose husband, Joseph Wilson, had played a key role in proving that claim false. It appears incontrovertible that the White House outed Plame Wilson to the press in an attempt to smear her husband’s credibility and to intimidate others from publicly criticizing the administration.

335 entries have been published so far, and more are in the “pipeline,” to be published within the next few days, but that steady flow will slow down for a while. There are numerous reasons for the upcoming slowdown, including my heavy (non-HC) work schedule, but it is largely because I am incorporating a tremendous amount of information that isn’t in the original entries. Much of it comes from Murray Waas’s invaluable series of articles printed in the National Journal, and quite a few other sources besides, including Scott McClellan’s book What Happened. I also want to get a copy of Marcy Wheeler’s book Anatomy of Deceit, but that may have to wait for a while. When I get it, I will use it to supplement and extend the existing entries. If you know of other reliable sources of information, link them in the comments, please.

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July 21, 2009

History Commons Newsletter, July 21, 2009


Fundraising Efforts Continue

The History Commons is beginning to work towards making some dramatic upgrades in the website, including revamping the web application, and adding much more content and information. These changes will, we trust, make the History Commons a much more effective resource for you and your fellow users. (This spiffy new e-mail format is the first of those changes.) While you may not see the results of these changes for some time, they will, when finished, completely transform the site to make it far more usable and comprehensive. To help move this process forward, we need your financial support like never before. We accept donations through PayPal, credit cards, and personal checks. We sincerely appreciate all you do to make the History Commons a viable resource for information and citizen activism.
Please make your tax-deductible donation today.

You can help steer the transformation of the History Commons by making your comments and observations on the History Commons blog. Over the next few weeks, we will begin polling our users to determine what they want to see in the new and improved “History Commons 2.0.” You are a valuable part of the History Commons, and we want to know what you think. You can start posting in this thread. Thanks again.

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January 3, 2009

Books for 2009


Here’s some of the books I’m reading, and will post about, in the early weeks of 1999:

U.S. Vs. Them by J. Peter Scoblic (already being processed and included, largely in the US International Relations project);

Angler by Barton Gellman (another Cheney bio, probably will add to the two Iraq projects, the 9/11 project, the Propaganda project, and the International Relations project);

Torture Team by Phillipe Sands (mostly info for the Prisoner Abuse and Civil Liberties projects).

One of these days, I’d like to work on John Dean’s Watergate biography, Blind Ambition, but updating and extending the Watergate project isn’t one of my main priorities right now.

What are you reading this year?

August 5, 2008

Forgeries and Impeachment

Filed under: community,Complete 911 Timeline,Iraq Invasion — Max @ 3:41 pm

We’re not a breaking news site. We generally let things shake out before we start covering them, in part because we can get a more objective and accurate perspective by waiting for the shouting and posturing from the various sides to subside, and in part because, well, there’s more going on than we can cover in a timely fashion. (That’s why we need you to become part of the Commons.)

At any rate, one of the biggest breaking stories just now hitting the news is Ron Suskind’s allegation that someone at the top of the White House food chain ordered the CIA to forge a letter that portrayed a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers. Here’s a link to the Politico story that started the coverage; other media sources such as CBS and NPR are beginning to cover it as well.

We haven’t written about it yet, but we’re up for talking about it as it develops. What do you think? We’ve relied on Suskind’s earlier books for many of our other entries, and in my mind, he’s proven to be quite reliable, so I tend to believe the allegation. If it is true, where does it go? Is it an impeachable offense? Will it impel the Democrats in Congress to take action? Or will it be shunted aside as we wait for the November elections and the White House to change hands?

July 19, 2008

New Categories Being Implemented


Okay, you talked me into it. If we’re going to discuss the projects, we need categories to organize the discussion. Otherwise the whole thing becomes a big mess. The categories are in the system. I’m cheating and adding all the categories to this single post. They will display in the sidebar. You won’t be able to miss it: it will be by far the single biggest menu over there.

There is also a “Books We Read” and a “Miscellaneous” category. The first one gives us a chance to talk about the books we’re reading. The second one is, well, miscellaneous. Think off-topic chats over coffee.

Put it to use, folks!

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