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This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: The Economist (12-11-12)
Stephanie Coontz, Evergreen State college professor and author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage” and “The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap,” squared off against Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Institution’s Centre for Children and Families in an online debate on governmental pro-marriage policies, produced by The Economist.
Haskins argued that pro-marriage policies promote the "general welfare" because there is a direct correlation between married parents and well-adjusted children, and that "children in single parent-families, despite government benefit programmes [sic] for the poor, have around a four times greater chance of living in poverty than children in married-couple families."
Rumours of the death of marriage are greatly exaggerated. Marriage rates are calculated on the basis of how many women over age 18 are married. With the age of first marriage at an all-time high, the percentage of married women has shrunk to new lows. But most women will still marry at some point in their lives. The real change is that marriage is no longer the master event that organises people’s entire lives and within which they make all their major life transitions, and there is increasing class divergence in those transitions.
Educated women tend to marry later than any other group of women, but encouraging them to marry earlier is not necessarily wise, because every year that a woman postpones marriage, right into her 30s, decreases her chance of divorce.1 Educated women also tend to postpone childbirth until after marriage.
Poorly educated and low-income women, by contrast, are less likely to postpone motherhood.2 But encouraging unwed mothers to marry may simply be a route to more divorce. A three-decade-long study by Frank Furstenberg, a sociologist, found that of more than 300 unwed teenage mothers, only 20% of those who married the father of their children and just 10% of those who married a different man remained wed throughout their children's lives.3 Impoverished women who divorce often end up worse off economically than if they had never married, while their children face the added risks of marital conflict and chaotic transitions in living arrangements.It seems odd, then, that American policymakers would put more emphasis on encouraging such women to marry than on implementing policies known to be associated with delayed childbearing: access to safe and affordable contraception (with legal abortion as a back-up measure); and expansion of educational and employment opportunities that give young people the incentive to avoid pregnancy.
Governments should certainly foster policies that make it easier for people to enter and sustain stable relationships. But when policymakers view marriage as a cure-all for poverty and other social ills, encouraging marriage can become a substitute for policies that actually improve child well-being....
SOURCE: CS Monitor (12-13-12)
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).
Bill O’Reilly is right. As a devout Democrat and a frequent O’Reilly critic, I never imagined I’d write that sentence. But last week, the conservative Fox news talk-show host said something that makes real sense to me: Universities should institute affirmative action for conservative professors, so all the professors don’t think the way I do.
No, we’re not the wild-eyed Marxists that Mr. O’Reilly and other right-wing pundits sometimes make us out to be. But we are overwhelmingly liberal, as the recent national elections confirmed. At the eight Ivy League schools, for example, a whopping 96 percent of faculty and staff who made campaign donations gave to President Obama’s re-election bid....
It’s not just an Ivy League thing, either. At the University of Wisconsin, only 4.5 percent of faculty and staff donations since 2011 have gone to Republicans. At the University of Connecticut, just 3 percent of campaign donations went to the GOP....
Is this a problem? I think it is. And might a conscious hiring effort on the part of universities – that is, an affirmative action program – help remedy it? I think it would....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (12-10-12)
Not far from the campus of Cornell University sits a slightly shabby watering hole redolent of popcorn, old wood, and, on winter nights when it's all closed up, stale beer. The walls of the Chapter House are adorned with the visual flotsam of a college town: photos of bygone athletic events, old composite photos of fraternities, scarves of European soccer teams, and graffiti carved into the tables and scrawled on the walls.
Occasionally the Chapter House plays host to a group of historian friends—a beloved little community whose advice about writing and life has sustained its members for more than a decade. With our sheaves of papers and pens sharing the table with pint glasses and popcorn bowls, this group is both an oddity and perfectly in keeping with the eclectic atmosphere of the place.
After all these years, it might seem that any stated reason for our get-togethers is a pretext for drinking beer and unburdening ourselves of accumulated psychic detritus. In fact the gathering began as, and remains, a writing group....
SOURCE: CNN.com (12-7-12)
Mary Miller is the Sterling Professor of history of art at Yale University and dean of Yale College. She is a public voices fellow with the Op-Ed Project.
...During the height of their civilization in the 8th century, the Maya recorded dates and deeds at dozens of city-states, from births and battles to the triumphant wrenching of trophies from enemies. Artists inscribed their signatures on painted pots and stone sculptures. Stucco inscriptions adorned monumental pyramids that crested over the rainforest canopy.
But to continue building ever grander structures, the Maya needed resources. Most of all, they needed timber to burn limestone in order to make cement. By the late 8th century, the rainforest was in retreat, fuel was scarce and recurrent drought led to desperation. Eventually, there was chronic warfare as well.
And so one of the most extraordinary civilizations came to a crushing halt. Small groups of desperate dwellers in some cities held out behind hastily thrown-up palisades. Elsewhere, foes burned enemy cities to the ground and smashed monuments, leaving them scattered across the surface to be found in recent times. Scrub jungle overtook what had been sparkling white plazas. Compact ball courts that had seen raucous competition of a team sport played like soccer went silent. Wildlife scavenged lavish furnishings for their nests and dens....
SOURCE: CNN.com (12-10-12)
Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of the new book "Governing America."
(CNN) -- Avoiding the fiscal cliff can be a moment of truth for Congress as an institution. The ability of Congress to reach a deal on its own, rather than relying on tax hikes and spending cuts by default, would be a powerful push back against the loud chorus of critics who for almost a decade have been decrying dysfunction on Capitol Hill.
According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans consider legislators to be some of the least trusted professionals in the nation. Car salespeople ranked only slightly lower.
This is not the first time that Americans have felt this way. During the early 1960s, Congress was widely derided as a broken branch of government. A bipartisan alliance of Southern Democrats and Republicans used the committee process to bottle up legislation for years. "The sapless branch," Sen. Joseph Clark called Congress in an outburst of frustration with his colleagues. But this period of gridlock was followed by a huge burst of legislation that resulted in tax cuts, voting rights, civil rights, Medicare and Medicaid, education policy, a War on Poverty and much more....
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (12-7-12)
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth. He is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory" (Yale University Press). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
'Americans have made the worst botch of government in the recorded history of the world." So declared Harvard president Charles W. Eliot in 1910, citing "the daily report of automobile accidents" in the country. He concluded, "In no other civilized land could you find such a record of official incompetence or indifference."
The solution was a new institution, the traffic court - which in turn brought new forms of incompetence and indifference. Witness the recent report on Philadelphia's Traffic Court, which found "two tracks of justice": one for the connected and the other for everyone else.
In the dance of dishonesty, though, it takes two to tango: You can't have crooked officials without citizens who sway them from the straight and narrow. For almost a century, Americans have bribed, begged, and wheedled their way out of traffic tickets. People who never think of evading other kinds of justice will eagerly do so when their automobiles are involved....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (12-4-12)
Barbara Krauthamer, an assistant professor of history at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is the author, with Deborah Willis, of Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, just out from Temple University Press.
As viewers flock to see Lincoln, and reviewers rave about Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance, historians are raising different issues: How accurate is the film’s portrayal of emancipation? What does it leave out? The Chronicle Review asked several scholars to weigh in.
Lincoln tells the story of slavery’s demise in the United States by charting the president’s battle to secure passage of the 13th Amendment. Steven Spielberg and his screenwriter, Tony Kushner, give us a history of emancipation set primarily in the White House and Congress during the final four months of Lincoln’s life.
Gruesome scenes of war and its aftermath illustrate the larger context. Lincoln’s commitment to the constitutional abolition of slavery risks prolonging an already lengthy and bloody war. As he verbally spars with both allies and critics, he explains the legal and moral imperatives of abolition. Slavery is thus central to the film’s story of emancipation.
Enslaved people, however, have no place in the film. Although there are three black characters—Elizabeth Keckley, William Slade, and Lydia Hamilton Smith, all servants—as well as a number of black soldiers and civilians shown in various crowd scenes, they are all marginal to Spielberg’s story....
SOURCE: KatzEyeView (Blog) (12-4-12)
Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, and is the author of Leaving without Losing: The War on Terror after Iraq and Afghanistan (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).
While still firmly opposed to any form of Western military intervention in Syria, there have recently been signs that Moscow is trying to dissociate itself from the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Although Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated on November 6 in Amman, Jordan that, “we have no plans to change” Russian foreign policy toward Syria, three days later an unnamed “high-level” Russian diplomatic source told the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia that “Assad’s departure” was one possible outcome of the ongoing conflict.
During Lavrov’s visit to Saudi Arabia on November 15, he insisted that, “Russia does not defend Assad.” He also stated that the Syrian internal opposition should be involved in the settlement process in Syria. In his press conference in Riyadh, he noted that, “We…advocate the unification of the Syrian opposition and we are meeting with all its representatives—of the internal and external opposition.”
Lavrov further stated on November 28 in Moscow that, “Russia’s involvement in the armed conflict is just out of the question.”
It has not just been the Russian foreign minister who has made statements such as these. In his December 3 visit to Turkey, President Vladimir Putin noted that Russia and Turkey have differences over Syria, but insisted that, “We [the Russians] are not attorneys of Syria’s current government.”
Statements such as these from Russia’s top leadership can hardly be welcome to the Assad regime and its supporters in Syria. Even less so was the statement reported by The Moscow Times by Russian Middle East expert Alexander Shumilin that, “Putin likely traveled to Istanbul with a serious proposal, possibly including the evacuation of Syrian President Bashar Assad to Russia.”
What explains this increasing Russian diffidence toward the Assad regime? There are several possible factors. One is an increasing sense in Moscow that the Assad regime is going to collapse at some point in the near future. While Moscow may not welcome this, it will want to try to establish good working relations with a new Syrian government in order to retain Russia’s naval facilities at Tartus, arms contracts, petroleum investments and other interests in Syria.
Another factor is that the Obama administration (I was told by a senior Defense Department official) has launched a quiet diplomatic campaign to persuade Moscow that Washington is willing to allow Russia to retain its military and economic interests in Syria after the downfall of Assad. While such assurances are not binding on a new Syrian government, Moscow does not have to fear that the U.S. will actively attempt to exploit the downfall of Assad to expel Russia from Syria.
In addition, Moscow has grown increasingly concerned (as Russian observers have noted) about the highly negative impact that the Kremlin’s support for Assad has had on Russia’s image in Arab and other Muslim countries. Lavrov’s November visits to Jordan and Saudi Arabia in particular appear aimed at restoring the cooperative relations that Moscow had built up with these two governments before the Syrian uprising. Similarly, the hope expressed by Putin and Turkish President Erdogan that Russian-Turkish bilateral trade would grow from an already large $32 billion last year to an ambitious “$100 billion in a year” is an indication that they have no intention of allowing differences over Syria to undermine this profitable prospect.
These changes in the Russian approach toward Syria do not mean that Moscow is about to repudiate Assad and join with America and others in actively seeking his ouster. What they do suggest, though, is that Moscow is now more realistically assessing the prospects for the survival of the Assad regime, and is more pragmatically preparing to pursue Russian interests in both in Syria and the broader region in the increasingly likely event that Assad does fall.
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (11-30-12)
Kate Masur, an associate professor of history at Northwestern, is the author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C. (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
As viewers flock to see Lincoln, and reviewers rave about Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance, historians are raising different issues: How accurate is the film’s portrayal of emancipation? What does it leave out? The Chronicle Review asked several scholars to weigh in.
“You gave us the history from which we made our historical fiction,” Steven Spielberg recently told the historians in a crowd gathered to commemorate the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Then the filmmaker drew a distinction. Historians “gather evidence” and produce “diligently reconstructed narratives.” By contrast, he said, “one of the jobs of art is to go to the impossible places,” to “enlist the imagination to bring what’s lost back to us.” The “resurrection” of the past by filmmakers, he continued, “is of course just an illusion. It’s a fantasy and it’s a dream.”
Moviegoers and historians alike should pay attention. Spielberg’s Lincoln is a work of art, a film about morality, democracy, and human agency that tells us something about its creators and—since Lincoln will be watched and loved by millions—about ourselves. Like any other movie, novel, or painting, the film ought to be discussed and critiqued. Indeed, it should be subjected to a particularly searching analysis precisely because of its prominence and power.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit in the wake of an op-ed I wrote about the film for The New York Times, in which I pointed out the passivity and generic nature of the black characters in the film. I argued that the filmmakers’ “imagination” (to quote Spielberg) was one in which white men gave the gift of freedom to African-Americans....
SOURCE: American Spectator (12-3-12)
Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He is author of the new book The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor. His other books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
Shortly after the November election, I wrote a piece here titled, "McCain Beats Romney!" The article focused on initial reports showing that Mitt Romney received fewer votes in 2012 than John McCain received in 2008. That utterly depressing observation shocked conservatives.
How many fewer votes? It looked like Romney got 2-3 million less votes than McCain. I wrote at the time: "Additional votes are still coming in, but, as of the time of my writing, Romney received around 57.8 million votes in 2012. In 2008, John McCain received 59.9 million. Romney got over 2 million less votes than McCain."
More votes remained out there. Nonetheless, when the final count was tallied, I figured that Romney would still receive fewer votes than McCain.
Well, the final count is alas approaching, chronicled by the 2012 National Popular Vote Tracker, maintained by David Wasserman. And it has a rare flicker of good news for Mitt Romney: He has surpassed John McCain's 2008 vote total....
SOURCE: WSJ (11-29-12)
Elaine G. Breslaw is the author of “Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic.”
What was health care like in the “good old days”? And what was the government’s role? Today to relieve the taxpayer from the obligation to pay the hospital costs for the uninsured, the country is preparing for “Obamacare,” a mandate for everyone to have health insurance.
Before the 20th century, people did not bother with health insurance nor did they voluntarily go into a hospital, a source of infection and death. Only sailors had a mandate to pay into a federal program for medical care. The poorest, the homeless, those lacking social support like the sailors, were condemned to hospitals where doctors volunteered their services in return for the prestige of the appointment. Hand-washing was not expected and the results were deadly.
Neither professional nor government regulation existed to establish standards of care or of competency. There were no licensing requirements for those practicing medicine. Anyone could call himself a doctor and anyone, male or female, could practice medicine. That included the traditional Indian shamans, African-American conjurers or obeahs, midwives, or any herbal dispenser. By the nineteenth century there were even more unorthodox treatments and self-help alternatives from hydropathy to homeopathy to a profusion of sugarcoated patent medicines with unknown ingredients (the patent was on the shape of the container and not what was in it)....
SOURCE: International Herald Tribune (11-30-12)
A Harvard historian, film-maker and journalist, Ferguson is known for his provocative, contrarian views. “The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die” is his latest book. “The Ascent of Money,” a recent documentary series, won the International Emmy award. He is writing a life of Henry Kissinger.
...History is like an oil tanker. It does not turn on a dime. Mankind sails forward through time in seas that are sometimes calm, sometimes stormy. At times it seems almost becalmed, at other times it can do 12 knots. Depending on who captains the ship, it veers sometimes to port, sometimes to starboard. When it changes direction, the turn is generally slow.
The things that change suddenly on an oil tanker are the emotions of the crew. Nine hundred and ninety-nine days out of a thousand, they obey their orders and do their work. But very occasionally there is a drama. The men mutiny and the captain is clapped in irons. Or pirates board the ship. Such events are what historians love to study and call “revolutions.” Still, the ship plows onward.
In other words, do not expect 1989 to happen every year — and don’t exaggerate how big a turning point even 1989 was. Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Francis Fukuyama hailed “an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism… the Triumph of the West.”
It seemed so true. Who could forget the thrill of that night — Nov. 9, 1989 — when the Cold War ended not with Armageddon but with a street party? Yet, as I write, the People’s Republic of China is poised to overtake the United States in terms of gross domestic product (adjusted for differences in purchasing power) in 2017. If you invested in the West in 1989 you fared much worse than if you had invested in the Rest. Emerging stock markets have risen by a factor of five since 1989; the U.S. market, fourfold; Europe, less than threefold....
SOURCE: Points: BADHS (11-27-12)
David T. Courtwright is a medical, social, and legal historian at the University of North Florida.
Some movie scenes, like Jack Nicholson smashing through the bathroom door in The Shining, enter popular lore from the moment they appear on the screen. Flight has two such scenes: the crash landing of a packed Boeing 727 and, no less harrowing, its alcoholic pilot contemplating a mini-bar. If you don’t like to fly, don’t see this movie.
Flight rips the scab off an old wound: fear of the intoxicated pilot. Back in aviation’s frontier days, drunken fliers mostly menaced themselves and their stunt men. One young wing-walker, Charles Lindbergh, noted the drinking habits of prospective pilots before he agreed to perform with them. When Lindbergh’s own epochal 1927 transatlantic flight, undertaken with water and ham sandwiches, opened new commercial possibilities for aviation, pilots’ sobriety assumed greater importance. Fear of flying was one of two critical problems, the other being cost, that held back the industry. Some airlines advertised that they hired only abstemious pilots, a claim for which the historical record offers scant support.
Why did early commercial pilots drink? To unwind. To cope with stress. To ward off cold. The most fundamental reason, though, was that they came out of a military subculture where smoking and drinking were accepted, even expected, off-duty pastimes. Changing uniforms to fly mail and passengers did not mean changing their habits.
Both the airlines and the pilots’ union understood the explosiveness of the issue. They pressured pilots to rein in their drinking. Some pilots developed tricks, like alternate weeks of abstinence, to keep their consumption in bounds. Those who didn’t ran the risk of being fired or, in later years, being quietly referred to the airlines’ in-house employee assistance programs....
SOURCE: Tom Engelhardt (11-29-12)
Tom Engelhardt created and runs the Tomdispatch.com website, a project of The Nation Institute where he is a Fellow. He is the author of a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, and of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing, as well as a collection of his Tomdispatch interviews, Mission Unaccomplished. Each spring he is a Teaching Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.
He was “an ascetic who... usually eats just one meal a day, in the evening, to avoid sluggishness. He is known for operating on a few hours' sleep and for running to and from work while listening to audio books on an iPod... [He has] an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists... [He is] a warrior-scholar, comfortable with diplomats, politicians..." Those were just the descriptions New York Times reporters Elisabeth Bumiller and Mark Mazzetti themselves bestowed on General Stanley McChrystal in May 2009 soon after he had been appointed the new U.S. Afghan War commander. They had no trouble finding interviewees saying even more extravagant things.
He was “the most influential general of his generation,” “a celebrated soldier with extensive knowledge of intelligence gathering in both Afghanistan and Iraq... [with a] reputation... so formidable, officials said, that it was difficult to rotate him to another military post” and a “biographer who is keeping his name in lights.” That was Bumiller on General (later CIA Director) David Petraeus and, given the press he ordinarily got in Washington, her reportage could almost be considered downbeat.
For both men, though, those were the glory days when things were going spectacularly. Okay, maybe not in the wars they were directing, but in the personal image-making campaigns both were waging in Washington. What about after both went down in flames and shame, though? Once a “celebrated soldier,” it seems, always a celebrated something or other.
As Bumiller had been on the generals beat in the good times, she evidently ended up on the generals-in-shame beat as well. And you know what? They turn out to be whizzes at shame, too. In May, she found McChrystal teaching a course on “leadership” at Yale. He was, she reported in a charmingly soft focus piece, a spellbinding professor (willing to go out and drink with his students, just as he had with his military colleagues). Judging by her article, the former “warrior-scholar” had held onto the “scholar” part of the label -- and a knack for (self-)image making, too.
As for Petraeus, on November 20, the Times’ Scott Shane reported that almost all the main figures in the ever-expanding scandal around him had hired “high-profile, high-priced” image managers. That included the general himself who had, in the past, proved the most celebrated military image-manager of his generation -- until, of course, he managed himself into bed with his “biographer.” Petraeus, Shane noted, had hired Robert Barnett, “a superlawyer whose online list of clients begins with the last three presidents. Though he is perhaps best known for negotiating book megadeals for the Washington elite, his focus this time is said to be steering Mr. Petraeus’s future career, not his literary life.” Curiously, Barnett had represented Stanley McChrystal, too, when the axed war commander sold a memoir in 2010.
It’s rare that a newspaper lays out the mechanics of elite image-making and then so visibly engages in it, but the next day Bumiller weighed in with the first peek behind the scenes at a Petraeus at military dusk. But it wasn’t taps playing; it was -- thank you (perhaps) Robert Barnett -- opportunity knocking. The general, reported Bumiller via various unnamed “friends” and “close friends,” was dealing with a “furious” wife, but already fielding “offers to teach from four universities, a grab bag of book proposals from publishers in New York, and an interest in speaking and serving on corporate boards.” He hadn’t, she informed Times’ readers, even ruled out becoming a TV news “talking head” like so many of his retired compatriots.
While both men evidently continue to engage in the sort of take-no-prisoners PR campaigning they know how to do best, the rest of us should be blinking in stunned wonder and asking ourselves: Just what are we to make of the decade of military hagiography we’ve just passed through? What did it mean for two generals to soar to media glory while the wars they commanded landed in the nearest ditch? Someday, historians are going to have a field day with our “embedded” American world in the twilight years of our glory, the celebrated era when, wartime victories having long since faded away, the image of triumph became what really mattered in Washington....
SOURCE: Standpoint (UK) (11-29-12)
Andrew Roberts is a British historian.
The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was an uncomfortable place to be at midnight on Tuesday, November 6. The free beer and wine were flowing; the would-be ambassadors were wandering around the suites reserved for those who had given $7 million or more to the Republican party; the vast TV screens were tuned in to Fox News (CNN had been booed off). It should have been a party rather than a wake, yet from the moment I had walked in two hours beforehand, I could sense the rising stench of coming disappointment. That special thrill which throbs through election-night parties given by the victorious side was totally absent, even two hours before the Ohio result sent everyone for the doors. From the moment the exit polls recorded that white voters were only making up 72 per cent of the total it was clear: Mitt Romneywasn't going to make it.
"We're all in this together," President Obama tweeted after the race was called in his favour. "That's how we campaigned, and that's who we are." Of all the very many untruths told by the Democrats during the course of this 18-month campaign, that was perhaps the worst. For in fact the campaign he fought was a relentlessly divisive one, attempting to cordon off Hispanics, Asians, single women, blacks and the young from the Republican party, blackening the sterling business reputation of an admirable Republican candidate, and solidly refusing to run on either the Administration's record or its plans. Obama won by 60.66 million votes (i.e. 50 per cent of the popular vote) to 57.82 million (48 per cent), which National Public Radio considers "decisive", but which shows how harshly divided this country truly is.
President Obama won re-election—the first president to do so with a lower percentage of the vote than the first election—because the cynicism of his electoral strategists was proved right: play to the envy and chippiness in human nature, the fear felt by unmarried women over abortion, collect enough "victimised" minorities together to create a majority, and accuse your opponent of being a "felon" (as Obama's spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter called Romney), a cultist whose business ethics caused one woman to contract cancer (according to a pro-Obama super-PAC ad), and any number of other lies and half-truths. American politics is dirty, but considering that the Romney campaign entirely eschewed even mentioning the president's connections to embarrassments such as Rev Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, when it came to the pig-trough of politics, they weren't "all in this together".
Napoleon wanted his marshals to be lucky above all else, and there can hardly be a luckier man in politics than Barack Obama, whose most difficult election before 2012 was the one in which he defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008…
SOURCE: Tablet Magazine (11-28-12)
Andrew Roberts is a historian. His latest book is The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War.
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (11-28-12)
Scott Reynolds Nelson teaches history at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America’s Financial Disasters, published by Alfred A. Knopf in September.
America faced its first fiscal cliff in 1893. The date should be familiar. It was the start of the Panic of 1893, and it led to the biggest shift ever in the composition of the U.S. Congress. Contemporaries called it the “Avalanche of 1894.”
Then as now, a Republican-sponsored change in tax policy brought about the crisis. Throughout the 1880s the United States had run a budget surplus. Americans paid no income tax, but a tariff on imports paid most of the bills. Nearly 25 percent of this came from a tax on imported sugar. The so-called Sugar Trust, run by Henry O. Havemeyer, had long favored a high tax on refined sugar to protect American sugar refineries against foreign competition.
But in the late 1880s a new California rival, Claus Spreckels, used a little-known treaty with the Kingdom of Hawaii to import raw sugar tax-free from the distant island. This gave Spreckels a huge advantage over East Coast refiners, who imported most of their sugar from Cuba. In 1890, to destroy Spreckels’s advantage, Havemeyer persuaded Congress to eliminate the tariff on imported sugar. With no tax advantage to give him the edge, Spreckels, whose sugar had to be brought from much farther, lost the war for the American market. Unfortunately, the loss of the sugar tariff helped to rapidly drain the U.S. Treasury....
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (11-28-12)
Historian Andrew Roberts's latest book, The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, was published in the U.S. in May. His previous books include Masters and Commanders and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900. Dr. Roberts is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Canada to the rescue! (Yet again.) The appointment of Mark Carney, a Canadian born in the Northwest Territories, a former Goldman Sachs executive, and presently governor of the Bank of Canada, to the post of governor of the Bank of England, is yet another example of that country coming to Britain’s aid in its hour of need. It is also an eloquent testimony to how the Anglosphere—or what Winston Churchill called “the English-speaking peoples”—continues to work for their mutual benefit, but especially for Britain’s....
During the Boer War, Canadians flocked to the colours to defend the British Empire. In the First World War they captured and then defended Vimy Ridge on the Western Front, albeit at a terrible cost in lives. In the course of that battle, Canadian artillerymen invented the concept of the “creeping barrage,” by which bombardments were inched forward from trench to trench, a tactic that revolutionized overall strategy. In May 1940 the only fully-armed units guarding London from a German invasion during the retreat from Dunkirk were two Canadian divisions. During the amphibious Dieppe Raid of August 1942 it was the Canadians who were sacrificed, with 3,500 killed, wounded, or captured out of the 5,100 men who took part. In per capita terms, Canada contributed far more to Britain in Lend-Lease even than the United States, and at one point at the end of the War, the Royal Canadian Navy was the third biggest in the world, so large had it become keeping the sea routes to Britain open, thus saving the Mother Country from being starved to death during the Battle of the Atlantic....