Roundup: Historian's Take
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: Huffington Post (8-26-10)
For more than two hundred years, the rest of the world has listened to Americans boast about our "freedom," our "liberty," and, most of all, how we are the model for a perfected democracy, which everyone else should emulate.
This was always been a pretty rank claim -- even in 1775 the British man of letters, Dr. Samuel Johnson, asked "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?" But we have kept it up, over the years, to Mexicans, Haitians, Vietnamese, Cubans, Salvadorans, Iraqis, Afghanis, and even to our allies, like the French and Germans.
Over time, we became more self-aware, and stopped pretending that slavery was an afterthought easily rectified, or the extermination of Native American nations an unfortunate byproduct of our "manifest destiny." But, even now, most Americans assume that in the fifty years since the civil rights revolution, we are at last a complete democracy -- meaning that, if they bother to wake up and vote, the people rule here.
Not so. We are still a partial, blocked, half-way democracy, for the simple reason that our constitutional system incorporates central features intended to frustrate the will of the majority. You probably know what I'm talking about, but if you're like me, you were brought up to believe that these profoundly undemocratic structures -- federalism, the Senate, the Electoral College, and so on -- have an internal logic that somehow protects our freedoms. Again, not so. They are undemocratic by design, and they have been preserved by interests who wish to frustrate the will of the majority. So, in the interests of clarity, here are a few reminders.
First, "We, the people" do not choose our chief executive. Certainly, we vote for a presidential candidate, but he or she is selected by a mechanism that has allowed minorities to choose him or her. I don't just mean the farce of the 2000 election, where the people's will was manifestly violated, but on a much more ordinary basis, in the fact that there is no proportionate relationship at all between the number of people who actually vote in a state, and the number of "votes" it ends up casting in the Electoral College.
Maybe you've heard of the bad old days of Jim Crow, and the one-party Democratic South where hardly any blacks and not many whites voted. In 1916, for instance, 907,669 men, nearly all white, voted in six Deep South states where Woodrow Wilson gained 75 of the 277 electoral votes he needed for re-election, while almost three times that number (2,545,883) voted in five northern states where Republican Charles Evan Hughes won his 75 electoral votes.
Jim Crow is gone, but we still have a gross imbalance between states in the Electoral College, and therefore the actual power of individual voters. It no longer automatically favors one party, but it still makes the principle of "one person/one vote," meaning the equal weight assigned to all votes, look absurd. Think of it this way: in 2008 the seven smallest states, with 2,510,980 voters, cast 21 electoral votes -- exactly the same number as Pennsylvania, with its 6,015,476 voters. As a Pennsylvania native, I have and do feel gypped, but so should most of the rest of us who aren't lucky enough to live in Alaska, Delaware or the Dakotas.
Second, we do not elect the more powerful upper house of our national legislature by any kind of properly representative process. Sure, we vote, but again in such a grossly disproportional way as to make the idea of a Senate elected by popular choice absurd. My favorite way of understanding this is to compare the population of Wyoming with that of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I teach. They have about the same number of people (a little over half a million) but Wyoming voters are represented by two United States senators, whereas voters in Lancaster County are a tiny fraction of the statewide electorate (3.7 percent in the 2006 senatorial election--this is a corrected figure, I was mistakenly told "less than half of one percent" by someone else, which made it into the earlier version of this piece); we are not "represented" in a fashion remotely comparable to voters in small states, which makes us much less powerful in national politics. Once again, Pennsylvanians, like New Yorkers, Californians, Texans and the residents of other large states are grossly disenfranchised, which was the point in 1787 -- "protecting" smaller states -- and remains the point today.
As has been obvious for well over a century, those smaller states are in most cases the homelands of native-born white people, and that what the Senate exists to protect now. You don't believe me? The 25 least-populated states contain only 16% of the U.S. population (49,787,302 people in 2009) but together control the rest of us with their fifty Senators, and (with a few obvious exceptions like Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Hawaii), there are very few African-Americans, Latinos, or Asians in those states. Hell, there are almost no cities! So, while it would be ridiculous to assert a racial conspiracy, who needs a "conspiracy" when super-advantaging the small states protects white people in constant, small ways?
Put it another way: minus the Senate, the citizens of Wyoming, Idaho, Arkansas, Delaware, Alaska, Nevada, Utah, the two Dakotas, and Montana would receive exactly the same weight of representation as the rest of us have, instead of those 8,856,319 (nearly all white and rural) Americans, 2.9% of the population (in 2009), sending twenty senators to Washington. How is that worthy of the name "democracy," unless you want to assert that the vast expanses of the Rockies and the Ozarks somehow deserve representation?
Another block on democracy is an aspect of "federalism," as designed in the 1780s: our antiquated, locally-controlled system for registering voters, and organizing how, when, and where they vote. In the guise of a very good thing -- local government controlled by local people -- we perpetuate a structure that frustrates the most basic guarantees of equal rights, like the right to vote. How do I know this? Residency requirements! For most of our history, they have functioned to exclude poor people, young people, and immigrants. Think about it: why should you be required to live in Des Moines, Manhattan, Boston, or Tuscaloosa for some required period of time before you get to decide between John McCain and Barack Obama? You're a citizen, and you should be able to vote, even if, like many Americans, you recently moved -- from one part of town to another, or to a different city or state. The way I know about this is through F&M Votes, the voter registration campaign my college runs to make sure our students vote locally, instead of relying on the vicissitudes of absentee balloting (remember the mess in Florida in 2000?). From 2004 on, we have faced angry resistance from local residents who assert, rather vociferously, that since our students only "live" in Lancaster -- but don't pay taxes, buy property, or make a commitment to stay long-term -- they should not be allowed to vote where they live.
Residency rules, arbitrarily enforced (since many localities, unlike Lancaster County's professional and nonpartisan Board of Elections, refuse to register full-time college students), are the tip of the iceberg in terms of a voting system designed to frustrate active participation. We have approximately three thousand counties in the U.S., and that is the level where voter registration is actually organized -- or not. This is a nineteenth century system, random and often amateurish, and extremely susceptible to partisan interference. Why? That is the question we should all be asking. Any politician committed to democracy here at home instead of preaching it abroad would demand a transparent, uniform easy-access national voter registration system -- especially in a country as large as ours. Many countries have same-day registration: you walk in, register with any approved identification, are entered in a single database to block fraud, and vote.
The steps to democratization are not hard to sketch out. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave the federal government the authority to override local and state authorities that kept black people from voting, and the 24th Amendment a year earlier permanently banned poll taxes, one of the South's favorite ways of disfranchising poor black people (and lots of poor whites). The results were dramatic, and in 1968 for the first time, a majority of African Americans voted. We need a new Voting Rights Act paired with the necessary constitutional amendments to provide for genuinely representative democracy (one-person/one-vote proportionality) for every American citizen. We should radically change the way we elect the Senate, so it still represents the states, but is at least moderately representative of population -- perhaps each state should get one Senator for the first million people or fraction thereof, and one for every million after that. As for the Electoral College, get rid of it one way or another, and guarantee that the President is the person who has gained the most votes. Finally, let's think about when "federalism" actually strengthens local democracy rather than empowering entrenched elites.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 22:30
SOURCE: CNN (8-30-10)
If current polls are a guide, the midterm elections probably won't be good for President Obama and his party. The Democrats are in danger of losing control of the House of Representatives and of seeing their majority in the Senate diminish.
With Obama's approval rating sagging to 45 percent according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll, even his most ardent supporters admit that he will need a stimulus act for his presidency before 2012 comes around. One of Obama's biggest challenges has been his reticence about defining a clear agenda and a set of governing principles. Doing so has been at odds with his legislative strategy, which has hinged on avoiding big proclamations to give himself wiggle room with Congress.
But that legislative strategy has had a major political cost. Many Democrats don't feel as if they know exactly what their leader is about. Some conservative critics have been able to paint a rather pragmatic Democrat as a Soviet-style socialist, and sometimes, according to recent polls, as a Muslim.
To bounce back, Obama will need to do more to articulate his agenda. For guidance, he can look back to two presidents who recovered from difficult midterms, Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Bill Clinton....
Posted on: Monday, August 30, 2010 - 15:40
SOURCE: Ottawa Citizen (8-25-10)
The future of the monarchy came up as an issue in the Australian election. No surprise there. Australians have few inhibitions in discussing whether to retain the constitutional status quo or make the bold move to establish a republic....
Why could nothing like this happen in Canada? Why are our politicians so hesitant to engage with the issue of monarchy versus republic? Why, specifically, will there probably never be a referendum on the future of monarchy in this country?...
The aggregate outcome would be difficult to predict given the large numbers, as in Australia, who are apathetic to monarchy, but suspicious of constitutional change. There is, however, a very strong likelihood that a majority in English Canada would vote to retain the Crown, while a majority in Quebec would opt for a republic. Canada's national divisions would be brutally exposed in a way that would make Meech Lake look like a friendly game of ping-pong. National divisions, please note, not any fundamental divisions over political philosophy....
A popular Australian expression is "no worries." When it comes to a discussion of monarchy, unlike the Aussies, we can't be quite so sanguine....
Posted on: Friday, August 27, 2010 - 13:30
SOURCE: CS Monitor (8-24-10)
In this debate over whether a Muslim community center should be built two blocks from where the World Trade Center was destroyed on 9/11, both sides have sought to capture the high ground.
President Obama and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have defended the building of the community center by invoking the First Amendment. “The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are,” the president declared.
Republican conservatives, like former House speaker Newt Gingrich and current House minority leader John A. Boehner, have based their opposition to the center on their concern for the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11. “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in New York,” Gingrich said by way of analogy....
Posted on: Friday, August 27, 2010 - 12:18
SOURCE: National Review (8-26-10)
For decades, I have been a militant anti-declinist in terms of America’s place in the world. The United States is a proud, determined, hard-working, talented, patriotic nation and people, and it is not over-extended in the manner of empires of the past that took over the lands of others and eventually collapsed under the weight of the over-ambitious hegemon. Thus came the twilight of all previous empires, from the Persian to the Russian, including several versions of the Chinese, and even the astounding nautical and commercial empire of Holland, built on the acumen and enterprise in the 17th century of scarcely a million avaricious and seafaring Dutch.
But the United States merely uprooted the native Americans (to make way for imported slaves, initially) and then swamped, thinned, or drove them into Canada before the riptide of settlers moving west. It had no interest in hanging on to Cuba, unfortunately for the Cubans, or the Philippines; President Cleveland was opposed even to accepting Hawaii as a territory; and the acquisition of Alaska by Pres. Andrew Johnson was seen as a “folly” for decades. There is no immutable or irresistible force of history ringing down the curtain on America. Yet the country is in decline. It is not logical and is certainly not irreversible, but that is not entirely relevant, because it is happening anyway....
Posted on: Thursday, August 26, 2010 - 13:04
SOURCE: The New Republic (8-25-10)
A certain kind of liberalism familiar to readers of The New Republic has been stirring in, of all places, Germany and Austria. To be sure, it operates on the margins. And, yes, the impulse to appease, run for cover and all the rest lingers there as well. So, too, does the mixture of irritation, indifference, and even outright hostility to Israel. But the spirit of this magazine, the spirit of “hard” liberalism, animates a new and unique collection of intellectuals and activists with impeccable credentials on the European left....
This is a significant development in the intellectual and political history of German-speaking Central Europe and perhaps for Europe as a whole. It has parallels to the “Euston Manifesto” from London, and to its American cousin, published in Washington, DC in 2006. Now it’s one thing for British leftists or American liberals to revive the language of anti-fascism of the 1940s. Churchill and Roosevelt, after all, still reign for us as icons. Although anti-fascism was also a Central European tradition, it had been drowned out, even trumped, by anti-imperialism and Third Worldism since the 1960s. But in recent years liberal and social democratic variations of the anti-fascism of the 1940s and 1950s have made common cause with a distinctive brand of left-liberalism that emerged first in Germany and then in Austria.
The current advocates of a revived and wiser liberal anti-fascism argue that if you truly mean to come to terms with the Nazi era, you need to think creatively and comparatively about similarities and differences between past and present. What is conservative or right-wing, they ask, about denouncing anti-Semitism or terrorist attacks on civilians? Indeed, how can anyone who calls himself a liberal permit Lenin’s empty slogans about anti-imperialism or Third Worldism to mute one’s criticism of Jew-hatred? Why is it anything but progressive to call major corporations to account for doing business with Iran as it builds up its nuclear weapons program? Further, and with one eye to history, what is realistic or enlightened about European policymakers who believe Tehran will be deterred absent the option of punitive military action? Is such a belief not the height of naivete and wishful thinking? Why, in Munich itself, have the lessons of Munich become quaint or even taboo?...
Posted on: Thursday, August 26, 2010 - 12:40
SOURCE: NYT (8-24-10)
LOOKING back on the adoption of the 19th Amendment 90 years ago Thursday — the largest act of enfranchisement in our history — it can be hard to see what the fuss was about. We’re inclined to assume that the passage of women’s suffrage (even the term is old-fashioned) was inevitable, a change whose time had come. After all, voting is now business as usual for women. And although women are still poorly represented in Congress, there are influential female senators and representatives, and prominent women occupy governors’ and mayors’ offices and legislative seats in every part of the United States.
Yet entrenched opposition nationwide sidelined the suffrage movement for decades in the 19th century. By 1920, antagonism remained in the South, and was strong enough to come close to blocking ratification.
Proposals for giving women the vote had been around since the first convention for women’s rights in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848. At the end of the Civil War, eager abolitionists urged Congress to enfranchise both the former slaves and women, black and white. The 14th Amendment opened the possibility, with its generous language about citizenship, equal protection and due process.
But, at that time, women’s suffrage was still unthinkable to anyone but radical abolitionists. Since the nation’s founding, Americans considered women to be, by nature, creatures of the home, under the care and authority of men. They had no need for the vote; their husbands represented them to the state and voted for them. So, in the 14th Amendment’s second section, Republicans inserted the word “male,” prohibiting the denial of voting rights to “any of the male inhabitants” of the states....
Posted on: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - 10:44
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (8-24-10)
Columbia Records announced Tuesday that it will release in October two Bob Dylan multi-CD collections that will also be available on vinyl—the latest in a long string of new collections of old Dylan recordings. Apart from the pleasures of the music itself, they are important documents in the history of modern musical culture. Together, they trace fundamental changes in the structure and priorities of the music industry in the 1960s. Among those changes was a revolution that Dylan instigated—the demise of what had been the traditional, Tin Pan Alley world of American commercial songwriting and publishing.
The Bootleg Series, Volume Nine: The Witmark Demos, 1962-1964, is the newest of Dylan’s so-called official bootlegs of previously unreleased material. Compared to the earlier ones, The Witmark Demos seems odd, a collection of informal tapes that Dylan made for his music publisher (actually, two of them) in the early 1960s, and were never intended for the general public. The two-CD set includes Dylan’s first recordings of some of his classic songs—including “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Mr. Tambourine Man—as well as some lovely numbers, based on traditional folk themes, that never made it on to Dylan’s studio albums, among them "Seven Curses” and “Farewell.”...
“Bob Dylan almost single-handedly eradicated Tin Pan Alley,” [Artie] Mogull recalled years later, “because he was the first artist who could record an album of 10 or 12 songs and be the writer and publisher of all the songs. Previous to that, if Nat Cole recorded an album of 12 songs, 12 different writers and 12 different publishers wrote those things. In Bob's case, he wrote these great original songs, and we [and him] owned all the publishing and all the writing. It was the beginning of the end of what used to be known as Tin Pan Alley.”...
Posted on: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - 10:24
SOURCE: CNN.com (8-23-10)
Americans may worry that the end to the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will reignite violence and chaos there. But the fear is misplaced.
Iraqi nationalists have greeted the withdrawal of the last U.S. combat brigade as a milestone on the way to Iraq's re-emergence as a sovereign country.
Washington was never able to control Iraq fully, and its meddling was partly responsible for the calamities that have befallen that country in the last seven years. Iraqis will better be able to settle their affairs and move forward once the U.S. stops interfering.
Some of the anxiety about the withdrawal has to do with the failure of Iraqi politicians to form a government so many months after the March 7 parliamentary elections. But Washington shares blame for that failure, because of the pressure it is bringing on behalf of its favored candidate, Ayad Allawi....
Washington should stop trying to shoehorn its favorite into office, should stop showing favoritism to some ethnic groups over others, and should show some understanding of the necessity for good relations between Iraq and Iran (which are becoming major trading partners). When it comes to the military and political balance, the U.S. has done enough damage, and can best help Iraqis by allowing them to return to being an independent country.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - 20:03
SOURCE: Jacksonville Journal-Courier (IL) (8-24-10)
I went to hear Joe the Plumber the other day at a Take Back Illinois 9/12 event. I wanted to know what motivated today’s conservatives.
Here is what I found out.
The “9/12" movement is based on principles announced by Glenn Beck. The nine principles and 12 values could be endorsed by any American: Honesty; hard work; family; thrift; faith; “America is good.” One of the fundamental beliefs of today’s conservatives is that only they support these ideals. Liberals hate America. But liberals have also taken over America, which is why it needs to be “taken back” by this movement.
The people at this event were all white and African Americans appeared only in Samuel Wurzelbacher’s comment about a black woman who had murdered her children, and, of course, in nasty remarks about our president. This was an explicitly Christian gathering. As a Jew, I felt excluded. The only mention of non-Christians was Wurzelbacher’s applause line about how shameful it is that some Muslims wish to build a community center near Ground Zero, which drew excited applause. If anyone was homosexual, they might have been offended by Wurzelbacher’s proud use of “queer.”
It struck me that my neighbors saw themselves in a different and simpler world than the one I live in. In that room, they were America as they imagined it — white, Christian and heterosexual. They don’t see why other people might be put off by this exclusive view or offended by their language.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - 16:46
SOURCE: In These Times (8-24-10)
Teachers today feel ever more under the gun, as state fiscal crises and resentment of public servants dominate the debate over educational reform. In the world of No Child Left Behind, where “accountability” has become the new rallying cry for reformers, we are witnessing a real moment of crisis for education.
At the center of the storm is a lightning rod: teacher tenure. To critics it represents all that is wrong with the system—protecting ineffective and unprofessional teachers. But tenure was never meant to protect bad teachers and, for the most part, it does not. Rather, tenure was designed to protect professionals from undue political interference in the work of education. It was meant to protect the classroom as a place of inquiry.
Principals, until recently, ruled their schools like czars who could hire and fire at will. The fight for tenure came out of a fight for First Amendment protections, as well as a sense that teachers as professionals deserved some freedom in how they ran their classrooms. Tenure freed teachers from the tyranny of administrators, who were often political appointees or friends of the superintendent....
The current system of K-12 teacher tenure is...politically and professionally unsustainable. So here’s a modest proposal: Retain, but reform, tenure for schoolteachers. Currently, teacher evaluation is a moving and confusing target. Some districts evaluate teachers thoroughly every year, but most do not. Teachers need to be evaluated—education is too important for them not to be. But there must be clear, coherent criteria for that evaluation. And as professionals, teachers must be involved in the evaluation process as partners....
Posted on: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - 16:14
SOURCE: National Post (8-24-10)
In April, Bishop James Wingle abruptly quit his post as head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines, Ont., and disappeared overnight from public view....
The mystery of his whereabouts was resolved on July 31 — the same day that a front-page story appeared in the St. Catharines Standard under the banner headline “Where on earth is Bishop Wingle?” In an email message to Monsignor Wayne Kirkpatrick, the temporary administrator of the diocese, Wingle wrote that he was living in Jerusalem (there had been unconfirmed reports of his presence there), matter-of-factly revealing that he would now spend time “doing some writing and research on a catechetical-pastoral project.”...
The circumstance underscores a familiar problem. The Church is notoriously resistant to the release of any information about the conduct of its clergy. The cry of “cover up” is the predictable public response, yet church policy is rooted in the centuries-old notion that any involvement in the spread of scandal is a serious offence on the grounds that scandal reveals sinful behaviour to the laity, who might then be induced to imitate it.
There might have been a practical basis for such a position in the Medieval era. But in the modern era, the silence of the Church leaves the spread of information — true, false, or simply unverifiable — in the hands of others, who do not always have the best interests of the Church at heart....
Posted on: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - 16:05
SOURCE: Pajamas Media (8-22-10)
...It starts at home. The so-called cultural elite — professors, those in the arts, the foundations, the establishment media, the Kerry-Edwards-Gore-Kennedy type, multimillionaire liberal politicos, the inherited Big Money, the doyens of the race industry — are now disconnected from material reality. Most have not a clue how hard it is to pump oil out of the ground, grow food, or build a bridge; all such largess is taken as givens, and produced by a money-grubbing distant “they” who like this sort of icky, retrograde work. (Had a young Barack Obama put away the Panama hat and the federal money for a summer, he could have apprenticed on an oil rig or picked peaches and learned something.)
The result is that millions of elites have the capital, the leisure, and the inclination to think utopia is within their grasp; that the blueprint of the Upper East Side, Palo Alto, Cambridge, Malibu, or Carmel can be extended throughout the world — if only there were just enough far-sighted caring people like themselves with clean fingernails, an exalted sense of self, and children at Amherst or Brown.
So they hold the U.S. up to a standard that indicts us as bad since we cannot possibly be perfect. And like medieval churchmen who crossed themselves on the way to sodomy, lucre, and graft, so too toss-off lines damning a Bush or Cheney or Halliburton are the new sorts of ritual entre necessary to join a faculty or work at a foundation or get hired at a newsroom....
Unlike the professor or correspondent who makes his money by often going abroad and so wants to be liked by the envious (that makes cappuccino time far easier), the farmer, welder, and clerk don’t much care, at least in comparison to financing the boat, getting a rug, or ensuring that at least one kid somehow makes it through college. Do you wish to get a Frenchman, Greek, Mexican or Iranian angry? (I know, I’ve done it.) Then simply in the midst of his normal dressing down of America, meekly reply, “Well, er, I don’t think Americans much like your country either.” Anguish, shock, real hurt all follow — as in “How could you be so cruel to say that?”
In other words, imagine a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house-type neighborhood in a so-so location. Suddenly this new mega-salesman moves in (1776-2010 is new). He tears down about four tract houses, and plops down in their place a faux-Florentine palazzo McMansion, as crass as it is comfortable. It towers over the rest and is full of glitzy appliances, with a five-care garage and pool, fake columns and domes — the whole bit. Then the proud new owner walks nightly down the neighborhood sidewalk with his white tennis shoes and a baseball cap, and smiling with his hand out-stretched, blaring out now and then to strangers — in sincere and heartfelt fashion as the nice guy he is — “How are you fellows doing? Real nice to meet you. Call me if I can help at all.”
I doubt the impressed neighborhood crowd would say, “Thanks so much. Please show me how you made such money to buy such an impressive house.” More likely at night, local youths would throw trash on the lawn, and spray graffiti on his stone wall — while during the day their parents would finagle how to marry at least one of them off to the rich salesman’s pom-pom daughters.
That’s sort of America — and the world. End of story.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - 11:57
SOURCE: CNN.com (8-24-10)
...[T]he debate over the Islamic center and mosque tells us as much about the tensions that are brewing within the Republican Party as it does about the challenges facing the White House. It is unclear whether any Republican has the capacity to unite the party and help repair the damage inflicted by the final year of President George W. Bush's presidency.
The same week that many conservatives were laser-focused on Muslims and the mosque, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed published in The Boston Globe criticizing the administration's economic policies. Romney argued that Obama's policies have been hampering, not helping, economic recovery and outlined as an alternative a package of tax cuts that he believes would generate growth.
But other Republicans want to focus on a different set of issues. These are the social conservatives who, since the 1970s, have been railing against the liberalization of American culture they say began in the 1960's"Age of Aquarius."...
Libertarians are the third faction. They have been a dying breed over the past few decades, as Republicans became comfortable with big government as they learned to use it for their own objectives. Libertarianism has made something of a comeback, first with Ron Paul and now with Rand Paul, both of whom have resurrected hard-line arguments against the value of federal intervention on almost any issue.
The final faction is made up of national security conservatives. This is the faction in the GOP that had been most dominant under George W. Bush. Early in Obama's presidency, this faction remained vocal as former Vice President Dick Cheney constantly attacked the administration's national security policies....
The question for Republicans is whether anyone can hold this unwieldy coalition together. This is an area where the Republicans are extremely vulnerable. Republicans still have not recovered from the political implosion of their party in 2008....
The new Reagan clearly has not emerged. The problems were obvious in the 2008 primaries when all the candidates faltered in trying to rebuild Reagan's magic. Democrats, in contrast, found two strong candidates, Obama and Hillary Clinton, who could bring their coalition together....
Posted on: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - 11:08
SOURCE: Truthout (8-20-10)
In Arizona, we fight because we are spirit. Yet, in recent travels, I've gotten the distinct impression that many people think that human beings are made simply of flesh and blood, and that only things material have consequence.
Human beings also have spirits. In Arizona, bigot forces are not content with simply getting rid of as many brown bodies as possible, but also intend to ensure that those remaining become assimilated into intolerant copies of themselves.
The world appears to be knowledgeable about the effort - via SB 1070 - to legalize hate, fear and racial profiling in Arizona. What most seem to be unaware of is that there is also an effort by state schools superintendant, Tom Horne, to brainwash the state's school children via HB 2281, the anti-Ethnic/Raza Studies law that - unless stopped - will go into effect on Jan 1, 2011.
There is a third law in the works: the effort by state rep. Russell Pierce, chief sponsor of the state's apartheid laws, to nullify the 14th Amendment in Arizona [which guarantees U.S. birthright citizenship].
Tolteka, a renowned Los Angeles hip hop artist - inspired by a recent column, "From Manifest Destiny to Manifest Insanity" - has penned a rhyme called The Trilogy of Terror. It breaks down these so-called laws that are intended to destroy our minds and spirits.
Those of us here in Arizona do not recognize these apartheid schemes as laws. At least not as moral or legitimate laws. Even the courts have already struck down the most odious parts of SB 1070.
But back to HB 2281. This is the one people are paying least attention to. While denouncing SB 1070 in May, five UN Special Rapporteurs also denounced HB 2281. They said, "Such law and attitude are at odds with the State's responsibility to respect the right of everyone to have access to his or her own cultural and linguistic heritage and to participate in cultural life... Everyone has the right to seek and develop cultural knowledge and to know and understand his or her own culture and that of others through education and information."
They further pointed out that controlling immigration and adhering to fundamental principles of non-discrimination are not mutually exclusive: "States are obligated to not only eradicate racial discrimination, but also to promote a social and political environment conducive to respect for ethnic and cultural diversity."
Their report is self-evident, yet we should pay close attention to the illogic of the bigoted forces: they claim they are not against immigration - only illegal immigration. So what does anti-bilingualism and Ethnic Studies have to do with illegal immigration?
There is an equal danger to both SB 1070 and HB 2281; one attacks our bodies, the other our minds and spirits. HB 2281 targets Tucson's highly successful Raza Studies program. But, as written, it applies to the entire state, and it can become copycat legislation - state by state - not targeting K-12 education only, but universities as well. The authors erroneously claim Ethnic Studies result in hate, segregation, anti-Americanism and advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.
What's at stake with HB 2281 is not simply an attack on a program (Raza Studies), but also the right to teach/learn and the right of students to succeed as a result. As signed, HB 2281 creates a mechanism by which books and curricula will be subject to approval by the state. The premise is that only Greco-Roman culture ("Western Civilization") is acceptable for Arizona curricula. Knowledge from other cultures is henceforth deemed to be "un-American." Books such as Occupied America (Acuña) and Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire) have already been singled out.
In Arizona, the state superintendant of schools has appointed himself not simply education czar (opposing local control), but also, royal cosmographer - determining that not only is maiz-based or Maya-Nahua culture and knowledge - the philosophical foundation for Raza Studies - outside of Western Civilization, but that it is also outside of humanity. In effect, he also fancies himself head of the BIA - determining who/what is Indigenous.
While singling out people of color, these Inquisition-era "laws" are, in reality, an attack against all people. The legalization of racial profiling and cultural mind-control belongs in the Dark Ages, and the battle against the sanctioning of hate, censorship and forbidden curricula is being fought right here in Arizona (This is the subject of a forthcoming conference in December at the University of Arizona). Within weeks, this battle will step into the courtroom via a lawsuit against the state. We are confident we will easily win against the forces of fear, hate and ignorance.
Posted on: Monday, August 23, 2010 - 17:36
SOURCE: National Review (8-20-10)
It seemed, after the 2008 election, that Mr. Obama thought that, having convinced the great white moderate political center of America that it should put him in the White House to slake its concerns about 400 years of mistreatment of blacks (and, as a bonus, to be spared having to take seriously the posturings of charlatans like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson ever again), he might be perhaps able also to turn the page in international relations with many countries that were convinced the United States was governed by a self-serving white capitalist apparat. It was worth a try, but it didn’t work. Those countries and political currents in the world that do not wish America well don’t care who is in the White House. They want to pick America’s pocket, overrun its interests, and kill its children. Unfortunately, althoughPresident Obama may have made brief inroads on public opinion with his speeches in Egypt and Ghana, public opinion in undemocratic countries doesn’t have much force unless the regime is insufferably oppressive and terribly enfeebled. His words were eloquent in Ghana, rather cloying in Cairo; in both cases, they evaporated like the tropical dew.
Mr. Obama appears to believe some of the guilt-stained profferings he has made to the world: The United States should be more socialistic, like economically stagnant Europe, carried for decades by America’s addiction to Italian and French luxury goods and German engineered products. President Truman should not have dropped the atomic bomb. President Eisenhower should not have been complicit in turfing out Mossadegh (a deranged fellow-traveling demagogue who rarely got out of his pajamas, perhaps the sartorial inspiration for the late don of the Genovese crime family, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante), as prime minister of Iran.
America may just now be coming to grips with the implications of the fact that its president is going forth into the world actually believing the bunk that America pursued its national interest with unjustifiable callousness and behaved reprehensibly by the standards of those who reproach it now, and that there may actually be some merit to the Americaphobic strictures of the Ahmadinejads, Mugabes, and Chávezes....
Posted on: Monday, August 23, 2010 - 17:17
SOURCE: CS Monitor (8-23-10)
A few years ago, a student asked me why I rarely give final examinations in my classes. I paused a moment, reflecting on my own college years.
“I never learned much from them,” I told her. The majority of my exams required me to regurgitate, not to think. And when the tests were over, I promptly forgot most of what I had memorized.
I recalled this exchange as I read about the latest controversy at Harvard University, which – because it’s Harvard – has made national headlines. Earlier this year, the university announced that it would no longer expect its courses to conclude with final exminations. In the past, professors were supposed to obtain approval if they did not intend to give a final exam; from now on, though, they will need to notify the university if they do wish to give one.
Conservative critics quickly pounced on the news, decrying Harvard’s new policy as a symbol of everything that ails American schooling. “Harvard is yielding to education’s most primitive temptation: lowering standards and waiving measurements for the sake of convenience,” wrote Chester Finn and Micky Muldoon, both Harvard graduates, in a widely circulated article for National Review Online.
But the critics have it exactly backwards. Final examinations reflect an antiquated and largely discredited theory of learning, which equates knowledge with factual recall. By discouraging exams, then, Harvard is hardly forsaking academic rigor. Instead, it’s clearing the way for a more engaging, challenging, and truly educative college experience....
So by all means, let’s demand more of our students – and of our professors – at American universities. But let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that final examinations will solve the problem. To the contrary, our biggest test right now is to move beyond tests. Let’s hope we can pass it.
Posted on: Monday, August 23, 2010 - 14:51
SOURCE: Bloomberg News (8-17-10)
For almost 150 years Americans have believed that anyone born here, whatever his or her origins, can be a good citizen. There is no reason to believe the children of illegal immigrants are any different.
Congress should think long and hard before tampering with this essential American principle embodied in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Approved by Congress in 1866 at the outset of Reconstruction and ratified two years later, the amendment establishes the principle of birthright citizenship. With minor exceptions, all persons born in this country are American citizens, whatever the status of their parents.
Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, several of his Senate colleagues and a number of conservative political commentators are now demanding that the amendment be reinterpreted or rewritten so as to exclude the children of illegal immigrants.
Bitter conflicts about who should be an American citizen are hardly new, nor are efforts to exclude those deemed for one reason or another undesirable. The very first naturalization law, enacted in 1790, barred non-white immigrants from ever becoming citizens. This prohibition was lifted for Africans in 1870 but lasted into the mid-20th century for Asians. In 1857, in the Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney declared that no black person, free or slave, could be a citizen of the U.S....
Posted on: Monday, August 23, 2010 - 09:07
SOURCE: Rust Belt Intellectual (Blog) (8-19-10)
Today the last American combat troops left Iraq, nearly 7.5 years after Bush/Cheney launched this military fiasco. There is no measure of this war that makes anything other than an unalloyed disaster with few parallels in American history - not the number of deaths and injuries, the $2 trillion spent on it, nor the way it has weakened the American position in the region and the world.
The Obama Administration deserves - and will surely not get - a great deal of credit for fulfilling this campaign promise. After all, even as Obama may be sinking us deeper in Afghani quicksand, he resisted calls to abandon his original timeline in Iraq.
Violence has subsided in Iraq and a measure of stability has returned, but in fact the country remains a basket case and will be that way for some time. The troop escalation - the so-called "surge" - led by Gen. David Petreaus (to whom George Bush more or less abdicated his role as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces in 2007) deserves some credit for this.
But the surge was always intended to create enough safe space for the Iraqis to come up with a long-term political resolution to the civil war of 2004-07. That, clearly, has not yet happened. Politics has ground to a halt in Iraq months now after the elections. There is still no real government now in Baghdad, and none on the horizon.
Some while ago I suggested the right analogy for the Iraq war was not Vietnam, but Cambodia. There, after the United States contributed to the destablization of the country, the country descended into a fratricidal, genocidal civil war, brought to an end - ironies of ironies - when the Vietnamese invaded and restored some order.
American combat troops are not necessary for whatever may happen in Iraq going forward and it is long past time for them to come home. Let's hope Obama is demonstrates similar resolution with his timetable to get American troops out of Afghanistan.
Posted on: Friday, August 20, 2010 - 15:54
SOURCE: WSJ (8-20-10)
The Stryker armored vehicles of the U.S. Army's Fourth Brigade, Second Infantry Division have just rumbled out of Iraq. Their trip from Baghdad to Kuwait was only 300 miles long, but symbolically the distance was much greater.
The Fourth Brigade is the last combat brigade to pull out of Iraq as the U.S. military—having lost 4,415 soldiers (and still counting) and turned around a war effort that was on the verge of failure—hustles to draw down to 50,000 troops by the end of August. "Operation Iraqi Freedom," that legacy of the Bush administration, is ending. On Sept. 1, "Operation New Dawn," the product of hope and change, takes its place.
Going forward, most remaining U.S. troops will not serve in "combat" but will be part of what the military calls "advise and assist brigades." The distinction is largely artificial, crafted to show that the promised American withdrawal is on schedule. Fifty thousand soldiers will retain substantial combat capacity whether they are designated as "advisers," "combatants" or "tourists." And some of them, especially in elite antiterrorism units, will continue to operate at the pointy end of the spear.
Nevertheless, this transition offers an opportunity to reflect on what has been accomplished—and what still needs to be done. The debit side of the ledger is plain to see: the dollars spent, the lives shattered. American fatalities are measured in the thousands, Iraqis in the tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands. Yet, like the Londoners of World War II, the Iraqis have shown a wonderful resiliency in the face of carnage.
The economy is growing as oil production is rising and will soon exceed prewar levels. Electricity generation, after many setbacks, is already 40% above the prewar level (according to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index). Every Iraqi I've encountered during my recent visits there seems to have at least one cell phone, usually two or three. The streets of Baghdad are again crowded. Amusement parks, restaurants, even liquor stores are open after dark.
Above all, the terrible fear of Saddam and his secret police, of the knock in the night, has been lifted. Numerous radio and TV shows, newspapers and magazines air a variety of viewpoints, and politicians from a multiplicity of parties compete in free and fair elections.
Americans can take pride in how Iraq has developed. But have we truly "won" the war?..
Posted on: Friday, August 20, 2010 - 08:05