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: National Review (4-21-11)
After I watched a debate between Eliot Spitzer and Brent Bozell about whether Spitzer is a biased commentator, on his CNN program this week, I was starkly reminded of how insufferable a public personality Spitzer is, and also of how routine and brazen in their partisanship and unevenness the liberal media are. Spitzer and Bozell discussed three separate allegations that Bozell had made in his publication against Spitzer, and the former governor admitted that he was a liberal, but claimed that this did not to biased coverage if people of other views managed to hold their own with him in discussion (as Bozell did). Of course, this is nonsense, because the choice of subjects is Spitzer’s, most of his guests agree with him, and a good part of the program is a commentary monologue by him that is never anything but a diatribe in favor of the left-liberal line that made him so profoundly unpopular a governor even before the incident that led to his resignation....
The most egregious occurrence of this sort of thing in recent years was the saga of Deep Throat in the Watergate affair. In 2005, he identified himself as Mark Felt, former senior official of the FBI. He was duly lionized as one of the heroes of the Left, and the whole Watergate business was replayed again. What was almost entirely unmentioned in the mainstream national liberal media was that when Felt and an FBI colleague, Edward Miller, were accused in 1980 of criminally violating the privacy of members of the urban-terrorist Weather Underground by authorizing break-ins in their homes, Richard Nixon, although he suspected Felt was Deep Throat, offered to help them pay their legal fees and volunteered to testify on their behalf. They had the decency to decline, saying that they doubted Nixon would be helpful before a largely African-American jury in Washington, D.C. Not to be put off, Nixon required the prosecutors to call him, though he made it clear that he would be supporting the defendants. He appeared on Oct. 29, 1980, amid demonstrators outside the court and hecklers within, who were forcibly removed by U.S. marshals at the judge’s order.
Under constructive cross-examination by defense lawyers, Nixon made a strong case for “warrantless searches” and pointed out that in his first year as president there had been 40,000 bomb scares, and 3,200 bombings that killed 23 people, injured hundreds, and did $20 million of property damage. He defended the conduct of Felt and Miller as necessary to defend the lives of the innocent. They were convicted anyway, but Nixon successfully lobbied incoming President Reagan to pardon them, and sent them champagne and congratulatory notes when they were pardoned. Felt in his memoirs made no mention of this, or of his status as Deep Throat, and when he came out of that closet in 2005, his coronation was not sullied by reference, in the major media, to Nixon’s determined help to his chief accuser. The irony alone should have made it a compelling story. But it was ignored, not to say stifled....
Posted on: Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 13:32
SOURCE: National Review (4-20-11)
NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.
Across the Middle East, millions are rebelling against their poverty and lack of freedom, blaming their corrupt leaders, who have ransacked their countries’ treasuries and natural wealth. The objects of vituperation, then, are particular individual autocrats. Few in fits of introspection blame endemic cultural practices such as tribalism, gender apartheid, and religious intolerance as equally responsible for the general misery. A Mubarak, Qaddafi, Ben Ali, King Abdullah, or Assad is thus not a natural expression of a society’s collective values and customs, but supposedly an aberration, and one forced upon Middle Easterners by an array of often sinister foreign interests....
In such a mess, the challenge for America should have been to prod pro-American authoritarians to reform (but not to abdicate), to support staunchly our very few democratic friends, to oppose publicly anti-American totalitarians, and wherever possible to stay out of intervening militarily, given that no resistance group as of yet has proved democratic, or indeed has even published much of a liberal reform manifesto.
Instead, the Obama administration has done exactly the opposite in every case....
Posted on: Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 10:37
SOURCE: Newsweek (4-17-11)
Vandewalle, a professor at Dartmouth College, is author of A History of Modern Libya, published by Cambridge University Press.
Reminiscent of World War II, when German and British forces battled each other in the Cyrenaican desert and coastal plains of Libya, forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi and the country’s rebels have kept fighting over Ajdabiya, Ras Lanuf, and a string of small towns and hamlets along the country’s seashore. Despite the international coalition’s intervention on the side of the rebels, a stalemate has been reached. Gaddafi’s troops may be able to retake some territory in eastern Libya but are unlikely to reconquer it in its entirety. And the rebels, whose fortunes were dramatically reversed by the intervention of coalition forces in late March, seem incapable of pressing their initial momentum any further without additional (and more intense) international support.
There is an unobserved development in Libya, however, that augurs more ominously for the future of the country: the international coalition, which entered the fray on the side of the rebels, has now effectively become the arbiter over whether Libya slides into a full-scale civil war. By its support of the rebels’ cause and its willingness to help them press forward into the western part of the country, the coalition will determine whether the conflict turns into a war of attrition, and possibly a civil war, or whether the country remains divided between the two sides, raising the possibility of a full-fledged, permanent division later on....
Posted on: Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 08:10
SOURCE: Gulf Times (4-18-11)
Harold James is professor of history and international affairs at Princeton University and professor of history at the European University Institute, Florence. His most recent book is The Creation and Destruction of Value: The Globalisation Cycle.
Can central banks contain inflation? We once thought they could. Over the past 20 years, central banks around the world, including the United States Federal Reserve, pursued price stability with remarkable success. But now, in the wake of the financial crisis, a tide of distrust is sweeping the world – including a new and widespread fear that central banks are incapable of controlling inflation.
In the US, the Tea Party has made a return to the gold standard a part of its platform, and Utah is debating making gold and silver coins legal tender. German inflation worries have pushed the government into a much harsher stance on debt relief in Europe. In China, fear of inflation is unleashing large-scale discontent.
Inflation fear was already present before the new challenges of 2011 raised questions about long-term energy prices. As pro-democracy protests shake Arab authoritarian regimes, the prospect of sustained conflict threatens a global economy still dependent on oil, while the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and nuclear accident raises doubts about the security of nuclear energy....
Posted on: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 14:34
SOURCE: New York Review of Books (4-11-11)
Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her most recent book is The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. (November 2010)
April 7, 2011 was a day that should be remembered as one of the strangest in the history of the public schools of New York City and New York State. On that day, by coincidence (or not), the Chancellor of the New York City schools, Cathleen Black, and the State Commissioner of Education, David Steiner, both resigned. Black was replaced by longtime city official Dennis Walcott; a successor for Steiner, who will leave by August, has not been named. Hopefully, there will be a national search. Black’s tenure of three months was certainly the shortest ever in the history of the city’s schools. For his part, Steiner lasted less than two years in a job in which his predecessors typically persisted for a decade. The reasons for Black’s sudden departure are obvious; we will have to wait a bit longer to get the inside story about Steiner’s equally abrupt exit, though his handling of Black’s appointment may have undermined him.
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last November that he had selected publishing executive Black to be chancellor of the school system, he described her as a “superstar manager,” just the person needed to oversee a sprawling organization that enrolls 1.1 million children. Critics were immediately outraged that there had been no public search for a successor to Chancellor Joel Klein, and even more upset that Ms. Black met none of the legal requirements for the job. State law is very specific in describing the experience, education, and certification necessary to become a superintendent. Black had never taught, never worked in a public school, never been a principal, held no degrees in education, and obviously did not have a superintendent’s certificate. But the law did permit a waiver for a candidate whose unusual experience was equivalent to the legal requirements, and Mayor Bloomberg dismissed the criticisms of Black. The business community, reliable allies of the mayor, issued a statement of support, asserting that “You would be hard-pressed to find a more qualified and more capable candidate than Cathie Black.” Black also won the endorsement of Gloria Steinem, Oprah, Michelle Rhee, and other luminaries.
But parent groups organized rallies and threatened lawsuits, trying to block her appointment. The mayor, still unmoved, went through the obligatory step of appealing for a waiver, which State Commissioner David Steiner had the power to grant. This was not a simple matter, given the sustained and noisy opposition to Black, and the widely held perception that the mayor had selected someone who was a social friend, a member of the city’s moneyed elite lacking any experience in education. Parent groups felt that the mayor was sticking his thumb in their eyes by choosing yet another chancellor who would disregard their views and favor charter schools over those attended by 97 percent of the city’s children....
Posted on: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 14:21
SOURCE: NY Daily News (4-17-11)
Posted on: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 13:06
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (4-18-11)
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.
'Boys have it easy." So said my 17-year-old daughter, observing the annual college sweepstakes at her high school in Lower Merion. When letters and e-mails arrived from university admissions offices this month, most of her male friends got good news. But girls with stronger grades and test scores were rejected, making them think the game is rigged.
They're right. The biggest secret in higher education today is affirmative action for boys - mostly white boys. It's also the biggest scandal, providing extra help to the members of our society who need it least....
...[I]t also sounds a lot like universities' notorious argument against taking in too many Jews back in the early 20th century. "The summer hotel that is ruined by admitting Jews meets its fate ... because they drive away the Gentiles," Harvard president A. Lawrence Lowell warned, "and then after the Gentiles have left, they leave also."
Only after World War II would institutions like Harvard do away with their religious quotas, paving the way for a massive influx of Jewish students. Meanwhile, universities also began small and often secret affirmative action programs to recruit another set of students they had traditionally excluded: racial minorities....
Posted on: Monday, April 18, 2011 - 16:52
SOURCE: WSJ (4/18/11)
[Mr. Boot is a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.]
Secretary of Defense Bob Gates was in Iraq early this month urging Iraqi leaders to decide whether they want U.S. forces to stay beyond Dec. 31. "If there is to be a presence, to help with some of the areas where [the Iraqis] still need help," he said, "we're open to that possibility. But they have to ask."
Posted on: Monday, April 18, 2011 - 13:52
SOURCE: The Nation (4-14-11)
Bob Dylan did not sell out to the Chinese government when he performed in Beijing on April 6. The “sellout” charge was made in the New York Times on Sunday by Maureen Dowd, along with several other people. The problem: Dylan submitted his set list to the Chinese culture ministry, according to The Guardian’s Martin Wieland in Beijing, and as a result the concert was performed "strictly according to an approved programme."
That’s the reason, Dowd wrote, why Dylan did not sing what she called his “iconic songs of revolution like “The Times They Are a-Changin,’ ” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Dylan thus was guilty of “a whole new kind of sellout — even worse than Beyoncé, Mariah and Usher collecting millions to croon to Qaddafi’s family.”
The Daily Beast ran a feature headlined “Famous Sellouts,” with Bob Dylan in Beijing in the number one spot, and William Langley wrote in the Telegraph that “Dylan without protest songs sounds about as useful as Hamlet without the soliloquy.”
But look at what Dylan did sing in Beijing, starting with “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”: that song describes a place “Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters/Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison/Where the executioner's face is always well hidden.” You could call that a “protest song” if you wanted to....
Posted on: Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 16:33
SOURCE: NYT (4-14-11)
IT has become fashionable to refer to the 18-day Egyptian uprising as the “Facebook revolution,” much to the dismay of the protesters who riveted the world with their bravery in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. But revolutions do not happen in cyberspace, even if they start there. What happened in Tahrir Square during the revolution and the protests happening there now show that even in the 21st century, public space remains the most important arena for dissent and social change.
Tahrir Square’s rise to prominence is a testament to how place and history can come together unexpectedly. Although its Arabic name means “liberation,” and although it is one of the oldest squares in modern Cairo, Tahrir never carried much meaning for Cairenes until recently.
In fact, the idea of the public square as we know it today did not exist in Egypt or in the cities of the Middle East until colonial times; open spaces were historically situated in front of the main mosque, to accommodate overflow crowds and religious festivals.
The demonstrations that began in Tahrir Square in January with demands for the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak continue today with protests of the Egyptian military’s management of the revolution’s aftermath. Indeed, the interim Egyptian cabinet recently issued a decree criminalizing demonstrations, on the ground that they disrupt the economy, and two protesters in the square were killed last weekend by security forces.
In many ways, it seems an accident of history that Tahrir Square has become a locus of protest and repression. But a closer look reveals that the square’s geography and structures, including the burned buildings and pockmarked pavements now engraved in the minds of people all over the globe, embody the shifting political currents of modern Egypt as it encountered colonialism, modernism, Pan-Arabism, socialism and neoliberalism....
Posted on: Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 10:44
SOURCE: National Review (4-13-11)
The Left is terribly embarrassed about the U.S. intervention in Libya. We have preemptively attacked an Arab Muslim nation that posed little threat to the national-security interests of the United States. President Obama did not have majority support among the American people. Nor did he even attempt to gain approval from Congress — especially egregious because he seems to be the first president since Harry Truman who sought and obtained sanction for military action from the United Nations without gaining formal authorization from his own Congress.
The administration offered no rationale for judging, on humanitarian grounds, that Qaddafi was more egregiously murderous than, say, the killers in the Congo or Ivory Coast. Nor, in terms of national security, did the relatively sparsely populated and isolated Libya pose a threat comparable to those posed by either Iran or Syria — concerning which we carefully steered clear when similar domestic unrest threatened both regimes.
Stranger still, the Qaddafi regime of over four decades’ duration had since 2003 courted Western nations, after promising to give up its sizable WMD arsenal in the light of Saddam Hussein’s fate. The Western response, if sometimes cynical and oil-driven, nevertheless was increasingly institutionalized, at least if we can gauge by the number of Western intellectuals who wrote encomia on behalf of Qaddafi, and by the institutions that, perhaps in return for sizable donations, gave degrees to his Westernized son and sponsored exhibitions of his artwork. The nadir of the Western outreach effort was the British release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, in apparent exchange for future oil concessions and intelligence cooperation.
Why, then, did we begin bombing?..
Posted on: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 09:29
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (4-11-11)
In 1961 an official US commission oversaw thousands of events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American civil war. All 50 states joined in, but not surprisingly the biggest events took place in the 11 southern states that made up the defeated Confederacy. Citizens in Alabama celebrated with a full-scale re-enactment of the swearing in of the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, in front of 50,000 spectators, followed by an inauguration ball attended by 5,000 guests. In South Carolina, where the first shots of the four-year war were fired, Confederate flags were flown from every building. There was a Miss Confederate beauty pageant, parades, and even a re-enactment of South Carolina's declaration of secession.
By contrast the 150th anniversary of the civil war, which starts on 12 April, has been marked by boycotts, protests, and an embarrassed silence from the politicians in Washington DC.
All nations struggle in the aftermath of civil war. More than 100 years after the English civil war, for instance, any prelate who was "enthusiastic" about religion attracted censure and suspicion. The American war of 1861-65 is recent enough to be embedded still in cultural memory. But that isn't why it weighs so heavily on the American conscience...
Posted on: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 08:29
SOURCE: National Review (4-8-11)
At some point, the Obama administration is going to recognize a simple paradox that has been apparent to almost everyone but them: In theory, those pro-American autocratic regimes that are tottering or gone (the Gulf States, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, etc.) should have been more amenable to gradual progressive change. They did not exercise so savage a degree of control as was the norm elsewhere in the Middle East. In matters of religious fundamentalism and intolerance, they were sometimes more reasonable than their own populaces. They were less likely to foment unrest in the region at large, seek to acquire WMD, or harbor terrorists.
In contrast, totalitarian autocratic regimes that are anti-American (Libya, Syria, Iran, etc.) are far crueler — and far less likely to fall, given their readiness to use unlimited violence against their own. They were often more rabid in their ideologies than their own populations, and far more likely to foment unrest in the region at large, etc....
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 15:52
SOURCE: CNN.com (4-11-11)
Following the announcement of the budget deal on Friday night, South Dakota Sen. John Thune told Politico, "The debate is now on our side of the field. This is just the opening act. But these upcoming debates are not going to be about whether we're going to reduce the cost and size of government, but how much. That's very good ground for Republicans to fight on."
Thune is correct. The compromise revealed just how far congressional Republicans have been able to shift the debate since the 2010 midterm elections.
Much of the energy that President Barack Obama and Democrats displayed in his first two years in office -- pushing for health care reform, financial regulation, an economic stimulus and more -- seems to be gone.
The elections sapped much of the drive out of his presidency. During the lame-duck session of Congress, Obama signaled how much the climate had changed when he agreed to extend President George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, thereby breaking a key promise that he had made in his 2008 campaign....
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 15:09
SOURCE: Al Jazeera (4-11-11)
As was announced recently by UK prime minister David Cameron, Britain, Germany, France and the US have begun talks to support Libya's transition away from a violent dictatorship and to help create the conditions where the people of Libya can choose their own future.
It seems that after being caught off guard by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, American and European powers decided to be proactive.
The reasoning behind the military intervention in Libya reminds me of a statement at the Berlin Conference of 1885, where the colonial powers of the time agreed to:
"bind themselves to watch over the preservation of the native tribes, and to care for the improvement of the conditions of their moral and material well-being… instructing the natives and bringing home to them the blessings of civilisation."
When it comes to Middle East policies, nothing seems to have changed that much!
At a moment of frustration, I was tempted to read back Kipling's "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet" in search of solace and to explain why American and European powers so passionately and hastily launched military operations.
But Occidentalism, that is "Kipling read-back", is a generalisation as false as its sister "East is East" and a gross misrepresentation of the part of the world conventionally called the West.
So the root cause of the problem is not the "West"; rather it is a particular political-economic-military machine, an empire, that seeks sovereignty rather than legitimacy around the globe by all means necessary despite its people's will, who are almost as vulnerable to and victimised by the policies of it as any other people in the world....
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 15:06
SOURCE: Al Jazeera (4-11-11)
...Libya has until now served as the polar opposite of the Egyptian and Tunisian experience – its long-serving strongman has refused to leave, and his deployment of large-scale deadly violence provoked protesters to armed revolt.
But Libya did not begin as an armed insurrection. Protests began as a response to the arrest in Benghazi of Fathi Teribl, a well-known human rights activist in Benghazi.
There was violence against regime institutions, with protesters setting fire to police stations and cars, much as Egyptians burned down the headquarters of the National Democratic Party in the revolt's early days.
But the level of anger and riot-like violence that erupted so quickly in Libya was not likely the cause of the overall turn to armed revolt.
In Tunisia and Egypt the ruling systems were bigger than the rulers themselves. Their survival and interests were not completely tied to the leaders who became the symbols against which the people's anger was directed.
And so, at a certain point, Ben Ali and Mubarak could be sacrificed in order to preserve the system, or more precisely the power and wealth of elites whom it was constructed to benefit.
Publicly this was seen as a triumph of democratic protest, but particularly in Egypt, the reality of the system's continuity becomes clearer each day.
Yet in Libya the system has long centred around Gaddafi and his family. There is no larger political order that could successfully push him out to preserve itself, as occurred in its neighbours to the east and west.
Even more than the absolute monarchs of early modern Europe, Gaddafi is the Libyan state, a set of institutions which he's done little to develop in his four decades in power despite - indeed, because of - the enormous wealth generated by the country's oil revenues.
As one former OPEC official put it in a BBC interview, Gaddafi is the personal embodiment of the "petroleum curse" that has long plagued the Arab world....
Several commentators and analysts, such as Harvard University professor Stephen Walt, University of Texas professor Alan Kuperman, Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman, and Paul Miller of the National Defense University, have criticised president Obama's warning of imminent mass slaughter by Gaddafi's forces (for example, Obama adviser Dennis Ross claimed 100,000 people faced imminent death if Gaddafi conquered Benghazi).
They argue that however brutal the violence deployed by the government, the kinds of large-scale civilian killings seen in the Balkan civil wars or Rwanda have not occurred in Libya, nor have they been in the offing....
But this fact does not mean that large-scale violence, whether on the part of protesters-turned-rebels or the West that has intervened ostensibly to protect civilians, will reduce the number of Libyan civilians killed in the conflict.
As University of San Francisco professor Stephen Zunes has crucially pointed out, the most successful phase of the Libyan uprising was the massive nonviolent resistance that liberated a number of key Libyan cities back in February, after which popular democratic committees were set up to serve as interim local governments.
It was then that important aides and ambassadors resigned, while soldiers defected or refused to attack protesters.
In particular, Zunes argues that it was only after the rebellion became more violent that its "progress stalled and was soon reversed, which in turn led to the United States and its allies attacking Libya."...
A century and a half ago, a debt and finance-dominated global economic system helped destroy both the already weakened Ottoman Empire and the fast-rising Egypt of Muhammad Ali and his successors.
Today it has become the most effective tool of controlling restive countries and citizens from the American heartland to the African or Argentinian plains.
The momentary solidarity between protesters in Tahrir Square and Madison, Wisconsin points to the common plight of average working people world-wide.
The greatest gift bestowed by contemporary globalisation would be both a greater awareness of this situation and the means and desire to act collectively against it.
The people of the Arab world have begun to do their part.
What is necessary now is for citizens in the West to join the fray by taking on their militarised and finance-dominated governments with the same passion as their counterparts from Tunisia to Bahrain have taken on their autocratic systems....
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 15:03
SOURCE: NYRB (4-4-11)
Many observers are worried about the latest skirmish in the battle to destroy American higher education, which involves the distinguished environmental historian William Cronon at the University of Wisconsin. As has now been widely reported, on March 17, Stephan Thompson—an operative for the Republican Party of Wisconsin—used the state’s Open Documents law to demand copies of all emails to and from Cronon since January 1 that mention Wisconsin governor Scott Walker or any of a number of other words related to the state’s recent labor debates. Professor Cronon had written critically on his blog Scholar as Citizen of Wisconsin Republicans’ recent efforts to curb the rights of state workers, and Thompson clearly hoped to catch him using his university email to engage in pro-union or pro-Democratic politics, which would violate state law.
As the Cronon controversy has swirled and grown—a conservative group in Michigan has made similar requests for academic email from labor scholars at three universities in that state—some basic points risk being lost. The first is that Cronon himself is the last scholar one would expect to become a flash point for political debate. He’s not the Eastern liberal typically evoked in polemics about the radical professoriate, but a Midwestern “pragmatic centrist,” best known for deeply researched and elegantly written books. Cronon grew up in Wisconsin and chose to return and work there as an adult. Among historians he is chiefly known for his great generosity as a teacher and a colleague....
A third point is the most important of all. Since the modern university took shape in the late nineteenth century, professors in many fields have done research and taught—but also offered arguments in the public sphere, using their expertise as scientists or scholars to shed light on issues that affect the general welfare. In some notorious cases, university authorities, official or unofficial, denounced these activities. Mrs. Leland Stanford Jr., for example, insisted in 1901 that the sociologist Edward Ross be dismissed from Stanford for taking Progressive stands on various issues. In 1894, by contrast, the Wisconsin State Board of Regents refused to discipline or dismiss the University of Wisconsin economist Richard Ely, whose support for the rights of workers had offended some. In words of which the university is justly proud, the regents declared that academic comment—even polemical comment—formed part of the necessary process of
“sifting and winnowing” by which public debate should be conducted...
It’s a little bit like being a Raymond Chandler detective. You go out into the mean streets, armed only with knowledge and determination, knowing that you can easily be wrong, and grimly aware that your only reward for being right may be a blow on the head. It’s a great, quixotic part of the vocation of science and scholarship. That’s why universities have come to agree that honest public interventions are a legitimate part of academic work, and why they do their best to protect those who engage in them from personal and political attack....
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 15:01
SOURCE: Christian Century (3-10-11)
For all the crises and confrontations that the United States faces around the world, some observers think that the most alarming situation of all might be on our own doorstep. Back in 2008, the U.S. Joint Forces Command warned that both Mexico and Pakistan might suffer "rapid and sudden collapse." If Mexico did succumb to its escalating drug wars, that would leave a classic failed state of 110 million people just across the Rio Grande. That figure does not count some 25 million people of Mexican heritage in the U.S.
Whether or not we can realistically talk of state collapse, the Mexican situation is serious. Drug-related violence has claimed some 30,000 lives since 2006, and large areas of the country are under the effective control of one or more of the notorious cartels, gangs and militias. Few weeks go by without the media reporting some massacre of innocents, and police and government officials are regularly targeted.
Lost in most discussions of the crisis is the role of the churches. This in practice means above all the Roman Catholic Church, which theoretically claims the loyalty of at least 80 percent of the population. (Around 6 percent of Mexicans are Protestant.) Although Mexico maintains a strict separation of church and state, nobody denies the enormous role of Catholicism in Mexican society and culture.
How have Christians coped with the horror of living through a virtual civil war? In many instances, clergy and believers have lived up to their ideals. They have behaved heroically, striving to make peace between factions, trying to fulfill social needs in regions where secular government has all but abdicated its power. Individual priests and bishops comfort bereaved families and preach bravely against violence and criminality, at grave risk to their lives. Fearless activism for peace and human rights made Saltillo's legendary bishop José Raúl Vera López a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize....
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 14:25
SOURCE: The American Interest (Blog) (4-5-11)
There are two big mistakes most Americans make about our inner city problems: we believe that the troubles of the inner city are mostly about race, and we believe that they can be solved without God.
The failure of the blue social model to solve the problems of the underclass in America’s inner cities was one of the great tragedies of the last thirty years. Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent; tens of millions of lives remained blighted, and a culture of violence, degradation and despair has taken hold among some of our society’s most vulnerable and needy people. Generations of children are growing up in gangs; our scarce financial resources are being consumed by a grotesquely overbuilt prison system; whole segments of our population are unable to cope with even the simplest demands of modern life.
It is not that a generation of anti-poverty spending and affirmative action did not have some good results. The United States now has a larger, stronger, better educated and better off Black middle class than ever before. Many of these better off Blacks are leaving the inner city, just as whites in past decades fled the high taxes, high costs and high crime of the city for better schools, better homes and lower taxes elsewhere. America needed to do something to address the consequences of slavery, segregation and discrimination; what we did wasn’t always enough and some of it misfired — but I am proud that we tried, and proud of the progress, however incomplete, that this country has made toward the goal of a truly race-blind society.
There are some who blame all these problems on the culture of welfare and entitlements. Those can cause problems, but the tragedy of inner city social meltdown is not just an American problem and we can’t just look at American history and policy to understand what is going on. In Mexico, South Africa, Russia, Brazil and many other countries the mix of large cities and rootless young people without the academic or personal skills needed for success creates a dangerous social stew. Introduce the illegal drugs business into those settings, and you get the too familiar mix of gang warfare, drug addled youth and organized crime bosses who make Al Capone look like Little Lord Fauntleroy....
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 14:24
SOURCE: Dissent (4-5-11)
...During the first six quarters of Reagan’s post-recession years, the economy gained 4.2 million jobs; in the comparable period during the Obama years, the economy lost 264,000 jobs. In 1984 the economy grew at 6.6 percent. There’s no chance of that in 2011 or 2012, the way things are going. The president failed to report that weekly average hours in 2011 stayed the same at 34.3 while in the Reagan period they increased by 3.7 hours to 41.2. (Rising hours is a sign that employment gains will follow.) Also, wages were stable in 2011 while they rose in the equivalent period in 1984. Finally, adding those who do not have a full-time job and blame that on the economy yields an unemployment rate of 15.7 percent. One in six people in America want to work full-time but cannot find a job. Still, the breathless Washington Post found that the additional 216,000 jobs were “promising signs that the recovery is building momentum.”
My point is not to praise Reagan, who achieved growth by boosting consumption not investment, borrowing not investing, and trading well-paid manufacturing jobs for ill-paid service ones. (On the other hand, the jobs that the Obama administration is touting have been lower-paying than the ones that have ended. The National Employment Law Project found that jobs in lower-wage industries, such as retail and food preparation, made up 23 percent of the jobs lost in the recent recession. However, they make up 49 percent of the jobs that the economy has gained in the last year. Only 14 percent were in so-called higher-wage industries.)...
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 14:08