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: The Atlantic (5-24-12)
Gian Gentile is a serving army colonel, a former Iraq War commander, and an associate professor of history at West Point.
...Enter retired four-star Army General Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal, who formerly led special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and later became a senior American commander in Afghanistan, now teaches a class at Yale's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs*, where he integrates his military experience with his studies on leadership. In the New York Times, McCyrstal is quoted as saying "the only reason I'm here to teach," compared with "somebody who's got a Ph.D., is because I've been through it."
McChrystal must have been through something ominous because, according to Elisabeth Bumiller's Times article, Yale University imposes restrictions on students who sit in McChrystal's classes, demanding that they take notes on an "off the record" basis -- i.e., not for attribution.
Yale's extraordinary act seems drastically out of place with notions of academic and intellectual freedom. At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where I teach history, intellectual freedom is fiercely encouraged and protected....
Posted on: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 15:12
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (5-29-12)
Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Engaging Israel Research Fellow in Jerusalem. His next book, “Moynihan’s Moment: The Fight against Zionism as Racism,” will be published by Oxford University Press this fall.
The situation in the Middle East is complicated enough without inflammatory oversimplifications. Lara Friedman’s post “Legislating the Refugee Problem,” should be called “Exaggerating the Refugee Problem.” Unfortunately, supposedly pro-Palestinian discourse is rife with such destructive distortions, which undermine the push for a two-state solution.
Friedman charges that “Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea Party member…introduced legislation supporting Israeli annexation ‘of Judea and Samaria’—aka, the West Bank.” Following the link she provides, H.RES.394 is called “Supporting Israel's right to annex Judea and Samaria in the event that the Palestinian Authority continues to press for unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.” One can still oppose the law, but understanding it as potential Congressional pushback to counter a unilateral declaration by Palestinians fills out the narrative.
Beyond telling half the story, Friedman loves appearing horrified by the mundane. She is outraged that, when serving in the House, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, “made going after UNRWA—the UN agency that provides services to Palestinian refugees—a pet project.” What did this evil man do? She reports: “His efforts have focused on demanding audits and imposing ever-increasing demands for UNRWA accountability as a condition for U.S. funding.” Demanding audits? Seeking accountability? It is indeed shocking when modern legislators stop posturing and start doing their jobs by providing Congressional oversight. But those efforts should be applauded, not condemned....
Posted on: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 15:00
SOURCE: CNN.com (5-29-12)
Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" (Times Books) and of the new book "Governing America" (Princeton University Press).
Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) -- The wars over campaign spots have begun.
Last week, American Crossroads, Karl Rove's nonprofit operation that was highly effective in 2010, launched a blistering ad charging that President Barack Obama has failed to help American families.
A woman described as the mother of two grown children without jobs says to the camera, "I supported President Obama because he spoke so beautifully. He promised change. But things changed for the worse."...
Like it or not, [TV] spots have dominated campaigns. Although there have been tremendous variations in the kinds of spots Americans have seen, there have been several consistent types that politicians have used that we are likely to see in the coming months....
Obama and Romney will need to be careful that the spots they broadcast, or which independent groups broadcast for them, don't backfire on them rather than their opponents, and they will need to make sure to convey enough positive messages along with the negative. But the candidate that pulls off the best ad campaign will vastly improve his odds of winning the White House in November....
Posted on: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 14:59
SOURCE: CNN.com (5-28-12)
Asher Kaufman is associate professor of history and peace studies and the director of doctoral studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Kaufman's research and writing focus on the history of conflict, national identity and society and culture in Syria, Lebanon and Israel. His latest book, "Contested Frontiers: Cartography, Sovereignty, and Conflict at the Syria, Lebanon, Israel Tri-Border Region," will be published in the spring of 2013 by the Woodrow Wilson Center Press.
(CNN) -- Some observers have been careful not to name the violence in Syria a civil war, lest it become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Well, the child has to be called by its name.
The violent turmoil has turned into an asymmetric civil war, where the Syrian military and pro-government militias on one hand and opposition forces on the other are using extreme violence, not only against each other but also against civilians suspected of being sympathetic to one camp or the other. The civil war is asymmetric because government forces are far better equipped, organized and mobilized than the opposition....
Given this bleak reality, the only way to put an end to the violence in Syria is by working with those who support al-Assad's regime from the outside. Russia and China need to be convinced that it is in their best interest to bring down the regime and that this is the only way to move forward in this crisis. Once this happens, Iran may also be willing to give up on its ally....
Posted on: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 14:55
SOURCE: MidEastPosts.com (5-27-12)
Juan Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.
It now seems clear that the run-off in the Egyptian presidential election will be between Muhammad Mursi of the Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhood) and Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, former Aviation Minister in the Mubarak government and the deposed dictator’s last prime minister. This outcome is a polarizing one and promises a rocky road ahead for Egypt’s attempt to transition to democracy. Shafiq was at some points on Friday in the third place, but he pulled ahead later in the day as Cairo and some rural votes came in
The outcome shows a strong “law and order” desire on the part of the Egyptian electorate. In a poll that I discussed last Monday, respondents put security issues way ahead of economic ones. Shafiq is such a law and order candidate, and the Brotherhood’s Muhammad Mursi is promising more Islamic law, which Egyptians tend to interpret as a way to reign in hooliganism. The disruptions of the 2011 revolution, the subsequent poor morale among the police, the increase in firearms availability, and the release by the Mubarak government in its last days of thousands of criminals from prison, have all contributed to a mild uptick in crime. Egypt is still safer than most Western capitals, but people here had been living under a police state where there was very little crime and few public disturbances, and so it seems to them as though there is a crime wave. I live in the Detroit area, so I laugh at their supposed ‘crime wave,’ but to them it is a problem....
Ironically, the preference for a law and order candidate after a period of social upheaval in Egypt mirrors what happened in the United States in the 1960s and after. The anti-war protests of the counter-culture and the damage done Southern Democrats by the Civil Rights movement contributed to President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to step down (a la Mubarak). But this mainly youthful upheaval was followed by the victories of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and the rise of the Religious Right thereafter in national politics. Just as American leftist radicals like David Horowitz gradually allied with the right wing of the Republican Party and with the Evangelicals, so novelist Alaa al-Aswany, a supporter of the 2011 revolution, has just come out for the Muslim Brotherhood in the runoff elections. Many on the revolutionary left will just be alienated, but some will decide that anything is better than a Mubarak clone....
Posted on: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 14:42
SOURCE: National Review (5-31-12)
...[Why do] roughly 82 million produce almost as much national wealth as do 130 million Greeks, Portuguese, Italians, and Spaniards[?] ... The climate of Germany is ... somewhat harsh; it ... has no oil or gas. By 1945, German cities lay in ruins, while Detroit and Cleveland were booming. The Roman historian Tacitus remarked that pre-civilized Germany was a bleak land of cold weather, with little natural wealth and inhabited by tribal savages.
Race does not explain present-day national wealth. From 500 B.C. to A.D. 1300, Switzerland and Germany were considered brutal and backward in comparison to classical Greece and Rome, and later, to Renaissance Venice and Florence.
Instead, culture explains far more — a seemingly taboo topic when economists nonchalantly suggest that contemporary export-minded Germans simply need to spend and relax like laid-back southern Mediterraneans, and that the latter borrowers should save and produce like workaholic Germans to even the playing field of the European Union....
But government-driven efforts to change national behavior often ignore stubborn cultural differences that reflect centuries of complex history as well as ancient habits and adaptations to geography and climate. Greeks can no more easily give up siestas than the Swiss can mandate two-hour afternoon naps. If tax cheating is a national pastime in Palermo, by comparison it is difficult along the Rhine....
Posted on: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 13:54
SOURCE: National Review (5-31-12)
...It is this seething, tottering, ear-splitting tower of Babel that now governs America. Following the greatest, most bloodless strategic victory in the history of the nation-state, when the Soviet Union disintegrated and international Communism collapsed without the chief protagonists’ ever having exchanged a shot, the quality of American leadership, in the public sector and in industry, academia, the media, and the bar and bench, has eroded and the greatest and wealthiest nation in history has become, in conventional parlance, insolvent, financing colossal federal deficits by a shell game of issuing Federal Reserve notes to the Treasury, its own parent, to buy federal-government bonds representing mountainous deficit spending with all the characteristics of money-supply increases. The administration has done absolutely nothing even to suggest a method of reducing these deficits in 40 months of profligate incumbency, and the Republicans haven’t done much better. They are stentorian choirs, the one shrieking no cuts in benefits and the other no increases in taxes. It is the most colossal and prolonged failure of American federal-government leadership since the decade before the Civil War. And as this crisis ripened and worsened and pullulated, the nation has been treated to a sequence of disputes of archeological inanity, from an argument over the circumstances of the president’s birth to the allegation that the Republican party is conducting a war on women, and is trying, in the words the New York Times’s ineffable Maureen Dowd, to wrestle American women “back into their chastity belts.”...
It is not as grave a state of affairs as obtained in the late Thirties, but has many similar characteristics. Almost all major countries are propelled by bad policies to inevitably bad ends; the United States was the exception then, Germany is now. There are not Satanically destructive figures at the head of great nations or factions, as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were then, but nor is Angela Merkel capable of or interested in playing the role of Franklin D. Roosevelt — rallying the forces of democracy and social justice in the whole world, and leading resistance to aggression. Germany has neither the geopolitical weight nor moral authority of Roosevelt’s America, nor Frau Merkel the galvanizing magnetism of FDR, but in the thin gruel of the world’s principal current leaders, she is the best we have. Her people, ashamed of the belligerency of their forefathers, distracted by cranky old pacifists like Günter Grass, are in a liaison dangereuse with an absurd and wildly implausible Teutonic pacifism, but the leadership-thirsty world must take such guidance from ostensible authority as it can find, and the leaders of most of the other major countries don’t deserve an audience, and, fortunately, are not receiving much of one.
But also in the Thirties, there were voices of dissent in Britain and France (dissent was not possible in Germany, Italy, Japan, or the USSR), and Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle were available, when the call came, very late, to recover the martial aptitudes of olden time, rebuild their nationalities, and join Roosevelt and his successors in securing the victory of Western civilization. The U.S. Republicans may yet develop some of this in what seems at this point a close election. Merkel will hold Europe’s clay feet to the fire, and we are threatened only by our own lassitude, not by fire-breathing monsters at the head of hundreds of jack-booted divisions and huge air and submarine fleets, as we were 75 years ago. And the solution to our problems is just as obvious and not as grim as it was in the Thirties. But what was widely announced as the benign end of historical evolution, when the Iron Curtain came down, has become a dismal and sobering farce.
Posted on: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 13:42
SOURCE: NYRB (5-24-12)
Garry Wills is Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern. His most recent book, Font of Life: Ambrose, Augustine, and the Mystery of Baptism, was published in April 2012.
Some years ago I had a brilliant student in several of my classes—the only student, in fact, I ever recommended for a Rhodes Scholarship. In the first class he took, we were discussing the Declaration of Independence, and I argued that the Continental Congress was wise in deleting Jefferson’s attack on the King of England for keeping open the slave trade. Jefferson’s original draft claimed that the King did this against colonial efforts to restrain the trade. I pointed out that some colonies (South Carolina and Georgia, for instance) were for keeping that traffic open. Virginia, it is true, had tried to put limits on the importation of slaves—but mainly because the state was suffering a surplus of them, with consequent reduction in their value. Congress was therefore eliminating an inconsistent and hypocritical attack on the King, one that falsely suggested he was foisting slavery on a people opposed to it.
My student defended Jefferson’s original draft, in ways that puzzled me. But then he came to me during my office hours and stated more clearly his problem. He said that, like his fellow Mormons, he held that the Declaration of Independence is divinely inspired—in that sense, it is part of Mormon Scripture. I asked whether the inspiration was for the original drafting or for the official publication of the Declaration. He was not sure at first; but since he said that the US Constitution was also inspired, it was hard to see how divine dictation could apply to all preliminary drafts of that work, as well as to all the state ratification procedures for enacting it. So we agreed that inspiration must be only for the final document in both cases....
Posted on: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 11:29
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (5-30-12)
Let’s suppose I wrote a column claiming that human intelligence was fixed and immutable, so we should accept individual cognitive differences instead of trying to change them. I’d be flayed alive, especially by my fellow liberals.
Now let’s imagine another column, where I made the same statement about sexual orientation: It’s set at birth, and nothing can alter it. Most of my liberal friends would nod approvingly.
Why do we regard one trait as changeable, while the other one is supposedly cast in stone? The question came back to the news this month, when prominent psychiatrist Robert Spitzer renounced his famous 2001 study claiming that some gays could become straight via so-called "reparative therapy."...
Posted on: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 10:25
SOURCE: WSJ (5-25-12)
Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. His newest book, The Syrian Rebellion, will be released by Hoover Institution Press at the end of this month.
The prevalent view that this week's presidential election is Egypt's first experiment with the ballot box is only partly true. Egyptians of a certain age knew parliamentary life and the competition of political parties. This was during the liberal interlude between 1923, when the country became independent from British rule, and 1952.
In that year a cabal of young military officers led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser upended the old order, abolished the monarchy—and delivered Egypt into six decades of authoritarianism.
The new men in charge disdained parliaments and political parties and banished the resident foreigners—Italians, Greeks, Armenians, Jews—who had been the driving force in the nation's economic life. They sequestered property, and they vowed to make Egypt a dominant military power. In the process, they broke their burdened country, thwarting its bid for modernity. "The Revolution has stolen the property of a few and the liberty of all," said a character in "Miramar," a work of fiction by Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz that was published on the eve of the his country's Six-Day War with Israel in 1967. Hosni Mubarak was the last centurion of that revolution...
Posted on: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 13:34
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (5-27-12)
Richard J Evans is regius professor of history at the University of Cambridge and president of Wolfson College, Cambridge.
For about 15 years, history has been experiencing a popularity boom. History books now sell more than 5 million copies a year in the UK and feature regularly in the bestseller lists. You can hardly switch on your television without seeing Simon Schama, David Starkey, Niall Ferguson or their younger, often female rivals holding forth in some exotic or historic location. Natasha's Dance, Orlando Figes' study of 19-century Russian culture, was advertised on huge posters in London's tube stations. The latest volume in Dominic Sandbrook's multi-volume history of postwar Britain is prominently displayed in bookshops across the land. "History," a BBC television producer is said to have remarked, "is the new gardening."
Not surprisingly, younger academics are keen to jump on the media bandwagon, given the continuing relative decline in academic pay and the continuing absolute increase in the amount of work they are forced to do by the burgeoning audit culture; continuing cuts in teaching funding; and steep rises in student fees, leading students to make ever-increasing demands on their time. When I set out in the academic profession decades ago, nobody would have thought of using a literary agent or being trained as a television presenter. Now it's almost a matter of course for our more ambitious younger colleagues – as Sir Keith Thomas, chair of the judges of the prestigious Wolfson history prize, has recently complained.
A case in point was Amanda Foreman, whose Oxford history thesis was considered, as they all are, for publication in the respectable but little-read Oxford Historical Monographs series and, after lengthy consideration by a battery of referees, turned down. It was too late anyway: it had already appeared in print as Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, entered the bestseller lists, and been set up for filming with Keira Knightley in the title role. Meanwhile, its young author had featured in a promotional photograph standing naked behind a pile of copies of her book large enough to avoid any serious unseemliness.
Yet the compromises Foreman had to make to reach a wide audience did not in the end seriously undermine the book's scholarship...
Posted on: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 13:09
SOURCE: National Review (5-23-12)
When Barack Obama two years ago joked at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner that potential suitors of his two daughters might have to deal with Predator drones (“But boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: Predator drones. You will never see it coming.”), the liberal crowd roared. That failed macabre joke would have earned George W. Bush a week of headline condemnation from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Obama, in fact, has increased those judge/jury/executioner targeted assassinations tenfold during his tenure. But apparently, the combination of Obama’s postracial “cool” and the video-game nature of such airborne death — no CNN clips of charred torsos and smoldering legs, no prisoners with their ACLU lawyers in Guantanamo, no Seymour Hersh exposé on a Waziristan granny who was vaporized for being too near her terrorist-suspect grandson, no American losses for Code Pink and .org to demonstrate against — earned general exemption for that new liberal way of war. What bothered us about the Predator strikes in 2006–2008 was not the kills per se but the uncool nature of twangy Texan George Bush, who ordered them.
Last week 28-year-old, $17 billion–rich, jeans-clad Mark Zuckerberg took Wall Street for a multibillion-dollar ride, making his original buddies instant billionaires and his loyal larger circle millionaires. Note that there is no Occupy Wall Street protest at Facebook headquarters. Just as there are none at Oprah’s house or the residence of Leonardo DiCaprio, despite their take each year of between $50 and $100 million....
Posted on: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 15:16
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (5-21-12)
Moshe Dann is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Israel.
The “peace process” between Israel and the Arabs, touted as part of a “two state” plan, failed not because of disagreements over settlements and boundaries, but because of a basic false assumption: that Palestinianism could be fulfilled in a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It failed not because Israel did not give enough, but because nothing would have been enough.
Paradoxically, the more people urged Palestinian statehood as part of a two-state plan, the less relevant it became. This is because the issue was not about Palestine, but Palestinianism. This explains why all diplomatic negotiations and proposals not only did not work, but could not work.
The dispute is not over territory, but ideology – Palestinianism, the basis of their nearly hundred-year war against Zionism and the State of Israel, the national historic homeland of the Jewish People. For Arabs, Palestinians and most Muslims, that struggle is jihad against the infidel....
Posted on: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 11:54
SOURCE: NYT (5-20-12)
Trygve Throntveit is assistant director of undergraduate studies in history at Harvard University; he is currently at work on “Power without Victory: Woodrow Wilson and the American Internationalist Experiment.”
In evaluating President Barack Obama’s legislative record, historically inclined commentators frequently compare his first term to the early years of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. When it comes to winning re-election, however, the commentators — and Obama — might learn something from the only Democrat besides F.D.R. to win multiple elections in the 20th century on reform platforms: Woodrow Wilson.
Obama won in 2008 largely because he promised a new way of doing things in Washington: less partisan and ideological, more cooperative and deliberative. His recent turn to the left might energize the Democratic base, but it is unclear how it will play among the swing voters who put him in office and remain crucial to his re-election. That’s where Wilson comes in. Few presidents have wooed swing voters as successfully as Wilson: In 1912 he won liberal Republican votes from both William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt when the latter bolted to form the Progressive Party, and in 1916 he added former T.R. Progressives and even socialists to his coalition to win a close race against the formerly liberal, increasingly conservative — in other words, eerily Romneyesque — Charles Evans Hughes. In that race Wilson, like Obama, signaled a clear turn leftward, but that alone did not win him re-election. Instead, Wilson won by doing something Obama has not: staying on message, which for him meant staying on method....
Posted on: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 10:16
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (5-18-12)
The writer’s books include The Storm of War and A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900.
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 19:53
SOURCE: NYT (5-20-12)
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 10:15
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (5-20-12)
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University. E-mail him at Jlzimm@aol.com.
So it turns out that Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren listed herself as a Native American when she taught at the University of Pennsylvania law school. And now GOP incumbent Scott Walker has called on Warren to authorize the release of her university personnel records to see whether she used her ethnicity to get the Penn job or her current post at Harvard.
Should we care? Yes, but not for the reasons Brown assumes. Despite his suggestion that Warren was working some kind of affirmative-action scam, there’s simply no evidence that her avowed Native American heritage affected her professional trajectory.
But this story is important, nevertheless, for what it tells us about contemporary America. Like Warren, more of us are choosing new racial identities or — more commonly — mixed ones. That’s good news, because it reminds us that “race” itself is a fiction. It exists, of course, but only in our minds....
Posted on: Sunday, May 20, 2012 - 11:45
SOURCE: The Atlantic (5-17-12)
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Professor of History at UC-Irvine, wrote China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, published by Oxford University in 2010. He is an Asia Society Associate Fellow.
As my son and daughter will be the first to tell you, I'm a bit obsessed with Shanghai. When they were teenagers, they'd tease me about my proclivity for bringing the city into dinner conversations that had nothing to do with Shanghai -- at least on the surface. Say the Beatles were the focus of discussion, I'd slip in the fact that George Harrison wrote the theme song for Shanghai Surprise, a film starring Madonna and Sean Penn that's excruciatingly bad. If computer games came up, I'd point out that "Shanghai" was the name of an online version of mahjong. And so on.
As I noted recently, allusions to noir books and films have featured prominently in commentaries on the recently purged Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai. They were from Chongqing, where Bo was party secretary, but no other Chinese city is as tightly linked to the noir as Shanghai. Consider these basic facts:
- During its century-long incarnation as a treaty port (1843-1943), Shanghai was viewed as such a dangerous place that its name entered the English language as a verb meaning to dragoon or kidnap.
- By the 1930s, Old Shanghai (to use a common term for the city in treaty port days) became globally famous or rather infamous for possessing all of the things you would expect to find in tales by Damon Runyon or Mickey Spillane. Drug deals? Check. Brothels? Check. Gangsters? Double check. This Chicago of the Pacific even had its counterparts to Al Capone: The Green Gang leaders Pockmarked Huang and Big-Eared Du.
- Old Shanghai served as the setting for many Golden Age Hollywood films dealing with intrigue and danger. Some remain famous (think 1932's Shanghai Express), while others are deservedly obscure (think 1935's Charlie Chan in Shanghai)....
Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2012 - 11:42
SOURCE: The American Interest (5-16-12)
Walter Russell Mead is the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
Remember when Occupy Wall Street was sweeping the nation? The media branded it the left’s answer to the Tea Party, the start of a grand national mobilization; depending on who you ask, half of America once supported the OWS protestors, double the amount who back the Tea Party. The Huffington Post even launched a separate page devoted entirely to coverage of OWS.
How the mighty have fallen. The New York Times may still be trying to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation on the decomposing OWS corpse, attributing continuing policy influence sans evidence of any kind to a movement that has all but completely disappeared, but compared to the Tea Party, except for the media hype, OWS was a political flop. (Via Meadia is not a card carrying tea-partier, by the way; any tea sipped in the stately Mead manor is poured into delicate China cups by our well trained housekeeping staff, and tasted with pinkies appropriately extended in the proper, traditional way.)
Much of the Tea Party’s influence was negative from a Republican point of view: weak Senate candidates nominated by Tea Party enthusiasm dragged the GOP down to defeat in Delaware and Nevada races. In other cases, Tea Party enthusiasm increased turnout and swung close races to the GOP. But like it or loathe it the Tea Party did — and does — make a difference. Politicians seek its support; its leaders have taken over local party organizations and made waves in race after race across the country.
OWS is not in the same league. Despite generally favorable coverage from the MSM (something the Tea Party has never had), OWS has essentially fallen apart. It is not a significant presence on the streets; it is not a significant presence in Democratic Party politics; it is not a significant presence in the national conversation. Its vaunted strategy of shunning conventional politics in favor of self organizing groups making decisions from day to day more or less evanesced into space while the Tea Party, equally anarchic, did in fact spawn the kinds of movements and political changes that the OWS crowd did not....
Posted on: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 17:35
SOURCE: NYRB (6-7-12)
Robert Darnton is Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University Librarian at Harvard. His latest book is Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris. (June 2012)
Few buildings in America resonate in the collective imagination as powerfully as the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The marble palace behind the stone lions is seen by many as the soul of the city. For a century it provided limitless possibilities of gaining knowledge and satisfying curiosity for immigrants just off the boat, and it still opens access to worlds of culture for anyone who walks in from the street. Tamper with that building and you risk offending some powerful sensitivities.
Yet the trustees of the New York Public Library—I write as one of them but only in my capacity as a private individual—have decided to rearrange a great deal of that sacred space. According to a plan given preliminary approval by them last February, they will sell the run-down Mid-Manhattan branch library—just opposite the main public library on Fifth Avenue—and the Science, Industry, and Business Library (SIBL) at Madison Avenue and 34th Street, and they will use the proceeds to expand the interior of the 42nd Street building. They will not touch the famous façade on Fifth Avenue, but they will install a new circulating library on the lower floors to replace the Mid-Manhattan branch, whose collections will be incorporated into the holdings of the main library.
All this shifting about of books will require rebuilding parts of the infrastructure at 42nd Street. The steel stacks now hidden under the great Rose Main Reading Room on the third floor will be replaced by the new branch and business library on the lower floors. Several grand rooms on the second floor will be refurbished for the use of readers and writers, who will be provided with carrels, computer stations, a lounge, and possibly a café. Most of the three million volumes from the old stacks will remain in the building, either in redesigned storage space or in shelving located under Bryant Park. But many—for the most part books that are rarely consulted and journals that are also available online—will be shipped to the library’s storage facility in Princeton, New Jersey, along with some of the holdings from the SIBL....
Posted on: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 15:20