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: Diverse Issues in Higher Education (1-6-13)
Dr. Elwood Watson is a professor of history and African-American studies at East Tennessee State University.
The fact is that 2012 was a horrible year in terms of sexual assaults on college campuses.
In June 2012, Trey Malone, a junior at Amherst College and a distinguished student both academically and athletically, took his own life after he was unable to deal with the immense trauma and intense emotions he suffered after being the victim of rape by a co-ed. After his suicide, it was discovered that Malone’s experience was not an aberration. On the contrary, he was one of a number of students on the prestigious, leafy, upscale, distinguished liberal arts institution who had been the victim of such a horrific sexual violation. His death made national headlines, caused the Amherst college community to erupt, (the campus president, Carolyn Martin, aggressively denounced the perpetrators of such crimes and led the effort in instituting policies and programs to combat such behavior) sparked widespread discussion on the campus and, once again, brought the issue of rape and sexual assault to the forefront of national debate.
Truth be told, Amherst College is far from the only institution of higher learning that has been plagued by rapes and sexual assaults. The sad fact is that this sexual assault is a sordid, sickening demonstrably troubling epidemic that is happening on college campuses from coast to coast. In fact, late last summer, Tyler Kingkade, a reporter at The Huffington Post,wrote an article about the crisis that was taking place at the University of Montana at the time. By fall 2012, the problem had become so severe that the campus had earned the title (no doubt, certainly a chilling feeling for the school’s administrators, faculty and many students) the “rape capital” of America. In response to such troubling news, the university implemented a policy that required all students to watch an online video tutorial about rape prevention and required that students pass the test with a perfect score....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 17:55
SOURCE: In These Times (1-21-13)
Linda Gordon is a University Professor of the Humanities and professor of history at NYU, teaching courses on gender, social movements, imperialism and the 20th-century U.S. in general. She has published a number of prize-winning works of history and won many prestigious awards, including Guggenheim, NEH, ACLS, Radcliffe Institute and the New York Public Library¹s Cullman Center fellowships.
On Dec. 11, 2012, Michigan passed two right-to-work laws, one for public and one for private employees. As even our president said, “right to work” in this case means “right to work for lower wages.” These laws do not free workers to reject joining a union, because they already have that right. Instead, the laws abolish the requirement that those who don’t join a union pay the equivalent of union dues, a requirement designed to prevent “free riders”—workers who benefit from union contracts without paying their fair share.
Three days later, the same lame-duck legislature passed the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the nation. These laws define abortion so broadly that it includes even the removal of a “fetus that has died as a result of natural causes, accidental trauma, or a criminal assault on the pregnant woman.” The laws prohibit any private or public insurance from covering abortion; charge physicians performing abortion with the responsibility of seeing that any piece of human tissue receive the burial due to a deceased person; and put the burden on the physician to prove that the abortion patient was not coerced. Perhaps worst, the laws place many arbitrary requirements on clinics, none of them health-related, that most of the state’s women’s clinics would be forced to close.
This coincidence of anti-labor and anti-abortion legislation is not a coincidence. They are part of the same right-wing agenda. If progressives are to build successful resistance to that agenda, our own agenda needs to include both labor and reproductive rights....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 17:47
SOURCE: NYT (1-21-13)
BARACK OBAMA has arrived at a historical moment enjoyed by only one other Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt: he gets to deliver a second Inaugural Address.
The second inaugurals we remember bear witness to political realignment. The words of Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, in particular, testify to the closing of one era and the opening of another. In 1936 and 1984, Roosevelt and Reagan each won big. Their triumphs consolidated political transformations that had been building for some time and allowed their respective parties to reset the nation’s political center of gravity.
Without the benefit of historical distance, how do we judge whether we are in the midst of such a realignment? Are the country’s deepest political instincts undergoing fundamental change? Coming up with an answer is not easy....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 17:11
SOURCE: CS Monitor (1-18-13)
Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University and is currently teaching a three-week course at NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).
On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson walked from a nearby boardinghouse to the Capitol to be inaugurated as the third president of the United States. His two predecessors, George Washington and John Adams, had arrived at their own inaugurations by stagecoach, clad in elegant suits.
But Jefferson went on foot, wearing the clothes “of a plain citizen without any distinctive badge of office,” as a Virginia newspaper reported. Jefferson swore his presidential oath, gave a brief speech, and then walked back to have dinner with his fellow boarders.
Fast-forward to this Monday, when President Obama will be inaugurated for his second term. Citing the struggling economy, organizers have scaled the celebration back from his first inauguration, when they raised a record $53 million in private donations. But this year’s festivities will still feature plenty of glitz and glam, including performances by Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson. And it will be funded in part by corporate donations and large individual gifts, which Mr. Obama renounced the last time around. In the wake of the November elections, the Obama camp said it would be hard to raise still more money from “campaign weary” donors.
And most Americans seem ok with that. Sure, Obama’s fundraising for next week's inauguration has drawn barbs from Public Citizen and a Republican organization called GOP.com. But I haven’t noticed anyone complain about all of the inaugural glamour, even if most of us won’t get anywhere near it. The big events are all invitation-only, and only big donors will get in....
Posted on: Friday, January 18, 2013 - 16:43
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (1-17-13)
Jonathan Zimmerman is a Narberth resident and a professor of history at New York University. He is teaching a course at NYU's Abu Dhabi campus. E-mail: email@example.com.
...In Washington, stricter regulation of video games has become a post-Sandy Hook cause du jour. Last week, Vice President Biden convened a high-profile meeting with video-game executives. Some have called for warning labels and other precautions.
But we still don't know if playing video games makes users more likely to behave aggressively. Research on the subject is spotty and mixed, and millions of Americans clearly play violent games without becoming violent.
For the most part, they also play them in a stationary position. So we shouldn't be surprised that video games are very strongly associated with obesity, especially among the young. In 2011, the World Health Organization named video games the single biggest cause of child obesity.
Why would playing video games lead to more weight gain than, say, watching television? Nobody knows, although one recent study suggested an intriguing possibility: Video games make you hungry. Boys who played them were found to consume four times as many calories as they burned off....
Posted on: Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 18:40
SOURCE: Slate (1-17-13)
Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine, the author of China in the 21stCentury: What Everyone Needs to Know and co-editor of Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land.
...The smoggiest days I remember from my childhood in L.A. were no match for the ones China’s capital has experienced lately. In the past week, smog levels there exceeded anything seen in recent years—and Beijing is no stranger to lung-choking air. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has been monitoring local air quality using a scale that officially stops at 500, with readings anywhere from 301 or above considered "hazardous." But last Saturday the numbers soared well beyond that, with one unofficial embassy reading hitting 800. Bloomberg reported that the head of cardiology at a Beijing hospital said that the number of people coming into emergency rooms with heart attacks doubled last Friday....
Beijing’s horrific smog has much more important unintended consequences. In seeking to legitimate its rule, the Communist Party insists that under its watch, especially in recent economic boom times, life in Chinese cities has gotten steadily better in every way. This development-equals-progress narrative has been losing purchase thanks not just to worries about air pollution, but also tainted food scandals, the most famous of which involved milk powder laced with melamine, and a concern about chemical plants spewing toxic run-off into waterways, which has inspired an uptick in not-in-my-backyard protests across China....
Posted on: Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 18:09
SOURCE: LA Times (1-15-13)
Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a contributing writer to Opinion and the author, most recently, of Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare From Ancient Times to the Present.
During the Vietnam War, Sen. George Aiken, a Vermont Republican, was famous for suggesting that we declare victory and go home. (What he actually said is a little more nuanced, but that was the popular perception.)
President Obama seems to be pursuing a version of this strategy in Afghanistan. At least that is the inference one can draw from his claims of success at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday in which the two leaders unveiled an acceleration of the timetable for U.S. troops to step back from combat.
While Obama conceded that we had "probably not ... achieved everything that some might have imagined us achieving in the best of scenarios," he nevertheless tried to put a smiley face on the war effort. "Did we achieve our central goal? And have we been able, I think, to shape a strong relationship with a responsible Afghan government that is willing to cooperate with us to make sure that it is not a launching pad for future attacks against the United States? We have achieved that goal. We are in the process of achieving that goal."
There is actually an important difference between the last two sentences. Which is it: Have we achieved the goal or are we in the process? If the latter, then that would argue for a continued U.S. commitment to Afghanistan; if the former, then it suggests our mission is complete...
Posted on: Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 15:20
SOURCE: Bloomberg View (1-16-13)
Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at the Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and author of The Syrian Rebellion.
"We wanted a clear message from Obama that the U.S. will continue to support democracy in Afghanistan," Fawzia Koofi, a lawmaker and human-rights activist, said this month. "It’s the only alternative to Talibanization."
Her honesty revealed the plain truth, without official pieties and doublespeak: The U.S. is quitting Afghanistan, and the morning after it does, the Taliban will begin the reconquest of that tragic land. After 11 years, and a toll of more than 2,000 Americans killed, 18,000 wounded, and the expenditure of more than $600 billion, what is perhaps the longest U.S. war is winding down.
That good war of necessity, set up as a willful contrast to the war of choice in Iraq, is in Washington’s rearview mirror. No stirring prose attends that war. When Afghan President Hamid Karzai came to Washington for an official visit on Jan. 11, the mood was sober and resigned. He could promise immunity for the U.S. forces that would stay in his country, but this would not change the course of things. A cunning warlord -- a job requirement -- Karzai knew it was the endgame in Kabul for the Americans.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who had made Afghanistan his just war of necessity, had won re-election and he insisted that the conflict was meant to avenge what befell the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. A year into his first term, he had doubled down in Afghanistan, ordering a surge of his own. The potential damage to his presidency from war in the Hindu Kush was contained. The Republicans couldn’t outflank him, for they, too, knew that this was an unpopular war...
Posted on: Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 14:59
SOURCE: Salon (1-16-13)
Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation.
Few conservative misconceptions are more deeply rooted than the idea than the welfare state competes with the market for resources. In fact, modern business and the modern welfare state have grown up together –and both have grown at the expense of the family.
Before the industrial revolution, most production as well as most care-giving was performed within the farm household, by family members. You churned your own butter and you cared for your children, your elderly parents and your sick spouse at home.
Thanks to the development of machinery powered by mined or collected energy—be it coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear or renewable energy—most production has long since moved out of the household into mechanized factories. You now buy your factory-produced butter in a store.
At the same time, thanks to the mechanization of agriculture, the number of Americans working on farms has gone from 9 out of 10 around 1800 to fewer than 2 in a hundred today. The surplus labor freed from the agricultural sector by technology-driven productivity growth has been forced to find employment as wage-earners, in industry or services....
Posted on: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 14:49
SOURCE: The Nation (1-16-13)
Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for history, and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008).
We have on our hands a President Groundhog Day. Tom Tomorrow nails it in this recent cartoon, as he so often does: regularly, and regularly and regularly, Obama initiates a negotiation; finds his negotiating partner maneuvering him into an absurd impasse; then “negotiates” his way out of a crisis with a settlement deferring reckoning (in the former of further negotiation) to some specified time time in the future, at which point he somehow imagines negotiation will finally, at long last, work—at which point the next precipice arrives, and he lets his negotiating partners defer the reckoning once more....
We’ve arrived at a question of character, or deep psychological disposition. I’ve always thought of Barack Obama’s obsession with a “Grand Bargain”—Democrats give something on spending, Republicans give something on taxes—as having very little to do at all with concrete policy questions. After all, the austerity Obama seems to want has more and more been revealed as bad policy . Bad politics, too, of course. More and more, in fact, I wonder whether in some deep wellspring of his being this isn’t ultimately the point: if it’s bad, then it must be good. After all, he’s always said such deals should “hurt.” In the rhetoric of hurt lives the magic thinking: that the pain in itself makes for noble transcendence. In itself—not in the policy outcome....
It’s almost as if, were the Democrats’ most cherished nostrum was that the sky is blue; and if the Republicans’ most cherished nostrum were that the sky is red, Obama somehow imagines that if he can somehow get both to agree that the sky is purple, lo and behold, America will finally be a warm and conciliatory place.
But guess what! The sky is blue!...
Posted on: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 14:47
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (1-15-13)
Martin Kramer is Schusterman senior visiting professor at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and president of Shalem College in Jerusalem.
Former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel is President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense. Much has already been said about the pros and cons of the nomination, and much more will be said during confirmation hearings in the Senate. Here is one possible line of questioning: given the centrality of the Middle East in U.S. military planning, how does Hagel think the region works? If the United States has limited resources, and must apportion them judiciously, where is it best advised to invest them?
Hagel has a view of this, expressed on numerous occasions. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core problem of the Middle East. Until it is resolved, it will be impossible to make progress in treating any of the region’s other pathologies. Hagel claims to have reached this conclusion by talking with leaders of the Middle East. He’s just repeating what they tell him, he has said. So it’s interesting to go back and see just what they did tell him—an exercise made feasible via WikiLeaks. (If you belong to that class of persons who have to avert their eyes from WikiLeaks, don’t follow the links and take my word.)...
This is a broad exposition of the idea of “linkage,” which might best be described as a Middle Eastern domino theory. The assumption is that in places as far afield as Afghanistan and Indonesia, people are so preoccupied with the fate of the Palestinians that they cannot see the United States (which supports Israel) as a friend. These millions of people have their own conflicts that impact U.S. interests, but they won’t respond to American efforts to resolve them, unless the United States conjures up something for the Palestinians first. Often this claim is made regarding the Arabs. Hagel effectively extended it to the entire Muslim world....
Posted on: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 13:12
SOURCE: NYT (1-16-13)
Posted on: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 12:02
SOURCE: The New Republic (1-15-13)
David A. Bell is Professor of History at Princeton University. Born in New York City in 1961, he received his A.B. from Harvard and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton.
It remains to be seen whether France's military intervention in Mali will be considered a military success, but it already seems possible to count it a political one. The war has earned support from across the French political spectrum, President François Hollande has garnered acclaim for his leadership, and the French public broadly supports the country's stated humanitarian mission. The intervention recalls the days when “la grande nation” laid claim to an ambitious international role, particularly within its former colonial empire.
But in today's France, this portrait of unity and resolve is actually something of an aberration. Far from expressing a confident sense of mission, the French public has recently been more inclined to a sense of decline, malaise, paralysis and crisis. And it is at least partially justified.
Effective action of any sort has been largely missing from the French political scene for some time. The economy continues to sputter, with the overall growth rate close to zero for the past year. Unemployment has not fallen below seven percent for twenty years, and currently stands at well over ten percent. Economic competitiveness has fallen badly, with France’s share of world exports dropping by more than half over the past fourteen years. The Euro continues to bleed under a mass of band-aids, and its crisis could eventually spread upwards from southern Europe. Whereas Hollande’s last Socialist predecessor, François Mitterrand, came to office in 1981 with a program of radical reform (nationalization, decentralization, increased workers’ rights and benefits) Hollande’ initiatives have been mostly small scale. And France’s constitutional council has already quashed the most provocative of them, a proposed 75 percent tax on annual income over one million euros. The most widely-reported anti-socialist protest barely even rises to the level of farce: actor Gérard Dépardieu’s acceptance of Russian citizenship so as to avoid the threatened high taxes. Hollande provoked a massive protest rally last weekend with his support for marriage equality, though this measure, in the end, is likely to prove far less divisive than its opponents hope....
Posted on: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 11:14
SOURCE: CNN.com (1-3-13)
Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of "Governing America."
Although some Democrats are pleased that taxes will now go up on the wealthiest Americans, the recent deal to avert the fiscal cliff entrenches, rather than dismantles, one of Bush's signature legacies -- income tax cuts. Ninety-nine percent of American households were protected from tax increases, aside from the expiration of the reduced rate for the payroll tax.
In the final deal, Congress and President Barack Obama agreed to preserve most of the Bush tax cuts, including exemptions on the estate tax.
When Bush started his term in 2001, many of his critics dismissed him as a lightweight, the son of a former president who won office as result of his family's political fortune and a controversial decision by the Supreme Court on the 2000 election.
But what has become clear in hindsight, regardless of what one thinks of Bush and his politics, is that his administration left behind a record that has had a huge impact on American politics, a record that will not easily be dismantled by future presidents....
Posted on: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 17:53
SOURCE: National Review (1-9-13)
George Will’s address at Washington University in St. Louis on December 4 has been rightly hailed as a seminal statement on the role of religion in Western and especially American society, and on the conflicting constitutional ambitions and their consequences of two of George Will’s most eminent fellow Princetonians, James Madison and Woodrow Wilson. It is clear that George Will put a great deal of thought into the address, which required about 40 minutes to deliver, and as would always be the case with anything he thought seriously about, it is a learned, insightful, and stimulating argument. He makes three principal points: that, in most cases, religion is a desirable belief for a society in general to hold, one that benefits equally all members of that society, including those who, like himself, have no religious beliefs; that Madison, as chief author of the Constitution, instituted the system of checks and balances among three coequal branches of the government to restrain the federal government from too dirigiste an intrusion in the rights and freedoms and natural course of the lives of the citizens; and that Woodrow Wilson compromised this with the assertion of the federal government’s right and duty to be more directly interventionist than the authors of the Constitution wished.
George Will holds Wilson’s emulators responsible for unconstitutional deviations that have resulted in the wholesale acquisition, with the taxpayers’ money, of the political support of special-interest groups, and the redefinition of the role of government to one of almost unlimited tinkering and meddling in areas that the authors and initial adopting legislators of the Constitution did not intend and would not approve, a meddling that is objectively regrettable and, on balance, unsuccessful and dangerous.
In what must rank as one of the greatest intellectual tours de force ever written by an American journalist (and one that has very few rivals from journalists of other countries since Swift), Will establishes a sequence, starting from the recognition by the principal Founders of the country (Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, and especially Madison, but not Hamilton, are mentioned), that religion is central to a concept of natural rights, as in the assertion in the Declaration of Independence that the “Creator” endows all men with “inalienable rights,” and that all are “created equal.” Will said in St. Louis that “natural rights are especially firmly grounded when they are grounded in religious doctrine.” Though Will effectively asserts that none of the Founders was religious at all, they invoked religion, rather as he does, as useful because it “fostered attitudes and aptitudes associated with, and useful to, popular government.” (He exaggerates: Washington, Adams, and even Hamilton had their moments of conventional religious practice, and the others did more at times than, as is claimed, just doff their caps to religion.)
Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2013 - 16:41
SOURCE: Washington Monthly (1-1-13)
Thomas J. Sugrue is the David Boies Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent book is "Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race."
In 1973, my parents sold their modest house on Detroit’s West Side to Roosevelt Smith, a Vietnam War veteran and an assembly-line worker at Ford, and his wife, Virginia (not their real names). For the Smiths—African Americans and native Mississippians—the neighborhood was an appealing place to raise their two young children, and the price was within their means: $17,500. The neighborhood’s three-bedroom colonials and Tudors, mostly built between the mid-1920s and the late ’40s, were well maintained, the streets quiet and lined with stately trees. Nearby was a movie theater, a good grocery store, a local department store, and a decent shopping district. Like many first-time home buyers, the Smiths had every reason to expect that their house would be an appreciating investment.
For their part, my parents moved to a rapidly growing suburb that would soon be incorporated as Farmington Hills. Their new house, on a quiet, curvilinear street, was a significant step up from the Detroit place. It had four bedrooms, a two-car attached garage, and a large yard. It cost them $43,000. Within a few years, they had added a family room and expanded the small rear patio. Their subdivision, like most in Farmington Hills, was carefully zoned. The public schools were modern and well funded, with substantial revenues from the town’s mostly middle- and upper-middle-class taxpayers. All of the creature comforts of the good suburban life were close at hand: shopping malls, swim clubs, movie theaters, good restaurants....
For the Smiths it was a far different story. Detroit had been losing population since the 1950s, and especially after the 1967 riots there was massive “white flight” from the city. The neighborhood in which the Smiths invested went from mostly white to black within a few years, along with the rest of Detroit. For the city as a whole, those who remained were not as well off on average as those who left, meaning that even as the tax base shrank, the demand for city services went up, setting off a vicious death spiral. Soon, schools and infrastructure groaned with age, and the city’s tax base shrank further as businesses relocated to suburban office parks and shopping centers. By the end of the ’70s, the decline of the auto industry and manufacturing generally compounded Detroit’s woes, as production shifted to Japan or the South in search of cheaper labor and fewer regulations....
Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2013 - 11:56
SOURCE: Washington Monthly (1-1-13)
Louis P. Masur is a professor of American studies and history at Rutgers University and the author of "Lincoln's Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union."
A couple of years ago, speaking to a bipartisan group of college students about the Emancipation Proclamation, President Barack Obama commented, half jokingly, that if the executive order were signed today, headlines would scream, “Lincoln Sells Out Slaves.” His observation spoke not only to our sensationalist news culture, but also to the rocky reputation of the Proclamation itself, a document that has been both praised and damned by politicians, scholars, and activists on both sides of the ideological aisle since Lincoln announced it in 1862 and then signed it 150 years ago this year, on January 1, 1863.
The reasons behind the ups and downs in the Proclamation’s reputation are various. From the outset, it was roundly and predictably condemned by Democratic opponents, who characterized it as a brash and sweeping abuse of presidential power. Perhaps less predictably, Northern abolitionists also condemned it, but for the opposite reason. They argued that it didn’t do enough, didn’t go far enough. Since the Emancipation Proclamation applied only to those slaves in rebel-held territory, abolitionists complained that it abandoned thousands of slaves, including the four loyal slave states: Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky. Of the four million slaves in America at the time, the Proclamation applied to only about 3.1 million of them. It would take another three years and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865 to abolish slavery throughout the United States. Adam Gurowski, a Polish radical working as a translator in the State Department at the time, despaired that “the proclamation is generated neither by Lincoln’s brains, heart or soul, and what is born in such a way is always monstrous.”
Despite Gurowski’s prediction, in the decades following the Civil War, until the middle of the twentieth century, the reputation of the Emancipation Proclamation expanded in most Americans’ estimation, reaching a rather exalted status in the American history textbooks in many of our childhoods. But then, in the 1960s, the Proclamation’s reputation began to shrivel again. Some historians began to find the prose wanting. It irked them that the Proclamation was written in legalese as a military measure, not as an expression of moral conviction—evidence, they thought, that the document was “merely” the product of political calculation and compromise. Lincoln was found wanting, too. Steeped in the realities of the nineteenth century, Lincoln’s racial attitudes seemed out of step with the times....
Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2013 - 11:43
SOURCE: The Nation (1-12-13)
Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for history, and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008).
I had other plans for how to spend my Saturday. I had other plans for my next blog post here at The Nation. Then I learned my friend Aaron Swartz had committed suicide, facing a baseless, bullying federal indictment that might have sent him to jail for decades, and fate demanded this be a day to remember.
I remember him contacting me out of the blue—was it in 2005?—and telling me I needed a website, and did I want him to build one for me? I smelled a hustle, asking him how much it would cost, and he said, no, he wanted to do it for free. I thought, What a loser this guy must be. Someone with nothing better to do.
How long was it before I learned instead that he actually was a ball of pure coruscation, the guy who had just about invented something called an “RSS feed” and a moral philosopher and public-intellectual-without-portfolio and tireless activist and makeshift Internet-era self-help guru and self-employed archivist and what his deeply inadequate New York Times obituary called “an unwavering crusader to make that information free of charge”—and, oh yes, how long was it after I heard from him that I learned that he was, what, 20 years old?...
Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2013 - 11:41
SOURCE: PJ Media (1-13-13)
Ron Radosh is a PJ Media columnist and Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute.
There is a real not so covert war going on in our nation’s capital. It is not that of the Obama administration to put into the office of Secretary of Defense a man with a questionable record, but that of Chuck Hagel’s supporters to end all opposition—by raising the cry of “McCarthyism.”
That old standard bugaboo of the Left is being used again, this time as a mechanism to try and discredit all those who have brought forth very valid reasons as to why Senator Hagel should not get appointed to the position, despite his nomination. For those who have not been paying attention, here is a brief summary of the various reasons presented by those who oppose Hagel’s nomination
1. He has publicly spoken about how the “Jewish lobby” intimidates members of Congress. Of course, there is a pro-Israel lobby that has the support of most of the public in our country, and is composed not only of Jews, but of many evangelical Christians.
2. He not only opposed the Iraq war after first supporting it, but later voted against declaring Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups. He also argued on behalf of negotiations with them....
Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2013 - 11:02
SOURCE: ChinaFile (1-13-13)
Rachel Beitarie is a Mid-East born and long-time Beijing-based freelance writer. She has published extensively in Israeli publications and has also contributed to venues such as Foreign Policy, Circle of Blue, and the China Digital Times.
Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Professor of Chinese History at UC Irvine, the author of books such as China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford, 2010), and co-editor of the forthcoming Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land (to be published in September 2012 by the University of California Press).
Last weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote in the pages of The New York Times that he feels moderately confident China will experience resurgent economic reform and probably political reform as well under the leadership of recently installed Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping. Some forecasts about China’s future are easy to dismiss. But Kristof knows the country well and we take his predictions seriously. We don’t, however, find them persuasive. Here’s why:
Kristof’s key argument is that Xi Jinping will turn out to be more deeply committed to a reform agenda than his predecessor, Hu Jintao, and he and his colleagues will move China back onto a path of economic liberalization while also loosening up the political reins. We’d like to share this optimism, but we find it hard to do so. One reason is that, as Ian Johnson’s careful New York Times piece on Xi’s career to date shows, China’s newest top leader doesn’t have a track record of making bold moves. Admittedly, leaders on upward trajectories these days often play it safe, but even within what is a generally risk-averse context, Xi’s actions have been at the cautious end of the spectrum.
The search for clues that Xi is a secret proponent of reform gives us a strange sense of déjà vu. Much of what Kristof is saying now was said about Hu Jintao a decade ago, when he was the new leader about whom we knew very little. And just as Kristof now sees it as a hopeful sign that a progressive figure is likely to be elevated to a high post in Xi’s administration, China’s outgoing premier Wen Jiabao was seen then as someone likely to keep Hu moving in liberalizing directions....
Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2013 - 10:56