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: Special to HNN (3-29-13)
William Lambers partnered with the UN World Food Programme on the book Ending World Hunger. He is a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.
A survey by the National Retail Federation says Americans will spend about 17.2 billion dollars on Easter this year.
Imagine if that spending could be changed, just even a little bit. If one billion of that amount went to global hunger relief it could fund humanitarian emergencies in war devastated Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Mali and other countries.
At the time of Easter 1946 Americans cut back on festivities in order to help those suffering in countries leveled by World War II. While the hard fought war had been won, the peace had not. Hunger was enemy that remained. The U.S. Army in Austria, for instance, was helping provide school meals to hungry children.
Americans listened to the plea of President Harry Truman around Easter when he warned, "we cannot ignore the cry of hungry children. Surely we will not turn our backs on the millions of human beings begging for just a crust of bread. The warm heart of America will respond to the greatest threat of mass starvation in the history of mankind."
Truman canceled the White House egg roll as part of the nationwide effort to conserve food. The Gramercy Boys Club in the Bronx, New York created arm bands with the reminder “Don’t waste food.” They canceled their own Easter Egg hunt and decided to send their candy to the children in Europe. Americans rallied to send as much food as they could overseas whether it was through buying CARE packages or community collections.
The first 20,000 CARE packages of food arrived in France a couple weeks after Easter. In Cincinnati, Ohio firehouses, schools, and food stores served as collection points for a city-wide canned good drive. In May the Cincinnati Enquirer reported the city had sent 10 tons of food off to Europe with more collections to come. One Cincinnati man even donated an entire paycheck to the relief effort.
Herbert Hoover, who led hunger relief after both World Wars, penned the series of books on America’s life-saving efforts called An American Epic. Americans can today can start writing the next volume by their actions in this turbulent time in the world.
War and drought disasters are placing millions at risk of starvation. The conflict in Syria has destroyed food production factories and even if the fighting mercifully ended today it will takes years to rebuild the supply system. Both war and drought have struck at Mali and the Sahel region of Africa. In South Sudan people are living off foods from the wild because of internal conflict and poor harvests. In Afghanistan, very little is told about the hunger that makes about 60 percent of its youngest children stunted in growth. In Haiti, there is still much to be done to fight hunger and help the country rebuild.
Infant children are the most vulnerable to these disasters but a small sachet of the peanut paste Plumpy'Nut, which costs about 33 cents, can save them. It's a nutrient rich food that some say tastes similar to a Peanut Butter Cup.
Even today there are ways to feed the hungry without spending a nickel. If you go online and play FreeRice you raise money every time you answer a question correctly. If you go to CharityMiles.org you can download a free app and go run, walk or bile to raise money for the World Food Programme or Feeding America. There is hunger within America’s border too with 50 million plus in need.
This Easter nothing could be more important than saving the lives of the hungry. There is more than enough food on the planet for everyone. No more important steps could be taken toward peace than relieving this crushing agony of hunger that afflicts 870 million people around the globe. The message of Easter is to stop that suffering and renew the world.
Posted on: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 15:38
SOURCE: PJ Media (3-29-13)
I have been curious regarding how little effort the gun-control crowd has been exerting to prove that mandatory background checks work. There are, after all, six states that require all-private party sales to go through a background check, and ten states that require it for all handgun purchases. If driven to advocate for mandatory checks, you would think the case studies of these sixteen states must have provided plenty of evidence that such laws reduce murder rates, and thus affected your decision. Right?
I found this testimony to the U.S. Senate by Dr. Daniel Webster, a public health professor, from a few weeks back – he claims that Missouri’s repeal of its permit-to-purchase law (which required police approval of all firearms purchases) increased murder rates. His testimony claims that the increase was directly tied to the repeal of the law:
In 2008, the first full year after the permit-to-purchase licensing law was repealed, the age-adjusted firearm homicide rate in Missouri increased sharply to 6.23 per 100,000 population, a 34 percent increase.
That is a pretty startling increase, but several aspects of the claim made me start sniffing the air for fertilizer.
First of all, notice that this claim includes only firearms homicides. People stabbed to death don’t matter? It turns out that while Missouri’s murder rates (from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports) did indeed rise from 2007 to 2008, it was a 24% increase, which while still disturbing, is not as disturbing as 34%....
Posted on: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 10:42
SOURCE: CS Monitor (3-28-13)
Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).
I’m a crazed basketball fan, so I love it when the NCAA tournament rolls around. But I’m also an educator, and so I hate myself for watching.
That’s because college sports are – to put it bluntly – a plague on American higher education. They add a big-ticket item to our mounting costs, and they compromise our academic quality. And now we’ve got the numbers to prove it.
Let’s start with costs. Colleges in the Football Bowl Subdivision – the most competitive of the Division I programs – spent an average of nearly $92,000 per athlete in 2010, according to a January study by the American Institutes for Research. For the student population at large, the average per capita spending was less than $14,000.
I’ll spare you the math: These schools spend more than six times as much on athletes as they do on students generally....
Posted on: Friday, March 29, 2013 - 09:02
SOURCE: Footnote.com (3-28-13)
James T. Kloppenberg is the Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard University. He has a Ph.D. in History and Humanities from Stanford and has held fellowships from the Danforth, Whiting, and Guggenheim foundations, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His 2010 book Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition explores Obama’s political philosophy and commitment to democratic deliberation.
The election of 2012 is behind us. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have completed their last campaigns and given their final victory and concession speeches.
It is time to reflect on the persistent themes that characterized the campaign and locate the election in relation to the parties’ trajectories in recent years. Identifying those themes might explain, better than pundits’ fascination with demography or with politics as a game of imagery and maneuver, the reasons why the president was reelected by a larger margin than many analysts predicted.
It is not the atmospherics of their campaigns, but the substance of Obama’s and Romney’s stated goals and programs, the ideals they championed and the directions in which they wanted to take the nation, that reveal why the president’s message resonated with a majority of American voters. The candidates and their parties presented two competing and ultimately incompatible visions of America that have deep roots in our nation’s history. Most Republicans distrust government, particularly the federal government, and put their faith in free enterprise. Most Democrats, as they have done for a century, consider government regulation of the economy necessary to protect the most vulnerable Americans.
Although campaign observers warned repeatedly during the months preceding the election that they did not sense the energy or the commitment of Democratic voters that they found so striking in 2008, members of many groups – including ethnic and racial minorities, unmarried women, poor people, and Catholics, Jews, and liberal Protestants – ended up turning out in large numbers and voting for Obama by equally large or even larger majorities this time.(a) Why?...
Posted on: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 15:55
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed. (3-28-13)
Akinyele Umoja is an associate professor and chair of the department of African-American studies at Georgia State University. He is the author of We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, to be published by New York University Press in April.
The gun-control debate is complex, particularly as it relates to African descendants in the United States. As with almost every other issue, the racial dimensions cannot be dismissed.
From the beginning, slave-holding society fought to block enslaved Africans’ access to weapons, to reduce the likelihood of insurrection. After emancipation, blacks sought arms not only to hunt but to protect themselves from white-supremacist terror. Since the “right to bear arms” was denied them during their enslavement, emancipated blacks associated gun ownership with citizenship and liberty. But segregationists continued trying to disarm blacks after emancipation.
In doing research into armed resistance during the Southern black freedom struggle in the 1950s and 60s, I found ample evidence—through interviews with movement participants and archival records, particularly those of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party—that blacks turned to armed self-defense to protect activist leadership and their communities from white-terrorist violence. It was a rite of passage for rural black families to teach children to use arms as a means of survival, for both food and protection. And black girls were trained to shoot to protect themselves from white rapists....
Posted on: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 15:53
SOURCE: National Review (3-28-13)
Bring up Iraq — and expect to end up in an argument. Conservatives are no different from liberals in rehashing the unpopular war, which has become a sort of whipping boy for all our subsequent problems.
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan recently enumerated countless pathologies that followed Iraq. Yet to examine her list is to learn just how misinformed we have become in our anguish over the intervention.
Noonan writes of Republicans: “It [Iraq] ruined the party’s hard-earned reputation for foreign-affairs probity. They started a war and didn’t win it.”
We can argue over whether the result of the war was worth the cost. But by January 2009, the enemy was defeated. There was a consensual government in Iraq, there were few monthly American casualties, and there was a plan to leave a small constabulary force to ensure stability and the sanctity of Iraqi borders and airspace....
Posted on: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 11:25
SOURCE: National Review (3-28-13)
Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and the recently published A Matter of Principle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gradually, inexorably, the great Watergate fraud is unraveling. The Knights of Revelation, 40 years onward, are being exposed, in the light of analysis unclouded by cant and emotionalism, as the myth-makers they always were. Bob Woodward, unable to resist the temptation to try again and again to be at the forefront of investigative journalism, is being steadily exposed as a chronically dishonest myth-maker. Carl Bernstein, his Watergate partner, is at least cautious enough not to tempt the fates with a regime of endless returns to the well of public gratitude for spurious and destructive exposés. Though there is no sign that he is conscious of the proportions of their original Mt. Rushmore–sized canard, he has been relatively uncontroversial these intervening decades, sheltering in the greasy slick Vanity Fair.
Woodward, because he compulsively seeks to be always in the vanguard of the exposeurs, is a Ralph Nader figure, a runner whom renown outran: the Harold Stassen running every election for a handful of votes, the punch-drunk retired prizefighter who jumps up and starts punching the air when he hears the bells of the streetcar. The most prominent early episode in this disintegration of a gigantic, methane-filled balloon of a reputation was Veil, the quickie, me-too scramble of the siren-chaser over the Iran-Contra affair. Woodward claimed to have dressed up as an orderly, penetrated massive security, and entered the hospital room of dying former CIA director William Casey, and although all records show that there were nurses in his room as well as a leak-proof security perimeter, and that Casey was comatose, Woodward claimed to have extracted from him a deathbed confession of wrongdoing.
This was a fabrication. It was impossible and everyone knew it was impossible, but the psycho-investment of the liberal media and political establishment in Woodward’s credibility prevented the mainstream media and the bipartisan post-Watergate political consensus from acknowledging this egregious grotesquerie that, if perpetrated by a conservative writer, would have caused him to be barred from serious publication in the United States again. Then came the authorized biography of long-serving Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee, by Jeff Himmelman), in which Bradlee allowed his biographer to see all his notes of the Watergate era. In these, Bradlee shrewdly covered both sides of the street by repeatedly expressing doubt about the truthfulness of the Woodward-Bernstein account of Watergate. It also clearly detailed that Woodward and Bernstein did little actual investigating; they just made themselves the spokesman for Deep Throat, Mark Felt, who had been passed over by President Nixon as successor to J. Edgar Hoover as director of the FBI and, in his rage, showered the administration with accusations of lack of probity, some true and some not....
Posted on: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 11:20
SOURCE: New Yorker (3-18-13)
Jill Lepore, a staff writer, has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005.
On November 13, 2001, George W. Bush, acting as President and Commander-in-Chief, signed a military order concerning the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism.” Under its provisions, suspected terrorists who are not citizens of the United States were to be “detained at an appropriate location designated by the Secretary of Defense.” If brought to trial, they were to be tried and sentenced by a military commission. No member of the commission need be a lawyer. The ordinary rules of military law would not apply. Nor would the laws of war. Nor, in any conventional sense, would the laws of the United States. In the language of the order, “It is not practicable to apply in military commissions under this order the principles of law and the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the United States district courts.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Attorney General John Ashcroft reportedly said when he read an early draft, in which members of the commissions, as well as attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense, were to be selected by the Secretary of Defense. As Jess Bravin, the Wall Street Journal’s Supreme Court correspondent, reports in “The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantánamo Bay,” Ashcroft expected the prosecution of people involved in 9/11 to be handled criminally, by his department, as had been done, successfully, with earlier terrorism cases. Other senior advisers had not been consulted. Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell learned that Bush had signed the order only when they saw the news reported on television. In the final draft, the Department of Justice was left out altogether. Suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without charge, denied knowledge of the evidence against them, and, if tried, sentenced by courts following no previously established rules....
Posted on: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 11:17
SOURCE: The Nation (3-27-13)
Melissa Harris-Perry is professor of political science at Tulane University, where she is founding director of the Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. She is author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. She is also a contributor to MSNBC.
In his essay “Message in the Stars,” the American Presbyterian writer and theologian Frederick Buechner conducts a thought experiment. What if God decided to prove—dramatically, irrefutably and publicly—that God does exist by writing across the night sky. Buechner imagines the heavenly author arranging the stars to read—GOD IS—and the subsequent hope, terror, regret, joy and utter astonishment that such a message would bring. He fantasizes that God would write the message in all the different languages of the world, so that on any given night one might go outside, look up and see, in French, Mandarin or Arabic: GOD IS.
He invites us to envision the sense of relief that would come with the utter certainty that God exists. Then he imagines this:
Then the way that I would have it end might be this. I would have a child look up at the sky some night, just a plain, garden-variety child with perhaps a wad of bubble gum in his cheek…. and then I would have the child turn to his father, or maybe, with the crazy courage of childhood, I would have him turn to God himself, and the words that I would have him speak would be words to make the angels gasp. “So what if God exists?” he would say. “What difference does that make?”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this question of “so what, what difference does that make?” in recent months, never more so than this week. As the Supreme Court prepared to hear challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and to Proposition 8, the substance of their eventual judgment seems less and less relevant. This Court may offer the watershed legal justification for marriage equality, or it may erect one final barrier to this bundle of civil rights for gay couples. But it no longer seems to matter much....
Posted on: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 10:56
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (3-27-13)
Sergey Radchenko is a lecturer at the University of Nottingham, based at the University's China campus in Ningbo, China. He is the author of Two Suns in the Heavens: the Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-67 and the forthcoming Unwanted Visionaries: Soviet Failure in Asia at the end of the Cold War. Original declassified documents for this article are provided through the Digital Archive of the History and Public Policy Program at the Wilson Center.
In December 1949, Mao Zedong traveled to Moscow, for his first trip abroad. Three months earlier, perched high above a crowd of thousands in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Mao had announced the founding of the People's Republic of China. The nascent country was yet unformed, and Mao thought it important to ensure that New China would stand on the right side of history: the Communist side. In this, Mao needed Joseph Stalin's blessing and Soviet help.
Back then, China was in ruins after years of war, first with Japan, then with itself: it had little industry and infrastructure, even less science and technology; it had no navy, no air force but unspeakable poverty and rampant disease. Russia, though still recovering from wartime losses, had a modern industry, atomic weapons, and the ambitions of a superpower.
Mao wanted a treaty of alliance that would give China "face" on the international stage but also provide security guarantees against the United States, economic aid to rebuild and modernize the ruined Chinese economy, and military assistance to "liberate" Taiwan. According to Mao's interpreter, present at the meeting, he told Stalin he wanted something that "looked good but also tasted delicious." Stalin was non-committal. He feared that closer relations with Mao could jeopardize Moscow's postwar gains in the Far East and quite possibly lead to a U.S. intervention.
After the opening of the Russian archives in the early 1990s, the Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (CWIHP) obtained declassified documents on the meetings between Mao and Stalin, publishing them in translation, with scholarly commentary, in successive issues of the CWIHP Bulletin to shed light, for the first time, on the making of the Sino-Soviet Alliance. Not all documents were declassified, and key evidence remains locked away in inaccessible archival vaults in Moscow as well as Beijing. This week, CWIHP has published additional documents on the Mao-Stalin cat-and-mouse game, and on the ups and downs of Sino-Soviet relations in the following years. These documents offer an interesting look behind the curtains of foreign policy decision making in China and Russia and provide clues for understanding where the Sino-Russian relationship is headed today....
Posted on: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 10:51
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (3-28-13)
Timothy Garton Ash is a historian, political writer and Guardian columnist. His personal website is www.timothygartonash.com
'We have made Italy, now we must make Italians" – thus the old saying. Today we have made the euro and the crisis of the euro is unmaking Europeans. People who felt enthusiastically European 10 years ago are reverting to angry national stereotypes.
"Hitler-Merkel" said a banner carried by young Cypriot protesters earlier this week. Next to those words there was an image of the European flag, its yellow stars on a blue background now angrily crossed out in red. Sweeping negative generalisations are heard about "north" and "south" Europeans, almost as if these were two different species. Yet what historian could seriously maintain that Milan has more in common with Nicosia than it does with Nice or Geneva? Even highly educated pro-Europeans say things in public about other nations that a decade ago they would not even have thought, let alone expressed. As parts of Europe became more anti-German so parts of Germany became more anti-European. A vicious spiral looms into view, like a twister on a rural highway in the American midwest.
We should note with relief what has not happened – or at least not for the most part and not yet. With the exception of neofascist parties such as Golden Dawn in Greece, European rage has not been turned against immigrants, minorities, and imagined fifth columns. Germans do not blame their woes on rootless Jews, Muslims or freemasons; they blame them on feckless Greeks. Greeks do not blame their woes on rootless Jews, Muslims or freemasons; they blame them on heartless Germans....
Posted on: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 10:34
SOURCE: The Nation (3-25-13)
Rick Perlstein is the author of "Nixonland" and several other books.
I’ve just learned the former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis died this morning at the age of 85. Among the ornaments to his career were two Pulitzer Prizes and two celebrated books on constitutional law. One, Gideon’s Trumpet, was about the Supreme Court case that established indigent criminal defendants’ right to an attorney, the other, Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment, concerned the decision that made it difficult for targets to harass journalists by suing for libel. The Times itself focuses on how he revolutionized coverage of the Supreme Court. I’ll let others talk about that. Me, I’ll focus on a product of the kind of work I do as a historian of the 1960s and ’70s. In my research, I endeavor to assemble massive piles of the kind of arguments ordinary Americans might encounter about current events in the course of a day, the better to reconstruct how public opinion is formed and deformed. As such, it’s pretty easy for me to put together a fairly representative sample of what the most prominent media voices were saying during those years. That’s what I’ve just done now. And what I’ve found is a stunning record of Anthony Lewis’s consistent astringent vision and moral courage when it came to executive power and the national security state—a willingness ещ record the ugliest things the American state was up to, and to unflinchingly interpret them not as the exceptions of a nation that is fundamentally innocent but as part of a pattern of power-drunk arrogance. Think of Noam Chomsky on the op-ed page, several times a week....
Posted on: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 09:28
SOURCE: NYT (3-25-13)
Posted on: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 08:17
SOURCE: Huffington Post (3-11-13)
Steven Conn, editor of To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government (Oxford University Press USA/2012), is professor and director of Public History at Ohio State University.
Ronald Reagan kicked off his presidential campaign in 1980 with a speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It's worth remembering, especially in light of several recent events, why that was so important.
Philadelphia was a small sleepy town like dozens of others in the South, brutally segregated according to Mississippi law and customs, just like dozens of others. It became nationally famous -- and symbolic -- when three civil rights workers doing advance work for Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964 were murdered by some of the local white supremacists. They instantly became martyrs to a heroic cause.
Sixteen years later, candidate Reagan didn't mention James Cheney, Andrew Goodman or Michael Schwerner in his speech. Instead, Reagan announced: "I believe in states' rights," and he promised the all-white Mississippi crowd that he would "restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them."
Commentators then and now saw this as a shameless race-baiting appeal to white Southern voters. It surely was, and it foreshadowed the contempt President Reagan would have for civil rights and for black America altogether. But the racially divisive aspect of his speech has not proved to be its most important legacy.
One half of the Reagan revolution was economic: a set of policies -- called "supply side" or "trickle down" -- which proved remarkably successful at shifting income and wealth from the middle class to the already wealthy and increasing the national debt by a whopping 180 percent. They failed, of course, to deliver on the promise of balanced budgets and widely-spread prosperity.
The other half, however, was built into that rallying cry for "states' rights." With it, Reagan hoped to move the consideration of a whole host of social issues out of Washington and back to the 50 state capitals. In this, he was also remarkably successful.
Calling for "states' rights" is a venerable tradition in American politics. The founders, its enthusiasts insist, established our system of federalism giving the states broad powers in order to protect citizens from the threat of an over-bearing central government. That's what the 10th amendment is all about.
At a more logistical level, in a sparsely populated but geographically far-flung new nation, empowered state governments were better positioned to respond to the needs and demands of citizens. Democracy brought closer to the people.
That second rationale has largely disappeared with modernization and technology. Our economy is no longer local, but rather connected to national (and international) networks and systems; we communicate instantly with people from coast to coast and everywhere in between, and we are a highly mobile society of people moving frequently from one state to another. And yet each time we do so, we have to go to another DMV office and stand in another line in order to be cleared to drive the car that brought you to this state. The logistics of states' rights have perhaps outlived their usefulness.
That first rationale, however, deserves our skepticism just as much. States' rights masquerades as high constitutional principle when in effect it has largely been a political tactic invoked when particular vested interests feel threatened by the tide of history. This was certainly the case for the Southern segregationists in the 1950s and '60s who justified their creation and support of American apartheid by calling it states' rights. A generation earlier, Southern politicians held much of FDR's New Deal hostage unless he promised to give them local control over federal money. This way they could keep African Americans from benefiting from New Deal programs. Call it situational states' rights.
And 150 years ago, the ancestors of those same Southerners seceded from the Union and precipitated the Civil War. Make no mistake about it: the North did not go to war to end slavery, at least not initially, but the South fought that war to defend their "sacred institution." And they called it a defense of the principle of "states' rights."
Since Reagan revived the states' rights rebel yell, it has been used first and foremost as a rationale to deny women access to abortion and family planning more broadly. A series of Supreme Court decisions beginning in the mid-1960s and culminating with Roe v. Wade took the right to regulate our sexuality away from the states. With Ronald Reagan's ascension, conservative state legislatures took it back. Which brings us most recently to Little Rock, Arkansas, where a troglodytic Republican state legislature just overturned Governor Mike Bebee's veto of yet another draconian restriction on abortion.
Likewise, the basic rights and protections of gay Americans have been cast as a "states' rights" issue, thus saddling us with the bizarre and untenable set of laws we have now. A gay couple married in New York, say, will not have that marriage recognized -- and all that comes with that recognition -- in, say, Ohio, which passed an amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004.
Nor are we ever going to have a sensible national approach to gun control when we are forced to have 50 different approaches to guns. Colorado can pass a set of perfectly reasonable gun restrictions even while South Dakota passes a law arming employees in public schools.
Back at the Supreme Court, right-wing justices seem poised to overturn key aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act essentially because they feel it is an insult to "states' rights" -- they hinted that perhaps the law had served its purpose and now only constitutes an onerous burden placed on states by the federal government. Supporters of the Act have pointed to all kinds of ways in which voting rights in those places still need to be protected.
No one, apparently, asked this question: why on earth should the right to vote -- the basic right of our national citizenship -- differ from state to state? What justifies 50 different versions of access to the voting booth?
Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that our current system of federalism is an 18th century anachronism at best, at worst a constitutional ploy that has historically enabled the majority to tyrannize minorities, the powerful to impose their will on others. When you hear politicians or judges blow the states' rights trumpet, something retrograde is probably going to happen.
Posted on: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 15:44
SOURCE: Huffington Post (3-24-13)
Edward Berenson is professor of history and director of the Institute of French Studies at NYU. He is the author, most recently, of The Statue of Liberty. A Transatlantic Story (2012) and Heroes of Empire (2010). From 2008 to 2012, he directed, with Denis Peschanski and the leaders of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and the Memorial de Caen in France, an international research project on the history and memorialization of traumatic events.
Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post.
Joshua Foer shows that even ordinary people can perform extraordinary feats of memory. He cites the historical precedent of the ancient Romans who didn't have printing presses and couldn't look things up. They had to rely on memory.
The Roman example is telling, but historians nowadays tend to be interested in different facets of memory, especially "collective memory" and its mirror image, forgetting. Among other things, we want to know how a society or community's memory of important events changes over time. Those changes often involve forgetting what we once knew -- or thought we knew.
For example, the Yale historian, David Blight, has shown that during the first 50 years after the Civil War, the majority of white Americans largely forgot the harshness of slavery and came to remember the institution as relatively benign. A southern, romanticized version of slavery took shape thanks to a proliferation local Civil War museums and the desire of political and cultural elites to forge reconciliation between the North and the South. The popularity of 'Gone With the Wind' rode the crest of this southern memory wave.
Although the benign memory of slavery persisted in some quarters, it mostly evaporated during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. By highlighting the racism and discrimination still rampant in postwar America, civil rights leaders encouraged their fellow citizens to recall the racism and injustice of the past. The Antebellum South lost its Romantic sheen, and Americans "remembered" certain realities of slavery that had long been forgotten or suppressed.
If our own collective memory of slavery returned with a vengeance in the 1960s, France veiled its memories of slavery until the late 1990s. Only then did a series of books, films, and TV programs remind people that France's Caribbean colonies produced some of the harshest slave systems in the world.
Harsh as well was the Vichy regime that governed parts of France during the Second World War. But much of that harshness sank into an Orwellian memory hole during the years following the war. Leading politicians, historians and journalists depicted Vichy as having shielded French men and women from the Germans rather than collaborating with them. Forgotten were the roundups and deportations of Jews (except by the victims' surviving family members and friends), the abundance of French internment camps, and the ugly anti-Anglo-American propaganda that spewed from the regime.
General De Gaulle and his colleagues, no friends of the Vichy government, nonetheless played down its crimes after the war in an effort to rebuild national unity. Thanks in part to the general but also to a slew of historians, the dominant postwar memory of the wartime period turned on the notion that only a tiny elite of collaborators worked with the Germans while most people resisted the occupation in ways large and small.
Not until the mid-1960s did historians and Jewish leaders begin to remind their compatriots that more than 75,000 Jews faced deportation and that virtually none came back. But the collective memory of Vichy-as-shield dissipated only when a 1972 book by Columbia University's Robert Paxton demonstrated that Vichy leaders asked to collaborate with the Germans in hopes of gaining a privileged place in a Nazi-dominated postwar Europe. Films like The Sorrow and the Pity focused on the collaboration, so much so that aspects of collective memory changed 180 degrees.
By the 1980s, it seemed that large numbers of French people had actively collaborated and almost nobody resisted. Recently, the popular film La Rafle (The Roundup, 2010) has tried to restore the older memory that only a small group collaborated and most ordinary people resisted -- or at least rejected -- what the Nazis were doing in France.
As best as historians can establish, the truth is that only modest numbers of people actively resisted or openly collaborated. Most did what they had to do to get through the war. Some committed small acts of defiance while others endorsed the apparent traditionalist values of the Vichy regime, at least for a time. But as La Rafle suggests, the historian's role in shaping collective memory can be temporary at best.
But perhaps not in the case of Father Patrick Desbois. A French priest and former history teacher, Desbois has spent the past dozen years identifying unmarked and unacknowledged mass graves of Jews and Roma in Ukraine. He has discovered 800 extermination sites in what he calls the "Holocaust By Bullets" and filmed riveting interviews with elderly eyewitnesses who remained silent for more than 70 years about what they saw close-up as children. A tacit agreement never to speak of these murders, in which a great many Ukrainians participated, meant that their often extraordinarily detailed, emotionally charged memories had never before been tapped. Father Desbois's films are painful to watch, but we can imagine that the 2,500 people who willingly spoke with him were relieved to finally voice awful memories long suppressed but hardly forgotten.
Posted on: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 15:42
SOURCE: Religion Dispatches (3-19-13)
Melissa Weininger is a scholar of modern Jewish Studies. She received her Ph.D. in 2010, and has taught at The University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Rice University.
Last week the New York Times and the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that President Obama will not go to the Western Wall when he visits Israel next week.
An official who spoke to the Times framed this lacuna in the president’s itinerary as a security issue, explaining that the difficulty of protecting the president near the site was too great. And other presidents, including Bill Clinton in 1996, have not visited the Wall either. In general there has been little response, positive or negative, to the news that the president would not go to the Wall. But Americans and Israelis concerned with civil rights in Israel should be applauding the news, because there are many good reasons why President Obama should not visit the Western Wall.
The New York Times quoted Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren as saying, “Everything on the Seder table—from the lamb shank to the parsley to the egg—is rife with symbolism. So, too, with every item on the president’s itinerary.”...
Posted on: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 14:12
SOURCE: Religion Dispatches (3-15-13)
Paul Harvey runs the blog Religion in American History and teaches history at the University of Colorado.
Thursday, the flagship campus of the university where I teach, the University of Colorado, announced its first Visiting Scholar of Conservative Thought, part of a three-year, privately-funded pilot effort to “broaden intellectual diversity” at the school.
Similar efforts are underway elsewhere, including proposals to establish Centers for Western Civilization, new Great Books programs, and the like. Funders typically want to expand beyond their cadre of scholars at smaller universities and private colleges (such as Hillsdale) and push their ideas in the highest reaches of the academic world, at the research universities and in the Ivy League. But of course, even a cursory look at George W. Bush’s cabinet and policy advisors—from Donald Kagan, professor of classics and history at Yale, to economist Glenn Hubbard at Columbia—would suggest that there’s a deeper bench of conservative academics at the most elite institutions than commonly alleged.
Steven Hayward, currently a fellow at Ashland University in Ohio and previously a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation, will be the first Conservative Thought Chair. He will teach four courses in political science and environmental studies....
Posted on: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 14:11
SOURCE: The Nation (3-25-13)
Jon Wiener teaches history at UC Irvine and is a contributing editor to The Nation.
Greg Valentini is a homeless vet in Los Angeles who took part in the initial invasion of Afghanistan and participated in the assault on Tora Bora that sought Osama bin Laden. He’s also a plaintiff in the class action suit brought by the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU-SC) arguing that the VA has “misused large portions of its West Los Angeles campus and failed to provide adequate housing and treatment for the people it was intended to serve.” (See my Nation article “LA’s Homeless Vets.”) Valentini was a private in the 101st Airborne, and the lawsuit describes his service in Afghanistan: “He took part in significant ground fighting, under nearly constant sniper fire and mortar bombardment” and “witnessed the gruesome deaths of numerous civilians, including children.” He was redeployed to Iraq, where he again experienced heavy combat. He received six decorations for his service.
Steve Lopez, the legendary Los Angeles Times columnist, has been following Valentini. When he came back from Afghanistan, Lopez wrote, Valentini “ended up in post-combat hell, living in a tent by the Long Beach Airport, bathing in a lake and eating out of garbage cans.” He “doesn’t enjoy reviewing the harrowing details of his combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and his later descent into suicidal fantasies, homelessness and drug addiction.” He also told Lopez “I don’t want to be a whiny vet.” He “blames the bulk of his problems on himself, rather than the VA.” But he does think it would help other homeless vets who have severe emotional problems if they could live in the VA dorms on its Brentwood campus in West L.A.
The problem is that the land, donated 125 years ago for housing disabled veterans, today houses nobody. That’s why the ACLU-SC is suing the VA. (Disclosure: I’m on the board of the ACLU-SC Foundation.) Veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII lived there for decades. But since the 1970s, the dormitories have been empty, and the VA has rented parts of the site to a Rent-a-Car company and a hotel laundry, along with a neighboring private school and UCLA, which use the land for athletic fields. Meanwhile homeless veterans sleep on the street outside the locked gates....
Posted on: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 09:48
SOURCE: PJ Media (3-22-13)
Ron Radosh is a PJ Media columnist and Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute.
I, along with other supporters of Israel, have for the past few years rightfully been critical of President Obama and his position on the Middle East, beginning with his disastrous Cairo speech and his misguided decision to combine a wooing of the Arab world with a decision to put U.S. pressure first and foremost on Israel. Particularly, Obama chose to make settlements the most important issue regarding the peace process.
The major change during his two days in Israel was a decisive shift in approach, which many of his ardent supporters have been loath to acknowledge. This shift was succinctly pointed out by veteran foreign affairs analyst Leslie Gelb:
In Israel, Obama went further than ever in trying to placate Bibi’s position. The president said that the issue of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, the hottest button for Palestinians, should not be dealt with in advance of negotiations, as the Palestinians demand, but should be placed on the table only after the negotiating groundwork has been set. Indeed, almost everything Obama has said on this trip backpedals on his earlier priority of freezing those settlements. This is a body blow to Abbas and his supporters that can be assuaged only by a real Washington push for negotiations, one that involves U.S. positions disliked by Bibi and bound to cause moaning among many Israelis.
If one puts this truth first, Obama’s speech the next day to leftist students may be seen as the other side of the coin. Roger L. Simon is not alone in responding favorably to Obama’s words. It was, as David Horovitz, editor of The Times of Israel perceptively points out, a “left-wing Zionist speech,” perhaps the most cogent statement of such a viewpoint that the Israeli public has heard since the old days of Habonim and Hashomer Hatzair, the two most important Zionist left-wing youth groups of the ’50s, ’6os, and Israel’s early period of labor Zionism....
Posted on: Friday, March 22, 2013 - 18:29
SOURCE: Bloomberg News (3-20-13)
Angus Burgin is an assistant professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression.” The opinions expressed are his own.
Friedrich Hayek’s book “The Road to Serfdom” has served as a beacon for American conservatives since its publication in 1944. Today’s Republicans often cite the book in their fight to limit federal power and regulation. Hayek’s views, however, were more complicated than they often assume.
As a shy and scholarly scion of an aristocratic Austrian family, Hayek hadn’t expected to find much of an audience for his wartime tract on political economy. He was shocked when opponents of the New Deal propelled it up the U.S. best-seller lists shortly after its release, and would have been equally astonished at its rise up the Amazon.com sales rankings following an endorsement from the former Fox News host Glenn Beck in 2010.
As he undertook an American lecture tour in 1944, Hayek expressed frustration that many of his most ardent acolytes seemed not to have read the book. Although “The Road to Serfdom” expressed deep anxieties about central planning, it was also explicit about the positive role that government could play. “Probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause,” Hayek wrote, as a “wooden insistence” on “laissez-faire.”...
Posted on: Friday, March 22, 2013 - 18:27