This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: http://www.fakenhamtimes.co.uk (12-31-08)
Prof Cannadine is a historian of modern British history from 1800 to 2000 in the Centre for Contemporary British History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London.
He was formerly Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Professor of British History.
Prof Cannadine's work especially focuses on the British aristocracy, urban development and the structure of power in British towns, issues of class in Britain, and the themes of cultural expression and ceremony both within Britain and its empire.
Among his books published are The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy and also Ornamentalism: How the British Saw their Empire.
SOURCE: AHA Blog (12-29-08)
While your holidays may just be winding down, many AHA staff members are already on their way to New York to prepare for the 123rd Annual Meeting. It begins this Friday, January 2 and concludes on Monday, January 5, with events scheduled in the Hilton New York (headquarters) and Sheraton New York (co-headquarters).
During the Annual Meeting, posts on AHA Today will cover meeting highlights and news. Check in each morning, Friday through Monday, to see a selective overview of sessions and events for the day.
AHA Today will resume posting on Friday with the start of the meeting. Until then, those who are attending may want to check out the online version of the meeting Program to plan out which sessions, events, and receptions they’d like to go to. Also, read up on the precirculated papers available for a number of sessions at the meeting. Or, visit these articles and resources:
Check out the Supplement to the 123rd Annual Meeting online. The articles are too numerous to post links to them all here and cover a variety of topics. Here are a few highlights....
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-28-08)
Professor Ferenc Szasz argued that so-called rap battles, where two or more performers trade elaborate insults, derive from the ancient Caledonian art of"flyting".
According to the theory, Scottish slave owners took the tradition with them to the United States, where it was adopted and developed by slaves, emerging many years later as rap.
Professor Szasz is convinced there is a clear link between this tradition for settling scores in Scotland and rap battles, which were famously portrayed in Eminem's 2002 movie 8 Mile.
He said:"The Scots have a lengthy tradition of flyting - intense verbal jousting, often laced with vulgarity, that is similar to the dozens that one finds among contemporary inner-city African-American youth.
"Both cultures accord high marks to satire. The skilled use of satire takes this verbal jousting to its ultimate level - one step short of a fist fight."...
SOURCE: Harvard Crimson (12-26-08)
Huntington had retired from active teaching in 2007, following 58 years of scholarly service at Harvard. In a retirement letter to the President of Harvard, he wrote, in part,"It is difficult for me to imagine a more rewarding or enjoyable career than teaching here, particularly teaching undergraduates. I have valued every one of the years since 1949."
Huntington, the father of two grown sons, lived in Boston and on Martha's Vineyard. He was the author, co-author, or editor of 17 books and over 90 scholarly articles. His principal areas of research and teaching were American government, democratization, military politics, strategy, and civil-military relations, comparative politics, and political development.
"Sam was the kind of scholar that made Harvard a great university," said Huntington's friend of nearly six decades, economist Henry Rosovsky, who is Harvard's Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Emeritus."People all over the world studied and debated his ideas. I believe that he was clearly one of the most influential political scientists of the last 50 years."
"Every one of his books had an impact," said Rosovsky."These have all become part of our vocabulary."...
Reuters Obit. Robert Kaplan profile from 2001 NYT blog obit
SOURCE: WSJ (12-29-08)
Among his answers, in an essay “The Global Credit Crisis as History” on his Web site to be published in the January issue of Current History:
The crisis was slower to show up in other countries than in the U.S.
Some countries, notably indebted emerging market countries in eastern Europe and elsewhere , have resisted stimulative policies that might produce a falling exchange rate, just as central banks in the 1930s were restrained by the gold standard. “Their reluctance is not irrational: Sharp depreciation can mean bankruptcy for firms and banks with debts denominated in dollars and for household with mortgages and car loans in euros and Swiss francs,” Eichengreen writes. “But the result is that policy is hamstrung.”
American economic policy is informed by a “powerful historical narrative” in which the Depression was caused by inaction of governments and central banks. Europeans drew other lessons: “the importance of avoiding competitive currency depreciation and of keeping policies on a steady course.”
Jockeying between Japan and China – which he likes to relations between France and Germany between World War I and World War II — has limited the effectiveness of Asia’s response to the global crisis.
The good news, he writes, is that there has been substantial cooperation among central banks. The central banks were in constant communication during the late 1920s and 1930s (as documented in a new book titled “Lords of Finance,” by Liaquat Ahamed.) “But in contrast to the 30s, this time there has been a readiness to back words with deeds,” Eichengreen writes.
Eichengreen predicts that financial globalization – as opposed to trade in goods and services — will be restrained and perhaps reduced as a result of today’s crisis. “Not only will the countries that have been the source of capital flows be less able to provide them, but those on the receiving end will be less willing to accept them,” he says.
SOURCE: LAT (12-29-08)
Putney's book "When the Nation Was in Need: Blacks in the Women's Army Corps During World War II" (1992) was a reflection of her own experience.
Putney, one of eight children of Oliver and Ida Settle in Norristown, Pa., was born Nov. 9, 1916. She won a scholarship to Howard University, where she received her undergraduate degree in 1939 and her master's degree in history in 1940. Unable to find a teaching position, she took a job as a statistical clerk with the War Manpower Commission.
She hated the drudgery and the institutional racism she experienced, so in 1943 she applied to join the WAC, then less than a year old. She was one of 40 black women who were selected after being personally approved by Mary McLeod Bethune, president of the National Council of Negro Women and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Army assigned Putney to its basic training center at Ft. Des Moines, Iowa, where she trained female recruits. Later, she commanded a unit of black medical technicians at Gardiner General Hospital in Chicago.
"I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. But once I got out, I was glad it was over," she told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1998. "A lot of women were sent to the South and had terrible times."...
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (12-30-08)
"This Government in particular has wiped out virtually the teaching of history in schools," he argues. "Children have no idea of whether a reign was before or after Queen Victoria."
Strong, whose comments were made during an interview with Cotswold Life, fears that without improvement, youngsters will lose the ability to question those in authority. "People don't know why we've got Parliament, why we've got the monarchy, why we've got the church.
"If you don't know all those things, how can you, as it were, really understand your own country – or anything at all? If you destroy people's knowledge of the past, you can do anything with them that you like."
SOURCE: Austin-Statesman (11-1-08)
By the standards of academia, both men are extremely productive. Brands has written 22 books in nearly as many years; Brinkley has written or edited even more than that in a shorter span of time. Next week, Doubleday will publish Brands' weighty biography, "Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt." Brinkley is working on a book about another Roosevelt, Theodore, and the birth of the modern American conservation movement.
In advance of their appearances today at the Texas Book Festival, we asked the two men — who have been friends for years — to sit down and talk about their profession.
Bill, you're about to publish a biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Doug, you're working on a book about Teddy Roosevelt. Can you tell me what inspired these projects?
H. W. Brands: I've gradually been working my way — I don't want to say working my way, exactly — through all the American presidents, and after a while, when you're writing about the big figures in American history, there are a few that you gravitate toward. I had been avoiding Franklin Roosevelt for a while, in part because I really didn't have a handle on him and he didn't particularly appeal to me. I couldn't see that he would be an obviously attractive subject for a book — the way Theodore Roosevelt is. Theodore Roosevelt is very cinematic; with Franklin Roosevelt it's a lot more subtle. But I decided to do it because I started out writing about the 20th century and I wandered my way back to the 18th century and I moved into the 19th century and, well, I wanted to come back to the 20th century. And if you're going to deal with 20th century American public affairs, you really can't avoid Franklin Roosevelt. So once I got started on the project, I became convinced that he is the great American president, in terms of political leadership, in terms of political savvy and just innate genius. And I think he's had more effect on American life in the 20th century ever since than anybody else.
When you started — and even finished — this book, you couldn't have known that it would come out as we're enmeshed in the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression. Given how steeped you've been in this material, do you get chills of recognition as you read the morning paper?
Brands: Yes. And so far, we're in the Hoover phase. Now, whether we move to the Franklin Roosevelt phase remains to be seen. I would hesitate to say that Barack Obama or John McCain are not Franklin Roosevelt; that remains to be seen. Because, actually, nobody realized that Franklin Roosevelt was going to become what he became until after he was elected. But, yeah, there are some very eerie, very scary parallels between the early 1930s and now, including a sense that nobody really understands what's going on and nobody knows what's going to happen next.
If you were starting the book now, would you have done anything differently in the writing of the book?
Brands: Well, probably not, because writing a book, at least a book this big, is a long process and you really can't aim at a moving target, at least in my case. One of the things I often tell my students is that if they really want to understand history, they need to abandon the use of hindsight, forget everything that happened after the period they're studying. Because the people who were alive at the time — Franklin Roosevelt didn't know what was going to happen, he didn't know what was ahead. So if you want to get in the heads of the people who were alive in some moment in the past, you have to forget what happened afterwards....
SOURCE: Feminist Historians for a New New Deal (12-25-08)
An open letter to President-elect Barack Obama, initiated by several historians specializing in the New Deal, urges Obama to avoid the discriminatory components of Franklin Roosevelt’s programs in designing a stimulus package to address the current economic crisis. The letter has collected more than a thousand signatures from scholars of American history.
Noting that today’s stimulus package may focus heavily on construction to address the nation’s crumbling material infrastructure, the historians point out that American social infrastructure is crumbling just as badly. They call for jobs in education, health care, child and elder care, and point out that green and sustainable energy policy requires educators as well as construction workers.
The letter recalls both the achievements and weaknesses of New Deal stimulus programs, focusing particularly on discrimination against women in the public jobs programs (see below for full text of the letter).
“For all our admiration of FDR's reform efforts,” the historians write, “we must also point out that the New Deal's jobs initiative was overwhelmingly directed toward skilled male and mainly white workers. This was a mistake in the 1930s, and it would be a far greater mistake in the 21st century economy, when so many families depend on women's wages and when our nation is even more racially diverse.”
With so many female breadwinners, the country cannot afford an exclusive emphasis on construction, which remains a heavily male-dominated field. All jobs need to be open to a diverse workforce, they agree, but a more diversified jobs strategy will create immediate opportunities for all, they add.
The letter, from Feminist Historians for a New New Deal, can be accessed on line at
Dear President-elect Obama,
As students of American history, we are heartened by your commitment to a jobs stimulus program inspired by the New Deal and aimed at helping "Main Street." We firmly believe that such a strategy not only helps the greatest number in our communities but goes a long way toward correcting longstanding national problems.
For all our admiration of FDR's reform efforts, we must also point out that the New Deal's jobs initiative was overwhelmingly directed toward skilled male and mainly white workers. This was a mistake in the 1930s, and it would be a far greater mistake in the 21st century economy, when so many families depend on women's wages and when our nation is even more racially diverse.
We all know that our country's infrastructure is literally rusting away. But our social infrastructure is equally important to a vibrant economy and livable society, and it too is crumbling. Investment in education and jobs in health and care work shores up our national welfare as well as our current and future productivity. Revitalizing the economy will require better and more widespread access to education to foster creative approaches and popular participation in responding to the many challenges we face.
As you wrestle with the country's desperate need for universal health insurance, we know you are aware that along with improved access we need to prioritize expenditure on preventive health. We could train a corps of health educators to work in schools and malls and medical offices. As people live longer, the inadequacy of our systems of care for the disabled and elderly becomes ever more apparent. While medical research works against illness and disability, there is equal need for people doing the less noticed work of supervision, rehabilitation, prevention, and personal care.
We are also concerned that if the stimulus package primarily emphasizes construction, it is likely to reinforce existing gender inequities. Women today make up 46 percent of the labor force. Simple fairness requires creating that proportion of job opportunities for them. Some of this can and should be accomplished through training programs and other measures to help women enter traditionally male-occupied jobs. But it can also be accomplished by creating much-needed jobs in the vital sectors where women are now concentrated.
The most popular programs of the New Deal were its public jobs. They commanded respect in large part because the results were so visible: tens of thousands of new courthouses, firehouses, hospitals, and schools; massive investment in road-building, reforestation, water and sewage treatment, and other aspects of the nation's physical plant--not to mention the monumental Triborough Bridge and the Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams. But the construction emphasis discriminated against women. At best women were 18% of those hired and, like non-white men, got inferior jobs. While some of the well-educated obtained jobs through the small white-collar and renowned arts programs, the less well-educated were put to work in sewing projects, often at busy work, and African American and Mexican American women were slotted into domestic service. This New Deal policy assumed that nearly all women had men to support them and underestimated the numbers of women who were supporting dependents.
Today most policy-makers recognize that the male-breadwinner-for-every-household assumption is outdated. Moreover, experts agree that, throughout the globe, making jobs and income available to women greatly improves family wellbeing. Most low-income women, like men, are eager to work, but the jobs available to them too often provide no sick leave, no health insurance, no pensions; and, for mothers, pay less than the cost of child care. The part-time jobs that leave mothers adequate time to care for their children almost never provide these benefits.
Meanwhile the country needs a stronger social as well as physical infrastructure. Teachers, social workers, elder- and child-care providers and attendants for disabled people are overwhelmed with the size of their classes and caseloads. We need more teachers and teachers' aides, nurses and nurses' aides, case workers, playground attendants, day-care workers, home care workers; we need more senior centers, after-school programs, athletic leagues, music and art lessons. These are not luxuries, although locality after locality has had to cut them. They are the investments that can make the U.S. economically competitive as we confront an increasingly dynamic global economy. Like physical infrastructure projects, these jobs-rich investments are, literally, ready to go.
A jobs-centered stimulus package to revitalize and “green” the economy needs to make caring work as important as construction work. We need to rebuild not only concrete and steel bridges but also human bridges, the social connections that create cohesive communities. We need a stimulus program that is maximally inclusive. History shows us that these concerns cannot be postponed until big business has returned to "normal." We look to the new administration not just for recovery but for a more humane direction—and in the awareness that what happens in the first 100 days and in response to immediate need sets the framework for the longer haul of reform.
SOURCE: US State Department (12-23-08)
Members of the Review Team, Professor Warren F. Kimball (Rutgers University), Professor Ron Spector (George Washington University), and Ruth Whiteside (Director of the Department of State Foreign Service Institute), will report their recommendations to Secretary Rice and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Sean McCormack.
State Dept: Crisis in the “Foreign Relations” Series
SOURCE: Michael Hirsh in the NYT (12-25-08)
Whatever one thinks of his arguments, it’s impossible to ignore Niall Ferguson. He’s like the brightest kid in the debating club, the one who pulls all-nighters in the library and ferrets out facts no one thought to uncover. And in his latest book, “The Ascent of Money” — humbly subtitled “A Financial History of the World” — Ferguson takes us on an often enlightening and enjoyable spelunking tour through the underside of great events, a lesson in how the most successful great powers have always been underpinned by smart money. “The ascent of money has been essential to the ascent of man,” he writes, making a conscious reference to the BBC production he loved as a boy, Jacob Bronowski’s “Ascent of Man.” (In fact, like Ferguson’s three previous books, “Colossus,” “Empire” and “The War of the World,” “The Ascent of Money” was written as a companion to a TV documentary series.)...
SOURCE: AP (12-27-08)
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Hackett Fischer believes Champlain deserves better treatment for his key role as leader of one of the earliest settlements in North America.
"He's been vanishing from the 7th grade in the past 20 years," said Fischer, author of "Champlain's Dream," a recent biography of the 17th Century French explorer.
A lake shared by New York, Vermont and Quebec bears Champlain's name, as do colleges, communities and any number of entities on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. But until a recent resurgence of interest in Champlain tied to the 400th anniversary of his explorations, his many accomplishments were often lumped with other European explorers who fell out of favor in academic circles during the late 20th Century, Fischer said.
"Literature on him is like the century plant. It blooms every 100 years when he has an anniversary," Fischer said in an interview from New England, where he was promoting his book.
Canada this year celebrated the 400th anniversary of Champlain's founding of Quebec, and New York and Vermont are planning their own quadricentennial events commemorating his exploration of the region in 1609.
Vermont historian Paul Searls said Fischer's book will help flesh out an iconic figure who took a decidedly different approach from his European contemporaries' sentiments toward American Indians.
"David Hackett Fischer's books tend to be very popular because they're brilliantly written and extremely pleasant to read," said Searls, who teaches at Lyndon State College and the University of Vermont.
SOURCE: USA Today (12-26-08)
The election is a milestone — "in 50 years, a major fixture in the textbooks," says Brian DeLay, a University of Colorado history professor and co-author of Nation of Nations, another college text. "I think we're heading down a totally different road."
To Columbia University historian Eric Foner, editor of The Reader's Companion to American History, Obama's election "changes the framework" of American politics, like Thomas Jefferson's in 1800, Abraham Lincoln's in 1860 and Ronald Reagan's in 1980.
Brent Glass, director of the Smithsonian's Museum of American History in Washington, is working on a timeline of American history for an exhibition. He's pretty sure this year will be on it.
He and other historians say, however, that despite their collective hunch that 2008 was a turning point, it's too early to be certain of the year's exact place in history, or even if it will have much of one.
"People always say at the end of a year, 'My goodness, this was it! This year will be remembered for generations.' And usually it's not," says historian Peter Stearns, George Mason University's provost. "Caution is warranted, because we're so close to it now."
Too close, says Larry Schweikart, a University of Dayton professor and co-author of A Patriot's History of the United States. "The danger is when people in the present think they have a big, sweeping view of history. It's really like writing a story about a football game at the half."
He cites an example of short-term myopia: "In 2004, with the way the Republicans were rolling, more than a few people were predicting the breakup of the Democratic Party. Look how that changed in two years."
Schweikart's a political conservative. A liberal, Mark Lytle, a co-author of Nation of Nations, agrees: "Now that the Democrats are in power, they'll be running against George Bush for the next umpteen years as the new Herbert Hoover."...
SOURCE: David Leonhardt in the NYT (12-23-08)
The Depression list starts with “Freedom From Fear,” by David Kennedy, which won the Pulitzer Prize. In a 1999 review, Mr. Gewen called the book “the best one-volume account of the Roosevelt era,” and he says that judgment still stands.
Next is the “Age of Roosevelt” trilogy, by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., which I mentioned in the column. Mr. Gewen said I was perhaps being charitable by calling the book “a bit” triumphalist. But he also said: “Those volumes are still the most readable books on the subject. No one writes like Schlesinger.”
Also on the list:
* “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal,” by William E. Leuchtenburg.
* John Kenneth Galbraith’s “The Great Crash, 1929.” (Mr. Gewen wrote about Galbraith last week on the Paper Cuts blog.)
* “Only Yesterday” and “Since Yesterday,” Frederick Lewis Allen’s contemporaneous accounts of the Depression.
* Alonzo Hamby’s “For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s.” Mr. Gewen describes it thusly: “It’s a multinational history that shows how F.D.R. handled the Depression compared to how it was handled in Germany and England. It’s a useful perspective to have, especially these days.”
Now, those links to the excerpts:...
SOURCE: CNN (12-23-08)
CNN: Abraham Lincoln came into office in 1861 with the United States on the brink of civil war. How did he get himself up to speed to make critical military decisions?
James M. McPherson: We know from [Lincoln secretary] John Hay's diary that Lincoln spent a lot of time reading about military strategy, military theory, military history, to try to bring himself up to speed.
I think another way in which he did it was to talk to as many people as he could find who knew something about the subject. Lincoln, of course, was an experienced trial lawyer. He knew how to cross-examine people to bring out information and I think that was another way in which he learned was just to talk to people and ask them questions and follow up those questions with further questions.
CNN: Lincoln very quickly had to make momentous decisions, and often dealt with resistance or incompetence on the part of commanders in the field.
McPherson: I think Lincoln was surprised by the degree to which he had to become involved in almost day-to-day strategic decisions and command decisions.. The [military commanders] to whom he delegated these responsibilities and these powers just did not exercise those powers, did not rise to the demand of the occasion, and so Lincoln had to do it himself.
Lincoln had no substantial experience prior to the Civil War in military affairs, yet he found himself almost from day one having to make decisions that had large military implications, decisions that were sometimes based on purely military considerations, but in many cases were also based on political calculations that he had to make as president.
CNN: In the introduction to your book you observe that Lincoln "proved to be a more hands-on commander in chief than any other president."
McPherson: I think Lincoln took a more direct hand in formulating strategy and making command decisions than, say, Woodrow Wilson did in World War I and even FDR did in World War II. And that, in Lincoln's case, was not necessarily by choice but by default.
CNN: Before Lincoln's presidency, the concept of commander in chief wasn't clearly defined.
McPherson: Lincoln actually created the office of the modern commander in chief. The constitution merely says the president "shall be commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States and of the militia of the several states when called into federal service." Period. It doesn't define the powers of the president as commander in chief and there weren't any useful precedents for Lincoln in 1861, so he had to establish the precedents.
And what he did was to -- I wouldn't say usurp some of the powers that had been traditionally exercised by Congress in wartime in creating and maintaining an Army and Navy, but to assert powers that could really only be exercised by the commander in chief himself. ... He proclaimed the blockade of the Confederate coastline, which is really an act of war. ... He increased the size of the Army and Navy without congressional authorization. He suspended the writ of habeas corpus and the Chief Justice of the United States said that only Congress could do that. But Lincoln said this is logically an emergency function of the commander in chief and he established that precedent, as well.
CNN: What do you think President-elect Obama might be able to learn from Lincoln as commander in chief?
McPherson: Georges Clemenceau, the French prime minister during World War I, famously said that "War is too important to be left to the generals." Lincoln certainly would have agreed with that. What Clemenceau meant is that every activity involved with fighting a war has political consequences, has consequences far beyond the battlefield, has an impact on the entire society and therefore can't really be decided strictly on military criteria.
And I think that Lincoln certainly learned that and that's something Obama will have to keep in mind. I think he probably is well aware of it, that, for example, whatever decisions he makes about withdrawing troops from Iraq or beefing up troops in Afghanistan don't take place in a social and cultural and political vacuum. They all have consequences far beyond the battlefield itself....
SOURCE: AP (12-20-08)
Now it's Alexander's turn to move the nation.
Alexander, professor of African American studies at Yale University, was chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his inauguration on Jan. 20.
"I'm completely thrilled and deeply, deeply honored," Alexander said Thursday.
Alexander's mother is a historian specializing in African American women's history at George Washington University. Her father has been a presidential civil rights adviser and secretary of the Army.
"The civil rights movement was fully alive in our home," Alexander said.
Attending King's 1963 speech was an iconic moment for the family.
"That story was always a part of family stories that were told as a way of thinking about the importance of being civic, the importance of looking forward, the importance of having visionary leaders, the importance of involving yourself with the community, the importance of recognizing the historical moment and historical possibilities," Alexander said.
Alexander said her parents are thrilled at her selection.
"This is an incomparable thrill to them in the way that Obama's presidency is an especially potent and powerful thing for African Americans in their 70s who have devoted their lives to progress," Alexander said. "To be a part of it, I almost can't imagine it myself."
Alexander, who is 46 and married with two children, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005 for her collection "American Sublime." Her other books include "The Venus Hottentot," "Body of Life" and "Antebellum Dream Book."
SOURCE: Jamie Glazov at frontpagemag.com (Rpt. Spero News) (12-22-08)
Investigative journalist Edwin Black is the bestselling author of the award-winning IBM and the Holocaust, which documented for the first time IBM’s indispensable 12-year relationship with the Hitler regime, and Internal Combustion which chronicled how governments and corrupt corporations needlessly addicted the world to oil. His new book is The Plan--How to Rescue Society the Day the Oil Stops--or the Day Before. He was interviewed by Jamie Glanov, managing editor of Frontpage.com.
Edwin Black, you have previously written about genocide. Now you are writing about our addiction to oil. What inspired the switch?
I have been inspired to write about our addiction to oil based on the same values, fears and concern that I felt while working on my other books. In those books, I spotlighted a terrible past hoping for a precious future. Now I am chronicling a precious past and trying to avoid a terrible future. Oil today is the feedstock of radical Islam’s war against the west. We are financing it and doing so on a per-mile program.
What’s more, Iran is using this money to accelerate its nuclear program which is aimed at destroying Israel. Indeed, Iran wants to achieve in 12 minutes with nuclear missiles what Hitler could not achieve in 12 years with tanks, trucks and gas chambers. If I was concerned about the first Holocaust, why would I not be concerned about a threatened second Holocaust? And remember in Hitler’s war against humanity, the Jews were the first victims but not the last. It will be the same if radical Islam triumphs—Israel will be the first victim but they will try to finish the job in Europe and North America.
So is The Plan is about energy independence?
Not at all. I’ve given up on energy independence as a near-term goal. Disingenuous politicians, rapacious corporations, paralyzed government and a sleepwalking media will keep our world addicted to oil as long as possible, trumpeting the tiny incremental store-front progress that means little in the bigger picture. The Plan is about nothing as distant as energy independence, the ravages of global warming, or doing the right fuzzy wuzzy thing environmentally. The Plan deals with a "clear and present danger" that exists right this very moment… one that could paralyze western society in the coming days, months or years. The Plan is about an oil crisis caused by an interruption of our oil supply. America is not prepared for it. Our allies are. And we are not even discussing it. The Republicans are not. The Democrats are not. The Governors are not. The White House is not.
What could cause such an interruption?
Although many fear a protracted interruption could arise from a hurricane, such as Katrina or Ike, that can be fixed. True, it will cause discomfort for several weeks in certain parts of the country as we saw when Ike severely pinched gasoline deliveries to parts of Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee because the Gulf-based refineries went down. But, as I say, that will be temporary and fixable. Many worry about an isolated RPG or bomb blast at a pipeline in the Sudan, Nigeria or Mexico. That sort of attack would merely represent isolated, pin-prick terrorism. That too can be fixed. The system can absorb the shortage briefly until the repairs are completed.
The real danger is what I call the Apocalyptic Triangle—three locations:
1) the eastern desert oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia, Abqaiq, where most of Saudi Arabia’s oil is processed and desulphurized for transshipment;
2) Ras Tanura, the gigantic oil terminal on the Persian Gulf where most Saudi oil is loaded onto tankers;
3) and most importantly the strategic choke point at the Strait of Hormuz. True the Strait of Hormuz is 20 miles wide in some sections but the critical navigable channels that tankers must traverse are only 2 miles wide in each direction. These twin two-mile wide sea lanes are profoundly vulnerable as they pass beneath the tight canyons and unseen caves, military installations and mountain entrenchments manned by the Iranian military, the Revolutionary Guards, and al-Qaeda. In fact, just days ago, Iran announced that it was opening another naval station at Jask at the mouth of the Strait to create an "impenetrable wall" in the event of a conflict over its nuclear ambitions. Remember, they may not be in mere retaliatory mode, they could pre-emptive close the Strait if they feel threatened and they have promised to do so every day for many months.
How could we defend ourselves against the interruption?
Not going to happen. No allied combined army, naval or air defense force can guard against the French-made Exocets, the Chinese-made Silkworms, crude home-made long-range terrorist rockets, or the hijacked American-made Boeing 747s that could be flown into these positions from anywhere in the region. Most importantly, if hijacked 747s or other jumbos —commercial, chartered or private—were dive-bombed into these facilities, or if an air-sea-land bombardment occurred, there is every reason to believe these forces would do what every military commander has done throughout the world wars of the 20th century, hit them again and again as soon as they are repaired or until surrender.
In the 1980s, Iranians rushed to the front carrying their own coffins during the Iran-Iraq War. Understand that air attacks and naval attacks can be launched from mobile launchers deep in Iran or the Saudi Arabian desert or by using the favorite Iranian tactic of swarming with scores of very small high-speed attack boats. You can stop some, you can stop many. You will never stop them all.
What could we do if such an interruption occurred?
The effects would be immediate both in the spike in oil prices and the sheer availability. Our allies have contingency plans; the United States does not. America would immediately have to deploy a set of restrictive measures to ground automobiles, especially passenger cars scoring 15 mpg or less, until they can be retrofitted to alternative fuels. These would include such vehicles as the GM Escalade and the Honda Pilot. Unlike many in the get-off-of-oil field, I believe in an oil democracy.
In a crisis—and we are in one now, even though the knife has not yet penetrated the skin of our throats—we should switch to the best alternatives at hand: methanol, sugar and cellulosic ethanols, North American compressed natural gas (CNG), second-generation biofuels, electric, hydrogen. The downfall for effective fuel switching would be to engage in a silly debate crowning a new fuel king. In some locales such as Utah, Spokane and central Texas, CNG is perfect as it is abundant and instantly available. In other areas, such as the East Coast, methanol and various forms of ethanol, such as Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, are immediately available.
In other areas such as the West Coast, it may be a proliferation of electric. Obviously, our nation must immediately—today—mandate an Open Fuel Standard—wherein vehicles are not dumped onto our streets by Honda, GM and Ford—unless they can accommodate a variety of fuels. That would cost each manufacturer about $100 per vehicle and would immediately roll out millions of alt fuel cars.
Fuel switching is just one part of the rescue plan. We will need to switch to free or profoundly cheap forms of mass transit, point-to-point transit, and alternative transit such as mustering points, in order to survive the crisis. Many of the specifics are outlined in my book, The Plan, all based upon the international protocols, our own history of crisis management for other fuel or water shortages, and common sense.
What type of disruption would society experience and for how long?
People would not be able to get to work. Employers could not function. Supplies would not be delivered. Store shelves would become empty. Food shortages would emerge. Hijackings for gas tanks instead of car stereos would become commonplace. Rooftop ethanol stills would pop up everywhere, with stockaded storage facilities in many neighborhoods and many other aspects of the tawdry "Mad Max" variety. Ultimately, there would another and even more ghastly petrowar to regain oil supplies from the Middle East—that is unthinkable. Another way of saying this is: imagine a Katrina in every city and an entire world ablaze in a global fuel war stretching from Afghanistan to the Suez Canal, from Russia to the Pacific Ocean and throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.
Who are the good guys and the bad guys in this scenario?
Immediately we think of the bad guys as Saudi Arabia, Iran and the other members of OPEC. But, they are just being clever and manipulative, reversing the behavior of Western oil imperialism. The real bad guys are well ensconced in office suites in Detroit and Torrance, California. I’m referring to the carmakers that have consciously created and forced upon the American public gas guzzlers, deliberately subverting and suppressing the alternatives. They have been doing this for a generation—since the Arab Oil Embargo, knowing they were making every American transfer our national treasury and political independence to the Middle East, and finance the terrorist actions against us—this on a mile-per-mile basis. Historically, we got into this mess because of the rapacious, oil-addicting conduct of such bad corporate citizens as General Motors. But right now, with past transgressions well established and documented, we need to focus on the future.
An emerging automotive bad guy today is a company that I personally believe is one of the most enlightened. Unfortunately, it is my favorite, Honda, which is suppressing its CNG automobile, known as the Civic GX along with its home fueling device known as the Phill, and its Honda hydrogen Clarity along with its home refueling unit called the Home Energy Center. This esteemed company—whose cars I have loyally driven for a lifetime—continues to deceive the public with claims that its alt fuel vehicles cannot be produced in numbers greater than a few dozen at a time because there is no community fueling infrastructure—while at the same time refusing to sell the very home and office refueling devices it controls through Fuelmaker that would free the cars from any community-wide infrastructure.
Honda will also claim there is "no demand" for the cars while sending memos out a year in advance to its dealers explaining the shortage the company is consciously creating now to occur in mid 2009. For example, despite scores of calls, letters and e-mails, Honda refuses to sell even one Honda Civic GX vehicle to anyone in Spokane. For a year, Spokane Community College tried to build a fleet of Honda Civic GX vehicles and then train an army of auto mechanics to service it. The goal was to eventually create an oil-free corridor from Seattle to Denver.
Honda will not cooperate, will not sell Spokane even one car, and company officials even mock and trivialize the Spokane market in derisive remarks in automotive chat rooms. Much of this is covered extensively in The Plan with the latest post-publication Honda stonewalling and market refusals covered in www.thecuttingedgenews.com, www.autochannel.com, and www.energypublisher.com. You may ask why would Honda suppress its alt fuel cars? Because it is suffering a multimillion dollar loss as customer flee gas guzzling SUVs and crossovers such as the Honda Pilot and Honda Ridgeline.
Toyota and others are experiencing the same dynamic. If everyone could buy a Prius or a Honda Civic GX, those companies would never sell their gas guzzlers whether they are the Honda Pilot or the Toyota Sequoia—both terrible vehicles for Americans concerned about their national freedom and global warming. It is unconscionable for these companies to flood the market with these vehicles.
Ironically, the worst auto company in American history is leading the way to a rescue. GM is producing the Volt as an extended range plug-in electric—mass producing not micro-producing. Moreover, the company is rolling out a hydrogen car. The company has provided me with a test version of its hydrogen Equinox which I will be driving throughout the Los Angeles area during my book tour.
What’s more, the company—if they can be believed—will be electrifying and flex-fueling its entire fleet. That puts the white companies like Honda to shame and makes us rethink our whole idea of good guys and bad guys. Henceforth, every car buyer should assign a mental if not actual national security rating to the car. Does a vehicle help or hurt the transfer of American wealth and independence to the Middle East, help or hurt those who finance terrorism?
Is there a political dimension, Democrats, Republicans?
The stupidity, corruption and inaction crosses all party lines in all dimensions, in 3-D. Democrats do not have a plan, including Obama. The Republicans do not have a plan, including McCain. The government does not have a plan, including Bush. The governors do not have a plan, from Governor Schwarzenegger to Governor Crist. All their ideas are just misinformed lip service. Nothing will happen until the knife pierces the skin.
You make videos for all of your books now—you call them "trailers." What is that about?
I’m trying to slowly pull myself into the 21st century. I love movie making and I’ve been blessed with the volunteer assistance of several very talented filmmakers who can meld the dramatic events and implications written on my pages with the visual and cinematic imperatives of a movie trailer. I write and produce the videos. In fact, I invented this technique with Internal Combustion, which has a three-minute video at www.internalcombustionbook.com. Nova University printed and distributed the video by the thousands. I repeated it with The Plan at www.planforoilcrisis.com, but with more audio and effects, making a four-minute-plus video. Count on me to produce a video for all of my forthcoming books. The reason you don’t see more these is because the production requirements and economic dynamics are so daunting.
Do you think you will have an impact? Will anyone listen?
I will fail. Mainly I will fail because the media, on many levels, is now a national disaster. Even CNN has added a Comedy Channel-style show to mock its own so-called news. Virtually nothing in the mainstream media is preparing America correctly for this crisis nor are they covering it with the same zeal and journalistic skill as they do the trivialities of vice presidential wardrobes, oval office sex, Paris Hilton inanities, and plumber celebrities. Everything the mainstream media has failed to do preparing our country for an economic disaster, it is likewise failing to do to prepare our country for a fuel interruption disaster.
Surely you do not count the Jewish media in that group. You have long been active in the Jewish media.
I want to make a point here. Among the most culpable are the publications of the Jewish media. That is, the local-national newspapers published for the Jewish community. Same goes for many leading national Jewish organizations. They are all so concerned about the publication of Holocaust denial and the preparation for Iran’s assault against Israel, but give no thought to how these significant matters are being financed. How are they being financed? Well, I am personally financing it every time I drive my car. You are too. We are all personally financing it every time we turn on the ignition switch.
Hitler waged a war against all humanity and the Jews were merely his first victims. Now, fanatical Islam, created, enabled and empowered by petrodollars, is seeking to wage its own war against Western civilization. Once again, the Jews, especially Israel, will be the first victims but not the last victims. Yet the Jewish media is asleep at the switch and will not cover this issue.
They will not cover it unless we can find a rabbi or a Jewish auto dealer or a Jewish ethanol farmer, or some other completely superficial Jewish angle as a peg. In speaking to my editors, I call it the JPEG. These editors are not looking at the big picture. The Jewish media is doing this despite the minute-to-minute involvement of their own readers, the Jewish community at large, leading Jewish benefactors, Jewish grass-roots organizations, synagogues, and federations from San Francisco to New Jersey.
Even national Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress, which have task forces in dozens of cities working on this energetically are way ahead of the Jewish media. The sad part of this story is that the Jewish media has so profoundly missed the boat on this issue and they are so deficient in journalistic background in the oil crisis, they couldn’t even ask the right questions if they started tomorrow. So, if you do see a headline in your local Jewish publication, it will probably be this one: "Strait of Hormuz Blocked—Local Bar Mitzvahs Cancelled."
What is your next project?
My next book, which I will start writing as soon as I finish this interview, is Nazi Nexus, which assembles all the American corporate villains involved in the Holocaust in one volume: IBM, Carnegie Institution, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, The Rockefeller Foundation. The one after that is my next mega-book, one I’ve put off for too long while I have diverted to the oil threat. It will take all the technologic and scientific genocidal and eugenic programs revealed in IBM and the Holocaust and War Against the Weak and roll them into one all-encompassing global threat— a distant, but fast-approaching, tsunami but one which will endanger the freedoms of virtually everyone in the world. The book is code-named "Project R." Call me at the end of 2010 and I will tell you about it.
Edwin Black, thank you for joining us.
Thank you for having me again and for getting the plea to get off of oil a front page issue.
SOURCE: CNN (12-16-08)
"Any president who tried to attack his own assassin is worth writing about," Meacham says.
But Meacham quickly turns serious when tallying the seventh president's historical importance -- and personal flaws.
"He is the president [of his era] most like us," the Newsweek editor says in a phone interview from Charleston, South Carolina."He was capable of great grace, but he could also be terribly cruel. ... In his complexities, I saw our own."
It's those kinds of contradictions that have kept historians revisiting Jackson for the past 175 years, and got Meacham going on"American Lion" (Random House). Jackson was the first president not from Virginia or Massachusetts, a frontiersman and general not connected to the Founding Fathers or Washington aristocracy. He was viewed with distaste by some, admiration by others.
Some Washington colleagues, including Kentucky congressman Henry Clay, believed he was little more than an erratically tempered hick with dictatorial impulses.
"I cannot believe that the killing of 2,000 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies a person for the various difficult and complicated duties of the Presidency," Clay once said, referring to Jackson's victory at the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.
But he also was the subject of hero worship among citizens who admired him for his military leadership, his steadfast loyalty to national ideals, and the fact that he wasn't what would now be called a"Washington insider."
Meacham, who had access to a trove of heretofore-unreleased letters from Jackson intimates, sees him as closer to the latter....
SOURCE: Network of Concerned Historians (12-20-08)
With best wishes,
Antoon De Baets
(Network of Concerned Historians)
On 4 December 2008, masked and armed men broke into the office of the Memorial Research and Information Center in St. Petersburg. They had a warrant signed by the Prosecutor’s Office and included police, special forces, and members of the investigative committee of the Prosecutor’s Office. They conducted a search of the office that lasted more than seven hours and seized eleven computer hard drives and other materials containing archives on Soviet repression collected since 1987. The confiscated archive included unique documents detailing the Soviet terror from 1917 to the 1960s. The search was apparently ordered in connection with an investigation against the local newspaper Novy Petersburg (New Petersburg) for publishing an “extremist” article in June 2007. However, Memorial director Irina Flige declared that Memorial had no relationship with the newspaper. She also said that the seizure might have been part of an official campaign to rehabilitate the Stalinist regime. The raid took place one day before Flige would attend a conference in Moscow about Stalin’s place in Russian history.
[Sources: L. Harding, “British Scholar Rails at Police Seizure of Anti-Stalin Archive”, Observer (7 December 2008); Human Rights Watch, “Russia: Police Raid Prominent Rights Group” (WWW-text; 4 December 2008); A. Rodriguez, “Russia Rewriting Josef Stalin’s Legacy”, Chicago Tribune (WWW-text; 17 December 2008).]
P.S. For further news about Memorial, see NCH Annual Reports 2001 and 2005-2006 on the NCH website; for other history-related matters in Russia, see NCH Annual Reports 1996-1998, 2001, 2004-2006, and 2008 on the NCH website.
Human Rights Watch
Russia: Police Raid Prominent Rights Group
End Attacks on Independent Civil Society
December 4, 2008
(Moscow, December 4, 2008) - The Russian government should immediately investigate a police raid on Memorial, a prominent human rights organization, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also called on the government to ensure the speedy and safe return of all seized equipment and documents.
In the morning of December 4, 2008, seven masked men, armed with batons, broke into the office of the Memorial Research and Information Center in St. Petersburg, cutting the phone lines and barring the three staff members present from leaving the office. The men, who had a warrant signed by the Prosecutor’s Office, included police, special forces and members of the investigative committee of the Prosecutor’s Office. They conducted a search of the office that lasted more than seven hours and seized the organization’s computer hard drives and other materials, including 20 years of archives on Soviet repression and gulags.
“This outrageous police raid on Memorial shows the poisonous climate for nongovernmental organizations in Russia,” said Allison Gill, Moscow office director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an overt attempt by the Russian government to suppress independent civic activity and silence critical voices.”
The men did not allow the staff members inside to make phone calls and blocked Memorial’s lawyer from entering the premises. Memorial eventually learned that the search was ordered by the Prosecutor’s Office in connection with an investigation against a St. Petersburg newspaper, New Petersburg, for publishing “extremist” articles. A Memorial staff member told Human Rights Watch that Memorial has no relationship with the newspaper and knows nothing about the case against it. Memorial fears that the authorities used the investigation as a pretext to close Memorial. Memorial’s office serves as an informal gathering point for local activists and provides a forum for discussion and debate.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the hard drives and materials seized from Memorial, which include archives related to the Preservation Foundation, an initiative dedicated to architectural preservation in St. Petersburg, would not be returned or rendered unusable by the authorities.
“Memorial’s archives on Soviet history are a national treasure. The authorities should take every possible step to protect the materials and return them quickly,” said Gill.
SOURCE: http://www.army.mil (12-18-08)
Through the work of the USARC historians, the memory and account of 1st Lt. Maurice Myers, who served with the 301st Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division, in World War II, and those of countless others, is still being kept alive.
"The Greeks said no one is truly dead until his or her face and name are forgotten," said Christopher Kolakowski, USARC museum chief curator. "That is what we're doing, keeping history alive."
Rather than let time stagnate and erase the skeleton of the past, the military historian adds flesh to the bones, clothes to the body and, most importantly, breathes life into the tale behind each subject.
"There's always a story beyond the artifact itself," Kolakowski said. "We tell those stories."
Much like the stories they tell, the work of military historians has quite a long tale behind it, almost as old as the history they study.
In ancient Greece, accounts of the 5th Century B.C. Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens survive because of the writings of historian Thucydides. Although the nature of war and means of collecting data have changed much in the past 2,500 years, the role of the military historians has remained fairly constant.
Just as Thucydides reported from the front line, today's Army historians are out with the troops, gathering firsthand accounts of conflicts, whether overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan or in America when responding to disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes.
"We're the point of the spear in Army history," said Lee Hartford Jr., a historian for the Army Reserve. "It's the most exciting place to be."
Exciting yes, but sometimes difficult, Hartford added, especially for historians like himself who focus on the Army Reserve.
"Unlike the regular Army with large divisions, the Army Reserve has smaller units, thousands of little units," he said. "It is hard to capture the history of all the units that go out."
Military history detachment teams capture the info and the task of training such detachments falls on longtime historians like Hartford, who has served as a USARC historian since 1992.
Describing these teams as "battlefield detectives," he instills in them how important their function is in collecting original important operational documents, such as maps, photographs, artifacts, taped audio interviews and video recordings.
"Without military combat historians, we wouldn't have history," Hartford said. "If we don't properly collect it, history gets lost."
The loss of such historical data can have dire future consequences, Hartford said. When today's leaders make plans and formulate strategies, they rely on the data Hartford provides.
Like the Center for Army Lesson Learned, which collects and analyzes data from current and historical sources to give lessons to military commanders, the historian's brief makes leaders historically aware of situations, so each operation isn't necessarily rebuilt from the ground up.
For example, the historical role of the Army Reserves in the Gulf War helped reserve leaders to support the current war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hartford said.
"The most important lesson of the Gulf War was the Army's increased dependence on the Army Reserve," Hartford said. "The Army can't go to war anymore without the Army Reserve. It is no longer a strategic reserve."
The Army historians' role in collecting artifacts and historical data also brings to light the one element in combat Hartford said never changes: humans. To chronicle Soldier narratives, historians sometimes get help from families, Kolakowski said.
The display documenting Myers, who was killed in action Nov. 13, 1944, during fighting in Brittany, France, contains his uniform, a photo of him and his wife, Helen, and the telegram announcing his death.
These items were donated by his family. More recently, the family of Staff Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin, a Reserve Soldier with the 724th Transportation Company, donated his uniform for display in the museum.
Maupin was captured and killed by Iraqi insurgents after his convoy was ambushed April 9, 2004, near Baghdad. Such items enhance the power of the military historian, Kolakowski said.
"It's one thing to see it in a book, it's something else to stand in front of it," Kolakowski said. "It is a whole different experience."
"It conveys a sense of heritage, esprit d'corps and the Warrior Ethos," Hartford added. The pride and knowledge of a unit's history extends beyond the unit.
Hartford said research he and other military historians have collected is shared with authors and researchers looking to learn more, not just used to create in-house publications,.
"We're here for anyone who wants to do research. We send authors information they need," he said. "We share the legacy with the general public."
SOURCE: Arizona Republic (12-18-08)
Stowe, 66, had been involved with planning for the city's first museum, said Jim Patterson, president of the Chandler Historical Society. "He was a great resource and always interested in doing what was right to preserve Chandler's history," said Patterson, who added Stowe had been battling cancer.
Earlier this year, Stowe received the 2008 Governor's Heritage Preservation Award for his years of service as founder of ASU's Public History Program. At the time, he talked about his passion for bringing his home city's history to the attention of newcomers.
He is survived by his wife, Gwen; their son, James, died last year. Memorial services will be in late January.
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (12-19-08)
His views were as variable as his career. At one time responsible for Irish government propaganda which peddled an irredentist Republican policy on Northern Ireland, he later became a campaigning unionist and the bête noire of Sinn Fein and the IRA.
Critics charged that he was more interested in exercising his intellectual sinews than in resolving difficulties. But his recognition that the divisions in Ireland were rooted in two irreconcilable traditions led to increasing isolation within his own country, and required considerable moral – and occasionally physical – courage.
Equally, his awareness that the problems of South Africa had no easy answers, and his determined support for Israel, cut him off from the Left, with which he had once been associated. Yet O'Brien never drifted, in the conventional way, from Left to Right. Rather he remained consistently radical in his willingness to bring a fresh mind to bear on issues normally treated with entrenched prejudice....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (12-19-08)
Owens's exploits might have been lost to the mists of time if not for an undergraduate student named Jane Browning, who stumbled on the story in a cafe in Gloucester County, Virginia, and tracked down the man behind the legend. You can read more about Owens in his Wikipedia entry and on Ms. Browning's blog, The Last American Pirate. On YouTube, you can watch Ms. Browning visit the site of Owens's house and interview a couple of historians about his historical status.
It's a good story. None of it is true.
Edward Owens and Jane Browning are fictions, unleashed on an unsuspecting world by students taking an upper-level history course at George Mason University. Will they get in trouble with their professor now that the hoax has been unveiled? No. It was his idea.
T. Mills Kelly, an associate professor of history at George Mason and an associate director of the university's Center for History and New Media, thought up the course, "Lying About the Past," as a novel way to teach history, not to subvert it.
He wanted to get undergraduates to tackle detailed historical research, using digital-history tools as well as old-school archival work. He wanted them to become more sophisticated consumers of information—to learn when a source could be trusted and when to be skeptical of it. And he wanted them to enjoy it all.
"History classes aren't often as much fun as they could be," Mr. Kelly said. "An awful lot of history classes are the passive-learning model, where the professor dispenses and the students consume. It's an efficient model. There's no evidence that it actually results in learning."...
SOURCE: International Herald Tribune (12-18-08)
After a 35-year stint as a journalist for Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, Yang has made a name for himself writing about things the Chinese Communist Party would rather people forgot.
His latest book,"Mu Bei" ("Tombstone"), published this year in Hong Kong, has been hailed as the most comprehensive and authoritative account by a mainland Chinese writer of the Great Famine of late 1958 to 1962, which was precipitated by the calamitous economic policies of Mao's Great Leap Forward and cost the lives of tens of millions of Chinese.
The title, he writes in the opening passage, has several meanings:"It's a tombstone for my father who died of starvation in 1959, it's a tombstone for the 36 million Chinese who starved to death, it's a tombstone for the system that led to the Great Famine."
He adds:"There was also a great political risk involved in writing this book. If something happens to me because of this, at least I'm making a sacrifice for the sake of my ideals, so this would also be a tombstone for myself."
The two-volume, 1,100-page work is banned in China, as is his previous book,"Political Struggles in China's Age of Reform," which contains his account of the 1989 military crackdown on student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square and three interviews with former Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang. Zhao, who was purged for sympathizing with the students, met with Yang while under house arrest.
The authorities were so nervous about that first book - the interviews had been publicized in the overseas press - that they summoned him several times and ordered him to cancel its publication. He refused, and it was released in Hong Kong in 2004. After Zhao died in 2005, Yang was monitored by a plainclothes police officer to ensure he did not attend the funeral....
SOURCE: Economist (12-11-08)
Sir Jim proposes merging the subjects into six “learning areas”. History and geography will become “human, social and environmental understanding”; reading, writing and foreign languages, “understanding English, communication and languages”. Physical education, some bits of science and various odds and ends will merge into “understanding physical health and well-being”, and so on. His plan would “reduce prescription”, he says, and, far from downgrading important ideas, “embed and intensify [them] to better effect in cross-curricular studies”.
Learned societies are livid. “An erosion of specialist knowledge,” harrumphs the Royal Historical Society; its geographical counterpart is worried about “losing rigour and the teaching of basics”. Even those with no brief for a particular subject are concerned. Pouring 12 subjects into six “learning areas” is not the same as slimming down; if the curriculum is to become more digestible something must be lost, and just what is being glossed over. “Wouldn’t it be better to address the question of subjects directly—which ones, for how long and what to specify?” asks Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University.
One answer is that making hard choices openly would provoke complaints that the curriculum was being dumbed down. Attempts to cut it outright would run counter to powerful forces, as politicians look to schools to solve myriad social ills—from obesity to teenage pregnancy to low turnout in elections—and to pick up the slack left by poor parenting. But Sir Jim’s prescription indicates more than the difficulty of his job. He has been asked to solve tricky educational conundrums before and, every time, he has managed to catch the prevailing political wind.
In 2006 he reviewed reading tuition, and plumped for the back-to-basics “synthetic phonics”—to the delight of a government already mustard-keen on the method. In 1999 he answered “no” to the charge that rising exam results were a sign of less exacting exams rather than of better teaching. In 1991 the Tory government of the day was equally thrilled to be told that primary education had become too progressive.
This time, too, Sir Jim has captured the Zeitgeist. Synthesis and cross-cutting are once more fashionable in educational circles: since July 2007 England’s schools have been overseen not by an education ministry but by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which is responsible for pretty much everything to do with young people, from health to criminal justice to learning. (The three other bits of the United Kingdom—Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—go their own way on education.) Primary schools were turning away from discrete subjects even before he pronounced: a 2007 survey found a third taught mostly “themed” lessons; another 40% were planning to do so soon. Another recent review, this time of what 11-14-year-olds should learn, also plumped for more cross-curricular learning....
SOURCE: AHA Blog (Click here for embedded links in this post.) (12-18-08)