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: Fox News (10-9-09)
"The jury is still out as to what his presidency is going to add up to," Fred Greenstein, author and professor of politics emeritus at Princeton University, told FOXNews.com.
"It's more of an embarrassment to the Nobel process."...
... Greenstein said Obama is unlikely to gain any political advantage from the award, and it is unlikely to lead to any major policy changes.
Only two other sitting presidents, Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919, have been awarded the prestigious Peace Prize. Roosevelt was honored largely for brokering an agreement between Russia and Japan, and Wilson took the award for his role in ending World War I and creating the League of Nations.
It's far too early to compare Obama to either of his predecessors, said Allan Lichtman, professor of history at American University.
"They're not comparable," Lichtman said. "[Roosevelt and Wilson] were six or seven years into two-term presidencies, and Obama has not completed a single year of his presidency, so it makes very little sense."
Obama possesses a great deal of "promise," but the jury is still out, Lichtman said.
"It remains to be seen what his foreign policy legacy will be," he said. "It is premature. This was to encourage rather than to recognize an accomplished fact."
The award might even become a "political headache" for Obama, Lichtman said.
"On the one hand, his liberal base will be pushing him to live up to this," he said. "And his Republican critics will say a bunch of Scandinavians socialists have given this award to another socialist. You'll hear quite a bit of criticism from the right."
Stephen Wayne, professor of American government at Georgetown University, praised Obama's "good instincts" and strong belief in diplomacy, but said he failed to see accomplishments that merited the prize.
"It does seem to me, at this point, that's its premature," Wayne said. "When I first saw it, I thought it was a joke. Obama may have been the first to get it for his rhetoric and his orientation."
Wayne said he was "startled" to learn Obama had been nominated for the award less than two weeks into his presidency...
SOURCE: The Australian (10-10-09)
"All I have to do is get my book banned and have a farcical court case about it in an Australian court, then I might sell a million copies," he says. He is joking about the 1986 saga in a NSW court over Spycatcher, the memoirs of former British spy Peter Wright that the British government tried unsuccessfully to suppress.
Spycatcher went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, but it is the last thing that Andrew, the world's leading historian on the British intelligence services, wants his new book In Defence of the Realm to resemble.
Having had unprecedented access to MI5's archives, Andrew says Spycatcher's savage account of MI5 was grossly inaccurate, and that when Wright was an active officer his delusions and conspiracy theories did enormous damage to the secret service by wasting many of its energies and distracting it from real threats.
Wright, who died in Tasmania in 1995, may have been wrong about many of the great spy dramas of the Cold War, but Andrew says the British government's "comical" attempts to stifle his book did at least convince the spymasters and politicians in London that times had changed.
"There is a strong connection between the hopeless mishandling of the Wright affair, which included a trial in NSW that was somewhere between Monty Python and Yes Minister, and the fact I was eventually commissioned to write this book," the professor says...
SOURCE: couriermail.com.au (10-9-09)
Although aged 82, Queenslander Arthur Rex Crane was considered young for a World War II prisoner of war...
... Crane appeared to be beyond reproach, however, because he had worked with the ex-PoW Association in Brisbane for years, helping others get the service and disability pensions they deserved. He had earned hundreds of thousands in pension payments himself.
But when Crane rose to thank the guest speaker at that February service, military historian Lynette Silver, her blood ran cold as she listened to him recount his wartime "experiences". She immediately realised he was a fraud...
... Then along came Lynette Silver. She wrote to Crane, asking if he would tell her his story. He refused.
She enlisted two assistants, Jenny Sandercock and Di Elliott, both of whom had family PoW connections.
Within a month, they tracked down Crane's "dead" brother, who was still alive in Salt Lake City.
He told them Rex had never been to war. Soon after, Sandercock found school records that proved Crane had not been in Malaya.
"We knew he'd been lying and now we had proof of it."
Crane confessed immediately when confronted with the evidence.
"We informed the Veterans Affairs Minister (Alan Griffin) the next day and told him the story was going to break. Rex confessed to the DVA in Brisbane that day," she said.
SOURCE: Standard Net Live (10-8-09)
He documented it all, good and bad, in his definitive biography, "A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead" (Broadway, 2002).
McNally comes to Weber State University on Tuesday to teach several classes and to present a public multimedia lecture on the band.
SOURCE: Hometownannapolis.com (10-8-09)
Speaking at the 30th annual Bancroft Lecture, economic historian Niall Ferguson warned that China is about to overtake the United States as the world's superpower.
"The U.S. has fatally underestimated its biggest rival," Ferguson said.
"Most of the history of the United States is not (important) for where you are now," Ferguson told the midshipmen of the radical new world he is seeing as power shifts from the West back to the East, reversing the ascendancy of the West that began roughly 500 years ago.
The underlying problem is that as much as 20 percent of the federal budget could go to pay off the national debt each year for decades to come, Ferguson said. One unintended result will be that defense budgets will be tight for the next 20 to 30 years, or roughly the duration of today's Naval Academy midshipmen's military careers.
"Your (national) interest payments are going to go off the charts and eat the defense budget for lunch," Ferguson said...
... "During your careers, the U.S. will cease to be the biggest economy in the world," Ferguson told the midshipmen.
Ferguson said President Barack Obama has done a good job of softening the blow of the current recession, and he blamed Congress for a tradition of excessive spending...
SOURCE: Haaretz (10-9-09)
In an article appearing in today's Forward and released this week on the paper's Web site and on Haaretz.com, Sarna quotes sociologist Steven M. Cohen, who recently warned of "a growing distancing from Israel of American Jews." Sarna, 54, argues that while this trend is worrisome, another sociologist, Ted Sasson, believes American-Jewish love for Israel is notvanishing but transforming.
"Sasson maintains that what we have today is not as much tension between American Jewry and Israel, but American Jews reflecting some of the same opposition [to Israeli policies] that you find in Israel. Indeed, many of them are reading Israeli Web sites and are influenced by them," Sarna told Anglo File Tuesday in his Jerusalem apartment. He referred specifically to Haaretz.com, which he says often publishes articles critical of Israeli policies.
"The Internet has made it possible for multiple voices to be heard," Sarna said. He says that in the days when their sole source of news was the local Jewish paper, the "Jews of America spoke with one voice, mainly [belonging to] the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish organizations - which basically followed the Israeli government's line." Aware today of the full range of views expressed in Israel, he says American Jews no longer buy into the notion that "in Israel we're critical but out of Israel we're supportive."
SOURCE: Winnipeg Free Press (10-8-09)
Lieuwe Boonstra wrote to the Free Press a month ago, wanting to know more about RCAF Warrant Officer Class II Albert George Makay and RCAF Flight Sgt. Charles Reginald Patton.
The two young men -- Makay was 20 and Patton was 23 -- died in a plane crash on Oct. 31, 1942.
Here's what Boonstra knew:
Mackay was the son of Mrs. Jerry Makay, then living on Side Street in Winnipeg. Patton was born Feb. 22, 1919. He was the son of Mr. George Edward Sr. and Margaret Hannah Bird, originally of Petersfield.
Patton's brother, Lance Cpl. Victor Edwin Patton, was 21 when he was killed in 1944. He is buried in France.
Makay went to St Paul's College. He received his air force training in Portage la Prairie, Fort Ontario and Yorkton, Sask. He was sent overseas in 1941.
Makay had six brothers: William, Louis, James, Laddie, Ernest and Steve.
Patton enlisted in the air force in 1941. He had two brothers serving overseas. One was a member of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. As well, he had a brother-in-law serving. He had three sisters.
But Boonstra wanted more details. He said he wanted to pay proper tribute to men who had sacrificed their lives.
In 1992, he was responsible for the unveiling of a monument commemorating dead soldiers. Twenty relatives of the dead men came from England, Wales and New Zealand for the solemn ceremony.
He hoped to find photos of the local dead airmen...
SOURCE: The Press and Journal (10-8-09)
The event, from October 22 to 24, unites the world’s leading historians of the Scottish diaspora for three days of presentations, discussions and debate, all surrounding the impact this country has made on the world.
Mr Devine, who has published more than 30 books including bestseller The Scottish Nation, will present his controversial paper Did Slavery Make Scotland Great? on Saturday, October 24.
He is director of the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Edinburgh, the world’s only advanced research centre in the field.
He said: “The task of the research historian is to confront the evidence of the past, warts and all. This lecture tries to do just that by analysing one of the darkest themes in the extraordinary story of Scotland’s engagement with the empire.”
Mr Devine joins an exciting day featuring many of the best-known Scottish historians, including Dr Tony Pollard and Professor Jim Hunter. He will be followed by a conference round-up from Inverness man Dr Ewen Cameron.
Marie Christie, project director at Homecoming Scotland, said: “We are delighted to welcome Prof Devine to the conference and expect him to cause a stir with his presentation, which offers a new insight into Scotland’s past.
SOURCE: The Grand Island Independent (10-7-09)
"Whenever you ask a Mexican for directions, you may never get to where you want to go, but you made yourself a friend," Olivares said Tuesday night. "That's very true -- we like to talk, we are a friendly people."
"When we say, 'Mi casa es su casa. My house is your house,' we mean it," she said. "A Mexican friend is a friend for life."
Olivares was the featured speaker for Hispanic Heritage Month in French Memorial Chapel at Hastings College. Her talk was sponsored by the Hastings College Multicultural Student Union and the Hastings YWCA.
She said dichos are a part of Mexican life.
When a child is angry, crying and carrying on, he may be called "water for chocolate." It means he's so hot, he's like water for hot chocolate...
SOURCE: http://www.3news.co.nz (10-8-09)
Dr Petrie said today that war captives or "slaves" made up as much as 50 percent of the Maori population in the early nineteenth century but had been given little attention by academics.
She is taking up a $300,000 Marsden Fund grant, over three years, to investigate the purpose and function of war captives in Maori society.
SOURCE: The Cap Times (10-7-09)
A true son of the American heartland, Williams grew up in the small community of Atlantic, Iowa. Following military school in Missouri, he went to the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1944. Following a World War II Pacific stint, he served in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he joined civil rights activism. Leaving the Navy in 1946, he came to graduate school in Madison in 1947. He earned a master's degree and Ph.D. here under the influence of that period's progressive history faculty, among them Fred Harvey Harrington, Merle Curti, Howard K. Beale and the German emigre sociologist, Hans Gerth. After teaching at Ohio State alongside his future UW-Madison colleague Harvey Goldberg, he returned to the UW-Madison history department in 1957.
Williams departed from mainstream historiography early on. While most U.S. historians were still constructing nationalist sagas of an "exceptional" ongoing experiment, the "city upon a hill" as a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world, Williams argued that the nation's leadership, from its earliest moments, had imperial ambitions that boded ill for all those in the way.
Williams' conception of U.S. foreign policy centered on the effort of the country's leaders to evade domestic inequality and protracted crisis through escapist movements abroad. The nation's problems and solutions were externalized as various interests looked abroad for ways to resolve crises and preserve a capitalist frontier made safe for market and investment expansion.
His masterwork, "Contours of American History," surveyed the breadth of the nation's history, from Jefferson and Madison forward, to illustrate the centrality of the expansionist drive and the imperial worldview or "weltanschauung" that legitimized and rationalized it. He homed in on the crises of the 1890s, a period of deep economic depression and massive social upheaval, as the point of departure for the modern global quest for empire. The result was the Spanish-American War, in which Uncle Sam snatched Cuba and the Philippines, highly prized as the gateway to the China market...
SOURCE: Kansas State Collegian (10-7-09)
“Flappers, Flyboys, and Flivvers: 1928 in Riley County” was a presentation meant to set the scene and give cultural context to Ray Bradbury’s novel, “Dandelion Wine,” as a part of Manhattan’s One Book, One Community reading program.
“Bradbury’s ‘Dandelion Wine’ takes place in 1928, so I thought it would be interesting to examine what Riley County was like that same year,” Collins said.
Her presentation delved into the demographics of Riley County and cultural high points of the year. According to her research, the whole of Riley County in 1928 had the same population as K-State’s population today.
“Flappers were the new women of the 1920s,” Collins said. “K-State had more than its fair share. The college had a bloomers incident when Dean Van Zile tried to put a stop to girls removing their bloomers and showing their knees at dances.”
A local charter for an aeronautics program at K-State was proposed in 1928, but was not granted for another 10 years, Collins said. Her research found newspapers in Manhattan consistently followed breaking news in aviation, including a 16 passenger jet that at the time was considered massive.
SOURCE: http://www.egovmonitor.com (10-5-09)
The civil society prize panel, chaired by EESC President Mario Sepi , unanimously selected the six civil society organisations as winners of the 2009 edition.
Two Italian associations, Libera International and Confindustria Sicilia, which both combat mafia and organised crime in Italy and further afield, tied for the first prize. The former created the Libera International Network, which brings together civil society organisations in the EU and beyond which fight against mafia and transnational crime in numerous areas. The latter defends Sicilian businesses against protection rackets and promotes healthy business practices to attract investment.
There was also a tie for the second prize, awarded both to the European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO), which supports the development of history education in a thought-provoking way so as to strengthen peace, stability and democracy, and to Volonteurope , a European network consisting of over 1500 civil society organisations that promotes and encourages volunteering in the EU through transnational partnerships and recognition schemes....
SOURCE: Guam News Factor (10-5-09)
Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic college and preparatory school in Charlotte, North Carolina, inducted Antonio M. Palomo and four others into its Distinguished Alumni Wall of Fame during the alumni association's fifth annual induction ceremony recently.
The Gaston Gazette published the college's official description of Palomo, who graduated with the Abbey prep school's senior class of 1950 before entering Marquette University:
Palomo worked as a journalist and assistant managing editor of the Guam Daily News from 1943 to 1963 after graduating from the Abbey. He served as a senator in the Guam legislature and worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior for 12 years. He was the presiding officer of the First Constitutional Convention of Guam in 1969 and 1970. Palomo's historical publications tell of the courage of the people of Guam during their World War II occupation...
SOURCE: Abilene Reflector-Chronicle (10-6-09)
He intermixed stories about the legendary lawman Wild Bill Hickok, who at one time was the community’s top cop during the Chisholm Trail cattle drives from 1867-71.
Heller also encouraged those willing to listen to take an interest in history.
“As Kansans we need to embrace our history, even if it is on the dark side,” he said. Heller said Kansas development had to do with a combination of factors including railroad, population growth and a timeless force -- politics.
Heller spent an hour on two occasions talking about famous Kansas Old West characters, including Wild Bill Hickok. He asked people to raise their hands if they could remember the classic portrayal of shoot outs as shown on Gunsmoke. Many people did. Heller said that was Hollywood, but in real life in the 1860s and 1870s gunfights were not that common.
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (10-2-09)
On October 1, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing to consider the nomination of David S. Ferriero to be the next Archivist of the United States.
The hearing was presided over by Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, & International Security.
Mr. Ferriero was introduced by Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) whom he had known during his tenure as the Librarian at Duke University.
Chairman Carper began with a brief opening statement welcoming the nominee and expressing his two overriding concerns with NARA, electronic records management and the costs associated with running the Presidential Library system.
After an opening statement, Mr. Ferriero responded to a round of questions from the chair.
In response to a question about security breaches at NARA, Ferriero stated one of the challenges the agency faces is in striking the proper balance between providing public access while at the same time protecting sensitive information. He stated that from his own experiences security breaches were most often caused internally. Ferriero noted that NARA has established a security task force and that he would ensure as Archivist that NARA would make security a top priority.
Chairman Carper then asked the nominee what he considered the major challenges NARA faced in managing electronic records. Ferriero responded that the real issue is the lack of standards for handling records across government agencies which makes ingestion more difficult. He felt NARA needed to be more aggressive and assertive in assuring compliance with existing requirements, and provide more education and training for those employees at federal agencies with responsibility for records management.
The questioning then turned to the topic of the escalating costs of maintaining the Presidential Library system. Mr. Ferriero said he had read the report which NARA had submitted to Congress this week on alternative models for the Presidential Library system. He expressed concerns about the challenges in managing such a decentralized system and the capital costs of maintaining security and infrastructure at so many facilities. He also questioned the sustainability of the current model.
Chairman Carper expressed his concern that most government agencies consider records management an afterthought. The Senator expressed his concerns about overclassification and the backlog of materials awaiting declassification by NARA. Mr. Ferriero stated the Administration’s support for a National Declassification Center and the pending issuance of a new executive order dealing with classification would alleviate some of the problems. However, Ferriero felt a major problem was at the front end of the process with overclassification. He stressed the need for erring on the side of openness when faced with a classification decision.
Senator Carper then asked about the importance of maintaining NARA’s reputation for independence and non-partisanship. Mr. Ferriero felt that Congress had expressed its commitment to NARA’s independence by locating the new Office of Government Information Services and the National Declassification Center at the agency. He committed himself to working with the authorizing committees in Congress if he felt NARA’s independence was being threatened.
Chairman Carper concluded his questioning with a question about the nominees vision for NARA’s outreach and educational role. Mr. Ferriero said that the when the new Electronic Records Archive comes on-line in the near future it will ensure public access 365 days a year. He stated that NARA had a good track record of reaching out to students and teachers that would continue to be a priority under his stewardship of the agency.
Senator Carper then adjourned the hearing.
SOURCE: The Washington Post (10-5-09)
"In my judgment," he recalls saying, "war kills off great reform movements." The American record is pretty clear: World War I brought the Progressive Era to a close. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was waging World War II, he was candid in saying that "Dr. New Deal" had given way to "Dr. Win the War." Korea ended Harry Truman's Fair Deal, and Vietnam brought Lyndon Johnson's Great Society to an abrupt halt.
Dallek is not a pacifist, and he does not pretend that his observation settles the question against war in every case. Of the four he mentioned, I think World War II and Korea were certainly necessary fights.
But Dallek's point helps explain why Obama is right to have grave qualms about an extended commitment of many more American troops to Afghanistan. Obama was elected not to escalate a war but to end one. The change and hope he promised did not involve a vast new campaign to transform Afghanistan.
It's easy to get enraged over the mess in Afghanistan and with the voices insisting that Obama has no choice but to remedy it by going big and going long.
Too many of those who say that Obama is obligated to step up the pace in Afghanistan spent the Bush presidency neglecting that war because their main interest was in waging a new one in Iraq. ..
SOURCE: guardian.co.uk (10-6-09)
... The wrecked public balance sheet does need to be fixed, but when it comes to timing, the Tories – indeed, all parties – should heed the Depression historians. Historians such as Christina Romer, who is the world authority on how America came out of its slump (and Barack Obama's top economic adviser). The 30s are often painted as one long, slow grind, but Romer points out that the four years after Franklin Roosevelt brought in the New Deal in 1933 saw record GDP growth.
Then the forces of caution and conservatism kicked in. Selwyn Parker, an historian of the Great Crash, notes that Jack Morgan (he of the Wall Street banking dynasty) described free-spending Roosevelt to other bankers in 1937 as a "madman". At the same time, US central bankers began to fret about inflation. The result in 1937 was a squeeze on lending, a hike in taxes and slashed spending – a combination that Romer believes "effectively added two years to the Depression"...
SOURCE: NPR (All Things Considered) (10-5-09)
SOURCE: Helsinki Times (10-5-09)
"We have piously entertained the notion that immigrants will come here only to care the elderly, do other low-pay jobs and serve our consumption society without consuming much themselves," Dr Vihavainen was quoted as saying.
He went on to criticise Finland's asylum policy as well.
SOURCE: The Independent (UK) (10-5-09)
Christopher Andrew, whose authorised book on the history of the Secret Service has just been published, said: “There may be worse policies to have, but I can’t think of many." Use of torture, he added, was not only morally wrong, but created the danger of getting answers from suspects which were incorrect.
Allegations that MI5 agents had condoned the torture of Binyam Mohamed al-Habashi, a British resident, by foreign intelligence agencies, is the subject of an ongoing investigation by Scotland Yard.
Dr Andrew stressed that his trawl of thousands of classified documents did not reveal any instances of MI5 allowing torture by its operatives. However, he pointed out that a former Director-General, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, has acknowledged that “It is pretty well impractical always to check whether something has been derived from torture unless you have reason to suspect it at the beginning. Literally thousands of pieces of intelligence are shared daily between the UK, our allies and people who might not be so reasonably be described as our allies.”
In his book, The Defence Of The Realm, Dr Andrew stated that there had been scepticism within MI5 about George W Bush’s call for a "War on Terror". An in-house review lampooned it as "The War on Terry (WOT)". And the then-chief, Sir Stephen Lander, had to reassure his staff that although a military response was being considered, “You should be reassured that that political, humanitarian, intelligence and law enforcement responses are also high on the UK agenda.”...
SOURCE: Daily News (Sri Lanka) (10-6-09)
His younger daughter Deloraine inherits her father’s passion for this country and follows in her illustrious parent’s footsteps.
Today, we remember and revere Dr. R.L. Brohier as a colossus among contemporary Sri Lankan historians and antiquarians.
The Order of the Oranje Nassau is the highest award given by the Crown in The Netherlands. In a unique and rare event Dr. R.L. Brohier and daughter Deloraine were made recipients of this honour. Dr. Brohier was conferred this honour by Queen Juliana in 1978 and Deloraine was bestowed this honour by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands in 2002.
Dr. Richard Leslie Brohier was born on October 5, 1892 to Richard Annesley Brohier (Jr.) and Marion de Boer. The Brohier’s are of French (Huguenot) descent. The founder of the family, Captain Jean Brohier arrived in this country in 1777 in the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The literary tradition was obviously in Dr. Brohier’s genes - his great grandfather Peter Brohier was translator of Rev. Baldeus’s book “The true and exact description of the Island of Ceylon”.
Not only was Dr. Brohier a great scholarly writer he was an inspiration to many. He inspired study of ancient Lanka’s hydraulic system.
Others like his daughter Deloraine were inspired by him to seek out Lanka’s historical heritage.
In her postscript titled Following the Pathfinder to Dr. Brohier’s The Golden Plains (1923 Notes of the Topographic Survey of the ancient coastal habitations between Puttalam and Mannar and related subsequent observations) Deloraine Brohier says-: “I can still hear him say: “Take a boat from Kalpitiya coast up through Dutch Bay and the chain of islands in Portugal Bay, then beach at Kudiramalai Point; camp and trek to see the ancient habitations along the Wilpattu coast. This is a trip you must do - someday....” ...
SOURCE: The Washington Post (10-5-09)
I could go on about Carnegie, who wasn't perfect but was a business genius. His philanthropic legacy includes Carnegie Hall, the Carnegie libraries, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and -- believe it or not -- the precursor to the TIAA-CREF retirement fund. Look it up.
When Bruce Weindruch, founder of a D.C. area business called the History Factory, told me it was Prof. Wall who launched him on his career path chronicling the history of business, well, let's just say Bruce and I had a lot to talk about. Weindruch is a business-history junkie who can wax for hours on the financial genius of Andrew Mellon (Alcoa, Gulf Oil) or the organizational skills of Alfred P. Sloan (General Motors).
Weindruch, 55, has done a cool thing. He has taken the subject of business history and found a way to build a successful business around it. The History Factory builds Web sites, makes films, writes books and creates exhibits for clients around the world, be they massive oil producers such as Saudi Aramco or the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington.
He leads a team of 35 historians, archivists, library scientists, writers, curators, designers and businesspeople at the company's home office in Chantilly. And he makes a nice living doing it.
"This is what you do when you commercialize a traditionally academic discipline," Weindruch said...
... Weindruch comes from business. He grew up in Iowa, where his grandfather founded a grocery chain that was eventually sold to Sara Lee. He studied under Wall at Grinnell College, where Wall complained that business history was not adequately covered in college curriculums. "Joe Wall used to say, 'Why can't businessmen have a history, too?' " ...
SOURCE: The Washington Post (10-4-09)
I thought of Germond's remark as I read Taylor Branch's up-close, behind-the-scenes account of the Clinton presidency. Between 1993 and 2001, Branch visited Bill Clinton in the White House 79 times to tape a secret diary. A former journalist and the author of a trilogy about Martin Luther King (the first volume, "Parting the Waters," won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989), Branch had become friendly with Clinton when they worked on George McGovern's presidential campaign in 1972. After the 1992 election, Clinton asked Branch to be his Arthur Schlesinger, an in-house historian and formal adviser, but Branch begged off, fearing that he would be tagged as more advocate than historian, and because he was still working on his King books.
Nonetheless, Branch agreed to act as an unpaid historical inquisitor at monthly taping sessions at the White House. Those tapes have remained with Clinton; Branch does not quote directly from them for his book. However, late at night, while driving home to Baltimore, Branch would record his recollections of what Clinton had said, along with his own thoughts and impressions. Branch's ruminations became the basis of "The Clinton Tapes" -- which, the author says, the former president urged him to write.
Like the Clinton presidency, Branch's book is promising, often engaging, yet ultimately a little disappointing. Branch had a unique opportunity to observe a president in an open and intimate way, yet the reader -- at least this reader -- cannot help but wonder if he was too close to his subject to write a truly revealing book.
Clinton's capacity for self-pity has been long established, but Branch was clearly taken aback by the president's moaning and ranting about his enemies, especially the news media. In October 1994, as Newt Gingrich's Republican revolution picked up steam, Clinton was so exhausted and depressed that he was falling asleep in midsentence during his interviews with Branch. His friend was disturbed but still concluded that Clinton was a far nobler figure than the scribes who mocked him.
It is possible to sympathize with Clinton. Today, when the mainstream media seems so weakened, we forget how powerful -- and arrogant -- the New York Times and The Washington Post, along with the networks and news magazines, seemed to be in the early and mid-1990s. They were part of a giant scandal machine that dominated official Washington in the first few years after the Cold War. The endless string of special prosecutors and the media's obsession with Whitewater seem excessive in retrospect...
SOURCE: NYT (10-3-09)
Richard S. Fuld Jr., the last chief executive of the bankrupt Lehman Brothers, lamented that he, too, had been blindsided. No one, he assured the committee, “was prepared for this one.”
Such performances were gripping, in their way. But they may take on a level of absurdity after reading “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” (Princeton University Press) by two economics professors, Carmen M. Reinhart of the University of Maryland and Kenneth S. Rogoff of Harvard.
The authors use copious amounts of data — well, actually, numbing amounts — to make the compelling case that any well-informed person should have seen the Great Recession coming. The essence of their book is that while financial crises come in different varieties, they are not mysteriously born of undersea earthquakes, but frequently occurring events that can be spotted and even controlled if politicians and regulators know what to look for.
“Our basis message is simple: We have been here before,” the authors write. “No matter how different the latest financial frenzy or crisis always appears, there are usually remarkable similarities with past experience from other countries and from history. Recognizing these analogies and precedents is an essential step toward improving our global financial system, both to reduce the risk of future crises and to better handle catastrophes when they happen.”
These academics have found the same disturbing patterns in economic data from more than 66 countries: A nation’s political leaders loosen regulations governing the financial system. Banks use the new freedom to borrow money and earn juicy returns. Soon, these sovereign states are awash with money from foreign investors. But beware these torrents of outside wealth. They are accompanied by bubbles in stocks, commodities and real estate...
SOURCE: NYT paper edition (10-4-09)
Charlottesville Daily Progress obit 9-25-09
Merrill D. Peterson, a historian who enlarged the scope of Jeffersonian scholarship with a pair of books, one tracing the various and often contradictory perceptions of Jefferson during the century and a quarter after his death and the other a magisterial biography, died Sept. 23 in Charlottesville, Va. He was 88.
His death followed a bout of pneumonia, said his son Jeffrey.
Mr. Peterson, a history professor at the University of Virginia, was a prolific writer whose subjects included the abolitionist John Brown, the great 19th-century orator and statesmen Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Abraham Lincoln and, somewhat anomalously, a calamitous episode in Armenian history. His book “Starving Armenians: America and the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1930 and After,” published in 2004, was written after he joined the Peace Corps at the age of 76 and was sent to that region.
He is best known, however, for the books about Thomas Jefferson, which he viewed as complementary. The first, “The Jefferson Image in the American Mind” (1960), which began as his doctoral dissertation at Harvard, was awarded the Bancroft Prize, generally considered the most prestigious award for American history. An innovative treatment of the biographical form, it analyzed Jefferson’s protean character and intellect and his influence through American history by surveying how he was written about after his death.
The second, which appeared 10 years later, was “Jefferson and the New Nation,” a more conventional biography that, at more than 1,000 pages, is viewed by many as an exemplary one-volume life, even though Mr. Peterson confessed in it that Jefferson remained, for him, “finally, an impenetrable man.” In any case, Mr. Peterson considered it his most important book....