Thursday, December 31, 2009


Roberto Clemente was one of my favorite baseball players, and it was a sad day in sports when his plane went down all those years ago.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Black Elk Speaks



The history note on Wounded Knee brought to mind that great book, Black Elk Speaks, edited by John G. Neihardt.  It made such a big impact on me when I read it in college.  Great example of oral history being transcibed.  Interesting to see there was a play based on the memoir.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

West of the West


I'm a sucker for an enticing book cover, but this book looks like it has the pages to go with it,

The title of Mark Arax's collection of reportage "West of the West" comes from Theodore Roosevelt, who famously said: "When I am in California, I am not in the West, I am west of the West." Roosevelt's remark helped create our idea of a state that is not only golden and opportunity-filled but somehow beyond everywhere else, within which experience and social experiment happen in ways that are both unto themselves and constantly surprising.


Arax explores the contemporary manifestations of this idea, showing us intimate dramas that arise from the tussles among the larger external forces of landscape, family, immigration, politics and economics. In "Legend of Zankou," an Armenian rotisserie chicken magnate dons a white silk suit he hasn't worn for 20 years, then drives across Glendale to kill his mother, his sister and then himself. In "The Agent," Arax profiles James Wedick Jr., an FBI agent turned private eye, fighting for the chance to testify on behalf of two Pakistani Muslims who stand accused in the first terrorism trial in California. The authorities think (hope) they've busted an Al Qaeda cell in Lodi, population 60,000, a farming town at the far northern edge of the San Joaquin Valley. In reality, Wedick tells Arax, they've found the neighborhood ice-cream man and his sad cherry-packer son guilty of little more than stupidity and railroaded by a dubious interrogation process.

Review from the LA Times

Holiday Inn


Watched Holiday Inn last night with friends.  Great movie for the music and dance numbers alone, but has a lot of interesting sidebars as well, not least of all the little number for Abraham Lincoln with Mamie and her two little kids joining in.  Given that it was 1942 I guess one can excuse Sandrich somewhat for the black stereotypes, as Bing crudely paints Marjorie in black face to go undetected by the bamboozling Fred and his agent, as they search the crowd for the mysterious woman Fred danced with during the New Year's celebration.  Bing made for an odd looking Black Lincoln.  The Fourth of July number was also very interesting, with its film clips of the ongoing war and the sense of patriotism it implied, but Fred's little number with firecrackers stole the show.  Funny to see Fred Astaire as such a heel in this movie, but ultimately all's well that end's well, as Bing woos Marjorie back with White Christmas, and Fred is reunited with Virginia.  Great way to celebrate the evening!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

O Tannenbaum




Several cities in the United States with German connections lay claim to that country's first Christmas tree: Windsor Locks, Connecticut, claims that a Hessian soldier put up a Christmas tree in 1777 while imprisoned at the Noden-Reed House, while the "First Christmas Tree in America" is also claimed by Easton, Pennsylvania, where German settlers purportedly erected a Christmas tree in 1816. In his diary, Matthew Zahm of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recorded the use of a Christmas tree in 1821, leading Lancaster to also lay claim to the first Christmas tree in America.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Empire of Liberty


When it comes to early American history, few beat Gordon Wood, and this new book looks like a great summing of the period,

Gordon S. Wood demonstrates in “Empire of Liberty,” his superb new account of America’s pivotal first quarter-century, these inchoate Americans were audacious from the very start. Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, brazenly asserted that the United States was destined to be “God’s own Word.” Madison called America an Arcadian “paradise,” while Thomas Jefferson labeled the nation “the world’s best hope.” And when they gazed over at the decadent, decaying monarchies of France and England, Americans concluded they were on the cusp of a new age, destined to be “an asylum to the good, to the persecuted and to the oppressed.”

Wood’s central characters are familiar too, but presented in admirably nuanced portraits. We see the austere George Washington, whose inordinate strength was his realism; we see the perplexing Thomas Jefferson, who so eloquently championed the rights of the common people while remaining publicly silent about the evils of slavery; we see Alexander Hamilton, who helped give us capitalism and who also had profound reservations about the revolutionary tide sweeping Europe; and we see James Madison, who Wood thinks may well have been the most intellectually gifted figure the nation has ever produced.

I imagine it covers a lot of the same ground as his past books, but nice to see it all collected in one volume.

Sherman's March


Couldn't resist posting a link to Ross McEwee's wonderful evocation on Sherman's March and what it means to grow up in the South.  You can pick up a few more clips on YouTube.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Adams Women


I see someone has taken on the Adams' women,

From his vast storehouse of knowledge about the Adams family. Nagel pulls out the feminine threads of that tapestry to write all about the Adams women, from Abigail to daughter Nabby, from Louisa Catherine Adams, wife of John Quincy, to Clover Adams, wife of Henry, with others making more than cameo appearances. They all lived exceptional, if not extraordinary, lives, in different ways.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

North American Review Centennial Issue


I found Wills discussion (pp. 81-85) of the Centennial Issue of the North American Review, which Henry Adams edited, quite fascinating, as it essentially provided a "report card" of the first 100 years of the United States on Religion, Politics, Abstract Science, Economic Science, Law and Education.  Here is a link to Volume 122, Issue 250, January 1876

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meander into the Solstice

It's a little early, but this is from a Solstice morning in Ames, Iowa. I'll be bringing in greenery this weekend and lighting candles on the 21st in hopes of bringing the sun back to its northern path.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Clinton v. Starr, The Final Round-up


From Random House, a new book on Ken Starr's infamous battle with Bill Clinton over propriety,

Ten years after one of the most polarizing political scandals in American history, author Ken Gormley offers an insightful, balanced, and revealing analysis of the events leading up to the impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton. From Ken Starr’s initial Whitewater investigation through the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit to the Monica Lewinsky affair, The Death of American Virtue is a gripping chronicle of an ever-escalating political feeding frenzy.

In exclusive interviews, Bill Clinton, Ken Starr, Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Susan McDougal, and many more key players offer candid reflections on that period. Drawing on never-before-released records and documents—including the Justice Department’s internal investigation into Starr, new details concerning the death of Vince Foster, and evidence from lawyers on both sides—Gormley sheds new light on a dark and divisive chapter, the aftereffects of which are still being felt in today’s political climate.

The Spirit of Crazy Horse


Weez has been pitching The Spirit of Crazy Horse at Melba, which led me to re-explore the Peltier case.  This past summer he was up for parole, but of course he was denied.  It was also interesting to read that one of the reasons Geffen put his money behind Obama in the primaries, was because he was still upset with Clinton for not pardoning Peltier when he had the chance. 

There was quite a bit of campaigning on the Indian reservations last year.  More than usual.  North and South Dakota were both hotly contested states, and both Richardson and Napolitano campaigned for Obama on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona.  So, it would seem that there are great expectations that Obama will look into the Peltier case and other Native American concerns.

All though, I have to wonder if Peltier is really a big deal for most Indians.  The A.I.M. had a very hard time gaining traction on the reservations, from what I have read, and gained most of its support from inner city Indians, especially in Minneapolis where it is based.  Anyway, I see Banks and Means both have autobiographies.  Dennis Banks' Ojibwa Warrior is the most recent.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mannahatta Project


Fascinating project and it comes with a companion volume.

Louisa Adams


Nice bio on her at National First Ladies' Library. 
I'm sure Henry Adams would be pleased with the gold coin that has been minted of his grandmother.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Henry Adams and the Making of America


One of the books being suggested for discussion is Garry Wills study of Henry Adams and the value of his interpretations of early America. Of course everyone knows The Education of Henry Adams, and its impact on American history, but Richard Lingeman notes,

Wills maintains that Adams's sweeping nine-volume chronicle -- ''the nonfiction prose masterpiece of the 19th century in America'' -- has suffered not only neglect but also the humiliation of being misread by professional historians. Richard Hofstadter, for example, accused Adams of caricaturing America as a ''slack and derivative culture, of fumbling and small-minded statecraft, terrible parochial wrangling and treasonous schemes, climaxed by a ludicrous and unnecessary war.'' 

Monday, December 14, 2009

What it means to be Muslim in America


After reading Zeitoun, I found myself looking for books that deal with the subject of what it means to be Muslim in America.  Quite a few titles out there, but Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror caught my interest.  Hugh Eakin writes,

In the varied explanations for the 9/11 attacks and the rise in terrorism, two themes keep recurring. One is that Islamic culture itself is to blame, leading to a clash of civilizations, or, as more nuanced versions have it, a struggle between secular-minded and fundamentalist Muslims that has resulted in extremist violence against the West. The second is that terrorism is a feature of the post-cold-war landscape, belonging to an era in which international relations are no longer defined by the titanic confrontation between two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.

But in the eyes of Mahmood Mamdani, a Uganda-born political scientist and cultural anthropologist at Columbia University, both those assumptions are wrong. Not only does he argue that terrorism does not necessarily have anything to do with Islamic culture; he also insists that the spread of terror as a tactic is largely an outgrowth of American cold war foreign policy. After Vietnam, he argues, the American government shifted from a strategy of direct intervention in the fight against global Communism to one of supporting new forms of low-level insurgency by private armed groups.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Really Meandering.....

And now for something completely different.....



We've been successfully meandering all over the site, but thought I should put up a new meander thread for the weekend anyway. This is one of the women I'm studying: Martha Maxwell was one of the very first professional naturalists/taxidermists in the country to realistically portray animals.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Standing Tall


Mr Obama accepted the prize with deep "gratitude and humility" but warned that war was sometimes necessary despite its "acute" human tragedy.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee chose Mr Obama as this year's Peace Prize laureate for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and "work for a world without nuclear weapons."

As he accepted the award, Mr Obama paid tribute to anti-government demonstrators in Iran.

In excerpts of his speech released by the White House as the ceremony got underway, Mr Obama said America would always stand on the side of those who sought freedom including in Iran, Burma and Zimbabwe.

The Great Deluge


I see Eggers makes a reference to The Great Deluge in his endnotes.  I have a copy sitting on my shelves which I bought soon after it came out, but haven't gotten around to reading.  However, after reading this salon review I'm not sure I want to wade into it.  The New York Times provides a more favorable review.  Perhaps, as Barra noted in his review, because Brinkley fawned over the media's coverage of the event, noting the NY Times among other publications as having given the disaster the attention it warranted.  Anyway, will open it up and take a look inside.

I also have Spike Lee's account of events, When the Levees Broke, which I will sit down and watch at some point.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A People's History of the United States


I'm not sure if Howard Zinn has sanctioned this on-line version of his book, but here it is in its most recent form with chapters on the Clinton Administration and The 2000 Election and the War on Terror.  I've only read pieces from it.  Zinn doesn't let anyone off the hook, but at the same time I'm left wondering how much this is his opinion and how much is actual history.  Lack of footnotes is a concern, but maybe the persons who made the on-line copy chose not to include them.

Monday, December 7, 2009



Any thoughts on what to read next?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

I received my copy of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee:the illustrated edition today and was pleasantly surprised.It's in hardcover and is coffee table sized almost.Lots of illustrations,period photos,portraits of Chiefs,maps and some pics of the battlefields in the present day.I got it for rejoining QPBC but I see it's at Amazon for a little over 21.00.Some new essays also included with the original text.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Zeitoun


I've been very much enjoying Zeitoun.  Eggers writes in a simple unpretentious style following Abdulrahman Zeitoun as he aids a city in distress in his aluminum canoe.  I would think the Zeitouns have more attention than they ever imagined in the wake of the book and Jonathon Demme's plan to make their story into an animated movie along the lines of Persepolis.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Talented Miss Highsmith


This is no ordinary literary biography. Ms. Schenkar, also a playwright, is not one of those thorough, respectful scholars who let the facts and the literature speak for themselves. Hers is an unusually assertive voice, which makes it well suited to Highsmith (as it was to Dolly Wilde, Oscar’s niece, who was the subject of Ms. Schenkar’s earlier book, “Truly Wilde”). Her approach is innovative, sometimes confoundingly so. And her sensibility is sufficiently ghoulish to keep her undaunted by what she calls Highsmith’s “hundreds of raspingly acute portraits of quietly transgressive acts,” which is a relatively mild way of characterizing the shock value of Highsmith’s tirelessly misanthropic work.
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I've always enjoyed Highsmith and this sounds like a most interesting biography.  I hadn't realized she hailed from Fort Worth, TX.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Artist in Treason

Patriot, traitor, general, spy: James Wilkinson was a consummate contradiction. Brilliant and precocious, at age twenty he was both the youngest general in the revolutionary Continental Army, and privy to the Conway cabal to oust Washington from command. He was Benedict Arnold’s aide, but the first to reveal Arnold’s infamous treachery. By thirty-eight, he was the senior general in the United States army—and had turned traitor himself.

Wilkinson’s audacious career as Agent 13 in the Spanish secret service while in command of American forces is all the more remarkable because it was anything but hidden. Though he betrayed America’s strategic secrets, sought to keep the new country from expanding beyond the Mississippi, and almost delivered Lewis and Clark’s expedition into Spanish hands, four presidents—Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison—turned a blind eye to his treachery. They gambled that Wilkinson—by turns charming and ruthless—would never betray the army itself and use it to overthrow our nascent democracy—a fate every other democracy in the Western hemisphere endured. The crucial test came in 1806, when at the last minute Wilkinson turned the army against Aaron Burr and foiled his conspiracy to break up the Union.

A superb writer and superlative storyteller, Andro Linklater captures with brio Wilkinson’s charismatic ability to live a double life in public view. His saga shows, more clearly than any other, how fragile the young republic was and how its strength grew from the risks its leaders faced and the challenges they had to overcome.
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Wilkinson is one of those early fascinating Revolutionary figures that I've always wanted to know more about. I'm glad someone has taken the time to ferret him out.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This just in from the late 1890s














I know it's not the weekend, but was sure this was an appropriately historical photograph.

Meander away.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

21st Century Upton Sinclair?

Mr. Foer writes that the bioengineering of chickens (to yield more meat in a shorter time), combined with horribly cramped living conditions (eight-tenths of a square foot per bird) leads to “deformities, eye damage, blindness, bacterial infections of bones, slipped vertebrae, paralysis, internal bleeding, anemia, slipped tendons, twisted lower legs and necks, respiratory diseases, and weakened immune systems.” He says that farmed fish suffer from “the abundant presence of sea lice, which thrive in the filthy water” of their enclosures and “create open lesions and sometimes eat down to the bones on a fish’s face.” And he contends that cattle are not always efficiently knocked out before being processed at the slaughterhouse, and as a result “animals are bled, skinned, and dismembered while conscious.”

The journalist Michael Pollan explored some of these issues in his 2006 best seller The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and now, in Eating Animals, the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer takes on a similar task. Because “Eating Animals” remains heavily indebted to Mr. Pollan’s book, along with Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation and the work of various reporters, Mr. Foer’s chief contribution to the subject seems to lie in the use of his literary gifts — showcased in the two novels “Everything Is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” — to give the reader some very visceral, very gruesome descriptions of factory farming and the slaughterhouse.

Ragtime


In line with what we have been covering, a group reading of Ragtime might be a lot of fun. I loved the way Doctorow contrasted such characters as J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford, and had Evelyn Nesbit become a pet project of Emma Goldman. Really great novel on the gilded age. It was made into a musical no less.

Speaking of Mencken

So what exactly does the term Menckenesque mean, and how did the holder of that particular copyright, a figure who was by today's standards exceedingly unlovable, retain his stature as ''a tremendous liberating force in American culture''?

Answers to questions about Mencken's true identity and the nature of his appeal are to be found in Terry Teachout's biography of him, ''The Skeptic,'' which is as brisk and smart, as smooth-as-silk an account as we're likely to find. Mr. Teachout, who is the music critic for Commentary magazine and a contributor to many publications (including The New York Times), has swallowed Mencken whole in this book, warts and all. There's admiration of him but no sanitizing of a man who, in Mr. Teachout's unblinkered view, was not only unequivocally anti-Semitic but, perhaps worse, given what Mencken supposedly stood for, something of a philistine himself.

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from a NYT review of Teachout's 2002 book. There is also a later account by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers.

Monk's Moods

Ordered what appears to be a wonderful book on Monk by Robin D. G. Kelley that explores his many moods and debunks many of the myths surrounding him.

Throughout the book, Kelley plays down Monk’s “weirdness,” or at least contextualizes it. But Monk did little to discourage the popular view of him as odd. Always a sharp dresser and stickler for just the right look, he also favored a wide array of unconventional headgear: astrakhan, Japa­nese skullcap, Stetson, tam-o’-shanter. He had a trickster sense of humor, in life and in music, and he loved keeping people off-balance in both realms. Off-balance was the plane on which Monk existed. He also liked to dance during group perform­ances, but this served very real functions: first, as a method of conducting, communicating musical instructions to the band members; and second, to let them know that he dug their playing when they were in a groove and swinging.

For Jazz lovers it appears this book is a must.

Navajo Code Talkers Break Silence


Many Veterans' Day stories, including the sad events that took place at Ft. Hood, but I found this one about the Navajo Code Talkers the most interesting,

NEW YORK – The famed Navajo Code Talkers, the elite Marine unit whose unbreakable code stymied the Japanese in World War II, fear their legacy will die with them.

Only about 50 of the 400 Code Talkers are believed to be still alive, most living in the Navajo Nation reservation that spans Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Many are frail or ill, with little time left to tell the world about their wartime contribution.

"It was all covered by secrecy. We were constantly told not to talk about it," Little said. The Code Talkers felt compelled to honor their secrecy orders, even after the code was declassified in 1968.

The oldest of the 13 living Code Talkers is 92, and the group includes one of the original 29. Many Code Talkers who served in the war were young farmers and sheepherders who had never been away from home.

"The code did a lot of damage to the enemy," said Samuel Tom Holiday, 85, of Kayenta, Ariz., who also is joining the parade. He was a 20-year-old Code Talker when he and two other Marines went behind enemy lines on Iwo Jima to locate a Japanese artillery unit advancing on American forces.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Red Literature

Also interesting are the various literary allusions Schlesinger makes, notably Sinclair Lewis and John Dos Passos. He doesn't spend too much time on this but notes the growing disillusionment with big business and the flirting with communism that was occurring in America at the time. Babbit became synonymous with the petty small-minded businessman. Dos Passos went much further, turning his back on socialism, which he compared to drinking "near-beer," and embracing communism. Seems this shift got an even bigger endorsement when Lincoln Steffens concluded in his Autobiography that "All roads in our day lead to Moscow." (pp. 207-209) Schlesinger also notes how the Sacco and Vanzetti case galvanized such diverse writers as Edna St. Vincent Millay and John Dos Passos against the conservative paranoia that was sweeping the country.

Schlesinger notes in a later chapter that for many intellectuals in 1932 "the Communist party alone proposed the real solution -- 'the overthrow of the system which is reponsible for all crises.' Here was an ideal worth fighting for, and a 'practical and realizable ideal, as is being proved in the Soviet Union.' " Among those supporting the Communist Party were novelists Sherword Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, Erskine Caldwell, Waldo Frank, John Dos Passos, and critics Edmund Wilson, Granville Hicks, Malcolm Cowley, and journalists Lincoln Steffens, Matthew Josephson and Ella Winter. (pp. 436-37)

Health care bill passes House in historic vote

WASHINGTON - -- The House of Representatives late Saturday approved the most sweeping health care legislation in two generations, advancing President Barack Obama's campaign to guarantee health coverage to almost all Americans.

The legislation was passed 220-215 shortly after House members added a provision that prohibits federally subsidized insurance plans from offering abortion services.

The House plan would cover an additional 36 million people by 2019, leaving 4 percent of the nation without coverage, compared with the estimated 17 percent who do not have insurance now, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office."

For generations, the American people have called for affordable, quality health care for their families. Today, the call will be answered," said Pelosi, who rallied her members after weeks of cajoling and dealmaking.
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We'll see how much is left of the bill after the Senate gets through with it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

No Ordinary Time

Here she recounts the war years, 1940 through 1945, from the perspective of the American Presidency. She tells how Franklin Delano Roosevelt coaxed an isolationist, Depression-ridden nation first into supplying arms to England in that country's lonely battle against Nazi Germany and then into taking up arms itself, and how his command of the home front transformed the United States into a mighty industrial power.

At the same time, Mrs. Goodwin has something more intimate in mind than even our personal memories of the war years. She sets out to tell her history through the lives of the Roosevelts and those who occupied the White House with them at a time when that building functioned more as a dormitory for famous personages than the President's official residence. And the details of these people's passionate relations -- their friendships and loves, rivalries and jealousies -- are what make "No Ordinary Time" seem so fresh and alive.
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Sounds like a good read.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Forgotten Man

Here's a NYT review of Amity Shlaes' recent book critiquing the Age of Roosevelt,

The story of the Schechters remains a powerful one, even if it did not mark the end of centralization. By outlawing chicken discounts, Roosevelt overreached, much as he later did in trying to pack the Supreme Court (motivated by decisions like Schechter). But beyond that, his economic meddling failed to accomplish his larger goal of ending the Depression. The “sick chicken case” thus became a useful précis of the argument that the New Deal’s reputation deserves to be more complicated than it is.

No wonder, then, that Amity Shlaes, a former editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, has made the brothers heroic figures in her book “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.” Her argument is somewhat more subtle than the usual critique from the right. She sees both Roosevelt and his Republican predecessor Herbert Hoover as inveterate economic tinkerers. Hoover, the engineer turned politician, never lost his instinct to fix things and, as a result, signed the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariff bill. His biggest sin, and Roosevelt’s, was a “lack of faith in the marketplace,” Shlaes writes. “From 1929 to 1940, from Hoover to Roosevelt, government intervention helped to make the Depression Great.”

Seems the neo-cons after all these years still can't accept that government intervention was necessary during this time of crisis, still adhering to the old "market approach." It was a good thing Bernanke and Paulson didn't think the same way. The book is nicely packaged, which tempted me until I started reading amazon reviews.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Bonus Army Invades Washington 1932


One of the more upsetting stories Schlesinger tells is of the Bonus Army marching on Washington to ask for early payment of their 1945 Bonus, which Congress refused to do. Police Chief Glassford was sympathetic to their cause, a former WWI General, but in the end Hoover called on MacArthur, who in turn had a young Ike clean up the mess, when the BEC refused to decamp.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stuart Chase

Stuart Chase comes across as one of the more interesting thinkers from the period Schlesinger explores in The Crisis of the Old Order. Nice article on him in the Harvard Magazine:

Chase’s growing influence had attracted the attention of Franklin D. Roosevelt ’04, then governor of New York. The men first met in 1931, shortly before the publication of Chase’s book A New Deal. FDR made use of its economic arguments and made a "new deal" the focal point of his 1932 speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination. Though not a Brains Truster, Chase later served in FDR’s "kitchen cabinet"; in 1937, the president told Chase’s father that his son was "teaching the American people more about economics than all the others combined." Others concurred: in 1942 a magazine writer noted, "[H]e perhaps more than any other one person has made economics interesting and understandable to everyday people like you and me."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Meander

Let's Do the Time Warp Again . . .

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Fight



Probably not many boxing fans in this forum, but Norman Mailer wrote a great book on The Fight. And, there is also a great documentary, When We Were Kings, on the Ali-Foreman fight that is well worth watching even if you are not a boxing fan, as it captures the three-ring circus that formed around the fight. Ali is one of the few fighters to truly transcend the sport, and Taschen lavished quite a monograph on him, simply entitled G.O.A.T. for those who want to plunk down 3000 euros.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meander with the Obama Family's Official Portrait

Whenever I get down about the country, I think how far we have come after the past eight years.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Real W.M.D.’s

Any new entry in the crowded field of books on the 1962 Cuban missile crisis must pass an immediate test: Is it just another recapitulation, or does it increase our net understanding of this seminal cold war event? By focusing on the activities of the American, Soviet and Cuban militaries during those tense October days, Michael Dobbs’s “One Minute to Midnight” passes this test with flying colors. The result is a book with sobering new information about the world’s only superpower nuclear confrontation — as well as contemporary relevance.
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From the NYT. In an era where we seem to stumble over our own shadows, the Cuban Missile Crisis still generates a lot of attention, as we really did stand on the brink of nuclear war. Kennedy's defining moment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Senator sees Obama making Nixon mistake

I guess all is fair in war and politics, but I think this is stretching it a little far,

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top U.S. Senate Republican invoked the memory of the scandal-marred Nixon administration on Wednesday to urge U.S. President Barack Obama: "Don't start an enemies list."

Senator Lamar Alexander told Reuters he sees the Obama White House adopting an attitude similar to that of the Richard Nixon White House four decades ago, that "everybody is against us and we are going to get them."

Comparing Obama's stance in regard to Fox News and the insurance industry to Nixon's "enemies list" is hyperbolic to say the least, but good ol' Lamar has that nice soft Tennessee accent, which makes him sound as if he might actually be non-partisan on the issue, when we all know which side of the his bread is buttered by inurance companies.

For the Survival of Democracy

In this ambitious work, Alonzo L. Hamby provides a comparative history focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler as charismatic leaders in a time of global crisis. Hamby's account will discomfort celebratory liberals and critical New Leftists, while showing conservatives why scholars perennially rank FDR among the top three U.S. presidents. Summarizing the First New Deal as "a humanitarian success, a political triumph, and an economic failure" (p. 147), Hamby revises how we look at FDR, the New Deal, and Democratic liberalism.

Answering the call for comparative history by John Garraty in "The New Deal, National Socialism, and the Great Depression" (American Historical Review 78 [October 1973]: 907–944) and The Great Depression (1986), Hamby asks why FDR's New Deal failed to bring economic recovery, while British Conservatives Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain and Nazi fuhrer Hitler achieved significant recovery by 1935. Historians remember FDR as a great liberal reformer, while we overlook or disdain the records of his conservative and fascist counterparts. Hamby places FDR and New Deal reform in international perspective, finding some striking similarities between FDR and Hitler, surprising comparisons of New Deal liberalism and British Tory socialism, and significant differences among the political cultures of the world's three leading national economies in the interwar years.
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I picked up this book a couple of years back which deals with Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Age of Roosevelt: The Crisis of the Old Order


A quarter of a century, however, is time enough to dispel some of the myths that have accumulated around the crisis of the early Thirties and the emergence of the New Deal. There is, for example, the myth that world conditions rather than domestic errors and extravagances were entirely responsible for the depression. There is the myth that the depression was already over, as a consequence of the ministrations of the Hoover Administration, and that it was the loss of confidence resulting from the election of Roosevelt that gave it new life. There is the myth that the roots of what was good in the New Deal were in the Hoover Administration - that Hoover had actually inaugurated the era of government responsibility for the health of the economy and the society. There is the contrasting myth (for myths do not require inner consistency) that the New Deal was alien in origins and in philosophy; that - as Mr. Hoover put it - its philosophy was "the same philosophy of government which has poisoned all Europe: the fumes of the witches' cauldron which boiled in Russia."

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. devotes a substantial part of the first book of his projected four volume "Age of Roosevelt" to dispelling these myths. This involves an inquiry into the origins of the New Deal practices and principles, an investigation of conditions - chiefly economic - in the Twenties and a thorough re-evaluation of the Hoover Administration.

One of the valuable features of this book is the emphasis the contributions of political theory by intellectuals, philosophers and scholars. It does not purport to be a history of ideas, but it is very much a history that addresses itself to ideas.

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I found Henry Steele Commager's 1957 review at NYTimes. Interesting to see what historians thought of the book at the time of its publication.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Wolverton Bible


My mind has been a bit scattered as of late, wrapped up in architectural projects, while engaging in silly political debates in the Melba forum. I was looking for some comic relief and came across Crumb's Book of Genesis and The Wolverton Bible while perusing amazon. It seems to me that religion does need to look at itself more humorously, getting off its high horse once in a while.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Woman of the Hour


WASHINGTON - Nobody knew for sure what Senator Olympia J. Snowe would do yesterday when the Finance Committee gathered to vote on its health care bill - not even Snowe.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rediscovering Columbus


I was trying to remember when Columbus Day (a.k.a Día de la Raza) was. According to wiki today is the day he made landfall on the Julian Calendar. It would be the 21st on the modern Gregorian Calendar. It is a holiday celebrated throughout the Americas, but I imagine with alot of mixed feelings in Latin American countries, especially among the indigenous population. Interesting to see that Chavez changed the name to Día de la Resistencia Indígena in Venezuela, commemorating Indigenous Resistance. I don't know how much native blood Chavez has in him but I guess it fits better with the socialist image he projects.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Passion for Nature


Worster frames his narrative in a surprising way, as an exemplary tale about the rise of liberal democracy. For authority he cites Alexis de Tocqueville’s "Democracy in America”: “In a seldom-noticed chapter of the book, Tocqueville noted that the liberal democratic revolution seemed to encourage a strong feeling for nature. Its philosophical tendency, he wrote, is to tear down the traditional doctrines of Christianity and put in their place a new religion of nature, or what he called ‘pantheism.’"
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I liked Worster's book on John Wesley Powell and he certainly seems like the writer to update our biographical understanding of John Muir, although the reviewer, John Wilson, said the book could be a bit dry at times.

The Little Red Box of Protest Songs


I'm looking forward to this wonderful collection of protest songs I ordered from amazon. Years ago I had found a little red book of protest songs at Left Bank Books in Seattle, which I gave to a friend who was a union organizer at the time.