Saturday, February 27, 2010

Everyone Seems to Love a "Good War"


Looks like an interesting new book due out in April.  Too bad amazon doesn't provide links to the book reviews quoted on the page, because I would like to read what Meacham and Isaacson have to say about the book.  Should give an ideological framework to the Spanish-America War.

A Green Meander

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Religion in America


Seeing the anniversary of Mel Gibson's Passion brought to mind Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy which tells of the pervasive influence of religion in American politics.  I read it a few years back and thought Phillips did a good job of showing the symbiotic relationship that has long existed between religion and politics, but I think he focused a little too heavily on the conservative side and didn't deal with historical progressive movements like that which William Jennings Bryan led.  Religion could also be said to have played a major role in abolitionism and in the Civil Rights movement.

Religion cuts both ways in American society, but in recent decades it does seem that the Conservatives have gained the upper hand in this regard.  It was interesting to see Obama make a strong play for the Evangelical vote last year, and he made significant inroads into the younger Evangelical vote, which historically has been a major part of the Democratic Party.

Curious if others have found better books that discuss Religion in America within a broader context?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Time to get out of Gitmo


Here we are well into the second month of February and Gitmo remains an albatross around the American neck.  I can well imagine it is no easy matter closing down this infamous detention facility, but more than that I think the US needs to end its lease on this territory and hand it back over to Cuba.  As this day in history notes, the lease dates back to the Spanish-American War, which in many ways was as bogus a war as have been these last two wars we still find ourselves enmeshed in the name of "national security."

Maybe a reading of the Spanish-American War, in particular the battles waged in Cuba, would be interesting.  Any good books?

Monday, February 22, 2010

How the West Was Bought


 Here's the NYT book review to A Wilderness So Immense:

Jon Kukla's exuberant book, A Wilderness So Immense, is not about the wilderness that extended west of the Mississippi to the Rockies and only briefly about the Louisiana Purchase. Instead, Kukla, the director of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, recounts the colorful story of the long and complicated struggles in the 1780's and 90's for unimpeded use of the river and its southernmost port. The Louisiana Purchase itself was merely the unexpected coda to two decades of painstaking -- and fascinating -- negotiations.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Revolutionary Brotherhood


This looks like one of the better books on early Freemasonry in Ameirca, covering the years 1730-1840,

In the first comprehensive history of the fraternity known to outsiders primarily for its secrecy and rituals, Steven Bullock traces Freemasonry through its first century in America. He follows the order from its origins in Britain and its introduction into North America in the 1730s to its near-destruction by a massive anti-Masonic movement almost a century later and its subsequent reconfiguration into the brotherhood we know today. With a membership that included Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Paul Revere, and Andrew Jackson, Freemasonry is fascinating in its own right, but Bullock also places the movement at the center of the transformation of American society and culture from the colonial era to the rise of Jacksonian democracy.

You can find less expensive copies through amazon.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Scouting is Great Fun


BSA has stubbed its toes a few times in recent years, but as a former boy scout myself I can say it was great fun and I wish there was something like it here in Lithuania for my son, who spends way too much time in front of the computer.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter in Washington Meander

Take your tea and shove it


I guess one can say a indelible streak of rebellion runs through American history, and it has certainly been invoked many times in an effort to rally citizens behind a cause or an ideal, but this latest group to invoke the Boston Tea Party seems to have revealed themselves as the charlatans and frauds that they are.  By many accounts, the National Tea Party Convention appears will become the fodder for late night talk show hosts for days and maybe even weeks to come.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who's Afraid of the Atomic Bomb?


In Crisis and Command, his sweeping history of presidential prerogatives, John Yoo argues that national security crises inevitably ratchet up the power of the president at the expense of Congress. “War acts on executive power as an accelerant,” he writes, “causing it to burn hotter, brighter and swifter.” In Bomb Power, Garry Wills argues much the same thing, adding that the advent of atomic weapons has made this concentration of power in the White House even greater. “The executive power increased decade by decade,” he writes, “reaching a new high in the 21st century — a continuous story of uni­directional increase.” Where the two authors disagree is on whether this trend should be celebrated or denounced. Yoo finds increased executive power appealing and in accord with the Constitution. Wills finds it appalling and a constitutional travesty.

From The New York Times

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Civilian Conservation Corps



Good documentary on the Civilian Conservation Corps at American Experience.  Nice that PBS lets us foreigners watch these programs on line.  I added the link to "Other Sites."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Madison at Montpelier



Nice site on Madison and Montpelier.  Lots of links embedded within the texts.  Alas, Madison is not one of those historical figures you can cozy up to.  One more respects him for his accomplishments.