Monthly Archives: March 2008

March 31, 2008, 3:40 pm

Are we all progressives now?

So long as I’m debriefing myself about the OAH panel on this blog, let me put up my answer to the “nomenclature question”—i.e., “progressive” or “liberal.” I said (and I paraphrase myself from memory) that while as a citizen I understand the practical reason for avoiding the “l-word,” as a historian I’m not that keen on the use of the word “progressive.” Because as I understand it, I said, both wings of our modern political family descend from the progressives of the early twentieth century.

Basically, some progressive reforms addressed the ills of modernity by trying to make Americans into a better people—prohibition, immigration restriction, eugenics and so forth, and their descendants are modern conservative measures. Other progressive reforms addressed the ills of modernity by taking people more or less as they are, but by trying to dicker with the system that governed them…

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March 31, 2008, 11:00 am

Are Americans liberal?

There is a school of historians and other scholars who maintain that we are, as a people, basically conservative. The story goes something like this: liberals are crazy social engineers who will make you tolerate all kinds of weird people—even gay ones!—and real America—which is, generally, construed as meaning white working class people—do not like you effete liberals doing that. As if shifts in sexual attitudes did not result from a massive cultural sea change, and instead happened because liberals starting sneaking condoms into school lunches.

I am willing to credit that conservative working-class people exist. But I do not believe they are the bedrock source of modern Republicanism nor, despite a kind of casual identification of white working-class people with “real America,” do I believe they represent America.

Why do I express doubt on these points?

(a) Poorer…

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March 31, 2008, 12:02 am

It’s Time for A New and Improved CCC

[Editor's Note: Neil Maher, author of this particularly awesome book, joins us today. Neil's the tallest historian I know. He's also an excellent surfer and a very handsome lad. And on top of all that, he's a really great guy. What a jerk.]

Seventy-five years ago today Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to create the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of the New Deal’s most popular programs. In his address to Congress, Roosevelt was obviously concerned with the twenty-five percent unemployment rate then gripping the nation. Yet a second crisis also worried the President. Noting severe flooding occurring along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, due in large part to deforestation along their banks, Roosevelt warned Congress that the country faced an environmental emergency as well. To combat simultaneously both crises — one economic, the other environmental — FDR called for the …

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March 31, 2008, 12:01 am

YouTube Monday — James Baldwin again

“What a writer is obliged at some point to realize, is that he is involved in a language which he has to change. For example, for a black writer, especially in this country, to be born into the English language is to realize that the assumptions of the language, the assumptions on which the language operates, are his enemy.”

March 30, 2008, 8:08 am

"You can't just come to a Civil War reenactment dressed like General Lee, fatass."

The South will rise again?

Via Kevin.

March 29, 2008, 9:00 am

Does liberalism have a usable past?

Here’s what I wrote down to say at the OAH. I’m posting it to go up at around the time of the panel, so I don’t know right now whether it’s what I’ll actually say (oh the verb-tense issues). But if you’re interested and you somehow didn’t manage to make the panel, read on.


March 29, 2008, 12:22 am

Analogies are dangerous.

Ian Buruma is a pretty smart guy. Or so I’m told. But this is a great example of the hazards facing an author who’s writing about something in his own field, in this case human rights in Tibet, and analogizing to something he apparently knows nothing about, contemporary Native American culture. Judge for yourself:

Are the Tibetans doomed to go the way of the American Indians? Will they be reduced to being little more than a tourist attraction, peddling cheap mementos of what was once a great culture? In Tibet itself, that sad fate is looking more and more likely. And the Olympic year is already soured by the way the Chinese government is trying to suppress resistance…

I know what he was after there: a hook, a lede to draw in readers. Which is fine, admirable even. But it would be tough to craft a more insulting sentence than the second one in the graf above. Buruma…

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March 28, 2008, 10:22 pm

Glorieta Pass — The Conclusion

If you’ll remember back to where we left our story on Wednesday, John Milton Chivington had performed admirably, if somewhat controversially, at Glorieta Pass. And he had been promoted for his trouble. Still, he wasn’t satisfied with the rank of colonel; he had his eye on a “brigadiership.” It wasn’t going to happen. There wouldn’t be any more significant Civil War engagements in the Rocky Mountain region, leaving Chivington frustrated by inactivity. But not all was bleak. He had secured for himself an excellent reputation: as a man of God, a man of courage, a man of action. And his good name was a kind of currency, especially in Colorado territory, where, absent an established community, the social hierarchy remained relatively fluid. Chivington, though still a newcomer, could rub elbows with the territorial governor, setting himself up for a bright future. Or so Chivington…

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March 28, 2008, 12:01 am

The Jew is using the Bitch as muscle (redux).

Jewcy (still a silly name) has posted the finale, “Electoral Dog Whistles Are Giving Me A Headache,” of Tedra Osell’s (aka Bitch, Phd) conversation with Courtney Martin and Wendy Shanker about the Democratic primary. Tedra’s post, which must have been written some time ago, reads as eerily prescient. See for yourself.

March 27, 2008, 2:00 pm

"Change something."

The distinguished economic historian Peter Lindert, who before his retirement had the office next to mine and who was a great good scholarly neighbor to me, tendered me the following after a session of explaining certain concepts to me. I thought I would share it with you all. If you don’t like it please blame Megan.


March 27, 2008, 12:52 pm

Great Moments in White Victimization: Johnson Vetoes the Civil Rights Act of 1866


On this day in 1866, President Andrew Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act, a piece of legislation that moderates in Congress had drafted to combat the notorious Black Codes. According to Eric Foner, the Civil Rights Act of 1866:


March 27, 2008, 9:32 am

Barack Obama: Still Good for the Jews

Ezra Klein points to this fascinating article by Gershom Gorenberg (who has an awesome blog). Gorenberg argues that the Clinton camp’s effort to slime Barack Obama by tarring one of his advisors, Robert Malley, as an anti-Semite is misguided on several levels, the most significant being that Malley isn’t actually an anti-Semite.


March 26, 2008, 10:59 pm

Richard Mellon Scaife: As Bad as the Kansas-Nebraska Act? Or the Fugitive Slave Act?

Perhaps. It’s probably too soon to tell for sure. Still, bear with me while I explain.


March 26, 2008, 10:58 pm

What's above the fold? 3/27/08

More on the library kickback case; US outsourced Afghan munitions supply to “a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur” (from NYT); California snowpack average but restrictions on water export mean “an estimated 25 million Californians” south of the Delta may be drier than they’d like (25m is about 2/3 of Californians, btw); governor says illegal immigration has nothing to do with state’s budget deficit (no, it wasn’t praeteritio; he was asked).

Lifestyle corner has correlation between midlife belly fat and old-age dementia.

March 26, 2008, 9:23 am

Glorieta Pass — A Serial

By Civil War standards, the Battle of Glorieta Pass, which began on this day in 1862 and took place in what today is the state of New Mexico, was of only middling significance. A Union victory, the battle ended a Confederate invasion of the Rocky Mountain region and put to rest Confederate plans to control a vast swath of the Southwest. For this reason, some historians call Glorieta Pass the Gettysburg of the West. These historians, no offence to them or their loved ones, are begging to be mocked. Roughly 250 soldiers were killed or wounded at Glorieta Pass — compared to the approximately 24,000 casualties at Shiloh, less than a month later, or 46,000 at the Gettysburg of the East, the following summer. And the invasion was always something of a long shot.