Monthly Archives: August 2009

August 25, 2009, 4:47 pm


I can’t decide whether this is Kafkaesque or a lesson about investigating sources, but either way, if anyone wants to impersonate me, please let your scholarship be good.

August 25, 2009, 1:42 pm

Lies about the Church Committee.

After fielding yet another media call about the supposed “dismantling” of the CIA by the Church Committee, I feel moved to systematically address the neoconservative assumptions that dominate the current debate.  In 1975, staffers in the Gerald Ford White House, most notably chief of staff Dick Cheney, started an organized effort to spin the press coverage of Senator Frank Church’s investigation of the CIA.

The talking points of the Ford administration are now taken as gospel truth.  This is not just a matter of historical accuracy; it’s directly relevant to the current discussion.  Because if the Church Committee did destroy the CIA, then we can say that “history tells us” that all CIA investigations are inherently destructive and will endanger our safety.

So, let’s look at the record.  Right after Watergate, Senator Church’s Senate Select Committee to Investigate …

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August 25, 2009, 1:00 pm

Furloughs on Huffpough.

Joseph Palermo, who works very close to our own little corner of the Edge of the West:

There has been a profound lack of leadership…. Now the CSU administration has been finally forced to acknowledge that the latest round of devastating cuts will adversely affect the quality of education: “Cuts of this magnitude will naturally have consequences for the quality of the education we can provide,” a side letter to the furlough agreement states.

The California Faculty Association has stood and will continue to stand with students and their families. The record is clear. CFA has opposed every single increase in student fees whenever the issue has been raised in the Legislature. As a faculty organization we have consistently lobbied state legislators and the governor’s office to invest in California’s higher education. To that end we have voiced our strong support of Assembly Bill 656,…

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August 25, 2009, 1:20 am

Still running

On this day in 1975, Bruce Springsteen released Born to Run. The greatest rock and roll album ever produced by an American artist? Maybe not. But it certainly makes my top ten (though I like Nebraska even more). Anyway, let’s not fight about such things. The rendition above is from 1975, when Bruce was still a kid.

You’ll find a couple of more recent performances below the fold.


August 24, 2009, 10:59 pm


On this day in 1857, the New York branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company (OLITC) failed, an event often (dis)credited with starting the Panic of 1857. But of course the Panic didn’t really begin there; as with all major financial catastrophes the story is more complicated than it initially appears.


August 23, 2009, 3:56 pm

Justice too long delayed is justice denied

In the course of arguing that Congress should really do virtually nothing about health care, Joe Lieberman approvingly cites the Civil Rights movement as a model of incremental change. Why he believes it was a good thing that nearly a century passed before the federal government outlawed racial discrimination and provided meaningful substance to the Reconstruction Amendments, I won’t bother to speculate, but one would have to be a complete tool not to recognize that if a society is morally obligated to dismantle an exploitative and violent caste system, there’s no especially good reason to advocate that such change should take place “in steps.”

It’s another thing entirely to recognize that such changes did take place incrementally, though it’s worth pointing out that the legislation of 1964 and 1965 were dramatic and comprehensive by comparison with anything the previous ten decades…

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August 23, 2009, 3:43 pm

The f-word and U.

Furloughs, that is, and the University of California. As you know the state of California, despite having a majority of legislators who are willing to tax residents adequately to pay for services, requires a supermajority to put through any tax increase. So the legislature cannot vote a budget that will pay for the level of services the state government provides.

The state has therefore been furloughing employees to save money without laying people off. This means that, for example, if you need to go to the DMV, you must make sure you’re not planning to go on a furlough day—if you do, your friendly neighborhood DMV workers won’t be there.

The state university budgets react a little more slowly than the state government budgets, but come this fall furloughs will apply to the best public higher education in the world.

As Ari mentioned a while back, at the Athens of the Central…

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August 23, 2009, 12:49 pm


William Calley has, for the first time, apologized for his involvement in the My Lai massacre. Robert Farley wonders why the Kiwanis Club invited Calley to speak in the first place. That seems like the wrong question to me. I’m more interested in what prompted the man to apologize at this point in his life. As I understand it, he had spent years insisting that he was either: a) a good soldier for having carried out orders, or b) the victim for having carried out orders. I wonder if we’re finally getting far enough from the drama of Vietnam that the principal players can take stock of their performance. The other obvious example is Robert McNamara.

August 23, 2009, 10:54 am

Sunday morning Alice Neel


As relief from the grim tone of the page, with no pictures or conversations, here are some links to work by the great Alice Neel (1900-1984). A true Greenwich Village bohemian, she lived a life that (had I the time) would warrant an extensive post. Apparently her work was disparaged during the brief (and macho) hegemony of abstraction; and certainly she suffered for it, living at times on welfare. In 1934, her companion Kenneth Doolittle destroyed hundreds of her paintings “in a rage”. And yet she made an extraordinary body of work, from the 1920s into the 1980s. Her specialty was the portrait, but there are striking cityscapes and still lifes as well. Looking at the pictures, I’m perpetually surprised at how much variety she achieved with seemingly simple means — and in particular, what variety of expression and personality she could convey in the faces of her sitters.

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August 22, 2009, 5:07 pm

Civility as bubble

Atrios points us to this Times article, by Jennifer Steinhauer, on the foreclosure crisis in Moreno Valley, out by Redlands in the Inland Empire. It’s inhibited by conventions of the genre, and the interviews seem only to have gone so far, but it’s suggestive — it sketches a picture of the community that took root on one street during the boom years, and the strains that were put on it by the bust.

The neighborly virtues of mutual consideration and assistance seem, in this telling, to go hand in hand with wealth, or with the exclusion of those whose wealth isn’t above a certain bar. For the established residents, moving into this neighborhood, ten years ago, was a move up, and a move away from rougher neighborhoods (El Monte, for example). And as foreclosure pushes some of them out, and the prices of the vacated houses fall to 1989 levels, they seem to fear that rough neighbors like…

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August 22, 2009, 2:53 am

Liveblogging 1 Ramadan 1430

4:30: ow. It’s early.

August 21, 2009, 3:45 pm


Back in May, I wrote a post on Medals of Honor, and how the standards for awarding them seem to have changed. It was a quick look that focused particularly on how the de facto requirements for being given a Medal of Honor now, more and more, seem to include dying. In both Korea and Vietnam, more than 60% of Medals of Honor were posthumous, a dramatic shift from previously. As I said then:

The valor that garners a Medal of Honor has changed since the Civil War, when the award was first created. In fact, many of the ways that the Medal was previously given no longer hold. Perhaps the most obvious of these is that it is now extremely difficult–if not impossible–to get a Medal of Honor while surviving the acts of bravery.

We now have an interesting further case. (more…)

August 21, 2009, 12:57 pm

More for Yoo

Given past discussion here (and here and here) , I thought I’d at least mention that The Times has a forum up about whether Berkeley should fire John Yoo. For those of you who are too impatient to click a link, the answer is: procedural liberalism!

August 21, 2009, 11:17 am

Five-oh is five-oh.

I’m trying to think of an appropriate program, ceremony, or activity.

It is with great pride that our Nation commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Statehood for Hawaii. On August 21, 1959, we welcomed Hawaii into the United States ohana, or family. Unified under the rule of King Kamehameha the Great, it was Queen Lili’uokalani who witnessed the transition to a Provisional Government controlled by the United States. As a Nation, we honor the extensive and rich contributions of Native Hawaiian culture to our national character.

Borne out of volcanic activity in the Pacific Ocean, a chain of islands emerged that would bear witness to some of the most extraordinary events in world history. From Pu’ukohola Heiau and the royal residence at the `Iolani Palace, to the USS ARIZONA Memorial and luaus that pay tribute to Hawaiian traditions, Americans honor the islands’ collective legacy and a…

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August 20, 2009, 10:48 am

This Day in Actual Communist and Real Nazi History

On this day in 1940, an actual Communist leader, Leon Trotsky, was stabbed in the head with an ice pick by Ramón Mercader, who was himself not only an actual Communist, but an agent of Stalin, who awarded Mercader’s mother an Order of Lenin for her part in the plot.  Upon his release from prison in 1960, Mercader moved to an actual Communist country, Cuba, and then to another, the Soviet Union, whereupon his arrival he was awarded a Hero of the Soviet medal from the head of the KGB, Alexander Shelepin.

On this day in 1944, an actual Communist country, the Soviet Union, launched an offensive against a real Nazi country, Hitler’s Germany, over the fate of Romania, which would end the day either a real Nazi or actual Communist coutry, but not both, because real Nazism and actual Communism are such different beasts that Hitler’s Germany went to war against Stalin’s Soviet Union over whose…

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