Monthly Archives: January 2010

January 21, 2010, 11:10 am

Just when I thought I was out…

I hadn’t planned to say anything about the fate of health care reform until at least the beginning of next week, as I have the sense that it’s impossible to know where things stand right now. Also, I’m completely exhausted by the whole story.

That said, I’m one of those spineless liberals who believes that the House needs to pass the Senate bill — or else. And if you agree, I think kevin is right: it’s time to call your congressional representative. Which is what I just did a minute ago.

And having just gotten off the phone with Congressman Mike Thompson’s office, I have no idea what to say. The person who initially fielded my call explained that the congressman “doesn’t yet know if he’ll vote for the Senate health care bill.” “Um, really?” I said. “Didn’t the House Democratic caucus meet this morning on this very question?” “Yes, but we’re waiting to hear from leadership…

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January 20, 2010, 1:55 pm

Shrill redux.


The day Obama got elected, Ari and I talked about his plans for office. There was EFCA and civil liberties and closure of Guantanamo and financial regulation and a properly Keynesian New Deal and an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ponies and unicorns.

And I said, “Dude”—in my usually articulate way—“dude, if he can get me healthcare, all that other stuff can slide.”

So, that’s our bumper sticker up there, from summer 2008. It’s not as if we didn’t see this coming. But I mean to say, is there no spine? is there no message discipline?

We are, a smart man once said, “at a breaking point.” We are, that smart man said, “We are the only advanced democracy on Earth – the only wealthy nation – that allows such hardships for millions of its people.”

And, that smart man added,

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for…

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January 20, 2010, 12:01 am

Really, you’re coming to us for advice?

A reader writes in with a rather depressing scenario and a question [editor's note: what follows has been edited to protect the innocent/add a sex scene for SEK]:

There are a number of folks here, young scholars and aging grad students like myself who are trying to figure out the ramifications of a difficult situation so I thought I’d ask.

Here’s the deal: our American Studies [editor's note: at a venerable and outstanding public institution located in the center of the country, "the heartland"] department has been recommended for closure by an “independent task force”. We’re appealing of course, but in a climate where they’ve already added student fees and slashed TA positions right and left, I’m dubious about our prospects. Part of the reason I’m dubious is that some of the problems cited in the evaluation are indeed real problems [editor’s note: including declining applications…

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January 19, 2010, 2:18 pm

My foos still won’t moos.

In the 12/18/2009 NB column in the TLS, we find the following presumably real-live riff on “Humiliation”:

In 2003, Sebastian D. G. Knowles looked at himself in the mirror: he was the author of a study of James Joyce; he was Professor of English at Ohio State University (specializing in Joyce). He had attended dozens of Joyce conferences. But he had never read Finnegans Wake. “Worse, I had never even tried to”, Professor Knowles writes in the current James Joyce Quarterly. Guilt-ridden, he decided to confess his failing in a song to be sung at the after-dinner entertainment at a Joyce conference in Miami:

January 18, 2010, 12:59 pm

Talk about the adjustable peg, man!

“Theoretically, Bretton Woods is an international pool of the goodwill of nations subscribing to the agreement.”

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.916920&w=425&h=350&]

Which translates roughly as, “Nobody on the news desk here knows what the hell it is.”

For an oldie (from four years ago! the Internet is no longer young!) on what Bretton Woods was about, see below, originally from here.


January 18, 2010, 12:01 am

MLK day.

Because a couple of people have asked me to, I’m re-posting a link to this. And yes, I know that I was a much better blogger when I put more time into it. Thanks for mentioning it. Anyway, the text of the post is below the fold. Happy MLK Day.


January 17, 2010, 3:00 pm

Only Daddy talks like that, kids.

Kevin Drum says he’s adopting Sir Rex Richard Mottram’s extended conjugation as his personal mantra:

We’re all f*cked. I’m f*cked. You’re f*cked. The whole department is f*cked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely f*cked.

Which reminds me of what I believe Walter LaFeber said was Brooks Adams’s shaving song: the phrase “God-damn” repeated to the melody of the Westminster chimes. I mean, it probably is too much to ask that one’s fatalism be cheerful, but musical seems a reasonable request.

January 17, 2010, 1:00 am

Military History Carnival

Welcome to the January 17, 2010 edition of the Military History Carnival, a roundup of the best recent military history from around the web. This is the first time that H-War and Edge of the American West have co-hosted. Today’s edition ranges widely, from the Ottoman Empire to the Atomic Bomb to the American Civil War.

Pre-19th Century

Scott Manning presents Joan of Arc’s Military Successes and Failures posted at Digital Survivors.

Jason presents 1683: Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha, for the Battle of Vienna posted at Executed Today.

19th Century

Tim Abbott presents Is the Richard Kirkland Story True? posted at Civil War Memory, saying, “A superb guest post at Kevin Levin’s Civil War memory by Michael Schaffner”

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January 16, 2010, 2:10 pm

Actually Useful Powerpoint

Still too busy, but this at least gives some helpful information about Afghanistan:

From Major General Michael T. Flynn’s evaluation of American intelligence efforts in Afghanistan.

January 15, 2010, 10:35 am

As the sinews and other ligaments of a natural body.

In the latest issue of Dissent one can find (in addition to this fine article) this one by Michael Tomasky on television:

Jean Baudrillard turns out to have had it wrong: I say television creates real communities. Friday Night Lights is no false simulacrum. It’s practically as real as real life—a show about high-school football that’s also about race and class and physical handicap and angst and sex (fraught sex between teenagers, mature sex between their parents) and why people fear things they don’t know. When I watch it, and know that millions of others are—and when I visit its Web site or read chat rooms devoted to the show—I become a part of something.

I think Tomasky’s broad point is correct, though I prefer my virtual television-inspired community at an ironic remove—I never visit a show’s website, but I will go to its Television Without Pity site.

But I want to a…

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January 14, 2010, 2:13 pm

If I had to give young scholars advice, I would say don’t listen to scholars talking about scholarship or themselves.*

If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Or maybe we don’t. But you can still try. Send your queries, serious or otherwise, to edgeoftheamericanwest AT geemail DOT com, and we’ll do our best to give you absolutely ridiculous answers.

* Adapted from Lillian Hellman.

January 14, 2010, 11:05 am

Discipline and punish.

A reader writes in to ask what I do about students who talk during my lectures. It’s a good question, as the problem seems to be getting worse the longer I teach. Whether I’m getting more boring (likely), my students are getting more unruly (perhaps), or the classroom culture is becoming more and more like the comments section of Matthew Yglesias’s blog (I doubt it, but maybe), I don’t really know.

As for the question, at the beginning of every quarter I talk to my students about my expectations of them, including my desire that they not talk during lecture. Honestly, I no longer care if they sleep, read, or surf the web. So long as they don’t keep other people in the class from listening to me and maybe learning (I can dream, right?), and so long as they’re somewhat respectful of me, we’re cool. Which is to say, I prefer that they not snore loudly while sleeping or make a big…

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January 13, 2010, 7:28 pm

On doing without.

Roger Ebert writes about nourishment without eating and making out without having sex. (Briefly: the former he endures; the latter he adores.)

In the hands of a writer sick with ambition, these subjects might have become the occasion for a meditation on the virtues of discipline; for a writer poisoned by sentiment, they might have become treacly elegy. But Ebert seems these days just to be writing because he really wants to tell you how it is, and it’s very good writing indeed.1

1Which is not to say that I’ve never felt misled by his movie criticism. Not to go too deeply into things, but I would leap to play the dour Siskel to his thumbs up for Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Synecdoche, New York.

January 13, 2010, 7:06 am

Once Upon A Midnight…

On my return from San Diego and another American Historical Association Convention, I received the following in the mail:


What “quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore” was this? And how would I know if it was good or not? Then I spied the supreme endorsement on its back:



January 13, 2010, 6:50 am

Given this economy, perhaps we should get counseling.

From the web edition of Jobs for Philosophers, put out by the American Philosophical Association:

306. SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE OF CALIFORNIA, MORAGA, CA. POSTDOCTORAL RESIDENT, COUNSELING CENTER. Saint Mary’s College of California – Moraga, CA. For the 2010-2011 academic year. The Residency requires a 9.5 month, 5 day per week commitment in order to meet California licensing requirements of 1500 hours supervised postdoctoral experience. Qualifications: Psy.D, Ph. D. in Clinical/Counseling Psychology. College/University Counseling Center experience at practicum and/or internship level (desired). Fluency in Spanish (desired). Salary and benefits are competitive and subject to the availability of funding sources. Complete details are available at Preferred deadline is 01/18/10. Open until filled. EOE. (184W), posted 1/11/10

Yes, that…

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