Monthly Archives: May 2010

May 31, 2010, 9:54 pm

Let me tell you, it was wonderful, II.

May 31, 2010, 6:42 am

Memorial Day

On May 31, 1951, Rodolfo Hernandez of Colton, California, earned his salt:


Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company G, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. Place and date: Near Wontong-ni, Korea, 31 May 1951. Entered service at: Fowler, Calif. Born: 14 April 1931, Colton, Calif. G.O. No.: 40, 21 April 1962. Citation: Cpl. Hernandez, a member of Company G, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His platoon, in defensive positions on Hill 420, came under ruthless attack by a numerically superior and fanatical hostile force, accompanied by heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire which inflicted numerous casualties on the platoon. His comrades were forced to withdraw due to lack of ammunition but Cpl. Hernandez, although wounded in an exchange of grenades,…

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May 30, 2010, 8:15 am

Subtlety was ever his strong suit.

Some cutesy references are too heavy-handed even for Oliver Stone. In the early reports on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the villain was a character named—no, just read it for yourself:

The film will center on young Jacob Moore (Shia Labeouf) who acquires the assistance of former Wall Street mogul Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) — who happens to be the estranged father of his girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan) — in trying to bring down hedge fund manager Bretton Woods (Josh Brolin) who he blames for the suspicious death of of his mentor (Frank Langella).

In the currently reported version of the cast, this character’s name has changed to Bretton James.

Thanks to a colleague for the tip.

May 29, 2010, 1:50 pm

California: The experimental society.

Wallace Stegner famously said that California is like the rest of America, only more so.  But when did he say it, and in what context? Yesterday I tracked down the original quote, which appeared in an editorial Stegner wrote for a special Golden State edition of Saturday Review magazine in 1967.

The references to Max Rafferty, Ronald Reagan, and Gary Snyder may seem dated, but in many ways the essay describes the California we know today:

If the history of America is the history of an established culture painfully adapting itself to a new environment, and being constantly checked, confused, challenged, or overcome by new immigrations, then the history of California is American history in extremis.

Like the rest of America, California is unformed, innovative, ahistorical, hedonistic, acquisitive, and energetic – only more so.  Its version of the Good Life, its sports, pleasures, and …

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May 29, 2010, 11:46 am

A perfect day.

Sometimes this happens, out here in the west of the west, and you remember why people come, and stay.


May 28, 2010, 8:07 pm

On the mission of the public university. And the Unabomber.

I was extremely pleased to find today that the 1939 LaFollette committee hearings on free speech and the rights of labor, all seventy-something volumes, were printed, bound, and on the shelf in my library, and I could check out every single volume and take it home until June 2011.  Which got me thinking about public universities, public libraries, and their accessibility to the public, even the Unabomber.

Everyone in Davis knows the Unabomber allegedly used our university library to, um, write his 1995 manifesto.*  The manifesto liberally borrowed from a book by a San Francisco stevedore-cum-philosopher named Eric Hoffer – and I mean “borrowed” in the sense of “if a student did this, she would be referred to Student Judicial Affairs.”   When newspapers published the Unabomber’s manifesto, a UC Davis student noticed that several sections matched underlined passages in the…

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May 28, 2010, 4:55 pm

Using an exploding cigar.

The CIA wanted to discredit Saddam, the known genocidal tyrant, by distributing a video putatively showing him having sex with boys. Did the Church committee hearings teach us absolutely nothing?

May 27, 2010, 10:16 am

Still kicking.

It’s nice that when one’s book is seven years old, it’s still on the top of some people’s minds (and lists). I’d like for there to be a tenth anniversary edition, come to that. Come on, stay in print!

May 26, 2010, 3:33 pm

Let's hope this "top kill" works

Via Steve Benen, an awesome or rather horrific photo-set of the oil’s arrival on the Louisiana coast.

We hear about fears of its effects on the American Gulf coast, and of what might happen as it moves out into the Atlantic — but has there been much discussion of its effects on other Caribbean countries? This map, for instance, shows that it’s expected to move past Havana and the north coast of Cuba.

Update 5/27: optimistic reports.

May 26, 2010, 8:09 am

The Kingfish, the Lizard, the stripper-dater, Kenneth the Page, Mr. Sunshine….

This seems too good to let languish in comments: is Louisiana not home to the most awesome governors ever? In Florida we had Walkin’ Lawton “the he-coon walks at the break of day” Chiles, but he was kind of actually awesome, and not a patch on these guys.

May 25, 2010, 9:16 am

The middle, against the world.

H.R. 3314, “to provide for the participation of the United States in the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development,” better known as the Bretton Woods Agreements Act, passed the 79th House on June 7, 1945, by a vote of 345-18, and the Senate on July 19, by a vote of 61-16, and was signed into law by Harry Truman on July 31, becoming Public Law 171, cited at 59 Stat. 512.

May 24, 2010, 9:05 pm

The Edge of the American West South.

We live in Mississippi. Or so Paramount Studios thought in 1927.

Well, on some measures we’re very close.

May 24, 2010, 10:19 am

More AuH2O.

A nice passage from Conscience of a Conservative:

A civil right is a right that is asserted and therefore protected by some valid law…. There may be some rights—“natural,” “human,” or otherwise—that should also be civil rights. But if we desire to give such rights the protection of the law, our recourse is to a legislature or to the amendment procedures of the Constitution. We must not look to politicians, or sociologists—or the courts—to correct the deficiency.

So much genius here; for example, the word “valid” just sitting there in that first sentence. But the real marvel is the assertion that if we want to change the law we have to go to the legislature or amend the Constitution, not to politicians. Of course, how you go to the legislature or amend the Constitution without going to politicians is left as an exercise for the reader.

May 24, 2010, 4:58 am

Pity the historian who studies our time.

The State Department has adopted wiki software to create Diplopedia, a constantly evolving briefing tool for its officers. So much for the Foreign Relations of the United States. I don’t know which appeals less: trawling through endless revisions of a Diplopedia article, or trying to do research in the Twitter archive.

May 23, 2010, 6:54 am

All you need.

In comments andrew patiently reminds us he has previously pointed to Andrew Cayton’s lament that historians “leave the world of emotion to novelists, poets, and filmmakers.”1 While this is perhaps true, it is not only historians who have made this shift to bloodlessness. This discussion began with an example from the 1960s. Here are a few more, which I use in lectures.