February 23, 2012, 11:32 am
We are fortunate to have a guest post today from Robin Averbeck. Ms. Averbeck is a doctoral candidate working on the community action programs of the Lyndon Johnson administration, and has some insights appropriate to the current interest in Charles Murray’s new book and the idea of a culture of poverty. It’s always a privilege to work with a student whose research is interesting on its own terms and also engages current events in an intriguing way.
In the winter of 1963, the sociologist Charles Lebeaux argued that poverty, rather than merely a lack of money, was in fact the result of several complex, interrelated causes. “Poverty is not simply a matter of deficient income,” Lebeaux explained. “It involves a reinforcing pattern of restricted opportunities, deficient community services, abnormal social pressures and predators, and defensive adaptations. Increased income alone is…
December 1, 2011, 7:25 pm
[Editor's Note: Bob Reinhardt, a PhD candidate in our department, submitted this TDIH before the late unpleasantness on our campus. He then asked if I would hold off on posting for a bit. Well, a bit has passed, and it's time to talk about smallpox. Really, though, when isn't it the right time to talk about smallpox? Thanksgiving dinner, I suppose. Anyway, thanks, Bob, for doing this.]
On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared all-out war on a universally despised enemy. The announcement didn’t concern Vietnam — Johnson had escalated that police action months before — nor poverty, against which the US had allegedly been fighting an “unconditional war.” This particular declaration targeted a different enemy, older and perhaps more loathsome than any ideological or socioeconomic affliction: smallpox. As the White House Press Release explained, the US…
December 23, 2009, 1:00 am
This is a guest post by our friend andrew, over by the wayside. Many thanks!
(Image from W.H. Michael, The Declaration of Independence, Washington, 1904)
On this day in 1941, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were taken out of their exhibit cases at the Library of Congress, carefully wrapped in acid-free and neutral packing materials, and placed inside a bronze container designed especially to carry them. When the packing was complete, the “top of the container was screwed tight over a cork gasket and locked with padlocks on each side.”*
The documents remained in this state for the next few days, until the Attorney General ruled on December 26th that the Librarian of Congress could “without further authority from the Congress or the President take such action as he deems necessary for the proper protection and preservation of these documents.” At which point the…
August 12, 2009, 11:43 am
[Editor's note: Our friend Michael Elliot sends along the following request for help. And yes, at some point I really should respond to the Wilentz essay linked below. You know what else I really should do? Post a review of Nixonland.]
Like any self-respecting parent, my main goal is to
indoctrinate educate my children so that they can share my own nuanced take on the world. My second goal is to avoid having to read the insipid dreck that passes for children’s literature at bedtime. For these reasons, I’m looking to pick up some books that will shove my five-year-old down the path toward becoming an American historian. (After reading Sean Wilentz, God knows I don’t want him to become a literary scholar.) So, any recommendations on books about U.S. history for the kindergarten set?
For the record, I’ve recently tried out a couple of short picture-books on Lincoln. My so…
July 27, 2009, 9:27 am
Commenter Charlieford wants to put this to the EotAW community.
Last week I read a blog entry by a friend slamming Obama for, among other things, being our TOTUS, “Teleprompter of the United States.” He was offended by Obama’s use of a script (apparently) during his televised tribute to Walter Cronkite. Like a lot of conservatives, he was quick to pile on the criticisms—the delivery was cold and emotionless, not “from the heart,” the speech may not even have been written by Obama, and it included “large words embedded into the speech to ensure that only half of the Americans who heard the speech would understand it.”
That last one didn’t sound at all right and I went back and re-listened to the speech. I didn’t notice anything egregiously arcane or overly sophisticated in his vocabulary. I asked the author what had offended him in that regard, and he didn’t…
June 25, 2009, 6:37 pm
[Editor's Note: When Jacob Remes isn't using his superpowers to fight crime, he toils as a PhD candidate in history at Duke University, where he's writing a dissertation about the Salem Fire and the Halifax explosion. You can find more information here. And if you'd like to write a TDIH, please let me know.]
The workers at Korn Leather Company in Salem, Mass., made embossed patent leather by coating leather with a solution made of scrap celluloid film, alcohol, and amyl-acetate, and then applying steam heat. On this day in 1914, at about 1:30 in the afternoon, something went terribly wrong, and—perhaps not surprisingly given the flammable nature of the work—the whole rickety structure caught fire. Half an hour later, the fire had spread to fifteen more buildings, forcing 300 workers to flee. By 7:00 that evening, the fire crossed into the Point, a tightly packed neighborhood…
May 29, 2009, 2:53 pm
Louis Warren once again helps us understand the historical roots of California’s current crisis. Thanks, Louis.
California’s crisis is such that the number one manufacturing and farming state is unable to sell its bonds. As I explained in my last post, this condition stems in part from constitutional requirements of the supermajority.
Some commentators on the right prefer a different explanation. This is the useful canard that California is congenitally left, and that liberal policies lead inevitably to financial collapse.
To be sure, the left is not blameless in this debacle. But much of California’s political upheaval of the last decade and a half has been driven by the collapse of the state’s once-formidable Republican Party. Alarmingly, national Republicans now seem to follow their lead. Progressives may think this cause for celebration – - but if the Republican…
May 21, 2009, 6:20 pm
[Editor's note: Louis Warren, our colleague and friend, returns to write about why you should care that California has decided to self immolate.]
[Editor's note II: This post has been updated to reflect author's changes.]
While the scolding and the tut-tutting goes viral — “California, such a shame those weird, flaky people can’t live within their means” — it’s time for some serious reflection about how the nation’s richest, most populous state got where it is. California, home to one in eight Americans, has a GDP bigger than Canada’s. And it’s in the middle of an on-going fiscal calamity which threatens to rip our legislature apart (again). This week, the governor went to the White House to beg for federal backing of state bonds, a move which threatens to make California’s predicament a national drama.
So, whatever the solutions to California’s problems, re…
May 8, 2009, 10:25 am
[Editor's note: Seth Masket, a good friend from my days at the University of Denver, has a new book out. He also has this post, about California's budget politics, for us. Thanks, Seth, for doing this.]
During a difficult economic year in which the state faced a severe budget shortfall, California’s Republican governor worked with Democratic leaders in the state legislature to craft a budget that contained a mixture of tax increases and service cuts. The Republican party stood together on the vote, with the exception of one holdout in the Senate.
Sound familiar? Actually, the year was 1967. Many of the story’s details are familiar because they recur from time to time in California. The real difference, though is the fate of the Republican state senator who refused to vote with his party. Instead of being driven out of politics, John Schmitz was renominated by the Republicans and…
May 6, 2009, 11:57 am
[Editor's note: Michael Elliot returns! Thanks, Michael, doing this.]
While I was a graduate student, I went to a meeting during which the Director of Graduate Studies was asked about the department’s “placement rate.” The DGS wanted to emphasize the positive, and so he stated that it was nearly one hundred percent: Everyone who had kept looking for a tenure-track position and not given up, he said, eventually found one.
Even I could see the fallacy of the argument: after two or three or four tries at landing a tenure-track professorship, most PhDs will find other kinds of paying work because, well, they need to be paid. (I didn’t bother to ask how such a badly managed department was actually keeping records to document this miraculous job placement.) I thought about this exchange when, in response to Mark Taylor’s antiestablishment polemic, Sunday’s New York Times…
April 27, 2009, 10:46 am
[Editor's note: Our good friend, awc, elaborating on this comment, sends along the following from the far eastern edge of the American West. Thanks, awc.]
Politico’s recent feature on Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man is an example of one of my pet peeves: the evaluation of economic policy in terms of statistical factors like growth, the stock market, and unemployment rather than systemic qualities like equality. The piece discusses the popularity of the book among D.C. conservatives, briefing mentioning Professors Rauchway and Krugman, who have skillfully defended the efficacy of New Deal recovery policies. When Shlaes responds that she intended the book to question the ethics of the New Deal, not just its utility, Politico simply drops the pretense of debate. They ask neither scholars nor ordinary folks to evaluate her celebration of the poor beleaguered corporation. The…
April 24, 2009, 1:21 pm
[Editor's Note: Adam Arenson (bio below), a friend and occasional commenter here, has graciously provided us with a guest post. Thanks, Adam, for doing this.]
Quick: What does your bank look like?
I admit it; I don’t know either. There are glassed-in tellers. There’s a metallic sheen off the ATMs. Some peppy posters promoting savings plans for dream retirements. But it all adds up to a rather anonymous décor. More than once the names and the colors have changed, and I hardly noticed.
But there are banks I remember. Growing up in San Diego, I recall the grand lobbies of the Home Savings banks, some with gurgling fountains and sculptures. They had parking lots, and wide arches framed the entrances. Most spectacular were the mosaics: thousands of little tiles arranged to show carefree beach scenes, vaqueros from the Californio past, Victorian ladies in their bonnets, Chinese …
January 19, 2009, 3:59 pm
[Editor's Note: Professor Lori Clune returns today for another guest post here at EotAW. Thanks, Lori, for your help with this.]
On this night in 1953, 71.7% of American televisions were tuned to CBS as Ricky and Lucy gave birth to their son, Little Ricky, on I Love Lucy. Well, actually Lucy did all the work off-screen. As many of us recall (thanks to endless reruns) Ricky spent much of the episode in outrageous voodoo face makeup for a show at his club, the Tropicana. From Lucy’s calm statement, “Ricky, this is it,” to the nurse holding up the swaddled bundle, the viewer saw no drugs, pain, or mess. Heck, we weren’t even sure how Lucy came to be “expecting” (CBS nixed saying “pregnant”), what with their two twin beds and all. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez) — also married in real life — had welcomed their second child, also a boy, via…
January 9, 2009, 3:54 pm
(This isn’t a guest post by nobody’s friend, Ben Shaprio. This is just a tribute. Via S, N!)
I first got into HBO’s hit television program The Wired about two years ago. A stranger mentioned it to the person in front of him at the 700 Club cafeteria, and by the time I finished the first episode, I knew I would be telling people I was completely hooked. (This, by the way, is my Recruitment Rule for The Wired: watch the first four minutes. If you don’t like it by then, dump out.) I am so excited by my enthusiasm for the show, in fact, that I often tout the first episode of The Wired as the best show in the history of television. I don’t simply love this episode for its terrific acting, wonderful writing, quirkly plotting, or mind-boggling twists. I also love it because of its subtle conservatism. Here are the top five conservative characters on the first episode of The Wired….