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RALPH LUKER: ON THE PLEASURE OF BEING REVISED ... 12-20-03
Happy Chanukka to all of those who celebrate it. As for me, imagine a technically inept academic caught in a tangle of Christmas lights and reaching for his keyboard as a desperate act of self-liberation. I grew up in a rather traditional German-American family which allowed no tree in the house before Christmas Eve and it promptly came down on New Year's Day. All the technical and logistical problems get crammed into a short span. Don't even ask about the family crises when I haven't been able to make the bloody tree stand up for a whole week.
Over at Easily Distracted, Tim Burke expands on his thoughts about"The Return of the King" with a second essay about genre and the problem of what I would call"disciplinary discipleship." Odd that I'd never thought how those two words had the same root. Followers of the same discipline would be disciples, but Burke sees the problem in thinking and working that way. Sure, we need to learn from the learned in apprenticeship, but a follower cannot transcend the achievement of the leader. That's the problem of derivative scholarship and derivative literature. No wonder that the Swiss theologian Karl Barth denied that he was a"Barthian." Lately, I have to kick myself and say:"Don't try to be a Burkean or a Johnsonian. They'll always be better Tim Burkes and KC Johnsons than you can ever hope to be."
Fortunately, my own apprenticeship as a historian was an easy mantle. My dissertation director allowed, even encouraged, me to disagree with him -- to"revise" him, if you will. So, on the one hand, I've never experienced the horror stories of those who ran afoul of rigid taskmasters and, on the other, I've never understood the cry against"revision," as if it were ipso facto distortion. In many, if not most, cases, to do worthy history is necessarily to"revise." Nor do I understand the umbrage some historians take at being challenged. To be challenged, after all, means that the good Lord or fate or happenstance has allowed you to live so long that some reasonably intelligent historian thought that you had once said something that was worthy of debate and has finally gotten the challenge into print. Many historians never have the pleasure of lived long enough to see themselves"revised." What's wrong with that?
At Atlanta's recent AAR convention, I introduced myself to Oberlin's A. G. Miller. On hearing my name, he smiled and referred obliquely to his new biography, Elevating the Race: Theophilous G. Steward, Black Theology, and the Making of an African American Civil Society, 1865-1924. I first encountered T. G. Steward's legacy forty years ago, when I was interning as an assistant pastor for the summer of Macon, Georgia's First Baptist Church, an African American congregation. Just up Cotton Avenue from us was Steward Chapel A. M. E. Church. In that building named for its early pastor, I heard Martin Luther King, Sr., raise some righteous hell with Macon's white folks. Years later, I wrote a bit about T. G. Steward in The Social Gospel in Black and White: American Racial Reform, 1885-1912.
Miller was kind enough to send me a copy of his fine new book and, behold, I was revised. The larger context for his disagreement with me is this. I surveyed a spectrum of white attitudes in race relations at the turn of the century and identified spokesmen for each position: radical assimilationism (Josiah Strong), conservative assimilationism (Josiah Royce), conservative separatism (Edgar Gardner Murphy), and radical separatism (Thomas Dixon). Based on a definition of what"racism" is, I said that only the separatists, Murphy and Dixon, might rightly be called racists. That definition held that"racism is a pattern of thought that relates mind to matter by making culture a function of physiology." Racial separatists held that people of African descent could not and should not try fully to exemplify high culture as defined by the canons of western civilization. Racial assimilationists held that people of African descent both could and should expect to do so.
My friend, A. G. Miller, challenges my argument that a radical assimilationist, such as Josiah Strong, is not rightly understood as a racist. He and many others by now and by implication would argue that my definition of racism is inadequate. For one thing, it allows for the possibility that some African Americans are racists. If"true culture" is rooted in an Africanist frame, those who reify biological descent would say that we white folk are just out of luck or, at best, in a separate sphere. I cannot fully appreciate the blues, for example, because I am not an African American. Secondly, and by extension, I think Miller would argue that my definition of racism is inadequate because it takes no account of power or structural relationships. Only when racial prejudice wields power is it truly racist. Racial prejudice lacking power is no significant threat.
These are significant issues, I think."Racism" and"racist" continue to be bandied about. We need to understand what people mean by them when they use the words. I still disagree with Miller because I think one must give definitional precision to them, lest they lose all utility. Like the Mother Hubbard dress of yesterday's modesty, they could cover everything, but touch on nothing. Miller does convince me that the problems of a" cultural assimilationist" position are as real as the problems of a" cultural separatist" one, but I still would like to hear a definition from him of what"racism" is. In any case, I am grateful for having lived long enough to witness having been revised.
For the moment, however, this revised historian needs to get to bed and deal with those tangled Christmas lights in the morning.
Posted by Ralph 2:30 a.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: CHECK IT OUT ... 12-18-03
Already dominating the legal realm, The Volokh Conspiracy seems to have designs on western civilization.
Classical historians may be able to help out Eugene Volokh. He's looking for
items (products or processes) that satisfy all these criteria:"Stirrups, whipped cream, cowpox as a vaccine for smallpox, penicillin, Arabic numerals, the abacus, sterile technique, distillation, the printing press, the scientific method, pasteurization, the horseshoe, the toothbrush, the compass, the wheelbarrow, glass lenses, gunpowder, soap, and horse plow collars" have been commonly suggested, but some of them don't meet all the criteria. The abacus is out because the Romans had it.
They were unknown to people in ancient Rome circa 150 B.C.
They could be manufactured with then-existing technology and then-available raw materials.
They would be at least modestly useful in that era.
Even a nontechnically minded person today -- say, a smart 12-year-old -- would know how to make and use them. This is particularly important, and one on which many suggestions seem to founder.
Their absence would be pretty clearly visible.
If you don't mind the spoilers, Cliopatria's Tim Burke has a critically appreciative review of"The Return of the King" at Easily Distracted.
Twenty-five years after I invented the A-bomb .... Well, ah, it wasn't exactly me who did it and he didn't actually invent it, but John Aristotle Phillips got an A on his Princeton term paper for his figuring out how to do it and life's been downhill ever since. You end up indiscriminately being a fund-raiser for Bush, Hillary Clinton, Trent Lott, and Joe Lieberman.
Posted by Ralph 5:00 a.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: WHAT PASSES FOR"CONSERVATIVE" IN AMERICA ... 12-17-03
One of the major shifts in American politics over the past 40 years is the revitalization of political conservatism. Since the Goldwater debacle of 1964, conservative Republicans have scrambled to a dominant position in American politics. Both a Republican and, in many respects, at least, a conservative, I should be celebrating all that. I don't because I don't recognize what it represents as conservative in any meaningful sense of the word.
From the ruthless partisanship of a Tom DeLay, which knows no restraint, to the wreckless fiscal policies of the Bush administration and the crusading foreign policy of this administration, I see nothing but repudiation of core conservative values. The genius of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain combined couldn't have made up a better name for a conservative American republican. Alas, he isn't one. Balanced budgets? All too briefly remembered. International restraint? Please. Several days ago, I wrote about the dilemma of American liberalism, caught between the competing values of freedom and equality. The problem of"American conservativism" is that it isn't conservative at all. It is, in fact, quite radical and, I fear, wrecklessly so.
As I see it, the new American" conservatism" is an alliance of two core constituencies: A) believers in an unbridled capitalism as productive of the greatest good for"me" and B) religious traditionalists who feel threatened by social change. It is an uneasy alliance because the purposes of A do not well serve the needs of B. Ten years ago, I wrote that "industrial capitalism" has been"the radical force in American society, generating social change of unforeseen consequence, heedlessly disruptive of human community." We have no reason to think that post-industrial capitalism is any less so. Witness a jobless economic recovery that winks at illegal immigrants working for less than minimum wages here at home and outsources middle income jobs for 1/10th of their domestic cost abroad.
The very unconservative nature of American conservatism appears in Michael Crichton's critique of contemporary environmentalism. It is currently widely cited in" conservative" circles, by Richard Jensen's H-Conservative, by Glenn Reynold's Instapundit, by David Beito on Liberty & Power and elsewhere.
My colleague, Oscar Chamberlain, may comment on the"science" in Crichton's address. I have no expertise in it. What fascinated me was Crichton's attack on the"religion" of environmentalism. That might even give religious traditionalists some pause. Crichton apparently believes that merely because one can discern in some environmentalists' operative assumptions a belief in a primal rightness of things which was somehow and subsequently relentlessly damaged that their beliefs can, in the name of"science," therefore be dismissed as"religious." Well, welcome to much of the whole western intellectual tradition, Mr. Crichton. Sure, the myth of a primal nature of things has its origins in the early Biblical narrative, but it is elemental to the western psyche. Variants of it are found in every major western intellect since Augustine. Hobbs, Locke, Marx, Darwin, Freud argue about the character of our primal selves and society, but they all take our primitive condition as a benchmark. Doing so isn't essentially unscientific. Science wishes to discover what that primal condition was and how it has changed.
What passes for" conservatism" in America isn't conservative at all. If it were, it would take the lead in efforts at" conservation." Don't count on unbridled post-industrial capitalism to do that.
Posted by Ralph 3:00 a.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: BLACK WOMEN SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER ... 12-15-03
High atop my bookshelves is a little shrine of three statues gathered around a tiny sample bale of cotton from the 1930s. One of the statues is of Eugene Talmadge, Georgia's white racist governor in the 1930s and 1940s. Emphasizing ol' Gene's red galluses, it was a gimmick given in return for campaign contributions. Incongruously, next to him stands an old cast iron tobacco humidor in the form of a robed Friar Tuck. His hands are folded across his capacious stomach in a pious pose. Next to him, glaring across that little cotton bale at ol' Gene Talmadge, is a cast iron bank in the form of Aunt Jemima. As a symbol, of course, she offends some people, but it's fairly clear from this Aunt Jemima's pose that she's ready to offend Eugene Talmadge. Her hands are on her hips and she is poised to speak some truth to power.
I was reminded of my little shrine yesterday when I read this story about Lauryn Hill denouncing corruption of the clergy at a Vatican-sponsored concert. Hill's pronouncement at the Vatican reminds me also of Eartha Kitt's denunciation of the Johnson administration's pursuit of the Viet Nam War when she was at a White House conference in 1968. Can you imagine the bodacious courage it would take to do such a thing? Some people call it rude and tasteless, but the prophets are always similarly dismissed.
More than that, we've recently been learning that African American women, more often than not, were the backbone of local civil rights movements all across the South. Finally, after Dr. King got his national holiday and two Pulitzer Prize winning biographies, we learn about the women who were on the ground and doing the work: Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and toomanymore to name them all. We should have known all along and my Aunt Jemima is a constant reminder of it.
Posted by Ralph 5:00 a.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: MORE NOTED ... 12-13-03
The British Library is releasing a series of CDs,"Spoken Word," which offers the recorded voices of major Anglo-American writers. The New York Times' Caryn James reviews the series here:
One of the great surprises is finding which writers actually do voices and which don't. When A. A. Milne reads from"Winnie-the-Pooh," his creations sound like Victorian gents — soothing, paternal Victorian gents reading a bedtime story, it's true, but rather Victorian nonetheless.You can order the CDs at the British Library website.
"He gave a little squeak of excitement," Milne reads about Piglet spotting a paw print, yet sounding not very excited at all.
He goes on:" `Oh, Pooh! Do you think it's a — a — a Woozle?'
" `It may be,' said Pooh. `Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.'" With Milne pronouncing it tis and t'isn't, Pooh's very proper voice in this 1929 recording is far from the high-pitched sweetness Sterling Holloway later gave him in so many Disney cartoons.
The best of the discs is the"Writers" volume, recorded mostly in the 20's and 30's. There you can hear Tolkien again, speaking Elvish from"The Lord of the Rings." But the happiest surprise must be Joyce, as cerebral and intimidating a literary genius as the world has ever known, and by all accounts not an easygoing guy. Who would have guessed he'd play a washerwoman so convincingly? He actually becomes two washerwomen with lilting Irish brogues who chat while doing laundry by the river."Throw the cobwebs from your eyes, woman, and spread your washing proper!" one says to the other as he reads from the"Anna Livia Plurabelle" section of"Finnegans Wake." In language that is always lyrical, and usually more complicated than that, his voice flows like the river whose rhythm he said he was imitating.
Or, if literary food is more to your taste than literary sound at the holidays, try one of the recipes Simon Fanshawe culls from English literature for the Guardian. Their names,"Little Balls of Tripe a Man Might Eat For Ever,""Cold Crubeens,""Figgy-Dowdy,""Boiled Baby," and"Syllabub" don't sound too appealing, but we're talking food here, not sound, remember? I recommend Joyce's offering of sound, but not taste. Charles Dickens recommends the cheesecake; and Ian Fleming's James Bond, of course, the scrambled eggs. Thanks to Moby Lives for both tips.
Given the flaming letters to its editors, it's a wonder that the American Historical Association's Perspectives reached me in the mail this week. Paul Moreno of Hillsdale College accuses the"hack historians" who filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v Texas of"prostitution of scholarship for political ends," Philip Ranlet of Hunter College accuses Eric Foner of distorting history in an obituary of James Shinton, and E. Taylor Atkins of Northern Illinois University denounces the AHA and the Oral History Association for their roles in the federal government's decision to remove oral history projects from institutional review. Bruce Craig, Foner, and Linda Shopes and Donald Ritchie get equal space to respond. We will, undoubtedly, resolve all those issues over beers at January's AHA convention in D. C. Or, maybe not. One advantage of its enormity is that you may not even see the person you've most recently attacked. You may not even find the people you do want to see. At its worst, however, an AHA convention is a happy family reunion compared to an American Studies Association convention. Leo Marx takes a long look at American Studies and suggests a better way into its future.
By the way, I see that political correctness won't keep the AHA from giving Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia its inaugural Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Award for Civil Service and Jim McPherson will hold his nose long enough to do the honors. Sure, the Senate's King of Pork has ground some sausage in History's direction, but Perspectives doesn't remind its readers that Byrd is a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who was still using the word"nigger" on national television without a wince as recently as two years ago. For more on Byrd's klansmanship, see here. For once, I think I'll out"pc" the AHA and boycott the session.
If you love books, read Andre Bernard's"Fear of Book Assassination Haunts Bibliophile's Musings" in the New York Observer.
Posted by Ralph 5:00 a.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: NOTED HERE AND THERE ... 12-12-03
My colleague, KC Johnson, elaborates on his argument against the politicization of the classroom, a point made here, in an article for the National Association of Scholar's Online Forum. Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass has more. As I understand it, KC's point is not that the classroom should be politicized in one direction or another, but that it should hew to a free market of ideas.
Two of my favorite Lutherans, David Beito and Allen Brill, may have to agree to disagree about whether Martin Luther is an Ayn"Randian hero." Beito replies to Brill here. [Editor: Pretend that you were not a Methodist agent provocateur and that it was not you who"nearly gagged" at David's suggestion.]
Robert David Sullivan analyzes prospects in next year's presidential election for CommonWealth. Forget reds and blues, he says. The United States is 10 regions and the results will be decided by and within them. Lots of interesting and odd details in this analysis.
According to this report in the Guardian, England's National Heritage memorial fund will give Oxford's Bodleian Library a gift sufficient to purchase the Abinger Papers, preventing an auction's dispersing them. The papers include Mary Shelley's autograph manuscript of"Frankenstein," letters and papers of her parents, 32 volumes of William Godwin's journal, and correspondence with William Hazelit, Thomas Malthus, and Percy Shelley.
How did the word"idiot," which originally meant"an independent person with ideas of his own," come to mean a person with deficient intellect? Stephen Bayley writes in celebration of opinions against" conventional wisdom".
Posted by Ralph 12:30 a.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: THE DILEMMA OF LIBERALISM'S METAPHOR ... 12-11-03
Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein points to a specific instance of the dilemma of liberalism's metaphor. In what is clearly not a personal attack, he points out the irony that Professor Larry Temkin of Rutgers, one of the world's leading authorities on"equality," graduated first in his class at Wisconsin and has been showered with distinctive honors and awards ever since.
It is, I think, an instance of what Garry Wills identified 30 years ago in a brilliant critique of American liberalism, Nixon Agonistes, as the legacy of liberalism's metaphor of the race. We are caught between wanting the equality of the starting line and the meritorious result of the finishing line and, so, keep demanding that the race start all over again. We are caught between"freedom," which rewards merit, and"equality," which insists that all are meritorious. We can maximize equality by minimizing freedom, as in a prison; or we can maximize freedom by minimizing equality, as in a meritocracy.
I was reminded of that issue again in the thoughtful post by my colleague, KC Johnson, three days ago. I have no trouble agreeing with him that merit should be decisive in hiring, so long as we are rather deeply introspective about what we mean by merit. In my first full time teaching position, I was hired by a chairman who made no bones about the fact that he hired no one but a white, culturally Protestant, native-born, straight American male. In retrospect, I've sometimes thought that I should have resigned as soon as I knew that to be true. I didn't. Nor, of course, did any of my other, externally uniform, liberal colleagues, but I was reminded of it again when my other colleague, Tim Burke, wrote over on Invisible Adjunct that
the horizons of graduate school shrink down to a very short and narrow perspective, and disallow the very ideas and explorations that many people regard (properly) as the essence of intellectual inquiry. This will not happen in any obvious way: no ogre will appear to forbid you anything. It will happen invidiously, slowly, pervasively: no one will actually do it to you, and never will you be able to put your finger on exactly how and when it is being done. Slowly but surely, however, you will be cut to fit a very particular professionalized and disciplinary cloth, and become a willing participant in innumerable rituals of abjection. Slowly but surely, you'll begin to accept the intimate intertwining of your life and your work, and pernicious forms of virally spreading authority and power by numerous other people, some of them quite distant from you in social terms, over that intertwined work-life.And so, here I am, at the end of a professional life's race, blessed with wonderful virtual colleagues, but wondering at the exigencies that compromised values dearly held and wishing that I might have been heroic.
Posted by Ralph 12:30 a.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: TALENT ON THE HNN COMMENT BOARDS ... 12-11-03
The History News Network comment boards are not for everyone's taste. They are, occasionally, a little yeasty. After an early lengthy siege there, I noted that the quality of the debate ranged "somewhere between a dreary faculty meeting and the Jerry Springer Show." Yet, as Thomas Jefferson believed it would, the great demos occasionally churns up real talent.
A recent, unlikely debate raged, off topic as usual, over the inclination of some professional historians to refer to ourselves as"an historian." We (I profess myself to be ambidextrous on the issue, swinging both ways as the mood strikes me) were challenged by a group of grammartocracists, who mocked our ungrammatical pretensions. Appeal to all sorts of authority would not settle the issue. As I recall, my friends Jonathan Dresner at Hawaii and Derek Catsam at the University of Minnesota, Manketo, were most active in defending"our an." (If you are ever in a good bar fight, by the way, do hope that Derek Catsam is on your side.) Anyway, the grammartocracists finally got the last and best laugh with this post:
Subject: Professor Catsam Stars in A PlayPosted by Ralph 12:30 a.m. EST
Posted By: Grammarian Again
Date Posted: December 9, 2003, 8:58 PM
Professor Catsam is walking down the hall of a classroom building at Mankato when a student rushes toward him.
Student: Professor Catsam, I lost two of my books! I don't know what to do. I am so upset.
Professor: Gloria, now don't get too upset. Which books can't you locate?
Student: Oh Doctor Catsam, one is for economics and the other is for YOUR class?
Professor: Hmm. My class huh?
Student: And with exams coming on, and everything, I feel so abject and helpless.
Professor: Now let's see what I can do to assist you. Let's take a walk together on each of the three floors and see if we can't find them for you.
Professor: Sure, we are here to help you.
Professor Catsam and Gloria are walking up the stairs, through the halls and up the stairs again when Professor Catsam stops suddenly.
Student: Doctor, what is happening, are you ok?
Professor: In the corner, LOOK , in the corner, LOOK I can see it! There is AN history book.
Student: A Whaat?
Professor: An history book! An history book. I found it for you.
Student: You are so kind dear professor, but should it not be"a" history book.
Professor: No Gloria, according to Bill Safire, It is"an history book."
THE INSURRECTION IN MESOPOTAMIA ... 12-09-03
Moby Lives points to this article in the Guardian about General Sir Aylmer Haldane's hard to find 80 year old book, The Insurrection in Mesopotamia, 1920. Undoubtedly, Paul Bremer and Donald Rumsfeld would like to know how Haldane managed to put a regime in place in the middle eastern abstraction called Iraq because it lasted from 1920 until 1958. I found two copies of Haldane's book, one for Paul and one for Don at abe.com, but I'm warning you: as Josh Marshall paraphrases him, Edmund Morgan was right."History never repeats itself. It only seems like it does to those who don't know the details." The editors of Foreign Affairs recently quoted a phrase commonly attributed to Mark Twain:"history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes." I know. I know. Mark Twain probably never said any such thing, but we and the Iraqis should be so fortunate.
Posted by Ralph 6:30 p.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: RECOMMENDED READING ... 12-09-03
Ken MacLeod's essay, "The Pro-War Left and the Anti-War Right" at The Early Days of a Better Nation. Thanks to Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber for the tip.
Posted by Ralph 12:30 a.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: FUNNY BUSINESS IN ACADEME ... 12-07-03
Of all the history departments in the United States, the one at Brooklyn College was at the top of my list last year for scandal in the profession. It was chosen Miss Uncollegiality at the Miss AHA contest in Atlantic City. It did so by using the criteria of collegiality to do the dirty uncollegial deed. Apparently having learned nothing from the experience, administrators at BC are back at it and Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass has the story.
Posted by Ralph 3:00 p.m. EST
RALPH LUKER: NOTED HERE AND THERE ... 12-06-03
What ‘Ivory Tower'? Some of academe's critics like to dismiss it as a safe haven for the academically detached. Try living the last month at Emory University. A month ago, I blogged about Professor Paul B. Courtright's story here. The Emory Wheel has the latest update on the death threats that he's been getting from offended Hindus. The University community at large, however, has been in continuing discussion about anthropology professor Carol Worthman's off-hand use of the phrase"a nigger in the woodpile." I have blogged about the historical origins of the phrase and another controversy over its contemporary use. The Wheel's two lead articles, its editorial, and several op-eds offer excellent coverage of the developing controversy at Emory. Some of the University's African American faculty members point out that the investigation of the initial complaint was inadequate and believe that it points to systemic problems in race relations at Emory, but the University administration is resisting mandatory sensitivity training. Some"ivory tower"!
This is fun. Try "Which Historical Lunatic Are You?" In case you're wondering, I am Charles VI of France, also known as Charles the Mad or Charles the Well-Beloved. So is Sasha Volokh. It's slightly embarrassing, but the company is good.
Radical historian Howard Zinn, radical linguist Noam Chomsky, and conservative political scientist Harvey Mansfield have been exercising their free speech rights on controversial issues in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Long live free speech in academic communities! Of course, if you are Chomsky, you may have David Bernstein, Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, and Pejman Yousefzedah to answer to what you say.
The University of Chicago's Edward Cohn has been blogging up a storm at Mildly Malevolent. His blog is consistently good reading. Just scroll down.
Posted by Ralph 3:00 a.m. EST
"TRANSBLOGRIFICATION" ... 12-04-03
It isn't that you are no longer"Welcome To My World ...," but I knew others who could spread a more generous banquet for us. So, "Welcome To My World ..." is transblogrifying into"Cliopatria". Please adjust your blogrolls and browsers accordingly. Our name, with its allusions, is found in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. As with much else in Finnegans Wake, however, I'm not sure what it is doing there.
Our name vaguely recalls the memory of Cleopatra, her beauty, her mystery, and her contingent power. More directly, it invokes the name of Clio, one of the nine muses in Greek mythology. Clio the Proclaimer was the muse of history, who was credited with bringing the Phoenician alphabet to Greece. She is often depicted in western art with a scroll and a small library of books. In his work for the Spectator, Joseph Addison, who perfected the essay and pioneered the novel as English literary forms, used her name as a pseudonym. The Latinate"patria" would refer to one's place of origin, a father's home or a native land. We speak from and of history as our place of beginnings, in which we act, through which we move, and to which we owe some allegiance. As a word of both Greek and Latin roots, to say nothing of the Egyptian allusion,"Cliopatria" is also a barbaric hybrid. It suggests the plurality of our origins and degrees of alienation. We are not obliged to agree with, only to listen carefully and respectfully to, each other.
I am delighted with the group of historians who will join me at"Cliopatria."
Timothy Burke won my attention with thoughtful critiques of my work, here and here. I was intrigued to learn that he is a historian of Africa who teaches cultural studies at Swarthmore. Subsequently, I became a fan of his thoughtful blog, Easily Distracted. Tim's contributions enliven discussions at Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass, Crooked Timber, Invisible Adjunct, and elsewhere. He has published Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women: Commodification, Consumption, and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe, a monograph with remarkably wide-ranging implications, and with his brother, Kevin, Saturday Morning Fever: Growing Up With Cartoon Culture, a study of the Saturday morning cartoons and Generation X.
Oscar Chamberlain is best known to readers at History News Network for his many intelligent contributions on a broad range of issues on the HNN comment boards. At the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, and UW, Barron County, he lectures on the history of science and American ante-bellum and constitutional history. Oscar has contributed poetry and a personal essay to The Red Cedar Review. A member of the City of Rice Lake Plan Commission, he hosted Jazz and New Age music programs from 1995-2000 at WOJB, the radio station of the Lac Courte Oreilles band of the Ojibwe.
HNN regulars will remember Ken Heineman from his blog which appeared too briefly here about a year ago. He is a professor of history at Ohio University at Lancaster and the author of four books: Campus Wars: The American Peace Movement at State Universities in the Viet Nam Era, God is a Conservative: Religion, Politics, and Morality in Contemporary America, A Catholic New Deal: Religion and Reform in Depression Pittsburgh, and Put Your Bodies Upon the Wheels: Student Revolt in the 1960s.
Through no fault of his own, Robert"KC" Johnson needs no introduction to historians or readers at HNN. His struggle for tenure at Brooklyn College, summarized here and here, is near legendary. KC's impressive scholarship in 20th century American diplomatic and political history is more important to us. Already, it includes many articles and four books, Washington. 20. Januar 1961, Ernest Gruening and the American Dissenting Tradition, The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations, and On Cultural Ground: Essays in International History. He expects to publish four more books in the next three years.
Mary Catherine Moran's 1999 dissertation at Johns Hopkins,"From Rudeness to Refinement: Gender, Genre, and Scottish Enlightenment Discourse," is already widely cited by historians. An active participant in 18th and 19th century British studies conferences both in the United States and abroad, she has an essay in Frank Trentmann's Paradoxes in Civil Society: New Perspectives on Modern German and British History. Moran is also just completing a critical edition of Lord Henry Home Kames's Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion (1779) for Knud Haakonssen's Liberty Fund series,"Natural Law and Enlightenment Classics." MC, as she is sometimes known, is an adjunct assistant professor of history at Columbia University.
Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST
MORE NOTED HERE AND THERE ... 12-03-03
Like the rest of us, David Brooks thinks and writes about the war in Iraq from a distance, but he's been reading what our troops have been writing and he understands the extraordinary challenge they face: to be both John Wayne and Jane Addams and to know when to be which. Read"Boots on the Ground; Hearts on Their Sleeves."
Historians Blowing Smoke: When John M. Blum, Gabor Borritt, Douglas Brinkley, Catherine Clinton, Robert Dallek, John Diggins, John Gable, David Halberstam,Walter Isaacson,Don Miller, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Evan Thomas, Richard Wade, and Sean Wilentz signed a letter to the New York Times attesting to Doris Kearns Goodwin's integrity as a historian, Slate's Tim Noah was not impressed. Citing both the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and the American Historical Association's"Statement on Plagiarism," which has been adopted by the Organization of American Historians, Noah lays out some of the evidence against Kearns Goodwin. He hopes"this ends further debate about whether Doris Goodwin committed plagiarism. Anyone who pretends otherwise is blowing smoke." Thanks for the tip to Clayton Cramer, who finds"it interesting how much energy seems to be devoted to protecting the profession, rather than shaming those who can't seem to do their job right."
"Don't Ask; Don't Tell" is a policy designed for a peacetime army. As Randy Shilts showed in Conduct Unbecoming the American military has been relatively tolerant of gay recruits in wartime emergencies, but inhospitable when the crises passed. Yet, during the war on terror and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, some 37 gay linguists, many of them skilled in Arabic and Korean, have been dismissed. We Americans are a linguistically provincial people. We desperately need these linguistic skills just now. We haven't wasted such talent in earlier crises. Why now?
Posted by Ralph 2:00 a.m. EST
NOTED HERE AND THERE ... 12-02-03
Alice Roosevelt Longworth is reported to have told someone at a soiree:"If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me." Mrs. Longworth would have kept the American literary critic Dale Peck close at hand. If you like reading snarky reviews and about snarky reviewers, read Kate Kellaway's"Hatchet Man."
The book industry sells a large part of its product at this time of year. But, according to Timothy Noah and Oliver Willis, the retailers aren't making it convenient. Willis says that Borders is removing its big leather comfychairs and replacing them with hard and stiff backed wooden stools which say"Sit on me if you must." Bad mistake. More subtle and even more infuriating is Tim's discovery that Amazon doesn't want you to know its customer service number. You even have to work at finding out that they don't want you to know it. The number is 1-800-201-7575. Again, that number is 1-800-201-7575. Tell ‘em Chatterbox sent you. If that doesn't work, tell ‘em Tim Noah sent you. If that doesn't work, tell ‘em I sent you. Yah, that's the ticket ... Thanks to Instapundit and Moby Lives for the tips.
Posted by Ralph 5:00 p.m. EST
YELLING AT THE HISTORY PROF ... 12-01-03
Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber says that he's been yelling at Quenton Skinner, Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University:"What about Rousseau?!!" Actually, Bertram recommends Skinner's lectures at Columbia College in New York on"Three Concepts of Liberty." If you have RealPlayer installed, you can listen to them here.
Posted by Ralph 11:30 a.m. EST
NOTED HERE AND THERE ... 11-30-03
Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton, lays out the Catholic right's case against recognizing civil marriage for gays and lesbians; and Andrew Sullivan responds to George here. Still, George does not oppose civil domestic partnership legislation, which would include gays and lesbians, as well as other non-sexual domestic partnerships. There is ground for resolving what could be a seismic cultural clash if we can agree that ordination does not automatically make clergy agents of the state to certify marriages. Let the state have its own agents for certifying civil unions. Let the religious communities have their own agents for performing marriages. All consenting adult citizens would be eligible for civil union status. Religious communities could define for themselves who are eligible for marriage to whom. It doesn't resolve all the issues. Could an employed single woman take both of her unemployed sisters as domestic partners to qualify them for health and tax benefits? It would, however, take much of the clash out of the current debate.
George Packer's "Letter from Baghdad" in the New Yorker is a must read. You'll learn about Andrew P. N. Eerdmann. He earned a doctorate in history at Harvard, where Ernest May directed his dissertation, and fled from an academic career in the United States. But now he is Iraq's interim Minister of Education. This is a very compelling report, much of it not very re-assuring. At once, it will make you proud of our people in Iraq and deeply angry at the administration which committed them to an awesome task with insufficient support. Thanks for the tip to Daniel Drezner and Matt Yglesias.
I'm inclined to disagree with him, but Emanuele Ottolenghi's piece on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism for the Guardian is an important read these days. The increasing evidence of anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States and the continuing brutality of Israel's dealings with the Palestinians means that Israel's critics must also be deeply self-critical. Thanks for the tip to Josh Chafetz at Oxblog.
What do you make of evidence? When the University of Florida's Michael Heckenberger and others announced in Science on 19 September their finding that native Americans had cities in the pre-Columbian Amazon basin, some libertarians leaped on the finding as evidence of an environmentalist myth of the"pristine" character of the western hemisphere's forests before the, you know, the Europeans invaded it. It's enough to make me leap to the defense of the eco-feminists! O.k., so there's really no such thing as a woman being partially pregnant, but there really is such a thing as a forest being semi-virginal. Any libertarians out there want to put money on which civilization destroyed more forestland?
If you believe that"people who put an apostrophe in the wrong place, when they ought to know better, deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave," then you'll want to read Lynn Truss's new book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. If you are upscale, Oliver Pritchett's review of it might do. By the way,"Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" might be"Eats, Shoots and Leaves" or, if you are a panda,"Eats Shoots and Leaves."
Posted by Ralph 4:00 p.m. EST
MONOGAMY AND MANHOOD ... 11-28-03
I may make some connections here that don't really connect, but something odd was going on among the megabloggers this week. It may have begun with Brian Anderson's suggestion at Tech Central Station that Andrew Sullivan is "the most influential intellectual in the public arena today." Even among conservative intellectuals, that seems unlikely to me.
Sullivan, himself, was"awed" by David Brooks's op-ed for the New York Times,"The Power of Marriage." It is, I think, a"must read" -- brilliant for its defense of marriage, its critique of the sickness of our" culture of contingency," and its argument that real conservatives will see the necessity of encouraging monogamous relationships for all Americans. The essay is, itself, evidence of why I think Brooks is a more likely"most influential intellectual in the public arena today" than Sullivan.
The power of David Brooks's argument was widely recognized in the blogosphere, but his opening lines led to a lot of gagging and preening."Anybody who has several sexual partners in a year," said Brooks,"is committing spiritual suicide. He or she is ripping the veil from all that is private and delicate in oneself, and pulverizing it in an assembly line of selfish sensations." That tribute to monogamy was too much even for Sullivan. Not only Sullivan. David Adesnik and Matt Yglesias were so unhappy with Brooks's strong opening lines that they caricatured them in self-defense, in Adesnik's case, a rabbinic parsing that even he admitted was irrelevant to the thrust of Brooks's argument. The lines even drove Adesnik, InstaPundit, and VodkaPundit to frat house or locker room braggadocio. (Don't miss their"Updates") Time to grow up, fellahs. Really, we don't need to know and you really need to not need to tell. Somehow, I suspect, that Sullivan's and the gays' presence in the discussion lies at the root of the problem. (Here, see especially VodkaPundit) Heterosexual manhood that is not multipli-satisfied is still threatened.
Posted by Ralph 12:15 p.m. EST
MISPRONOUNCING PRESIDENT ... 11-26-03
Look, if in the year of our Lord 2003, you've got a president who is incapable of pronouncing"nuclear" properly, why would you expect him to be able to pronounce"Nevada" to the locals' satisfaction?
Posted by Ralph 6:00 p.m. EST
ESPIONAGE BALANCE ... 11-26-03
When I noted John Earl Haynes's observation about the American Historical Review's and the Journal of American History's unbalanced presentation of scholarship on Soviet espionage and domestic Communism after World War II here, Haynes responded with this evidence for his point:
Scholars who write traditionalist (or Draperist, or orthodox, or whatever terminology one likes for those who take the view that the American Communist movement was antidemocratic and owed its primary loyalty to Moscow) histories of American communism have produced dozens of books, worked in previously untapped archives and generated considerable historical controversy and debate. But since the 1970s, they have not been able to publish articles in the profession's two most prestigious journals, the Journal of American History and the American Historical Review. Traditionalists are occasionally asked to review books, but of course that is a lesser task than authoring an essay.Haynes's evidence seems convincing. If someone from the editorial board or the editorial office of the AHR or the JAH wishes to offer a different perspective on the matter, I'll be happy to post it.
In 1972 the Journal of American History published Lowell Dyson,"The Red Peasant International in America," 58, no. 4 (March 1972): 958-73, describing the efforts of American Communists to organize farmers. Dyson's essay was traditionalist in orientation, placing the farm work of the CPUSA in the context of the Communist International's overall policy toward agriculture and the American's party subordination to Moscow. That was the last time any traditionalist article appeared. In the more than thirty years since then, the Journal of American History has not published a single article that had a critical view of the CPUSA as a substantial theme.
On the other hand, [the JAH] published no less than twenty-three articles that substantially portrayed American communism and the CPUSA in a positive light or describing domestic opposition to communism in negative terms. These are: John A. Salmond,"Postscript to the New Deal: The Defeat of the Nomination of Aubrey W. Williams as Rural Electrification Administrator in 1945," 61, no. 2 (September 1974); Mary S. McAuliffe,"Liberals and the Communist Control Act of 1954," 63, no. 2 (September 1976); Athan Theoharis,"The Truman Administration and the Decline of Civil Liberties: The FBI's Success in Securing Authorization for a Preventive Detention Program," 64, no. 4 (September 1978); Robert Griffith,"Old Progressives and the Cold War," 66, no. 2 (September 1979); David Williams,"The Bureau of Investigation and Its Critics, 1919-1921: The Origins of Federal Political Surveillance," 68, no. 3 (December 1981); Kenneth O'Reilly,"A New Deal for the FBI: The Roosevelt Administration, Crime Control, and National Security," 69, no. 3 (December 1982); Gerald Zahavi,"Negotiated Loyalty: Welfare Capitalism and the Shoeworkers of Endicott Johnson, 1920-1940," 70, no. 3 (December 1983); Robert J. Norrell,"Caste in Steel: Jim Crow Careers in Birmingham, Alabama," 73, no. 3 (December 1986); JoAnne Brown,"'A Is for Atom, B Is for Bomb': Civil Defense in American Public Education, 1948-1963," 75, no. 1 (June 1988); Ellen Schrecker,"Archival Sources for the Study of McCarthyism," 75, no. 1 (June 1988); Robert Korstad and Nelson Lichtenstein,"Opportunities Found and Lost: Labor, Radicals, and the Early Civil Rights Movement," 75, no. 3 (December 1988); Jonathan M. Wiener,"Radical Historians and the Crisis in American History, 1959-1980," 76, no. 2 (September 1989); Herbert Aptheker,"Welcoming Jonathan Wiener's Paper, with a Few Brief Dissents," 76, no. 2 (September 1989); Paul Buhle and Robin D.G. Kelley,"The Oral History of the Left in the United States: A Survey and Interpretation," 76, no. 2 (September 1989); Gerald Zahavi,"Passionate Commitments: Race, Sex, and Communism at Schenectady General Electric, 1932-1954," 83, no. 2 (September 1996); David W. Stowe,"The Politics of Café Society," 84, no. 4 (March 1998); Herbert Aptheker,"An Autobiographical Note," 87, no. 1 (June 2000); Herbert Aptheker and Robin D. G. Kelley,"An Interview with Herbert Aptheker by Robin Kelley," 87, no. 1 (June 2000); Robin D. G. Kelley,"Afterword," 87, no. 1 (June 2000); K. A. Cuordileone,"Politics in an Age of Anxiety: Cold War Political Culture and the Crisis of American Masculinity, 1949-1960," 87, no. 2 (2000), Robin D. G. Kelley,"But a Local Phase of World Problem: Black History's Global Vision, 1883-1950," 86, no. 3 (December 1999); [and] Landon R.Y. Storrs,"Red Scare Politics and the Suppression of Popular Front Feminism: The Loyalty Investigation of Mary Dublin Keyserling," 90, no. 2 (September 2003).
The American Historical Review with its broader mandate publishes far fewer articles on twentieth century U.S. history. Still, its record is similar. The last essay taking a critical view of American communism and a positive view of domestic anticommunism was Alonzo L. Hamby,"The Vital Center, the Fair Deal, and the Quest for a Liberal Political Economy," 77, no. 3 (June 1972). In the thirty years since then, the American Historical Review has printed at least five revisionist articles about domestic American communism and anticommunism but no articles that take a critical view of American communism. These are: Michael E. Parrish,"Cold War Justice: The Supreme Court and the Rosenbergs," 82, no. 4 (October 1977): 805-42; Gerald Horne,"'Myth' and the Making of 'Malcolm X'," 98, no. 2 (April 1993); David Joravsky,"Communism in Historical Perspective," 99, no. 3 (June 1994): 837-57; James A. Miller, Susan D. Pennybacker, and Eve Rosenhaft,"Mother Ada Wright and the International Campaign to Free the Scottsboro Boys," 106, no. 2 (April 2001); Eric Foner,"American Freedom in a Global Age," 106, no. 1 (February 2001).
In this 30 year period The AHR also printed one"neutral" essay, a review-essay, Michael Kazin,"The Agony and Romance of the American Left," 100, no. 5 (December 1995), that while largely sympathetic to the revisionists suggested that the traditionalists ought not to be dismissed.
I have reference here to domestic American communism and related issues (Soviet espionage in the U.S.) and domestic anticommunism, which is the area that Klehr and I write in and is the focus of In Denial. On non-domestic matters: foreign policy, Cold War, and Soviet history, the records of these journals are better: the coverage is unbalanced but at least more than one side is heard from.
Posted by Ralph 6:00 p.m. EST
MURDERING MCKINLEY ... 11-26-03
Burying the assassin wasn't enough. We poured sulfuric acid over his body. Jefferson Decker reviews Eric Rauchway's Murdering McKinley for In These Times. Thanks to Edward Cohn's Mildly Malevolent for the tip.
Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST
EXCEEDING THE LAW'S REQUIREMENT ... 11-26-03
Those of us who grew up in Kentucky occasionally confront the provinciality of people not so fortunate. They even find evidence of our handicapped background in the Commonwealth's law that we must take a bath once a year. There's also the one requiring women in bathing suits to carry a club when they are on the highway. Lest you wonder, my grandmother heated water for baths in the galvanized tub every Saturday night. The law about Kentucky females carrying clubs has been amended to exempt horses and women under 90 or over 200 pounds. Don't ask. Just take my word for it: never mess with a Kentucky woman.
Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST
IN DENIAL ... 11-26-03
I'm no fan of David Horowitz or his FrontPage Magazine, but it occasionally has a piece worth reading. That includes Jamie Glazov's interview with Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes about their new book, In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage. It has not yet been reviewed in the New York Times or the professional journals, but among others Andrew Sullivan is reading In Denial and says it's"superb." In the interview, Haynes caught my attention with the observation that:
Not a single article published in the Journal of American History and the American Historical Review in the last thirty years has taken a critical stance regarding the American Communist movement or a benign view of domestic anticommunism. In the same thirty-year period dozens of articles in these journals have taken a reverse stance: a benign view of the CPUSA or depicting domestic opposition to communism in highly negative terms. In these journals there has been no debate: only one side is heard from.I haven't searched the AHR and the JAH indices or checked all the relevant articles, but if Haynes is correct, it's a fairly serious indictment of our premier historical journals. No one doubts the importance of the issues. If our journals have only published articles from one perspective or ignored the reality of Soviet espionage in the United States after World War II, it distorts many other things, as well. We have to understand what COINTELPRO was supposed to target, for example, to understand J. Edgar Hoover's hostility to the civil rights movement. Our journals cannot systematically ignore what we have begun to learn from the opening of the Soviet archives.
Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST
SOLIDARITY FOREVER ... 11-25-03
Well, ... at least until the end of a successful strike. Despite being 3,000 miles from its epicenter, I wrote earlier about my reasons for supporting the striking California grocery store workers. Now, as we are into Thanksgiving week, as CalPundit notes, the Teamsters Union has upped the ante by refusing to deliver to the California grocery stores. I said it before. I'll say it again. I've been there. For
the dear little bag lady, who wore a wig to cover her baldness, but would do anything to help a customer; the cashier who worked two jobs to support his mother; and the stockboy, who wore a dress when he went out at night, but who never missed a day at work. For them and in defense of their contracts, do not shop at Ralphs, Vons, or Albertsons. More than that, I want to hear about some of you high-toned historians on the left coast joining those picket lines. Don't make me name names. You know who you are!Posted by Ralph 2:50 p.m. EST
RUNNING BEHIND ... 11-25-03
Just because you're running behind on your reading of the New York Times doesn't automatically qualify you as a historian.
Posted by Ralph 1:30 p.m. EST
THIS IS GONNA BE GOOD ... 11-25-03
Did you ever imagine that you provoked someone into believing that they should use the restroom, only to watch them linger with doubt over which one to use? That's about as odd a question as you'll hear today. I can't imagine many of you quickly answer:"Yes." But, this is how I came to that question. Several days ago, I recommended Roger Kimball's essay in The New Criterion, "Friends of Humanity?" for your reading pleasure. Arts and Letters Daily flagged it, too, but one of us probably called Invisible Adjunct's attention to it. As she was about to hone in on Brother Kimball's weak hold on 18th and 19th century British thought, the Invisible One was too easily distracted and lingered over the urgent need for gender neutral bathrooms. If one has ambiguities or doubts, how do you decide which one to use? Apparently, for some people, it's a serious problem. Having done with that issue now, however, her Invisibility promises to hand R. K. his hat. If you've not had the pleasure of watching the Invisible One take out a target, it can be a sight to behold. If I were Brother Kimball, I'd head for the nearest restroom. Do not linger over advisory signs. Slam and bar the door. Lock yourself in a stall. Her Invisibility is about to lay seige to your throne.
Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST
C. S. LEWIS ... 11-24-03
Edward Cohn's Mildly Malevolent notes that Aldous Huxley, John F. Kennedy, and C. S. Lewis all died on 22 November 1963. Cohn recommends reading Joseph Loconte's op-ed for the New York Times on Lewis.
Posted by Ralph 3:00 a.m. EST
WHAT A"RELIGIOUS STUDIES" PROFESSOR LOOKS LIKE ... 11-24-03
Back about Halloween (10-31-03), I said that I planned to go dressed like a Historian for the event. Regina Berreca's essay,"Why We Look So Bad," about the shabby dress of college professors, has been getting a lot of discussion over at Invisible Adjunct."Our women look like circus ponies, wearing feathers, tassels, and suits designed by the folks who make clothes for drum majorettes," said Berreca.
If a senior academic woman should wear to the annual MLA meeting a skirt made entirely out of men's shirt collars, for example, she would be considered a radical dresser as well as a feminist goddess. Whereas a normal adult woman wearing such an outfit would be regarded as just one frame short of a Looney Tune. Our men look like inmates only recently released from federal penitentiaries, forced to wear clothing thirty years out of style. They wear sweaters knit for them by the girlfriends they had during the Carter administration. These items, never flattering, now fit them around the middle like tea cozies. They have been known to wear clogs. They wear, for pity's sake, berets.Pretty offensive stuff.
But I kept her observations in mind, when I spent much of yesterday visiting with friends at the AAR/SBL convention in Atlanta. The American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature have been meeting jointly for years. Most of those who attend these conventions study or teach in theological seminaries or Religious Studies departments. It was great to see some old friends who work on African American religious studies. I even got a bear hug from Tim Burke's Wizard of Oz, Cornel West. Historians probably do less hugging than the religious studies folk. The other behavioral difference I noticed is that religious studies folk are cheap. I know that doctors and pilots are cheap. I thought that historians were cheap. But these religious studies folk are cheap. The couple next to us at lunch had the waitress repeat every dinner and desert item, even though they were on a menu, asked for special orders, payed a bill for $25 or so, and left a $1 tip. That's somewhere beneath cheap.
But shabby dress? I didn't notice that. There were a few clerical collars, but no tassels. Except for a few stars, like West, there was little sartorial splendor, but not much"shabby" either. No" circus ponies"; no"drum majorettes." Berreca must have been looking around at a convention of the American Sociological Association or the MLA.
Update: A fellow historian says:"my sartorial patterns fit the description from [Berecca] exactly. What's wrong with a 1990 jacket if it still fits? If the jacket fits, you must acquit!" Truth to tell, my own 1990 jacket is the newest one in my closet and it was bought second hand.
Posted by Ralph 3:00 a.m. EST
EMORY UPDATE ... 11-24-03
The Emory Wheel reports on earlier reviews of Emory University's speech code, under which Anthropology Professor Carol Worthman has been sanctioned by the administration, and the objections of some faculty members to it as a violation of academic freedom. The Wheel also reports student activism on and plans for a university town hall meeting today about the issue. Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass discusses similar cases at Emory and the University of Virginia.
Posted by Ralph 3:00 a.m. EST
NOTED HERE AND THERE ... 11-22-03
When Amy Chua's aunt was murdered by servants in Manila and the family absorbed the indifference of police authorities, the Yale law professor didn't yet understand its world economic context. Now, the event becomes the springboard to Chua's thoughtful essay about "market-dominant minorities" as"the Achilles heel of free market democracy". Ethnicity, she warns,"gives the combination of markets and democracy its special combustibility."
Despite the recommendation of Columbia University history professor Mark van Hagen, the governing authority of the Pulitzer Prize has decided not to revoke Walter Duranty's 70 year old award for coverage of affairs in the Soviet Union. Here is the Pulitzer Prize committee's official statement. Always pay close attention to official announcements released late on a Friday afternoon.
Photography dates from 1827, when Joseph Nicephore Niepce first reproduced a view from his family's window by chemical methods. The University of Texas owns that first photograph and, on Friday, it held a symposium in honor of Niepce's accomplishment.
HNN's comment board is occasionally disfigured by ad hominem remarks which I'm known to discourage. Rarely, a critic like William Shakespeare coins a memorable one, like his"whore-son beetle-headed flap-ear'd knave" in Taming of the Shrew. Most of us lack Shakespeare's skill with the language and current ad hominem rarely rises above the yeasty old Anglo-Saxon words or the pc mantra. Yeast leavened the blogosphere this week when even a University of Chicago professor flung it at conservative blogger James Lileks. Lileks had attacked Iraqi blogger Salam Pax for never having"had the stones to ... pick up a rifle and face the Ba'athists." Said"stones" should not be confused with those tossed by restless Palestinian youth, but there is much to be said for substituting words for missiles of all kinds.
I have been meaning to blog about the uses of historical analogies in the public debate about Iraq in the last year. Anti-war skeptics have been inclined to remind us of"the lessons of Viet-Nam." More appropriately, they might have talked about"the lessons of Afghanistan" in reference to Afghanistan. Those who supported the invasion of Iraq have scorned a generation's pre-occupation with Viet-Nam. They point to analogies with allied occupation of Japan and Germany after World War II and, even, sometimes suggest that middle eastern autocracies will fall like dominoes before democracy's advancing tide. I don't recall democracy's advancing tide sweeping eastern Europe or eastern Asia after World War II. One euphoric amateur even suggests that we are at – not a 1967 or a 1946, but – an 1815 moment, when the post-Cold War world is being re-ordered for a century of democratic peace. May it be, but I don't think analogies persuade anyone of anything. Rather, they are simply signals of our political positioning. They do not persuade anyone of anything because history is in no meaningful sense repetitive. Rather,"history is just one damn thing after another" or, better, it is many things concurring and sequencing. Its lessons are not obvious. They are elusive and its destiny may not be just yet.
Posted by Ralph 4:00 a.m. EST
AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING POLITICAL JUSTICE ... 11-21-03
I'm don't recommend that you read all 800 pages of William Godwin's An Inquiry Concerning Political Justice, but I do recommend that you read Roger Kimball's "Friends of Humanity?" in The New Criterion. It's a delightful essay in European intellectual history from Godwin to Darwin. Along the way, Kimball will send you to the dictionary to find out what"to ensorcell" means and suggest that an"ardent lay" did not mean the same thing in the 18th century that it may suggest to us. I learned that New England's theologians of"disinterested benevolence" probably copped it from Godwin. But his call for the abolition of private property leaves Godwin with no basis of complaint about the theft of words or ideas. All forms of property are shared by the"friends of humanity."
Posted by Ralph 1:15 a.m. EST
SHIFTING BLOGS ... 11-21-03
"Welcome To My World ..." is about to become a group blog under a different title and the group of historians who will join me is an exciting one. I'll introduce them and our new blogtitle by the end of November. There have been personnel changes over at our neighbors,Liberty and Power, but David Beito has strengthened his group with some other prominent and thoughtful libertarians. Have a look at their work. In the meantime, Tom Spencer at Thinking It Through says that he is abandoning his blog. In the last 15 months, Tom has maintained the most widely read blog on HNN. Thinking It Through ranked among the top 100 blogs in readership across the net, with nearly 500,000 unique visitors in its lifetime and about 4,000 visitors a day. But historians have other work to do and Tom has decided that it is time for him to do it. You'll see him occasionally as author of articles or op-eds for HNN. For now, thanks and best wishes, Tom.
Posted by Ralph 1:15 a.m. EST
THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS ... 11-20-03
The National Book Awards were given last night in New York City. Carlos Eire, a professor of history and religion at Yale, won the award for non-fiction, with his Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy. Eire's memoir recalls life in pre-revolutionary Cuba and his unconventional father, a municipal judge, who believed that in a prior life he had been King Louis XVI. Shirley Hazzard's The Great Fire, a love story set in Japan after World War II, won the award for fiction. The special award to Stephen King was more controversial. Lev Grossman called it a well-earned, populist tribute to the author of many a good story. Many others, including Moby Lives's Dennis Loy Johnson, were scornful of it, however."Giving Stephen King the award is not as bad as giving Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize," said Johnson,"but it's right up there."
Posted by Ralph 2:15 a.m. EST
NOTED HERE AND THERE ... 11-19-03
Congratulations are in order to Edward Ayers, Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, who has just been named Professor of the Year at Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
The Carnegie Foundation and CASE also honored three other historians, Lloyd Hunter of Indiana's Franklin College, Mary Forgol of Maryland's Montgomery College, and Robert Zebroski of Missouri's St. Louis College of Pharmacy as Outstanding Professors of the Year in their states.
Emory's Melvin Konner, a professor of anthropology, comes to the defense of his colleague, Carol Worthman, in an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In doing so, he clarifies the context in which Worthman spoke of being"a nigger in the woodpile."
See also: Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass.
Invisible Adjunct has some ideas about the marketing of history. You'll be better at it if you are shameless.
Out of Print: The Chronicle of Higher Education recently asked University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson and Ohio State University historian Christopher to identify books now out of print which ought to be in print. Levinson named Lou Falkner Williams's The Great Ku Klux Klan Trials, 1871-1872. Its title may sound narrow, Levinson said, but"it casts [light] on what is involved if one is serious about ‘regime change.' ... such change is difficult and expensive. ... one ought never undertake a process of regime change while being almost willfully ignorant of its costs." Phelps pointed to David Bradley's novel, The Chaneysville Incident. It's"an intricate meditation on history, personality, and race," says Phelps."The Chaneysville Incident uses stark metaphors (temperature, shapes, colors), biblical parallels, and allegories of chase and hunt to lay waste to the academic conceit that historical inquiry can remain aloof from context, meaning, or emotion."
Posted by Ralph 5:50 p.m. EST
WELCOME TO LONDON, GEORGE ... 11-19-03
George Bush's reception on his state visit to England may be something short of what George III might have received had he visited Boston in 1776, but there are demonstrators aplenty and the Guardian's 60 authors of letters to Bush are mainly hostile. Among them, historian Norman Davies writes:"... you contrive to favour the rich, the strong, and the militarists at every step, neglecting the common good. One expects the opposite from a Christian, Biblereading president. When, one wonders, might you reach the beatitudes?" Historian Linda Colley writes that Bush and the United States are only behaving as Caesars and Empires always do. It is their satraps who need take counsel with one another, she warns."The proper response to the hyperpower over which you preside is not resentment, still less whining. The proper response is vigilance and raising our own game." Oxford's Timothy Garton Ash says that demonstrators in London are not anti-American, simply anti-Bush. His is an arrogant and failed conduct of international power.
Posted by Ralph 12:10 p.m. EST
THE DECLINE AND FALL OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION ... 11-19-03
Among reactions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's decision yesterday, I was most interested in responses by conservatives. AndrewSullivan is, of course, euphoric."Thank God Almighty, We Are Free At Last," he says.
The "freepers" over at"Free Republic" were remarkably restrained, with talk limited to how short-lived gay and lesbian unions characteristically are. Clayton Cramer is probably more representative of popular conservative reaction. Characteristically, he sandwiches his reactions to the Massachusetts court's decision around reports of police raids on Michael Jackson's estate in a child molestation inquiry. (By the way, Cramer claims that there was "falsification" in the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence, in the same way he claimed"falsification" in Michael Bellesiles's Arming America. I'm still awaiting publication of his evidence that the historians' amicus brief in Lawrence presented"falsified" evidence.) There was more horrified reaction over at the National Review's "Corner," (begin there and scroll up) particularly and predictably from John Derbyshire.
But if you are interested in a thoughtful conservative/libertarian perspective by someone who is pro-gay rights, go straight over to Eugene Volokh (a href="http://volokh.com/2003_11_16_volokh_archive.html#106917664607446885">here, here, here, here, and here).
That's a big reading assignment, I know, but Volokh is brilliant on an issue like this. His reading of things is troubling. His reactions remind me of the superficiality of comparisons of the United States Supreme Court's Lawrence and this Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's Goodridge decision to the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision. The latter was a unanimous decision by the nation's highest court. Chief Justice Earl Warren nursed the Court's malingerers into unanimity. He knew that could make an enormous difference in how the decision was received. Both Lawrenceand Goodridge are decisions handed down by seriously divided courts. Andrew Sullivan may think he's"free, at last," but tomorrow's hangover could be a big one.
Update: Radley Balko makes the quite sensible suggestion, on FoxNews no less, that we divorce" civil union" from"marriage." Get government out of the"marriage" business altogether. Let it be the provenance of religious communities; make" civil unions" available to all consenting adults. There need be no constitutional amendment barring"gay marriages" and no bogus"marriage promotion" appropriations. The continued confusion of civil and sacramental relationships, especially by those for whom marriage is in no significant theological sense a sacrament anyway, is – well – diabolical. Adam and Eve can have both a civil and a religious relationship. Religious communities may deny the latter to Adam and Steve if they choose to do so, but that is none of the state's business.
Posted by Ralph 1:30 a.m. EST
ANOTHER RECENT CONTROVERSY OVER"THE PHRASE" ... 11-18-03
A reader, who is a professor of law, calls attention to another recent instance of controversy over the use of the phrase,"nigger in the woodpile." In Australia last summer, a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, Margo Kingston, used it on Australian radio. An Australian television program,"Media Watch" reviews the press for inappropriate language or reportage. It even singled out the metaphorical use of the word," cockroaches," in reference to terrorists for criticism. Among Australian bloggers, Tim Blair surely has the sharpest wit, as you may gather from the title of his blog,"Spleenville.". Despite pointed criticism by Blair and other bloggers,"Media Watch" refused to criticize Kingston's use of the phrase. Peter McEvoy, executive producer of"Media Watch," initially denied that it was"a racist slur" and explained that:
"Media Watch" is a program about the media and journalism that promotes a number of principles, including free speech. The phrase"nigger in the woodpile" is a colloquialism, which means a hidden or unacknowledged problem. Some people may feel it's in bad taste, but we wouldn't pick up someone for using the term in context.The professor of law notes that the phrase may carry a different freight of meaning in Australia, but that given the historic treatment of native Australians, that seems unlikely. Rather,"whether made with racist intent or not, the phrase is rightly understood as racist in the United States (and very probably in Australia as well)," he concludes."Criticism and (non-coerced) apologies would seem to be warranted in both cases."
Posted by Ralph 11:00 p.m. EST
JOE CRESPINO'S SECRET WEAPON ... 11-18-03
I told you that Emory University's Joe Crespino is the historian who proved that Trent Lott praised Mississippi's support of Strom Thurmond for president in 1948 many times over many years. I didn't tell you that Joe has a secret weapon. As with most good country men, his secret weapon is a good country woman. It's only sort of a secret because she goes by the name of Caroline Herring. The only thing better than a good country woman is a good country woman who can sing. Rumor has it that Caroline Herring can sing. She rescued Joe from the loneliness of research at the LBJ Library in Austin and left her own graduate studies to pursue a career in music. She's been featured at the Newport Folk Festival and sung gigs from Stubbs Bar-B-Q in Austin to the Tin Angel in Philadelphia. She debuts in Atlanta at the Red Light Cafe on Amsterdam Avenue at 8:00 p.m., Sunday, November 23. If you're in the area and love country and folk music, you'll want to join us. Joe shamelessly promotes his wife's music. Even if you're only mildly interested, you'd better show up because he says he's taking attendance and you know what he did to Trent Lott, don't you?
Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST
FROM MY INBOX ... 11-17-03
Occasionally, I receive e-mails from colleagues or readers about matters posted on my blog. I never quote them with the author's name attached to what they say without the author's permission, unless the e-mail has been mass mailed to many other recipients. In the latter case, I regard it as being in the public arena. Very often, however, the e-mails raise fascinating issues. Almost as often, I am not well qualified to examine them myself. So, I offer them here, with minor editorial revision, in hopes that someone who is well qualified will look into them. A well-informed American historian, for example, writes about historians as expert witnesses in tobacco cases:
Have you ever considered blogging the issue of historians' professional ethics and expert witness testimony? Given that historians are now expert witnesses in all manner of trials I have"a bee in my bonnet" that the AHA and OAH need to establish guidelines for professional ethics in these instances. My ire is up over the prominent historians who are serving as very, very highly paid expert witnesses for the tobacco companies. It is certainly right that the tobacco companies should receive the same legal rights and expert testimony that any other legal enterprise or individual receives, but I am more concerned about the insidious effect that tobacco testimony is having on some scholar's scholarship. There is reason to believe that tobacco money is now influencing some of the scholarship in the history of medicine. In other words, some scholars who have served as expert witnesses are now creating a historiographic body of work that they can then cite in expert testimony, creating a convenient body of evidence about the"state of common knowledge about the hazards of tobacco" during the 1950s and 1960s. This practice goes on without any requirements for disclosure by any of the historical journals I am aware of or by any of the presses that publish history.A"worst case scenerio" suggested by this query is that generous fees paid to historians as expert witnesses in tobacco settlement cases could be buying, not only favorable testimony, but the creation of a body of historical literature which can then be cited in future cases as" common knowledge" in the field. The legal fees corrupt in an echo chamber effect. Obviously, the profession needs to address situations such as this, because it could threaten the integrity of our journals, our books, and a whole field of knowledge. Brian W. Martin and John Neuenschwander have recently written about historians offering expert testimony in legal cases, but the relationship of expert testimony to research and publication in the tobacco cases may need fuller inquiry. The only way to protect our reputation is full disclosure: more light, more air.
Posted by Ralph 7:30 p.m. EST
MAP THIS! ... 11-17-03
What's a historian without a map? She or he is an expert who doesn't know where, let alone what, he or she is talking about. Even if you don't love maps, have a look at Maps and Territories which features maps or parts thereof with an interesting commentary. Thanks to Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber and Edward Cohn at Mildly Malevolent for the tip.
Posted by Ralph 4:00 a.m. EST
SPEECH AND SPEECH CODES ... 11-17-03
Erin O'Connor has an update on the controversy over Emory University anthropology professor Carol Worthman's use of the phrase"nigger in the woodpile."
The Black Student Alliance and some African American professors think the University has not been sufficiently thorough in repudiation of Professor Worthman's remark. They have outlined demands to the administration and look to Jesse Jackson and the NAACP for moral support.
Meanwhile, other members of the faculty defend Worthman's remark as within the bounds of free speech. They raise interesting issues about the University's speech code, under which Worthman was sanctioned. It apparently was imposed by the administration some years ago, may never have been authorized by the faculty, and survived a challenge from student government in recent memory.
An issue like this can tear at the heart of an institution. Emory has made enormous strides in diversifying its student body, staff, faculty, administration, and governing authority. All who participate in these discussions should consider how they would feel if the speech in question denigrated their own ethnicity or religious identity. Those who criticize Professor Worthman should ask if what they demand of the University enhances or confines it.
The issue tears at me as I write. How can speech on campus be any less free than speech off-campus and still be free? It is unthinkable for the freedom movement to demand that we voluntarily assume chains and cuffs of our own making. Yet, my African-American colleagues and students – indeed, all of us – should be free of the denigrating biases which run so deep in our language. Laws and codes can mandate penalties for offenders. They cannot protect us from offense. Only we can do that.
Meanwhile, Jim Capozzola at Rittenhouse Review reminds us of a real tragedy of our indifference. A beautiful and talented twelve year old African American child is found dead on Savannah's river front and its newspaper is silent. Sometimes, our silence speaks even louder than our words.
Posted by Ralph 4:00 a.m. EST
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HNN Readers - 7/6/2003
Don Williams - 6/22/2003
Recall how Plato explained that most of humanity consists of dumb brutes, sitting in a firelit cave and gazing in bafflement at moving shadows on the walls --not realizing that the shadows are cast by objects being moved behind their backs? Plato was talking about the New York Times readership, Mr Luker.
Don Williams - 6/22/2003
Here's a comment I sent to the New York Times re Pollack's op-ed.
It does not, of course, have a snowball's chance in hell of being published.
To: Editor, New York Times
Re "Saddam's Bombs? We'll Find Them" (June 20 ), Kenneth Pollack's defense of Bush gives us few verifiable facts, only personal assurances and handwaving. In considering those assurances, readers deserve to know Mr Pollack's affiliations.
Several members of Congress's Intelligence Committees stated before the war that they had seen no evidence that Hussein was an imminent threat to the United States. Bush attacked Hussein because Hussein was seen as a threat by Israel. Bush has repeatedly pandered to Sharon in order to undermine the Democratic Party by courting the Democrats' major financiers-- most of whom are strong advocates for Israel.
Backscratching works both ways. Mr Polleck's "Saban Center for Middle East Policy" at the Brookings Institution was created last year by Haim Saban, an Israeli billionaire with dual US citizenship who gave the Democrats $12.4 million in the 2002 elections, including $7 million donated for the new DNC building.[2,3] Mr Polleck’s oped is a clear warning to the Democrats.
 http://www.sptimes.com/2002/06/30/Columns/Jewish_voters_noticin.shtml &
 http://www.opensecrets.org/ , enter “Saban” under “Look up an Individual Donor” on left
See also http://www.tray.com/cgi-win/indexhtml.exe?MBF=NAME
Ralph E. Luker - 6/14/2003
Thomas, I'm inclined to agree with you that, even though _AA_'s argument was counter-intuitive, nonetheless it was a case which many historians were ready to embrace and, therefore, the bs detectors weren't fully plugged in.
Thomas Gunn - 6/14/2003
There is a lesson to be relearned here Ralph, a kind of historical repeat.
Can you see the connection between what Duranty did for political purposes and what Bellesiles did? The scope may be different but the reasoning was the same.
What they did was evil, Blair on the other hand was just too lazy to do what he was paid to do. Blair got away with it b/c he was the publishers sweetheart.
Duranty and Bellesiles got away with it (for as long as they did) with the tacit collusion of like minded professional historians.
I don't know the solution, maybe you do, what I do know is that without an honest apprasial of world history from our professional historians, we will repeat, and repeat, and repeat.
There was a documentary on cable last night detailing the cannibalism which took place and the fruits of those endeavors which plague us yet today. Did you happen to see it? Link: http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/cannibal/
Don Williams - 6/11/2003
Mr Luker, I made the comment earlier that , if Bellesiles was lying ,he was at least lying about things that occurred 225 years ago --whereas some people lie every day about major events happening today.
My discussion of Bushian accounting methods below was one example.
I put up some additional examples today in the course of discussions on two of HNN's current articles. You might find my comments at
http://hnn.us/articles/1494.html and http://hnn.us/articles/1492.html of some slight interest.
If my comments seem surprising for an NRA member, recall that Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists were equally surprised
by James Madison circa 1790 --although my poor scribbling is in no way significant. I merely see a disconnect between holding up a flintlock and intoning "from my cold dead hands" while electing a President that suspends Constitutional safeguards like trial by jury and habeas corpus.
One of the benefits of being in the rabble is that one is free to hold whatever opinion one wants because no one cares. A man with power, on the other hand, has something significant to lose and must be much more reserved.
I would be interested in your opinion re whether the history we're currently creating is true, false, or whether Cassius Dio was right.
David Salmanson - 6/4/2003
1. Look carefully at how the "Baltimore case" played out and see if you can learn any lessons. 2. Contact a lawyer with expertise in whistleblower law. If you have uncovered fraud involving taxpayer dollars, you are entitled to a portion of the recovery.
Andrew Hagen - 6/1/2003
If you really believe your life is in danger, then the safest thing you can do is to immediately publish. Publish everything. The quickest way to publish is to put it on the web. Once it's out there, the incentive to cause you physical harm is reduced, since harming you would no longer get "them" anything.
My impression is that you have a conspiracy theory. It may nevertheless be valid. Such theories tend, however, to be invalid. Triple-check your evidence. Does each piece link together?
Roger Sweeny - 5/30/2003
I'm not sure if you'd consider the federal estate tax a valid answer. When a person dies, the executor has to total the value of all the property in the estate. If it meets some threshhold (I think around $600,000 now), a percentage is taken by the federal government.
You are absolutely right that most federal taxes are on the transfer of property rather than the possession of property. The reason for that is historical. Before there was a federal government, there were state and local governments. Many of them had property taxes. When the federal government began, it left those taxes to the states, and instead financed itself by tariffs and by selling off the land it owned. When the Civil War broke out, Congress instituted an income tax, which was eventually declared unconstitutional. When the federal government began to have a substantial peacetime size, during the "Progressive Era" at the turn of the century, the Constitution was amended to allow an income tax. An income tax was considered to be more flexibe, more fair, and to have more potential as a federal money generator than a national property tax.
It has nothing to do with the Fifth Amendment's requirment, "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." Most state constitutions have a similar provision. But as far as I know, every state has state or local property taxes.
Don Williams - 5/29/2003
Your examples were tax on income --it doesn't matter if the income is a check, cash, gold bullion, or income disguised by being put in the form of consumer items, real estate,etc. If you receive something of value, it's treated as income. Otherwise, corporations would pay employees with the barter system.
I'm talking about PROPERTY which you already own. Your house.
Car. Gold coins even. Show me where property that you own
is ever taxed by the federal government.
Roger Sweeny - 5/29/2003
It's called "generational accounting" and some economists have been doing it for more than a decade now. The government of every industrialized country has promised a lot more than it can pay at present rates of tax. Some are in a big hole; some are in a truly gargantuan hole.
The "accounting" is hardly fool-proof. It relies on a lot of assumptions about life expectancy, prices, economic growth, etc. But the general conclusion is pretty clear.
Republicans actually used to talk about it a little. They would criticize Social Security, say it would never be able to keep its promises, and would have to be radically changed. But Social Security is famously the "third rail of American politics": touch it and you get electrocuted. So now they've shut up.
Roger Sweeny - 5/29/2003
No one would deny that a car is property. If I win a car on a tv game show, I have to pay income tax on the "fair market value of the car." If a football player wins a gold trophy, he has to pay income tax on the "fair market value" of the trophy. There are numerous kinds of non-money income that are taxed.
Now, money is also property. If someone comes into my house and takes my money, they take my property. When the federal government taxes income, it taxes the transfer of property.
If it wants more money, it can increase the rates of tax.
If you get things besides money, that is also considered income. If you win a car on a tv game show, you have to pay income tax on the
Bob Coleman - 5/29/2003
I have been in touch with the relevant section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and with the relevant office of my State's government. I am trying to avoid that path because they tod me that they can't accept anonymous complaints and can't guaranty "client" confidentiality.
My immediate goal is to quietly get an "expose" paper published in a peer-review scholarly journal to establish the credibility of my handling of the crucial technical scientific issue in this case. This expose paper is merely a means to an end -- it is intended solely to remove or bypass an obstacle. Once this is accomplished, the current cloud on my valid scientific findings in other new original research papers will be dispelled, and these other papers can be published in peer-review scholarly journals in the appropriate field of study. The end goal is for these new original findings to be published so that they will be most accessible to other researchers and commercial customers, and to be available for citation.
I prefer to avoid publicity for myself. I prefer to not file a lawsuit in this matter. I do not even have standing in any jurisdiction, although I was advised that I might consider becoming a small-sized "customer" of a related fradulent commercial venture and thereby establish standing before filing a complaint.
I sincerely appreciate your suggestions.
Bob Coleman - 5/29/2003
Likewise, no offense intended, but you seem to have gone off on a tangent and possibly are making unstated assumptions. I don't disagree with the spirit of what you have written.
For anyone of average intelligence, the arguments I make to expose the subject fallacy are simple and clear EXCEPT for the technical issues that require more in-depth explanation.
By analogy, many people may understand the logic of double-blind control groups in experimentation, say for new-drug treatment testing, but such laypersons without specialized training would not necessarily be qualified to detect subtle but crucial obfuscated and intentionally mislabeled deviations from accepted scientific practice, which qualitatively change the significance of the tests.
For example, is the scientific model appropriately adjusted for heteroskedasticity, autocorrelation, and forward-looking bias using standard accepted methods and tests?
Neither this analogy nor this example pertains to my case, but from a layperson's perspective, it is just a liar's contest.
As far as data to support my arguments, it amounts to providing a complete unbroken "audit trial" starting with primary data and established theory, plus the full citations of their sources, then each step in the chain of reasoning or calculation, ending with the results. I now present in the main research paper only tables that summarize the results, and skeptics can look at many more intermediate tables in the supplement to see exactly how these results were obtained. In this manner, no layperson will need to ask where a number comes from, or what is the justification for some statement. The price for this greater accessibility to more readers is a much longer article to read.
Thank you for your comments.
Don Williams - 5/29/2003
The Bill of Rights originally applied to the FEDERAL government only --not to the states. The 14th Amendment and subsequent Supreme Court decisions applied some of the amendments as constrainsts on the states.
Again, I think the 5th Amendment prohibits federal taxation of property. IF you disagree, give me a concrete example.
Roger Sweeny - 5/29/2003
1) Almost all local governments and school districts have something called a "property tax" on buildings and land. My state of Massachusetts has an "excise tax" on any car you own (2 1/2 % of the assessed value). Any money I have earned becomes my property but the federal and state government tax it.
2) Higher income tax rates in uppper brackets.
3) Yes. Though I'm not sure it would have been too much different if Democrats had been in power.
Don Williams - 5/29/2003
1) I'm not really qualified to speak on this issue, but my experience is that as you go higher in the leadership councils of this country, the reasoning does not become more complex --it becomes more simple. Technically, this is known as "cutting through the crap". I mention this in the hope of helping you --academicians,engineers,researchers, etc often overlook this.
2)Advanced reasoning is needed where's there's little data, hard evidence,etc. Ex: Solving a murder case, determining the life style/trade patterns of an Aegean city state circa 500 BC based on limited archaelogical fragments, developing the theory of relativity from a few , easily overlooked physical effects
If some event has the major consequences you describe, then you should be able to easily convince any man taken off the street. Advanced reasoning is a means to an end -- a process. It is NOT the end product.
On matters of significant real world effect, decision-makers ruthlessly apply Occam's razor -- simplify to the basics. If you can't make your essential points on one viewgraph, you WILL be dismissed. (If challanged, Your extended defense of those major points may be quite detailed, of course) If it takes a genius to understand your reasoning, then your reasoning is incomplete and lacking credibility.
3)An example: Historian Charles Beard postulated that the American Founders designed the American Constitution to protect
the property interests of the wealthy. In the 1950s, two historians published books to refute Beard's thesis. Recently, Roger McGuire has published a book based on advanced economic modelling to support Beard's thesis.
You could read all those books, look at thousands of pages of primary source material from the 1700s, and then produce a 600 page argument for why Beard was right.
A better approach would be to simply point to empirical evidence/hard data --i.e., you could simply point to the end result: After 225 years of operation under the Constitution, we have a wealth and income distribution almost as badly skewed (Gini coefficient) as Colombia's.
4) You might also look at my argument with Mr Sweeny below --
Mr Bush's own budget statements from 2001 and 2003 are a far more damming indictment against him than 50 erudite articles from learned economists -- especially when learned economists are constantly looking for grants from rich patrons and when the intellectual integrity of America's economists is best summed up by the motto "He whose bread I eat -- his song I sing."
5) My comments are meant to help you -- not to dismiss your claim.
Don Williams - 5/29/2003
-- an excerpt:
"LONDON (AFP) - In the midst of negotiating a steep tax cuts package, the US government shelved a report that showed the United States faces future federal budget deficits of more than 44.2 trillion dollars.
President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s administration chose to keep the findings -- commissioned by then-Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill -- out of the 2004 annual budget report, published in February, London's Financial Times reported.
The newspaper desribed the study as "the most comprehensive assessment of how the US government is at risk of being overwhelmed by the 'baby boom' generation's future healthcare and retirement costs."
The Financial Times hinted that the decision not to publish the report may have been because the White House was campaigning for a massive tax-cut package that critics claim will expand future deficits.
The study, according to the same source, said that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts or both are unavoidable if the US is to meet benefit promises to future generations. "
It's really too bad that we Americans have to now go to the foreign press nowdays to find out the real news about major events in our
country. But then the US media monopoly now censors/restricts political discourse to the rants of Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Bill O'Reilly --who, in my opinion, are cheap ignorant whores for the rich.
Ralph E. Luker - 5/29/2003
Mr. Coleman, If your findings are a discovery of fraudulent use of millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars, you may want to consider taking your evidence first to a federal attorney. That might be more prudent than either exposing the story through a journalist or posting evidence on the internet.
Bob Coleman - 5/29/2003
Let me respond to each of your helpful points.
POINT 1: The winners and loser in this case can easily be identified by type if not always by individual identities, especially in the category of losers. It follow the usual formula: the few benefit at the expense of the many.
The rewards to the fraudulent researchers include: (1) academic publications and career advancement, (2) millions of dollars in annual non-academic income from financial interests in commercial ventures that the researchers' organized and that are founded on their intentional fallacies [the main purpose of the fallacies is to provide just such a foundation], and (3) Nobel Prizes that have been rumored in the print media.
Those harmed include: (1) honest scholarly and scientific researchers, (2) academic institutions associated with the fraudulent researchers, (3) millions of "consumers" worldwide who are defrauded by the commercial ventures, (4) US taxpayers.
Finding allies to expose this fraud is not easy, mainly because "those who know, don't speak; and those who speak, don't know." Less than a handful of people have seen my work on this project. A layperson friend of mine with outstanding intellectual gifts says he follows my arguments but can't understand the technical issues involved and thus must trust my knowledge and integrity. If he were to contact an expert in the specialized field of knowledge to provide a second opinion about what is truthful, there is no way for him or anyone else to know whether or not the expert is a silent passive bystander who does not want to be implicated. This raises the Watergate refrain: "What did you know, and when did you know it?" and this is the point where my discovery work ended. Why would anyone answer these questions if they might be indicted as a co-conspirator?
POINT 2: I consider myself quite fortunate to have found one friendly reviewer (hereinafter, FR) who is qualified by advance education (PhD) and full-time work to critique my research paper and its findings, but who also is extremely wary of professional retaliation.
FR's first response after reading my research paper was to point out the great financial stakes involved (billions of dollars annually) and to suggest in total seriousness that someone might arrange to have me be the victim of an automobile accident. I am not intimidated about this possibility, but as a result of his warning I have taken measures to insure that my work will be publicized in the event of my earlier death.
FR's next response was to say: "It's a scam, all right."
FR made only two other comments about my research paper. First, FR said that one statement in my paper about a crucial technical point was misleading, but my point was well taken anyway. The misleading statement has now been clarified and supported with extensive elaboration. Second, FR said that many of the details in the paper could be eliminated for brevity. The research paper provided ample detail to increase credibility for laypersons and to overcome the natural denial of readers who may be unfamiliar with the dynamic of the Big Lie technique. Much of this detail has now been moved to a supplement that is appended to the research paper.
This friendly reviewer (FR) will remain anonymous to protect him/her from personal attacks.
POINT 3: The intentionally fallacious research findings were included in articles published in leading peer-review scholarly journals, and some of these articles were reportedly funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through multiple grants totaling about $1 million. The NSF Inspector General online information gives examples of fraud that are no more serious that charging personal long-distance phone calls to the funded-project budget. In addition, most university general counsels appear to use the process of complaints of misconduct and fraud as a way to protect the university and effectively whitewash and coverup their investigation and findings.
POINT 4: Who is behind the behind? The trails I have followed are fairly straightforward and map out a continuously expanding nexus of linked individuals, an inner circle of most-frequently linked individuals within this nexus, and a central initiating and directing individual to whom all the others are linked in varying degree and frequency. This one central director is ultimately behind the whole continuing fraud. Subject mainly to personal interviews with members of this nexus, there are few remaining dots to be found and connected that are likely to significantly change the resulting picture. The motives, opportunities, and "weapons" seem clear and convincing.
Thanks for the useful comments.
Don Williams - 5/28/2003
1) Please give me an example where the government taxes
wealth or property. (Please don't submit he capital gains tax
as an example -- it is a tax on income/profits from the sale of
an appreciated property.)
2) Give me an example of how the rich can be taxed to redeem the $5 Trillion in IOUs circa 2011.
3) I notice that you do not disagree with my analysis of the financial situation. Do you agree that this massive and ongoing deterioation has occurred on the Republican watch , approved by a Republican Congress and a Republican President?
Don Williams - 5/28/2003
1) Chinese philosophy has the idea of yin and yang --unity of opposites and their constant change. It is a rare thing in the world for something to exist without it's opposite --for power to exist without an opponent. Re the situation you describe, why are the people doing what you describe -- what is their reward, who is supplying it , and who is being hurt? Certainly there are always opposites in politics -- if a Republican supports something, then there is at least one Democrat who opposes it. If the thing which concerns you is important, you should be able to find allies.
2) Misapplication of theory is a tricky area -- I suggest you talk your conclusion over with a close friend and ask for frank criticism -- you need to make sure you are not so narrowly focused on a situation that you are overlooking some major aspect. I'm not talking about being wishy-washy -- if there is a weakness in your reasoning, it can only help you strengthen your ultimate argument by subjecting it to internal criticism. Better to hear it now from a friend than later from an opponent in public debate.
3) Academia by no means holds a monopoly on knowledge -- you should be able to find experts in any field outside of academia who can evaluate your findings. Within the government, for example. Most academic work is subsidized at least partially by government grants and few government employees want to be associated with funding fraud. (Unless the fraud is supported by a Member of Congress,of course. Then all bets are off.)
4) Look at who is behind the people you speak of. In the Arming America affair, for example, I personally considered Bellesiles to be somewhat of a secondary figure -- an associate professor circa 1996 trying to advance his career. The prominent professors supporting him, their ideological agenda, their attempt to influence the Supreme Court on a major precedent-setting case, and the financial support of the Joyce Foundation were of much more interest to me. Especially when the Joyce gives millions each year for studies on "gun violence " -- millions the Joyce earns on assets of almost $1 Billion. My understanding is that the Joyce's earnings are tax free because the Joyce states to the IRS that it does not engage in political lobbying.
Roger Sweeny - 5/28/2003
1) When the last round of major changes in social security was made, during the Reagan administration, after the report of a commission headed by Alan Greenspan, there were absolutely no plans--either in the commission report or in policy of the Reagan administration--to use the social security surpluses to get rid of the national debt.
Of course, there were various speeches and writings by various people at various times proposing it but that's all there was. Politicians like to sound responsible and "get rid of the debt" or "pay down the debt." They also like to spend that money on things the voters like or give the voters tax breaks (Clinton expanded numerous deductions and credits).
2) Pre-tax wealth is also private property. If the fifth amendment operated like you think it does, taxation would be impossible. The fifth amendment applies to things like the government wanting your house because it's in the path of a highway they want to build. The amendment says that the purpose has to be public (it can't be to give the house to the mayor's sister to live in) and you have to be paid "adequately" for the government's "taking."
An amendment was required for a federal income tax because a part of the Constitution said that "direct taxes" had to be levied proportionally among the states. Courts had interpreted this to mean that an income tax was unconstitutional because it was a direct tax not levied proportionally. The 16th Amendment (1913) changed this by saying, "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without any census or enumeration."
Bob Coleman - 5/28/2003
Thanks again for your helpful comments.
The main academic charge in this case would be intentional "deviation from accepted scientific methodology" in academic publications, which are then used as the basis for "commercial fraud" in the marketplace. The academic charges could be refined to read: academic fraud and scientific misconduct.
In this case, there is a knowing misapplication of widely accepted theory that laypersons would not easily understand without it being pointed out to them. The data are not the source of fraud. Misapplied theory, unscientific methodolgy, and incomplete disclosure are the problems. Good data are used to reach fallacious conclusions that are made to appear valid.
Here is a helpful analogy. What is the main difference between the Enron and WorldCom fraud cases? WorldCom was simple old-fashion accounting fraud scattered in small quantities throughout almost every account in the company books. By contrast, Enron fraud is PhD machinations that only financial experts can detect and understand easily. That is why the Enron charges are taking so much longer to be brought against the Enron executives. The situation I describe is parallel to the Enron case, not the WorldCom case.
Your comment about conspiracy theories is new to me. Is there a problem with a conspiracy theory? In this case, there is a nexus of collaborators focused on an inner circle that is coordinated by one person since inception. They make their different published articles appear to "independently" arrive at verifications and mutually supportive conclusions. Most of those in the specialized field of study who are not active collaborators are passive knowing silent bystanders. Does this need to be addressed in the research paper? A more appropriate description is the Big Lie technique.
I consulted informally with a lawyer friend about the libel and defamation issues. His reply was that the best defense against those charges is "the truth," so I am on safe ground there because I simply find the relevant scattered dots and then connect the dots.
Based on all the helpful comments, my current plan is to submit my research paper to another peer-review scholarly journal. To avoid influencing the editorial decision and double-blind peer-review process, as soon as I receive the editorial decision, whether accept or reject, then I may upload all the relevant documents to an online website and go public to the news print media with a Press Release. Maybe also send the Press Release and URL to key editors at print media with good reputations for investigative journalism. All of the necessary discovery work has been done and can easily, quickly, independently verfied using full citations.
Again, thanks for the practical insights.
Don Williams - 5/28/2003
1) Re original plans to pay down the federal debt in order to support Social Security, see http://csf.colorado.edu/roper/money/notes/debt-and-deficits.html .
"In his State of the Union speech in Jan '99, Clinton proposed using the newly realized budget "surplus" for funding Social Security. In June '99 he proposed using part of the "surplus" for Medicare.
The dotted line projecting a future decline in Debt/GDP reflects a 1998 Republican proposal that the federal budget surplus be used to retire federal debt outstanding. But Republicans have had a change of heart -- arguing instead for large tax cuts "
2) After-tax wealth is private property. I cite from the 5th Amendment:
"nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation "
This is why future governments won't be able to retrieve the roughly $2 Trillion that Bush is giving to the rich. This is why the only way future governments can meet Social Security promises is by heavy taxes on middle class 401k/IRAs. That is why Bush's tax cut also included measures to encourage the middle class to put their savings into the money trap -- and why I think that 401Ks/IRAs are terrible investments. By the time the workers and middle-class realize how Bush has stabbed them in the back, Bush will be ready to do a Phil Gramm exit -- waving merrily to ten of thousands (make that millions) bankrupt constituents as he goes off into a luxurious retirement.
Recall that it was necessary to pass a Constitutional amendment just to let the government tax income.
Andrew Hagen - 5/28/2003
You describe your argument roughly as the exposing of fallacies in an established academic discipline. Apparently you are not suggesting that you have a new theory that can take the place of the old, traditional theory. One of Kuhn's main points was that a scientific revolution will not take place when an old theory has been exposed as fallacious, no matter how beaten down it is, but will only take place when a new theory is produced to take the old theory's place. So, like you're saying, this is not really a revolution.
What you are saying is that an academic discipline can be criticized severely, and you would like to state this criticism. That is a worthy endeavor. These kinds of criticisms happen all the time. Often they gain peer review. If you can't gain peer review, you can certainly self-publish, on the web or in print, and seek to gain an audience. If your criticism has value, it will surely get attention once you announce it in various public spaces.
You go further, however. You say that in this academic discipline there are practices that either border on fraud or are fraud. Let's say you are right. What you need to first do is consider your argument. Is it primarily a matter of theory, or primarily a matter of facts and evidence? If you are saying that they are missapplying the theory, or applying it inconsistently, then you can make that argument. On the other hand, if you are saying that evidence is being fabricated or misrepresented, then to expose this practice requires proof. Good, solid proof.
One way to expose a fraudulent practice is to obtain original documents that expose guilt, and then publish them. You could provide the documents to a newspaper which could publish them and do an investigative story. If that doesn't work for you, you could scan the documents, then put them on a web site. If you don't know how to scan a document, just go to a Kinko's or other copy center. If you don't have a web site to publish them, you can get one. Search Google for "free web site" or "free blog" for example. Usually, putting one together is not too hard. The more work you put into it, the better. It's also good to get a computer geek type of person to look at it and get their opinions.
Seeking peer review in a field that is totally compromised is obviously not going to work. If that is the case, then you will have to go another route.
As for the difference between print media and the web, I'm not sure what that would amount to. If in doubt, do both. You can self-publish in both print and on the web. Again, if it's a case of academic fraud as you say, then a newspaper may be interested in it. The advantage is that you would be the source of the story, and a reporter would write it up and bring it to the public. Less work for you.
Finally, if you are saying that the field is not using the old, traditional method correctly, then someone will likely say they are just using a newer, updated method. You need to have a response to that.
Whatever your course of action is, you must address the conspiracy theory question. Surely someone will come up to you and say, "You're making a conspiracy theory." To defend against this charge, your argument must be logically sound. I don't know anything about you, so if you would like a recommendation, I really like John Shand's book on logic called "Arguing Well." It's short and sweet.
As for the copyright questions, those are questions for a lawyer. I wouldn't worry about them too much. I am not a lawyer, however. Seek a lawyer if you need legal advice.
Finally, if you make an untrue accusation against someone, you could be held liable for defamation in a court of law. To the extent that you think this possible, you should consult a lawyer. I'm not a lawyer. Do not take my words as legal advice.
Roger Sweeny - 5/28/2003
"The original idea was that Social Security/Medicare payroll taxes would be used to reduce the $5 Trillion federal debt -- that the debt would be largely paid off by 2008 so that income taxes post 2008 could be used to make good on the government's Social Security/Medicare promises."
No, that is simply not true.
Also, there is no such thing as "after tax wealth which is immune from taxes per the Fifth Amendment."
Also, it takes 40 Senators to maintain a filibuster (it takes the votes of 60 Senators to "invoke cloture" and end any debate.)
One corrupt president can, of course, veto--and 67 Senators (out of 100) and 290 Representatives (out of 435) can override the veto.
Don Williams - 5/28/2003
The original idea was that Social Security/Medicare payroll taxes would be used to reduce the $5 Trillion federal debt -- that the debt would be largely paid off by 2008 so that income taxes post 2008 could be used to make good on the government's Social Security/Medicare promises.
Instead, Bush is giving the rich $Trillions in tax cuts to relieve them of their share of the debt. Bush is shifting the burden of paying the debt to the working poor and middle class. Come 2008, future administrations won't be able to redeem the Trillions in IOUs by "soaking the rich" -- the rich will have used Bush's window of low tax rates to convert their holdings to after tax wealth which is immune from taxes per the Fifth Amendment.
Besides, the rich will always have the means to block tax hikes on themselves -- it only takes one corrupt Senator to filibuster the hike or one corrupt President to veto it. To keep the working poor baby boomers from starving in retirement --given that their only retirement assets are their Social Security accounts -- future governments will have to levy heavy taxes on middle class IRAs/401Ks --i.e., heavy taxes on withdrawals of "before tax" balances.
If you look at Bush's budget submitted in Feb 2001, it showed that federal debt in 2008 would be $6.1 Trillion, with $4.8 Trillion held as Trust Fund IOUs and only $1.3 Trillion held as public debt. See Table S-16 at the bottom of
If you look at the Bush budget submitted recently (Feb 2003) , it shows a 2008 federal debt of $9.4 Trillion --up $3.3 Trillion from what he stated only 2 years ago. Of that debt , $4.4 Trillion is held by the Trust Funds but public debt has now zoomed to $5 Trillion. Go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2004/hist.html and select the Excel spreadsheet in Section 7, labelled "Table 7.1 - Federal Debt at the End of Year" and look at the 2008 figures.
Bush's recent budget doesn't show the negative effects of the $300 Billion (actually $800 billion) recent dividend tax cut --which largely goes to the rich.
Anyone who puts money in an IRA/401K money trap is a moron.
Don Williams - 5/28/2003
1) George Washington University keeps a "National Security Archive" containing declassified US government documents. The Archive includes the declassified (circa 1995) copy of the CIA's internal history of the coup (Operation PBSUCCESS) that the Agency mounted in Guatamala in 1954.
2) Some excerpts from the history are here: http://www.socialconscience.com/articles/2003/guatemala/
3) If you scroll down to the Chapter 2, page 26 excerpt, you see the following:
" The CIA required "psywar" training for new agents, who studied Paul Linebarger's text, Psychological Warfare, and grifter novels like The Big Con for disinformation tactics. "
4) That is a rather limited statement. If you think of it, recruiting a foreign national to commit treason -- to become a apy and agent -- involves psychological manipulation similar to a con game. As a hypothetical example, a Russian could have recruited Jonathan Pollard to betray US secrets if the Russian had disguised himself as an officer of Israel's Mossad service --the technique known as "The False Flag".
5) Although David Maurer did not discuss politics, his book is, in my opinion, very helpful in studying American business and politics. Social Security, for example.
5) Maybe Michael Foucault had a point, hmmmm?
Roger Sweeny - 5/28/2003
Under Bush the Social Security Aministration takes in more money in payroll taxes than it pays out in benefits. The extra money is used to buy treasury bonds (government IOUs). The rest of the government then uses that money for the things that the government does. This exact same thing was done under Clinton, Bush I, and Reagan. It is what the laws passed by Congress require.
I agree these IOUs are not real assets to the Social Security Administration. When they come due, they will have to be paid with real money from taxes (which means taxes will have to go up, or spending will have to be cut). But Bush didn't invent them. In fact, as far as I can tell, he hasn't done much of anything to change the Social Security system.
Considering that the system will start going into deficit around 2011 (as you mention), that is a failure of leadership. Alas, the Democrats would prefer to sweep the problems under the rug too.
Bob Coleman - 5/28/2003
Thank you for your clear, succinct statement in reply to my query. Let the question be qualified as follows.
What if the leading peer-review scholarly journals that are focused on a specific field of study (a given academic literature) have published numerous articles on a particular important topic that are not only fallacious but known to be fallacious by the editors and anonymous referees at the time of publication?
And what if these same prestigious journals reject submitted papers that rely on totally traditional methods to clearly demonstrate these major fallacies using irrefutable good faith arguments and thus silently but effectively point out the intentional prior publication of these fallacies?
If addition, what if the long-run mischief in this field of study has compromised almost all related academic departments, the leading related scholarly journal editorial boards, the most prestigious news media, and substantial industry participants?
In terms of Thomas Kuhn's paradigm shift, what if there is no revolution in this case but rather a mischevious deviation from accepted scholarly and scientific methods, which benefits the academic collaborators but at great continuing cost to society. In other words, without hyperbole, imagine the Enron of academia and thus a practical story with great time-value.
Any investigative reporter outside the particular academic field of study would require a specialized expert to differentiate between noise and signals, and it might be extremely difficult to recognize such an expert who is neither an active collaborator nor a passive silent knowing bystander. Furthermore most academics would be wary of retribution if they were to speak candidly on the record. Going back to the beginning of this discussion: no peer-review scholarly journal article with the necessary arguments and evidence to expose the fallacy is known to be published.
Is print media or a blog better for publicizing such a story? Which print media, blogs and reporters are considered journalistically most honest? Who should be contacted, and in what order? How much information should be provided initially, and then later as supporting documentation, to avoid ruining the possibility of subsequent publication as a new original paper by a peer-review scholarly journal without incurring copyright problems?
Ralph E. Luker - 5/28/2003
Actually, Don, I like your recommended readings. Although I never met him, David Maurer's wife was my high school Latin teacher and an excellent one at that. Years later, when last I spoke to her by telephone, I was trying to pay her a compliment about what a formidable teacher she had been. "Oh," said she, cutting me off, "I was a bitch!"
Don Williams - 5/28/2003
My reading of Mr Coleman's question is that he's asking how one can publicize a major problem -- e.g., the peer review problem that Mr Luker is trying address.
Using the Bellesiles/Arming America controversy as an example, it's worth noting that Clayton Cramer was eventually heard, as was James Lindgren, a law professor. I do not have a history degree and I do not work in academia. Nevertheless, John Saillant allowed me to post research findings/ criticisms of Arming America on the H-OIEAHC mail list and to debate with professional historians. The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Organization of American Historians published my letters. Several historians emailed compliments to me offline and one suggested that I publish one of my posts in a journal. While I tried to be fair/honest in my criticism and to provide primary sources, I have to admit that I received far more of a welcome than my scholarship probably deserved.
By contrast, I am astounded at the amount of censorship in the mainstream press re the Sept 11 attack -- e.g., the refusal to discuss/reveal business agendas. I'm not talking about advocacy of particular policies or violent muckraking -- I'm talking about concealing major facts from the American public in order to influence their political views/perceptions.
Don Williams - 5/28/2003
Although it would seem more efficient to have the students read
"The Confidence Man" by Herman Melville and "The Big Con"
by David Maurer.
Don Williams - 5/28/2003
America's wealthest 5% of population owed about 50% of the $6 Trillion federal debt (most of which was run up by Reagan-George H Bush --because they owe so much of the national wealth and income.
Bush's budget shows that he is letting the rich evade paying their share of the debt by using Trust Fund deposits to pay off Treasury Bonds instead of using income tax receipts. In exchange, the Trust Funds are getting IOUs --which Bush's own economic advisor (Lindsey) acknowleged are not real assets. Bush's budget calls for the Trust Funds to hold $5 Trillion in IOUs by 2008. When the baby boomers start retiring around 2011, the IOUs will have to be paid back. However, the only real source of tax revenue that can pay of a debt of that magnitude will be very high taxes on the baby boomers themselves -- i.e., very high tax rates(60%) on boomer withdrawals from their
What would you think of a bank which took $100,000 from you and ,in exchange, gave you a note promising to pay you the $100,000 back 5 years later (without interest) but with the note written so that you --not the bank --are on the hook to pay off the note? That's what Bush is doing.
Ralph E. Luker - 5/27/2003
Many thanks to Andrew Hagen for his thoughtful answer to Bob Coleman's question. With information like that, HNN can serve a very useful function. Thanks, Andrew!
Andrew Hagen - 5/27/2003
The issue you are raising is one of credibility. Ultimately, you must steer your own ship. Let me explain.
Peer reviewed publications enjoy prestige. When a peer reviewed journal publishes an article, the reader expects the article to be accurate and worthy of attention. The reader expects that the argument therein is coherent and that the evidence is cited responsibly. The content is not redundant but is original or different or an update based on new information or events. Thus, professional readers and interested members of the lay public have a higher expectation of finding value in a peer reviewed publication than in some other kind of publication.
Furthermore, peer reviewed publications tend to answer specific questions. Sometimes there are generalist questions, but specific questions are more common. This makes reading a peer reviewed publication more efficient for those who know what they are looking for.
Now let's say you have a meritorious but heretical argument. It may be possible for you to gain the review of peers. If you can, your initial readership may be large and openminded. If your argument is dramatically superior to current alternatives, like Einstein's theory of relativity was in its day, then it may be so good it will be published even if it is heretical. OTOH, if your argument is not dramatically superior, it may be ignored. Thomas Kuhn had some wise observations on scientific revolutions, and these often apply to revolutions in other areas of knowledge, too.
So let's say you decide to publish your work without peer review. Here, you have two options. You may find a publisher--of periodicals or of books--and submit it. Alternatively, you may self-publish. In both cases, your work will not have the benefit of peer review. Thus, readership will be initially smaller and more suspicious. That's because you haven't yet established your credibility.
To establish your credibility, you cannot simply say, "I'm credible." It will not do to simply list your academic qualifications. You must tackle the issue of credibility head on, by demonstrating the superiority of your argument. The clearer and more succint the argument, the better. At the same time, you need to deal comprehensively with potential objections to your argument.
This leads us down the long road of an ancient art. It is critical to society and it is impossible to fully describe. It is rhetoric, in the old sense of forming a persuasive argument. Without the help of peer reviewers, the formation of a persuasive argument is truly your own responsibility and no one else's.
To start with though, you might list the advantages of publishing in a peer review journal. Then, you'd figure out how to emulate those advantages. One advantage would be greater credibility with readers because the manuscript has been scrubbed of factual errors, logical fallacies, and grammar problems. To compensate for the loss of those advantages, if you publish without peer review, you must do all that scrubbing yourself. Sure, maybe you can hire a fact checker, but ultimately it is your responsibility, not anyone else's.
Bob Coleman - 5/27/2003
Given that peer reviews are often a tool of academic mutual protection societies and thus not likely to let heretical findings be published by the related journals, what is the best way for an unpublished scholarly researcher to publicize a major story that will overturn much of the literature and implicate very highly placed persons in the field of study in which it is exceedingly difficult to find a professional who is not a collaborator by active participation or by passive knowing silence?
Who should be contacted? In what order?
What information should be provided to each person contact?
Roger Sweeny - 5/27/2003
The Social Security Trust Fund gets all its money from payroll taxes. All the money it pays it pays according to Congressionally mandated formulas. Bush has done nothing to change either of these. Since the Greenspan Commission changes during the Reagan administration, the Social Security system has been taking in more than it pays out. It is legally required to use that extra money to buy Treasury bonds (government IOUs). That is why the system's holdings of government IOUs has been steadily going up. It's no secret.
The Social Security Trust Fund would be accumulating exactly the same amount in government IOUs if there had been no Bush tax cuts at all.
Charles V. Mutschler - 5/27/2003
I agree that peer review has failed. Your article sums the situation up well.
One problem with peer review as it apparently is practiced in our profession is the tendency to ask people to review works which are outside their area of expertise. This complaint was raised regarding the review of _Arming America_ at several times.
Possibly other difficulties with peer review are partially those of protecting one's friends, and partly those of protecting one's turf. In either case, arranging for all the reviewers to be sympathetic to, or hostile to the article effectively defeats the peer review process. There should be reviewers who will assess the work from differing perspectives. At least one reviewer should ideally be a scholar who is looking at the subject from a different perspective. As Ronald Dale Carr noted a couple of yars ago, people don't look for errors or challenge interpretations they support, but they look more closely at work that conflicts with their interpretation. A 'Devil's Advocate" or sceptical reviewer might act as a check against rubber stamping a poor piece of work just to satisfy the author and the author's like-minded colleagues.
As I noted before, I think we can learn a lot about effective peer review from our colleagues in the sciences. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Mr. Luker.
Charles V. Mutschler
Ralph E. Luker - 5/26/2003
I don't know that I can say for certain that things are worse than ever. Some years ago, when I was president of the Graduate History Society at Chapel Hill, the market was hardly better than it is now. One of our most prominent faculty members, a historian of the progressive era, had just placed one of his graduate students in a full-time, tenure track job. Shortly thereafter, it became known to graduate students that this professor had said privately of his student that, if a bomb went off in his head, it wouldn't mess up his hair.
The report made me very angry with this distinguished historian. If, in fact, he thought that of his student, why had he allowed him to complete the program for a doctorate? And, given conditions in the job market, why had he used his enormous prestige to secure for this young historian a prized job when many obviously intelligent graduate students were going without them? It should have suggested to me then, and it does suggest to me now, that something apart from the best education possible for American students is at work in the process of graduate education.
Ken Heineman - 5/25/2003
You know, Ralph, I have to wonder--given the experiences you relate and my own--if the time is not already way past due for the historical profession to ask why we continue to produce PhDs who may not be literate or employable (or worse, too employable!) Do we do this because we want cheap grad student labor doing the grunt work of undergraduate teaching? Because of the ego thrill of playing We Are the Harvard of Scratch 'n Claw, Ohio? Is is just that some folks enjoy playing God? Or is there some higher purpose still being served? Any thoughts?
Don Williams - 5/22/2003
When I spoke of the public being mislead, I was referring to
institutions, not individuals. The furor over Jayson Blair is
funny when you consider the misleading impressions the New York
Times has published in the past several years.
Admittedly, the Times misleads more by what it does not say than
by what it explicitly states. However it does, on occasion, make
astounding misstatements about matters of great importance.
Failing to emphasize that Bush is paying for his income tax for rich buddies by stealing from the government Trust Funds for Social Security and Medicare -- Bush's latest budget shows that
the Trust Funds will be holding $5 Trillion in government debt --Bush's worthless IOUS -- by 2008 --up from the 2 Trillion held when Bush took office (and up 1 Trillion from when the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994.) The reason that I say the IOUs are worthless is that the only way future governments will be able to redeem the IOUS (so as to issue Social Security checks to the huge baby boomer cohort starting in 2010 ) will be by imposing heavy taxes on boomer withdrawals from their IRAs/401Ks.
Ralph E. Luker - 5/20/2003
Don, Recent headlines both about some historians and about some journalists are timely reminders that both primary and secondary sources have to be read critically. It is simply foolish to assume that authors of either have no bias, to say nothing of the other limitations that may shape their product. Whether it is even possible to discover and make known the whole truth about a matter is another question, but it is crucially important to make the effort to do so. Despite the odds against their achieving a perfect mastery of their subject, I think that most of my fellow historians try to do that.
Don Williams - 5/20/2003
As I recall, you spent almost a year discussing the Bellesiles matter but were rather secretive re your personal opinion on the matter until recently. The idea of a blog by someone who withholds his personal opinion seems rather a contradiction, but i'll bite.
Some have argued that Bellesiles lied in Arming America. Leaving that aside for the moment, I would note that if he did lie, he at least lied about matters occurring 200 years ago. It seems to me that the most casual analysis suggests that our news media lies every day, about matters of major import happening today.
As Cassius Dio and Tacitus both noted, what is publicly reported in a veiled oligarchy is often not the real truth. As a historian, how would you rate the "history" -- the primary sources -- that are constantly being created by our government and our news media?
Followup: If Ken Starr spent almost $70 million and still failed to determine what happened at Whitewater, how can historians be confident that they know what happened 2000 years ago --or even 200 years ago?
Tom Spencer - 5/18/2003
Nice to have you aboard Ralph! I can remember reading an e-mail or comment board post from a reader about how we should have you as a blogger! I'm glad it has happened. I'm not sure what the "diversity" point is -- we've got two genuine righty bloggers after all!
BTW, I love the line about "When Dixiecrats started calling themselves "Republicans" in the 1960s, I did not welcome their thieving our ancient heritage."
It's when the Republicans became Dixiecrats by another name that I became annoyed -- although I guess it happened about the time I was born I'm afraid!
Charles V. Mutschler - 5/18/2003
Nice to have you join the "blog" group. Your introduction is much appreciated. Glad to have you aboard - you always offer thoughtful commentary. I don't always agree with you, but I appreciate your postings.
Jim Lindgren - 5/18/2003
My first thought when I saw that you had a blog was that you should provide a little diversity to lineup on HNN. But then I read your first post and I realized that you had so many different "walls" that you would provide diversity to almost any lineup anywhere.
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