Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"I Am Not Being Alarmist, I Am Simply Stating the Facts"

"Because of the actions taken by governments during and after that crisis, including, I should add, by aggressive steps by my administration, the global economy has now returned to healthy growth. But the credibility of the international system, the faith in experts in places like Washington or Brussels, all that had taken a blow.
"And a politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment began to appear, and that kind of politics is now on the move. It's on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago."


The Guardian publishes a transcript of Barack Obama's speech in Johannesburg, South Africa.

All Change and Back to 1994

"On the one hand, like Welsh's Trainspotting, early Oasis songs spoke of a Thatcherite scorched earth in which nothing was worth working for and the simulated escape route offered by drink and drugs seemed like the only option. But at the same time, and much more radically, Oasis also wrote songs–Live Forever and Acquiesce–of rare optimism and euphoria, songs that seemed to hint that some sort of spectacular collective recovery might be won in the teeth of the 80s nightmare."

In a 2014 Guardian article, Alex Niven argues that "we could do a lot worse than look beyond the stereotyped accounts of the 90s and try to recover their undertow of disaffection and supressed idealism."

"This Is... Unprecedented"

"When Churchill condemned Chamberlain's 'long series of miscalculations, and misjudgments of men and facts,' he still admitted that Chamberlain's 'motives have never been impugned.' Trump's have. And that distinction is crucial to understanding what's happening. Calling Trump's behavior appeasement, in other words, pre-emptively grants that Trump is trying to help his country rather than himself, even though those two interests are to his mind plainly opposed. Trump has made his loyalties clear, and they are not to the country he governs.
"This should not be surprising. Trump has made no secret of the fact that he operates according to naked self-interest—many of his followers like that he is (I use the term loosely) 'a businessman,' that he openly bragged that not paying taxes 'makes me smart.' Nor is it news that Trump views America as a resource for his and his associates' personal enrichment. The only time he spends with its people are when they are customers at his own properties or his fanatical base at rallies. His attitude toward Putin makes sense, then. Russia's 'election meddling' was done to help elect Trump. Trump benefited enormously from those efforts, and he is not in the habit of condemning those who personally benefit him until they stop. Putin—as Coats has been at pain to point out—hasn't stopped."

Lili Loofbourow at Slate writes that Donald Trump "is willingly and actively trading against his country, as its president."

Monday, July 16, 2018

"Conscious Tool. Useful Idiot. Those Are the Choices"

"Whatever the balance of motivations, what mattered was that Trump's answers were indistinguishable from Putin's, starting with the fundamental claim that Putin's assurances about interference in U.S. democracy ('He was incredibly strong and confident in his denial') deserved belief over those of his own Department of Justice ('I think the probe is a disaster for our country').
I am old enough to remember Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon telling lies on TV, about Vietnam in both cases, and Watergate for Nixon. I remember the travails and deceptions of Bill Clinton, and of George W. Bush in the buildup to the disastrous Iraq War.
"But never before have I seen an American president consistently, repeatedly, publicly, and shockingly advance the interests of another country over those of his own government and people."

James Fallows at The Atlantic reacts to Donald Trump's bizarre press conference with Vladimir Putin.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"'Historians Can Never Forget That It Is a Debate They Are Interpreting'"

"Journalist and author E.J. Dionne once observed that we are a nation conceived in argument. None of these were more important than the meaning attached to the Constitution, which played such a central role in creating our sense of nationhood. I would caution my conservative friends from trying to hijack the meaning of the Constitution for their own ends by playing the trump card (no pun intended), that the founders were all in agreement with modern right-wing politics. How could this be true when they didn't even agree among themselves about how to interpret the Constitution? Instead, lets debate the issues of our day so the American people can make an informed choice without resorting to historically dubious claims."

Donald J. Fraser at History News Network asks, "What do historians make of originalism?"

Saturday, July 14, 2018

"Common Values and Interests"

"Stenner, for example, notes that 'all the available evidence indicates that exposure to difference, talking about difference, and applauding difference … are the surest ways to aggravate [the] intolerant, and to guarantee the increased expression of their predispositions in manifestly intolerant attitudes and behaviors. Paradoxically, then, it would seem that we can best limit intolerance of difference by parading, talking about, and applauding our sameness … Nothing inspires greater tolerance from the intolerant than an abundance of common and unifying beliefs, practices, rituals, institutions and processes.'"

Sheri Berman at The Guardian argues that Trump opponents should "the type of 'identity politics' that stresses differences."

"The idea was that white skin privilege was actually harmful to white people, because despite the fact that they were granted some advantages over black people, they ended up even more entrenched in their condition of exploitation precisely by accepting these advantages. As a result, they did not build a movement across racial boundaries to fight their common oppression. The fact that the idea of white privilege is used today to show why we can't possibly unify—that's a reversal of the core idea."

And in a 2017 Seattle Weekly article, Kelton Sears interviews Asad Haider.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Requiem for the CD

"Consider that the biggest-selling CD box set remains Columbia Records' 1990 reissue of Delta blues genius Robert Johnson's recordings—a landmark moment that moved this cornerstone artist into the 20th century mainstream. Streaming services such as Spotify also carry the Johnson collection (of course without any of the recording information or historical context available in the liner notes) but it's only available to them because someone assembled it for the CD. It's fine, but there's no fun in it."

Marc Weingarten at the Los Angeles Times writes that "it might be a good moment to acknowledge that the compact disc had more impact on music than we care to admit, and that it can still provide us with pleasure even now."

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Palms Court

"'What LA adds to that, which no city, no people had ever thought to do before, and maybe for good reason, is to plant palms systematically as street trees,' says Farmer. The young city, wanting to attract people to a world of sunshine and cars, planted tens of thousands of palm trees. And they weren't just on big boulevards: Los Angeles planted them everywhere. Tiny residential streets, parks, anywhere. Places designed for tourists—boardwalks, beaches, wealthy hills, even sports arenas like Staples Center, where the Lakers and Clippers basketball teams play—were especially tended to. And they made sure the palms were watered."

Dan Nosowitz at Atlas Obscura explains why Los Angeles has so many palm trees.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Football's Coming Home

"There was one moment of alarm when Broudie telephoned and said there was a problem. 'I thought "Oh shit!"' Blaskey says. 'This song was meant to be our saving grace, everything was resting on it.' It turned out that, in a moment of unassuming genius, he was concerned he had written two choruses. 'I think that's where the magic of the song actually was,' Blaskey continues. 'Frank and David's delivery and lyrics were phenomenal, but for Ian to come up with a song with two choruses …'"

Nick Ames at The Guardian recounts the story of "Three Lions," by Baddiel, Skinner & Lightning Seeds.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

"A Few New Shades of Gray to a Story That Has All Too Often Been Told in Black-and-White"

"'From a hard-nosed business perspective,' observes Doherty, with sober detachment, 'the blacklist was a splendid success.' Through their carefully choreographed efforts to expunge the studios of any and all known Communists and fellow travelers, the Hollywood moguls were able to convince Washington and the movie-going public that they were at core true patriots. Loyal Americans, like the housewife who wrote to Hedda Hopper, could go to the movies with a clear conscience. To jeopardize the ample box-office profits on which they relied was, for most studio producers, and for a sizeable number of writers, directors and actors, not an option."

Noah Isenberg at The New Republic reviews Thomas Doherty's Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

"But When We Cherry-Pick the Past for Icons of Female Rebellion, Are We Really Serving Women, or History?"

"In 2007, Ulrich wrote a book revisiting her accidental feminist slogan, explaining the roots and resonance of her phrase, and the slippery notion of behavior, good or bad. As Ulrich is well-aware, the catchy slogan is misleading out of context—her actual essay subjects were the well-behaved women remembered, not forgotten, in those pious sermons. But Ulrich's real point is not that we need to change how women behave, but instead, how we 'make' history. According to a 2016 Slate survey, fully 75 percent of more than 600 trade history books on the previous year's New York Times best-seller list had male authors. Biography subjects, meanwhile, were more than 70 percent male. But done right, women's history offers more than a corrective to the heroic narratives that men have written for generations. Annette Gordon-Reed's work on Sally Hemings made it impossible to keep telling the same story about Thomas Jefferson. Hemings, of course, did not have the freedom to be a rebel—her good behavior, within the inhuman constraints of her life, allowed her to survive. But in Gordon-Reed's hands, her story, and her presence in history, proved transformative. Done right, women's history changes history."

Joanna Scutts at Slate challenges the idea that well-behaved women seldom make history.

Monday, July 02, 2018

"Trump Is Himself the Ultimate Expression of Putin's Anti-Factuality"

"Snyder sees Trump as very much a junior partner in a larger Russian project, less a cause, more an effect. He worries, too, that slowly before Trump—and rapidly after Trump—America is becoming like Russia: a country on a path to economic oligarchy and distorted information. Trump's attitude to truth again and again reminds Snyder of the Russian ruling elite: The Russian television network RT 'wished to convey that all media lied, but that only RT was honest by not pretending to be truthful.'"

David Frum at The Atlantic reviews Timothy Snyder's The Road to Unfreedom.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

"It's Not an Emotionally Satisfying Tradition"

"The point is merely to keep liberal democracy vibrant, to sustain its legitimacy, and to protect its institutions. That's why I favor a slowdown in immigration (too much demographic change too fast can destabilize a society); and why I favor more redistribution through taxes right now (because economic and social inequality are delegitimizing the entire capitalist order). And that's why I loved Barack Obama. In his heart and mind, he is and was a moderate conservative, trying to blend new social realities with the long story of America, rescuing capitalism from itself, extending health care but through the market, shifting foreign policy incrementally toward Asia, and ending irrational, budget-busting, entropy-creating wars. He desperately tried to keep this country in one piece, against foam-flecked racism and know-nothingism on one side and left-wing ideological purity and identity politics on the other. And he almost did.
"And this is why I despise Donald Trump: He exhibits no concern for the broader social good if it in any way conflicts with his own immediate psychic needs. He is indifferent to the collateral damage of his ego. He has embraced the most dangerous form of identity politics—that of the majority. There is not an institution or custom or alliance or constitutional norm Trump won't vandalize at a second's notice. He cares little for the generations ahead of us (see the debt and the environment); nor respects the wisdom of the past (see his desire to obliterate the idea of an independent Justice Department or the NATO alliance); he is a lonely, maladjusted id, with Western civilization as a plaything in his hands. And Republicanism—in its shameful embrace of this monster, its determined rape of the environment, destruction of our fiscal standing, evisceration of our allies, callousness toward the sick, and newfound contempt for free trade—has nary a conservative bone in its putrefying body."

Andrew Sullivan at New York reacts to Anthony Kennedy's announced resignation from the Supreme Court.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

June 2018 Acquisitions

Books:
Bonnie Bader, What Is the World Cup?, 2018.
James Buckley, Jr., Who Was Muhammad Ali?, 2014.
Howard Chaykin, Century West, 2013.
Katie Ellison, Who Was Bob Marley?, 2017.
Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman and Jon Gjerde (eds.), Major Problems in American History, Volume 1: To 1877, 2007.
Larry Madaras and James M. SoRelle, Taking Sides: Clashing Views in United States History, Volume 1: The Colonial Period to Reconstruction, 1995.
John Ridley et al, The American Way, 2017.
Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, 2008.
Bryan Waterman, Television's Marquee Moon, 2011.

DVDs:
The Aristocats, 1970.
Batman: Ninja, 2018.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"It Opens the Box for Everyone"

"Which is why so many people were prospectively worried about Trump. Not because Trump was the source of some new brand of political violence, but because political violence is a Pandora's Box. And once it is opened it cannot be shut until it burns itself out—because everyone loves this sort of thing, when it's their side doing the scalping. Putting a man like Donald Trump in the presidency gave oxygen to these elements or, to mix our metaphors, pushed the undercurrents that have always been there much closer to the surface. What people failed to realize is that a thing like Donald Trump's presidency doesn't just bring out the white nationalists. It brings out the radicals in response."

Jonathan V. Last at The Weekly Standard warns that "[t]his business is out of control."

Monday, June 25, 2018

"The Only People Doing Well in This Economy, Writes Quart, Are the Already Wealthy"

"'The United States is the richest and also the most unequal country in the world,' she writes. 'It has the largest wealth inequality gap of the 200 countries in the [Credit Suisse Research Institute's] Global Wealth Report of 2015. And when the top 1 percent has so much—so much more than even the top 5 or 10 percent—the middle class is financially and also mentally outclassed at each step.'"

Larry Getlen at the New York Post discusses Alissa Quart's book, Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America.