Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Wright Stuff

I am not responsible for anything my mentor says. You are not responsible for anything that your mentor says. If you are close to your mentors, as I am to mine, you would not be likely to abandon that person even if they said something absolutely batshit crazy. Doing so would probably reflect worse on you than simply saying nothing. This all assumes, of course, that your mentor does not persist in saying crazy things that can actually harm you.

It also assumes that you are not dealing with the triple factors of Hillary and Bill Clinton and their imperturbable sense of entitlement, the well-oiled conservative attack machine, and a media culture as intellectually shallow as one can possibly imagine. In that case, you're Barack Obama, who somehow is being held to account for things that he clearly does not believe, has never advocated, and that someone else said.

So what does Obama do in this latest round of the ongoing cavalcade of idiocy surrounding the increasingly tedious Jeremiah Wright who, if he was taken out of context earlier has happily allowed his narcissism to shine while he provides the fullest context imaginable about ideas ranging from the justifiable (if angry) to the utterly inane to the dangerously misguided. You make it clear, crystal clear, that you denounce everything the mentor has said. There really was no need to make such denunciations of course, because the person who made those statements WAS NOT YOU, but that's the culture in which we live. And then we move on to focus on your views, not Wright's, because you are running for President, and Wright is not.

Regrettably we do not live in this ideal world in which you are not held to account for things that other adults who are not you say. We instead live in a world in which pundits fatuously, vacuously, and gaseously prattle on about responsibilities that ought not to be considered your own to disavow things you demonstrably do not represent to prove points to people who are never going to support you in the first place but who love the idea of watching you prostrate yourself. It's a form of minstrelsy, but you do it because it's been demanded of you and fulfilling those demands is the only way to try to steer the conversation back to matters of substance and hope that there is a way to make opportunity out of this hopeless muddle that has been foisted upon you.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Increased Democratic Turnout = ???

Voters are registering in record numbers and participation has been at historic highs in the primaries in 2008. The question both parties must wrestle with is what, if anything, this means for November. Does the record turnout and the new registrants represent a turning tide in American electoral politics? Does it mean that people want to be part of what they perceive as a historic primary fight? Does it mean that Democrats in these latter primary states finally see their participation mattering? Does it represent crossover votes from Republicans, whether disenchanted with their own party or interested in shaping the opposition for the fall?

Obviously we do not know the answers to these questions. It seems evident that the historic, perhaps transformative, nature of the Democratic race plays the biggest role in all of this, but my guess is that once the party's candidate is chosen a lot of these newly registered folks will be in play for the general election. McCain is a formidable opponent and will be a popular one as well. What he does not enjoy in support from parts of the base he may well make up for among the so-called Reagan or Swing Democrats, not to mention among those for whom an Obama or Clinton candidacy is problematic.

What is also likely is the the Democrats have an opportunity. By mobilizing so many voters the party has the chance to bring about a sea change along the lines of 1994's midterm elections which shaped the American political landscape for a decade and more. I do wonder if wholesale realignment along the lines of 1932 will ever again be possible in what seems to be such a closely divided electorate and instead if tectonic shifts in the future will be less of the earthquake variety and more akin to temblors.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dear Diary . . .

Tom has posted a new entry at the Diary Blog. Read it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Self Indulg . . . Ah, You Know The Drill: ASMEA in DC

I am in my old stomping grounds of Washington, DC for the first meeting of a promising new organization, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa. On Saturday I will be presenting a paper on a project on Darfur on which I have been working for quite some time.

Typical of a lot of my work, this project is not quite scholarly enough for academics and may well prove too scholarly for the general public. By no means am I an expert of Darfur or Sudan, but as someone who writes about Africa I have been asked to contribute to this inaugural conference and was asked some time ago to write a piece on this nightmare scenario. In May I will present a more advanced (I hope) version of this project at a Sudan Studies meeting in Tallahassee and when all is said and done maybe I'll have something worth saying in a couple of venues about the human rights catastrophe that we have helped to countenance through benign neglect and practiced malfeasance.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Illegal Art

A colleague directed me to "Illegal Art," which explores issues such as censorship and self-censorship, intellectual property, trademark and copyright law, and the like. There are some fascinating arguments there, some with which I agree, many with which I take issue, but almost all of which are provocative. Take a look.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ego Run Amok: More Self Indulgence, Zimbabwe Commentary Edition

I finally received the file from my Cape Argus op-ed (pdf -- it's the middle article on the page) from last month on the Zimbabwe election. I was wrong on some stuff, right on some, I overplayed the role of Simba Makoni, underplayed that of Morgan Tsvangirai, and am as surprised as anyone that we still await the outcome, which I still imagine will come down to Robert Mugabe stealing the election.

Dork Receives Award: Self Indulgence Alert

Yup, that's me, from a picture that appeared in a local paper and is now rotating on the UTPB website.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The B's are Back

Like Sportsguy, I'm back on the Bruins bandwagon. My interest in them waned for many of the same reasons his did, though I never fully left them. Nonetheless, the return to what was once one of the great rivalries in sports, Bruins-Canadiens, coupled with the B's mattering again has me back in a big way. Unlike baseball or football or basketball (or rugby or track or maybe a few others), hockey is a sport about which I cannot now write with any particular authority, but it is in my blood. I am named after a former Bruin great (on and, perhaps even more legendarily off the ice) named Derek Sanderson. My first team jersey was not of the Sox or Pats or C's, but rather was a classic black Bruins spoked-B jersey that I got from my great aunt Joan, who lived in Boston.

I have a good feeling about the game that drops puck in 18 minutes. Go B's! Beat those dastards from Montreal.

Bias in the Academy

At Brainstorm, a blog at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Bauerlein discusses perceptions of bias on the part of professors by confusing two distinct issues -- what goes on in the classroom and what professors do when, say, they write an op-ed piece. The comments are also worth perusing. At the end of the day, my argument here is what it always is: Most of us have far too much to do with our time in the classroom to be imposing a political agenda, what many students may think of as being ideological may be no such thing, and this is an irrelevant question in the vast majority of college classes that have almost nothing to do with contemporary politics. When it comes to the question of bias in the classroom there is lots of sound and fury, sturm and drang, and gnashing of teeth about what is ultimately a non-issue (and for some reason, the accusers never look in the halls of business schools, or anywhere outside of the liberal arts, which I find curious).

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Perhaps to assuage the fact that I'm a year older, Mrs. Dcat is treating me to a couple of nights down in beautiful Fredericksburg, Texas, where she hopes to find some nice jams and pies and, by extension, I thus hope she finds some nice jams and pies. This old dog has learned new tricks since his betrothal.


"Thank you your Holiness. Awesome speech." - George W. Bush to Pope Benedict XVI.

That's your president, Republicans.

I am going to start a fight with the next conservative who natters on to me about religion: "Thank you your Holiness. Awesome speech."


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

To Go or Not To Go: The Olympic Dilemma

There are no easy solutions to the dilemma of what to do about the Olympics in Beijing. The solution, of course, would be not to award the Olympics to totalitarian states in the first place, but that toothpaste has long since been squeezed and is not going back in the tube. And ending the Olympics hardly seems like a likely or even viable possibility. None of the options that remain are ideal.

Those who argue that the Olympics is no place for politics have no conception that the Olympics have always been politicized if not political. Nearly every Olympics since at least 1936 has been fraught with politics, whether overt or covert. Wishing something does not make it so, and this includes the dream of an Olympics free of the dirty realities of politics. And the irony, of course, is that those who most would screech about not attending the Olympics are those who would also screech about meeting face to face or otherwise engaging with dictators or dictatorships.

I am torn. We don't want to reward China's noxious human rights record, and there is no doubting that any country that attends the Beijing games will be rewarding China in publicity, in tourism, and in legitimacy. One can argue that the Olympics are not the place to make this stand, and I respect that, but no one can seriously pretend that China does not benefit in myriad ways from hosting these games. The country will put its best face forward, and most observers will not know the difference because they will be steered clear of the hutongs, local dissent will have long since been crushed and most anything that does not re-enforce the image China wants to portray will be whitewashed and censored, and once the games actually commence, international protest will resemble an echo chamber. On the home front, any debate about China will mostly be about scoring points and using the issue as a political cudgel rather than constructing an ideal policy.

Perhaps it is the athlete in me that realizes too that while they are a tiny constituency, the athletes for whom Beijing represents the culmination of a dream deserve consideration. For better or for worse, the Olympics are the apex of global athletic competition for the majority (or at least a huge plurality) of athletes in the majority of sports. I hate the idea of taking away one of these opportunities from them that comes only every four years. Compared to the geopolitical questions involved this may be small beer, silly even, but once a jock, always a jock.

One hope I have is that the media will not sanitize the context in which the games will be played and thus will make the best of the situation. the problem with this is that the majority of media members sent to Beijing will be sportswriters whose mandate is not politics, and whose views most of us do not, in the majority of cases, care about. Jay Mariotti, as just one example among many, is a dullard when it comes to his bailiwick of sports. Do you really want his take on global politics? Nonetheless, if NBC and the news networks keep their eye on what China is and what it is not, which is to say, if they are willing to peel away the veneer that China will skillfully present, perhaps daylight really will prove to be the best disinfectant.

Elitism and Bitterness

I honestly do not have the intellectual energy or patience to spend a load of time on the idiotic accusations against Barack Obama for saying something that, not to put too fine a point on it, is pretty much fucking true. My "working class" (we were, to put it less euphemistically, "poor") background is clear and is a defining aspect of my character: my parents, who had me when they were still kids, divorced when I was young, and my brother and I lived with a Mom who worked in factories or cleaning floors or waiting tables to keep two kids fed and to keep the lights on in a house where the well sometimes ran dry so we had no water. We spent a large hunk of time at our grandparents' farm, which my dad ran. It was a small, family dairy farm, and it went belly up in the mid-1980s when running a small farm was an almost sure ticket to bankruptcy. In other words, try that elitist liberal Democrat nonsense with someone else, because it isn't working on me. And if you think there is not a great deal of bitterness among the working class, left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat, Republican, and undecided, you are living in a dream world.

Now, I would argue that Obama made an infelicitous linkage between that bitterness and the issues of guns and religion. Not because the ties are not there -- they are, in some ways -- but because the situation is more one of correlation than the causality that Obama implied. I find most amusing the question of Obama being an "elitist," which is one of those assertions so stupid on its face that it would warrant mockery were some people not levying the accusation seriously. First off, anyone at that level of politics is an elite. John McCain has been a Senator for a generation. It does not get much more elite than that. Hillary? Please. If her discomfort around real people were any more palpable she'd spray some sort of warning ink on them like an anti-proletariat octopus. But secondly, how convenient -- how cute! -- to make the black guy in the race, who has served as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago and worked as a civil rights lawyer, the elitist! To make the most demonstrably religious person in the race first a Muslim and then a dangerous uber-black Christian because of someone else's preachings, and now to imply that he is anti-religious! To make an issue of the fact that he doesn't bowl well! Without belaboring the point, I am going to have a hard time buying that race does not play a role in all of this.

So where does this issue go from here? My guess, and perhaps my hope, is that while it will be a lingering subtext that some will use to Swift Boat Obama, most people, bitter or not, won't let it have a major impact on their decision unless they were already leaning against Obama. There is a long race to go. The Democratic convention is three months from now -- what, in terms of specifics, do you remember about the various day-to-day aspects of the campaign that surely seemed like life or death matters from back in January? The general election is nearly seven months away. How much of the dynamic of the races from seven months ago is still relevant? Nonetheless, for now Hillary and down the road the McCain people will try to keep this "elitism" accusation alive, despite its absurdity, for as long as possible. This is the political environment in which we live and in which they operate. Obama's so-called gaffe is today's annoyance. But there is worse to come as the stakes get higher. This is far from as ugly as this race will get. Mark my words on that.

Pottie Mouth

Via Tootle, who beat me to the punch, one of my good friends, David Pottie, got a lot of play in this story (which has for some reason been truncated). here is the quote, again from the Big Tent stalwart:
"Foreign observers of Nepali politics played down the risks of a Maoist participation in the new government. “The stereotypical and unrealistic fear is if Maoists win the election, this will be the one and only election,” said David Pottie, associate director of the democracy program at the Atlanta-based Carter Center. “That is very unlikely.”

The Maoists are likely to be a minority in the new government, Mr. Pottie said, and the political elite in this country, including those among the Maoists, continue to be dominated by upper-caste men. He hoped that would be broadened by the new caste, gender and ethnic quotas imposed on these elections. “It does not appear likely that there will be a return to the People’s War or a dismantling of democratic elements,” Mr. Pottie said.

Even the Indians, who should be the most worried about revolutionary Communists in power on the other side of a long and porous border, say elections are the only way to give the country a real shot at peace by bringing the Maoists under the parliamentary tent. “It does not solve Nepal’s problems at all; it is a door opener,” Shiv Mukherjee, the Indian ambassador to Nepal said in an interview.

“Mainstreaming the Maoists is one of the major achievements of these political party leaders,” he added. “There was a realization that eliminating the Maoists was not the way to go.”"

David is a Canadian with an African Studies PhD in Political Science. But he has branched out based on his work at the Carter Center. He was my best friend in South Africa when we both were based at Rhodes University and he is easily one of the smartest guys I have ever known.

Nearly Intolerable Self-Indulgence Alert

Yeay for Me !!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Drug Policy, The Wire, and Kurt Schmoke

Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke has advice for the next president on reforming America's failed drug policies. There is useful background here, here, and here, including some roman a clef references in The Wire based on Schmoke's ideas. For example, some of Schmoke's ideas, which helped cost him his job (Bunny Colvin's Hamsterdam was not a Schmoke idea, but in some ways he was its inspiration) but may have been worth considering, inspired David Simon & company.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Oxford's Pubs

This week's New York Times travel section featured the pubs of Oxford and included a slide show. Several of my favorites are featured. Indeed, I've spent time in every one of the pubs featured here, usually in the company of the dissolute ne'er do wells of the Armitage Shanks which may, in fact, tell you something about my time in Oxford. Shockingly, the Holywell Manor Bar is not included in this feature. Must be an oversight.

Striking a Blow

Tee hee.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Freedom's Main Line: Self Indulgence Alert, "It's About Time" Edition

If you click here or here you can see the long awaited first signs of life of this:

There has been a title change (the original project was called "A Brave and Wonderful Thing" but we decided to go with a switch) and since the book won't actually be out for a few months yet, I hope there will be a little more detail, and truth be told, some wiggle room on the price. Nonetheless, here is proof that I am not a complete wastrel. The folks at Kentucky have been absolutely great to work with, and while there is still much work yet to do with regard to editing and indexing, I am confident that we will meet deadlines and that you will be able to buy copies for friends, family, and yourselves well before Christmas.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Little Perspective

We have all heard it a million times before: the Yankees and Red Sox are at a competitive advantage because of their payrolls. This has become such a truism that no one bothers to look at the facts.

Let's put things in some perspective. This year the Sox are fourth in payroll (the Mets and Tigers vaulted ahead of them this offseason). But as has been the case all along, placing the Red Sox in the same category as the Yankees is fallacious at best. As a look at the 2008 payrolls will reveal, the Yankees will spend $ 209,081,577 to the Red Sox' $ 133,390,035. That is a gap of some $75,691,542, which if devoted to player salaries would be the eighteenth highest payroll in MLB. Furthermore, the gap between the Red Sox and Yankees is less than that between the Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals, which is to say that the Red Sox are closer in payroll to the team with the 24th highest salary than they are to the Yankees.

Quick Hits

A lot of different stories and arguments have caught my eye these days that I've wanted to write about. but rather than do that, I'll just give you a full onslaught to keep you occupied for a while.

Taylor Branch, whose three-volume biography of King/history of "The King Years" will be a go-to work for many years despite its flaws published a lengthy reflection on MLK and his legacy in the New York Times earlier this week. His article is taken from a speech he gave at the National Cathedral on Monday.

Another week, another work of nonfiction revealed as fraudulent? That seems to be the trend. The latest culprit appears to be Ben Mezrich's bestseller from a few years ago, Bringing Down the House, which provides the source material for the movie 21, which is probably playing in a multiplex near you. Every time this sort of story emerges I feel as if I make the same lamentation, but writing nonfiction is hard, and is all the more so because its biggest requirement is a fealty to the evidence. I don't think the reaction from we lesser-known writers every time one of these stories breaks is merely a mix of resentment and schadenfreude even if we may be entitled to a little bit of resentment and schadenfreude.

If that news is not depressing enough, The Boston Globe also has another seemingly recurring story, this one about the plight of bookstores. It ends on a somewhat optimistic note, however, so maybe the sky is not falling after all.

Do you know when the first intercollegiate baseball game was played? It was 1859. The participants? Williams and Amherst. Despite what you might read or hear, it is my understanding that the result of that contest is actually lost to history. That first game was played in Pittsfield, which baseball historians have also argued to be the home of the first known baseball game in the 18th century. With representatives from the College Baseball Hall of Fame (based not far from my home in the Petroplex in Lubbock) in attendance, the two teams will meet again in Pittsfield next week. Go Ephs! (And, oh yes, Amherst Sucks! Lousy, dastardly Defectors.)

Over at Real Clear politics Steve Chapman argues that when it comes to Iraq, "patience is not a policy." he makes a pretty compelling case. nonetheless, it is also true that in an ironic sense, the administration has fucked this war up so badly that they probably are correct that we now have to stay, without any sense of the fact that this really ought not to redound to their benefit.

At The Washington Post David Broder steps away from politics for a minute and thinks that he has discovered a singularly grim period in the world of sports. He's wrong, of course. Sports have always reflected society's tumult, and sometimes has fueled it. If there are problems with sports that is simply because there are problems with society. Take a deep breath and go watch a few games. Do so for a week and somewhere on a field, court, track, pit, pitch, course, or what have you, something wonderful will happen that will remind you of what sports are about.

Finally, and self indulgently, I've been busy at both the Africa Blog and the South Africa Blog, and I hope you'll check both of them out now and regularly.

Told You So

Yesterday I argued that the idea that Bill Buckner's Opening Day appearance at Fenway marked a moment of redemption, at least from fans, was absurd because Sox fans never believed that Buckner needed to be redeemed. In today's "Red Sox Notebook" in The Boston Globe my opinion is confirmed:
Lou Gorman, the Red Sox general manager who traded for Bill Buckner, released him, re-signed him for the final season of his 22-year career, and released him again, said that after Tuesday's emotional pregame ceremony, Buckner told him he finally felt "closure."

But on radio airwaves and websites yesterday, this question repeatedly was raised: Closure from what?

Numerous Sox fans noted that on Opening Day 1987, Buckner's first appearance after his Game 6 error in the 1986 World Series, he was given a standing ovation, and that scene repeated itself in 1990, when Buckner was brought back for a last hurrah.

"I kind of suspected the fans were going to give him a hand," manager Joe Morgan said at the time about the team's opener in 1990. "But I didn't think it would be forever. It was as long as any I've ever heard."

Buckner marveled that final season at how many ovations he received, one of the loudest coming after he hit an inside-the-park home run, the final home run of his career. "It surprised me the way it's turned around," Buckner said at the time.

"I challenge anyone in the media or anywhere else to produce a tape of Bill Buckner being booed at Fenway after October 1986," a poster with the handle "xjack" wrote on the Sons of Sam Horn chatboard. "In fact, I bet the ovations at the home openers in '87 and '90 were louder than yesterday's."

It was also noted that Buckner has profited from the error, making joint appearances at card shows with Mookie Wilson, the Mets batter whose ground ball Buckner missed. Various websites offer baseballs, photos, and posters autographed by both men, baseballs on one site going for more than $200.

Buckner, who wiped away tears before delivering the ceremonial first pitch, pointedly referred to the media in his postgame comments.

"I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but in my heart, I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through," he said. "I've done that, and I'm over that and I'm just happy."

Buckner's alleged pariah status was nothing more than a concoction of writers at The Globe and The Herald, the chattering classes on talk radio and television, and a national media that simplifies most every narrative they get their hands on. They created the story and thus had an investment in its perpetuation.

Buckner's error was only one facet of the 1986 story -- people seem to forget that there was a Game 7 in 1986, for example. And that Buckner should not have been on the field during extra innings of the fateful Game 6, which represents just one of manager John McNamara's blunders that night. And that had the relief corps (Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley, as well as catcher Rich Gedman) done their job the Sox never would have been in that position. Red Sox fans long ago reconciled their history with Buckner even if we never fully got over Game 6 until 2004. Now, twenty-two years later, perhaps the media will finally do the same.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Opening Day at the Fens

Yesterday was the Fenway opener, and as such was as close to a secular holiday as Red Sox Nation has. The Sox won, 5-0 over the visiting and, preseason hype notwithstanding, struggling Tigers. Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched masterfully, further fueling my suspicion that he will make a big leap in his second season with the Sox, much as Josh Beckett did last year after a somewhat desultory 2006 season.

The Red Sox have learned how to put on an event. From the 1999 All-Star game in which they honored Ted Williams to the 2004 World Series championship celebrations to yesterday the Sox have shown the capacity to merge sentiment and history and emotion and class and bombast in equal measures. Yesterday, in addition to honoring Boston sports heroes, they also had Bill Buckner throw the first pitch. And the narrative was that yesterday marked a moment of redemption, a reconciliation between Buckner and Sox fans. the only problem with this narrative is that it is untrue. The overwhelming mass of Sox fans long ago forgave Buckner, if we ever blamed him to begin with. Sox fans welcomed him with open arms before a game in 1990. The reality is that the media drove the Buckner story. And non-Sox fans carried it forward, usually to torture Red Sox fans prior to October 27, 2004. Thus the media granted absolution yesterday when only the media recognized the sin for the last decade to begin with.

It is far too early for assessments or analysis of how things have gone so far. As a general rule nothing can be won in April, though it is possible for much to be lost in the first month of the season. I'm just glad baseball is back. No sport so relies on the rhythm of its season, on the daily iteration of games, on the long proving ground of the season. I love so many sports, and I love them with passion and depth. But baseball is my first love and I am always glad to have it back.

Go Sox!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Grading US Performance in the Struggle Against Global Extremism

At The National Interest Lee H. Hamilton, Bruce Hoffman, Brian Michael Jenkins, Paul R. Pillar, Xavier Raufer, Walter Reich and Fernando Reinares give out grades for American performance in combating global extremism. We do not do well, but it is hard to quibble with the grades either specifically or in toto.

Iraq Status Report

There is a new collaborative news source for the war in Iraq, the Iraq Status Report. According to their launch announcement,
"this new site is a collaborative effort by Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Institute for the Study of War, and The Long War Journal providing the only 'one-stop-shop' on the Internet for news, commentary and analysis related to the U.S. Mission in Iraq."

ISR is pretty much an advocacy site for the Iraq War, and i could do without some of the more ardent cheerleading -- I would think a little humility would be in order after five years of a war that we were condscendingly told would take "six days, maybe six weeks" and not six months from an administration whose president not only opposed but derided the idea of nationbuilding prior to his ascendance to the presidency. it s my belief that those who supported the war from the beginning have lost all claim to aggressively dismissive arguments. That said, for those of us who have continued to be ambivalent amidst the maelstrom of the righteousness on both sides, Iraq Sstatus Report will be another useful source of information.

2008 Pulitzer Prizes

The 2008 Pulitzer Prizes have been announced. The history award went to Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, the latest entry in the Oxford History of the United States series. It is pretty clear that every time one of those books comes out it will be a strong contender for the Pulitzer, one of those awards any historian would love to have but about which most all of us are at least a little ambivalent.

The biography/autobiography prize went to Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson (W.W. Norton) and the general nonfiction prize, which as often as not serves as another history award, went to Saul Friedlander's The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (Harper Collins).

Monday, April 07, 2008

On Gettin' Hitched

Since I am apparently in a nostalgic mood for grad school days in Athens, I may as well point out that another of my professors, Katherine Jellison, recently had her long-awaited book on American weddings published by Kansas. For a nifty synopsis of the argument, see this article in Ohio University's magazine of research, Perspectives.

(On a separate note, is it the new trend among alumni publications to produce more than one alumni publication, decoupling features on research and campus life from alumni news-qua-alumni news? Williams did so a couple of years back and now Ohio appears to have done the same.)

A Pending Military History Reading List

Among the modern Americanist grad students at Ohio University, Alonzo Hamby's reading lists were legendary. He taught the three-course sequence covering the United States since 1898 with a heavy dose of political history. The lists (each segment of the sequence had its own) were many pages long, with a system that gave double and single asterisks to the best or most important works. By the time you were done with the three classes you had the most extensive, daunting comps reading list imaginable. There is a reason why Hamby's comprehensive examination is legendary, and this list of hundreds of books pretty clearly gives an indication as to why.

It looks like Tom has taken the lead among our OU cohort in establishing a Hamby-esque reading list in which he will lay out the most important works related to the field of military history. He has taken on one of those endeavors that we all say we would like to do one day but that is so daunting that most of us never end up doing it. I wish him luck and will wait for the final product, then will cut and paste and simply steal all of his work. I do not do military history, but a good bibliography is a joy to behold.

(Tom gave the heads-up on this project over at Big Tent.)

Quick Hits: Around the Blogosphere

While I catch up from another weekend away, here are a few links and other things that caught my eye:

Andrew Sullivan continues to keep his eye on the shame that has become America's acquiescence to torture. He also directs our attention to Dan Savage's powerful piece on his mother's passing.

At Cyber Hacienda Jaime both reminds us of why Cheers was brilliant and in so doing providesa rousing defense of drinking beer in the form of The Buffalo Theory.

At Fire Joe Morgan, Junior takes on both the vastly overrated Rick Reilly and idiotic cliches about bloggers.

Finally, Guenette goes back to New Hampshire and has a mini-photo essay with several involving people we both know. It looks like he had a fuitful trip providing readings and lectures. This gives me the opportunity once again to plug his book of poetry, Sudden Anthem

Friday, April 04, 2008

April 4, 1968

Forty years ago today Martin Luther King was shot and killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Memphis Magazine has an oft-powerful timeline of King's last day-and-a-half.

(Hat tip to Jason Zengerle at The Plank.)

Coincidence . . . or Fate Sending a Message?

This ESPN story probably requires little commentary:
A 13-year-old girl touring Fenway Park on a school trip was attacked by a resident red-tailed hawk that drew blood from her scalp Thursday.

She wasn't seriously hurt, but some observers saw an omen for a certain New York Yankees slugger in the attack at the home of the Boston Red Sox. The girl's name is Alexa Rodriguez.

OK, maybe a tiny bit of commentary: Yankees Suck!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Heritage of Hate

Just about anytime I see anyone celebrating the Confederacy I prepare myself for a rant. But if there is a ranking of talking-to-a-wall debates in American society, it seems that getting into an argument with those who would commemorate traitorous racists (or is it racist traitors?) ranks in the top five (number one has to be abortion, doesn't it?). In any case, Matthew Yglesias says much of what I might in deriding Confederate Heritage Month, so I'll let him take it away:
It seems that April is Confederate Heritage month. Why one would want to celebrate a heritage of violent rebellion against a democratically elected government in order to perpetuate a system of chattel slavery is a bit hard for me to say.

When I was growing up in New York City, for example, I don't remember any mass campaigns to celebrate the 1863 draft riots as the city's finest hour. The states of the Old Confederacy are hardly unique in that elements of their historical heritage involve discreditable treatment of African-Americans. But they do seem unusual in their insistence on celebrating these historical episodes and in insisting that portraying them in a positive light is integral to a proper understanding of their local identity. Even odder, as best I can tell these days (it was different in the past) most of the folks who like to wave the Confederate flag are perfectly genuine when they get offended that others see them as waving a banner of violent white supremacist ideology. But if that's not the ideology you mean to associate with, then why not drop the flag and adopt some less provocative emblem of Southern folkways?

I'll tell you one answer to that question: because it's all a house of cards, and because race is a factor in the overwhelming majority of these people's zeitgeists. Anyone who reads the secession statements of each of the states that declared war against the United States, and anyone who reads about the secession commissioners, knows exactly what the Confederacy was about. The South need not perpetually be burdened with the most shameful elements of its history except for when the region's most ardent apologists choose exactly those elements to celebrate. The question is not one of States' Rights, but rather of the States' Rights to do what?

Zim at the Africa Blog -- Self Indulgence Alert!

Perhaps this will help explain my relative silence here at dcat. I've been pretty occupied with the situation in Zimbabwe, in which rumors prevail over facts. My hopes are high if muted for change there, but my cynicism remains the prevailing force. Please go read if you have any interest whatsoever.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What's Good for the Goose

So -- can I get this straight? When John Kerry ran in 2004 and placed Vietnam as a central theme in his record, Republicans went after him for doing so, arguing essentially that that biography was either not relevant or somehow was an attempt to avoid discussing the issues. So now here we have John McCain, whose entire premise is that he is on a biography tour. Where is that same criticism? Os is it a matter of Republicans only embracing biography when their side's biographical records are under discussion?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Aye, I'm Back

Your faithful correspondent has returned from an enjoyable, productive, enentful, and exhausting trip to Scotland. I am in the process of trying to catch up (when my head hit the pillow last night I had been awake for more than 43 hours straight thanks to chaotic travel circumstances in Heathrow). Give me some time and I'll be back to my intermittently useful observations of the world surrounding us. When I do write I'll be focusing most of my time on the crisis in Zimbabwe at the Africa blog.