Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
These exercises, however methodologically sound or flawed, are best viewed as parlor games and cocktail party fodder and are not worth much more. I've always been more interested in presidential impact than on presidential "greatness." That said, here is my "top ten" list, with all of the vagaries that term implies, with the recognition of my own clear biases -- I am a 20th century historian and I am a liberal and a Democrat -- and which could be different tomorrow and may have been different yesterday:
1) Abraham Lincoln
2) Franklin Roosevelt
3) George Washington
4) Harry Truman
5) Theodore Roosevelt
6) Lyndon Johnson
7) Woodrow Wilson
8) Thomas Jefferson
9) Dwight Eisenhower
10) Andrew Jackson
One lesson I draw from coming up with my own list is that the depth chart for United States Presidents does not go all that deep. That surely speaks to the nature of the job more than it does to the men who have held it. The presidency is a position almost built to conquer those who attain it.
It's safe to say that Lewis has found his niche. His earliest books took a similar approach to financial sectors. It would be formulaic were it not stunningly clear just how easily conventional wisdom becomes dogma in so many varied but related -- hypercompetitive, big money -- realms. It does not hurt that Lewis is a hell of a writer -- workmanlike, but crisp, clear, and readable, and he easily conveys complicated ideas to make them so accessible that you do not even realize they are complicated. Hopefully this piece on Battier foreshadows a book on the topic.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
But let me tell you one thing -- seeing (and, of course, buying, in bulk) my first Cadbury Eggs the day after Valentine's Day? Hell. And. Yes.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
But tonight, due to a confluence of circumstances, which included the assistant coach having to miss a road trip to Austin and San Antonio and me happening to be in the Alamo City for the weekend, I took on a new role: Assistant basketball coach. I have a good deal of experience coaching track at the high school and college levels, but basketball coaching was new to me. I kept the stats, held the clipboard, looked up portentously at the scoreboard, yelled the encouragement, hollered at the refs, gave coach useful tidbits of information, shook hands with the refs before and the opposing team after the game, gathered the official stat sheets as I stood solemnly during time outs, and served as sounding board for coach before, during, and after what turned out to be a bad, bad loss, and -- this is most important -- responded with an appropriate blend of gravitas and hail-fellow-well-met when people called me "coach."
So, to all of you Division I programs about to can your head coach in the next month: I'm available at the right price. Just so you know.
Friday, February 13, 2009
The professor (who is not yet tenured) had to write anonymously because the university president has apparently put forth a dictum that faculty may not speak about the crisis. Were I a tenured professor at ASU, and especially were I in a discipline in which writing about politics or current affairs could plausibly be part of what I do -- ie: were I me -- I might challenge that demand of silence frontally in the name of both academic freedom and free speech. Of course that's easy for me to say here and now, as the crisis in Texas is nowhere near as dire as that in Arizona, and we are not facing such severe circumstances.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Everyone knows about the successes of the NAACP in fighting segregated education, which culminated in Brown v. Board. But the organization fought discrimination in its myriad guises, in diverse realms such the political arena and on public transportation. It is quite possible to assert that without SNCC or CORE there still would have been an NAACP, but without the NAACP there may never have been a SNCC or a CORE.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 09, 2009
It may be the most infamous photo in Boston history, is certainly the most infamous of the post-1960s Civil Rights Movement, and still leaves a lousy mark on a city with a fraught racial history even if it also is a city that has also historically been a beacon for freedom and liberty, in both rhetoric and reality.
Ted Landsmark was an up-and-coming lawyer entering the political realm on April 5, 1976. He was running late for a meeting of the Boston Redevelopment Authority that he was set to chair. He had difficulty finding parking and was rushing to get to his meeting when he was set upon by white thugs, one brandishing an American flag, in front of City Hall. The moment marked the nadir of the city's busing crisis, indeed, a nadir in the city's history.
So it came as a surprise, I'm sure to many (it did to me) top read Landsmark's recent op-ed in which he called for an end to busing to try to achieve equalization in the racial composition of the schools in Boston. And yet his arguments are worth considering.
Busing is a more complex issue than either its opponents or its supporters are willing to acknowledge. When Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education allowed for busing to begin with it was deeply controversial, but not necessarily wrong. But once the court (wrongly, in my mind) decided in Milliken v. Bradley not to allow busing to cross city lines, and thus to give suburbanites the chance to opt out of the system, and to accelerate white flight, and to racialize the inner city, it meant that busing was virtually doomed to fail, at least in those cities that maintained limited geographic boundaries (unlike Charlotte, the home of the Swann decision ironically enough, which continued to expand so that the city and county lines became virtually indistinguishable) because it could not address the systemic geographic roots of so much segregation, especially in the North and particularly in cities and suburbs. The Milliken decision did not alone guarantee Boston's ugly mid-1970s fate, but it contributed. Today black Boston-area students who live in overwhelmingly black communities get up early in the morning to get on buses the majority of which will likely take them to schools that, wherever they are located, are likely to be made up of black and Hispanic students from elsewhere in the city. Ted Landsmark, the most visible victim of Boston's ugliest period, now opposes busing. His words are worth considering, but only after we understand the real reasons why busing failed.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
The chase is done, though the recriminations have just begun. The self-righteous await hopefully ARod taking the record away, because they who remained willfully blind suddenly have decided that ARod was never part of the scandal they never saw when it was happening yet see so clearly in outrage-fueled hindsight.
Well, now we have this.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Hat tip to the Thunderstick.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
I grew up reading my local paper and The Boston Globe that my stepfather picked up every day. Without descending into cliche, I love the tactile, tangible element of the daily paper, and I do believe that there are things you catch while reading through the newspaper that you do not when browsing the handy headlines and choosing what to click on when it arrives in your email inbox.
But we keep hearing that the newspaper is dead, and all signs certainly point that way. I hope something happens to salvage the print newspaper, but within a generation I would guess that the daily paper will be greatly diminished, if not an entirely defunct species. In the latest New Yorker, Harvard historian Jill Lepore (whose regular work there is fantastic) has an article on early American newspapers in which a subtext is that the medium's very survival was always in question. The goal may be to reassure, though the realities of this market are rather different from the colonial and early national era. It may not be entirely reassuring, but her piece will at least remind you of the resilience of the daily (or weekly) printed word.
Monday, February 02, 2009