Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The First Hundred Days

I have been thinking and reading a great deal about both the idea of a president's "first 100 days" and also about how President Obama has fared in his early tenure as president. This is in large part because I will be participating on a roundtable on Obama's First Hundred Days next week after I arrive at the University of Keele, where I will be a fellow at the David Bruce Centre for American Studies for the month of May.

Alan Brinkley has an article at The New Republic in which he argues that Obama, in this mythical timespan, "has been less frenetic than Franklin Roosevelt's, but in some ways more productive." The comparison with FDR is both obvious and inevitable because of the fact that the very concept originates with FDR and because of the circumstantial analogy between today's financial crisis and that DR confronted when he took office.

I do not want to pre-empt my own presentation from next week, but in shorthand my view is: Too early to tell; first hundred days is a journalistic rather than a historical construct when it comes to analyzing most any president but FDR; There might be better comparisons to make than with FDR.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The New and Improved Africa Blog (Self Indulgence Alert)

Please check out the new and improved Foreign Policy Association Africa Blog. There might be some tech glitches early on, but in the long run it should be bigger than better than ever, and the FPA blogs already make up the premiere network of foreign policy blogs in the world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Idiocy Alert: The Conservative Meltdown

In today's Boston Globe Scott Lehigh gets after the completely idiotic conservative accusations of liberal fascism (Jonah Goldberg's book of the same title is probably the worst example of journalistic use of history ever, by the way) and Vermont Socialist (but really Social Democrat) Bernie Sanders similarly dismisses the conservative accusations of socialism.

Part of me is amused that contemporary conservatism has become a bastion of idiocy and shallow thought as the movement implodes into incoherent tea parties ("We are about to return to the high marginal tax rates of the first Bush administration! Batten the hatches!") and as Rush Limbaugh becomes the most prominent person within the movement (which says more than anything I could about the state of the right). But there is also a patina of danger behind this unhinged and marginalized right-wing zealotry. Idiocy fetishized as resistance breeds violence.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The South African Elections: Self Indulgence Edition

Tomorrow South Africans will go to the polls for the fourth time in the post-Apartheid era. The Foreign Policy Association has published my preview. This is the first part of a two-part feature. The second half will appear later this week when I assess the immediate aftermath of what could represent a very important thermometer for South Africa's still fledgling, but absolutely vital, democracy.

Running a Bit BAAS-ward

I spent the weekend in Nottingham, England at the British Association for American Studies' (BAAS) Annual Meeting, which has fast become one of my very favorite conferences. I was able to see some very good friends, including RoJo, who has made periodic appearances here at dcat. I'm trying to get readjusted from a whirlwind, virtually sleepless trip and get caught up on life here in the States but will blog more soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bruscino Puts the "Fun" in Funston

Friend of dcat Tom Bruscino provides the introduction to (and was the motivating force behind) Bison Books' new edition of Frederick Funston's memoir Memories of Two Wars: Cuban and Philippine Experiences

Go buy a copy. And buy a copy for a friend. Congratulations, Tom.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

So Much Style That It's Wastin'

How are YOU going to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Strunk & White's Elements of Style (Itself a revision of a usage book White had published in 1918)? If you are The Boston Globe's Jan Freeman, you are going to bitch about it. As for me, I find usage guides to be pretty tedious slogs (of course my usage is probably lousy) but if you are a writer, don't mess around -- go get The Chicago Manual of Style (I believe the latest is the 15th edition) and be done with it. A full run of the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary is on my wish list as well, but between cost and space, my OED fantasies will remain just that.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Want My Book TV! (Self Indulgence Alert, Redux)

Just a reminder that you can see me on C-Span 2's Book TV tomorrow when it shows some of the highlights from the Virginia Festival of the Book, including the panel I was on featuring books about the Civil Rights Movement.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Arsenault on "The Voice of the Century"

Last week Dwight Garner of The New York Times reviewed my friend Ray Arsenault's new book, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America. I'm just glad Ray and I are not working on the same topic any more -- that's a competition I'm not likely to do especially well at!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Time for My Close-Up: Self Indulgence Alert

If you are hanging around this weekend wishing something for brilliant and edifying to appear on your television, your prayers have been answered! C-Span 2's Book TV this weekend will feature some of the highlights of this year's Virginia Festival of the Book panels, including the one on the Civil Rights Movement on which I participated. The programming is scheduled to begin at noon, eastern time, on both Saturday and Sunday. It will be even better if you have a copy of Freedom's Main Line in front of you! (check out the price under new/used from Amazon's partner booksellers!)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Opening Day!!!!!!!!!!

Today (or tomorrow -- see the next paragraph) should be a national holiday. And were I king of the world (someday, someday) enacting such a festive respite in honor of the start of baseball would be one of the first pronouncements I would make, alongside establishing the global fashion police (hey you, Fatty, where you think you're going in that spandex? Walk back into the house slowly and no one gets hurt . . .) and establishing a college football playoff system. And I know there was baseball played last night, a blasphemy that too would be done with the stroke of a pen in my enlightened despotism.

The Red Sox were scheduled to be on national television today, but because of frightful April weather in Boston, the game has been postponed to tomorrow. Which brings me to the question of what the hell the Sox and Rays are doing kicking off in Boston in early April when both teams just left Florida, where the Rays play in an indoor facility. I love Fenway, I love baseball, and I love Opening Day, but Fenway in early April can be frigid, and if it is wet it can be utterly miserable. Why not play this series in St. Pete and open at Fenway in a couple of weeks? 'Twould be done in dcat's world (admit it -- you're growing warm to the idea of my benevolent dictatorship).

Here are my perfunctory predictions for the season:

American League:

AL East: (Predicted order of finish; * denotes predicted Wild Card berth) Red Sox, *Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays (In the best division in baseball, maybe in baseball history, three teams will win 90 games and the fifth-place team will be fighting for a .500 record through September.)

AL Central: Indians, Twins, Tigers, White Sox, Royals (The Indians will rebound to win a stunningly mediocre division.)

AL West: Angels, Rangers, A's, Mariners (Also mediocre, but more competitive, one of the stories in the West will be the Rangers finally having some good young pitching to go with a team that can always hit. Still, at least for this year, the Angels will continue to be the class of the division.)

National League:

NL East: Mets, *Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nationals (It is fun watching the Mets collapse, but they have strengthened their bullpen and should win the East, though Philadelphia is not going to give up the crown all that easily.)

NL Central: Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Astros, Pirates (Why in the hell does the NL Cantral have six teams while the AL West has four? This has always annoyed me. My benign autocracy will shift one of these teams to the American league -- welcome back Milwaukee!

NL West: Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Giants, Padres (Manny really is a difference maker. This should be a good race to the end, though, and the Diamondbacks could pull it out.)

ALDS: Sox over Indians; Angels over Rays

NLDS: Cubs over Phillies; Mets over Dodgers

ALCS: Sox over Angels (Again.)

NLCS: Cubs over Mets (hey, one of these years this much-anticipated matchup is going to happen)

World Series: Sox over Cubs in six. (What, you thought I was going in another direction? The Sox both have my blind loyalty and a hell of a team. The pitching staff, starters to back of the pen, could be other-worldly and the lineup will have its usual stellar season. That's a nice combination.)

Play Ball!!! (Tomorrow!)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Unabashed, Naked, Shameless Self-Indulgence Alert

At Amazon right now a handful of the booksellers are in something of a pricing war, which means that you can get a copy of Freedom's Main Line for less than $19. I have no idea if or how this counts toward my sales total, but it's a pretty good bargain for the cost-conscious book buyer. Act now, as the tv ads always say, this deal won't last forever! Or maybe it will. How would I know?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

At the Africa Blog

I've been busy busy busy over at the Foreign Policy Association's Africa Blog. I hope you'll go over and take a look at my commentary on African affairs ranging from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and across the continent, with lots and lots of South African politics as a focus. South Africa will hold elections later this month, and the country has not been in this kind of political flux since 1994. I hope you'll check in regularly, bookmark the Africa Blog, and put it on your blogroll if you blog.

Losing the Globe?

I grew up reading The Boston Globe. Or at least I grew up during my formative newspaper years -- from junior high onward, when my stepfather came into the picture and brought the paper home early every morning from his pre-work coffee run, thus broadening my horizons each morning from the tiny and provincial local newspapers that graced Newport, New Hampshire -- reading the Globe. I placed particular emphasis in those early years on the Globe sports section, which was hands down the best in the country.

So it is with fear and trepidation that I read this morning that the Globe's corporate overlord, The New York Times Company, is demanding $20 million in concessions from the myriad unions that serve in production and distribution of the Globe or else shuttering the paper is a very real possibility. Some of these concessions are surely necessary. But I cannot help but think that at least some represent an attempt to squeeze labor during difficult times knowing full well that if things do return to something resmebling prosperity, the workers will not get back what they give up.

The loss of the Globe would feel like a personal tragedy, but also would represent the most significant newspaper loss so far. Maybe the era of the newspaper, so seemingly permanent for so long, really is ending. Maybe in ten years we really will get all of our news from the internet, and that those newspapers that do survive will do so in a solely or primarily web-based form. But I hope not. The web offers many things that atraditional newspaper cannot, but so too does the paper-and-ink version offer pleasures that even the most user-friendly technology cannot replicate. I am crossing my fingers that the Globe will emerge from this current crisis.

Rugby Pics

The Boston Globe has a collection of twenty-five spectacular rugby picturesfrom the past few weeks, focusing particularly on the fans and players of last month's world rugby sevens competition in Hong Kong.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Git Yer Hot Dogs Here!

MSN has one man's opinions on the seven best hot dog places in the country. I cannot vouch for any of them, but any time we can talk about hot dogs is a good time here at dcat. Indeed, we had a great conversation on this topic when I raised a similar issue, listing some of my own favorites, at the late great Rebunk.

"B" is for "Better"

Due to economic circumstances my MA alum UNC-Charlotte (which, for branding purposes tries to go simply by "Charlotte")is scaling back its plans for its new football program. And while this will seem like rationalization, making virute of necessity, I think the new Plan B is better and saner than the original Plan A.

(Hat tip to this guy. The Yankees suck.)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Arms Race in the East

At The Boston Globe Tony Massarotti is enthusiastic about the Red Sox pitching corps, particularly the bullpen. The American League East is going to be incredible this year, maybe the greatest division in baseball history, and so how the pitching staffs fare will go a long way in determining which teams will be playing in October and which very good team will be stuck watching. None is so blind as he who will not see, but I still think the Rays will be the odd team out, though of course I hope the Yankees can spent October counting their money while watching the Sox and Rays fight it out for the right to go to the World Series.