You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2008.

This is cooler than the Bee. Non-lurker andrew reads the 1908 New-York Tribune. He reports, you decide.

Spoilers below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

People keep telling me they read this blog. And the stats support this notion. Or at least, they support the notion that some entities, which may or may not be people, regularly click on bits of this blog.

Yet only a small core of such people comment. So consider this lurker amnesty. Please, throw down a comment to let us know you’re here.

Scott McLemee’s post on May Day raises issues of history and memory.

[Editors Note: Karl Jacoby is our guest today. In addition to being a wonderful friend, Karl’s an extraordinary environmental and Western historian. If you haven’t already read his first book, Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation, you really should. It’s beautifully written and powerfully argued. Plus, it won a bunch of prizes. Prizes are shiny. Karl’s post today is about the Camp Grant Massacre, which is also the subject of his new book, Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History, fortcoming from The Penguin Press in November 2008.]

Shortly before dawn on this day in 1871, a combined force of Tohono O’odham Indians, Mexican Americans, and Anglo Americans from Tucson descended upon a would-be Apache reservation located along the banks of Arizona’s Aravaipa Creek. While some in the party charged up the creek bed, pausing at each of the Apaches’ circular brush shelters to club to death all those found sleeping within, others stationed in the bluffs above shot down at those few terrified Apaches who, awakened by the chaos of the assault, attempted to flee to safety. In little more than half an hour, the raiders would claim the lives of almost 150 Apaches, the overwhelming majority of them women and children, with no casualties to themselves.

This event, known today as the Camp Grant Massacre after the military base near which it took place, is neither the largest nor best known of the brutal flurry of attacks on Native Americans that marred the latter half of the nineteenth century. (The dubious honor of leading these categories would probably go to the Bear River Massacre of 1863, in which an estimated 280 Northern Shoshoni died, and the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, in which at least 250 Lakota Indians were killed by U.S. Army units armed with rapid-firing Hotchkiss cannons.) But coming at a time when the federal government had proudly, if paradoxically, announced a “peace policy” towards North America’s indigenous peoples, this civilian attack on sleeping women and children raised troubling questions for many Americans about the causes of the nation’s violence towards Indian peoples. Newspapers fanned a heated debate over the attackers’ ethics. While some considered the Camp Grant Massacre “just and right,” one “of those victories for civilization and progress, which have made Sand Creek, Washita, the Piegan fight, and other similar occurrences famous in western history,” President Ulysses S. Grant, an architect of the “peace policy,” decried the attack as “murder, purely.” Outraged federal officials sought to punish the attackers, an effort that culminated in December 1871 with the trial of 100 alleged participants in the massacre. A jury of twelve Anglos and Mexican Americans from Tucson, however, took just nineteen minutes to find the accused not guilty, quickly ending any attempt to bring the perpetrators of the Camp Grant Massacre to justice.

In the century and a quarter since the brutal events in Aravaipa Canyon, memories of the massacre have faded away, especially among non-Apaches. Today, the parade grounds of Camp Grant have been replaced by Central Arizona College and Aravaipa Villa RV Park. Most of Aravaipa Canyon itself is now part of a national wilderness area administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The canyon’s reincarnation as an oasis of untouched nature for weary urbanites from Tucson and Phoenix would seem to encapsulate many of the perils of the American approach towards nature that Bill Cronon warned about almost a decade ago in his now famous essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness.” Rather than publicly acknowledging its violent past—the existence of a U.S. Army fort, the massacre of women and children—the canyon’s new status as wilderness enables instead the failure to consider its human history at all.

Read the rest of this entry »

From May 30 I-5 will be closed where it runs through downtown Sacramento, so don’t drive anywhere near here; Governor’s aides settle on $20.2bn figure for state deficit at least until governor’s budget is released, May 14.

Rex Babin’s editorial cartoon:

Hey, kids! Can you solve the problem of the mystery gaffe? On this day in 1912, Senator John Sharp Williams (Democrat of Mississippi), under pressure from ministers who thundered at him to “get on your knees and ask God to blot out the great sin of your lips,” ordered struck from the Congressional Record his parody of the Apostles’ Creed, in which he mocked Theodore Roosevelt. He “expressed astonishment at what he said he regarded as a misconstruction by many Christian people.” See, and folks think the non-apology apology is a thing of our fallen times.

Now, as far as I can tell the NYT did not deem the parody fit to print, and I couldn’t find it mentioned in the biographies of Williams or Roosevelt I could lay hands (or mouse-clicks) on. I’m sure someone knows this and can embarrass me with a ready citation in 3… 2… 1…

Alternatively, imagine your own parody Apostles’ Creed. You can post it, along with your blasphemous depictions of the prophet, somewhere else.

Flash: fast food makes you fat! really: “[i]n communities with an abundance of fast-food outlets and convenience stores, researchers have found, obesity and diabetes rates are much higher….”; SCotUS upholds IN voter ID law; bundle of small earthquakes West of Reno; objections to H-2A guest-worker program from unions and farmers. Lifestyle corner is Maria Shriver book with the message, “it’s never too late to become the person you want to be.”

[Editor’s Note: Kathy Olmsted is back as our guest, and she’s more cloak-and-daggerific than ever.]

On this day in 1994, Aldrich Ames pleaded guilty to giving secrets to the Soviet Union and later Russia. He was the highest paid spy in U.S. history, the first CIA agent ever proven recruited by the KGB, and the poster child for espionage for profit.

Historians of intelligence often use the acronym MICE to explain why people spy: Money, Ideology, Compromise (as in blackmail), or Ego. Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, the Soviet Union had recruited dozens of Americans who spied because of ideology. They didn’t get paid to spy; in fact, they paid for the privilege, in the form of Communist party dues.

But for Ames – and for others in his generation of spies — it was all about money. In 1985, as a CIA officer assigned to Soviet counterintelligence, Ames knew the names of all the Soviets who were secretly working for the CIA. He was in an ideal position to sell these names to the KGB. Angry, unstable, and in chronic need of money, Ames boldly entered the Soviet embassy in Washington in April 1985 and delivered a letter describing some Soviets who had offered to spy for CIA. The delighted KGB paid him $50,000. Two months later, he turned over the names of more than ten Soviets working for the CIA and FBI in return for $2 million. Some of these CIA sources were killed; others vanished.

As their assets disappeared, CIA officials knew that the agency had been penetrated and launched an investigation to uncover the mole. Nevertheless, Ames continued his espionage activities for nine years. When he was arrested in 1994, members of Congress and the media asked in astonishment how the agency could have missed all of the warning signs. Ames drank heavily, received poor job evaluations, parked his Jaguar in the CIA parking lot, and paid cash for a half-million dollar house. Yet agency officials resisted for years recognizing that one of their own had changed sides. Finally, in 1993 CIA officials turned the case over to the FBI, which succeeded in catching Ames a year later. In return for cooperating with CIA debriefers, Ames received a life sentence rather than facing certain execution.

The Ames case, with its revelations of treachery and incompetence, demoralized the agency. CIA chief James Woolsey ordered three different investigations into the causes of the fiasco, but still could not save his job. He resigned at the end of 1994. Both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees issued detailed reports that, in the words of the Senate report, criticized the CIA’s “gross negligence” in the case.

In a comment spurred by this post on MLK and popular memory, charlieford wrote:

Just thought I’d share with ya’all that I turned this into a paper assignment in an Intro class (ie, US History Survey–almost all non-majors, sophomores and freshmen). I had them read tha tail of the “Dream” speech, most of the 1967 “Breaking Silence” speech, and Kai Wright’s piece in the Prospect. I asked them to frame it in terms of “mythic King” vs. “real King,” and why the two are out there, why the one is more palatable, and to evaluate the whole thing in whatever terms appealed to them. For about half, that was slightly ambitious. BUT: I think this was one of the most engaging papers I’ve assigned in some 10 years of teaching–ie, about 80% of the students really got into it. They almost all admired King enormously already (thank the schools–some had had King family members visit in elementary school) but to a MAN/WOMAN, none knew of the radical King. Maybe 2, out of 70, were disappointed that he’d criticize his nation when it was at war, but almost all were deeply challenged by his more radical analysis of US distemper. If you’ve read enough papers, you can tell when people are passionate, and when they’re feigning interest. Lot of passion from this assignment. Fun to grade, too. I thank Ari, Eric, and the EAW community for the inspiration to do it.

That does sound like a good paper topic. (And not because the answers charlie got from his students support my contention in the original post. Actually, I think his students’ responses buttress charlie’s point in the comments. Come to think of it, it’s just like charlie to design an assignment in order to win an argument with me. Selfish, that’s what’s he is.) Regardless, reading charlie’s comment raised a question in my mind: what’s the best paper assignment you’ve ever given? And by “best,” I think I mean the prompt that elicited the most interesting responses and that helped your students learn what you hoped they would from your course. That said, I might mean something else by “best.” I’m not entirely sure. I am sure that I need a nap.

For my part, I think the best paper topic I’ve ever given was in a seminar on memory I taught a few years back. I assigned Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s Army Life in a Black Regiment, David Blight’s article, “For Something Beyond the Battlefield: Frederick Douglass and the Struggle for the Memory of the Civil War,” and Glory. I asked the class to consider the relationship between the primary source, the scholarly article, and the film, focusing on the production and transmission of memories of African-American troops in the Civil War. The assignment, it turned out, was too complicated for some of the students. But the majority of them dug in and produced papers that I enjoyed reading (which might be a more accurate measure of what I mean by “best”). So, what about you? What assignments have worked well for you?

Lawmaker pay cut may not be within purview of proposing panel; bankers resist Fed proposals to regulate mortgage lending; firefighters working near LA. Lifestyle corner is civilian boot camp.

Inside, the Field Poll for March, 2008, shows percentage of Californians “very concerned” about “not being able to pay for all the costs associated with a major illness or injury” rose to 59% from 48% in December 2006. Percentage who want “government” providing their health care up from 22% to 31% over same period (largest chunk still want “employer” but has shrunk from 42% to 38%; the other bit of growth in those wanting “government” appears to come from the reduction in those who want health care to be their “own responsibility”).

People who don’t know about this, should know about this: you can come hear Michael Bérubé talk about what’s happened to the left since 9/11. At Historic City Hall in Davis, May 6, 5:30 PM. Free. Open to the public. One night only.

If you need this explained, Bérubé writes sharp witty prose, is funnier even than Kelman (sorry, Ari), makes a great case for academic freedom and the liberal arts, and has managed also to stake out new turf in disability studies. He is in addition a fearsome hockey player and a drummer to be reckoned with.

Also, Truckasaurus. Okay, no Truckasaurus. But everything else is true.

Write it down, make up a little song about it. Once more: Bérubé!

The video speaks for itself. But if not, the text can be found here (pdf).

Via Blacktriangle.

Cross-posted to Crooked Timber.

During this week’s guest stint I’ve managed to touch on Palestine-Israel, the New Deal, and Michel Foucault. Steering clear of the real killer tripwires—i.e., sex roles, the Democratic primaries, or emacs/vi—that leaves a final frontier of Internet mischief….

On this day in 1945, only three days after the occupation of their city by French troops, the remaining full professors of the University of Freiburg assembled to elect new officers and to restore the customs under which they had operated before 1933, when their faculty, racially purged by the Nazis, elected as rector the philosopher Martin Heidegger. (All details here come from Hugo Ott; see more at the footnote.)1

This is not a parable or an analogy. It is a story of one episode in which civil authorities and academic governing bodies reckoned with a disastrous crossover between scholarship and politics.

One of the first orders of business for the reassembled professors was the question of what to do about Nazis among their colleagues. They chartered an internal review committee for the purpose, and tried to keep jurisdiction over this process, without success. City authorities were conducting their own reviews, and they designated Heidegger’s house, among others, as a “Party residence” to be requisitioned for use. The university protested, based on the opinion of legal scholar Franz Böhm (an anti-Nazi dismissed from his post during Hitler’s regime) that for “establishing political guilt” one needed “a proper court of law.”
Read the rest of this entry »

State legislature considers creating retirement plan for private enterprises to be administered by CalPERS; Kevin Johnson’s lawyer investigated accusation of inappropriate touching at Sac High before police could; Officials to truck record numbers of salmon from hatchery to the sea to try to preserve a maximum number from river obstacles. Lifestyle corner is Wesley Snipes’s prison sentence for failure to file tax returns.

So read a New York Times (pdf) headline of April 25, 1877. The article explained that on this day, April 24, 1877, at noon, “United States troops were removed from the State-house of Louisiana.” Thus ended the era of Reconstruction.

And thus began an era of unfettered white supremacy in Louisiana. The Grant administration had stationed federal troops in New Orleans (Baton Rouge would not become the permanent state capital for two more years) to insure that Louisiana’s Republican governor, Stephen Packard, would not be usurped by Francis Nicholls, a Democratic Redeemer, planter aristocrat, and former Confederate general.

Packard and Nicholls had squared off in the previous year’s gubernatorial election. Nicholls had received more votes. But the state’s Returning Board had overturned the outcome, basing its decision on a law that allowed it to invalidate votes in the event of intimidation or fraud. Which, given Louisiana’s recent history, wasn’t a hard case to make. As recently as 1872, two separate governments had claimed power in the state. Republican Governor William Kellogg had only seized control after federal troops had arrived to maintain order. Terrorist organizations, including the White League, had then formed, poised to intimidate freedpeople and suppress Republican votes. In the spring of 1873, for example, more than 100 African-Americans had been killed in the notorious Colfax Massacre, followed by countless other episodes in which black people had been beaten or killed by the de facto military arm of the state’s Democratic Party, including during the run-up to the 1876 election.

Following the Returning Board’s decision to overturn the popular vote, Democrats and Republicans, as they had in 1872, began organizing state governments. Early in the new year, two legislatures, one Democratic and the other Republican, selected, respectively, Nicholls and Packard as the state’s governors. From that point on, as the Compromise of 1877 played out behind closed doors in Washington, federal troops in New Orleans held the White League in check, guaranteeing Governor Packard control of the state house. Until, on this day in 1877, those troops withdrew. The Times reported that the White League “celebrat[ed] the victory by cannon firing and bell ringing.” Packard retired the next day, ceding control to Nicholls. Two years later, Governor Nicholls chaired the state convention that promulgated the Louisiana Constitution of 1879, disfranchising freedmen and some poor whites by embedding literacy and education tests in the law. The Redeemers had carried the day.

Adam Nagourney from NYT notices white working-class people (in SOME STATES, Nagourney) unwilling to vote for Obama; California ninth-graders have to pass fitness tests or else re-take PE (nice photo). Lifestyle corner is expensive golf kit.

Inside, we find a short piece about the work of UC Davis communications professor Michael Motley:

Nearly every woman Motley questioned answered that when she tells a partner “it’s getting late” during intimate situations, she means she is putting up a stop sign. But most men interpreted “it’s getting late” to mean either that she wanted him to “skip the preliminaries” or that she wanted him to go forward and was politely informing him about the late hour.

The Bee headlines the story, “Hot talk or time to stop?”

Facing a declining share of the market, the CocaCola Company introduced New Coke on this day in 1985. ‘Nuff said, right? Well, except for this: has there ever been a grander episode of corporate hubris in American history? The answer must be yes. But I can’t think of one. Of course, I’m not trying very hard. Beyond that, the Wikipedia article on this subject really is better than anything I can do. So if you’re interested, have at it.

Oh, I did just think of one more thing: I’m a Coke absolutist. I try not to drink too much of the stuff, favoring the lining of my stomach and the enamel on my teeth (your teeth are the best friends you have, readers; treat them well). But when I have a cola beverage, I will only drink Coke. Eric, though, a man of refined tastes and breeding, is willing to consume Pepsi. What’s up with that?

Over here I pointed out this list of the top 100 public intellectuals. Apart from its making your blood boil, etc., perhaps we could consider what it says about our particular field. The people who make the cut and are labeled “historians”:

Anne Applebaum
Drew Gilpin Faust
Tony Judt
Niall Ferguson
Enrique Krauze
Ramachandra Guha
Bernard Lewis
Jared Diamond

I was going to say something about this myself, but then I remembered that would be work. So why not throw it open? What do you think this says about history and public intellection?

Clinton wins PA by 10 (NYT story); feature on one of 5,278 Sac area home repos; California Citizens Compensation Commission may consider reducing salary of elected officials. Lifestyle corner is make your own limoncello.

Our Boston correspondent Sifu Tweety sends along the below, writing, “Sometimes in Boston it seems like we just have to deal with the same problems over and over again.”

Read the rest of this entry »

This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."