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This is part two of this interview, in which Michael talks about why he is an antifoundationalist in matters of social justice, and you should be too. Ari still isn’t talking in this part. I promise he was there, and he shows up in the next bit.

Also, as promised or threatened, the wiggling remains for now, though after reading all your complaints I tried to come with more creative uses of animation in the latter bit of the video.

Please, as before, comment on form and/or substance.

The below represents an experiment for us. This is the first portion of about a half-hour conversation Ari and I had with Michael Bérubé this week. In this portion Michael talks about the Sokal Hoax and why it’s still important. Later parts of the interview include why you should be an antifoundationalist, ruminations on blogging and books, and three middle-aged heterosexual white guys (with tenure, no less!) talking about “privilege.”

Please comment on form or substance, as the mood strikes you.

On this day in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified, providing for the direct election of Senators. The amendment went into effect for the following year’s election. I suppose there’s more to say on the subject — about early advocacy for the measure in the Jacksonian era, about the Populists, about Progressive reform, blah, blah, blah — but the Seventeenth Amendment is hardly my favorite. I mean, it’s not bad or anything. But it’s no First, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, or Nineteenth. Sorry Seventeenth Amendment, you’ll have to do better next time.

On this day in 1973, the siege at Wounded Knee, SD ended. For seventy-one days, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and tribal traditionalists had controlled the small town on the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Sioux. The occupation lasted until May 8, when U.S. Marhals, FBI agents, and National Guard troops took control of the area.

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This is Harry. He is a seven-week old golden retriever.

People have said to me many times over the years, “goldens are dumb.” I’m not sure why people think this. About every other seeing-eye dog you see is a golden retriever. That’s not a job for a dumb dog. Is it that goldens are blond, and therefore must be dumb? Maybe. I suspect it’s more that they’re extraordinarily willing to please, and for some of us that translates as dumb. (This says more about us than about the golden, though.)

“Harry” is for Harry Hotspur, who is easily among the coolest characters in Shakespeare. (He is also basically the same character as Mercutio, but you try saying, “Here, Mercutio!”)

On this day, Wednesday, three weeks ago, we got Magpie (she’s pictured above), a Border Collie pup we call Maggie. Which raises an important question: what happened to Luna? Well, that’s a long and sad story. So here goes.

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On this day in 1882, the US adopted a law including these provisions:

Whereas, in the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof [we’re looking at you, California]: Therefore … until the expiration of ten years next after the passage of this act, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States be, and the same is hereby, suspended…. That hereafter no State court or court of the United States shall admit Chinese to citizenship[.]

Actually, it’s much longer, going on for almost three pages in the Statutes at Large, beginning at 22 Stat. 58, including all kinds of provisions for controlling immigration. It was America’s first legal definition of an entire nationality as unassimilable.

There are several ways to think about this law. One is, it was part of a global movement among white settler colonies to exclude Chinese: what did Canada, Australia, and the US have in common? Aside from British-inflected culture and government. No, aside from frontiers. No, aside from gold strikes and boom-and-bust frontiers. No, aside from frontier war against the aboriginal inhabitants. No, aside from relying on immigrant labor. YES, bigotry against immigrant laborers! If you want to find your trans-oceanic community of policy-making, look at the immigrant-haters. Victoria, in Australia, had a Chinese exclusion law in 1855; other Australian governments followed suit, so that by 1887 there were such laws all over Oz. The US passed its law in 1882; the Canadians did not outright exclude Chinese until 1923 but in the meantime had a variety of measures, including a head tax and a highly discretionary system of immigrant admission, that kept down Chinese immigration. The pattern of Japanese immigration restriction is similar; Queensland made a “gentleman’s agreement” with Japan to keep down immigration in 1897, while the US did its deal with Japan in 1907 and Canada did its in 1908. (Why were the Chinese excluded by law while the Japanese were excluded by bilateral negotiation? The Chinese were quasi-colonized, while the Japanese had a navy modeled on Britain’s.)

Another way of looking at the law is to see it functioning within the history of American immigration restriction. Chinese exclusion invented something like the concept and business of modern illegal immigration. As a journalist wrote in 1891,

There is no part [of the Canadian border] over which a Chinaman may not pass into our country without fear of hinderance; there are scarcely any parts of it where he may not boldly walk across it at high noon.

The law and its successor of 1892 also made necessary for the first time the modern machinery of immigration and residency control and documentation. And what was made for the Chinese eventually extended to other immigrants as well—not just the Japanese, but eventually all “Asiatics,” excluded by the 1917 law. And also Europeans: in the decades around 1900, Americans found lots of ways to define various nationalities of immigrants as undesirable owing to “health” problems. Somehow, the taxonomy of health problems mapped onto certain ethnicities and national origins, as Howard Markel and Alexandra Minna Stern find; Jews were “neurasthenic,” Italians “criminally minded.”2 Medical opinion underwrote racism, allowing the redefinition of people previously considered “white” and thus A-OK, as excludable along with the “Asiatics.” What starts as the “Yellow Peril” can become the merely sallow peril. Say, you’re looking a little peaky there, yourself….


1Cited in Erika Lee, “Enforcing the Borders: Chinese Exclusion along the U.S. Borders with Canada and Mexico, 1882-1924,” Journal of American History 89, no. 1 (June 2002): 54-86. The discussion here also relies on Mae Ngai, “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924,” Journal of American History 86, no. 1 (June 1999): 67-92, and the various works of Roger Daniels, including his good survey of immigration law, Guarding the Golden Door.
2Howard Markel and Alexandra Minna Stern, “Which Face? Whose Nation? The Construction of Disease at America’s Ports and Borders, 1891-1928,” American Behavioral Scientist 42, no. 9 (June/July 1999): 1314-1331.

Ari’s Killer Angels post reminds me, oncet upon a time I used to teach historical novels a lot more. Lots of ’em are very well known and appear on syllabi everywhere, but some I think are relatively underrated. For example, I think E. L. Doctorow’s Book of Daniel works pretty well for teaching the mid-century Cold War. When you teach a book like this, it lets you discuss the gaps between history and memory, and what the needs of narrative do to the nuances of analysis. Maybe now I would try teaching Roth’s American Pastoral, but I’m not sure it would work as well—it reads a bit too much like a polemic against the 1960s.

Then there’s fiction written or produced contemporaneously with great historical events that helps shed light on such events. For example, John Hersey’s A Bell for Adano works well along with The Third Man and Casablanca for the American mission overseas in the 1940s. When you teach a book like this, it lets you discuss the gap between contemporary and later uses of the same events (compare all of the above with, say, Saving Private Ryan).

I say I used to use such sources more frequently, but I don’t now. I think this is because the quarter system is so demanding: ten weeks to cover large chunks of material. Maybe I should teach a seminar. A long time ago, I taught one using only novels to cover the twentieth century. (O’Connor’s Last Hurrah is a good one, too.)

On this day in 1975, Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, which, I’m told, is a good get. Killer Angels, for those of you who haven’t read it, tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg, mostly through the eyes of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and James “Pete” Longstreet and Union officers Joshua Chamberlain and John Buford. The prose is vivid, the narrative taut, and Shaara’s command of tactics and history are both impressive.

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And I guess I’d be right now, if I said it again. Look, there are all kinds of things you can say about economists—it’s not for nothing people know what you mean when you say someone has an economist’s interpersonal skills—but with economics, as with law or any other field, if everyone says you’re wrong, you should listen. If you read any of the same blogs I do, you will know that Hillary Rodham Clinton not only doesn’t listen but is proud to let you know it:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But can you name an economist who thinks this makes sense?

CLINTON: Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to put my lot in with economists….

So below, here’s what I had to say about such people four years ago. I mean, if the politicians are going to recycle old acts, can’t I recycle old comments on those acts?

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The Edge of the American West is unafraid to express its admiration for William Shatner: actor, singer, pitchman, philosopher, poet, and Canadian Jew.

Via the always excellent Cogitamus.

The interlocking directorates, today: Toby Segaran makes a map of corporate board membership showing the 212 most connected of the top 400 companies by market capitalization. Louis Brandeis would be so pleased.

Click on the image to see the original blog post, which contains a larger image. Oh, and notice Toby got his data from Freebase, which is totally awesome.

A list of the top 100 films that tries to break out of the AFI mold, including more newer and genre films—but whose authors incredibly think Point Break and Jurassic Park belong, while Raiders of the Lost Ark does not.

Watch as WalMart’s conquest of America, which actually took approximately half a century, plays out in less than half a minute. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Via Rustbelt Intellectual. Which, as I’ve noted before, is a great new blog.

Wiki tells me that on this day in 2000, Bill Clinton “announce[d] that accurate GPS access would no longer be restricted to the United States military.” Which, in turn, makes it possible for me to update this post, from back when this blog was just emerging from the primordial ooze. Only Kathy and Silbey read us back then. Huh, I guess not much has changed. Anyway, here’s the post.

Historian, you say. Nope, I’m a futurist. At least for the moment. And here’s what I see: the GPS is the next ubiquitous gadget, the toy/tool that everyone will have within the next five years. And here’s why: with a GPS, you never have to be lost again, never have to ask for directions again (what will the gender stereotypers do?), never have to contend with the anxiety of wondering if you really know where you’re going or where you are.

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Yesterday, Ezra Klein had this to say about the uproar over Jeremiah Wright:

If Jeremiah Wright were white, it would be a very different story, but a story just the same. The comments of Wright’s that have really driven the national conversation were not particularly race-focused. Rather, they were very, very far left — strong restatements of the traditional left wing critique of American imperialism, a dismissal of the idea that America is always and everywhere motivated by virtue, and explicit sympathy for the blowback hypothesis that suggests that though 9/11 was obviously unjust, it was also a predictable eventual consequence of our actions.

So here’s the thought experiment: If in 2004, it turned out that John Kerry’s minister of 20 years — a man who had been like a father to him, who had married Kerry and Theresa Heinz, and who figured heavily into Kerry’s autobiographical book — held the same opinions as Wright, how big of a deal would it be? My sense, as we’re seeing with the furor over Obama’s laughably casual relationship with Bill Ayers, is it would still be a firestorm. Americans recoil from the Chomskyite critique, and any Democratic candidate whose personal relationships implied a sympathy for that worldview would have a tough time of it. In fact, it looks like this is the narrative Wright is really fitting into — a narrative that ranges from Ayers to lapel pins to Obama not holding his hand on his heart during the national anthem — rather than a story of racial strife. That’s not to say it hasn’t reawoken racial fears, and it’s certainly not to suggest that Wright won’t be used by racists in the election, but I think you can imagine this being a political problem if the preacher was white, too.

At first when I read this, I found myself thinking: Ezra’s high. And also: he’s parroting Republican (and Clinton camp) talking points. But then I re-read the post and realized there’s enough to what he says that I couldn’t just dismiss his argument with a wave of the hand and a “pfffft.” First, he’s not suggesting that race isn’t a factor in L’affaire Wright; he’s just claiming that Obama’s relationship with Wright still would have been a story even if Wright, and, one presumes, Obama were white. And I suspect that’s true enough. No matter Wright’s or Obama’s race, the RNC or the Clinton camp would have tried to use Obama’s “radical” preacher against him, just as they’ve recently used Obama’s “close” ties to Bill Ayers as a cudgel.

Which leads to Ezra’s second point: that the Wright brouhaha pivots on the fact that “Americans recoil from the Chomskyite critique.” Hmm. I suppose that’s partly right, too, though I’d guess that most Americans wouldn’t recognize Noam Chomsky if he showed up at their house for dinner wearing a “Linguists Rawk” t-shirt and mumbling about anarchism, hegemonic media empires, and generative grammar.

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Santa Monica city councilman Bobby Shriver voted with unanimous majority for proposal that would ban our green gov (and Shriver brother-in-law) from using Santa Monica airport for his daily commute to Sacramento; Sierra snowpack at 67 percent of May 1 average, and state does not yet have conservation plan but hopes to hit 20% reduction target for water use. Lifestyle corner: Robert Downey, Jr., still a good actor but Iron Man still a dumb action flick.

Obama/Wright; stimulus check’s a-comin’; and… what’s this taking up the bulk of the page? “Popular UCD Speakers series brings talks downtown”? Could that be the series in which Michael Bérubé speaks next Tuesday, May 6, at 5:30, in the old City Hall? Why yes it could!

The bomb found in the apartment of Louis Lingg. From Messer-Kruse et al., cited below, p. 49.

On this day in 1886, tens of thousands of workingmen all over the country put down their tools and went out on strike in the radical cause of the eight-hour working day or, as some snide folks called it, the campaign to work eight hours for ten hours pay. The eight-hour campaign had begun around two decades before, and swept in supporters from the political center all the way over to the anarchists.

The New York Times, that reliable font of middle-class wisdom, knew that “workingmen ought to learn better than to throw up their employment because there is an alleged wrong somewhere with which they and their employers have no direct concern.”1 Those grime-encrusted, cloth-cap–wearing fellows ought to stick to their trade unless something bad happens specifically to them, and even then they ought to work it out with their employers—so editorialized the Times in a column called “lessons for laboring men.”

(Cue grateful laboring men, tugging their forelocks and ducking their heads: “Thank you, New York Times, thank you ever so much for the lesson in deportment. Sure and we hadn’t any manners—it never occurred to us that a strike might inconvenience you and your readers. We’ll try to work it out with The Man. You just go about your business.”)

Threatening to strike—even peaceably, even just for a show of strength—why, that was just “making trouble,” the Times said.2
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You may not have followed the story, but Senator Clinton has challenged Senator Obama to an unmediated Lincoln-Douglas debate. Fox, covering the story, put up this graphic. Fox News: Fair and Balanced. Also: Illiterate and Ignorant.

Via Wonkette.

[Update: Below, via commenter Alison, you’ll find video of the debacle.]

China breaks up child slave-labor ring in Guangdong; consumer spending rises less than hoped or predicted this past quarter. Lifestyle corner: Paula Abdul comments on an American Idol performance yet to be given—perhaps show does not air fully live and unscripted.

Inside, Schwarzenegger takes heat for his own “Bittergate”:

I always encourage the legislators in Sacramento, because some of them come from little towns…. and they don’t have that vision yet of an airport or of a highway that maybe has 10 lanes. Or of putting a highway on top of a highway. They look at you and say, “Well, we don’t have that in my town, what are you talking about?”

The Bee reports, “His comments … drew laughs and applause from the big-city audience at the Beverly Hilton.”

Deeper in the story, it turns out the governor made the remarks by way of “defend[ing] legislators who take trips financed by donors.”

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