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… and they speak a different language there. From a Pacific Historical Review article of 1946 on war damage to France:

Military engineers restored the railroads and roads needed as supply lines for the advancing Allied armies, but responsibility for the repair of shattered bridges and railroads which were not needed for military purposes was delegated to the French. It might just as well have been delegated to the Zulus.

George Kyte, “War Damage and Problems of Reconstruction in France, 1940-1945,” Pacific Historical Review 15, no. 4 (December 1946): 417-26, on 421.


Brian Leiter links this interesting article on Wheaton College written by Andrew Chignell (now an associate professor of philosophy at Cornell). It details some internal struggles over what constitutes doctrinal purity, and, in particular, how these divisions were handled under the administration of outgoing president Duane Litfin.

One of [Litfin’s] first moves was to declare that Wheaton’s longstanding “Statement of Faith” allowed too much interpretive wiggle-room on the question of Adam and Eve. Scientists were thus required to specify whether they (1) “reject the idea that Adam and Eve were created from pre-existing human-like creatures, or hominids”; (2) are neutral or “unsure” on the hominid theory; (3) affirm that “God gave a human spirit to a pair of pre-existing human-like creatures, or hominids”; or (4) deny the historicity of Adam and Eve and think of Genesis as a wholly “theological document.” Options (3) and (4) were deemed inconsistent with ongoing employment. Those who affirmed (2) were given one year to change their view to (1), or else they too would be asked to seek employment elsewhere.

I know of Wheaton only because Robert Roberts used to be there and I’ve read some of his work on emotion, and so I had thought of it as a pretty serious place. On the other hand, an institution that can push out tenured faculty because of their endorsement of really plausible and well-supported views of human origins looks like a joke. (Worth noting that the president backed off on his demand that everyone endorse (1), but still.)

What’s there to say? In 1966, Sam and Dave went overseas as part of the Stax-Volt European tour. As Ta-Nehisi Coates says in his post, these guys just killed it every time they performed. Otis Redding, who headlined the shows, apparently became enraged at his manager because he had to take the stage after Sam and Dave. I can see that. I never like teaching in a classroom that Kathy has recently used.

Whatever we might offer on the merits of Zinn’s signature work, I think we can all unite around the knowledge that it beats A Patriot’s History of the United States like a rented, red-headed step-mule. I don’t ordinarily have favorite paragraphs in anything I write — preferring instead to focus on paragraphs I hate slightly less than all the rest — this one was a lot of fun to produce:

Worse, in their chapters on recent U.S. history, the authors make claims that are not even remotely endorsed by the footnoted sources. In excoriating the Great Society, for instance, Schweikart and Allen observe that one “malignant result of AFDC’s no-father policy was that it left inner-city black boys with no male role models” (p. 689). In support of this Gingrichian pronouncement, the authors cite a single 1989 study from Social Forces— an article that makes no mention of AFDC, inner-city black youth, or role models and indeed has almost nothing to do with the argument to which it is attached. In the same paragraph, we read further that after the 1960s, “gang leaders from Portland to Syracuse, from Kansas City to Palmdale, inducted thousands of impressionable young males into drug running, gun battles, and often death” (p. 689). For this dramatic observation, the authors rely on two broad studies of family structure and drug use, each published eight years apart in the Journal of Marriage and the Family. Among the phrases that do not appear in either study: “Gang leaders,” “Portland,” “Syracuse,” “Kansas City,” “Palmdale,” “impressionable young males,” “drug running,” “gun battles,” and “death.” With little effort, this reviewer has identified nearly a dozen such cases in which the authors have tortured their sources to score points against social programs they oppose, political philosophies to which they object, or historical actors whom they do not like.

Wow, that was a shitty book.

Magic! It’s gonna change the way we do the things we do everyday! A single piece of multi-touch glass! You don’t have to change yourself; it will fit you! It will wipe your ass if you ask nicely! Order-of-magnitude-more-powerful apps! It just feels right! Hunting and killing hobos has never been easier! To hold the internet in your hands as you surf it! Tap it! Tap that ass! It’s completely natural! Like arsenic! Or strychnine! Just do! The best way! The correct orientation! Huh? FUN!!!!! Reading an e-book is such a pleasure! Now we have three phenomenal stores on the iPad! Your jowls will never again smell like gravy! No problem! The most advanced piece of technology! The largest multi-touch! You really feel the power that multi-touch can offer! Really? Wow! This is a really vibrant display! This product responds so well! Apple’s the one place that you can really do this! Okay? An affordable price! Steal this e-book! That’s really exciting! Millions and millions of people are going to be instantly familiar with it! We’re manufacturing consent more efficiently than ever before! In many ways, this defines our vision of what’s next! It will replace you in the labor force before you can draw another breath, bitch!

It goes without saying that I’m buying one the minute they’re avaible.

Died today of a heart attack, aged 87. May he rest peacefully. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and many admirers. The old radical cutting his last class short to encourage his pupils to picket is a perfect picture for that obit, too.

Students often ask what I think of Zinn’s People’s History. I generally point them to Michael Kazin’s great essay on Zinn’s history, which—whatever you think of his politics or activism—is well worth your reading.1

1A quick search of the blog shows me I noted another of Kazin’s great essays back when EotAW was young.

As we hear of the progress of the healthcare bill and the innovative rhetoric about a need for a spending cap, I am less reminded of any Roosevelts or Lincoln, and more of Grover Cleveland, the Great Non-Consecutive One, so brilliantly penciled in by Richard Hofstadter:

a taxpayer’s dream, the ideal bourgeois statesman for his time: out of heartfelt conviction he gave to the interests what many a lesser politician might have sold them for a price. He was the flower of American political culture in the Gilded Age.

Granted, the current occupant is more svelte, but that too is in keeping with ideal bourgeois norms; they’ve just shifted.

(Image by Flickr user northcascadesnationalpark, used under Creative Commons license.)

Gary Snyder has written a lot of rewarding poetry over the years. But for me no single poem has been as coherent and satisfying as the first piece in his first collection:

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Gary Snyder, UC Davis professor emeritus of English and Beat poet, has this to say about his Mac:
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This, written by Glenn Greenwald at Salon,

But the speech restrictions struck down by Citizens United do not only apply to Exxon and Halliburton; they also apply to non-profit advocacy corporations, such as, say, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, as well as labor unions, which are genuinely burdened in their ability to express their views by these laws.

essentially translates as “We have a strange set-up where completely different things are nonetheless given the same legal label.” The conclusion which Greenwald suggests (though he expresses misgivings) is the same which the Supreme Court recently arrived at: that the First Amendment makes unconstitutional restrictions on the use of money by corporations for political purposes.

The flaw is obvious. Read the rest of this entry »

Probably old, but still funny.

Since I was reminded of it, a brief selection. Despite the post title, I’m not going to write an essay on why we do not know Smith’s poems so well as we might, I’m just going to offer you three that might divert you on a weekend.

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Dear Football/Healthcare Jesus:

Lately, you seem to have forsaken me, and I’m just not sure I can take much more of this. So if it’s not too much to ask, I’m hoping that you won’t visit a Favre-Manning Super Bowl upon a nation that’s already reeling. But if it’s got to be one or the other, I suppose Vikings fans have suffered enough through the years. And even you, despite your infinite compassion, must see that Peyton Manning, whining Republican that he is, is an abomination. Also, while we’re chatting, how about reminding the president that uplifting the poor and healing the sick is Godly work.

Thanks for your consideration,


p.s. If you hook me up this once, I promise to stop laying tefillin on airplanes.

Observed in a nearby campus library.

*Please, ben, don’t even start.

What would Will Herberg say if he could know about this?

A religious Jew wearing a series of black boxes and leather straps called tefillin or phylacteries inadvertently set off a bomb scare on a US Airways flight to Kentucky.

The plane was diverted to Philadelphia.

A 17-year-old boy on Flight 3079 traveling from New York to Louisville was using tefillin boxes which are attached to the arm and forehead and contain prayer scrolls and have long leather straps which wrap around the arm, said Philadelphia police Lt. Frank Vanore.

“It’s something that the average person is not going to see very often, if ever,” FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver said.

Klaver, as the Forverts admits, is probably factually correct. But technically, it wasn’t the religious Jew who set off the bomb scare, it was the pants-wetting pearl-clutcher who thought he was a “security situation.”

I hadn’t planned to say anything about the fate of health care reform until at least the beginning of next week, as I have the sense that it’s impossible to know where things stand right now. Also, I’m completely exhausted by the whole story.

That said, I’m one of those spineless liberals who believes that the House needs to pass the Senate bill — or else. And if you agree, I think kevin is right: it’s time to call your congressional representative. Which is what I just did a minute ago.

And having just gotten off the phone with Congressman Mike Thompson’s office, I have no idea what to say. The person who initially fielded my call explained that the congressman “doesn’t yet know if he’ll vote for the Senate health care bill.” “Um, really?” I said. “Didn’t the House Democratic caucus meet this morning on this very question?” “Yes, but we’re waiting to hear from leadership about our path forward.” I then asked to speak to the staffer in charge of the congressman’s health care portfolio and got very nearly the same answer. The staffer did, though, explain that the congressman is very eager to hear from constituents on this issue.

Well, okay then. The House switchboard is (202) 224-3121. But you’ll have much better luck if you google your congressional representative and call his or her DC office directly. I urge you to be polite and supportive. It was clear from the staffer’s pained tone that she was more upset about this issue than I am. Anyway, take a few minutes out of your day and make the call. You might feel better afterward.

Seriously, do me a favor — and after all I’ve done for you, why wouldn’t you reciprocate this one time? — and please call your representative. Then convince two of your friends to do the same thing and then to have two more people call their representatives. What do we have to lose? Wait, don’t answer that.


The day Obama got elected, Ari and I talked about his plans for office. There was EFCA and civil liberties and closure of Guantanamo and financial regulation and a properly Keynesian New Deal and an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ponies and unicorns.

And I said, “Dude”—in my usually articulate way—“dude, if he can get me healthcare, all that other stuff can slide.”

So, that’s our bumper sticker up there, from summer 2008. It’s not as if we didn’t see this coming. But I mean to say, is there no spine? is there no message discipline?

We are, a smart man once said, “at a breaking point.” We are, that smart man said, “We are the only advanced democracy on Earth – the only wealthy nation – that allows such hardships for millions of its people.”

And, that smart man added,

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

So all that was apparently baloney, there’s no breaking point after all, the millions of uninsured can go suffer, because there are only 59 D votes in the Senate now, and because the notoriously pugnacious Barney Frank has decided those people aren’t worth a fight.

A reader writes in with a rather depressing scenario and a question [editor’s note: what follows has been edited to protect the innocent/add a sex scene for SEK]:

There are a number of folks here, young scholars and aging grad students like myself who are trying to figure out the ramifications of a difficult situation so I thought I’d ask.

Here’s the deal: our American Studies [editor’s note: at a venerable and outstanding public institution located in the center of the country, “the heartland”] department has been recommended for closure by an “independent task force”. We’re appealing of course, but in a climate where they’ve already added student fees and slashed TA positions right and left, I’m dubious about our prospects. Part of the reason I’m dubious is that some of the problems cited in the evaluation are indeed real problems [editor’s note: including declining applications, lack of diversity, limited funding, high attrition, lengthy time to degree, and an iffy placement record].

Our situation, especially as it relates to similar situations in other disciplines, departments, and programs, raises questions about the rationalization of eduction in the humanities and, not to be too dramatic, the future of American Studies as a significant presence in US colleges and universities.

But for many of us here, the more pressing question is practical: how much is this going to devalue my degree in an already depressed and depressing academic job market? How will it play out in the committees evaluating my applications?

I am curious about what the people who manage and comment at EOTAW — which I value as a forum for the intertwined realistic and idealistic imperatives in academic life — have to say about any of this. Thanks in advance for your time.

My two cents? There’s a lot going on here, issues that have implications for graduate programs throughout the humanities and parts of the social sciences. But I’m going to limit myself to the reader’s core question: what will this mean for recent graduates of the program and for those students still in the pipeline there?

My guess, and it’s only a guess, because I don’t know enough about the job market in American Studies, is that closure of the program, on its own, won’t necessarily mean much for these people — at least for those who can get clear of the wreckage. Hiring committees, assuming the program currently has a good reputation, will still look at applicants from this program as serious contenders for jobs. Some hiring committee members might even feel extra sympathy for these applicants. But as ever, the work will be the thing*. Graduates of this program who have written good or hot (or both) dissertations will probably do just fine — relatively speaking.

Still, there’s another issue that troubles me. What’s going to become of the faculty currently affiliated with this program? Will they be around after the program is defunct? Will they still be willing to write letters of recommendation for their students? These seem like important questions to me, as a disinterested or disappeared mentor or recommender can certainly scuttle a job-seeker’s candidacy.

So? What do you think? What does the future hold for the students trapped in this lousy situation? Will they be okay? And do these pants make me look fat?

* Plus luck. And all the other variables that determine success on the market.

In the 12/18/2009 NB column in the TLS, we find the following presumably real-live riff on “Humiliation”:

In 2003, Sebastian D. G. Knowles looked at himself in the mirror: he was the author of a study of James Joyce; he was Professor of English at Ohio State University (specializing in Joyce). He had attended dozens of Joyce conferences. But he had never read Finnegans Wake. “Worse, I had never even tried to”, Professor Knowles writes in the current James Joyce Quarterly. Guilt-ridden, he decided to confess his failing in a song to be sung at the after-dinner entertainment at a Joyce conference in Miami:
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“Theoretically, Bretton Woods is an international pool of the goodwill of nations subscribing to the agreement.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Which translates roughly as, “Nobody on the news desk here knows what the hell it is.”

For an oldie (from four years ago! the Internet is no longer young!) on what Bretton Woods was about, see below, originally from here.

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