You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.

To learn why John Cole thinks that Paypal is the worst company in the world, read his post.

I have been amused by Balloon Juice often enough to owe John Cole more than a simple googlebomb favor, but for now it will have to do.

So as I read this, a Bretton-Woods–style system of stable exchange rates would be a potent weapon in the war on terror. You identify the countries harboring problematic insurgencies, set your adjustable peg high enough that insurrections can’t operate effectively, and watch the rebellion wither! Is there any problem FDR’s policies can’t help us solve?

Actually, rhetoric like this — pinning hopes for world peace to the Bretton Woods system of stable exchange rates, and thus freer trade and capital flows — was not at all uncommon. As one participant later recollected,

Peace was seen as linked with world prosperity, and prosperity, with free trade, free capital movements, and stable exchange rates.

He goes on to admit, “Although the causality was ambiguous….”1

1Raymond F. Mikesell, “The Bretton Wood Debates: A Memoir,” Essays in International Finance no. 192 (March 1994), International Finance Section, Department of Economics, Princeton University, 4.


Starting with Beck but then turning to people with “mosk” in their public facebook status.

As long as I’m having fun with YouTube’s “start here” feature, note this standard-issue awesome impassioned Shatner speech by Captain Kirk in “Return to Tomorrow”:

Do you wish that the first Apollo mission hadn’t reached the moon, or that we hadn’t gone on to Mars, and then to the nearest star?

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You can watch Orson Welles give an account of the War of the Worlds hoax on YouTube here.

Of course this is from F is for Fake, so treat it accordingly. FDR never met with the aliens. If he had, he would have driven them from New Jersey by the sheer force of his awesomeness.

UPDATED to add, hear the original here.

Richard Schickel’s review in the LA Times provides some nice pull-quotes.

paints a better picture of Tom than F. Scott Fitzgerald did…. a straightforward adventure yarn, “Banana Republican” offers the pleasures of an exotic setting, inventive plotting and a metaphor that captures the waste and fatuity of our more recent global misadventures — not too bad for a slender and unpretentiously written little novel.

I think “not too bad” and “unpretentiously written” are exactly the kinds of things I would like to believe about my work.

Also, my distinguished former colleague Tom Holloway long ago traced the origin of the term “banana republic” to O. Henry’s Cabbages and Kings. Whether this is authoritative depends on what connotation you’re putting on the term “banana republic,” I suppose.

Table of Contents

1. Stingray Lands Guerillas on Luzon, 27 August 1944 by NHHC at Naval History Blog
2. Acquisitions by Brett Holman at Airminded
3. The War on Malaria by Cherie Prosser at Australian War Memorial
4. Persian Wars: Greeks Triumph at Plataea by n/a at Military History
5. The Loss of the USS Cochino (Ss-345) by Ships History at Naval History Blog
6. Monday, 26 August 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
7. Sunday, 25 August 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
8. Field Expedient Latrine by Mark Grimsley at Blog Them Out of the Stone Age
9. Burning of Washington, 24-25 August 1814 by Navy Commemorations at Naval History Blog
10. Vietnam War: Share Your Story by n/a at Military History
11. The L&N RR in the Civil War by (Drew@CWBA) at Civil War Books and Authors
12. Phase 1 of Scorpion Project Complete! by Underwater Archaeology at Naval History Blog

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It’s striking, when one reads female philosophers from the early modern period, how little the arguments that a given trait belongs solely to women or to men have changed over the years.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, no one used the term “genetic” or “evolutionary” or “long end of the tail” or “back on Ye Olde Veldte”, but instead argued in terms of “natural” or “innate” differences.  What particular traits belong in the set “innate to women” or “innate to men” have changed according to social fashion, but what’s curious is that the form of the argument hasn’t:

Girls are from their earliest infancy fond of dress.  Not content with being pretty, they are desirous of being thought so; we see, by all their little airs, that this thought engages their attention; and they are hardly capable of understanding what is said to them, before they are to be governed by talking to them of what people will think of their behavior.

That’s Mary Wollstonecraft quoting Rousseau in her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.  If you insert “princess dresses” and update the language, it would not be out of place in the mouth of someone blathering on today about how natural it is that little girls play with dolls rather than trucks.

Of course, she has a response to Rousseau and all the other writers who gave advice to young ladies!  Here’s a hint from the chapter title. The Effect Which An Early Association of Ideas Has Upon the Character:

Every thing that they see or hear serves to fix impressions, call forth emotions, and associate ideas, that give a sexual character to the mind.

And of course, as girls are cherished for being fearful, and delicate, and forbidden to run around and play, later:

..when all their ingenuity is called forth to adjust their dress, ‘a passion for a scarlet coat’, is so natural, that it never surprised me…

I am proposing a new maxim: those who wish to argue from personal anecdote that a certain character trait is dictated by evolution should endeavor to advance the argument beyond 1792.

Who says we are not a party people? Terror suspect auditioned for Canadian Idol, sang “Complicated.”

All idols are haram, my brother.

Advice for life at college, from Mr Destructo. The people who need it won’t pay any attention.
Part I
Part II

You won’t learn anything!

Ken Mehlman finally comes out. Michael Rogers pins on the Roy Cohn Award.

Tuition—at some point, it began to be called tuition, instead of “fees”—at the UC is up, lots, these days. Which is the occasion for Michael O’Hare’s letter to his students, via Mark Thoma. Basically, he points out, a generation that got its UC education (and lots of other state services) paid for by its parents is declining to do likewise for its children. Perhaps not the greatest of generations.
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UC Davis ranks number 6 in this year’s Washington Monthly rankings of national universities, up from number 8. Shanghai Jiao Tong has us at 46, up from 48.

A survey of military history posts from around the web, inspired by Ralph Luker’s “Notes” and “Things” at the History News Network’s Cliopatria blog. Different from Carnivals as it is my idiosyncratic collection from regular blog reading. Nominations for blogs to follow and include in this survey are welcome. As to why this is #125, it started at H-War a while back.

Table of Contents

1. The Marianas: Saipan, Guam, and Tinian by NHHC at Naval History Blog
2. The Old Paradigm by George Simmers at Great War Fiction
3. Harrison a. Sickles by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
4. Civil War Guidebook Review: “A Tour Guide to Missouri’s Civil War” by Rene Tyree at Wig-Wags
5. War of 1812: Winder Routed at Bladensburg by n/a at Military History
6. The Organization Cultures of Civil War Armies – Pt 2 by Mark Grimsley at Civil Warriors
7. The Battle From Below by Brett Holman at Airminded
8. Aaron H. Sickles by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project

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From the BBC’s Adam Curtis:

In Mad Men we watch a group of people who live in a prosperous society that offers happiness and order like never before in history and yet are full of anxiety and unease. They feel there is something more, something beyond. And they feel stuck.

I think we are fascinated because we have a lurking feeling that we are living in a very similar time. A time that, despite all the great forces of history whirling around in the world outside, somehow feels stuck. And above all has no real vision of the future.

And as we watch the group of characters from 50 years ago, we get reassurance because we know that they are on the edge of a vast change that will transform their world and lead them out of their stifling technocratic order and back into the giant onrush of history.

The question is whether we might be at a similar point, waiting for something to happen. But we have no idea what it is going to be.

Curtis talks here about Rosser Reeves, at least one of the real-life people who goes into Don Draper, and the model of advertising he represented, as against the more social-scientific, psychological version that was sweeping over Madison Avenue in the 1960s. He’s also got a discussion of Shirley Polykoff, some of whom is in Peggy Olsen. And there’s some terrific video of these people talking about the business of advertising, if you have the time.

Douthat gets some pushback on his earlier post concerning assimilation.   His argument was simply that he thinks that bigotry can be justified because it, like procedural liberalism, helps immigrants assimilate.  It looks bad when you state it like that without running it through the pomposity generator, so he’s stepped back a bit.  He wants to draw a distinction between ugly bigotry and positive nativist sentiment, but he concedes that such a distinction is fuzzy and in practice hard to draw, and because he thinks the alternative is European-style assimilation, where no one says anything politically incorrect and immigrants fail to assimilate, better to err on the side of nativist sentiment, which he admits is going to be occasionally indistinguishable from bigotry.

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1.  I think The Last Psychiatrist is reading my blog.  If I start explaining everything in terms of narcissism, send help.
2. Interesting article suggesting that biological differences do not explain cognitive and intellectual differences in boys and girls; the differences are too small, and brains are too plastic, for differences in the brain to explain large differences in achievement or preference.

What does explain it?  Culture, specifically parents’ expectations, which is why I thought this was interesting.  Often in informal discussions people assume that the culture must affect the child’s expectations directly, and so there’s a type of argument that points to a child’s preference for princess costumes or trucks, notes that the child is too young (and too well-parented) to know that those toys are gendered, and concludes therefore that preferences for princess costumes or trucks must be hardwired somehow.  What is often overlooked is that while the young child may be sheltered from the media, her parents aren’t, and neither are her parents’ friends.   If Suzy develops an interest in cars and princesses and her parents’ friends respond by teasing her parents by wondering where Suzy got this strange interest in cars, it reinforces the message to her parents that loving princesses is normal for a girl, and loving cars is not.  Thus, “Suzy loved princesses and cars as a little girl” becomes “Suzy loved princesses like all little girls do, but she also liked cars.”   Not a huge problem for cars and princesses, of course, but risky if the proposition is “Suzy is struggling with math” or “Joey seems to be lagging behind verbally.”

3. Did anyone else watch Zombieland and think that the lead role had been written for Michael Cera, and then went to someone else?

I was reflecting this morning on the character of some of the responses to 9/11 back in 2001 and early 2002, specifically those that responded with defiance and naughty words to the idea that the attack could cow Americans.  Things like comedians joking that instead of the Twin Towers, we’ll put up three, with “Go. Fuck. Yourself.” emblazoned on the sides, or that instead of the Twin Towers, we’ll put up five, two short ones on the ends, two slightly taller ones in from that, and one big one in the middle, to give terrorists the finger.   I seem to recall a comic book with panels depicting a memorial that made no mention of the ideology of the attackers, because, it was clear, those ignorant assholes would not be worth the time of future Americans in their futuristic memorial.   The message was clear:  these clowns can knock down a building but they can’t knock down us.

We all know that even Bush figured out that it was correct to portray the attackers as nothing more than representatives of a perverted version of Islam, that it was important not just politically but morally to distinguish between the tiny minority of Muslims who like to blow things up and the vast majority who think that those people are jerks.

But I have to figure that there was someone who combined the two, someone who thought that the best defiant response possible would be one that told the terrorists to bunny up a stump by building a mosque or Learn About Islam (Which Does Not Include Ignorant Jerkface Terrorists Neener Neener bin Laden) center right in Lower Manhattan.   There has to be someone.  Preferably on the right.   But I have entirely too much stuff to do to bother with looking this up.

Anyone up for Googling?

Welcome to the Military History Carnival #25. This month’s entries range from the Ancient World to the Cold War, from North Korea and China to the English Channel. There are links here to works on military medicine, on deception on the Eastern Front of World War II, and on Stephen Ambrose.


Nikolaos Markoulakis submitted an article entitled “Political strategy of the Seleucid Empire in the region of Central Asia.”

Early Modern:

Thomas Snyder pointed out a post on maritime medicine and the battle of Gravelines, August 8, 1588.

20th Century:

Rich Landers sent in the mail correspondence of a World War I doughboy and his sister from 1918 (letters in reverse order: oldest at bottom), supplemented by a post explaining the recovery process from being gassed in World War I.

Alan Baumler sent in a link to the last cavalry charge in history?

Graham Jenkins submitted a link on the Soviet use of deception and maskirovka during the 1944 summer offensive, Operation Bagration.

Alan Baumler submitted an article on the use of violence in Maoist China.

Alan Baumler sent in the story of a Korean interpreter during the Korean-American War and after.

Graham Jenkins submitted another on the US-UK ‘special relationship’ during the Falklands War.

David Silbey sent in a series of posts discussing Stephen Ambrose: I, II, and III.


James Holoka pointed to the Michigan War Studies Review for wide-ranging book reviews.


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