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I started writing a blog post yesterday but it’s now up to 1500 words and I don’t know what to do with is, so instead I’ll urge you: Plan your Saturday night now! Here’s a preview: In a world …

Aww yeah, baby: C-SPAN 3.1 Saturday, January 24, at 8pm and midnight, Eastern time. Or 5pm and 9pm, here on the edge of the American West.

This is a lecture2 from the World War II class that Ari and I debuted as a co-taught course in 2012, but which this year I taught all by my lonesome; I’m sure it shows. The subject is some of the various ways in which the motive of revenge overtook the strategy of the Axis and the Allies.

At some point after airing the full video will be here and also you’ll be able to get a podcast and listen to me holler at you while you drive.

1The connoisseur’s C-SPAN.
2Yes, C-SPAN 3’s Saturday night programming is a filmed college lecture; look, either you’re the audience for this or you aren’t.


Received in the mail on Friday, by a fellow EotAW blogger-person:


Required for my spring course on “Conspiracy theories in American History.”


Everything happens in Time.
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In keeping with the theme of the blog, would Tom Buchanan want a Germany-Netherlands final or a Spain-Netherlands final?

It’s that time again, once every four years, when nations from around the globe gather…

… to ponder why Americans don’t like soccer.*  None of the typical explanations are compelling.  Thus I rant, first in a series, in part because it will tweak eric, tongue firmly in cheek, and you may talk about games that you’re watching in comments if you like, or you may rant back:

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On my return from San Diego and another American Historical Association Convention, I received the following in the mail:


What “quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore” was this? And how would I know if it was good or not? Then I spied the supreme endorsement on its back:



A friend pointed me to this, I’d missed it—it’s Kathy Olmsted on the British radio program(me) “Little Atoms” back in July, talking about how, as the host says, “once upon a time Americans would be concerned about the Catholics or the Jews, but there’s a distinct point where the government became the focus” of conspiracy theory—and other insights from this book, which, as you know, you should buy if you can.

Program summary here, MP3 here.

As Kathy says, at around World War I, “A lot of Americans start to believe that their government is lying and covering up and conspiring because it is starting to lie and cover up and conspire.”

Thanks to everyone who voted Dana’s treatment of Leibniz and Spinoza for the Quark; she came in fourth and is a semifinalist. Next,

The daily editors of 3 Quarks Daily will now pick the top six entries from these, and after possibly adding up to three “wildcard” entries, will send that list of finalists to Professor Dan Dennett on September 11. We will also post the list of finalists here on that date.

Cross your fingers.

Actually, do neither of those things.

Vote by September 7th, and vote only once….. for me!

Here’s the deal. 3quarksdaily is running a contest for the best philosophy post in 2009.   Eric kindly nominated my SpinozaLeibniz meeting series from last November.

The contest works like this: first, the Internet gets to vote for their top 20 favorites, and then philosopher Daniel Dennett gets to pick three winners.

So, if you’d like to vote for me, go here.   Since you can only vote once, and my series is split up into three entries, I ask that if you’re voting for me, vote for the first post (and maybe we can ask them nicely to read the other two, if it makes it to the next round.)

It is shameless to post, but it’s the only way I will get Ari to vote for me.

Plus, I think if I win, I can probably convince Eric to let me pimp the blog.  Maybe with little racing flames or a giant squid in the banner or something.

Chris Hayes has the cover story in this week’s Nation with a case why we need a new Church Committee to investigate CIA abuses. Or rather, we need something even better than the Church Committee.

As historian Kathy Olmsted argues in her book Challenging the Secret Government, Church was never quite able to part with this conception of good Democrats/bad Republicans. Confronted with misdeeds under Kennedy and Johnson, he chose to view the CIA as a rogue agency, as opposed to one executing the president’s wishes. This characterization became the fulcrum of debate within the committee. At one point Church referred to the CIA as a “rogue elephant,” causing a media firestorm. But the final committee report shows that to the degree the agency and other parts of the secret government were operating with limited control from the White House, it was by design. Walter Mondale came around to the view that the problem wasn’t the agencies themselves but the accretion of secret executive power: “the grant of powers to the CIA and to these other agencies,” he said during a committee hearing, “is, above all, a grant of power to the president.”

A contemporary Church Committee would do well to follow Mondale’s approach and not Church’s.

Ackerman concurs, using the same pullquote citing Kathy and adding, “I don’t know how someone this perceptive and this insightful and this diligent is allowed to go on television.”

Have I mentioned how you should buy this book?

So, this is a Fox News video called “Under Attack Again”, which says the CIA is suffering much as it did during the Church Committee era, and a bunch of stuff you should cock a skeptical eye at. But wait — who’s that strikingly expert voice we hear in the middle?

In fairness, they did go to someone who knew what she was talking about. But I bet she had more to say than we heard. I think if you want to know some of that you should probably buy this book. Which I’m sure you have, but maybe you need an extra one or two or three, to give to your friends. Buy some for your conservative friends and tell them you saw the author on Fox News. Go on, it’ll help the economy.

Of course that’s just what some MSM type like Matt Dallek would say about the birthers, isn’t it? He has help from Kathy in explaining why Americans believe conspiracy theories about government. And also in my hometown paper.

Huh, there’s a decidedly intelligent and knowledgeable op-ed on HNN about government secrecy and conspiracy theories: “when presidents try to keep the public in the dark, they stimulate the imaginations of anti-government conspiracy theorists.” I wonder who could have written that?

Which is to say, it’s a bad sign that “despite Obama’s campaign promises, his approach to secrecy on issues of national security will likely not depart significantly from that of George Bush”. But you don’t want to take my word for it—read further down and look whose expert opinion TPM Muckraker leans on:

Kathryn Olmsted, a professor of history at UC Davis who has written extensively about the CIA’s track record of secrecy, agreed with Aftergood about the significance of the administration’s position on the interrogation tapes material.

“It’s a bad sign that they’re not going to break as much with the Bush administration as they had said they were going to,” Olmsted told TPMmuckraker. “I really want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they certainly seem to be going down that path.”

Olmsted described the CIA’s position on the issue as more egregious than Obama’s decision to oppose the release of the Abu Ghraib photos. “You can make the argument that the photographs are so inflammatory that it’s going to help recruiting of terrorists” to release them, she said. “But just having the text of the interrogation, I think that’s really pushing it to say that that also is going to hurt national security.”…

Obama’s approach to issues of secrecy on national security doesn’t mimic Bush’s alone, it appears. Rather, said Olmsted, it’s broadly in keeping with “every other presidential administration” of modern times. But, she added, “it’s disappointing, because President Obama promised a whole new era in government transparency, and here they go again concealing this information.”

What’s that? You say you were thinking about taking off your bumper sticker? Put that craft razor away. I mean, if Kathy says so.

As Abraham Lincoln would say. And it’s with Lincoln, on the highly honorable cover, that you’ll find Ari in this week’s TLS.

Even after winning the presidency, Barack Obama continues to channel Abraham Lincoln. Obama arrived in Washington via the same train route that Lincoln did in 1861. He swore the oath of office on Lincoln’s bible. He chose the same lunch that Lincoln ate on his inauguration day. And with the nation mired in a dizzying array of crises, Obama says that he looks to Lincoln for inspiration. Ron Paul, meanwhile, did not secure the Republican nomination, despite the passion of his supporters. Nevertheless, he, too, continues to use Lincoln for political purposes. On April 15, Paul and hundreds of thousands of limited-government activists took to the streets to rail about the long reach of federal authority. In addition to claiming that income tax is unconstitutional, leaders of these so-called Tea Parties raised the spectre of secession. Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas, warned that if pushed, the Lone Star state might decide to leave the Union. And when political commentators heaped scorn on Perry, Paul defended him, noting that, “it is very American to talk about secession”. Perhaps, but Lincoln deserves a more generous 200th birthday present.

We will say nothing here of the 32nd president.

Eric’s book on the Depression and New Deal is the subject of this week’s book club at TPM café. So if you don’t see enough of him here, or you want to learn how FDR actually caused the Depression, you might want to stop by over there.

EotAW’s own Kathy Olmsted does an excellent job discussing her new book Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy from World War I to 9/11 on Capital Public Radio’s program Insight for today (start listening at about 19:55). (And everyone knows why you don’t discuss the moon landing conspiracy.1)

So, please listen to Kathy. And buy her book. (Again. Because you bought it once already, right?)


After writing a prompt for a paper based on one of Eric’s books, I decided to google it and found this.  You can buy a term paper on Murdering McKinley for $20.95 per page; rather steep, I thought, but then graduate-level papers are even more.  My prompt is quite different than the one offered by the site, but the company will write a paper to fit the assignment if necessary.  I wonder what Eric would charge.

Every quarter I refer at least one student to judicial affairs for this sort of thing.  But the plagiarism-industrial complex is getting so sophisticated that it’s harder and harder to outwit the cheaters.

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...."