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The latest round of Ron Paul excitement reminds me of this blog’s long and rich relationship with the mad doctor. Herewith a holiday selection of oldies.



Having taught the War of 1812 the other day, I have to say I only did marginally better than this. And I’ve got no excuse. I’ve read Alan Taylor’s new book.

Look, I’m aware of Gore Vidal’s excesses: in literature, politics, and appetite. And yet, there’s something positively delicious about the moment when, after Buckley calls him a queer, a sly smile creases Vidal’s face. “I got him,” he’s so obviously thinking to himself, “I’ve got this pompous little bigot right where I want him.”

As for context, remember, as Eric notes below, that the country was literally falling apart in 1968: the aftermath of Tet brought the realization that Vietnam would end in a stalemate (at best), the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy shattered many people’s hopes for a better world, and, of course, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (where Mayor Daley screamed at Senator Ribicoff, “Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch, you lousy motherfucker, go home.”) suggested that even the establishment had lost its capacity to lead.

Finally, I don’t think this exchange represents the high-water mark for WASP culture in the United States. That was probably some time during FDR’s eleventh term, right? Instead, this appears, in retrospect, like the beginning of the end of the WASP era. Various civil rights movements were still unfolding. A Catholic had been elected president. Another might have been had he, too, not been killed. And as Mayor Daley realized, Abraham Ribicoff, a Jew son of a bitch, had upstaged the party’s leaders in Chicago. Still, Buckley’s and Vidal’s accents: so very plummy!

It wasn’t two years ago, or on Thanksgiving, but this song is a Thansgiving song, so it makes sense to re-post it on Thanksgiving … anyway. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

You won’t learn anything!

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.

On this day in 1965, violence raged in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles (contemporary coverage here and a more detailed tdih here). A few points about the newsreel above: First, the voiceover uses both “riot” and “insurrection” to describe the mayhem. The difference in moral valence between the two is pretty clear, so I was somewhat surprised to hear the word “insurrection” used at all.

Second, in other spots the narration remains more complicated than I would have expected: for instance, when, around the 40 second mark, we hear that “the looters…stole everything from liquor to playpens.” Maybe I’m off base, but I think looters who steal playpens sound reasonably sympathetic — as looters go, I mean. Of course they become a lot less sympathetic, it seems, in the next paragraph of the script, when it turns out that they’re shooting from rooftops at firefighters. Don’t mess with first responders, looters, if you want our sympathy!

Third, the score is all kinds of over-the-top awesome, sort of like Bernard Herrmann gone mad (there’s another Watts video, with even groovier music, here). Fourth, around the 1:20 mark, we hear about Martin Luther King, who’s portrayed as a kind of moderate Civil Rights superman, capable of quelling urban unrest using only the power of his soothing words. Of course, assuming that’s a quote from King, a source from just a few years later suggests those words could have been read in many ways. Fifth, boy those cops around the 2:00 mark are white.

Part three of this conversation (part 1, part 2). About privilege, rhetoric, and when it’s okay to tell your students you’re gay (especially if you’re not).

Ari asks Michael about privilege, so you have three middle-aged, tenured, straight white guys in a room talking about privilege. Well, you’re getting the insiders’ perspective, anyway.

There is no wiggling. Giblets and I are going on the lam, to a land where wiggling is properly appreciated.

In case you’re curious, the deal is, the YouTubes don’t do just-audio (afaik). So there needs to be a picture of some kind. One could simply stick on a still and have done with it, but I thought our readers would want more. And maybe you do, but you want a flavor of more—a non-wiggly flavor—I don’t stock.

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.

Rare footage from seventeenth-century Massachusetts. Because Kelman tells me I’m writing too much boring historical stuff.

Sometimes even your index does interpretive work. The title of this post is a real index entry from Henry Adams’s History of the United States, which does not handle Thomas Jefferson and the Purchase tenderly.

Adams first shows Napoleon in the bath — “the water of which was opaque with mixture of eau de Cologne,” thank heaven for small favors — mocking his brother Lucien, who objects that the cession of Louisiana would be unconstitutional without consulting the Chambers.

Constitution! unconstitutional! republic! national sovereignty! — big words! great phrases!… Ah, it becomes you well, Sir Knight of the Constitution, to talk so to me! You had not the same respect for the Chambers on the 18th Brumaire!

Thus did Napoleon dismiss fraternal scruples — boldly, as a despot should. Contrast Adams’s portrait of Jefferson, who writes that conscience and his strict construction of the Constitution require him to get an amendment to buy Louisiana.

I had rather ask an enlargement of power from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless. Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.

But then he treads quietly on his inner Jiminy Cricket:

If, however, our friends shall think differently, certainly I shall acquiesce with satisfaction, confiding that the good sense of our country will correct the evil of construction when it shall produce ill effects.

So much for scruples. Adams interprets the case thus:

Within three years of his inauguration [after a tied election, recall] Jefferson bought a foreign colony without its consent and against its will, annexed it to the United States by an act which he said made blank paper of the Constitution; and then he who had found his predecessors too monarchical, and the Constitution too liberal in powers,–he who had nearly dissolved the bonds of society rather than allow his predecessor to order a dangerous alien out of the country in a time of threatened war, [yes, that’s Adams family special pleading] –made himself monarch of the new territory, and wielded over it, against its protests, the powers of its old kings. Such an experience was final; no century of slow and half-understood experience could be needed to prove that the hopes of humanity lay thenceforward, not in attempting to restrain the government from doing whatever the majority should think necessary, but in raising the people themselves till they should think nothing necessary but was good.

You should hear Adams guffawing to himself on writing that last clause.

Okay, so Adams is having a bit of fun sticking skewers into the vastly hypocritical states’-rights project, and who doesn’t enjoy that? But is he prepared to say Jefferson shouldn’t have bought Louisiana? Adams himself points out that any delay might have led Napoleon in his whimsy to withdraw the offer.

Still. It does seem at least plausible that a chance might have arisen to buy Louisiana on more scrupulous and Constitutionally favorable terms. After all, it was changing hands pretty much every other day, wasn’t it? If you’re going to condemn Polk for hasty, racist, and unwarranted pursuit of manifest destiny, shouldn’t you likewise condemn Jefferson? These rushed and lawless annexations seem rarely to have turned out well. As it was, the Purchase contributed to a near-secession via the Burr conspiracy.

Below, a rarely seen Federalist Party-sponsored educational video on the Louisiana Purchase.

Just to tie together the below two posts, about how historians used to write and what you should really oughta know about the Tariff of Abominations, let us have recourse to the invaluable Davis Dewey, which I have on paper and we all have on Google:

Jackson called in 1824 for “adequate and fair protection,” saying “it is time we should become a little more Americanized, and, instead of feeding the paupers and laborers of Europe, feed our own, or else in a short time by continuing our present policy we shall all be paupers ourselves.”

That’s not too hard to understand, is it? Even without animation. What, we all need to have animation now?

In fact, Jackson was so clear on this point that, as the invaluable Dewey puts it:

Recourse was consequently had to political strategy, which it was hoped would prevent legislation and sufficiently befog public opinion to make it easy for Jackson’s friends to win support both North and South…. The plot was to report a bill protective in character but carrying such high duties on raw materials that it would be extremely burdensome to the manufacturers of New England; the dissatisfied elements were then expected to join with the South, which was opposed to protection in any form, and their combined effort could prevent the passage of any bill. Thus … Jackson would not be committed….

The plans miscarried; the bill was indeed made odious, but so strong was the protective sentiment that the measure found acceptance in each branch of Congress….

What do we learn from this? (1) that the representation of regions and states in Congress ensures that if you want to protect this one, you have to do a deal to protect that one, and pretty soon you have a bill nobody likes as a whole but everyone is willing to pass because of its juicy juicy parts. Hurray for the Great Compromise!

Also, (2) this is all about sections, which means it’s all about slavery, and slavery caused sectional disputes, including those over trade policy.

But let’s not stop there! We can also say that trade policy caused slavery! The slave power arose in America thanks to British trade legislation: the seventeenth-century Navigation Acts let Britain take over the role of Europe’s entrepot from Holland, brought lots of cotton into the islands, and created incentives for innovation. Innovation drove up demand for cotton, but Americans were able to keep the price down because they had lots of land and lots of slaves. (Or so I gather from this new book I’m reading.)

So it’s chickens and eggs, all the way down.

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