Dec 29, 2003 5:50 pm


I haven't even checked with all of us, but at least two of Cliopatria's group members are down with holiday illnesses. The seasonal bugs come on top of the emotional shifts expected of us at Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza, and New Years. The spirits of those holidays are so different and we may even dread them because they don't measure our own ups and downs. Meanwhile, the world goes on and I take note of a couple of things:

Ombudsgod makes an important point: the ombudsman at the Palm Beach Post failed to catch the fact that we don't know enough about Strom Thurmond's affair with his family's African American maid to accuse him of rape. Essie Mae Washington-Williams does not believe herself to be the child of a rapist. Of course, there was a disproportionate power dynamic between her father and her mother, but you cannot make the leap from that abstraction to certain knowledge of the circumstances of her conception. Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the tip.

My friend, Eugene McCarraher at Villanova, has a fine essay on Christianity's challenge to Marxism at In These Times. While I'm thinking about McCarraher, do yourself a favor and read his book, Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought. In a world so badly fragmented as ours, we need to remember those who dreamed the possibility of community. Thanks to Mildly Malevolent for the tip.

Speaking of books, let's take advantage of Cliopatria's convenient new comments function. Tell us about the best book you've read in recent days. I know what my choice is: Edward P. Jones's The Known World: A Novel. It's a story of the world of a black slave-owner in ante-bellum Virginia. My own research on a bi-racial family in that area tells me that Jones gets the tone of things just about right and his fiction illuminates that world for us in vital ways that my bondage to empirical evidence and surviving documents simply can't do. It is an amazing achievement, fully worthy of a National Book Award. So, what's the best book that you've read lately?

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Jonathan Dresner - 12/31/2003

Though I also got the Da Vinci Code (and enjoyed it quite a bit), I think the one I will go back to is Ben Schott's Original Miscellany, a gloriously random collection of facts and trivia. Cricket positions, cloud formations, the order of service for Diana's funeral, the US states and their official bird and the number of Miss America's each has produced, the Bond movies (with villains and Bond girls), metric-imperial conversions.....

But my favorite bit is the citation to the actual Riot Act (1713, I think it was). It required that groups designated "rioters" be read a text giving them notice and an hour to disperse, else their gathering would become felonious and subject to harsh penalties. The text had to be read in full (apparently omitting the final "God Save the King" kept some poor fellows out of jail and off the gallows). So when we talk about being "read the riot act" there actually was a Riot Act, which had to be read in full and which was a text with serious consequences to be heeded carefully.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/30/2003

Gary, Apology accepted. Within 2 hours, however, you forgot that your opening line in this exchange, see above, was "Could you guys make _some_ effort to appear like your [sic] not completely incompetant boobs at blogging ..." I was using _your_ language in response to you and you didn't even recall what you had said. I could care less about what you say of me, but I care a great deal about what you say about the other conspirators here at Cliopatria. As for "amateurs," we are indeed and there is nothing we can do about it so long as we are on the HNN page. As for "boys," Cliopatria's female blogger withdrew from the group for understandable reasons which are her own business. We continue to look for other likely members and are an equal opportunity employer. Particularly, we are interested in enlisting group members whose historical interests aren't already represented here and members from abroad.

Gary Farber - 12/30/2003

To make sure you see this, Ralph, since you responded again at my own blog. You wrote:
Cliopatria writers do not control the form in which the blog appears. My colleagues and I do not need to be insulted. "complete boobs," "boys," "amateurs" ... you toss all those off in 15 seconds at our place _and_ yours? Your point, Gary, could have been clearly made without the personal insults.
My response:

Yes, they could have, Ralph. Except "complete boobs" is what you said, not me. "Boys" and "amateurs" doesn't seem in quite the same league, to me, as "personal insults" but perhaps your mileage varies. (Is "the boys" actually an "insult"?)

"Amateurs" goes to the sense that you're not controlling your own HTML. "Boys" goes to the fact that there are no female bloggers there (please don't run out and get one just to meet a quota because I said that). That's all.

In any case, I was merely intending to be flip, and I clearly failed. So I apologize for that. I recognize that you've done some very fine historical work, and I greatly respect that. I hope that you might otherwise find something of worth, interest, or amusement on my own site, and we can both put this behind us like adults. Deal?

Josh Greenland - 12/30/2003

I'm slowly crawling through two history books that relate to presidential decisionmaking and relations with top military brass as regards Vietnam. Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies That Led to Vietnam starts during the Kennedy administration but is mostly about Johnson, his top advisors and the Joint Chiefs as they muddle their way into fullblown war. So far (I'm up to mid-1964 in the book), Johnson, McNamara and his other close advisors mostly ignore Joint Chiefs recommendations and listen to the JCs just enough to keep them from rebelling. Johnson, McNamara and administration adherents are shown as cynically political and contemptuous of most military advice while the Joint Chiefs can never seem to overcome service parochialism, join forces and challenge Johnson's ignoring of their advice. This book keeps hitting the same few notes of its thesis and it's interesting if you want to know what generally happened during those years, including the events the LBJ administration and military reacted to, and quotations and descriptions of the actions of its principal players. It's very readable but not scintillating. It was published in 1997 by HarperCollins and was authored by Major H. R. McMasters.

JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue and the Struggle for Power, unlike Dereliction of Duty, may never be taught in our military university system. It focuses only on the Kennedy years and while it discusses the actions of many o of the same people as does Dereliction, it adds strongly documented descriptions of intentional deception of JFK and McNamara by the Joint Chiefs and others in the military, while VP Lyndon Johnson obtained correct information through a back channel. JFK and Vietnam has the president being jollied along while the JCs insisted that he needed to put ever more troops into Vietnam. Though both books show military incompetence, including at the highest echelons, JFK and Vietnam describes the lengths the military went to manipulate the president into more of a commitment than he wanted. It also details his efforts toward pulling out of Vietnam just before he was assassinated. While JFK's administration is shown to often not run well, the Joint Chiefs come off frequently as inept in meetings and as facilely advocating armed intervention our country wasn't prepared for and military actions that could easily have started WWIII. The book was published in 1992 by Warner Books and was written by John M. Newman, a historian at the University of Maryland. The book is thickly footnoted but for all its detail very lively and in many places eye-opening. I think JFK and Vietnam is worthwhile for anyone interested in the period or who just wants a good historical read.

Gary Farber - 12/30/2003

A quick check, by the way, shows that your page looks okay under IE. The problem exists when viewed with Netscape/Mozilla. I'm not going to bother checking it with other browsers, but you can either look into it, or not.

And, yes, I was flip in my initial post. That that gave rise to your reaction surprised me.

Gary Farber - 12/30/2003

Thanks for coming by my blog and making vaguely the same post, Ralph. A shame, though, that in your re-write you neglected to repeat that extra-specially original advice: "Get a life." Indeed, I spent an entire fifteen whole seconds writing my post. And, of course, this issue has been the sole thing I've written on my blog in the past day. It's all I can think about! Oh, migod, I've spent another twenty seconds now! But, thanks to that invaluable advice, "get a life," I shall profoundly rethink my existence and its purpose. Eschatology, here I come!

But, first, I'll cut and paste what I said there, in similar -- yet different! -- spirit to your taking the trouble to actually rewrite a different version:

It's actually not a terribly big deal to type three characters, Ralph. But thanks for your very original advice.

I'm trying to make sense of this, though: "I don't know, but neither would I attribute that appearance to your being a complete boob at blogging."

I'm having a bit of trouble following your logic here. Would you possibly be so kind as to unpack that a bit, please? Thanks!

Ralph E. Luker - 12/30/2003

Dear Gary,
Thanks for the thought. I don't know how it appears on your screen, but the entire page of Cliopatria is not rendered in bold on my screen. I don't know how Cliopatria is mediated to you, but HNN is currently in the process of a major revamp which may cause it to appear that way on your screen. If it appears that way to you, I don't attribute it to your being a complete boob at blogging. This is a big issue for you, is it? Take a breather. There are more important things in life.

Gary Farber - 12/30/2003

Could you guys make some effort to appear like you're not completely incompetent boobs at blogging by bothering to close bold tags so your entire page isn't rendered in bold?

It's understandable to make that error. What's not understandable is not fixing it within three minutes.


Ralph E. Luker - 12/29/2003

Mike, I'm sorry but you are simply incorrect. The age of consent in South Carolina at the time was 14. I take second place to none of Strom's critics, but the charge of rape requires positive proof. I can't prove him innocent and you can't prove him guilty. Lacking convincing evidence of his guilt, he stands acquitted.

Mike - 12/29/2003

She was 16 at the time, he 22. That makes it statutory rape no matter what Sturm apologists say.

Anne - 12/29/2003

I've done a lot of reading recently, but I'd choose, "The Last Best Hope: A Democracy Reader" edited by Stephen Goodlad.

It's a series of essays on the nature of democracy and the social and political climates required for "successful" democracies. It also challenges the USofA assumption that our brand of "democracy" is what's right for everyone else in the world.

Absolutely a must-read. (The essays are from different years of the 20th century and a few of them seem very out-of-date now, but they're all thought-provoking.)

(P.S. I like the redesign, by the way. A nice beginning.)

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