Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
Former NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's speech to the Republican National Convention [Text from NYTimes, CNN, NPR audio] last night was one of the most disturbing pieces of political theater I've ever seen. It was vicious, maudlin, manipulative, and immensely effective.
His paeans to bipartisanship were backhanded slaps at Democrats. His use of the September 11 attacks to highlight the President's 'courage' and 'love' and common touch were precisely what everyone feared about the RNC's decision to be in NY: using the shock and horror of that catastrophe, and the unity of fear and fellowship of rage and community of sympathy and mutual aid that it created, to gloss over the ways in which the administration has bungled even the decent things they've attempted. [For more on this, I recommend Arthur Silber's comments on Juan Cole] I was reminded of the line from Man of La Mancha about the"sentimentality of truly brutal men." His invocation of decisiveness and courage and constancy and strength ignored the fundamental question of intelligent effectiveness. His direct attacks on Kerry were barely worthy of Rush Limbaugh's shock-jock punditry. I could be wrong, but I swear his reference"It would not be the first time that John Kerry changed his mind about matters of war and peace" was a thinly veiled attack on Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activism.
My nominee for low irony, though, came towards the end:
But the reasons for removing Saddam Hussein were based on issues even broader than just the presence of weapons of mass destruction. To liberate people, to give them a chance for accountable, decent government and to rid the world of a pillar of support for global terrorism is nothing to be defensive about. It’s something for which all those involved from President Bush to the brave men of our armed forces should be proud.Well, he's right. So, it was an humanitarian intervention from the start? And saying 'presence' of WMD reinforces the false perception that any were found. And what he's not saying is that 'a chance' is actually 'a very slim chance, given our lack of foresight and commitment'. What he's not saying is that 'a pillar of support for global terrorism' was a marginal figure, at best, with regards to terrorism, and a paper tiger which we overwhelmingly defeated twice. He went on,
The hatred and the anger in the Middle East arises from the lack of accountable governments. Rather than trying to grant more freedom, or create more income, or improve education and basic health care, these governments deflect their own failures by pointing to America and to Israel and to other external scapegoats.That is precisely what the RNC is doing by having the convention where and when it is, by highlighting otherwise marginal figures like Giuliani and McCain (and my own moderate Republican governor, Linda Lingle), by touting our ability to bomb as if it were some sort of policy success, by hyping fear through visa denials and terror alerts, leaked information and excessive classification.
It's hard to describe exactly how I felt at the end of Giuliani's speech. This was raw politics, low politics, the politics of muscle and gut. I felt raw, low, mildly nauseous. I recognize the rhetorical effectiveness of what he did, the classic propaganda strategies of taking good things and real facts and making connections that aren't really there to gloss over the bad things and real facts that complicate the situation. He never lied, directly or clearly, but there was very little truth there, either.
The other featured speaker of the night was John McCain, and I highly recommend Tim Burke's rebuke to the Honorable Senator.
- Lusophonic blogger Nuno Guerreiro of Rua da Judiaria has an excellent post explaining Jewish theological views on abortion (I usually explain to people that abortion has the same gravitas as amputating an arm.) Nuno stresses that abortion is mandated by Jewish law (halacha) in some cases. Here is the Googlized translation.
- Take a look at the survey of US Dialects. It looks at the different things Americans say and how they pronounce them. I had fun looking at those things that are clearly"New Englandisms"--things like tag sales and cabinets. Kudos to those who figure out where people say"whipping sh!tties".(Reference at Far Outliers.)
- Geitner Simmons of Regions of Mind has two posts on controversial depictions of African Americans. They deal with Griffith's Birth of the Nation and Porgy and Bess. The first was protested by NAACP for its heroic depiction of the Klu Klux Klan (James Card, in Seductive Cinema, quotes a rabbi who felt ashamed for having cheered on the Clansmen.) The second was protested because it"glorified the worst in black folk and urban street culture."
- Writer Shane Maloney gave an interesting speech to the students of Scotch College. Here is one gem:"It is not your fault, after all, that your families decided to institutionalise you." (Reference at Barista.)
On Thursday, September 2nd, for several hours prior to and during George Bush's re-nomination ceremony, the Brooklyn Orgastic Politics Collective (BOP-C) will be conducting Orgone operations with several of our Cloudbusters, attempting to suck the fascism from the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. From an undisclosed location on the Brooklyn waterfront, we will be redirecting the flow of Life Energy above the deadly concentrations of hatred and greed accumulating in midtown Manhattan. If indeed our theories prove correct, it may be possible to reduce the entire convention floor to a quivering Saturnalia. The moans of Love shall ring out across the Land!Thanks to Barbelith Underground, via Jason Pitzl-Waters at Wildhunt.
Let's just say that Amanda has a mind of her own and she's a steady presence on the alternate side of things. She is co-editor for politics of something called Clamor magazine (ah, that's with a"C"); webmaster for the Brooklyn Rail; and, since The Newstandard was revived in June, has published over 80 articles in it. Like others who've revived Newstandard, she had worked with Z Magazine. Earlier, her story for Pulse about the Bush administration's discouraging an FBI investigation into Osama bin Laden's terrorist activities won recognition from Sonoma State University's Project Censored. So, my inside source for news at the Republican convention is something of an outsider.
Update: Andrew Sullivan is back just in time to cover the convention story; and, at Mode for Caleb, G. K. Chesterton and Caleb McDaniel reflect on journalism's focus on the exceptional, when it is the usual that gets things done.
I'll be the first to admit, if academia is not the"real world", then I don't know what the"real world" is. I began my educational career about 1970 at Santa Barbara's Humpty-Dumpty Nursery School, and for the past 34 years, each autumn has seen me go off to school with my nerves a-flutter. (Yes, I went straight from high school to college to grad school to teaching full-time -- that makes me both fortunate and relatively unusual among my colleagues).
The obvious question is this one: why, after all this time, do I still get so nervous about the first day of school? It's not stagefright -- public speaking has never been a fear of mine. It's not new material, at least not this year -- all four courses I am teaching this fall are courses I have taught in the past. It's not fear that my students won't like me -- though I do struggle with vanity, it's not at the root of my jumpiness this morning. All three of these might be small factors at different times, but the core reason for this almost-pleasant state of anxiety is more basic: I still believe that I have the best job in the whole dang world, and I can't believe they pay me to do it.
Even after all these years of full-time teaching (the last six with tenure), I still expect someone to show up, and with an apologetic and yet officious tone, tell me"We're sorry, Hugo, we made a mistake hiring you. There was this terrible mix-up, you see; we intended to get someone else." Though I can assure my readers (all 12 of you) that I did not lie or stretch the truth when I applied for this job, somehow after all this time I still suspect that I"got away with something" when I was hired for this job.
I've talked about this with my parents and other colleagues who teach. My father (who taught philosophy for almost forty years at Alberta and UCSB) calls this feeling"the suspicion of one's own fraudulence". That phrase seems to sum things up nicely. Whenever I share these feelings, I note that it is often my most talented colleagues, students, and friends who say"Really? That's how I feel too!" (One of the worst teachers I ever worked with, now thankfully retired, claimed never to feel this way.) I wonder if there isn't some connection between periodic bouts of self-doubt and the drive to prove one's self. Actually, that's silly -- I don't wonder that at all, I know it with total certainty!
But I am happy to say that at this stage of my career,"suspicions of my own fraudulence" are less intense than they were a decade or so ago. The nervous jitters this morning are, in fact, quite pleasant. They're more like the nerves one gets before a first date, or before taking an exciting trip to an exotic country. Every class I've ever taught is different, as the chemistry created by a certain mix of unique people can never be precisely duplicated. One never knows what's coming, and thus the anticipation is nothing short of delicious.
LeBlanc reportedly revealed two blackboards at the front of his class, with"F**k" written on the left one and"G*d" written on the right one.
In related news, God is still dead.
The Temecula Valley, where they live now, has undergone immense change in a short time. It is high desert nestled between tall mountains. The climate is generally dry, and trees are precious. Initially, there were numerous orange groves; to the south there are avocado groves. There is also a small wine country with a dozen and a half vineyards. Every time I visit I am impressed by the progress made by the winemakers
The landscape is a piece of the Mexican desert pushing into California. In fact, there are a number of strong, long-standing Mexican-American communities. It is possible to see a long distance from almost anywhere within the valley. My Connecticut-born wife thinks it is picturesque, but not quite hospitable.
This area has come under pressure as new housing developments are raised and new people move in. A few orange groves have disappeared. Cookie-cutter houses obscure the original buildings that were appropriately weathered. The new residents commute to far off San Diego and Orange Country ... and to LA in some cases. They don’t understand the Mexican Americans who live in the area.
Being a tourist at home allowed me to do tourist things that I would not have done before. One thing I wanted to do was explore Spanish Colonial influence. Local myth in New England is intimately entwined with the founding history of America: people tend to see all American history originating from them. I was happy to show my wife the history and myths of old California with which I was raised.
The myth, of course, is that of Catholic missions and Father Junipero Serra: a Franciscan who was sent to establish a firm Spanish presence in Alta California against the encroachment of British and Russian traders and to Catholicize the natives. The mission were outposts whereat Europeans and natives coexisted. They were the basis for the settlement of California. The pastoral image of monks and natives living together in harmony persists today. The reality was that the mission system, while growing, was fragile, and the religious goals of the missionaries conflicted with the goals of the crown, which wanted to turn natives into Spanish citizens. To this end, the state founded towns: there were parallel policies that led to the settlement (in the European sense) of California.
We drove out to two missions, San Juan Capistrano and San Luis Rey (a beautiful drive over the mountains). Each mission left me with a different impression. San Juan Capistrano completely fit its romantic image. The mission is right in the middle of the city, surrounded by streets that run parallel to the walls. Large parts of the structure have been not been rebuilt, giving that classic look of a ruin. The large church has been left completely open to the elements, its roof having collapsed in an earthquake. The gardens are filled with colorful plants; there are running fountains. Numerous artists paint the famed bells. Parts of the mission dedicated to artisanship are open and thoroughly explained. There is even a little display showing the piano whereat “When the swallows return to Capistrano” was composed. So close to the street, the mission is more of a park than an historical site–a respite from urban life among romantic surroundings.
San Luis Rey has been restored. The damage that it experienced has been repaired, and it appears to be more functional. The mission is painted in a stark white, and stunning site as it is some distance from its city. One of the last missions that was built, it was meant to look more like a baroque Spanish church. Details that would normally have been created with wood carving, stained glass and marbled stone were painted in. Imported statues of religious figures were evocative and emotional. The museum was well organized, showing the articles of daily and religious life. Most of these came from Spain, although some were produced in Mexico and (in rare cases) locally.
Despite its restoration, San Luis Rey probably did more to recreate the impression of a mission against the Southern California landscape: a stark white edifice against high mountains, surrounded by land affected by drought. I was transfixed by two photographs that showed the conditions of both mission in the mid-nineteenth century. Not only were they in need of repair, but the landscape was desolate. Time has given richer flora to both San Juan Capistrano and San Luis Rey (thanks to the likes of William Mulholland). However, the former looks like a piece of paradise in a hectic world. The former reveals more of the imposing presence of the Church when it was first built, something that could have been alien and unfamiliar. Furthermore, San Juan Capistrano gave the impression that the missions were self-sufficient because of the centrality of displays of artisanship, a notion betrayed by San Luis Rey.
Juan Cole's analysis of theAIPAC spy issue is chilling reading, particularly for a non-Likudnik American Jew like myself. It is, in a sense, the analysis that should have been in Adbusters. First of all, it is clear that he is trying very, very hard to be fair, and makes clear that: American Jews, a productive and positive element in American society generally, are not all supporters of Israel, particularly the increasingly hard-line leadership; not all Israelis support the hard-line leadership, either; the US has a legitimate interest in defending Israel from serious enemies; and it is very hard to talk about this openly due to the close connections between corporate and political interests at high levels, and the ability of money to distort politics. Fundamentally, though, his argument is that policy in both the US and Israel is increasingly in the hands of a small, self-reinforcing band of aggressive (he calls them proto-fascistic, at one point) nationalistic and militaristic thinkers who do not have the best interests of either Israel or the US at heart.
That last point needs some emphasis, I believe. If there is a flaw in Cole's analysis, it is that he understates the degree to which Israel serves US needs in the Middle East, and the degree to which Israeli policy is detrimental to Israeli interests in the long- or short-term. Also, nobody commenting, as far as I know, has pointed out the blazingly obvious fact: the US spies on Israel constantly, via satellite, via electronic intercept, and probably via actual spies; even if Israel discovered a spy, they wouldn't be in a position to openly make charges. Cole mentions sub rosa meetings between Israeli and US military officials: does he really think that the flow of information was one-way?
Cole argues, towards the end, that the US could shift towards non-democratic rule with just another push or two (like a repeated al Qaeda attack). I've been thinking about that myself. The human tendency to prefer order over freedom is pretty strong, but it hasn't been really tested in the US in a while. The assumption that increased government power equals increased security is not entirely warranted. The dictum that information equals power is making lots of people as nervous as much as it is giving them hope: it's possible that a government with more access to private information would provide greater security through good analysis of that data; it's also possible that a government with more access to private information would be more partisan, and would excessively exercise 'cautionary' but nonetheless punitive authority against people who both match badly drawn profiles of terrorists and who are not administration-friendly. As much as it is natural to want more power and authority for yourself and your allies, it is also natural to be cautious about giving power to your enemies, and to people you don't know. But I digress.
I detest tribal thinking. It is irrational (at best, reductive), unhelpful (in the long run), corrosive. And yet it is ingrained in my reactions, and I have to think carefully and clearly to move past it. I know there are plenty of people out there who will not put forth that effort.
Jews have been in America for 350 years (as of 7 September 2004), have been full citizens in a legal sense for quite some time, but nonetheless remain a somewhat uncomfortable minority. Not a uniform one, by any means -- theology/praxis and geography/culture divide us deeply. Politics is increasingly fractious, as well: AIPAC's alliance with Republican partisans is a part of the decreasing Democratic affiliation of American Jews, and the gap between the social progressive and social conservative strains of American Jewry is growing. One thing most of us agree on, though, is that we have enemies who do not distinguish between us. It is a Catch-22, of course. If some Jews pursue power and influence and succeed, then Jews are a threat. If Jews eschew power and influence, then those who despise us will have all the power and influence they need to move against us.
I apologize if these issues are a bit confused. I'm still sorting all this out myself. I'd managed to put Jewishness aside, for the most part, in my analysis of the political season, but it seems to have been thrust back upon us. With luck, it'll pass. Or I'll see strong evidence that alleviates my fears. That'd be nice.
I was wondering how long it would take after Barack Obama's national debut (and Theresa Heinz-Kerry's [Thanks, Nathanael]) for this question to be raised. Now I know: thank you, Alan Keyes. I wonder if some variation on the Japanese American terminology (issei for first-generation immigrants; nisei for their children, and so on) would be useful? Or perhaps just a single pair of terms -- distinguishing long-term and newcomer -- that could be used when relevant? (Note: I thought about suggesting a distinction based on descent from slaves, but that would still apply to many Africans in Africa as well as just about all of the Americas).
I know, terminology can be divisive, but the divide already exists. We need to examine the divide to see to what extent it is fundamental and to what extent it is perceptual, and to do that we need..... well, jargon, in the sense of specifically defined technical terms. Noting, of course, that well-chosen, well-defined, properly useful jargon pretty rapidly stops being jargon and becomes a component of everyday language. For example? Well, check out the discussion of the Guardian's"Scientists Pick Top Ten SF Movies over on Liberty and Power, and think about the way they added phrases and concepts to the discourse.
New technologies generally solve problems, but often create new ones. Cell phones are a fantastic new technology, drawing together several technological threads into a quantum leap in convenience and functionality. And they are a blight, of course, requiring the creation of a new landscape of transmission towers, new ettiquette violations and protocols (how do you respond when a student's cell phone goes off in class? I've been going the 'let them be embarrased but don't add to it by reacting' route, myself), and new dangers.
Volokh conspirator Todd Zywicki has found a study which claims to have proven that cell phone users are more dangerous than drunk drivers. The abstract does not clarify the methodology sufficiently that I can be sure that they really controlled for other distracting factors: having a relationship argument, or a toddler, in the car, for example, or singing along with the radio/cd/mp3 player.
But the Japanese did not wait for peer review: new regulations now require fines of 5-7000 yen (that's about US$45-65) for driving while talking on a cell phone. The fines increase with the size of the vehicle: the 5000 yen fine is for using a cell phone while on a small motorcycle! (I suppose, with a properly designed helmet microphone, it could be done: anyone seen it?) I sympathize, but it does raise the question of our inanely low tolerance for certain kinds of risks.
(non-sequitur: I hate evil, too)
Ann Gerhart,"The Political Guns of August Are Firing," Washington Post. Douglas Brinkley, a historian caught at the center of the SBVT controversy. Yes, he's a popularizer, in the tradition of Stephen Ambrose. Yes, he's doing an article for the New Yorker. No, he can't get back to every reporter who wants to talk to him. But, see also "Douglas Brinkley Reporting for Duty" in The Weekly Standard for a more critical look at Brinkley's work.
Here's a clue that you are an extraordinary teacher and a great blogger: You stop blogging in March, in June you announce that the site is about to come down, and in August the conversation is still going on. I'd like to think that my students are still talking about some of the things we talked about; Invisible Adjunct knows that hers are.
Finally, no need to read this, but it does seem like a really bad idea for a child's toy. What were they thinking?
A story in the New York Times this week contrasted the approaches of the Kenyan and Zimbabwean governments on the issue of land reform, with the Kenyan government protecting the property rights of white farmers from Masai and Samburu claimants and the Zimbabwean government confiscating white-owned land en masse .
I have been somewhat reluctant to talk directly about the case of Zimbabwe as a land reform “policy”, because it’s really nothing of the sort. Zimbabwe’s ongoing political crisis has almost nothing to do with land reform or white farmers. That’s a red herring, a diversion pursued very consciously by the Mugabe government to distract from the deeper forms of misrule and autocracy they practice. The Zimbabwean economy has been in free-fall since 1998 not because Mugabe decided to take white-owned land but because many of his ministers have persistently ransacked the economy for personal gain and used the state’s security apparatus to violently suppress all sources of opposition.
However, if that diversion has succeeded in recasting the story for some Western observers, that is only partly due to the gullibility of those observers. It is also because underneath it all, there is a real “there” involved. The issue of land reform is real, which is what makes the cynical misuse of the issue by the Zimbabwean state so deeply offensive. Its reality is always one that confronts us with history, both its meanings and its uses.
Let’s start with a basic fact: modern colonial powers in Africa, primarily England and France, stole land from Africans. Colonial government generally held themselves to be the primary owners of land within their territories, selling some land to private (mostly non-African) holders and “permitting” most Africans to live upon and work land.
So where do independent African nations go with that, after the end of colonialism in Africa? Let’s suppose they decide to pursue a restorative course in which all land taken is returned to its former owners, in which the injustice of land alienation is wholly erased. But how? How do you return land to its owners when the people who formerly worked it didn’t operate within a modern, juridical construction of private property in the first place? How do you decompose a colonial system of land ownership back into usufruct rights? And to whom do those usufruct rights go, given that colonialism and modernity have spurred so much human movement within Africa? Do all configurations of private property get reverted to 1875? Wouldn’t this require destroying most urban communities in Africa?
Do those new states just take land from whites? Why not from wealthy African entrepreneurs or accumulators who also took advantage of colonial policies? If all private property is a consequence of colonial intervention, why distinguish between white-owned private property (when the whites in question are national citizens resident on the land they own) and black-owned private property?
A restorative course of land reform really has no way to explain why it arbitrarily stops short of decomposing the entirety of modernity, why it accepts any aspect of liberal, contractual, conceptions of property. No wonder that such a course typically crumbles into official corruption, as it has in Zimbabwe: the process of deciding what current person or family should be the contractual landholder entitled to particular pieces of land is always already arbitrary, so the slide from “person whose family lived in this place in 1890” to “minister who is from this general region” is not as far as it might appear.
The other course of action is to pursue land reform that increases the public welfare of a contemporary, modern nation. Here the questions and goals are very different. They ask, “How can we maximize the greatest good for the greatest number?” Asking that question often means that one might legitimately judge that allowing very large tracts of commercial, fertile land to be owned by a very small and racially identifiable minority is not socially just or prudent. But the redistributive principles that one might follow in remedying that would be very different. A nation might judge, as the current Kenyan government has, that private property rights in general are an important social good in their own right, and need defending—so rather than confiscation, a nation might pursue a purchase of land targeted for reform. And a government might also judge that post-reform patterns of land tenure should follow some other principle than the recreation of mid-19th Century smallholdings. It might decide that the land ought to belong to those who work it now (as advocated by Hernando de Soto) rather than the descendents of those who worked it then, and so give new landholdiing rights to tenant farm workers rather than people from another district.
History can only be a guide in postcolonial land reform in African societies if the aim is to obliterate the entire substance of the past 150 years. There is no sensible way to go just so far towards a restorative program of land reform and no farther. If the aim instead is social justice and the maximization of the public welfare of a modern society, the path to land reform leads only forward, never backward.
Chechnya is the most prominent secessionist movement in Russia, but separatism is rife in several former Soviet republics. Georgia is the most obvious case. There are two"break-away regions": South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The political movements in both regions are pro-Russian, preferring to join the federation rather than remain part of Georgia. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that new president Saakashvili came to power (displacing Shevardnadze) with the support of groups who favored less centralized government. He has since integrated many movements into a nationalist agenda, but these regions persist in their resistance.
Russia has been meddling in the relations between Georgia's national government and the regions. Moscow wants to protect its economic interests in oil from the Caspian Sea (especially from American companies). They have supported the separatists in Georgia, allowing them to persist on corruption. An article in the economists claims that these movements are largely smuggling rings--they lack legitimacy:
... Russian-backed statelets at the heart of these disputes have something in common: they have no legal existence, and can easily serve as a free-for all for illegal activity of every kind.
In general, Moscow has used enclaves of Russians abroad to influence the politics of the former Soviet Republics--their own pawns that advocate for Russian foreign policy from within domestic policy.
Bolivia is being riven apart by two different forces. One is an Indianist movement, Aymara, composed of natives who live in the highlands. The movement grew out of failed peasants' movements from the 1960s and 70s, grafting to their philosophy pride in indigenous identity as a means of enforcing political cohesion. They would recreate the"Andean system" that existed under the Inca Empire, creating a state out of regions from Bolivia and other nations and living according to Andean political culture (as they have memorialized it). Their ascent in Bolivia has made Indianists influential with the national government.
The other force is the more prosperous lowlands in the east in the city of Santa Cruz. Talk of secession reflects the frustration that people feel concerning the direction of Bolivia as Aymara politicians gain influence. They fear that if indigenous parties take over the government, that they will heavily interfere with the economy and industry of Santa Cruz. Decentralization--perhaps autonomy--is seen as a solution that would isolate the"Cruceños" from Aymara. This side also tends to express its frustration in racist terms: people go to great lengths to point out that they are not Indians. Furthermore, a minority would have the constitution recognize that they are a distinct minority group--the Cambas--with rights on par with indigenous peoples.
The edges of India have always been a problem. Indeed, the new prime minister comes from a region (Gujarat) that has been marked by inter-ethnic violence. Kashmir has been a continual problem, but now that Pakistan and India have started to negotiate over the status of Kashmir, the internal separatist movements have begun to fight amongst each other. Several months ago, a man was killed while at prays: he was the cousin of a separatist politician who believed that the movement should try to inject itself into talks between India and Pakistan. Now, those who oppose negotiation have formed their own political party, shutting out moderate voices.
In the east. fragmentation has been a continual process ever since the dissolution of Assam into numerous tribe-based states. (In Siddhartha Deb's Point of Return the fragmentation of Assam is an important narrative device in showing the disappointment of a generation of Indian nationalists. I highly recommend the novel.) Despite recent violence, there is evidence that eastern Indians have tired of fighting.
For the most part, these separatist movements are driven by some form of ethnic nationalism, making a negotiated solution with the national governments difficult. Some would not be satisfied with any arrangement that kept their regions under governments ruled by other ethnic/national groups. Bolivia might be the most interesting case because it involves warring ethnic groups who could take large parts of the nation with them. On the other hand, the two Bolivian movements situate themselves differently, the Aymara groups seeing themselves as part of a larger movement in South America, the Cruceños as a defensive reaction to the former.
[Added on edit:] Fellow Cliopatriot Manan Ahmed notes the case of Baluchistan (Pakistan) in the comments:
Most of the region never fully integrated into the State and with the continuous military offensive of the past 4 months, is really starting to show troubling signs of native unrest against the military and Pakistani government. The mode, again, is ethnic and lingual solidarity of the people and a counter-nationalist narrative.(Also on Pakistan, it is interesting to note how the geo-political composition slowi down the hunt for al Qaeda and bin Laden. Many areas are not completely held by the Musharraf, and Islamabad cannot exert force into these areas without disturbing the fragile balance between central government and provinces.)
Don't blame an inherently reactionary Islam for our ignorance of progressive Muslim voices. The decision of the DHS and INS to cancel the visa of Tariq Ramadan who was to have begun teaching at Notre Dame this week only re-enforces it. The Cliopatriarch of Chicago has more to say about this at Chapati Mystery.
There are things of beauty at Early Modern Notes. The Cliopatriarch of Wales is posting photographsof thesetting in and the documentswith which she works. If we Cliopatriarchs have rotating tours of duty, I'm putting in for Wales as my next assignment.
Finally, Caleb at Mode for Caleb has figured it out. Writing dissertations, books, and articles is more like horticulture or surgery than alchemy or engineering. Alas, it's true. I need to do some weeding.
Alternate title (2) “Oh brave new world that hath such rodents in it!”
Fascinating story came out the other day. (This Boston.com story gives a good quick overview. This Forbes article looks at some of the economic possibilities.) Those friendly researchers at the Salk Institute have found that altering one gene in mice can turn them into super-marathoners, with abilities far beyond those of most mortal mice.
Groans about future Olympic athletic cheating have been a natural part of the story. However, baseline DNA will be available from all the scared parents who are taking samples from their kids now. (Of course those parents could alter the kid’s genes, but we’ll let that go for the moment.)
I bring it up now to raise a couple of perennial question:
1. What events now will matter in 100 years? A biologist I know says that the gene story really is a big deal, with theoretical and practical ramifications that go way beyond turning couch potatoes into supersonic spuds. Who knows, if she is right, a 100 years form now, this could matter much, much more than Bush vs. Kerry, the War on Terror, or even the next university budget. (I think the last is a stretch.) Or it might be nothing much, just another step in the March of Science.
Of course that does not mean it will be in the US Survey (assuming such a course is not an ancient notion). As important as science (and technology) is in our history, we really do a poor job of teaching it. At this leads me to question two:
Why do we do such a poor job on it in the US survey. One reason is obvious: Most survey texts deemphasize it. (Pauline Maier et al.’s Inventing America tries, but the text is, at best, only partially successful.) Another problem may be the inherently difficult task of describing how science and technology have, with each generation, become more and more woven into people’s daily lives. So much so that now we assume a changing environment is the one constant. That is far more important than most politics. So shouldn’t it become a major component of what we do?
Update: Brian Ulrich makes an interesting comment on this article at his blog. One point is absolutely correct. Integrating the science requires understanding it to a degree. One of the more challenging things I have ever done is create a month long unit on Darwin for an online course. And, as is usual with teaching, every time I taught it, I learned something new and important to explain.
I don't read the Post, so I depend on Eric Alterman calling my attention to the New York Observer's fisking of the Post article. Are you kidding me? There are a few surviving Weathermen around who didn't blow themselves up 35 years ago. Most of them are nice little old ladies in tennis shoes by now. Really. Google"Weather Underground" and see what incendiary sites you turn up. Weather Underground is, by now, mostly Weathermen Buried.
The Cliopatriarch of Austin is scheduled for a guest commentary on National Public Radio this morning. It should be heard at 5:25 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and 7:25 a.m. EST, at 6:25 a.m. Central Standard Time and 8:25 a.m. CST.
O. K., this one's tough. Let's just say that Gary Farber, Belle Waring, and a couple other folks edged me out of a medal. Like the Afghani and Iraqi athletes, my glory was in the competition and I owe it all to Ogged of Unfogged for liberating me, allowing me to be there, and cheering me on. You'll notice that I didn't report my score. As I said, it's tough.
And, since he's so smart, take Gary Farber's recommendation of Adam Gopnik's essay in the New Yorker on re-thinking the causes of World War I.
Finally, I'm sorry, but on this one, I'm a law ‘n order jackhammer. Lock ‘em up. Throw away the key. Smash their computers. Burn their birth certificates and identity cards. Tell their mothers they had an abortion. Tell their fathers it was all an illusion. Tell their children they're up for adoption. (Ed: I feel better now. Bring on the lawyers ...).