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New York Times


  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    More coverage for Ben Urwand's Hollywood & Hitler book

    Ben Urwand has apparently done what no historian has previously been able to do: Draw not just one but many substantial links between 1930s Hollywood and the Nazi Germany regime of Adolf Hitler.Urwand's revelations were first revealed in a June issue of online monthly Tablet. According to The New York Times, "that the German government meddled in the film industry during Hollywood's so-called golden age has long been known to film historians ... But Mr. Urwand, 35, offers the most stinging take by far, drawing on material from German and American archives to argue that the relationship between Hollywood and the Third Reich ran much deeper — and went on much longer — than any scholar has so far suggested."...

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Roger Berkowitz: Misreading ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’

    Roger Berkowitz is associate professor of political studies and human rights, and academic director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities, at Bard College.The movie “Hannah Arendt,” which opened in New York in May, has unleashed emotional commentary that mirrors the fierce debate Arendt herself ignited over half a century ago, when she covered the trial of the notorious war criminal Adolf Eichmann. One of the pre-eminent political thinkers of the 20th century, Arendt, who died in 1975 at the age of 69, was a Jew arrested by the German police in 1933, forced into exile and later imprisoned in an internment camp. She escaped and fled to the United States in 1941, where she wrote the seminal books “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.”

  • Originally published 05/04/2013

    Henry Hope Reed, historian, is dead at 97

    Henry Hope Reed, an architecture critic and historian whose ardent opposition to modernism was purveyed in books, walking tours of New York City and a host of curmudgeonly barbs directed at advocates of the austere, the functional and unornamented in public buildings and spaces, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 97.The death was confirmed by Paul Gunther, president of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art.Walking historical tours of New York are now staples of the city’s cultural menu, but when Mr. Reed first began leading them for the Municipal Art Society in 1956, they were novel enough to be the subject of a news article in The New York Times.Modernism was in favor at the time, but a reporter accompanying a tour on the East Side of Manhattan, north of Union Square, described how persuasive Mr. Reed’s bias against it was: “The tour ended at Pete’s Tavern,” the reporter, John Sibley, wrote. “Over their drinks, the hikers reviewed the tour. The flamboyant architectural adornments of the last century had impressed them, but they bemoaned the encroachment of bleak and sterile streamlined apartment buildings.”...

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Rebecca Skloot: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the Sequel

    Rebecca Skloot is the author of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”LAST week, scientists sequenced the genome of cells taken without consent from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. She was a black tobacco farmer and mother of five, and though she died in 1951, her cells, code-named HeLa, live on. They were used to help develop our most important vaccines and cancer medications, in vitro fertilization, gene mapping, cloning. Now they may finally help create laws to protect her family’s privacy — and yours.The family has been through a lot with HeLa: they didn’t learn of the cells until 20 years after Lacks’s death, when scientists began using her children in research without their knowledge. Later their medical records were released to the press and published without consent. Because I wrote a book about Henrietta Lacks and her family, my in-box exploded when news of the genome broke. People wanted to know: did scientists get the family’s permission to publish her genetic information? The answer is no.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Ross Douthat: The Obama Era, Brought to You by the Iraq War

    Ross Douthat is a columnist for the New York Times.WHEN prominent people in Washington spend an anniversary apologizing for being catastrophically, unforgivably wrong about a decade-old decision, you might expect that the decision in question had delivered their party to disaster or defeat. But last week’s many Iraq war mea culpas were rich in irony: one by one, prominent liberals lined up to apologize for supporting a war that’s responsible for liberalism’s current political and cultural ascendance.History is too contingent to say that had there been no Iraq invasion in 2003, there would be no Democratic majority in 2012. (It’s easy enough to imagine counterfactuals that might have put Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.) But the Democratic majority that we do have is a majority that the Iraq war created: its energy and strategies, its leadership and policy goals, and even its cultural advantages were forged in the backlash against George W. Bush’s Middle East policies.All those now-apologetic liberals who supported the war in 2003 are a big part of this story, because without their hawkishness there would have been no antiwar rebellion on the left — no Michael Moore and Howard Dean, no Daily Kos and all its “netroots” imitators....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Behind image of seamless transition, Vatican navigates uncharted waters

    VATICAN CITY — Sharing lunch is rarely historic, except perhaps when the two people eating are a pope and his predecessor.On Saturday, the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI — who broke church tradition by resigning rather than dying in office — ate with Pope Francis at Castel Gandolfo, the hilltop villa where Benedict is living, while reporters waited outside for any scraps of news about how the meeting went.

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Linking past and present in Nuremberg

    “This will be easy to see,” said Annelise, our guide, flipping off the lights in the chilly sandstone beer cellar that had been converted to an air-raid shelter during World War II. A small plaque on the wall glowed with electric-lime phosphorescence. It was, she told us, an emergency exit sign for the 50,000 civilians who had fled — two to a square meter — to these cellars-cum-bunkers during Allied firebombings.The sign was a small but poignant reminder of how hundreds of years of beer brewing in Nuremberg — a city that was 90 percent destroyed during the war — linked past and present.Just over an hour by direct train from Munich, Nuremberg (population 510,000) is Bavaria’s often-overlooked second city. Of course, the locals say Bavaria has little to do with the place; a greater allegiance is owed to the smaller administrative district of Middle Franconia, which has its own dialect, history and cuisine. Not to mention beer....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    David Moss: there’s a reason for deposit insurance

    ...If the nation has a father of bank insurance, it is Joshua Forman, one of the promoters of the Erie Canal. Early in the 19th century, New York State had a string of bank failures, and Martin Van Buren, then governor, asked him to restructure the banking industry. Forman’s insight was that banks were vulnerable to chain-reaction panics. As he put it — in a line unearthed by the Harvard Business School historian David Moss — “banks constitute a system, being peculiarly sensitive to one another’s operations, and not a mere aggregate of free agents.”In 1829, Forman proposed an insurance fund capitalized by mandatory contributions from the state’s banks. Debate in the State Assembly was heated. Critics said failures could overwhelm the fund; they also argued that its very existence would reduce the “public scrutiny and watchfulness” that restrained bankers from reckless lending. This remains the intellectual argument against insurance today. But Forman’s plan was enacted, and subsequently five other states adopted plans.All did not go smoothly. In the 1840s, during a national depression, 11 banks in New York State failed and the insurance fund — as prophesied — was threatened with insolvency. The state sold bonds to bail it out....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Kenneth F. Scheve Jr. and David Stasavage: Is the Estate Tax Doomed?

    Kenneth F. Scheve Jr. is a professor of political science at Stanford University. David Stasavage, a professor of politics at New York University, is the author of “States of Credit: Size, Power, and the Development of European Polities.Under the deal struck by President Obama and Congress to avert the “fiscal cliff,” the estate tax — long targeted for elimination by Republicans — survived, but in a substantially diminished form.In 2001, the year George W. Bush became president, individual estates over $675,000 were taxed and the top rate was 55 percent. Now, the maximum tax is 40 percent and only individual estates worth more than $5.25 million are taxed (a figure that will now be automatically adjusted for inflation).

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    The Iraq War: Learning Lessons, Ignoring History

    Front page of March 20, 2013 edition of the New York Times.Talk about a gap between serious academic history and the policy community. The New York Times, which has made a big deal of the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, offers a stunning case in point. At least five different items in the paper for Wednesday, March 20, seek some perspective from “authorities” heavy tilted toward policy specialists and former Bush administration officials. There is nary a historian of any sort to be seen.

  • Originally published 02/10/2010

    The Left's Blind Spot

    Let's start with Howard Zinn and then move on. Zinn, rather unlikely for a historian, has been feted like a Hollywood celebrity, receiving encomiums from stars like Danny Glover, James Earl Jones, and of course, Matt Damon, whose character in Good Will Hunting famously brandishes a copy of Zinn's A People's History of the United States during a raucus encounter with Robin Williams. In 2003 a large crowd turned out at a celebration in Manhattan at the 92nd Street Y to mark the sale of the one millionth copy of the book. Recently, there was even a television series built around the book's themes.Why is Zinn so popular (with the general public, if not with historians, many of whom have expressed reservations about his books)? The answer is that Zinn plays the role in a self-satisfied often-uncritical mainstream culture of the seemingly attractive dangerous rebel. "If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States," Damon exclaims in the movie. "That book will knock you on your ass."

  • Originally published 08/23/2009

    How the New York Times Missed the Underlying Ugly History Behind a Fun Story About a Georgia Gold Rush

    In Villa Rica, Georgia, history can mean business. The town, about 30 miles east of Atlanta, is currently embroiled in a dispute with Dahlonega, 75 miles to the northeast, over which town was the site of the first gold rush in American history. For both communities, the claim could lead to increased tourism and therefore increased revenues. Douglas Mabry, an amateur historian in Villa Rica, recently revived the claim, based on an 1830 map identifying Villa Rica as “gold country” and

  • Originally published 06/14/2014

    Press TV Interview

    Press TV interviewed me about U.S. policy toward Ukraine. You can listen here.