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  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    David J. Bobb: Howard Zinn and the Art of Anti-Americanism

    David J. Bobb, director of the Hillsdale College Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, in Washington, D.C., is author of "Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America's Greatest Virtue," forthcoming from Thomas Nelson. Upon the death of the Marxist-inspired historian Howard Zinn in 2010, eulogies rang out from coast to coast calling him a heroic champion of the unsung masses. In Indiana, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels refused to join the chorus and instead sent emails to his staff wondering if the historian's "execrable" books were being force-fed to Hoosier students. The recent revelation of these emails provoked an angry backlash....For Americans stuck in impoverished communities and failing schools, Zinn's devotion to history as a "political act" can seem appealing. He names villains (capitalists), condemns their misdeeds, and calls for action to redistribute wealth so that, eventually, all of the following material goods will be "free—to everyone: food, housing, health care, education, transportation." The study of history, Zinn taught, demands this sort of social justice....

  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    Oliver Stone to Japan: Apologize for WWII war crimes

    Film director Oliver Stone, who is no stranger to controversy, turned from his sharp attacks on the U.S. for the atomic bombings of Japan to criticize his hosts over their attitude to China and other Asian neighbors.In a speech to foreign correspondents in Tokyo, Mr. Stone said that Japan needs to more completely apologize for its wartime acts, and said it should also resist a shift to relying on military might to deal with security challenges posed by its neighbors such as China and North Korea.Japan’s leaders have expressed “deep remorse” over the physical damage and psychological pain the country has inflicted on other Asian countries, but repeated visits by cabinet ministers to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo and growing talk of revising the nation’s peace constitution have made other countries skeptical about the intention of these remarks....

  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    NY marking state historic site's 1913 acquisition

    LITTLE FALLS, N.Y. — State parks officials and history buffs will gather at a historic site in the Mohawk Valley to mark the 100th anniversary of the property's acquisition by New York.Sunday afternoon's event is being held at the Herkimer Home State Historic site in Little Falls, 60 miles west of Albany.Gen. Nicholas Herkimer completed construction of his Georgian-style mansion after the French and Indian War ended in 1763, when the Mohawk Valley was New York's frontier. During the Revolutionary War, in August 1777, Herkimer was leading hundreds of American militiamen en route to relieve the siege at Fort Stanwix in present-day Rome when they were ambushed at Oriskany by a force British, loyalist and Indians....

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Larry Schweikart and Burton Folsom: Obama's False History of Public Investment

    Mr. Schweikart, a history professor at the University of Dayton, is the co-author, with Dave Dougherty, of "A Patriot's History of the Modern World" (Sentinel, 2012). Mr. Folsom, a history professor at Hillsdale College, is the co-author, with his wife, Anita, of "FDR Goes to War" (Threshold, 2011).For almost five years now, President Obama has been making the argument that government "investments" in infrastructure are crucial to economic recovery. "Now we used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America," the president lamented in 2011. "So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads? And let Europe build the best highways? And have Singapore build a nicer airport?"In his recent economic speeches in Illinois, Missouri, Florida and Tennessee, the president again made a pitch for government spending for transportation and "putting people back to work rebuilding America's infrastructure." Create the infrastructure, in other words, and the jobs will come.

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    'Uncommon Knowledge:' Victor Davis Hanson

    Military historian Victor Davis Hanson discusses his latest book "The Savior Generals" with Peter Robinson. Hanson identifies the shared characteristics of generals throughout history who saved wars deemed "lost." "Uncommon Knowledge" is produced by the Hoover Institution.

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Disclosure of WWII leak probe "labor of love"

    WASHINGTON—The Justice Department’s World War II effort to punish Chicago Tribune journalists for disclosing naval intelligence was known in 1942.But the legal analysis behind it, as reported by The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, remained secret until last month, when the Obama administration released a selection of historic opinions dating from the 1930s to the 1970s prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel and its predecessors.“For us, this volume was truly a labor of love and respect for the history, traditions, and people of this Office and the Department of Justice,” Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz and staff attorney Nathan Forrester, who edited the selection, write in the foreword....

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Yasukuni watch: Who’s going, who’s not, who won’t say

    With just a week to go until Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, local media have gone on full Yasukuni alert, trying to predict which Cabinet ministers will be heading to the controversial shrine to pay their respects to the country’s war dead.This annual media circus on an otherwise a solemn day of remembrance is likely to take on an added significance for Japan this year, as China and South Korea increasingly view visits to the shrine as a measure of hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s commitment–or lack thereof–to face up to Japan’s wartime history.The Shinto shrine located in central Tokyo honors over two million war dead, including numerous convicted war criminals.Virtually all of Mr. Abe’s Cabinet ministers were asked about their schedules for next Thursday during their respective post-Cabinet meeting press conferences....

  • Originally published 07/28/2013

    Ron Radosh: Ho Chi Minh Gets White House Praise

    Ron Radosh is an adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute and a columnist for PJ Media. President Obama on Thursday received Vietnam's president, Truong Tan Sang, at the White House. The Vietnam War that once caused bitter division among the American people is long over. There is a strong case for continuing the reconciliation between the U.S. and Vietnam, and for cooperating, as Mr. Obama said, on trade, military-to-military dealings, disaster relief and other matters.But continuing to repair relations with Vietnam shouldn't extend to the U.S. president reviving a favorite line of attack by Vietnam War protesters from half a century ago: that North Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh was inspired by America's Founders in his wars to take over the country. Yet in the White House news release after Thursday's meeting, Mr. Obama is quoted saying that "we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson."One can imagine the wily Ho Chi Minh laughing from his grave. Once upon a time, antiwar activists in America called him "the George Washington of Vietnam." Now the U.S. president is taking a similar line....

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Detroit files bankruptcy (2013), Michigan defaults (1842)

    The massive bankruptcy of Detroit last week could put bondholders in jeopardy of not getting all their money back.It isn’t the first time that the holders of bonds issued in Michigan have had problems: Something similar happened 170 years ago.In the aftermath of the real-estate bubble of the mid-1830s and the bust that followed, Michigan became one of nine states to repudiate at least part of their debts....

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Max Boot: What the Snowden Acolytes Won't Tell You

    Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present" (Liveright, 2013).'The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe."That quip from Tom Wolfe is worth savoring as the U.S. prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July—and as overheated rhetoric emanates from fans of Edward Snowden, the proud thief of American secrets. Even supporters, like Sen. Rand Paul, who express discomfort with how he fled to China and Russia, nevertheless applaud Mr. Snowden for alerting Americans to a supposedly dangerous infringement of liberty from the government's monitoring of electronic communications. Mr. Snowden's more extreme acolytes credit him with stopping the rise of a new tyranny in Washington.

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Pittsburgh bridge renamed for historian McCullough

    PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh bridge has been renamed for Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough on his 80th birthday.County officials gathered Sunday to rename the 16th Street Bridge in McCullough's honor. A Pittsburgh native and two-time Pulitzer prize winner, McCullough said no honor has touched him like the decision to rename the bridge after him.McCullough, who wrote a book about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, said he's had many honors."But no pat on the back has ever touched me to the heart, to the depths of what I am, the way this announcement of a bridge named in my honor has," the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reported. "There's something magical about a bridge."...

  • Originally published 06/30/2013

    Re-enactors and spectators descend on Gettysburg

    An army of visitors a quarter million strong, including legions of Civil War re-enactors, is converging on Gettysburg, Pa., to mark the 150th anniversary of the nation's bloodiest battle, a three-day clash that helped turn the tide of the war.Areas surrounding the town of 7,000 in southern Pennsylvania are being transformed into battlefield scenes, complete with an outdoor field hospital where hundreds of people acting as surgeons will pretend to triage people acting as wounded soldiers, all while period-dressed guides explain the scene."It's our Olympic moment," said Andrea DiMartino, a coordinator with the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee, which stages re-enactments each year. Over four days, the group expects 60,000 to 80,000 spectators, who will pay $40 a day to view the action from stadium seating or from their own blankets or lawn chairs. This year, the group also is offering, for $13, a live broadcast of a re-enactment of Pickett's Charge to be viewed on a computer, tablet or smartphone.The tourism agency for Adams County, Pa., expects the surge of visitors to inject $100 million into the region's economy....

  • Originally published 06/25/2013

    Niall Ferguson: The Regulated States of America

    In "Democracy in America," published in 1833, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the way Americans preferred voluntary association to government regulation. "The inhabitant of the United States," he wrote, "has only a defiant and restive regard for social authority and he appeals to it . . . only when he cannot do without it."Unlike Frenchmen, he continued, who instinctively looked to the state to provide economic and social order, Americans relied on their own efforts. "In the United States, they associate for the goals of public security, of commerce and industry, of morality and religion. There is nothing the human will despairs of attaining by the free action of the collective power of individuals."What especially amazed Tocqueville was the sheer range of nongovernmental organizations Americans formed: "Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations . . . but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools."

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    Cambodia welcomes statues' return from U.S. museum

    PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Two 10th century Cambodian stone statues displayed for nearly two decades at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art were returned to their homeland Tuesday in a high-profile case of allegedly looted artifacts.The voluntary return of the pair of "Kneeling Attendants" statues by one of America's foremost cultural institutions is seen as setting a precedent for the restoration of artworks to their places of origin, from which they were often removed in hazy circumstances.It comes as the Cambodian government is asking other museums to return similar objects. At the government's request, U.S. authorities have begun legal action against Sotheby's auction house to try to force the handover of a contested piece....

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Muppets creator Henson's items head to NYC museum

    NEW YORK — The Muppets may have taken Manhattan, but they're getting a spiffy new home in Queens.Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie of "Sesame Street" fame, the stars of "Fraggle Rock" and other puppets, costumes and items from throughout Muppets creator Jim Henson's career have been donated to the Museum of the Moving Image, which is building a new gallery to house them, the institution announced Tuesday.Encompassing almost 400 items ranging from original puppets to behind-the-scenes footage, the gift is a boon for the 25-year-old museum, which saw attendance skyrocket in 2011 and 2012 during a temporary exhibit of Henson's work. And it fulfills a cherished goal for Henson's widow and collaborator, Jane Henson, who died last month at 78....

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Truce ends tussle over Bill of Rights

    For years, historians have disagreed whether the New York Public Library's original copy of the Bill of Rights is the one that went missing long ago from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.On Wednesday, the state and the library are expected to call a truce after agreeing to share custody of the 223-year-old document for the next century, at which point the agreement must be renegotiated or extended.While no clear-cut answer has emerged as to the document's rightful owner, the pact ends five years of discussions between Pennsylvania and the library and closes the door on a legal fight."One of the things we have avoided here is the tremendous cost of litigation and the uncertainty in a court of law," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said....

  • Originally published 05/01/2013

    Michael S. Roth: My Global Philosophy Course

    Mr. Roth is president of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. and the author of "Memory, Trauma, and History: Essays on Living with the Past" (Columbia University, 2011).When I mention online learning to my colleagues at Wesleyan University, most respond initially with skepticism. But based on my experience, I know that real learning can take place on the Web.I am currently teaching a massive online open course, or MOOC, on Coursera. Most MOOCs have great attrition, and mine is no exception: There were almost 30,000 students registered at the start, yet 4,000 remain active as we near the end of the semester. Unlike most MOOCs, which focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, mine is a classic humanities course. "The Modern and the Postmodern" starts off in the 18th century with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, and we work our way toward the present.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Robert Caro on Barbara Tuchman

    Robert Caro, the biographer of LBJ and Robert Moses, delivered a talk about a fellow historian, Barbara Tuchman, to a standing-room-only crowd at the Links Club on a recent evening. The event was sponsored by the Library of America, which was marking its reissue of her masterwork about the events leading up to World War I, "The Guns of August."The Library of America may not be familiar to all—it's actually not a library but a nonprofit publishing house—but most bibliophiles would probably recognize its handsome series (241 volumes and counting) in matching black covers decorated with a red, white and blue stripe. The series is devoted to great American writers; most, but certainly not all, are deceased.So expertly and elegantly are the books published, and so affordably priced, that I have a hunch: Were an author offered the option of a Library of America edition and an unmarked grave, or no book and a splendid sarcophagus, he or she would choose the former....

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    In Mississippi, a gray area between black and white

    CLEVELAND, Miss.—The Illinois Central railroad tracks that once separated residents, white from black, have been torn out to make way for a landscaped promenade.Cleveland's largest high school, founded in 1906 exclusively for the children of white residents, now has nearly equal numbers of black and white students.But nearly a half century after a federal judge ordered Cleveland to begin school desegregation, government attorneys have returned to court to argue the district must, once and for all, "fully dismantle its racially identifiable one-race schools," in a legal battle that is again dividing the town.Public schools east of the former railroad tracks are still virtually 100% black. Schools west of the former racial divide remain predominantly white....

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    Dan Jones: How ‘Game of Thrones’ Is (Re)Making History

    Dan Jones is the author of “The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings And Queens Who Made England” (Viking), to be published on April 22.Is it possible for a historian to dig “Game of Thrones”? Short answer: yes. The new season of the HBO smash premieres tonight – and while it is the sight of dragons in flight and white walkers on the prowl that excites the fantasy heads, it is the show’s deep roots in “real” history that has given the show such huge crossover appeal.There have been plenty of successful fantasy shows on the major cable networks in the last two decades of television. The staple subject matter is vampires and werewolves (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “True Blood,” “The Vampire Diaries”), but successful shows have also been spun out of time travel (“Doctor Who”), Greek mythology (“Xena: Warrior Princess”) and a cryptic meditation on the potential permeability of spacetime (“Lost”).

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    In Lower Manhattan, memories of ‘Little Syria’

    At the turn of the last century, Manhattan’s Lower West Side was a bustling hub of life for Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian immigrants who set up shops and moved into tenements in a community known as Little Syria.Now, there is little left marking the old neighborhood, seen as an epicenter of Arab immigration that was once home to stores like Brooklyn favorite Sahadi’s. But advocates are lobbying the Landmarks Preservation Commission to change that.“Every Arab-American who would have come to the United States would have probably spent some time or had ties to the Lower West Side of Manhattan,” said Todd Fine, co-founder of Save Washington Street. He calls Little Syria “the beating heart of Arab immigration to the United States,” with an important literary community and restaurants and cafes selling Lebanese food and pastries as the Ninth Avenue El whirred by....

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    One man's memoir of 9/11 becomes another's symphony

    Mohammed Fairouz has never been shy about using his musical platform to explore political and social issues. Nor is the young New York-based composer allergic to popular culture in its most colorful forms. So for his latest work, "Symphony No. 4, In the Shadow of No Towers," which will make its world premiere Tuesday at Carnegie Hall, he is grappling with the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, by adapting the 2004 graphic novel "In the Shadow of No Towers" by Art Spiegelman.Mr. Fairouz, who is 27 and grew up in New York and London, said he was initially attracted both to the book's structure and to its contemplative treatment of the events. "Graphic novels have a kind of architecture that is musical," he said. "I thought the way that it dealt with the event and its aftermath wasn't overly sentimental, but at the same time was respectful."But when he pitched the "No Towers" idea to Mr. Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and illustrator of "Maus" was hesitant. A previous effort by another composer to create a multimedia production had yielded mixed results, so the artist's expectations were tempered. After hearing Mr. Fairouz's completed symphony, though, he was moved....

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Belgian train museum has hard time getting on track

    SCHAERBEEK, Belgium—This country built continental Europe's first railway line in 1835 and still boasts the world's densest rail network. Belgians ran the world's longest passenger train, which had 70 cars. This country the size of Maryland even has five vintage railways, run by enthusiasts.What Belgium lacks is a national train museum. Officials couldn't agree on where to put it.Now, 178 years after "Le Belge" puffed 15 miles from Brussels to Mechelen, the project has a green light. Work has started just outside Brussels on Train World, which is scheduled to open next year....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    King Kong, screaming along 80 years later

    Fay Wray's beauty and a sortie of biplanes felled King Kong on-screen, but not even the Depression could stop the success of 1933 film."The premiere was the day before Roosevelt's inauguration and the week of the bank holiday," said Film Forum repertory programmer Bruce Goldstein. Despite the national cash freeze, "King Kong" was a smash. "No Money! Yet New York dug up $89,931 in 4 days to see 'King Kong'" crowed a full-page ad taken in Variety by the film's producers.Sunday, 80 years to the day after the film had its premiere, a packed house gathered at Film Forum for a matinee birthday celebration of "Kong." The screening was followed by a Fay Wray scream-alike contest honoring the late star of the film and Forum member's repartee with her famed co-star."Fay Wray's screaming in the original film is so memorable," said Tony Timpone, one of seven judges empaneled to select a winner from 37 contestants and the editor emeritus of Fangoria magazine, a publication devoted to the horror genre. "She's pretty much the original scream queen. She must have been hoarse for years."...

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Daniel Henninger: Is the South Still Racist?

    Daniel Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.At times even a chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court finds it useful, as the saying goes, to put the hay down where the goats can get it. And so it was last week in oral arguments over a big voting-rights case.At issue in Shelby County v. Holder was whether some states in the American South, unlike many states in the North, must still submit any change in voting practices to the Justice Department for approval, as required by one section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted, the practical enforcement of this provision is mainly directed at Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.After listening to his liberal colleagues argue that Alabama's election practices, as interpreted by various legal formulas four decades after the law's passage, still discriminate against blacks, Chief Justice John Roberts put the hay down in front of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Q&A: How FDR Built Today’s Tax System

    A new book, Their Fair Share: Taxing the Rich in the Age of FDR, explores how the modern progressive income tax emerged from the Great Depression and World War II. Washington Wire posed a few questions to its author, historian Joseph Thorndike, who is director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts, a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia, and a fellow of the George W. Bush Institute.What gave you the idea for this book? It’s hard to work in Washington without developing a more-or-less permanent sense of déjà vu. That’s especially true when it comes to tax policy, where so many of today’s arguments are just retreads of yesterday’s. I wanted to search out some of these earlier debates, since I think they have a lot to tell us.But why the Roosevelt years? The tax system we have today is basically the same one FDR built during the 1930s and 1940s. He had a lot of help, of course, especially from Congress. But FDR’s decisions – and his ideas about fairness – are very much with us today....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning

    Arthur M. Sackler GalleryWashington, D.C.March 9 through April 28When Thomas Jefferson was in need of guidance he turned, as many statesmen did, to that handbook of political subtleties, Machiavelli's "The Prince." But arguably more important to the third U.S. president was a biography by the Greek historian Xenophon called "Cyropedia." In fact, he seems to have admired the book so much he owned two copies. With many an imaginative flourish, it told the story of King Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, whose realm stretched from the Mediterranean to eastern Iran and from the Black Sea to the borders of Arabia in the south.Xenophon, who lived between 430 and 355 B.C., described how Cyrus owed his triumphs to "the sheer terror of his personality," but what made him attractive to Jefferson was not his military prowess but his enlightened approach to government....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Manhattan Project agent Safferstein dies

    NEW YORK — Nathan Safferstein, a counterintelligence agent on the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb during World War II, has died after a long illness. He was 92.He died Tuesday night at his home in the Bronx, his family said.The genial native of Bridgeport, Conn., was barely 21 when circumstances suddenly propelled him from his job as a supermarket manager into the stealth world of a special agent.Wartime security of the atomic bomb project being paramount, he eavesdropped on phone calls of scientists and engineers in Los Alamos, N.M., to make sure no secrets were leaked, and delivered bomb-making uranium and top-secret messages. He also scrawled his signature on the first A-bomb, called "Little Boy," that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Hofstra professor interviews residents to weave oral history of Sandy's impact

    A young mother worried that weeks of upheaval after superstorm Sandy would cause her baby daughter to feel insecure for a lifetime.A sixth-generation Island Park resident watched as water flooded his family home for the first time since it was built in 1930.A woman recently widowed, who moved to Long Beach to start a new life just two months before the storm, wondered if she had made a big mistake.One by one on a recent Saturday, they sat in a black chair in a coffee shop, across from Mary Anne Trasciatti, a Hofstra University professor whose mission is to stitch these disparate memories into an oral history of a coastal community caught in the path of a historic storm.Ms. Trasciatti's subject is her home on Long Island for the past 14 years: the barrier-island city of Long Beach, along with nearby communities such as Island Park. Floodwaters touched virtually every block in the area....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    From Red Army to Al Qaeda: Terror and Postwar Japan

    Postwar Japan has, by and large, been insulated from the type of terror that has afflicted the U.S. and Europe. In recent history, the crisis that resulted in the largest number of Japanese casualties was the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York. On that day, 24 Japanese citizens died, including a number of bank employees working at World Trade Center offices.Here’s a brief history of such incidents:Sept. 28, 1977: Five members of Japanese Red Army hijack Japan Airlines plane in Indian airspace with 156 people aboard. All hostages released after Japanese prime minister accepts demands for $6 million and release of imprisoned comrades, illustrating Tokyo’s preference for negotiation.Aug. 2, 1990: Baghdad starts detaining Japanese and Westerners to deter U.S.-led attacks after invasion of Kuwait. Former pro wrestler and member of Japan’s parliament Antonio Inoki helps negotiate release of all 41 Japanese “human shields” through talks with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein....

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    “Grandma Did What?” Digging Up the Roots of Family Lore

    Researching one’s family tree has become a popular pastime, partly because parents want to pass on family stories to their kids, to give them a deeper sense of identity and history.Many old family legends, however, are at least partly false.Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist and author of “Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing,” says the stories passed down by families are often rooted in one of several common misperceptions. She summarizes them this way:“Three brothers came to America; one went north, one went south and one went west.” Many people assume they have family ties to large numbers of widely dispersed people with the same surname, but DNA testing and other genealogical tools often disprove it....

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Douglas L. Wilson: The Power of the Negative

    Mr. Wilson is co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College and author of "Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words." This essay is adapted from an article scheduled to appear in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.Now that Steven Spielberg's new film, "Lincoln," has sparked extraordinary interest in Abraham Lincoln as a behind-the-scenes persuader, it may be a good time to take a look at an aspect of his most persuasive writing. In virtually all the most memorable passages of Lincoln's writings, there is a feature that plays a critical role—namely, the rhetorical use of the negative. This is not to say that Lincoln was a naysayer or negative thinker, but rather that he demonstrated an acute understanding of the power of negation in language and was unusually adept at putting that force to use.Philosopher and literary critic Kenneth Burke argues that the negative is intimately connected to our sense of morality, if not actually responsible for it. Law, ethics and religion, he contends, are all built around the "thou-shalt-nots." This is one way of accounting for the power that the negative has in language and human affairs.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Q&A: Roosevelt Biographer Recalls an Earlier Top Cop

    ...But with a crowded race for City Hall this year and some likely candidates suggesting they would like appoint a different top cop, it remains unclear what’s might come next for the long-time commissioner. Metropolis spoke with historian Edmund Morris, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a trilogy about Teddy Roosevelt, on how  Kelly compares with New York’s other famous police commissioner. Here is the edited interview:Metropolis:  What drew TR into the police force? And how was policing different back then?Morris: TR came back to the city of his birth in 1895, after six long years as a civil service commissioner in Washington, ambitious to be a moral force in the reform administration of Mayor William L. Strong.Ironically, his restless progressivism ran into even more opposition here than it had been in the nation’s capital. This was partly because TR was just one member of the city’s four-man board of police commissioners (as president of the board, he had only titular preeminence). But it was also because he seemed to go out of his way to alienate such entrenched, conservative interests as the saloon industry, Wall Street, and indeed the corrupt ranks of the police force itself.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Saving old Rangoon

    AS WE SIT IN YANGON peak-hour traffic, Thant Myint-U is conjuring a golden age. The eminent Burmese historian, academic and former United Nations official has devoted much of the last two years to saving the city's spectacular architecture. Despite the gridlock as we slowly nudge through its colonial heart, we couldn't be better placed to recall the glories of old Rangoon (as Yangon was once known). It's difficult to remember today, thanks to nearly five decades of Myanmar's political isolation under brutal military rule, but there was a time when it was one of the jewels of the British Empire.

  • Originally published 02/02/2011

    Elena Milashina: The Roots of Moscow's Chechen Problem

    Ms. Milashina, an investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta, is a recipient of Human Rights Watch's 2010 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism. The terrorist attack at Domodedovo airport last week, likely organized by Islamists from the North Caucasus, claimed 35 lives. Less than a year ago, 40 people died in the March 2010 bombing of the Moscow metro, also carried out by Chechen Islamists. Prior to the metro attack there hadn't been a bombing in Moscow for nearly six years. In the summer of 2004, militants acting on orders of Chechen leader Shamil Basayev, organized a series of terrorist attacks in several Russian cities. The culmination of these attacks was the seizure of a school in the small Ossetian city of Beslan in September 2004. When Russian troops stormed the school, 333 hostages died, including 186 children. Anna Politkovskaya, my courageous colleague from Novaya Gazeta, was supposed to be the reporter covering the Beslan hostage story. However, she was poisoned by Russian special services on her way to the region. So I was sent instead. In 2004, Basayev's bargaining chip was Ossetian children: He demanded that the Kremlin release a group of Chechen separatists, and, more importantly, he demanded recognition of Chechnya's independence and a complete cease-fire in exchange for the lives of the hostages.