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Showing posts from March, 2011
the bizarre answer to the central question of the day: "why is no one in jail for defrauding the country?" is that someone is, just a small fry who probably did nothing wrong. It is redundant to note that the CEO crooks who created the mess have no fear whtasoever of anything other than a slap on the wrist.

If you have any inkling or thought that our political and legal system is not wildly out of control, you must read this absolutely astonishing and disgusting story from the NYTimes today. It is about the federal government going over a small fry who supposedly committed mortgage fraud while it continues to ignore the actual crooks who destroyed the financial and mortgage systems.

"On Valentine’s Day, the elder Mr. Engle said, his son had entered a minimum-security prison in Beaver, W.Va., to begin serving a 21-month sentence for mortgage fraud. He then proceeded to tell me the tale of how federal agents nabbed his son — a tale he backed up with reams of documents and…
Bill Cronon is definitely one of the last historians at the University of Wisconsin (where I went to grad school) that I would think of as a radical or even as very political. Even his masterwork Nature's Metropolis, which I happen to be using this semester in my 19th century America class, is marred by an inattention to politics (though still a very fine book, a real model of the craft in many other respects).

I thought Cronon's op-ed in the NYTimes the other day was actually quite moderate and reasoned, it sounded exactly like him.

But he has gone and launched a shit-storm by simply being a reasonable fellow in an increasingly unreasonable state in a crazied time. The Republican party in Wisconsin is now seeking his emails through the open records law. What triggered the attempt to intimidate Cronon came from his excellent report on the rightwing consipiracy behind the recent anti-Union push (which is essential reading, here).
he concludes:

"What you’ll quickly learn eve…
Jack Balkin has a superb and disturbing consideration of the ways Obama's war on terror policies are a continuation of Bush's second term policies, and on the related significance of the torture of Private Manning.

"My view, as I expressed to Charlie Savage in that interview, is that Obama has played the same role with respect to the National Surveillance State that Eisenhower played with respect to the New Deal and the administrative state, and Nixon played with respect to the Great Society and the welfare state. Each President established a bi-partisan consensus and gave bi-partisan legitimation to certain features of national state building.

After the Obama presidency, opponents of a vigorous national surveillance state will be outliers in American politics; they will have no home in either major political party. Their views will be, to use one of my favorite theoretical terms, "off the wall."
...

Yet, one might hope that the Obama version of the National Surveil…
Current events definitely means that sometimes being a historian gets as demoralizing as it does a whole lot easier. Virtually everything on the front page reflects what we are covering in my survey class.

This is not actually a good thing, pedagogical advantages aside.

Take, for example, the financial crisis and the recession. As a historian teaching about the Great Depression this week (causes, responses, legacies, and so on) it is certainly helpful to have this crystalline example of structural inadequacies, greed, bad policy, criminality, incompetent leadership, and suffering to show as a resonant endpoint to all that flourished back in the 1920s and after.

It also rather effectively counters residual progressive historical sensibilities (not to be conflated with the current (mis)usage of the term "progressive"), as things really have not improved at all by so very many measures.

The same goes for the issues of unionism, nuclear safety, American liberal-capitalist inte…
I don't think there is any question that the wrongheaded involvement in the Libyan uprising has been handled unconstitutionally. But then again, it is perfectly in line behind all of the other unconstitutional wars, large and small, we have waged since 1950.

I am not alone in this thinking, of course, and Michael Ramsey at Opinio Juris has a nice concise discussion of the constitutionally of U.S. war in Libya. He concludes:


"Perhaps, though, the President also has power to declare war (after all, the Constitution expressly says only that Congress has it, not that the President doesn’t, and it could be part of the President’s power as commander-in-chief). Returning to Hamilton, a key passage in his Federalist 32 argued that often constitutional power could be held concurrently by different entities. But, he continued, an exclusive grant of power would arise where concurrent power would be “totally contradictory and repugnant” – that is, when one branch’s exercise of a power …
If you have some time to kill (and you have institutional access to the database, since it is behind a wall, you can read my new article in the Journal of American Culture on applying sustainability theory to conjunto music here.

If you don't have access you can hear me talk about this in San Antonio next month for free. Or you can just email me.
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[It does get a bit tiresome to post every couple of months while proffering up a litany of excuses, does it not?]

A month of traveling a lot on the weekends and staying on top of my classes during the week (and of course all while swept up in the perpetual whirlwind that is Miss Lark) meant that something had to give, so unfortunately it was Nunal.

I've also been to some fun places which has made blogging less of an option at the time. I went to San Francisco courtesy of the ever-renewable Bad Co. Films Fellowship Desk. While out there I got to see Santiago Jimenez, Jr. play at the 50th Anniversary celebration for Arhoolie Records. It's a nice thing to celebrate for all sorts of reasons, and especially since Chris Strachwitz's musical endeavors definitely changed my life (and all for better too).

From there in short order to New Orleans, Washington, DC, and Chicago, all of which were great fun and none of which will get any real attention here.

Though here are a few pic…