The culture war next time.

Thomas Edsall has some interesting thoughts about the Kulturkampf and the jobs crisis–go read.  I don’t agree with everything he writes–for example, I’m sure that he’s wrong to declare victory on behalf of the Left in the culture war, because the beauty of the Kulturkampfen mentality is that there’s always another front to advance to when forced to retreat on other fronts!  But this part of his argument caught my eye:

On a more sobering note for Democrats, a slight majority (51 percent) of voters agreed with the statement “Government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals” compared to 43 percent saying “Government should do more to solve problems.” This despite the fact that, as The New York Times reported in a Feb. 11, 2012 story, “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It”:

The government safety net was created to keep Americans from abject poverty, but the poorest households no longer receive a majority of government benefits. A secondary mission has gradually become primary: maintaining the middle class from childhood through retirement. The share of benefits flowing to the least affluent households, the bottom fifth, has declined from 54 percent in 1979 to 36 percent in 2007.

The story points out that many people

say they want to reduce the role of government in their own lives. They are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it and resent the government for providing it. They say they want less help for themselves; less help in caring for relatives; less assistance when they reach old age.

And yet, of course, no Americans are refusing to cash unemployment or Social Security checks!  Some of them are voting for pols like Mitt Romney and Ayn Ryan, perhaps to assuage their guilt and feelings of failure.  Continue reading

Tips for toads: don’t philander on digital media.

This article, inspired by David Petraeus’s resignation from the CIA, is supremely silly.  Its major premise is that “there would seem to be nothing new about the weakness of otherwise powerful Washington figures in the face of temptation. But that is not precisely true: the difference these days is that it is virtually impossible to get away with it.

Here’s my take as a professional historian, friends:

  1. First of all, all of the historical cases cited are cited because in spite of the fact that they happened before 1990, we know about them anyway.  Sally Hemings was an issue in both the 1800 and the 1804 presidential campaigns.  Alexander Hamilton published a pamphlet in which he confessed to his affair with Maria Reynolds.  Clearly, the non-digital partisan press of the turn of the nineteenth century was enough to press the issue of sexual morality and political virtue more than two centuries ago.
  2. Secondly, if people are using their Twitter or email accounts to send raunchy photos or arrange trysts–something you’d think the nation’s top spy of all people would know to avoid– Continue reading

He “like[s] to fire people,” or, the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Hilarious unsourced post at the National Review Online:  no names, no actual evidence that any of this is true, but dark warnings about the tidal wave of unemployment that’s about to be unleashed across the country because the so-called “job creators” are pi$$ed off that their candidate didn’t win.  Here’s allegedly one for you:

I explained to [my employees] a month ago that if Obama gets in office that the regulations for Obamacare are gonna hurt our business, and I’m gonna have to make provisions to make sure I have enough money to cover the payroll taxes, the additional health care I’m gonna have to do, and I explained that to them and I said you do what you feel like in your heart you need to do, but I’m just letting you know as a warning this is things I have to think of as a business owner.

Well unfortunately, and most of my employees are Hispanic — I’m not gonna go into what kind of company I have, but I have mostly Hispanic employees — well unfortunately we know what happened and I can’t wait around anymore, I have to be proactive. I had to lay off 22 people today to make sure that my business is gonna thrive and I’m gonna be around for years to come. I have to build up that nest egg now for the taxes and regulations that are coming my way.

Right.  Because a President Romney would magically have been granted the power to issue a retroactive veto for a bill passed 3 years before his inauguration, and none of those “taxes and regulations” would be coming your way, ever, guaranteed. Continue reading

Alfred F. Young, 1925-2012

Al Young

We learned yesterday that Al Young has died at the age of 87 in Durham, North CarolinaA leading scholar of the “New Left,” especially with respect to working class people and the history of the American Revolution, his influence on several generations of early American historians is indisputable.  Young saw the Revolution as one that emerged from the bottom up, although he was very clear that the Revolution benefited only a tiny minority of elite Americans in spite of the sacrifices and suffering of the masses.  You can read other tributes to him on H-OIEAHCnet by Mike McDonnell and Kenneth Lockridge, with others certain to follow, I am sure.

Young’s New Left view of the Revolution (as opposed to the consensus school dominated by Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood) triumphed among scholars trained from the 1970s through the 2000s.  (Wood published a book called The Radicalism of the American Revolution twenty years ago.  Young never wrote a book called The Consensus of the American Revolution!  His full name was Alfred Fabian Young, after all.)  Unlike proponents of the consensus school, Al was never offered a position at an elite, private institution, and spent the bulk of his career at Northern Illinois University.

I knew Al briefly after his retirement, Continue reading

Bill Keller visits sweet, quiet Oxford

. . . and reports on what he calls the Republican Id.

I never experienced Oxford as Republican as Keller sees it.  In fact, it seemed like a little blue oasis in a sea of Butler County red, but maybe that was just me and my neighbors in the Mile Square.  And FWIW, I never met any Miami faculty like Rich Hart (what an ironic name for a glibertarian free marketeer!)  But maybe it has changed in the 11 years since I lived there.

(True confession:  Fratguy and I changed our party registration to Republican on the day of the Republican primary in 2000 so that we could vote for John McCain and therefore–we hoped–stop George W. Bush!  Sorry, America–we failed.  Also, another true fact:  Oxford is the only place I ever voted that used punchcard ballots, as in the ballots with the potential for “hanging chads.”)

This was the most interesting part of the article:  Continue reading