The Obvious: it eludes people.

The attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are being advanced by Republican Senators who are allied with Senator John Kerry.  John McCain was widely rumored to have been asked to be Kerry’s running mate in 2004 Senator Lindsay Graham is an ally of Kerry on climate change, and Senator Kelly Ayotte is an ambitious pol from a neighboring state to Kerry’s who was probably brought on board to give the gentlemen cover from charges of sexism.  Notice how whenever McCain talks about Rice, he usually mentions that if Kerry were nominated for Secretary of State, his nomination would “sail through” a confirmation hearing.

Yes, GOP Senators are enjoying this opportunity to try to beat on President Obama, but the media have credulously fallen for the notion that this is a Republican hatchet job.  These senators appear to be working as Kerry’s advance guard in his bid for State.


Education theater, old school style. (Really old school!)

C’est ca, mes amis!

From Alice Kaplan’s Dreaming in French:  The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2012), pp. 41-42, a description of the some of the experiences of women in the Smith College junior year abroad program, ca. 1949-50:

At the Sorbonne itself, the experience of sitting in the “Grand amphi” set the tone.  It was an auditorium complete with balconies and seats for a thousand students.  The professor sat on a high stage, with statues and an enormous neoclassical mural as his backdrop.  This was the ultimate theater of learning, grandiose and also slightly ridiculous, from the moment the professor walked onto his stage, accompanied by the traditional Sorbonne appariteur, a kind of classroom concierge in a dark suit, whose job was to announce the master and keep the blackboard wiped clean.  Continue reading

The historian’s curse, naturally

I am so tired of reading books by people whose historical frame of reference is <100 years.  (I am not thinking of peer-reviewed histories here.  I’m talking about general-interest non-fiction, which is my usual “just for fun” bedside table reading.  But I’m of the firm belief that non-fiction should be based on research and grounded in research and a reasonable perspective.  Even polemics must be based in fact.)  What has my brassiere in a twist now, you may well ask? Continue reading

Mentoring and Mojitos: reflections on the 2012 Gay-S-A

Well, well, well–we finally pulled up to the ranch late on Sunday night, but with all of the stall-mucking and fence-riding to be done, as well as another holiday to prepare for, I’ve had no time at all to blog about the great time and intense learning that was the 2012 Gay-S-A in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I won’t bore you with the specifics of the intellectual conversations that I had, but rather will instead entertain you with a “slice of life” overview of the conference that will perhaps offer some useful strategies for those of you prepping for MLA, AHA, or the other large disciplinary conferences that will meet in the next few months.  (Tenured Radical, Madwoman with a Laptop, and GayProf have all beat me to the conference round-up, so you can go there for the intelleckshul content.  This blog post is–mostly–a bagatelle, a lagniappe if you will–just for fun.)

Among the many interesting things I learned:

  • You can make new friends and impress important people if you show up at a graduate student panel at 8 a.m. on a Friday morning.  I don’t want to go into it, but you can get a (perhaps undeserved) reputation for being a decent person for doing something like that, something you might have done anyway just because you were interested in hearing the papers.  Shhhhh!!!
  • This may be especially important if you disappointed a lot of people at your panel.  The panel was a great success, especially for a first-day, almost first-thing in the morning panel.  But as I whispered to GayProf as we were being introduced, “I have the feeling that thirty people in this room are disappointed, thinking ‘that’s not what I thought he/she looked like!'”
  • I like to go swimmin’ with bare-naked women and swim between their legs.  True!  (And that naked woman will apparently be me this weekend, because I foolishly left my brand-new bathing suit in the hotel bathroom.  Oh well–I didn’t like the bottoms, although the top was super-cute–see photo below.)  And it’s also true that you can have substantial intellectual conversations and engage in serious problem-solving while swimming in the ocean or pool, and while sitting around afterwards in your bathing suit or sundress.  I think this might be due to the fact that it’s difficult to be pretentious or cagey when you’re only half-dressed (or worse.) Continue reading

Historiann is attending an important interdisciplinary conference

Tenured Radical has all of the details.  What will happen when four academic bloggers meet to talk IRL and before an audience?  (We’re waiting to hear if a certain invisible plane has been cleared to land in U.S. airspace.)  At least we’re meeting close to Paradise Island, very close to the Bermuda Triangle.

And Madwoman with a Laptop doesn’t think I look like a cowgirl.  Phoo!  I say, this is what cowgirl looks like!



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