A Student of History

June 27, 2008

Too many lawyers…

Filed under: Quotes,The Academy,The world today — John Maass @ 5:17 am

“If you look at the figures, where does the top of the class in college go to? It goes into law. They don’t go into teaching. Now I love the law, there is nothing I would rather do but it doesn’t produce anything.”

—Justice Antonin Scalia, 2008

June 26, 2008

SCOTUS: Guns are for individuals

Filed under: The world today — John Maass @ 11:10 am

The U.S. Supreme Court has held, this morning, that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual one.  The decision is here in full. 

By a vote of 5-4, The United States Supreme Court today ruled that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a fundamental, INDIVIDUAL right to own a firearm.

Voting with the majority were Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, Justice Thomas, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Scalia, who wrote the opinion. Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens voted to uphold D.C.’s complete gun ban.

What the hell is wrong with college football?

Filed under: The Academy — John Maass @ 5:45 am

What the hell is wrong with college football?  As I wait anxiously for the beginning of this season (given the high expectations for my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes), most websites I go to for news have an overwhelming number of stories about college players getting kicked off their teams, etc. for bad behavior.  It used to be a few schools (Miami, to name one) that had trouble, but now it seems they all are.  For example, some recent headlines:

‘Bama linebacker Johns charged with selling cocaine, possessing Ecstasy

Oklahoma State’s Pettigrew pleads guilty to misdemeanors

Brown, Douglas suspended for 2008 season for violating team rules (Ark. St.)

Razorbacks dismiss Fairchild following arrest on misdemeanor charges

Clemson’s McDaniel arrested, charged with aggravated assault, battery

UCF’s Kay suspended from team after weekend arrest

These are just some from one day from just one website!   Not a good case for the “student-athelete.”

The Balkanisation of the United Kingdom

Filed under: PC — John Maass @ 5:25 am

Ian McEwan is one of my favorite authors.  He wrote Saturday and Atonement, both of which are excellent.  Now, as reported here, he’s taken a strong stand against Islamism.  It is refreshing to see a public figure stand up for western civilization, rather than take the PC kool aid.  McEwan says “I don’t like these medieval visions of the world according to which God is coming to save the faithful and to damn the others. But those American Christians don’t want to kill anyone in my city, that’s the difference.”

Elsewhere in the interview McEwan serenely predicted the Balkanisation of the United Kingdom. “Great Britain is an artificial construction of three or four nations. I’m waiting for the Northern Irish to unite with the Irish Republic sooner or later, and also Scotland could go its own way and become independent.”

Does the prospect disturb him? “No,” he replied, “I think that at this point we should start to reflect on Englishness: this is the country of Shakespeare, of Milton, Newton, Darwin…”

Good thing he does not live in Canada!

June 25, 2008

Don Higginbotham

Filed under: Early America,The Academy — John Maass @ 12:46 pm

Word comes from HNN that noted historian of early America Don Higginbotham has died.  No more details available right now.


June 24, 2008

Birthday cake for a failed “leader”

Filed under: Early America,The strange place called the South — John Maass @ 12:50 pm

 This Jeff Davis birthday stuff is really nutty.  I think it is OK to recall the man and his place in history, as long as it is done objectively, authentically, and in historical context.  But the stuff we see in the South not only glorifies a traitor, it is just twisted.  One article will illustrate this point.

For instance, in Alabama folks just marked the JD birthday with festivities including a period ball.  No problem there, it may be a fun way to observe an historical event.  But JD’s great-grandson had this to say about his ancestor: 

“His contributions to this country and the leadership that he personifies place Jef­ferson Davis as one of the most influential statesmen and leaders of his time,” in a message printed in the event’s offi­cial program.

Contributions to this country?  I wonder which country he meant–the USA or the CSA?  And I like his statement that Davis was a leader.  If that means leading several states out of the union to defend slavery and thus provoke a war that killed 600,000 men, then yes, he is a leader.  But if leadership means successfully working out political solutions to avoid civil war, then JD is a flat failure.

We also learn in the article that during a program at the Capitol auditorium, emcee Tyrone Crowley of Prattville called Davis “one of the great Americans of all time.”  Again, what the hell is he called great for?  He was an absolute failure at the helm of the CSA, and in his relations with most of his generals he was petty, self-righteous, vindictive, stubborn…  What makes him a great American?  One of the participants in all of this commemoratin’ stated that several people “were unhappy about the size of the crowd and wondered why more weren’t on hand to honor Davis.”

Gee, I wonder why…..

Golden coffins

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 12:50 pm

First we had “golden parachutes,” the excessive retirement packages awarded to retiring or ousted CEO’s usually negotiated prior to their taking up their duties as corporate top dogs.

Now we learn about “golden coffins”:  huge severance packages after they die.  According to reports, “the practice is time-honored but was largely hidden until a recent change to disclosure requirements.”


More details here

June 23, 2008

The fourth annual Virginia Forum (2009)

Filed under: The Academy — John Maass @ 9:44 am

The fourth annual Virginia Forum will meet at Longwood University in Farmville, located in Prince Edward County, Virginia, on April 24-25, 2009. The Virginia Forum offers an opportunity for exchanges of ideas among scholars, archivists, librarians, museum curators, K-12 teachers, and all those interested in Virginia history and culture. The Virginia Forum invites proposals for presentations on all topics in Virginia history and culture, but Prince Edward County’s involvement in both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement offers a special opportunity to reflect on such themes as historical memory, the significance of place, and the meaning of freedom in Virginia history.Proposals from graduate and undergraduate students conducting research in Virginia history are also encouraged.

The Virginia Forum invites proposals for individual papers or complete panel sessions, roundtable discussions, workshops, poster sessions, or electronic/multimedia presentations. Proposals for individual papers, posters or electronic presentations should be no more than one page, single-spaced in standard font. The proposal should include a title, the name of the participant(s) and his/her affiliation, and an abstract of the presentation that discusses the sources used and the significance of the topic presented. Proposals for complete panel sessions, workshops, etc. should include a one-page description of the overall session, as well as a separate, one-page description for each individual presentation in the session.

E-mail proposals, along with a one-page vita for each of the presenters, go to Brent Tarter, co-chair of the 2009 Program Committee, at Brent.Tarter@lva.virginia.gov. Proposal Deadline: September 15, 2008.

June 19, 2008

‘Rembrandt Laughing’

Filed under: Art — John Maass @ 7:39 am

In this handout photo released Thursday, June 12, 2008, by the ...

In this handout photo released Thursday, June 12, 2008, by the Rembrandt House Museum, the 1628 self-portrait ‘Rembrandt Laughing’ by Rembrandt is seen, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Whether it was a sharp guess or lucky optimism that lead him to bid, someone at a British auction last year picked up a Rembrandt for a bargain. The self-portrait wasn’t always thought to be worth much. Before the recent investigation, others assumed it to be by one of Rembrandt’s students or a Rembrandt imitator. It was valued at 1,500 pounds when it came up for auction last October at Moore, Allen and Innocent in Gloucestershire. It sold for 2.2 million pounds ($4.5 million).

More details.

June 18, 2008

The ten best cities

Filed under: The world today — John Maass @ 10:47 am

Kiplinger’s Magazine has its new list of “the ten best cities in which to live and work,” which is to say places with “strong economies and abundant jobs, then demand reasonable living costs and plenty of fun things to do.”  Obviously this is quite subjective, but the results are interesting none the less.  None of the locations are in New England or the Mid-Atlantic regions, and only one is in the Midwest.

No. 1: Houston


No. 2: Raleigh


No. 3: Omaha


No. 4: Boise


No. 5: Colorado Springs


No. 6: Austin


No. 7: Fayettville


No. 8: Sacramento


No. 9: Des Moines


No. 10: Provo

NC Rev War Site “Endangered”

Filed under: Early America,NC History,The strange place called the South — John Maass @ 5:24 am

The Trading Ford area along the Yadkin River has been identified by the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program as a site at risk from rapid urban and suburban development.

The park service released its “Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States” last week.

The Trading Ford was included in the survey along with other historic sites that comprise the “Race to the Dan River.” A linear resource, the inclusive “Race to the Dan River,” is listed in the “Roads, Trails, and Waterways Needing Further Study” section of the report. These are resources that due to their size and complexity had no equivalent survey methodology that allowed them to be represented in an equitable manner.

June 17, 2008

Facing an Identity Crisis

Filed under: The past that is still with us,What is History? — John Maass @ 7:11 am


NEWS RELEASE   June 3, 2008

Contact:xSteven Hofman
301-520-1306 or 970-871-4551

The Bradley Project
Releases its Report, “E Pluribus Unum.”
Calls for National Dialogue on America’s National Identity.

Report Finds that America is Facing an Identity Crisis and is in Danger of
Becoming not “From Many, One” – E Pluribus Unum – But its Opposite,
“From One, Many.”

Sixty-Three Percent of Americans Believe our National Identity
is Weakening, and One in Four Believe the Nation is So Divided That a
Common National Identity is Not Possible.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Washington, D.C.    The Bradley Project on America’s National Identity today released its Report, “E Pluribus Unum,”the product of a two-year study involving a number of our nation’s leading academics, public figures, journalists, educators and policy experts.  The report examines four aspects of American life crucial to American identity: historical memory, civic education, assimilation, and national security.

The report finds that America is facing an identity crisis and calls for a national dialogue on America’s national identity.  According to James Ceaser, professor of politics at the University of Virginia and a participant in the project, America’s understanding and appreciation of diversity is important but must be balanced by an emphasis on what we share.  “In selecting the title E Pluribus Unum, the Project embraces the conviction that plurality and unity are not necessarily in tension with one another, but are supporting ideas of the same national experiment,” Ceaser said.  “Plurality is only made safe when it when it is grounded in a deeper commitment to national unity.  Unity is the precondition for healthy diversity.”

To inform its work, the Bradley Project asked HarrisInteractive to conduct a study on Americans’ views on national identity.  The good news is that most U.S. citizens believe there is a unique national identity that defines what it means to be an American.  The troubling news is that over six in ten believe our national identity is getting weaker.  And “even more troubling is that younger Americans – on whom our continued national identity depends – are less likely than older Americans to believe in a unique national identity or in a unique American culture.” Indeed only 45 percent of 18-34 year old Americans believe that the U.S. Constitution
should trump international law in instances where there is a conflict.

According to Professor Ceaser, “The weight of all this evidence suggests mounting confusion about the meaning of American national identity and a loss of commitment to its promotion.”

“The findings from the report are sobering and significant.  They raise subjects that are vital to our future, transcend partisanship, and clearly resonate with the American people,” said Rick O’Donnell, Executive Director of the Bradley Project.  O’Donnell continued: “Our intention is that the report be the starting point for a national conversation on these important issues.  Silent Spring in 1962 started a conversation that brought about significant changes in our environment.  A Nation at Risk in 1983 launched an ongoing national conversation that continues to reshape American education.  It is in that tradition that we release E Pluribus Unum.

A number of notable scholars have already joined this conversation and commented on the Bradley Project report.

Walter A. McDougall, Pulitzer-prize winning historian and professor at the University of Pennsylvania calls the report: “An eloquent defense of America’s intellectual, civic, and moral identity that deserves wide circulation, especially among American youth.”

Harry Lewis, former Dean at Harvard College, says of the report: “A stirring reminder that America is more than the union of our differences, and a rational program for preserving the nation by passing American ideals on to the next generation of citizens.”

Amy A. Kass, of the University of Chicago, writes: “The Bradley Project’s report addresses the urgent problem of American identity in our global and multicultural age, and its wise recommendations for promoting civic consciousness and civic understanding couldn’t be more timely or more fitting.”

James C. Rees, Executive Director of Mount Vernon, said: “This report confirms what we experience at Mount Vernon every day – that most Americans know precious little about their own history.  George Washington’s face is still familiar to most Americans, because we see it each day on the dollar bill.  But when asked about Washington’s character and leadership, which made all the difference in the world to the founding of our nation, the average citizen is rendered speechless.”

The report makes clear that we didn’t get to this point overnight, and that addressing our challenges is a long-term imperative.  In addition to its call for an immediate and comprehensive national dialogue on America’s national identity, it recommends:

  a renewed focus on the teaching of American history,
  embracing America’s heroes and historic landmarks,
  affirming the benefits of diversity, but not adopting policies that perpetuate divisions or compromise our national identity,
  inaugurating an initiative to ensure immigrants learn English, understand democratic institutions, and participate fully in the American way of life,
  and creating an annual Presidential Award for American Citizenship for students and new citizens who demonstrate exemplary understanding of and commitment to American ideals and institutions.

Professor Ceaser concludes: “The report speaks of a nation ‘founded not on a common ethnicity,’ but ‘on an idea.’  And it argues that ‘a nation founded on an idea starts anew with each generation and with each new group of immigrants.’”  “Knowing what America stands for is not a genetic inheritance,” said Ceaser.   “It must be learned, both by the next generation and by those who come to this country.  From this premise follow many of the recommendations to strengthen the serious study of American principles and the American founding at all levels of education, including college.”

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