As someone who has studied history, I’ve long been interested in how future historians will handle our recent, tech-based civilization. Cords, cables, incompatible software, proprietary systems, historians will have a tangled mess to sort out.
When archivists at Northwestern University Library received boxes of personal items from the late actress Karen Black, they expected the usual: correspondence, scripts and fan mail. So when they found a silver Sprint flip phone, they were surprised and excited.
But there was one problem: It didn’t come with the cables.
Without the charger and data cables, the former Northwestern student’s phone went from being a potential treasure trove documenting her life to just a piece of plastic and metal.
For years, archivists have combed through papers and books to capture life at a specific point in time or a famous person’s work. With digital technology advancing rapidly and devices becoming outdated even quicker, the need to come up with strategies on preserving the nonphysical becomes urgent.
After exhausting other options, library archivists are encouraging the public to empty junk drawers and send in outdated cords through their zombie-themed #UndeadTech campaign. Their hope is to raise awareness about the challenges they face in preserving history and reach out to the public to help them resurrect devices such as Black’s.
But once a device is turned on, then archivists have to figure out how to access the information and then how to transfer it to a format where it can be read in the future.
Chris Prom, assistant archivist for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, said he has been given computers without power cords as well. But after finding the right cords for the device, he was faced with the daunting task of figuring out how to process the data and then convert it into a form that is accessible later. Oftentimes, the systems that are needed to read the information on the device no longer exist.
“It’s like a big detective project to untangle it all and find out exactly what software you need to read it,” Prom said.
When I was a student at UT, my senior history thesis was written after spending many an afternoon flipping through the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum’s archives, handling memos and various scraps of paper. Fast forward a few decades, will there be anything to flip through? And not just governments, but people too: will those emails you sent last month survive your death? Your Instagram photos? When is the last time you booted up that old laptop?
Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph
While Northwestern archivists said their program could be the first in the nation to tap into the junk drawers of the public for mobile devices, Dennis Meissner, president of the Society of American Archivists, said that the problem of turning on and deciphering outdated technology is not a new one. Technologies such as microfilm, magnetic media and wax media are just some of the devices that archivists have had to tackle.
“The first part is getting the hardware that can help you read items, and the second problem is pulling together software to help you make sense of it,” Meissner said. “It’s just a new instance of an age-old problem that archivists face.”
But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?
In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey.
And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.
A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book, “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.
Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.
So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”
Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.
Laura Miller adds:
The Irish economy was backward and precarious, but for Trevelyan the failure of the potato crop presented not a life-or-death crisis but an opportunity to forcibly modernize it. He agreed to a limited public works program (in which out-of-work laborers were paid a pittance to build roads to nowhere) because he believed it would break the peasant class of its reliance on barter and subsistence farming. The idea was to sell them corn imported from overseas because the grain couldn’t be cultivated in Ireland, thereby accustoming them to using money. However, when Ireland’s mercantile men objected to the price-depressing effects of government-funded grain, Trevelyan vowed not to sell it too cheaply, claiming that high prices would promote foreign imports.
These strategies amount to the 19th-century version of what Naomi Klein has dubbed the “Shock Doctrine”: an attempt to force economic reforms on a population reeling in the aftermath of a disaster. Kelly intersperses the nitty gritty of the shifting Irish economic situation with horrific glimpses of its human toll: streets jammed with gaunt, half-naked wraiths who had sold their clothes for food, families gathered mutely in miserable cottages to die, unburied corpses by the roadside, entire hamlets razed by landlords seeking to evict “dead weight” tenants they’d otherwise have to help. If only these unfortunates could have sought comfort in “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”!
Recognizing that the British handling of the famine was “parsimonious, short-sighted, grotesquely twisted by religion and ideology” rather than deliberately genocidal is important because while powerful, paranoid, racist madmen like Hitler are relatively rare, our own time is replete with men like Trevelyan. The Moralists saw the famine as a combination of divine judgement on the Irish people and the market working itself out in accordance with God’s plan, an equation of brutal capitalism with pseudo-Christian piety that can be just as destructive as outright malevolence. That version of the story may not be as satisfying dramatically and morally as the one with the evil, homicidal Englishman, but it does do what history does best, which is to show us how not to repeat it.
I’m firmly in the camp of One Time per Time Zone Per Year. In other words, drop the whole Daylight Savings bullshit introduced by the Kaiser1 , and keep the time the same all damn year long. So what if it gets light later, or dark earlier. Most of us have electricity by now, and access to coffee, we can artificially create light, and wake our lazy asses out of bed when we need to.
Aside from getting one less hour of sleep on Sunday and getting more light in the evening, daylight saving time doesn’t affect me, does it?
Actually, it may have a more averse effect than it seems. A study done by Dr Amneet Sandhu, a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado in Denver, shows that on the Monday immediately after daylight saving time heart attacks increase by 25 per cent, Reuters reported.
On the Monday after daylight saving time ends, heart attacks fall by 21 per cent. Dr Sandhu said the loss of sleep is the likely culprit of the increase of heart attacks seen after the clocks move forward, so make sure you get plenty of sleep on Sunday.
Humans can’t do without chickens. Chicken is the most popular meat today. Americans eat more than 80 pounds a year, more than pork or beef. So we tend to think people must have domesticated the chicken because it was good to eat, right? Well, no. Scientists now believe chickens were not domesticated to eat in the first place.
Every chicken you see on Earth is the descendant of the red jungle fowl, a very shy jungle bird that lives in south Asia, all the way from Pakistan to Sumatra and Indonesia. It’s a small, pheasant-like bird hunters like because it’s very hard to find, so it poses a great challenge. The strange thing is that these birds are so shy that when they’re captured in the wild, they can die of a heart attack because they’re so terrified of humans. So the question is, How did this bird, that is incredibly shy, become the most ubiquitous bird on Earth?
But when I started to dig into it, I discovered that the chicken has actually played more roles across human history, in more societies, than any other animal, and I include the dog and the cat and cows and pigs. The chicken is a kind of a zelig of human history, which pops up in all kinds of different societies.
If you go back to ancient Babylon, about 800 B.C., in what is now Iraq, you find seals used by people to identify themselves. Some of these have images of chickens sitting on top of columns being worshipped by priests. That expanded with the Persian Empire. Zoroastrians considered the chicken sacred because it crowed before dawn, before the light appeared. And in Zoroastrian tradition, the coming of the light is a sign of good. So the chicken became associated with an awakening from physical, as well as spiritual, slumber.
and finally one last tidbit, one that I was unaware of: roosters don’t actually have a penis!
Do roosters really have no penis?
This is true. And the odd thing about it, of course, is that roosters are the byword for the male reproductive organ. Yet they don’t have penises. Ducks and a lot of other birds do. But chickens are among those birds that don’t need a penis. When two chickens get romantic, they have a cloacal “kiss,” pressing their cloaca against one another. The reason the rooster has been for so long the symbol for sex as well as the male organ is because they’re randy creatures. They will mate continuously, and with different partners. In the ancient world, that was considered a sign of vibrancy and fertility. So they became associated with human sex.
In Puritan America, we tried to stamp the word “cock” out of our English language. It used to be you would call a weathervane a weathercock or a water spigot, a water cock. But in the 17th and 18th centuries in New England, people decided that they shouldn’t even use the word cock, because it was too suggestive. [Laughs] Luckily, it didn’t catch on.
Black Friday is a scourge on our nation, imo. Celebrating shopping as religion is anathema to me. If your life is so empty and meaningless that you have to fill it with cheaply made consumer goods manufactured in sweat shops in third world countries, I feel sorry for you.
[A] group that wants Wal-Mart1 to pay higher wages is again planning several protests at Wal-Mart stores on Black Friday, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.
OUR Walmart said this year’s protests will be the group’s “biggest Black Friday mobilization ever,” with major protests planned in cities including Chicago. The protests are the latest round of actions aimed at Wal-Mart and follow nearly two years of protests against fast-food chains, including McDonald’s.
OUR Walmart, a group of current and former Wal-Mart workers that pays dues to and is supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, is calling on Wal-Mart to raise hourly wages to $15 and provide more consistent hours and full-time jobs.
The group said it is planning big protests in cities such as Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and Tampa, Fla. In Chicago, it plans to protest at 9 a.m. Nov. 28 at the Wal-Mart at Presidential Towers, 570 W. Monroe St.
Also, if Walmart paid a living wage to its employees, our society as a whole would benefit. As it is, the Walton family are gazillionaires, having more money than most countries, and yet pay their employees so little that the employees have to resort to tax-payer funded welfare programs to stay alive. The Waltons would do well to change things for their workers, you never know when a 21st C.E. Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre will arise, and send the gazillionaire class to the guillotine, gilded truffle cake in hand.
From Our Walmart’s press release:
Calling for better jobs, Walmart workers and community supporters across the nation are holding 1500 protests against the mega-retailer today, in one of the largest mobilizations of working families in recent history. As part of the protests already underway, workers, faith leaders and community supporters are risking arrest in at least nine major metropolitan cities, outraged that with $17 billion in profits, Walmart continues to pay many workers poverty wages. Workers and supporters are calling for an end to illegal retaliation, for Walmart to publicly commit to paying $25,000 a year and to provide more full-time work.
Workers and supporters are set to take peaceful civil disobedience in major cities from coast to coast, including Los Angeles, Chicago, the Bay Area, Seattle, Dallas, Sacramento, Secaucus, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C. The group has been emboldened by revelations from Walmart’s CEO that as many as 825,000 workers are paid less than $25,000, while the Walton family’s wealth totals over $144 billion – equal to that of 42% of Americans.
“We refuse to live in fear. And we refuse to accept scraps. That’s why there have been so many strikes and protests this month,” said Dorothy Halvorson, a Walmart employee in Placerville, California, who has worked at the store for 11 years and plans to take part in civil disobedience today. “We know that we are closer to change at Walmart than ever before – and it’s clear that Walmart knows it too. We won’t stop protesting until we get change. This Black Friday is historic, and we will only grow stronger from here.”
An excerpt from an interview/conversation between Thomas Frank and Rick Perlstein, which contains this illuminating exchange about the death of Democratic Party populism; how the working class Democrat morphed into Reagan Democrats, who now listen to Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and so on…
Rick Perlstein: And, just to kind of rewind, I was very fascinated to read a book of Mike Royko columns. You know, Mike Royko is this great liberal hero, a real champion of the little guy and the kind of columnist we don’t see anymore. This white working-class populist kind of guy.
Thomas Frank: Although they didn’t use that term populist back then. They would have just said “liberal” right?
RP–No. They would have probably called him a populist, I think. But I was struck by how many of his columns.… One of his genres was how cruel they’re being to the little guy. One of his genres was the lives of colorful Chicago characters. But a lot of his columns were about how incompetent government was, and he would write about how hard it is to get a refund when the bus token machine doesn’t work, or the lines at the DMV. And, by the same token, when you read the toughest political journalism of the day by someone like Garry Wills, who was writing amazing stuff for Esquire Magazine, it’s so iconoclastic.
TF: How do you mean?
RP: He was so good at knocking politicians off their pedestals and showing them up to be phonies. One of Garry Wills’ favorite rhetorical strategies was to find out what a politician’s favorite book was, according to his campaign rhetoric, and then ask him about the book and prove that, you know, he had no idea what was in there.
So the point is, there was just all kinds of suspicion of government circulating in the culture. It was in the air. I mean, why wouldn’t there be after Vietnam? After Watergate? After the failure of Keynesianism? And one of the sort of diabolical, cunning accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and the Reaganites was to take that free-floating rage, rage about the failures of government and turn it to the advantage of the Masters of the Universe.
TF:Yeah. That’s the story of our time in some ways.
Sadly, this rings true. The GOP has long been the party of oil barons, media moguls, defense contractors, yet the rank and file of the Tea Party ranks are filled with working class and middle class voters, who consistently vote against their own economic interest. How does tax breaks for General Electric and ExxonMobil help a dude working at a muffler repair shop? It doesn’t, and yet…
POW/MIA Flag, Circuit Court of Cook County
The interview morphs into a discussion about the creation of the POW/MIA myth as a cynical Nixon ploy –
They were quite heroic and the story holds up on its own terms. Unfortunately, the Pentagon distorted it — for example, made up things that weren’t true about prisoners being hung by their wrists and having their arms permanently broken. Well, that was easily checked once they came back, and their arms weren’t permanently broken. But I have the smoking gun, which is Nixon’s Secretary of State, William Rogers, saying the POWs are serving their purpose to basically —you can get the quote from the book — putting the military on a new footing, where they should be—to kind of redeem American militarism.
Illinois still has a POW-MIA remembrance day. So the cynicism is that, generally speaking, when a pilot would get shot down over dense jungle and they didn’t recover the body, they were classified as “body not recovered.”
…Presumed killed in action, basically. And one of the things Nixon did — and the Nixon Pentagon did — was reclassify them as Missing In Action, which served a very important rhetorical purpose: If they were missing in action, maybe they were alive. And if they were alive maybe the enemy had them alive. And so it created this sort of negotiating point. Nixon could accuse them of negotiating in bad faith unless they promised to return these soldiers that they were supposedly holding back. And that turned out to be the sorcerer’s apprentice, because he would always talk about the 1,700 Americans held prisoner or missing in action. And after the war ends and these 600 men come back…
TF That’s how many POWs there were?
Approximately. 592, I think, was the number. People would say “where are the other 1,100?” And their families would say, “where are the other 1,100?” And, basically, this preexisting group that Admiral [James] Stockdale’s wife had started up, the National League of Families of Prisoners of War, the White House basically turned it into their own front group and plumped [it] up into something much bigger than it had been. But then it takes this independent life of its own harassing the government for not more actively looking for their missing family members. So they played with the feelings of these absolutely traumatized families for political gain, and it eventually backfired.
If you hadn’t heard, Craig Shirley has been making the rounds accusing historian Rick Perlstein of plagiarism. For the record, I purchased a copy of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan but haven’t started reading yet. Most non-partisan writers, and several partisan writers have disagreed: historians quite frequently paraphrase from their sources, it is how we are taught to write! Perlstein didn’t omit references, just made them available on-line instead of as footnotes or endnotes, nor did Perstein borrow more than a word or two at time. In other words, the accusation seems to be mostly without merit from where I slouch.
Mostly the accusations seem to stem from Perlstein’s lack of hero worship for Ronald Reagan, the so-called patron saint of the Republican Party1.
So if you are at all interested in history of American politics, you might want to purchase a copy of Mr. Perlstein’s book before the pitchfork brandishing hordes manage to storm the ramparts of Amazon.com’s warehouses and burn the books that dare present a nuanced portrait of anyone so holy as Ronald “Bombing Begins in Five Minutes” Reagan.
Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan (Rick Perlstein) – outtake
Some coverage that caught my eye includes:
Frank Rich reviews the book:
Next to the more apocalyptic spells of American history, the dismal span of 1973 to 1976 would seem a relative blip of national dyspepsia. A period that yielded the blandest of modern presidents, Gerald Ford — “a Ford, not a Lincoln,” as he circumspectly described himself — is not to be confused with cataclysmic eras like the Civil War, the Great Depression and the Vietnam ‘60s. The major mid-70s disruptions — the Watergate hearings and Richard Nixon’s abdication, Roe v. Wade, the frantic American evacuation of Saigon, stagflation, the dawn of the “energy crisis” (then a newly minted term) — were adulterated with a steady stream of manufactured crises and cheesy cultural phenomena. Americans suffered through the threat of killer bees, “Deep Throat,” the Symbionese Liberation Army, a national meat boycott, “The Exorcist,” Moonies and the punishing self-help racket est, to which a hustler named Werner Erhard (né Jack Rosenberg) attracted followers as diverse as the Yippie Jerry Rubin and the Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Even the hapless would-be presidential assassins of the Ford years, Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, were B-list villains by our national standards of infamy.
“I must say to you that the state of our Union is not good,” our unelected president told the nation in January 1975. That was true enough. America’s largest city was going bankrupt. Urban crime was metastasizing. The C.I.A. was exposed as a snake pit of lethal illegality. The nostalgic canonization of the Kennedy presidency, the perfect antidote to the Nixon stench, was befouled by the revelation of Jack Kennedy’s mob-moll paramour. Yet the mood of the union was not so much volatile as defeated, whiny and riddled by self-doubt. As Americans slouched toward the Bicentennial celebrations of July 4, 1976, pundits were wondering whether the country even deserved to throw itself a birthday party. “Everyone wanted to be somewhere else,” Rick Perlstein writes in “The Invisible Bridge.”
It says much about Perlstein’s gifts as a historian that he persuasively portrays this sulky, slender interlude between the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan (as his subtitle has it) not just as a true bottom of our history but also as a Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today. It says much about his talent as a writer that he makes these years of funk lively, engrossing and on occasion mordantly funny. Perlstein knows how to sift through a culture’s detritus for the telling forgotten detail. Leave it to him to note that the WIN buttons peddled by Ford to promote a desperate “Whip Inflation Now” campaign were “designed by the same guy who invented the yellow ‘smiley face.’ ” Or to recall that the Republican Party tried to combat its dire post-Watergate poll numbers by producing “Republicans Are People Too!,” three fund-raising network television specials starring “everyday Republicans who want to tell why they have stuck with the G.O.P.” Competing against “M*A*S*H” in prime time, the second installment brought in $5,515. The third never ran.
Craig Shirley, the author of two books on Ronald Reagan, has sicced his lawyer on Rick Perlstein, whose ’70s history The Invisible Bridge was published by Simon & Schuster this week. Shirley’s attorney is demanding that the publisher pulp Perlstein’s book, pay $25 million in damages, and take out ads apologizing to Shirley in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, The New Republic, Slate, and Salon.
What provoked these demands? Basically, the 810 pages of The Invisible Bridge include some information that can also be found in Shirley’s book Reagan’s Revolution, and in some places Perlstein paraphrases Shirley. Shirley thinks this constitutes copyright infringement. If you’d like to read the bill of particulars, Dave Weigel has posted the attorney’s letters and Simon & Schuster’s response at Slate, and Shirley himself has posted a litany of alleged thefts on his website.
In the first item on the latter list, the two books do sound alike: Describing the red-light district in Kansas City, Perlstein echoes not just the info in Shirley’s text but Shirley’s words “festooned” and “smut peddlers.” After that, though, we essentially get a list of places where the two writers cited the same facts. Facts are not copyrightable, and one pair of similar sentences does not an infringement make. I don’t see a dollar’s worth of damages here, let alone 25 million
This just isn’t what happens when Rick Perlstein releases a book. The first in his series, 2001’s Before the Storm, was praised by William F. Buckley. George Will called it “the best book yet on the social ferments that produced Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential candidacy”—in a largely positive review of Perlstein’s second book, Nixonland, which became a best-seller. What changed? This time Perlstein is writing about Ronald Reagan.
Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan—Perlstein has moved from covering a minor saint, to a martyr, to God. Thirteen years ago, when Perlstein profiled Goldwater’s movement, there had been only one recent biography of the Arizonan. There will be at least half a dozen new Reagan books this year alone, everything from a deep dive into the 1986 Reykjavik summit to a collection of leadership tips. Perlstein is challenging an image of the 40th president that is built on many such books, celebrated at Republican county dinners, and quoted by everyone from Ted Cruz (in his arguments for conservative revival) to Joe Scarborough (in his argument that no one should listen to Cruz).
Yes, technically, The Invisible Bridge is a history of January 1973 to August 1976, and Reagan’s own presidential campaign does not start until Page 546 (of 810). But in Perlstein’s telling, Reagan was the essential figure who understood that Americans wanted to revise their history in real time. The Invisible Bridge starts with Operation Homecoming, the negotiated release of Vietnam POWs that was preceded by years of patriotic kitsch. Perlstein recreates the mood by quoting copiously from letters to the editor, from columnists, POW speeches and TV broadcasts. He recalls that it was future right-wing Rep. Bob Dornan who came up with yellow armbands as trinkets of POW solidarity, and recovers forgotten tidbits about them, like how “a Wimbledon champ said that one cured his tennis elbow.”
Right-wing publicist and author Craig Shirley doesn’t like a new book about Ronald Reagan written by award-winning (and liberal) historian Rick Perlstein. So the conservative publicist has threatened to sue for $25 million in damages and has asked for all copies of the book to be “destroyed,” claiming that with Invisible Bridge: The Fall Of Richard Nixon And The Rise of Ronald Reagan, Perlstein’s guilty of plagiarism for paraphrasing facts Shirley had previously reported in his own book about Reagan.
But of course, paraphrasing is not the basis for copyright infringement and that’s certainly not what constitutes plagiarism.
Meanwhile, for a best-selling author himself, Shirley seems to have little understanding of copyright law.
He seems to think that because he wrote a detailed book on a chapter of Reagan’s political life (his failed 1976 presidential campaign), every writer who subsequently treads that same ground must credit Shirley because he was there first. But that’s not how it works. “Any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement,” wrote attorney Elizabeth McNarama, responding on behalf of Perlstein and his publisher.
Your client’s claim rests on the misguided notion that chroniclers of history, like Mr. Shirley, somehow acquire ownership and control over the facts and events they may uncover. This premise collides directly with the most basic principles of copyright law and is contrary to the very fundamentals of historical reporting.
The behind-the-scenes maneuvering suggests Shirley’s plagiarism claim doesn’t represent a serious pursuit. Instead it’s a way for Shirley to draw attention to his own work and to make life difficult for an esteemed liberal writer chronicling a conservative icon.
Paul Krugman weighs in, speaking from personal experience:
OK, this is grotesque. Rick Perlstein has a new book, continuing his awesomely informative history of the rise of movement conservatism — and he’s facing completely spurious charges of plagiarism.
How do we know that they’re spurious? The people making the charges — almost all of whom have, surprise, movement conservative connections — aren’t pointing to any actual passages that, you know, were lifted from some other book. Instead, they’re claiming that Perlstein paraphrased what other people said. Um, what? Unless there’s a very close match, telling more or less the same story someone else has told before is perfectly ordinary — in fact, it would be distressing if history books didn’t correspond on some things.
Simon & Schuster responded to the letters here, by arguing that “any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement.” In fact, it’s self-evident that facts should remain similar over the course of histories of the same time period. Perlstein believes he merely built upon the historical record that Shirley helped register in his work. “He doesn’t like the way I do history,” Perlstein told Salon. “He thinks that if he digs up facts by the sweat of his brow that nobody else can use them. In fact, courts have used that exact phrase, ‘sweat of the brow,’ to say that there’s no copyright protection for such facts.”
In many cases, Simon & Schuster notes, Shirley alleges copyright infringement based on third-party quotes found in other sources. For example, Shirley claims that Perlstein stole a quote of Nancy Reagan’s from him without attribution, even though the quote appears differently in the two books. In Shirley’s, Nancy says “That’s what I like to hear”; in Perlstein’s, she says “Now that is the kind of talk I like to hear.” The quotes differ because Perlstein got it from a different book called “PR as in President” by Victor Gold, which is whom he cited in his source notes.
In another allegation, about a hotel manager threatening to throw out the Pennsylvania delegation at the 1976 GOP convention, Perlstein’s source is Time magazine, not Shirley (although he gives secondary attribution to Shirley anyway). Shirley even tries to claim copyright on a CBS News report of the number of delegates that Gerald Ford had attained near the end of the 1976 primaries.
A final claim of Shirley’s reveals too much. Shirley says Perlstein stole his line about Reagan watching the chaotic last night of the 1976 convention on television, “dissolved in laughter” (which is cited). But Shirley doesn’t add the line in “The Invisible Bridge” that comes afterward: “Then, he saw a televised image of himself on television watching it on television – that doesn’t look good – and his smile disappeared.” This additional insight, building on previous work and incorporating this cunning quality to Reagan, also came from a contemporaneous report in the Atlanta Daily World. As Dave Weigel writes, “In Shirley’s version of the story, Reagan was underrated once again; in Perlstein’s, he is underrated but calculating.”
So Shirley, who as a right-wing operative and professional Reagan biographer is naturally protective of Reagan’s legacy, and doesn’t want a book to rise to prominence that calls him into question for any reason, has basically thrown every allegation up against the wall to see if something sticks. He claims plagiarism over inconsequential, ordinary short phrases. He claims plagiarism over quotes that other people said. He claims plagiarism on passages where Perlstein specifically attributes Shirley’s book.
and after the New York Times published a “he said, he said” article about the ginned-up controversy, the NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in, concluding:
My take: There’s a problem here. An article about polarized reaction to a high-profile book is, of course, fair game. But the attention given to the plagiarism accusation is not.
Yes, the claim was “out there” but so are smears of all kinds as well as claims that the earth is flat and that climate change is unfounded. This one comes from the author of a book on the same subject with an opposing political orientation. By taking it seriously, The Times conferred a legitimacy on the accusation it would not otherwise have had.
And while it is true that Mr. Perlstein and his publisher were given plenty of opportunity to respond, that doesn’t help much. It’s as if The Times is saying: “Here’s an accusation; here’s a denial; and, heck, we don’t really know. We’re staying out of it.” Readers frequently complain to me about this he said, she said false equivalency — and for good reason.
So I’m with the critics. The Times article amplified a damaging accusation of plagiarism without establishing its validity and doing so in a way that is transparent to the reader. The standard has to be higher.
It’s one of the most anti-scientific, know-nothing provisions in any federal law, but it remains an active imposition on every White House. The “drug czar,” as the director of the drug control policy office is informally known, must “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” that’s listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and has no “approved” medical use.
Marijuana fits that description, as do heroin and LSD. But unlike those far more dangerous drugs, marijuana has medical benefits that are widely known and are now officially recognized in 35 states. The drug czar, though, isn’t allowed to recognize them, and whenever any member of Congress tries to change that, the White House office is required to stand up and block the effort. It cannot allow any federal study that might demonstrate the rapidly changing medical consensus on marijuana’s benefits and its relative lack of harm compared to alcohol and tobacco.
and more history of cannabis prohibition from the NYT Editorial Board:
The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time. This racially freighted history lives on in current federal policy, which is so driven by myth and propaganda that is it almost impervious to reason.
The cannabis plant, also known as hemp, was widely grown in the United States for use in fabric during the mid-19th century. The practice of smoking it appeared in Texas border towns around 1900, brought by Mexican immigrants who cultivated cannabis as an intoxicant and for medicinal purposes as they had done at home.
Within 15 years or so, it was plentiful along the Texas border and was advertised openly at grocery markets and drugstores, some of which shipped small packets by mail to customers in other states.
The law enforcement view of marijuana was indelibly shaped by the fact that it was initially connected to brown people from Mexico and subsequently with black and poor communities in this country. Police in Texas border towns demonized the plant in racial terms as the drug of “immoral” populations who were promptly labeled “fiends.”
Per Chuck Sudo of the Chicagoist, the Division Street Bridge lost its race to collapse before being repaired…
Starting Monday crews will begin demolishing Division Street Bridge near Goose Island. The city will be replacing the 111-year-old Bascule Bridge with an interim span while building a permanent Bascule replacement. The bridge was originally built in 1903 and has served as an integral link across Goose Island for cars, bikes, pedestrians and trains over the years, but currently isn’t wide enough to accommodate the size and flow of modern traffic. The Division Street Bridge is one of several Bascule bridges that made the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois’ 2013 list of the 10 most endangered historic places in the state.
Crossing the North Branch Chicago River Canal onto or off of Goose Island, this is one of the very first highway bascule bridges built in Chicago, constructed just a couple years after Cortland Street. Given the influence that Chicago’s development of the bascule bridge had on bridge construction nationwide, this prototypical example of a Chicago type trunnion bascule bridge is nationally significant and its preservation should be given a paramount level of priority.
Roemheld & Gallery of Chicago were both the designers and builders of the bridge. This bridge is similar to bridges like Cortland Street, but it has one very unusual and distinctive characteristic which sets it aside from these other bridges. The overhead sway/portal bracing for this bridge is composed of simple plate steel with decorative designs on them that includes an upside-down “Y” design with a circle around it that is used in Chicago to refer to the three branches of the Chicago River. The symbol became an officially designated symbol appearing in Chicago’s municipal code as the “Municipal Device.” Easy to miss unless you are looking for it, the symbol can be found on buildings and structures throughout the city including on a few other bridges. This Division Street Bridge however is the only bridge in the entire city that includes this design in its overhead bracing. The bridge is different from the other early bascule bridges including the bascule bridge in sight of this one also on Division Street, which have a more intricate network of built-up sections of v-laced and latticed steel for bracing. The plates with the Municipal Device symbol on this bridge are an interesting and decorative element that adds a lot to the bridge.
The city plans to allocate more than $42 million to improve parts of the West Loop included in its proposed Fulton Market Innovation District, a plan being pushed by the mayor as a way to encourage yet corral the neighborhood’s explosive growth.
The investments will kick off with the construction of a $500,000 gateway arching over Fulton Market at Halsted Street to welcome visitors to a proposed historic market district honoring the meatpacking companies and food wholesalers that have been operating there for a century.
The bulk of the $42.6 million allocation of public money, about $16 million of which is still pending approval from the city’s Department of Transportation, would go to infrastructure improvements like street paving and sidewalk repairs along Kinzie, Fulton Market, Randolph and Lake streets. Most of the money will come from the existing tax increment financing district, set up in 1998, though an estimated $10 million proposed for rebuilding Lake Street would be a mix of local, state and federal funds.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who spearheaded the innovation district plan, said the driving force for it was the surge in real estate deals that followed the 2012 opening of the $38 million Morgan Street CTA station.
“When we make these investments, they spur a series of private-sector economic development and opportunities for the city and growth,” Emanuel said. “And here, which is unique, you’ve got to do it in a way that strikes a balance between the history, and the preservation of that, while you embrace the change that is occurring simultaneously. And I think we’ve come up with that equitable balance.”
Designating the area an “innovation district,” a growing trend in cities, highlights the mix of traditional manufacturing, tech companies, social scene and transit access that has become important to attracting a young, creative workforce. Some of the employers coming to the area, including Google, SRAM, Uber, Brooklyn Bowl and Soho House, are expected to add 2,385 jobs, according to figures provided by the mayor’s office.
“It is and represents a new direction of the city’s economy,” said Andrew Mooney, commissioner of the city’s Department of Planning and Development. While the city has other emerging “innovation centers,” the restaurant-rich Fulton Market area is unique because of its historic and current connection to food, and the fact that it is not linked to a university.
The city also announced a new public bike station it has planned for the lower level of an 83,000-square-foot former meatpacking building under redevelopment at 210 N. Green St., where New York-based WeWork plans to open a collaborative workspace next year.
The 3,100-square-foot bike station, which aims to accommodate bike commuters with locker rooms and showers as well as bike storage, will be privately operated by WeWork as a business and use no public funds, though the mayor brokered the arrangement, city officials said.
Sounds good, more biking amenities is good news for the City, imo, especially when one of the options of becoming a WeWork member is “Free Beer”1
Fulton Market Food & Liquors – mural
and still some current property owners are whining about not being able to sell their historic buildings to developers who will then raze the building, and replace the 19th century brick structure with a drab condo building with architecture inspired by Home Depot. Viva capitalism!
The land use plan, which will be adopted as policy by the planning department this summer, does not overtly change zoning but imposes guidelines for how parts of the proposed district — bordered by Halsted, Ogden, Randolph and Hubbard Streets — should be developed.
The most controversial part of the plan calls for portions of Fulton Market and Randolph Street to be given historic landmark status to preserve the character of storefronts that are the last remnants of the city’s food-manufacturing past. The neighborhood’s three major community groups — the Randolph/Fulton Market Association, the West Central Association and the West Loop Community Organization — have all formally opposed the landmark proposal, saying they’re concerned about the restrictions that would prevent demolition of some buildings and dictate the design of all.
While it maintains the existing zoning, the plan provides guidelines for how the neighborhood should be developed so that officials deciding the fates of the many projects being proposed can follow a strategic vision, said Steven Valenziano, assistant zoning administrator with the Department of Planning.
The part of the plan that imposes historic landmark status on buildings within a section of the district — along Fulton Street between Racine Avenue and Green Street, along Randolph Street between Carpenter and Halsted streets, and the swath of Sangamon Street from Fulton to Randolph — is being met with staunch resistance from some Fulton Market business and property owners.
They worry the preservation restrictions will handcuff them to obsolete buildings, making it hard to do business if they need to make building improvements, or reduce the resale value if they decide to leave.
Holding My Life in My Hand
“It turns my business into an exhibit in this theme park,” said Melissa Otte, part of the family that owns the butter, cheese and egg distributor Meloney Cunningham & DeVic at 1114 W. Fulton St., which is one of the buildings that would be landmarked. “It’s really upsetting to hear that you’re history when you still work there.”
Devouring a delicious bowl of ramen is one of life’s great pleasures. Luckily, the number of quality establishments serving good versions has proliferated in the last few years.
Twelve years ago, [Professor George ] Solt, who spent the first decade of his life in Tokyo, before moving to New England, began researching his dissertation at the University of California, San Diego. Entitled “Taking Ramen Seriously: Food, Labor, and Everyday Life in Modern Japan,” it delved into the food production, labor practices, foreign trade, and national identity wrapped up in Japan’s now famous noodle soup. He has published other noodle-related academic writings, including an article in the International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies, “Shifting Perceptions of Instant Ramen in Japan during the High-Growth Era, 1958-1973.” But his most accessible piece of work on the topic is a book borne of his doctoral dissertation, “The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze,” which was published in February.
His talk traced ramen from its origins, as a distinctly Chinese soup that arrived in Japan with Chinese tradesmen in the nineteenth century, through the American occupation after the war, to the proliferation of instant ramen in Japan in the seventies; the national frenzy in the eighties and nineties that gave birth to ramen celebrities, ramen museums, and ramen video games; and, finally, America’s embrace of ramen and Japanese culture today, as exhibited by the cultlike craze surrounding the sixteen-dollar bowls of ramen served by the celebrity chef David Chang.
“Ramen is one of the most minutely documented foods in Japan,” Solt writes. A number of geopolitical and economic factors—the reindustrialization of Japan’s workforce during the Cold War, the redefining of national identity during twenty years of economic stagnation—all combined to elevate ramen from working-class sustenance to a dish that is internationally recognized, beloved, and iconic. His research involved reading everything from ramen graphic novels to government documents produced during the U.S. occupation. In what Solt describes as an “Aha!” moment, he discovered that when the U.S. occupied Japan it imported wheat as a way to contain Communism. “The more Japan experienced food shortages, the more people would gravitate towards the Communist Party,” he said. By providing the wheat needed to make ramen noodles, America won the Cold War, sort of.
and of course, you should watch the film, Tampopo, if you haven’t already seen it…
Tampopo (タンポポ , literally “dandelion”) is a 1985 Japanese comedy film by director Juzo Itami, starring Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kōji Yakusho and Ken Watanabe. The publicity for the film calls it the first ramen western, a play on the term Spaghetti Western
and Roger Ebert’s review seems appropriate:
“Tampopo” is one of those utterly original movies that seems to exist in no known category. Like the French comedies of Jacques Tati, it’s a bemused meditation on human nature in which one humorous situation flows into another offhandedly, as if life were a series of smiles.
As it opens, the film looks like some sort of Japanese satire of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns. The hero is Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a lone rider with a quizzical smile, who rides a semi instead of a horse. Along with some friends, he stages a search for the perfect noodle restaurant but cannot find it. Then he meets Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), a sweet young woman who has her heart in the right place, but not her noodles.
The movie then turns into the fairly freestyle story of the efforts by Tampopo and her protector to research the perfect noodle and open the perfect noodle restaurant. Like most movies about single-minded obsessions, this one quickly becomes very funny. It might seem that American audiences would know little and care less about the search for the perfect Japanese noodle, but because the movie is so consumed and detailed, so completely submerged in noodleology, it takes on a kind of weird logic of its own.
Consider, for example, the tour de force of a scene near the beginning of the movie, where a noodle master explains the correct ritual for eating a bowl of noodle soup. He explains every ingredient. How to cut it, how to cook it, how to address it, how to think of it, how to regard it, how to approach it, how to smell it, how to eat it, how to thank it, how to remember it. It’s a kind of gastronomic religion, and director Juzo Itami creates a scene that makes noodles in this movie more interesting than sex and violence in many another.
Good for the Illinois State Military Museum for standing up to self-important Texans. The funny thing is, the leg as an artifact has very little to do with Texas, as it was found by Illinois soldiers, near Veracruz, Mexico, in 1847 after the Battle of Cerro Gordo. I’m not sure why Texas thinks it has more of a right to the leg than Santa Anna’s family1 or a Mexican museum.
Illinois museum officials say their Lone Star State counterparts have no leg to stand on as they seek a prosthesis from Springfield.
The curator of the Illinois State Military Museum plans to keep Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s wooden leg despite a failed petition that sought to temporarily display the artifact in suburban Houston.
For Texans, it seems to be a bit of a sore point that the artificial limb resides in a glass case 875 miles northeast of the Alamo.
But folks here say the fake leg, a battlefield trophy captured by soldiers from Illinois in 1847 in the Mexican-American War and then carried back to Illinois, is a piece of local military history that’s a big draw at the downstate museum.
“It’s not going anywhere,” said curator Bill Lear. “It’s going to stay.
“This is a centerpiece of the museum and a very important artifact to tell the story of Illinois soldiers and the sacrifice that they have made in service of this country.”
As eager as Texas is to display Santa Anna’s leg, Lear said it’s not clear that the prosthesis has even been in the Lone Star State. Santa Anna had both his legs while leading Mexican forces at the Alamo, more than a decade before Cerro Gordo. Lear said the prosthetic limb was captured in Mexico and apparently taken to Illinois via New Orleans.
and yet the San Jacinto Museum of History seems to think the leg should be in their museum. Weird, even if after publicity, the museum claimed it was a light-hearted request…
“I cannot imagine a president from Illinois seriously trying to remove a piece of Illinois history and send it to Texas,” [San Jacinto museum president Larry Spasic] said this week.
Spasic said Texas feels the leg should be lent to the San Jacinto museum because it is part of the deeply shared history with Mexico and its leader.
“It’s all interrelated,” he said. “The history of Mexico and Texas is all one and the same, to a great extent. Does that give us a great latitude of claiming a large part of Mexico’s history as our own? Yes, I say.”
“No one had anything in mind for removing it by force,” he said. “And if the leg goes missing, we’ll just keep it between us.”
In re: the 20 photo slide show linked to below, I’ve often wondered about the signs restricting handball playing. In all my life, I’ve never witnessed anyone ever playing handball against a wall, but there are so many posted notices. I guess it was part of the anti-Irish sentiment of that time, and the signs simply remain. Or else, munchkins only come out early in the morning when I’m still asleep…
A century ago, handball was one of the most beloved sports in Ireland, its typical three-walled alley, or court, a fixture in villages and at crossroads. But these were “more than just places where people came to play handball,” says the photographer Kenneth O Halloran, who visited nearly a hundred abandoned courts in Ireland and Northern Ireland last year. “People came to socialize, to dance.”
After the game moved indoors around the 1950s, many courts that were not demolished became places for parking or storage. There is little nostalgia among the Irish for handball alleys, O Halloran says. “I don’t think people would value them the way they value a traditional cottage, old crosses or ancient ruins,” he says. “A lot of people see them as eyesores.” J