The election of Trump and the continued Republican control of both Congress and Senate guarantee that the rich will continue to get richer at the expense of the shrinking middle class and further aggravate conditions for the poor. Trickle down economics and tax subsidies will flow for the rich and corporations. The financial sector will buy its way out of the weak regulations of Dodd/Frank and lurch towards new adventures in gambling; a financial disaster will once again require the socialization of their risk at taxpayer expense. Continue reading
The Rise and Fall of American Growth: the US standard of living since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon1 is a weighty book in every regard. At 762 pages it is a heavy lift – not beach reading or even bed-time either. But I found it almost a page turner. It is very well structured and written. None of the fussiness or obscurantist language one often finds in academic works. The central point of the book is that during the period from 1870 to 1970 the US economy grew at an extraordinary and we will not see a return to that rate for some pretty fundamental reasons. Continue reading
- Princeton U. Press. 2016 [↩]
For years I have been disturbed by my lack of knowledge of Africa. This lead me years ago, stimulated by Michael Crichton’s pulp novel Congo, to investigate Mercator maps and the true size of Africa. You can find some of that in an earlier twice revised post, “Michael Crichton’s Congo and the Transformation of the Western Mind“.
The Hudson Area Library History Room sponsored a lecture April 2, 2015 by Allison Guertin Marchese based on her book “Hidden History of Columbia County New York” (The History Press, 2014. Available locally at The Spotty Dog Books & Ale 440 Warren St).
Ms. Marchese touched on many topics: healing waters in New Lebanon that supported a 300 room hotel, sulfur springs in Stottville, the Shakers, Electric Park, interesting people in the area, a fairly extensive comment on Edna St. Vincent Millay, the poet and finally the library’s current home at 400 State St.
(The audio is captured on an iPhone. Serviceable, but at times a bit noisy with rustles and comments)
Recently I stopped at the US Marine Corp War Memorial in Washington DC. Walking around the base with its lengthy list of Marine engagements since 1775, now a double row on several sides, I thought, “How many of these can faithfully be considered to be in defence of the homeland? How many expansionist wars within North America and how many imperialist ventures around the world?”
Run through them yourself and see what you think. Keep in mind that the section devoted to WWII, which takes up two sides, includes the names of all the major engagements, but still within that single conflict.1
- Don’t forget that these are just Marine engagements – think of ones you would have to add to the list including the Army, Air Force, Navy, CIA, DEA, and so on. [↩]
This book by Orlando Figes is exciting, terribly depressing, and cautionary. Based on hundreds of in-depth interviews and thousands of letters, diaries, and government documents, Whisperers1 puts real people in place of the faceless numbers that constitute our usual image of the human costs of Stalinist Russia – the 10 million lost during collectivization, the same or larger number disappeared during the various Terrors and the 20 million or more dead during the Great Patriotic War (aka WWII). For those who do not have much background in Russian and Soviet history Figes provides concise sketches of key political and economic developments covering the entire span of Soviet Russia. You will not feel at a loss during the NEP period nor the ensuing collectivization and the round ups of “kulaks”. This allows you to understand the private lives with a reasonable understanding of the context.
But the real contribution of this book is its discussion of the truly radical efforts by the Communist Party to crush the family as a basic unit of society and replace it with other institutions. The goal is to shape the new Soviet man. The coercive intrusion by the state into every aspect of daily life is comprehensive – it adds new depth to understanding the machinery of a totalitarian state.
The Greenport Historical Society hosted a lecture by Sally Naramore on Wednesday evening 4/18/2013 at the Greenport Town Hall. Her presentation which included visuals not included here, focused on immigration to Hudson in the 19th and 20th centuries.
If you know Hudson, especially the churches, you should be able to follow her descriptions of where people settled within Hudson. Ms. Naramore is the Department Chair and Teach of Social Studies at Hudson High School. She was Executive Director of the Columbia County Historical Society from 1983-1990 (biographical information from the historical society’s flyer). Continue reading
On March 19, 2003 George Bush, Dick Cheney and the cabal surrounding them launched their war of Shock and Awe on Iraq. The stated purpose was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”1
This war that no one is celebrating was based on a nest of lies and deception not only by the President but many others in the government. It failed to accomplish its three goals. Continue reading
Russia today seems very far from the country I grew up with as an international ogre on the TV news, the Soviet Union or USSR. After all, the Wall fell in 1989, already 23 years ago. The Soviet Union
dissolved in 1991, 21 years ago. It is mostly in the memories of those over 40 years old that crossing behind the Iron Curtain was an exotic, even inexplicable adventure.
In the spring of 1971 I left my high school teaching job several weeks early to join the second Lawrence University Slavic Trip. This three month long camping trip through the Soviet Union, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Yugoslavia (I left to go to graduate school at Cornell before the trip concluded in Hungary and Czechoslovakia) has stood as a formative event in my life. For the first time I was outside of the US and definitively in foreign cultures.
Now we have Russia in Private (Amazon link) by Richard Yatzeck. Professor Yatzeck suffered through my presence in his Russian literature courses at Lawrence University for four years. More importantly here he also participated in 9 visits between 1961 and 1997. He calculates that cumulatively he has spent three years in the Soviet Union then Russia.
The structure of the book is loosely chronological from his 1961-62 years of study at Moscow State University (the Harvard of Russia) through camping trips with undergraduates to a final stint at semesters abroad in 1997 in Krasnodar. The central content is really the particular world views of Russians in their public and private lives.
Since there is more continuity in human affairs than not, this book is an excellent introduction to some of the driving elements in the current Russia. It is not a psycho-sociological academic exercise. Whatever didactic goals there might be, the book moves forward with many well told anecdotes and observations of the personal and the private as well as the day-to-day.
One of the treats of Yatzeck’s book for me is the opportunity to revisit George Smalley. George was passionate, sometimes about matters that seemed a bit mysterious to a college-age student. He worked phenomenally hard. He demanded hard work in return and it was difficult not to reciprocate. His language teaching methodology, based in Prague school linguistics (think Russian linguist Nikolay Trubetskoy and the Russian-born American linguist Roman Jakobson), was a miracle of clarity and power. Above all George was a wild and crazy guy.
Who else would invite you in for your private tutorials in Russian with cigarettes burning in both hands, wave you to your seat across from the over flowing ash trays and announce, “You have parachuted into Karaganda. You’ve been arrested and are now being interrogated by the local police.”
Dick Yatzeck’s book inspired a flood of memories and comments from me. The 6,000 word letter I tapped out is available for download here (PDF).