March 30, 2014
Book Review: The Information by James Gleick

Book Review: The Information by James Gleick

AuthorJames Gleick
TitleThe Information
Publication Info: New York : Books on Tape, 2011
Summary/Review:

The Information is a sweeping historical / scientific / technological account of information across time and disciplines.  From talking drums, language, DNA, telegraphs, and bytes to  Claude Shannon, Charles Babbage, Ada Byron, Samuel Morse, Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and…

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March 26, 2014
Book Review: Where God Was Born by Bruce Feiler

Book Review: Where God Was Born by Bruce Feiler

Author:Bruce Feiler
TitleWhere God Was Born
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2005)
ISBN: 9780060888572
Summary/Review:

Feiler’s book is a unique combination of travelogue, history, theology, and personal growth.  Feiler documents his journeys to Israel, Iraq, and Iran to visit the sites of places mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures.  There’s a lot of interesting discussion of the Israelites and the…

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March 25, 2014
Book Review: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Book Review: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

Author: Reza Aslan
TitleZealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Publication Info: Random House (2013)
ASIN: B00BRUQ7ZY
Summary/Review:

I’ve not read a lot about the historical Jesus so this short summary of his life and times was engaging and enlightening.  ”His times” is an important part of the title as few historical documents survive outside the scriptures (canonical and otherwise)…

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March 18, 2014
Book Review: A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico by Amy S. Greenberg

Book Review: A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico by Amy S. Greenberg

AuthorAmy S. Greenberg
TitleA Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico
Publication Info: Knopf (2012)
ISBN: 9780307592699
Summary/Review:

Like many Americans, I know very little about the Mexican War, which is a shame since what I learned from this one-volume history, we Americans keep repeating the same mistakes our nation made in this war.  Greenberg writes a…

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March 8, 2014
Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Believe it or not it’s been three years since I posted how much I hate Daylight Saving Time, and particularly the night in which we must “spring forward” the clock 1 hour.  I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow and dragging myself through the day.

I’ve nothing new to write, but here are my previous four posts on the topic:

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February 23, 2014
Book Review: Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson

Book Review: Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson

Author: Michael Rawson
Title: Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston
Publication Info: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, c2010.
ISBN: 9780674048416
Summary/Review:

This wonderfully researched and well-written history, explores the making of Boston by focusing on the social and environmental factors that shaped the city, its human ecology.  There are five sections of the book:

1.…

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February 7, 2014
Photo of New Haven after the Blizzard of 1888.

Makes me think of two things:

1. All the people who say “OMG it’s snowing, what about global warming” (whether they’re serious or joking) need more historical perspective.

2. Look how clean that sidewalk is.  Imagine if the priority today was to make sure that the city was a safe place to walk after the storm instead of just digging out cars.

Photo of New Haven after the Blizzard of 1888.

Makes me think of two things:

1. All the people who say “OMG it’s snowing, what about global warming” (whether they’re serious or joking) need more historical perspective.

2. Look how clean that sidewalk is. Imagine if the priority today was to make sure that the city was a safe place to walk after the storm instead of just digging out cars.

January 6, 2014
"Over a century after he was first recorded using the word, we still ask that question — is she or isn’t she racist? — in situations where no clear answer would ever present itself. We argue about the composition of the accused’s soul and the fundamental goodness or badness therein. But those are things we can’t possibly know. And as we litigate that question, other more meaningful questions become obscured. Racism remains a force of enormous consequence in American life, yet no one can be accused of perpetrating it without a kicking up a grand fight. No one ever says, “Yeah, I was a little bit racist. I’m sorry.” That’s in part because racists, in our cultural conversations, have become inhuman. They’re fairy-tale villains, and thus can’t be real. There’s no nuance to these public fights, as a veteran crisis manager told my colleague, Hansi Lo Wang. Someone is either a racist and therefore an inhuman monster, or they’re an actual, complex human being, and therefore, by definition, incapable of being a racist."

The Ugly, Fascinating History Of The Word ‘Racism’ : Code Switch : NPR

January 6, 2014
The US declared war on poverty 50 years ago. You would never know it | Nicolaus Mills | Comment is free | theguardian.com

January 6, 2014
"If the history of gun laws in America has any relevance to the definition of modern gun rights — and the Supreme Court in its Second Amendment rulings has said it does — then virtually no gun laws, including outright bans, are beyond the pale. While gun ownership is as old as America, so are gun laws. Early gun laws restricted native Americans, slaves, indentured servants, vagrants, non-Protestants, those who refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the government, felons and foreigners from owning or possessing guns, and placed numerous restrictions on the recreational use of them. Early laws also regulated the manufacture, inspection and sale of firearms, as well as placing restrictions on gun storage and discharge. Others prohibited not only the firing of guns in or near towns, but firing after dark, on Sundays, in public places, near roads or while under the influence of alcohol. As weapons became more prolific in the 19th century, state regulations also proliferated, commonly criminalizing not only the carrying of firearms, but the mere brandishing or display of guns, such as a law against exhibiting “the said deadly weapons in a rude, angry or threatening manner.” Other laws made it a crime to “draw or threaten to use” a firearm. After the Civil War, six states banned handguns outright, and one state, Wyoming, banned all firearms from “any city, town or village.” In the early 20th century, most states banned fully automatic weapons. And as if anticipating the current, much-disputed semi-automatic assault weapons restrictions, at least seven states in the 1920s and early 1930s banned semi-automatic weapons entirely, as well as certain gun accessories like silencers and — you guessed it — large-capacity bullet magazines. Finally, consider this state law: “every person within the state … who owns or has in his possession any fire arms or weapons shall make a full, true and complete verified report … to the sheriff of the county in which such person lives, of all fire arms and weapons which are owned or possessed by him or her or are in his or her control, and on sale or transfer into the possession of any other person such person shall immediately forward to the sheriff of the County in which such person lives the name and address of that purchaser and person into whose possession or control such fire arm or weapon was delivered … For the purpose of this Act a fire arm or weapon shall be deemed to be any revolver, pistol, shot gun, rifle.” While this might read like a tough new state gun law, it was “An Act providing for the registration of all fire arms and weapons and regulating the sale thereof” enacted by Montana. In 1918. Next to this, the SAFE Act looks pretty tame."

A history lesson for foes of N.Y. gun law  - NY Daily News

December 23, 2013
Sex, Ducks, and The Founding Feud - Radiolab

Podcast of the Day

Our political system is dysfunctional by design.

October 11, 2013
A Democrat we can agree with…

zenodotus5:

squashed:

theheritagefoundation:

image

Also, Jackson ignored the Supreme Court to forcibly relocate the Choctaw, Cherokee and other nations, resulting in the Trail of Tears. So, fiscal responsibility and genocide!

Exactly. They said he was a Democrat they could agree with, after all.

The historical conditions have changed greatly, but overall the first Democratic President Andrew Jackson would most certainly align with modern day Republicans, while the first Republican President Abraham Lincoln would find himself more comfortable with the modern day Democrats.

July 31, 2013
"

MEMORANDUM TO: The American People
FROM: A Historian
CC: Candidates, Think Tanks, Warriors of the Internet Comment Boards

SUBJECT: Um, actually there was welfare when the United States was founded

I would go on, of course, to flesh this statement out with some background, evidence, and precision. I would point out that poor laws came to North America almost with the first British settlers, and that a large welfare state developed in almost every English municipality. I would cite figures showing that poor relief comprised more than half of most municipalities’ budgets before the 1820s, when school and road costs grew large enough to match poor relief. I would feel compelled to mention that poor relief could mean a poorhouse, but more often some combination of cash, food, clothes, firewood, doctor’s attention, medicine, or even full-time nursing care. I would highlight how significant local taxes were to most early Americans, compared with much lower state taxes and almost non-existent federal taxes.

This would lead to the obvious comparisons. Americans spent more than half of their taxes on poor relief when George Washington was president, compared to 12% on the federal “safety net” today, or 55% if you include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Unlike today’s contributors to Social Security and Medicare, however, most taxpayers (read: property owners) in 1789 would not have expected to benefit from poor relief in their lifetimes. They could depend on it, though, if they ever met with a financial catastrophe. I would almost certainly quote historian Elna Green’s witticism, that so many grocers, doctors, wood-hewers, etcetera made money from the town by helping the poor that the poor law system should be called the “welfare/industrial complex.” [2]

Finally, I would point out one big difference between early America and the present: Today’s welfare is largely federal while early America’s was largely municipal. In fact, I think the local nature of early American welfare is the reason why so many policy analysts overlook welfare’s past. They just don’t look at the state and local levels of government.

My fantasy memo is not a prelude to some specific policy prescription for the present day. I just wish that when we do bring history to the argument, we use a reasonably correct version. As an historian writing about pre-Civil War poor relief, I find myself cringing almost every time the history of welfare surges into public discourse. Usually, there is a 300-year hole in the story. For colonial American and U.S. history, that is a pretty big hole!

"

The Historical Society: Memo to America, Re: Welfare in the Olden Days

July 10, 2013
The Birth of the Bicycle | Britannica Blog

Vive Pierre Lallement!

July 3, 2013
(via The History of Gun Laws [INFOGRAPHIC] - Campus Progress)

(via The History of Gun Laws [INFOGRAPHIC] - Campus Progress)

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