by AndrewMc | 9/25/2009 07:00:00 AM
Some random stuff from the week:

I wish that this was the worst of the hypocrisy and cruelty forced upon us by eight years of the Bush administration. But it wasn't, this was:

On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush's two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially.

I'm no presidential historian, but these would be interesting to listen to. And I'll probably read this, although I do still have some Clinton fatigue.

There's more rambling below in Readmoreville . . .

Oh, really? What a surprise:

The overwhelming majority of Iowans - 92 percent - say gay marriage has brought no real change to their lives.

What's funny to me is that the topic of "should there should be free speech on the internet" is even under debate. Duh.

Blame Shakespeare.

It's about time.

What this boils down to is "we've given up on trying to get the high schools to do better, so deal with it. Bitches."

What telling about the discussion of "why college costs so much and what can be done about it" (free subscription required) is that nowhere does the discussion of "let's cut our expensive football program" come up. Instead it's "let's increase faculty workload." Typical.

The Teaching American History initiative is an excellent way to bring professional development to teachers. It would be a real shame to see this program cut.

You're probably getting tired of hearing me go on about tenure at KCTCS, but this is a bit of good news. No, great news!

[Attorney General Jack] Conway's analysis rips apart the KCTCS board's argument that the state law that created the community-technical college system in 1997 gave it broad authority to set employment policies for the system and its institutions. But that same law, the attorney general notes, unambiguously states that new faculty members at KCTCS "shall earn tenure," and that clear-cut statement takes precedence over more general assertions of authority. "Although the board has been given 'exclusive authority' to govern KCTCS," Conway writes, "such authority cannot be over and against that of the General Assembly," which enacted the law and its specific provision assuring tenure for faculty members.

Friday at right about the time people start cracking a cold one--the end of civilization.

Speaking of Friday--the beer of the week is Left-Hand Brewery's Oktoberfest. Even though it gets only middling marks on BeerAdvocate, I had it on tap the other day and found it to be refreshing, full-bodied (in the Marzen style) and quite, quite good. They make a number of other, very good beers.

Their website is cool, but the Flash gets annoying after a bit. It also automatically resizes the window in Firefox--major annoyance.

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Blogger Ahistoricality on 9/25/2009 10:02 AM:

That Onion piece on the end of civilization was brilliant -- "Experts predict that the penultimate catastrophe will occur at approximately 7:15 p.m. Thursday night, when the social networking tool Twitter will be used to communicate a series of ideas so banal they will instantaneously negate the three centuries of the Renaissance." -- and chilling: I did my first Powerpoint and joined Facebook this week! None of us are immune!


Blogger AndrewMc on 9/25/2009 10:39 AM:

Yeah, that was a great piece, and a nice line. Their writers are brilliant at the "tiny twist" type of humor.


Anonymous MK on 9/30/2009 7:13 AM:

Thank you for posting the link to the article about Taylor Branch and his taped interviews with President Clinton. That is the most comprehensive account I've seen.

I see that Russell Riley, who specializes in oral history, notes that "There is a poverty of original-source accounts of what truly is happening in the White House (because) people are afraid to put things down on paper." Present day officials at the U.S. National Archives also have referred to this, somewhat obliquely. That this is a difficult subject to tackle is reflected by the fact that the "chilling effect" is not mentioned in the National Archives' report to the Congress -- posted on its website this week -- on alternative models for the current system of Presidential Libraries.

As interesting as it is to record oral history interviews with a President, they only give his perspective, of course. They cannot substitute for a lack of contemporaenous documentation from multiple sources. In this case, that chatting with Branch may have substituted in part for dictating a diary may be a good way to look at this. Richard Nixon dicated a diary as did his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman. Haldeman also took voluminous notes as he sat in meetings with President Nixon. Historians can compare those notes -- and the flurry of written directives that often ensued -- against the diary entries. In most instances, what Haldeman wrote in his diary matches up or aligns very well with the contemporaneous documentation in White House files.

Nixon and Haldeman were very interested in creating records of what happened. In addition to the famous White Houe tapes, staffers were encouraged to write Memoranda for the Record that summarized meetings. There was an emphasis on capturing color and flavor as well as recording who said what.

It is the ability to examine all such records that turns the scene from black and white to color, as the depiction of Wizard of Oz in the article puts it so well. But if you lack access, due to fear of creating it, to documentation that can be compared and cross checked to what was said in a series of oral history interviews, no matter how lengthy, you're only creating a colorized version of a black and white film, not a color camera master.


Blogger AndrewMc on 9/30/2009 10:56 AM:

MK, good points. Part of the problem is that presidents are now more concerned about dictating their own "legacy" and avoiding special prosecutors than they are about providing future historians with a comprehensive account of what went on. The result is a lack of source material.