History Buzz: March 2011 Recap: Texas Independence at 175 — Academic Freedom, Wisconsin & William Cronon

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

IN FOCUS:

  • Celebration for 175 years of Texas independence: “The independent spirit that reigned on the Texas frontier during the era of the Texas Revolution can still be seen today throughout the state,” said Light Cummins, an Austin College history professor and the Texas state historian. “Texans today pride themselves on being independent, hard-working, innovative and no-nonsense people, all of which is reflected in our view of those who participated in the Texas Revolution.
    “Perhaps for that reason, many Texans believe that this state is different from any other in the nation in terms of its history and its heritage.”… – AP, 2-27-11
  • 175 years since Texas declared independence: Today marks 175 years since Texas declared its independence. As people across the state celebrate the creation of the Texas Declaration of Independence that took place in 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos, historians encourage Texans to remember the events that followed the state’s independence.
    The Texas State Historical Association’s chief historian, Randolph “Mike” Campbell, said the real piece of Texas history that forever changed the United States took place in 1846, when Texas became a state.
    “Had Texas not become a state, then you have a block on the expansion of the U.S. to the Southwest,” he said. “The whole history could have been different. When you add Texas, you have a war and then you have New Mexico, Arizona and California.”
    Although independence is definitely something to celebrate, Campbell said it was the events that followed independence that made the greatest impact on American history.
    “The fact that Texas was an independent republic before it was part of the U.S. doesn’t necessarily make it unique,” he said, “but there are very few states who can claim they were independent republics.”
    Texas Independence Day is an official holiday in the state that the historic weekly newspaper, the Telegraph and Texas Register, shows has long been celebrated. The newspaper printed the Texas Declaration of Independence in its entirety 10 days after it was created…. – READ MOREAbilene Reporter News, 3-1-11
  • TSLAC CELEBRATES 175TH TEXAS INDEPENDENCE DAY WITH CAKE, TALK BY AUTHOR H.W. BRANDS: The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is celebrating the 175th anniversary of Texas’ independence with cake, a talk and book-signing by two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist H.W. Brands at 11:30 a.m. March 2, Texas Independence Day. Brands, the third guest in TSLAC’s new Speaker Series, will discuss Texas individualism, Texas nationalism and the role of democracy in securing the state’s independence…. – Bonham Journal, 3-1-11
  • Disunion The Minds of the South: Cambridge historian Michael O’Brien explains that secession wasn’t evidence that the South didn’t have a reasoned intellectual life. In fact, it was the strongest evidence that it did. Early 1861 found the 23-year-old Henry Adams in Washington, working as the private secretary to his father, Charles Francis Adams, a representative from Massachusetts. Adams was a keen observer even at that early age, and he focused much of his attention on the Southern political delegations… – NYT, 3-4-11
  • The Civil War: Sesquicentennial Commission Briefing – CSpan, 3-8-11

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Women’s museum in D.C. again pushed: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” That now famous quote (by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich) is affixed to Christine Erickson’s office door at IPFW, where she is an associate history professor. Last year, Erickson says, someone scribbled a few choice words on the bumper sticker: “That’s because women didn’t do anything important.”
    Perhaps the proposed National Women’s History Museum is needed now more than ever. On Wednesday, a bill that would allow the museum’s construction near the National Mall was introduced in Congress for the fourth time since 2005…. – Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (3-31-11)
  • Lost city of Atlantis, swamped by tsunami, may be found: A U.S.-led research team may have finally located the lost city of Atlantis, the legendary metropolis believed swamped by a tsunami thousands of years ago in mud flats in southern Spain.
    “This is the power of tsunamis,” head researcher Richard Freund told Reuters. “It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that’s pretty much what we’re talking about,” said Freund, a University of Hartford, Connecticut, professor who lead an international team searching for the true site of Atlantis. To solve the age-old mystery, the team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site just north of Cadiz, Spain. There, buried in the vast marshlands of the Dona Ana Park, they believe that they pinpointed the ancient, multi-ringed dominion known as Atlantis…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • ‘Cultural Revolt’ Over Sarkozy’s History Museum Plans: But Mr. Sarkozy has now decided that he wants a cultural legacy after all. He has cooked up the Maison de l’Histoire de France, the country’s first national museum of French history, to open in 2015, in a wing of the rambling palace in the Marais district of Paris currently occupied by the National Archives. The idea is to distill centuries of Gallic gloire into a chronological display, supplemented by lectures, seminars and temporary shows borrowing materials from the country’s already plentiful local and regional history museums….
    “Bling-Bling history” is how Nicolas Offenstadt, a young history professor at the Sorbonne, described it. He fumed the other afternoon over a pot of tea in a genteel Left Bank cafe. “Sarkozy said this was a museum to give French people a stronger sense of identity,” he continued, “that history is the cement that binds together French people. Whose history? ‘Soul’ is not a subject for scientists and historians. It is a moral and political concept.” The very idea of a specifically French history museum is ideological, Mr. Offenstadt added. “To know about French Algeria you need to know about Algeria before France arrived there,” he explained. “If we need any history museum, it would be a world history museum, not a French history museum, to give us a real perspective on who we are, and what is France today.”… – NYT, 3-9-11

HISTORIANS NEWS:

  • OAH Supports Academic Freedom and Defends University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor William Cronon: The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians, led by President Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History at Columbia University, issued a statement on March 30, 2011, supporting academic freedom and deploring the recent efforts of Wisconsin politicians to intimidate OAH member and professor William Cronon. Cronon, a professor of environmental and U.S. western history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been thrust into the spotlight for his March 15, 2011, blog post and for a subsequent op-ed piece in the New York Times critical of the Wisconsin legislature and Governor Scott Walker…. – OAH press release, 3-30-11
  • OAH Statement: The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians deplores the efforts of Republican party operatives in the state of Wisconsin to intimidate Professor William Cronon, a distinguished and respected member of our organization and currently the president-elect of our sister association, the American Historical Association. As a professional historian, Professor Cronon has used his extensive knowledge of American history to provide a historical context for recent events in Wisconsin. Requiring him to provide his e-mail correspondence, as the Republican party of Wisconsin has now done, will inevitably have a chilling effect on the capacity of all academics to engage in wide public debate. The timing and character of the Freedom of Information Act request for Professor Cronon’s e-mail correspondence leave no doubt that the purpose of this request is to use the authority of the state to prevent William Cronon from freely exercising his rights as a citizen and as a public employee.
  • William Cronon: NYT Editorial A Shabby Crusade in Wisconsin: The latest technique used by conservatives to silence liberal academics is to demand copies of e-mails and other documents. Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli of Virginia tried it last year with a climate-change scientist, and now the Wisconsin Republican Party is doing it to a distinguished historian who dared to criticize the state’s new union-busting law. These demands not only abuse academic freedom, but make the instigators look like petty and medieval inquisitors…. – NYT, 3-27-11
  • Paul Krugman on Cronon e-mail case: …The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become. The demand for Mr. Cronon’s correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records….
    Beyond that, Mr. Cronon — the president-elect of the American Historical Association — has a secure reputation as a towering figure in his field. His magnificent “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West” is the best work of economic and business history I’ve ever read — and I read a lot of that kind of thing. So we don’t need to worry about Mr. Cronon — but we should worry a lot about the wider effect of attacks like the one he’s facing…. – NYT, 3-27-11
  • Niall Ferguson: UK school history lessons ‘lack all cohesion’: The Harvard academic Niall Ferguson has warned that too few pupils are spending too little time studying history – and what they do study lacks a sweeping narrative. He offers his own lesson plan to remedy what he says is a lack of cohesion, in which pupils place six “building block” events, including the Reformation and the French revolution, into the right order. His plan aims to give pupils an overview of the years 1400 to 1914, and encourage them “to understand and offer answers to the most important question of that period: why did the west dominate the rest?” Ferguson, who has been invited by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to play a role in overhauling the history curriculum, directs the teacher to show their class a map of the world circa 1913 “showing the extent of the western empires”…. – Guardian (UK), 3-29-11
  • James Robertson: Noted Civil War Historian Retiring: Noted Civil War historian James Robertson is retiring after more than four decades at Virginia Tech. The 80-year-old Robertson will leave his job June 1. He founded the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech in 1999 and has served as its director…. – ABC News, 3-21-11
  • Kenneth T. Jackson: History stars in the house for Columbia history department fundraiser: The topic for the evening’s talk—”Empire City: Will New York Remain the Capital of the World in the 21st Century?”— would have been relevant to anyone who considers himself a New Yorker, but it seemed especially so given the well- heeled crowd. The person assigned to answer the question was Kenneth T. Jackson, a former president of the New-York Historical Society and the Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences at Columbia University. And the 40 or so people who were eager to get the answer, including Howard Levi, an attorney and the friend who invited me, were members of the Columbia history department’s Board of Visitors, mostly successful business people and lawyers who contribute $5,000 a year (though there’s obviously nothing preventing them from giving more) to support the department’s activities and to enjoy the privilege, several times a semester, of having some of the university’s top history stars—among them Alan Brinkley, Fritz Stern and Mr. Jackson—come to their homes to chat about their fields of expertise and their latest books…. – WSJ, 3-14-11
  • Education historian Diane Ravitch criticizes testing, says poverty hurts student success: Noted education historian Diane Ravitch today criticized a current emphasis on testing in U.S. schools, saying “we live in a time of national insanity,” during a day-long symposium on education reform in Novi.
    Ravitch had a welcome audience, getting a standing ovation before and after she spoke at the conference co-sponsored by the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest union that represents school employees, including teachers. She said national policy makers say they want to reform education. But, what they’re really doing “is tearing education apart and demonizing teachers.”… – Detroit Free Press, 3-7-11

HISTORY OP-EDs:

  • Martha C. Nussbaum: Should Academics Join the Government?: Last month was decision time for the many academics who left their tenured jobs to work in the Obama administration. Universities standardly grant leave for at most two years, at which point a professor must either return or resign. Some, of course, can hope to be rehired later, but prudence often rules. Many of my acquaintances made the choice to return to writing and teaching. A few have stayed on. For a long time I’ve been comparing my free and sheltered life to those exposed and difficult lives, with a mixture of relief and guilt. I keep thinking of Cicero’s acerbic commentary on philosophers who refuse to serve the public realm: “Impeded by the love of learning, they abandon those whom they ought to protect.” Even worse, he accuses them of arrogant self-indulgence: “They demand the same thing kings do: to need nothing, to obey nobody, to enjoy their liberty, which they define as doing what you like.” It’s difficult not to hear that voice in one’s dreams, even if one believes, as I do, that writing itself can serve the public good…. – The New Republic, 3-11-11
  • James Tuten: OMG: Old Media Guilt: Hopelessly devoted to your mass-market paperbacks, or an early adapter of the Kindle? In the following piece, history professor and author James Tuten wrestles with guilt over falling in love with his e-reader — and muses on the future of reading and publishing.
    OMG – I love my Kindle. There, I said it. As a historian, I know well the musty scent of book mold wafting up like some pheromone of erudition from a long unopened tome. The dimly lit stacks of a library are among the most delightful places in the world for the likes of us.
    As the sort of people who are on a first-name basis with librarians, historians and English professors, historians are thrilled to hold a new book, to crack the binding and break it in like a new pair of shoes…. – Forbes Blog, 3-1-1
  • Diane Ravitch: ‘A moment of national insanity’: I’m beginning to think we are living in a moment of national insanity. On the one hand, we hear pious exhortations about education reform, endlessly uttered by our leaders in high political office, corporate suites, foundations, and the media. President Obama says we have to “out-educate” the rest of the world to “win the future.”
    Yet the reality on the ground suggests that the corporate reform movement — embraced by so many of those same leaders, including the president — will set American education back, by how many years or decades is anyone’s guess. Sometimes I think we are hurtling back a century or more, to the age of the Robber Barons and the great corporate trusts…. – WaPo, 3-1-11

HISTORY REVIEWS:

  • Jan Tomasz Gross: Polish Princeton historian draws controversy over claims that Poles profited off the Holocaust: At first glance, it seems like an ordinary, innocent photograph: a group of Polish peasants holding shovels in a field on a sunny day. But look closer and you see the skulls and bones scattered at their feet. According to some historians, the photo was taken at the site of the Treblinka death camp in eastern Poland shortly after World War II and shows the peasants digging up Jewish remains in search of gold or other valuables. When it ran alongside a 2008 newspaper feature about Poland’s postwar era, most readers didn’t take much notice. But when historian Jan Tomasz Gross saw the photo, he was moved to write Golden Harvest, a controversial new book in which he argues that many Poles enriched themselves during the war by exploiting Jews, from plundering mass graves to ferreting out Jews in hiding for reward. In the book’s introduction, Gross recalls how the photo made a big impression on him. “I could not understand why it passed without echo among the [newspaper’s] readers,” he writes.
    While the photo did not create much of a stir, the book — which was published in Poland on March 10 — has. Co-written by Gross’s wife Irena Grudzinska Gross, Golden Harvest charges that some Poles searched mass graves to retrieve golden teeth from the skulls of Jews murdered by the Nazis, traded glasses of water for golden coins from emaciated Jews being transported to death camps and pointed out hiding Jews to the Nazis in order to get ahold of their belongings. “Plundering Jewish property was an important element of the circulation of goods, an element of economic life, and thus a social fact, not an incidental behavior of demoralized individuals,” writes Gross about the villagers living near the death camps in Poland.
    Gross, a Princeton historian who was born and educated in Poland, became famous for his contentious 2001 book Neighbors, which chronicles the massacre of Jews at the hands of Poles in the village of Jedwabne during the Nazi occupation. The thesis of Golden Harvest again touches a raw nerve in a country that prides itself on being the only nation in Nazi-occupied Europe that did not have a collaborator government. Poland was home to about 2.5 million Jews before World War II, the second biggest Jewish population in the world, and Poles highlight the fact that they are the largest single nationality among those awarded the Israeli-based Yad Vashem institute’s title of Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jews during the Holocaust…. – Time.com, 3-22-11
  • Eric Hobsbawm, Norman Naimark: Two new books by American historians shed light on the Soviet past and those who still avoid its implications: Winter is bleak enough as it is. This year the gloom was deepened by the publication of How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism, by Eric Hobsbawm, one of Britain’s most feted historians, and, oh yes, a man who stuck with the Communist party until 1991 despite a global killing spree that took perhaps one hundred million lives. Naturally Hobsbawm’s new book has triggered the usual hosannas from the usual congregation for, to quote the Guardian, this “grand old man.”…
    But who are we to quibble, when, as his admirers like to remind us, Hobsbawm’s life has been “shaped by the struggle against fascism,” an excuse understandable in the 1930s (Hobsbawm, who is Jewish, quit Germany as a teenager in 1933), but grotesque more than six decades after the fall of the Third Reich.
    Just how grotesque was highlighted by two books that came out last year. In the first, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, Yale history professor Timothy Snyder describes the darkness that engulfed a stretch of Eastern Europe in the mid-20th century. He leaves only one convincing response to the question that dominates the second, Stalin’s Genocides, by Stanford’s Norman Naimark: For all the unique evils of the Holocaust, was Stalin, no less than Hitler, guilty of genocide?… – National Review, 3-18-11
  • Philip Magness and Sebastian Page: New book sheds new light on Lincoln’s racial views: As the nation celebrates the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s first inauguration Friday, a new book by a researcher at George Mason University in Fairfax makes the case that Lincoln was even more committed to colonizing blacks than previously known. The book, “Colonization After Emancipation,” is based in part on newly uncovered documents that authors Philip Magness and Sebastian Page found at the British National Archives outside London and in the U.S. National Archives…. – AP, 3-4-11

HISTORY REVIEWS:

  • Joseph S. Nye Jr., Parag Khanna: Two books on the future of power and diplomacy: “How to Run the World”, “The Future of Power” Parag Khanna, a 30-something journalist and rising star in the world of think tanks, makes the case in “How to Run the World” for what he calls “Generation Y geopolitics.” He describes the 21st century as “neo-medieval,” because now, as in the Middle Ages, “rising powers, multinational corporations, powerful families, humanitarians, religious radicals, universities and mercenaries are all part of the diplomatic landscape.” Because states no longer matter much, he says, we should dump old-style diplomacy, with its “stiff waltz of rituals and protocols among states alone,” for “mega-diplomacy . . . a jazzy dance among coalitions of ministries, companies, churches, foundations, universities, activists, and other willful, enterprising individuals who cooperate to achieve specific goals.” “Generation Y,” he promises, “will own mega-diplomacy.” The result will be a new renaissance, like the one that ended the original Middle Ages.
    Joseph S. Nye, by contrast, is a 70-something professor at Harvard and former dean of its Kennedy School of Government. As he sees it in “The Future of Power,” the old, stiff waltz is not over yet. “Today,” he suggests, “power in the world . . . resembles a complex three-dimensional chess game.” On the top of the board is military power, where states still reign supreme; in the middle is economic power, where states and non-state actors share the play; and only on the bottom do we find something like Khanna’s Generation Y geopolitics…. – WaPo, 2-28-11
  • Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule: Is the Imperial Presidency Inevitable?: THE EXECUTIVE UNBOUND After the Madisonian Republic In “The Executive Unbound,” Eric A. Posner and Adrian Vermeule, law professors at Chicago and Harvard, respectively, offer with somewhat alarming confidence the “Weimar and Nazi jurist” Carl Schmitt as their candidate to succeed James Madison for the honor of theorist of the Constitution.
    According to Posner and Vermeule, we now live under an administrative state providing welfare and national security through a gradual accretion of power in executive agencies to the point of dominance. This has happened regardless of the separation of powers. The Constitution, they insist, no longer corresponds to “reality.” Congress has assumed a secondary role to the executive, and the Supreme Court is “a marginal player.” In all “constitutional showdowns,” as they put it, the powers that make and judge law have to defer to the power that administers the law…. – NYT, 3-11-11
  • ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem,’ by James Carroll: Jerusalem, Jerusalem How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World James Carroll is a former priest and a believing Catholic who affirms that love is the central tenet of Christian doctrine. This drives his critique of mainstream Catholic theology and what he has called “the new Catholic fundamentalism” promoted by Pope Benedict XVI. A central element in that critique is his argument that the Catholic Church (and later Protestants) was a major protagonist in the long history of anti-Judaism culminating in the Nazi mass murder of European Jewry. According to Carroll, “Anti-Jewishness was … hardwired into the Christian imagination.” The Crusades expanded the circuit board to include Muslims.
    The anti-Judaism and anti-Islam of both Catholicism and Protestantism is a central theme in “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” But its historical ambitions are much grander than those of Carroll’s earlier books, like his 2001 best-seller, “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews.” Here Carroll proposes that Jerusalem inspires – in the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – apocalyptic fantasies that have had lethal consequences in the earthly world, past and present…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-11-11
  • Del Quentin Wilber: Reconstructing the Day Reagan Fell: Chaos After a President’s Shooting: RAWHIDE DOWN The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan It has been nearly 30 years since President Ronald Reagan was shot outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. The attack is well remembered, but the details are not. One reason for the memory lapse, according to Del Quentin Wilber, the author of “Rawhide Down,” a newly revealing account of this potentially deadly attack, is that Reagan survived it so smoothly. Twelve days after being fired upon, he was back at the White House looking sensational. He ultimately enhanced his popularity by rebounding with such courage, resilience and even good cheer…. – NYT, 3-10-11
  • Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts: What Harlem Is and Was HARLEM IS NOWHERE A Journey to the Mecca of Black America “Harlem Is Nowhere,” Rhodes-Pitts’s first book, is in large part the product of the countless hours she spent poring over photographs and news clippings in the bowels of the New York Public Library’s Harlem-based research center, or “Mr. Schomburg’s labyrinth,” as she so aptly calls it. Rhodes-Pitts — and in this, unlike Alexander Gumby — does not favor “the most exceptional and the most beautiful.” She makes us privy to obscure interviews, photographs, advertisements and even obituaries. While Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and many other widely celebrated personages make an appearance, Rhodes-Pitts is at least as engaged by Harlem’s lesser-known players, like the proto-feminist Victoria Earle Matthews, the African nationalist Carlos A. Cooks and the fashionista-cum-wax-­museum-owner Raven Chanticleer — those whose names have not been “immortalized by way of a street sign.”… – NYT, 3-11-11
  • From ‘End of History’ Author, a Look at the Beginning and Middle: In a book to be published in April, “The Origins of Political Order,” Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University presents a sweeping new overview of human social structures throughout history, taking over from where Dr. Wilson’s ambitious synthesis left off. Dr. Fukuyama, a political scientist, is concerned mostly with the cultural, not biological, aspects of human society. But he explicitly assumes that human social nature is universal and is built around certain evolved behaviors like favoring relatives, reciprocal altruism, creating and following rules, and a propensity for warfare….. – NYT, 3-7-11
  • James Gleick: Drumbeat to E-Mail: The Medium and the Message: THE INFORMATION A History, a Theory, a Flood “The Information” offers this point-blank characterization of its author: “James Gleick is our leading chronicler of science and modern technology.” This new book goes far beyond the earlier Gleick milestones, “Chaos” and “Genius,” to validate that claim.
    “The Information” is so ambitious, illuminating and sexily theoretical that it will amount to aspirational reading for many of those who have the mettle to tackle it. Don’t make the mistake of reading it quickly. Imagine luxuriating on a Wi-Fi-equipped desert island with Mr. Gleick’s book, a search engine and no distractions. “The Information” is to the nature, history and significance of data what the beach is to sand…. – NYT, 3-6-11
  • Liel Leibovitz and Matthew Miller: The First Chinese Exchange Students: FORTUNATE SONS The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization But China has gone through previous periods of tumultuous change, as Liel Leibovitz and Matthew Miller’s “Fortunate Sons” makes abundantly clear. Their story begins with Yung Wing, who came to America in the late 1840s. The first Chinese student admitted to Yale, he returned to his homeland in 1854, determined not to be the last. Under his tutelage, 120 Chinese boys crossed the Pacific in the 1870s, intent on learning Western skills that might help their country modernize. Yet mixed fortunes awaited them on their return to a country whose Qing-era imperial rule was crumbling, where their schooling at various colleges in New England made them both influential and, in some cases, rootless and estranged… – NYT, 3-4-11

HISTORY FEATURES:

  • Charles W. Crawford: Census Lessons for Detroit From Memphis’s 1870s Loss, Says Historian: But another city, Memphis, appears to have the distinction of having once lost the highest percentage of its population for an American city of any size. In the 1870s, a series of outbreaks of yellow fever swept through the Mississippi River Valley, killing thousands of people. In 1878, the epidemic reduced the population of Memphis by perhaps as much as 50 percent. In 1878 alone, the population of about 40,000 dropped by more than half, said Charles W. Crawford, a professor who specializes in Memphis history at the University of Memphis. He said he was not aware of any other city that had lost a greater percentage of its population in one fell swoop. New Orleans lost 29 percent after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Mr. Crawford said that an estimated 5,500 people in Memphis died in 1878 while perhaps 15,000 fled. “Everyone was crowding the steamboat landings and the railroad station,” he said. “Politicians left first.”… – NYT, 3-23-11
  • Charles Scontras: Mural of Maine’s Workers Becomes Political Target — Labor Historians Weigh In: Charles Scontras, a labor historian at the University of Maine, said: “Totalitarian regimes erase history as well. We manage to do it by indifference or neglect or for ideological reasons.” He voiced surprise that a Franco-American like the governor, whose wife was once a union steward, would take such a move when the mural honored the work that generations of Maine’s Franco-Americans had done in the shoe, textile and paper industries…. – NYT, 3-23-11
  • Annelise Orleck: Clouds Blur Fire’s Meaning: But leading historians of the fire still disagree vehemently over how much the Jewish character of the event matters. “Within the Jewish and Italian communities, it still does have a unique resonance,” said Annelise Orleck, a professor of 20th-century … – The Jewish Week, 3-9-11
  • America’s union story: Blood, struggle and bargaining for good and bad: Eighty-one-year-old labor historian Ken Germanson watches the news from home in Milwaukee every night, mystified. “All those people raising their signs, protesting,” he said. “Well, geez, what did our governor think was going to happen?” Germanson ran the Wisconsin Labor History Society for nearly two decades, an organization that teaches students about the state’s union heritage…. – CNN.com, 3-4-11
  • Why is King John always the villian in movies? Because he really was awful, say historians: Make no mistake, he was a bad king, says John Hudson, of the Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of St Andrews. “He was a very considerable failure as a king. He loses a large amount of possessions inherited, in particular lands in France, like Normandy and Anjou. He manages to surrender his realm to the pope and ends up facing a huge baronial rebellion, a civil war and a war with France. In terms of failures, he is one of the worst kings.”…
    …[I]t was the Victorians who made King John the pantomime villain he is today, says Paul Sturtevant, who is researching Hollywood depictions of the medieval period, at the University of Leeds. “The Victorians used King John as a punchbag. Prior to the 18th and 19th Century, Robin Hood was not put in a historical place. It wasn’t about the monarch at all, just Robin Hood and his adventures…. Most historians would agree he was quite a bad king but whether he was a caricature of evil is another question entirely, he says…. – BBC Magazine, 3-1-11

HISTORY PROFILES:

  • Nixon Library Opens a Door Some Would Prefer Left Closed: …Timothy Naftali, the director of the library and the curator of the exhibition, said that given the uniqueness of the Nixon presidency — starting with the fact that he was forced out of office — there was no other way to honestly depict the complicated bundle of scandals that have become known as Watergate. He said the conflict with the foundation was unavoidable.
    “It was inevitable, wasn’t it?” Mr. Naftali said. “This was a private institution with a particular point of view. It was accustomed to presenting the president in a certain light. I was coming in as a professional historian who was committed to making sure the facts were known.” Mr. Naftali said he had no interest in prolonging the disagreement with the Nixon Foundation, and declined to discuss negotiations with them. “I would actually like the healing to start,” he said. “I’m sure they are as tired of this fight as I am.”… – NYT, 3-1-11

HISTORY QUOTES:

  • Historians weigh in on the most segregated cities in America: No. 1: Milwaukee
    Main city population: 594,833
    Metropolitan population: 1,555,908
    Segregation level (dissimilarity): 81.52
    “Most of our history is very similar to Chicago, Cleveland or even Baltimore,” says Marc Levine, professor of history and economic development at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. “Every place has had the zoning ordinances, then restrictive covenants, the practices of realtors. The standard history. What makes Milwaukee a little bit different than these other places, which explains why we’re consistently in the top five and often No. 1, in segregation? We have the lowest rate of African-American suburbanization of any of these larger cities.”… – Salon.com, 3-29-11
  • Jacques Barzun: With Congress having repealed that edict last year, Columbia faculty have raised new arguments against ROTC. Some faculty members have recently circulated a petition that the military should remain banned because it continues to be a “discriminatory institution” on the basis of “many reasons from physical disability to age.” The basketball team discriminates too.
    The armed forces have drawn some of their most celebrated leaders from Columbia. Not one but four commanders in chief, including the incumbent, studied or worked there. Educating citizen-soldiers is necessary not only for the vigor of our armed forces, but for the vitality of our universities and our republic.
    Most will choose not to answer the call – that is acceptable, the natural result of relying on an all-volunteer military. What is not acceptable is denying the army the opportunity to even make that call.
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: Bush missed chance to rally nation after 9/11: Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin told an audience at Queens University Thursday night that history could show that President George W. Bush missed a rare opportunity to rally the nation following the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, compared the Bush administration’s response to that of President Franklin D. Roosevelt following Pearl Harbor…. – Charlotte Observer, 3-3-11

HISTORY INTERVIEWS:

  • Salon interviews David Anderson over Huckabee’s Mau Mau claims: In his new book and in two media appearances this week, Mike Huckabee has argued that Barack Obama’s behavior as president can be partly explained by his views of British colonial history in Kenya, where Obama’s father and grandfather lived. Central to Huckabee’s theory is that Obama has a different view of the 1950s-era Mau Mau uprising in Kenya than most Americans, and that that would, in turn, explain Obama’s putative hatred for Winston Churchill.
    Huckabee seems to be throwing around the exotic-sounding term “Mau Mau” every chance he gets, so I decided to talk to a historian about what actually happened in 1950s Kenya. The deeper one looks beneath the surface, the less sense Huckabee’s narrative makes. Among other things, the suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion by the British involved the use of concentration camps and systematic torture — so it’s odd for Huckabee to be taking the British side in that conflict….
    Here’s my Q&A with the historian David Anderson about all of this…. – Salon, 3-2-11
  • Dianne Ravitch On Daily Show: Testing And Choice Undermining Education (VIDEO): Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed author, historian, and professor Dianne Ravitch on her new book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” Ravitch argued that testing and choice are undermining America’s education … – Huffington Post, 3-4-11

HISTORY AWARDS & APPOINTMENTS:

  • Historian Eric Foner one of 3 Winners of Bancroft Prize: Foner’s “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” is one of three winners of the coveted Bancroft Prize for history. The prize’s administrator, Columbia University, announced Thursday that the other recipients are Sara Dubow’s “Ourselves Unborn” and Christopher Tomlins’ “Freedom Bound.”… – AP, 3-24-11
  • Ramachandra Guha: Indian academic takes up top international affairs and history chair at LSE: A magisterial chronicle of India, a pioneering study of ecological movements and an award-winning social history of cricket are among the works of a scholar and writer who will take up the Philippe Roman Chair at LSE in 2011-12.
    Ramachandra Guha, a historian and biographer based in Bangalore, will succeed professor Niall Ferguson as holder of the chair in history and international affairs. He takes up the post in September…. – The FINANCIAL, 3-3-11
  • Obama awards National Humanities Medals to historians Bernard Bailyn, Gordon S. Wood, Jacques Barzun, and Stanley Katz: President Barack Obama today announced the ten winners of the 2010 National Humanities Medals, awarded for outstanding achievements in history, literature, education, and cultural policy. The medalists are: authors Wendell E. Berry, Joyce Carol Oates, and Philip Roth; historians Bernard Bailyn and Gordon S. Wood; literary scholars Daniel Aaron, Roberto González Echevarría, and Arnold Rampersad; cultural historian Jacques Barzun; and legal historian and higher education policy expert Stanley Nider Katz. The medals will be presented at a White House ceremony on Wednesday, March 2, 2011…. – National Endowment for the Humanities Press Release (3-1-11)

HISTORY ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • Charleston’s museums finally chronicle history of slavery: Here, in this lovely town, once one of the most prosperous in the American colonies, there is no escape. In the Old Slave Mart Museum that opened in 2007, you read: “You’re standing in the actual showroom, the place where traders sold — and buyers bought — American blacks who were born into slavery.”… Slavery and its heritage are everywhere here. Charleston was one of the main colonial ports of the 18th century, dealing in rice, indigo and slaves. In 1860 South Carolina held as many slaves as Georgia and Virginia, which were at least twice its size. The genteel grace and European travels of its wealthy citizens were made possible by the enslavement of about half the population.
    The sesquicentennial of the Civil War that is about to be commemorated means that it has been nearly 150 years since American slavery was brought to an end. But even in the North, the subject is still approached with caution, delicacy and worry. It inspires profound shame, guilt, anger, recrimination and remorse, aimed in many directions for many reasons on both sides of a racial divide…. – NYT, 3-11-11

HISTORIANS SPOTTED:

  • Diane Ravitch appears on “The Daily Show”The Daily Show, 3-4-11
  • Rethinking Howard Zinn on the BU campus: Friends and colleagues of the late Howard Zinn, perhaps BU’s best known political scientist, gathered at the Castle last week to examine the legacy of the historian whose 1980 book, A People’s History of the United States, sold more than two million copies and was the inspiration for the 2009 movie The People Speak.
    The seminar, sponsored by the International History Institute and titled Reconsidering Howard Zinn as a Historian, featured short talks by three former colleagues and friends. Zinn, who died in January 2010 at the age of 87, taught in the College of Arts & Sciences political science department for 24 years. And while all three expressed obvious affection and respect for Zinn and admiration for his exceptional quest for the truth, there were several points of disagreement with the great man’s widely shared opinions…. – BU Today, 3-3-11

HISTORY ON TV:

HISTORY BEST SELLERS (NYT):

UPCOMING HISTORY BOOK RELEASES:

  • G.J. Meyer: The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty, (Paperback), March 1, 2011
  • Jack Weatherford: The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire, (Paperback), March 1, 2011
  • Bruce S. Thornton: The Wages of Appeasement: Ancient Athens, Munich, and Obama’s America, (Hardcover), March 1, 2011
  • Miranda Carter: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, (Paperback), March 8, 2011
  • John D. Plating: The Hump: America’s Strategy for Keeping China in World War II (General), (Hardcover), March 9, 2011
  • David Goldfield: America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, (Hardcover), March 15, 2011
  • Matt Spruill: Decisions at Gettysburg: The Nineteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Campaign, (Paperback), March 16, 2011
  • Adrienne Mayor: The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, (Paperback), March 22, 2011
  • Michael O’Brien: Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon, (Paperback), March 29, 2011
  • Dominic Lieven: Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, (Paperback), March 29, 2011
  • Rudy Tomedi: General Matthew Ridgway, (Hardcover), March 30, 2011
  • Kim Wilson: Tea with Jane Austen (Second Edition), (Hardcover), April 1, 2011
  • Nick Bunker: Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, (Paperback), April 5, 2011
  • Nell Irvin Painter: The History of White People, (Paperback), April 18, 2011
  • Christopher I. Beckwith: Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present, (Paperback), April 21, 2011
  • Andrew F. Smith: Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine, (Paperback), April 22, 2011
  • Barbara Frale: The Templars: The Secret History Revealed, (Paperback), May 1, 2011
  • Alison Plowden: The Young Victoria (New), (Paperback), May 1, 2011
  • Bill Morgan: The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation, (Paperback), May 1, 2011
  • Rebecca Skloot: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, (Paperback), May 3, 2011
  • Lynne Olson: Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, (Paperback), May 3, 2011
  • Jane Ziegelman: 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, (Paperback), May 31, 2011
  • Jonathan R. Dull: The Age of the Ship of the Line: The British and French Navies, 1650-1815, (Paperback), June 1, 2011
  • Jasper Ridley: The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society, (Paperback), June 1, 2011
  • David Howard: Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic, (Paperback), June 8, 2011
  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback), July 1, 2011
  • Christopher Heaney: Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu, (Paperback), July 5, 2011
  • Eric Jay Dolin: Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America, (Paperback), July 5, 2011
  • Edward P. Kohn: Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt (First Trade Paper Edition), (Paperback), July 12, 2011

HISTORIANS PASSINGS:

  • Donny George, Protector of Iraq’s Ancient Riches, Dies at 60: Donny George, an esteemed Iraqi archaeologist who tried to stop the looters ransacking the Iraq National Museum after the invasion of 2003, then led in recovering thousands of stolen artifacts in the ensuing years, died on Friday in Toronto. He was 60…. – NYT, 3-15-11
  • UC Davis scholar Jack Forbes, 77, advocated for indigenous peoples: Jack Forbes, acclaimed author, activist and professor emeritus of Native American studies at the University of California, Davis, died Feb. 23 at Sutter Davis Hospital. He was 77…. – UC Davis, 2-25-11

Political Highlights March 28, 2011: Obama’s Latin American Trip — Decides, Defines Libya Mission — Sarah Palin’s Israel Trip — Geraldine Ferraro, First Woman on Presidential Ticket, Dies

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 3/25/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Fox News Poll: Voters Approve President’s Decision to Resume Gitmo Tribunals: By a 51-25 percent margin, voters approve of the president’s recent reversal on his Gitmo policy, which restarts U.S. military tribunals for terrorist detainees held there. Nearly one voter in four has no opinion on the policy change (23 percent).
    A 56 percent majority of Republicans approves of the resumption of military tribunals at Gitmo, as do about half of independents (49 percent) and Democrats (48 percent).
    More than two-thirds of those considering themselves part of the Tea Party movement approve of the president’s policy reversal (67 percent)… – Fox News, 3-24-11
  • A third of Americans see Obama as an ‘indecisive’ military leader…as White House label Libya bombing ‘kinetic action’: NATO agree tentative deal to take charge of Libya bombing
    One third think Obama ‘indecisive’ on military action
    White House refuse to use the word ‘war’
    79 per cent think U.S. should remove Gaddafi
    Only 7 per cent polled wanted ground troops deployed
    Poll comes day Obama was ‘locked out’ of White House… – Daily Mail UK, 3-24-11
  • Few Americans see Obama as strong military leader: Only 17 percent of Americans see President Barack Obama as a strong and decisive military leader, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the United States and its allies began bombing Libya. Nearly half of those polled view Obama as a cautious and consultative commander-in-chief and more than a third see him as indecisive in military matters…. – Reuters, 3-24-11

IN FOCUS

  • Wisconsin: Judge Again Halts Law Stripping Union Rights: A judge on Thursday halted Gov. Scott Walker’s plans — at least temporarily — to cut most public workers’ pay and strip them of most of their union rights. Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court issued a declaration stating in no uncertain terms that the collective bargaining law that led to weeks of protests had not taken effect, contradicting Republican arguments that it had because a state office published it online. Governor Walker, a Republican, said his administration would comply, despite misgivings…. – AP, 3-31-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • Obama defends Libya mission REGION IN TURMOIL He tells nation the U.S. has a ‘strategic interest’ in stopping Kadafi: President Obama told a skeptical American public that he ordered military action in Libya because circumstances allowed the U.S. and its allies to halt a humanitarian disaster, but he acknowledged that even a weakened Moammar Kadafi still may be a long way from leaving power.
    In his first address to the nation since launching cruise missiles and airstrikes 10 days ago, Obama on Monday cast doubt on the likelihood of U.S. military action in other Middle Eastern countries, where oppressed citizens have taken to the streets to demand reform. Under his leadership, he said, the United States would not act unilaterally, risking American lives and treasure as it did by launching the Iraq war in 2003…. – LAT, 3-29-11
  • Obama on Libya: ‘We have a responsibility to act’: Vigorously defending American attacks in Libya, President Barack Obama declared Monday night that the United States intervened to prevent a slaughter of civilians that would have stained the world’s conscience and “been a betrayal of who we are” as Americans. Yet he ruled out targeting Moammar Gadhafi, warning that trying to oust him militarily would be a mistake as costly as the war in Iraq….
    “To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” Obama said. He spoke in a televised address to the nation, delivered in front of a respectful audience of military members and diplomats.
    “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” Obama said. “And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”… – AP, 3-28-11
  • Obama’s Speech Draws Praise, Questions, Criticism In Congress: U.S. President Barack Obama’s address to the nation about the rationale for an intervention in Libya drew an array of reactions at the U.S. Capitol, mixing pride with unease and reflecting the lack of a coherent position among either party over the military action.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nev.) said that the U.S. had “stopped the deadly advance” of Col. Moammar Gadhafi towards Benghazi, the rebel capital, and would encourage “progress toward real change in Libya and throughout the Middle East.”… – WSJ, 3-28-11
  • McConnell: Obama needs to spell out U.S. role, costs in Libya: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll listen to President Obama’s speech on Libya tonight for answers to these questions: When will the U.S. combat role in the operation end? What will its duration be and at what cost? What are U.S. national security interests in Libya? What is the long-term role for the United States in Libya?
    McConnell said “it was the limited nature of our combat role that encouraged me the president was acting” within his responsibilities as commander in chief. The Senate GOP leader praised Defense Secretary Robert Gates for his counsel as the situation in Libya worsened and said he hopes Obama has been taking that advice to heart…. – USA Today, 3-28-11
  • Potential GOP candidates scold Obama on Libya Newt Gingrich concedes he made conflicting remarks but is unrepentant: Likely Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich conceded Saturday that he made conflicting statements about U.S. involvement in Libya, but he blamed them on contradictions in President Obama’s policy. The former House speaker called for a no-fly zone early this month after Obama said that Moammar Kadafi “must leave.” Last week, Gingrich backtracked, saying he would not have intervened using U.S. and European forces.
    Addressing an audience of conservative activists, Gingrich explained that when he advocated the no-fly zone, he was merely “trying to follow Obama” and did not favor intervention. But once Obama said the Libyan dictator should go, Gingrich said, “he pitted the prestige and power of the United States against a dictator who’s been anti-American for over 40 years.”… – LAT, 3-27-11
  • Obama to lay out his case on Libya to nation: President Barack Obama will make his case for U.S. involvement in Libya to an anxious public Monday night, while officials offered assurances that military action there does not set a precedent for how the U.S. will handle similar uprisings throughout the Middle East. White House aides were reluctant to spell out details of Obama’s speech, set for 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday. However, deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough said the rationale Obama would lay out for involvement in Libya cannot be applied to escalating clashes between pro- and anti-government forces in Syria and elsewhere.
    “Obviously there are certain aspirations that are being voiced by each of these movements, but there’s no question that each of them is unique,” McDonough said. “We don’t get very hung up on this question of precedent.”… – AP, 3-28-11
  • US reducing naval firepower aimed at Gadhafi: In a sign of U.S. confidence that the weeklong assault on Libya has tamed Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, the Pentagon has reduced the amount of naval firepower arrayed against him, officials said Sunday. The move, not yet publicly announced, reinforces the White House message of a diminishing U.S. role — a central point in President Barack Obama’s national address Monday night on Libya. The White House booked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on three Sunday news shows to promote the administration’s case ahead of the speech.
    Yet Gates, asked whether the military operation might be over by year’s end, said, “I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that.”… – AP, 3-27-11
  • US reducing naval firepower aimed at Gadhafi: In a sign of U.S. confidence that the weeklong assault on Libya has tamed Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, the Pentagon has reduced the amount of naval firepower arrayed against him, officials said Sunday.
    The move, not yet publicly announced, reinforces the White House message of a diminishing U.S. role — a central point in President Barack Obama’s national address Monday night on Libya. The White House booked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on three Sunday news shows to promote the administration’s case ahead of the speech.
    Yet Gates, asked whether the military operation might be over by year’s end, said, “I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that.”… – AP, 3-27-11
  • Obama says pressure increasing on Moammar Gadhafi: President Barack Obama says the pressure is increasing on Moammar Gadhafi as Libyans see that the U.S. stands “with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny. The Libyan leader “has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address, aired one week after the U.S.-led military action began…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Air raids force Gadhafi retreat, rebels seize east: Libyan rebels clinched their hold on the east and seized back a key city on Saturday after decisive international airstrikes sent Moammar Gadhafi’s forces into retreat, shedding their uniforms and ammunition as they fled. Ajdabiya’s initial loss to Gadhafi may have ultimately been what saved the rebels from imminent defeat, propelling the U.S. and its allies to swiftly pull together the air campaign now crippling Gadhafi’s military. Its recapture gives President Barack Obama a tangible victory just as he faces criticism for bringing the United States into yet another war… – AP, 3-26-11
  • US considers more firepower to hit Gadhafi forces: Even after a week of U.S.-led air strikes, forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are a potent threat to civilians, say Pentagon officials who are considering expanding the firepower and airborne surveillance systems in the military campaign.
    “Every day, the pressure on Gadhafi and his regime is increasing,” President Barack Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, aired just after Libyan rebels regained control of the eastern city of Ajdabiya. It was the first major turnaround in an uprising that once appeared on the verge of defeat.
    Obama also readied for a speech to the nation Monday evening to explain his decision-making on Libya to a public weary of a decade of war… – AP, 3-26-11
  • Obama to address nation on Monday about Libya: To a nation and a Congress seeking answers, President Barack Obama on Monday will offer his most expansive explanation of the U.S. role in the Libyan war, delivering a speech that is expected to cover the path ahead and his rationale about the appropriate use of force.
    Obama’s 7:30 p.m. EDT speech, to be given from the National Defense University in Washington, comes as leading Republican lawmakers and some from his own party have pressed him for clarity about the goals and exit strategy of the United States. Obama and top U.S. security officials spent about an hour talking to lawmakers on Friday, with the president answering direct questions from critics…. – AP, 3-25-11
  • NATO deal on Libya doesn’t mean quick exit for US: NATO’s limited role in command of the no-fly zone over Libya doesn’t allow the U.S. to make a quick exit from the costly military operation as the Obama administration had wanted.
    American sea and airpower remain key parts of the effort to counter forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi after allies balked at assuming complete command of the campaign that began six days ago. The U.S., along with France and Great Britain, maintain primary responsibility for attacks on Gadhafi’s ground forces and air defense systems, which are the toughest and most controversial parts of the operation…. – AP, 3-25-11
  • Obama confident coalition will lead Libyan war: President Barack Obama expressed confidence on Tuesday the United States will be able to transfer control of the Libyan military operation to an international coalition in a matter of days. Amid negotiations among allies about who will control the operation, Obama told a news conference with El Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes that “I have absolutely no doubt” that an agreement will be found soon. Obama spoke earlier in the day with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron and the White House said they agreed NATO should play an important role in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone…. – Reuters, 3-24-11
  • Boehner presses Obama to define Libya mission: President Barack Obama came under pressure from Republicans on Wednesday to outline the U.S. goals in Libya, where American aircraft and warships are part of an international campaign enforcing a no-fly zone, as lawmakers sought to protect Congress’ constitutional role in military decisions.
    In a letter to the White House, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said while he respected Obama’s authority as commander in chief, he complained that the president ordered the military into combat without clearly describing the mission and U.S. role for the American people and Congress. Boehner insisted that certain questions be answered on U.S. strategy, the cost of the operation, the continued support of coalition partners and whether it was acceptable for Gadhafi to remain in power after the military effort is over.
    “Because of the conflicting messages from the administration and our coalition partners, there is a lack of clarity over the objectives of this mission, what our national security interests are and how it fits into our overarching policy for the Middle East,” Boehner wrote. “The American people deserve answers to these questions. And all of these concerns point to a fundamental question: What is your benchmark for success in Libya?”…. – AP, 3-23-11
  • Obama insists actions in Libya serve US interests: Obama said he believes the public supports the mission. Obama said he believes the public supports the mission.
    “When this transition takes place, it is not going to be our planes that are maintaining the no-fly zone,” the president said at a news conference in El Salvador as he neared the end of a Latin American trip overshadowed by events in Libya. “It is not going to be our ships that are necessarily enforcing the arms embargo. That’s precisely what the other nations are going to do.’’
    “This is something that we can build into our budget. And we’re confident that not only can the goals be achieved, but at the end of the day the American people are going to feel satisfied that lives were saved and people were helped,” he said…. – AP, 3-22-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

President Barack Obama delivers a speech at Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda in Santiago, Chile, March 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • White House says Obama Accomplishes Goals on Latin America Trip: During his five day trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, President Barack Obama spoke in soaring tones about the progress of democracy and economic and social advancement in Latin America. Mr. Obama now faces the task of following through with commitments he made. Though distracted from the very beginning of his trip in Brazil, through its conclusion in El Salvador, by events in Libya and the Middle East, White House aides say President Obama accomplished the main goals of his Latin America journey.
    In major speeches in Rio de Janeiro and Santiago, he underscored what he sees as the importance of the Americas to the United States, and noted the progress countries have made in solidifying democracy, economic growth, and fighting poverty….
    “The realities of our time, and the new capabilities and confidence of Latin America, demand something different. President Kennedy’s challenge endures; to build a hemisphere where all people can hope for a sustainable, suitable standard of living, and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom,” he said. “But half a century later, we must give meaning to this work in our own way, in a new way.”… – VOA, 3-24-11
  • Alan McPherson: Obama in Latin America: So not Nixon: President Obama is not the only high-profile U.S. official to have kicked around a soccer ball in Latin America, as he did in Brazil a few days ago.
    When Vice President Richard Nixon toured Latin America in 1958, he walked out onto a soccer field in front of 10,000 Ecuadorians and did some dribbling, joking that he never could use his head.
    Obama didn’t try to head the ball in Rio, but I bet he could have. He is not only more athletic than Nixon ever was but also a better statesman. His popularity in Latin America is another testament to that.
    In the 1950s, Nixon went to Latin America ostensibly to woo the middle classes but he wound up lecturing them and reverting to patting dictators on the back.
    Obama, in contrast, went to connect with all groups. He met with elected presidents from the left and the right, and with business groups. In Rio, he visited a slum and spoke, like the former community organizer that he is, of the possibilities of self-improvement. In El Salvador, he visited the crypt of Archbishop Oscar Romero, slain by a U.S. ally in 1980.
    Obama came to the poor and forgotten. Nixon avoided them, so they came to him. When he landed in Caracas, Venezuela, denizens of a lower-class neighborhood rushed his motorcade, spit on his windshield and banged it with iron bars, almost killing the vice president.
    Obama has shown that he can use his head and his heart…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 3-25-11

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama confers with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, right, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, following a conference call on Libya with his national security team, in San Salvador, El Salvador, March 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Obama says too much testing makes education boring: “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” the president told students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. Obama, who is pushing a rewrite of the nation’s education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools, said policymakers should find a test that “everybody agrees makes sense” and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually.
    “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.” “And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in,” Obama said. “They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.”… – AP, 3-28-11
  • Obama gets an iPad: Barack Obama famously became the first Blackberrier-in-Chief when it was reported the president received a $3,000 NSA-approved smartphone to use following his inauguration. It was quickly dubbed the “Barackberry” and the president was often seen with the device. Today President Obama was asked during a Univision town hall if he owns a computer. Obama joked, “I’m the President of the United States. You think I’ve got a – you think I’ve got to go borrow somebody’s computer?” He added that he even has an iPad.
    Surely this makes Obama the most tech savvy president in history – he owns a computer, carries a blackberry, listens to an iPod, and now he uses an iPad. After all, George W. Bush never used email during his two terms and Bill Clinton sent just two emails while in office. But up until recently, Obama was iPadless…. – CNN, 3-28-11
  • Emails: Insiders worried over political ‘meddling’: The Homeland Security Department official in charge of submitting sensitive government files to political advisers for secretive reviews before they could be released to citizens, journalists and watchdog groups complained in emails that the unusual scrutiny was “crazy” and hoped someone outside the Obama administration would discover the practice…. – AP, 3-28-11
  • Geraldine Ferraro, first woman on U.S. presidential ticket, dies: Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic congresswoman who became the first woman on a major party presidential ticket as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, died on Saturday at the age of 75, her family said.
    Ferraro died at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston of a blood cancer after a 12-year illness, according to a statement from her family. “Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed,” the statement said.
    Ferraro was an energetic and articulate three-term congresswoman with a liberal reputation when Mondale picked her from the male-dominated U.S. House of Representatives. Ferraro’s presence on the Democratic ticket generated excitement on the campaign trail, particularly among women. Yet on Election Day, Republican President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush won in a landslide, carrying every state except Mondale’s home state of Minnesota.
    In delivering her concession speech that night, Ferraro saluted Mondale for helping women reach new political heights. “For two centuries, candidates have run for president. Not one from a major party ever asked a woman to be his running mate — until Walter Mondale,” she said. “Campaigns, even if you lose them, do serve a purpose. My candidacy has said the days of discrimination are numbered.”… – Reuters, 3-26-11
  • First female VP candidate Ferraro dies at 75: Geraldine Ferraro’s selection as Walter Mondale’s Democratic running mate in the 1984 presidential election made her a winner as far as history was concerned, despite an unsuccessful campaign that proved to be a tough political slog against a popular incumbent.
    Her vice presidential bid, the first for a woman on a major party ticket, emboldened women across the country to seek public office and helped lay the groundwork for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential candidacy in 2008 and John McCain’s choice of his running mate, Sarah Palin, that year.
    “By choosing a woman to run . you send a powerful signal to all Americans: There are no doors we cannot unlock,” Ferraro said in her acceptance speech at the 1984 Democratic convention. “We will place no limits on achievement. If we can do this, we can do anything.”
    Ferraro died Saturday in Boston, where the 75-year-old was being treated for complications of blood cancer. She died just before 10 a.m., said Amanda Fuchs Miller, a family friend who worked for Ferraro in her 1998 Senate bid and was acting as a spokeswoman for the family…. – AP, 3-27-11
  • Obama: Ferraro blazed trail for all Americans: President Barack Obama calls Geraldine Ferraro a political trailblazer who broke down barriers for women and Americans of all backgrounds. Obama says his daughters — Sasha and Malia — will grow up in a more equal country because of Ferraro’s career and her ideals…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Anti-this, pro-that, all convene at White House: What do Yemeni violence, Bahrain’s monarchy and genetically modified foods have in common? All were the subjects Saturday of small but animated protests in front of the White House, where President Barack Obama was ensconced indoors on the other side of the fence.
    The pedestrian-only strip of Pennsylvania Avenue, between the White House and Lafayette Square, often hosts demonstrators. Rarely, however, do so many interests bump into each other, literally, and generate such a cacophony of unrelated chants…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Obama’s Not Returning His Peace Prize: The Libyan assault as well as continued American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan have many people saying that either the Nobel Peace Prize committee should demand the prize be returned or that the president should volunteer to hand it back. For those who think these are serious options, I have some bad news for you — it’ll never happen. Not tomorrow, not next week, not ever.
    Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize raised a lot of eyebrows around the world given that he had barely been in office and had little on the resume to justify the prize. My conclusion was that the committee gave it for two main reasons: (1) to remind America that they really disliked George W. Bush and (2) to inspire Obama to act on his eloquent expressions of global harmony. Obama was well aware that he had done nothing to deserve the award and so he was faced with the choice of either respectfully declining or of accepting the prize while explaining that he doesn’t currently or in the future deserve it. He chose the latter both in words and in deeds…. – Huff Post, 3-25-11
  • Obama cites Libya at Greek celebration: President Obama did discuss Libya in public today — a brief mention during a White House reception for the 190th anniversary of Greek Independence Day.
    “As we celebrate the independence of the Greek people, the United States and Greece are standing with our NATO allies to support the Libyan people as they stand up for their own freedom,” Obama told an audience in the East Room.
    Obama also said that the democratic ideals of ancient Greece have inspired the United States from the beginning. “Our Founding Fathers were students of Greek philosophy and Greek history,” he said, “drawing on Greek principles to guide our own nation in its earliest days.”… – USA Today, 3-25–11
  • Obama is locked out of the White House (temporarily): President Obama had a little trouble getting back to the Oval Office yesterday after his trip to Latin America. The first door he tried was locked — and it’s not like the president carries around a set of house keys. No biggie; Obama tried another door and walked in. But the incident did produce some amusing video… – USA Today, 3-25-11
  • Michelle Obama to speak to West Point graduates: Michelle Obama will build on her military outreach this spring when she speaks to graduates at West Point and at a high school that serves military families. The first lady’s office said on Friday that Mrs. Obama will speak May 20 at the graduation banquet at West Point. The dinner is the final social event cadets take part in as a class before to their commencement ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy.
    Mrs. Obama will also speak at graduation ceremonies at University of Northern Iowa and Spelman College. On June 3, she’ll address graduates at Quantico Middle High School, a Virginia school located on the Marine Corps Base at Quantico. The high school serves families of Marines stationed on the base…. – WSJ, 3-25-11
  • Welcome back: Big political challenges greet Obama: Returning home to some messy politics, President Barack Obama must contend with a battery of challenges, from a spending standoff that threatens to shut down the government to congressional angst over the U.S.-led war against Libya. Foreign crises rage across Africa and the Middle East, and Americans still want a more quickly improving economy.
    The president left behind a wave of goodwill in Latin America as he shored up alliances that the White House said would prove pivotal for years to come. Yet the timing made for political and logistical headaches, as his five-day trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador took place just as the U.S. and allies launched a U.N.-sanctioned assault against Moammar Gadhafi’s menacing regime…. – AP, 3-24-11
  • As Health Care Reform Turns 1, Backers and Detractors Dig In But many agree the provision requiring insurance for all is a tough pill to swallow: The Affordable Care Act turns 1 year old on Wednesday, and the health-care reform package — the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s first term in office — remains as controversial as the day it was signed into law…. – Businessweek, 3-25-11
  • One Year Anniversary of Health Care Law | Special Report: BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: First, it goes to the appellate court. There is the district court, then there are appeal courts, and then it goes to the Supreme Court. But here is the key point, though. And I said this in the “State of the Union.” I don’t want to spend the next two years refighting the battles of the last two years.
    GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-VIR.: For the Obama administration to oppose this expedited review to me is unconscionable. It strings this thing out to potentially for years of litigation where we could perhaps with their agreement have an expedited review in the Supreme Court.
    BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the healthcare law was signed into law one year ago today. And you look at the latest polls, here’s one from Fox News opinion dynamics, and the question, do you believe the healthcare law will be repealed or not? And there you see, no, 56 percent, it won’t be repealed…. – Fox News, 3-25-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Time short, tempers flare in budget showdown: With the clock ticking toward a possible government shutdown, spending-cut talks between Senate Democrats and the Republicans controlling the House have broken off in a whom-do-you-trust battle over legislation to keep operations running for another six months. Democrats have readied a proposal to cut $20 billion more from this year’s budget, a party official said, but they haven’t yet sent it to House Republicans. That’s because they say it’s unclear whether the majority Republicans would accept a split-the-difference bargain they’d earlier hinted at or will yield to demands of tea party-backed GOP freshmen for a tougher measure.
    “Republicans refuse to negotiate,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared on Monday. “The infighting between the tea party and the rest of the Republican Party — including the Republican leadership in Congress — is keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table. And it’s pretty hard to negotiate without someone else on the other side of the table,” the Nevada Democrat said…. – AP, 3-28-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Agents can delay Miranda warnings in some cases: After being criticized for providing Miranda warnings in terrorism cases, the FBI has reminded its agents that in some instances they can question terrorist suspects without immediately reading them their rights. The Justice Department said Thursday the FBI guidance issued late last year was a reminder that investigators can delay telling suspects of their rights to an attorney and to remain silent when there is immediate concern for the safety of the public.
    The guidance outlines how to use the public safety exception when appropriate. The guidelines do not change Miranda or the public safety exception, which the Justice Department does not have the authority to alter because they flow from court decisions based on the Constitution. “The evolving nature of the terrorist threat demands that we keep the men and women on the front lines advised of all lawful and appropriate tools available to them to identify, locate, detain, and interrogate terrorism suspects,” the Justice Department said in a statement…. – AP, 3-24-11
  • Judge rejects Google’s deal with authors and publishers to put books online: In a blow to Google’s bid to put all books online and expand its Internet dominance, a federal judge in New York on Tuesday rejected the search giant’s settlement with authors and publishers, saying the terms “simply go too far” in giving Google an advantage over competitors and copyright holders. The decision comes as regulators in this country and in Europe scrutinize Google’s supremacy in the search business. The judge’s thinking, laid out in a 48-page filing, echoed many of the antitrust arguments made by the Department of Justice when it criticized the deal a year ago. Google vowed on Tuesday to continue digitizing books, only a portion of which are affected by the settlement, which would have allowed Google to sell access to millions of out-of-print books to consumers and libraries. “This is clearly disappointing, but we’ll review the court’s decision and consider our options,” said Hilary Ware, managing counsel at Google. “Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the U.S. today.”… – WaPo, 3-22-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • La Follette says union law not in effect, Walker official disagrees: Special Section: Ongoing coverage of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill and the battle over the 2011-’13 state budget Secretary of State Doug La Follette said Saturday that the budget-repair bill has not taken effect because it has not been published by his office. “It’s still an act of the Legislature that has not yet become law because I have not yet designated a publication date,” La Follette said. He added the law cannot take effect until he directs publication in the official state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Normally, a bill takes effect the day after publication…. – Journal Sentinel

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Obama Campaign Picks Headquarters in Chicago: President Obama’s aides have settled on the location of a campaign headquarters in downtown Chicago, with his re-election effort poised to open early next month by raising money and building a political organization for the 2012 presidential race….
    Jim Messina, who stepped down as deputy White House chief of staff, will be the campaign manager for the re-election effort. He will be joined in Chicago by two deputy campaign mangers: Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, and Julianna Smoot, a former White House social secretary, who led Mr. Obama’s fund-raising efforts in 2008.
    David Plouffe, who ran the first presidential race for Mr. Obama, is now working in the White House as a senior adviser to the president. He said this year that putting the re-election headquarters in Chicago was an important step in rebuilding the campaign operation that helped elect Mr. Obama. “‘There’s not going to be two dueling power centers,” Mr. Plouffe said in a January interview. “‘The philosophy of this campaign will not be that the White House is somehow running the campaign. The people running the campaign are in charge of the campaign. That’s the way the president wants it. We’ll do it in a coordinated way, but they’re running this thing.”… – NYT, 3-28-11
  • Analysis: Palin takes own tack in presidential prelude: If Sarah Palin is going to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, she is sure going about it her own way. A conservative TV idol and household name, the former Alaska governor sees little need to behave like a traditional presidential candidate.
    Palin has been nowhere to be seen recently in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, while potential rivals scour in search of staff and supporters. Instead, Palin has relied on her appearances on Fox News and often caustic comments on her Facebook page to rally support for conservative causes and perhaps prepare the ground for a run against Democratic President Barack Obama.
    “She’s certainly feisty and doesn’t think that the normal rules and the normal conventional wisdom apply to her,” said Republican strategist Charlie Black…. – Reuters, 3-27-11
  • GOP presidential hopefuls hammer health care: A handful of high-profile Republicans who may be eyeing the White House told hundreds of conservative activists Saturday that most Americans agree with their values, and insisted that opposition to the president’s health care overhaul could help the GOP make historic gains in 2012.
    Rep. Michele Bachmann, a tea party favorite, got the noisiest reception when she told about 500 people gathered in Des Moines that voters are ready to overturn the federal health care law and oust President Barack Obama during next year’s election.
    “The ultimate arrogance, in my opinion, is Obama-care,” the Minnesota congresswoman said. “That’s why I am so absolutely confident in 2012. Americans have made the decision that we’re going to take our country back.”… – AP, 3-26-11
  • Obama’s Libya policy blasted by GOP 2012 hopefuls: The Republicans looking to succeed President Barack Obama all say he’s bungling Libya. What most haven’t spelled out: how they would address the latest international crisis if they were in the White House…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Huckabee and Romney lead Republican field: Gallup: Mike Huckabee leads a list of potential candidates for the 2012 U.S. Republican nomination, edging out Mitt Romney, while support for Sarah Palin has slipped, according to a Gallup Poll released on Friday. Huckabee’s support has been creeping up while voters backing Romney have slipped from 16 percent in February and 19 percent in November. Palin, holding at 16 percent since September, dropped to 12 percent in the latest poll…. – Reuters, 3-25-11
  • Is Michele Bachmann the brightest bulb in GOP race?: Move over Sarah Palin. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann — a gorgeous, charismatic, Tea Party leader, mother of five, foster mother of 23 and former tax lawyer — plans to form a presidential exploratory committee. America’s heartland is all aquiver. So is cable TV. Imagine the wild ride. The first GOP debate, May 2, could feature bomb throwers Sarah Palin, Bachmann, Donald Trump and oh-so-reasonable Mitt Romney just struggling to be noticed…. – Boston Herald, 3-27-11
  • Adviser: Bachmann likely to enter WH race: Tea party favorite and Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is feeling pressure from the political calendar to rush a decision on a White House bid and may announce her intentions as early as May, one of her top advisers said Thursday. “I’m not sure the debate is what’s going to make our final decision,” he said. “Is it a factor? Yes.”
    “I’m in for 2012 in that I want to be a part of the conversation in making sure that President (Barack) Obama only serves one term, not two, because I want to make sure that we get someone who’s going to be making the country work again. That’s what I’m in for,” Bachmann told ABC News. “But I haven’t made a decision yet to announce, obviously, if I’m a candidate or not, but I’m in for the conversation.”… – AP, 4-24-11
  • Potential Republican presidential candidates court evangelicals: With the 2012 Republican presidential field slowly taking shape, potential candidates are barnstorming early primary states, with an eye on a group that will prove decisive in picking the eventual GOP nominee: evangelicals. Likely candidates have met with preachers, conservative Christians and religious leaning home-schoolers in South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa, where winning the evangelical vote is tantamount to winning the caucus…. – WaPo, 3-23-11
  • Republican Pawlenty takes election step: Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on Monday became the first high-profile Republican to show serious intent to enter the presidential election race against President Barack Obama in 2012. Pawlenty, 50, announced in a flag-waving video on his Facebook page that he will set up a presidential exploratory committee, a formal step toward running for the Republican nomination.
    “We, the people of the United States, will take back our government,” he said in the two-minute video, which included references to Republican giants Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln.
    Leaping into the fray ahead of his rivals gives Pawlenty some of the U.S. media attention that he needs to raise his national profile…. – Reuters, 3-23-11
  • A perfect GOP candidate is hard to find: Mitt Romney is the godfather of what Republican critics call Obamacare. Newt Gingrich is an adulterer on his third marriage. Tim Pawlenty is too green — environmentally, that is.
    Jon Huntsman worked for President Barack Obama. And Haley Barbour has come off as dismissive of racial segregation.
    Is any potential Republican presidential nominee without vulnerabilities that could alienate voters, especially those in the GOP primaries, and provide ready-made attacks for opponents? Not in this crop…. – AP, 3-22-11
  • Sarah Palin makes dramatic u-turn on her way to Bethlehem, officials said she didn’t follow protocol: Sarah Palin had a possibly embarrassing moment during her visit in Israel on Monday. The former vice presidential candidate had to abruptly turn back from her trip to the Christian holy site of Bethlehem, which was supposed to be the first stop of her day, according to British newspaper The Telegraph…. – NY Daily News, 3-21-11
  • Sarah Palin makes dramatic u-turn on her way to Bethlehem, officials said she didn’t follow protocol: On her first visit to Jerusalem, the former Alaska governor lamented that Jews can’t pray openly at the Temple Mount. “Why are you apologizing all the time?” Palin asked the Israelis who took her and husband Todd on a tour of the sacred site, the Jerusalem Post reported. It was not immediately clear how Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz and Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon responded to Palin’s puzzler…. – Politico, 3-21-11
  • Sarah Palin meets Netanyahu, vows return to Israel: Sarah Palin promised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she’ll come back for a longer visit, as she wrapped up her overseas tour. The Jerusalem Post reports that Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and her husband, Todd, met with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at their official residence in Jerusalem. Palin traveled to Israel after delivering a speech in India over the weekend.
    Palin declined Netanyahu’s offer to meet with other Israeli officials and she turned down requests for interviews from the news media, the Post reported. Palin’s meeting with Netanyahu came as the battle for the Republican presidential nomination effectively began in the USA when ex-Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty launched an exploratory committee for a White House bid…. – USA Today, 3-21-11

QUOTES

President Obama at the National Defense University, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/28/11
  • President Obama’s Speech on Libya: Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya National Defense University Washington, D.C.: Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.
    At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted — if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.
    It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
    We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi’s air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.
    In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies -– nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey –- all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people.
    To summarize, then: In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days. – WH, 3-28-11 Transcript Mp4 Mp3
  • Weekly Address: The Military Mission in Libya: Remarks of President Barack Obama Washington D.C. March 26, 2011: Last week, when I ordered our armed forces to help protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Qaddafi, I pledged to keep the American people fully informed. Since then, I’ve spoken about the limited scope and specific purpose of this mission. Today, I can report that thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we’ve made important progress.
    As Commander in Chief, I face no greater decision than sending our military men and women into harm’s way. And the United States should not—and cannot—intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world.
    But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized; when someone like Qaddafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives—then it’s in our national interest to act. And it’s our responsibility. This is one of those times.
    Our military mission in Libya is clear and focused. Along with our allies and partners, we’re enforcing the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. We’re protecting the Libyan people from Qaddafi’s forces. And we’ve put in place a no fly zone and other measures to prevent further atrocities.
    We’re succeeding in our mission. We’ve taken out Libya’s air defenses. Qaddafi’s forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Qaddafi threatened to show “no mercy,” his forces have been pushed back. So make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians—innocent men, women and children—have been saved.
    As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea. Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft. And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners.
    This is how the international community should work—more nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and cost of upholding peace and security.
    This military effort is part of our larger strategy to support the Libyan people and hold the Qaddafi regime accountable. Together with the international community, we’re delivering urgent humanitarian assistance. We’re offering support to the Libyan opposition. We’ve frozen tens of billions of dollars of Qaddafi’s assets that can help meet the needs and aspirations of the Libyan people. And every day, the pressure on Qaddafi and his regime is increasing.
    Our message is clear and unwavering. Qaddafi’s attacks against civilians must stop. His forces must pull back. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach those in need. Those responsible for violence must be held accountable. Moammar Qaddafi has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized.
    In recent days, we’ve heard the voices of Libyans expressing their gratitude for this mission. “You saved our lives,” said one Libyan. Said another, “Today, there is hope.”
    Every American can be proud of the lives we’ve saved in Libya and of the service of our men and women in uniform who once again have stood up for our interests and our ideals. And people in Libya and around the world are seeing that the United States of America stands with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny. – WH, 3-26-11 Transcript Mp4 Mp3
  • John Bolton: President Obama ‘doesn’t care’ about foreign policy: John Bolton laced into President Barack Obama’s foreign policy credentials Saturday, saying Obama “doesn’t care very much” about national security because “it’s not what motivates him.”
    “How ’bout the war in Libya that our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president announced last week?” the former United Nations Ambassador said to laughs, adding that it “reflects a crisis in American international leadership.”
    “We ask ourselves, why does the president perform this way, and first of all, he doesn’t care very much about national security. It’s not what gets him up in the morning,” Bolton said. “It’s not what motivates him.” “He is our first post-American president,” Bolton said. “I didn’t say un-American, I didn’t say anti-American… because he’s a citizen of the world. He doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism.”… – Politico, 3-26-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian Zelizer: It’s too easy for presidents to go to war: Many people across the political spectrum have been unhappy with President Barack Obama’s decision to send American fighting forces to attack Libya. They argue that Obama failed to provide an adequate explanation for making this choice…
    Obama will finally make a speech to the nation about Libya, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET Monday. But the speech, coming long after American forces are already in the middle of the conflict, is almost beside the point. What’s more relevant is we are already there with very little public debate.
    Obama’s decision fits into a long-standing pattern — one that many should find troubling — of war becoming too easy to start, though not necessarily easy to win. Unlike some areas of policy, where people may have a sense that politicians need more flexibility, this is one area where the obstacles and challenges should be great…. – CNN, 3-28-11
  • Hail On The Chief: Obama Takes Hits On All Sides: Obama “has always used his plastic persona to his advantage,” says Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “During the 2008 campaign, he was able to put together a broad coalition ranging from progressive activists to disaffected Republicans because everyone could see something in him that they liked. He continued to use this persona during the heated first two years of his presidency.” The Republicans undercut some of Obama’s successes, Zelizer says, by painting him as a left-of-center Democrat even when he shifted toward the center. “Still, he often confounded his opponents by defying political stereotypes,” Zelizer says. “Many other presidents have taken this approach as well. We just need to remember Bill Clinton.” But at some point, Zelizer says, “it is important that the president articulates a certain set of core principles, some kind of line in the sand, so that he still appears as a leader and so that he has the political capital to push through legislation.”… – NPR, 3-25-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Obama needs to show he’s on top of crises: Major crises can inflict great political damage on U.S. presidents. Regardless of all the weapons that come with the office, presidents throughout American history have discovered that they can quickly be overwhelmed when events spin out of control.
    The ways in which presidents respond to these crises have a profound impact on their political standing.
    President Obama is still in a good political position for the 2012 election. Most of the Republicans who have toyed with the possibility of running would be candidates with significant vulnerabilities. And the Tea Party’s power among Republicans could alienate moderate voters.
    But over the past few months, Obama has had to confront crises at a dizzying pace. And these events swirled against the background of a chronically high unemployment rate that has been the most frustrating challenge that this administration has faced. Some critics say Obama has not been leading in these areas, that he is shifting his position as events unfold and that he lacks a strong plan for handling these multiple situations….
    As Carter discovered, public perceptions of a president in crisis matter very much in American politics. President Obama’s cool and deliberative style has been hugely effective at different moments of his career. The president’s strategy has been to ride out political turmoil and fluctuations in international conditions without appearing frantic.
    Yet there comes a point when voters want to know that the president has some control over events, rather than events controlling the president. Obama will need to provide Americans with a clearer sense that he does have a roadmap to handle these multiple challenges or it is possible that voters could lose confidence in his being able to do so. This would give Republicans, who are struggling politically, the opening they need. – CNN, 3-21-11

Top Young Historians: 119 – Katherine Carté Engel

BASIC FACTS

Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University, 2004 – Present
Area of Research: Early American Religious History, German Immigration, Transatlantic Pietism, Backcountry
Education: Ph.D., American History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2003
Major Publications: Carté Engel is the author of Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), the 2010 Dale W. Brown Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, awarded by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. Katherine Carté Engel JPG
Carté Engel is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others:
“Religion and the Economy: New Methods for an Old Problem,” Early American Studies 8(3), Fall 2010, 482-514;
“The Evolution of the Bethlehem Pilgergemeine,” in Jonathan Strom and James Melton, eds., Pietism in Two Worlds (New York: Ashgate, 2009), 163-181; With Jeffrey A. Engel, “On Writing the Local within Diplomatic History: Trends, Historiography, Purpose,” in Jeffrey A. Engel, ed. Lives and Consequences: the Local Impact of the Cold War (Palo Alto and Washington, DC: Stanford University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2007) 1-32; “‘Commerce that the Lord Could Sanctify and Bless’: Moravian Participation in Transatlantic Trade, 1740-1760” in Michele Gillespie and Robert Beachy, eds., Pious Pursuits: German Moravians in the Atlantic World (New York: Berghahn Books, 2007), 113-126; “Bridging the Gap: Religious Community and Declension in Eighteenth-century Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,” 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era, 11 (2005), 407-442; “The Strangers’ Store: Moral Capitalism in Moravian Bethlehem, 1753-1775,” Early American Studies 1(1), January 2003, 90-126, Winner First Place, Colonial Society of Pennsylvania Article Prize, 2003.
Awards: Carté Engel is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
2010 Dale W. Brown Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, awarded by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies;
ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship, 2009-2010 Competition Year;
SHEAR Research Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia-Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 2010;
American Philosophical Society, Franklin Research Grant, 2009;
Pew Young Scholars in American Religion, Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, 2007-2009;
McNeil Center for Early American Studies, Barra Postdoctoral Fellow, 2004-2005;
First Place, Colonial Society of Pennsylvania Article Prize, 2003;
Yale University, Center for Religion in American Life Dissertation Fellow, 2002-2003;
Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) Research Fellow, 2001;
Program in Early American Economy and Society-Library Company of Philadelphia Dissertation Fellow, 2000-2001;
DAAD Sprachkursstipendium, Goethe Institute, Iserlohn, Germany, 1999.
Additional Info:
Formerly Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, Camden Campus, 2003-2004.

PERSONAL ANECDOTE

When I talk about my first project, Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America, I am often asked if I’m a Moravian. For me this moment always crystallizes the challenges of using a case study to prove a broader point. Despite the denomination’s pivotal importance to the rise of evangelicalism in the eighteenth century, its relatively small size today has meant that most people assume only an insider would choose to devote so much time to its history. I’m not a Moravian; I came to the study Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s early history as a graduate student interested in the social history of religion in the diverse middle colonies, in how religion interwove with and was shaped by the market economy, in transatlantic religious community. To look at these big issues in the close way I wanted to, I needed examine a single cohesive community, and the Moravians fit the bill.

My first trip to the Moravian Church Archives in Bethlehem came in 1996, when I started working my dissertation proposal. The archivist at the time, Rev. Vernon Nelson, was cautiously welcoming. He inquired if I spoke German. I didn’t. He steered me towards some account books which had been kept in English, and he probably expected I’d never be back. A few weeks later I defended my dissertation proposal. One of the committee members asked if I spoke German, and I glibly responded that I would learn it. That glibness evaporated when I had to get down to work, however. I relocated to Germany and, when I came back, I got a little apartment in Bethlehem, just in time to take the old German Script course offered annually by the Moravian Archives. Then I became a fixture in the archives, working at what seemed to me to be a snail’s pace through a mountain of eighteenth-century documents.

At first this seemed profoundly isolating. I was hundreds of miles from my grad program, and I knew no one well. But here I found the unexpected benefits of doing a close study. The archives supported its own particular community. A grandmotherly office manager. Two Moravian ministers with children older than me. A septuagenarian philanthropist with boundless passion for the maps of eighteenth-century Bethlehem. A former Catholic priest who fled the Nazis in his native Germany. In a fit of silliness, I dyed my hair red to see if anyone would comment. No. As soon as I let them, however, I was taken in by this warm, caring, and intellectually lively community of folks whose love for Bethlehem’s past was a graduate student’s dream. Life improved again when another woman started a major research project, and she brought boundless good humor to the mix.

Any historian who’s encountered the Moravians knows that they kept unparalleled records, filled with the tiny details a social historian loves, yet always with an eye to the wider world. You can ask nearly any question of these sources, big or small, and find some version of an answer. Just as important for me, however, was the help I received from their modern custodians. They never appeared to tire of my tiny finds. They let me spread enormous account books across long rows of tables, and then leave them there for weeks. They spent hours tracking down random bits of evidence I might want to see. They helped me sort out cramped and difficult handwriting. They brought me along for lunch at the local diner, which, since I’m disinclined to spend more than a nanosecond in the kitchen, kept me from giving all my money to the local convenience store. Most important, they were deeply supportive of scholarship. They never attempted to influence how I or any other visitor interpreted the materials in the archives. Much has changed at the Moravian archives since I did the bulk of my research – new leadership and exciting new projects-but the Moravian historical community’s most important gift to scholars has not changed. It continues to be a place that supports intellectual exploration of all kinds.

I’m now working on a very different project, a study of how the American Revolution changed the idea and the practice of international Protestantism. It requires work in more than a dozen different archives, using a wide variety of sources. While I came to this project in much the same way as I did my work on the Moravians, and I find this set of questions about religion and politics as compelling as I did the last set about religion and the economy, I will miss the chance to get to know a single community so closely.

QUOTES

By Katherine Carté Engel

  • The relationship between religion and economic life is one of the thorniest and most intractable topics people have found to argue about. It has provoked some of the most enduring historical scholarship of the modern era and simultaneously fueled some of the noblest jeremiads. At the crux of the dilemma is an elusive problem. Religion and the selflessness of true faith (particularly though by no means exclusively in a Christian context) appear to be in eternal conflict with the process of material accumulation that drives a market economy. And yet, though the conflict between religious faith and economic life seems inevitable, numerous exceptions leap to mind, where devout souls prospered, or wealth seemed to further religious ends. …. In daily life, the moments where religion was brought to bear on the economy were small, subtle, and frequent. Should a merchant take advantage of an ignorant buyer, or would the application of his business savvy violate his faith? Should a church’s trustees use an innovative and complicated means of finance, such as a corporate structure? Should a missionary sell goods to prospective converts, potentially mingling commerce with the message he or she tried to convey? These were the nitty-gritty questions about the morality of economic life faced by religiously minded early Americans, and when they arose the idea of a grand historical conflict between religion and the market offered little clarity. Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America JPGThe Moravians’ experience points to the fundamental problem created by examining the question of religion and economic life in isolation from the rest of life, be it politics, immigration, race, gender, war, or (literally) the price of tea in China. When mundane transactions are the terrain under examination, the scholars’ lens is focused in very tightly. Yet such an approach also places the story on a much wider stage, for those transactions were part of an economy and political system that circled the Atlantic, encompassing four continents and many peoples. Bethlehem declined, but the insidious rise of acquisitiveness within the hearts of its residents was not to blame. For the Moravians, the pivot point came from another quarter entirely. The community’s ties to a church hierarchy in Germany connected it to events and developments in far distant quarters. The Unity’s circum-Atlantic presence created opportunities for it, such as the Commercial Society, that drew on the Caribbean and South American plantation economies. Likewise, the multiple pressures of the Seven Years’ War, financial and, closer to Bethlehem, racial, sharply curtailed the Moravians’ religious choices. The result was ineluctable: a renegotiation of the role of religion in Bethlehem’s economy. The individualized economic ethic that characterized Bethlehem’s religious life in the last quarter of the eighteenth century was fully Moravian, but it was fundamentally different from what came before. — Katherine Carté Engel in “Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America”

About Katherine Carté Engel

  • “The argument Engel makes is sophisticated, detailed and original…..She draws on an impressive range of primary and secondary sources and organizes the argument in a compelling way, in clear prose. In terms of the quality and originality of scholarship, this volume clearly stands [out].” — Dale W. Brown Book Prize in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies Award Committee
  • The book award judges selected Religion and Profit from a pool of 28 books nominated for the award this year. One judge notes that Engel’s book is “engaging and well-written at the same time that it is well-researched and makes excellent use of primary sources,” and that it “links the focus group (Moravians in Bethlehem, Pa., in the eighteenth century) with broader scholarship, challenging major historical/sociological assumptions about the relationship between religious belief and economics.” Another says that “the argument Engel makes is sophisticated, detailed and original….She draws on an impressive range of primary and secondary sources and organizes the argument in a compelling way, in clear prose. In terms of the quality and originality of scholarship, this volume clearly stands [out].” — “Katherine Carté Engel receives 2010 Brown Book Award”
  • This well-researched and carefully organized study traces the history of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, from its founding in 1741 as an outpost of the international Moravian movement through the tumultuous events of the Seven Years’ and Revolutionary Wars into the much altered circumstances of the early-nineteenth century. Its focus is the interconnection of religious and economic spheres that made the Moravians’ New-World experience so unusual in its own time and so intriguing for later historians. …. With her extensive use of German as well as English sources, her close attention to local events and world developments, the book is a noteworthy example of Atlantic history at its best. — Mark A. Noll, Catholic Historical Review
  • There is a lot going on in Katherine Carté Engel’s Religion and Profit. At its center, the book explores the intersections of religious ideals and economic activity over the course of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s journey from a communal to an individual economy. Along the way, Engel discusses the relationship between this Moravian community and the Indian missions it was founded to support, the critical role played by the Moravian Brethren’s transatlantic trade ties, and the impact of the Seven Years War; she also takes on earlier analyses of religion and economics-specifically Perry Miller’s declension model. This makes for a wide-ranging and fascinating book. — Elizabeth W. Sommer, Journal of American History
  • Engel has successfully marshaled complex sources for an excellent, textured, and nuanced tale awash in the tides of war, racial tension, and internal religious differences to examine the dynamic interplay of religion and profit among Moravians in the Atlantic world. — Jeff Bach, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Political Highlights March 20, 2011: US & UN Launch Airstrikes Against Libya Leader Moammar Gaddafi

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

US & UN LAUNCH AIRSTRIKES AGAINST LIBYA LEADER  MOAMMAR GADDAFI

IN FOCUS

The President on Libya
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/18/11

 

 

  • Attacks begin on Libyan air defense sites: An international coalition launched its first strikes on Libya Saturday to destroy the country’s air and missile defense systems and prevent further attacks by the Libyan government on its citizens and rebels in and around the rebel held city of Benghazi, a senior U.S. military official said.
    More than two dozen warships and a large number of war planes from several countries made up the initial strike force, which was led by the U.S. military’s Africa command, the official said, speaking in an embargoed briefing a few hours before the operation began.
    “The key first strikes would be on the coast because that is where the integrated air and missile defense systems,” the official added.
    The first wave included sea-launched U.S. cruise missiles and the deployment of U.S. electronic warfare aircraft. — WaPo, 3-19-11
  • Obama: Gaddafi must comply with U.N. resolution or face military action: President Obama said an international coalition, including the U.S., will take military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi if he does not comply with a U.N. resolution aimed at protecting Libyan civilians. Obama said Gaddafi has been given “ample warning” and laid out a series of actions Libya must take, saying “these terms are not negotiable.” — WaPo, 3-18-11
  • U.N. approves ‘all necessary measures’ to protect Libya’s civilians: On a 10 to 0 vote with five abstentions, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the international community to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya.
    The resolution demands an “immediate cease-fire in Libya, the complete end of violence and all attacks against and abuse of civilians,” and unspecified action to protect “civilians and civilian population areas under threat of attack.” It also establishes a ban on all flights in the airspace of Libya except for humanitarian and evacuation flights. — WaPo, 3-17-11
  • Poll: Public narrowly approves of Obama’s handling of Libya: A poll released Monday shows that a slight plurality of the American public approves of President Obama’s handling of the ongoing civil strife in Libya. Forty-five percent of respondents in CNN/Opinion Research poll said they approve of the president’s handling of the conflict compared to 40 percent who said they disapprove. Fifteen percent said they have no opinion…. – The Hill, 3-14-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • West backs off calls for Libya regime change as Qaddafi warns of ‘long war’: French, US, and British airstrikes have crippled Libyan coastal defenses and air abilities as the largest coalition of military force since the Iraq war enters its second day…. – CS Monitor, 3-20-11
  • With Libya, is ‘Obama doctrine’ on war emerging?: Barack Obama entered the White House responsible for two wars he had inherited. Now, as Iraq winds down and Afghanistan drags on, he finds himself at the outset of possible US combat in Libya.
    As a result, while any “Obama doctrine” regarding the use of US military force has yet to be declared, one seems to be emerging.
    Obama’s actions in this case have been deliberate, indicating a clear hesitance to be out front in yet another war in a Muslim country…. – CS Monitor, 3-19-11
  • Defiant Libyan Leader Vows ‘Long War’ As Coalition Air Strikes Pound Libya: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s compound was hit by a missile strike late today,as a barrage of airstrikes by US and European militaries destroyed Libyan defenses, rocked the capitol of Tripoli…. – ABC News, 3-20-11
  • With no-fly zone in Libya now, US-led coalition freer to attack: Missile attacks on Libyan air defenses have freed US jets to attack ground targets. But questions remain, including the use of human shields and the chance that Qaddafi might remain in power…. – CS Monitor, 3-20-11
  • First wave of allied assault: 112 cruise missiles: U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses Saturday and a senior American defense official said it was believed substantial damage was inflicted. In the strikes, 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya’s air force. While U.S. defense officials cautioned that it was too early to fully gauge the impact of the onslaught, the official said that given the precision targeting of the Navy’s cruise missiles, they felt that Libya’s air defenses suffered a good deal of damage…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • First wave of allied assault: 112 cruise missiles: U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses, firing 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles Saturday at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya’s air force. In announcing the mission during a visit to Brazil, President Barack Obama said he was reluctant to resort to force but was convinced it was necessary to save the lives of civilians. He reiterated that he would not send American ground troops to Libya.
    “We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said in Brasilia…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Allies launch Libya force as Gadhafi hits rebels: French fighter jets fired the first shots at Moammar Gadhafi’s troops on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat.
    In the hours before the no-fly zone over Libya went into effect, Gadhafi sent warplanes, tanks and troops into Benghazi, the rebel capital and first city to fall to the rebellion that began Feb. 15. Then the government attacks appeared to go silent…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Gadhafi vows ‘long war’ after US, allies strike: A defiant Moammar Gadhafi vowed a “long war” after the U.S. and European militaries blasted his forces with airstrikes and over 100 cruise missiles, hitting air defenses and at least two major air bases early Sunday, shaking the Libyan capital with explosions and anti-aircraft fire. Despite the strikes, Gadhafi’s troops lashed back, bombarding the rebel-held city of Misrata with artillery and tanks on Sunday, the opposition reported…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Paris hosts world leaders in critical Libya talks: Leaders from the Arab world, Africa, the United States and other Western powers are holding urgent talks in Paris Saturday over possible military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Obama to Gadhafi: Stop or face military action: President Barack Obama demanded Friday that Moammar Gadhafi halt all military attacks against civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join in military action against him. Still, Obama also said the United States “is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.”… – AP, 3-18-11
  • Giuliani mocks Obama as foreign policy weakling: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose drive-by approach to campaigning in New Hampshire drove his 2008 presidential campaign into the ground, is setting the stage for a do-over. Giuliani, who says he hasn’t decided whether he’s running again, sounded a lot like a candidate when he spoke at a GOP fundraiser in Manchester on Friday night…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Obama to Gadhafi: Stop or face military action: President Barack Obama demanded Friday that Moammar Gadhafi halt all military attacks on civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join other nations in launching military action against him. However, Obama also said the United States “is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.” In a brief appearance at the White House, Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would travel to Paris on Saturday to join allies in discussing next steps in Libya, where Gadhafi has pressed a brutal crackdown against rebels trying to end his 42-year reign…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Amid uncertainty, allies prepare for no-fly zone: The United States, France and Britain told Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi to withdraw his troops from formerly rebel-held areas and halt any attacks on civilians there, as warplanes that could strike this north African country moved into the Mediterranean region.
    President Barack Obama went even further, saying that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join other nations in launching military action against him…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Obama endorses military action to stop Gadhafi: After weeks of hesitation and divisions among his advisers, President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed military action against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, saying U.S. values and credibility are at stake to stop “the potential for mass murder” of innocents.
    The U.S. military, which is already stretched thin by two wars and an expanding effort to assist disaster victims in Japan, would take a supporting role, Obama said, with European and Arab partners in the lead. He explicitly ruled out sending American ground forces into the North African nation…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Officials say US readying for no fly Zone in Libya: Congressional officials say the Obama administration is readying plans to participate in a no-fly zone in Libya with the help of Arab countries in anticipation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. These officials said Thursday they expected the effort to enforce a no-fly zone and ground Moammar Gadhafi’s air force could begin within a few days if the UN takes action by day’s end…. – AP, 3-17-11
  • US readying plans to enforce Libya no-fly zone: The Obama administration was readying plans to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya with the help of Arab countries, officials said Thursday as the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize the move. These officials, who spoke after a closed-door briefing in Congress, said they expected the attempt to ground Moammar Gadhafi’s air force could begin by Sunday or Monday. The effort likely would involve jet fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft…. – AP, 3-17-11
  • Diplomacy Stalls as Libya Rebels Face Pro-Qaddafi Forces: Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi cranked up military and psychological pressure on the rebels on Monday, offering amnesty to those who surrendered their weapons but bombing a strategic linchpin in the east and invading a rebel-held town in the west…. – NYT, 3-15-11
  • US eyes Libyan opposition, allies call for action: Under pressure from allies and growing calls for military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration held its first high-level talks with the Libyan opposition on Monday but remained undecided about exactly how much support to lend a group it still knows little about while turmoil and uncertainty increase across the Arab world…. – AP, 3-14-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Sarah Palin touches down in Israel; set to meet with Prime Minister on Monday: Israel got its first official glimpse of Sarah Palin. The former Vice Presidential candidate arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday as part of her whirlwind trip that many think is meant to bolster her foreign policy credentials leading up to a possible 2012 presidential run.
    She visited India earlier this week. Sporting what appears to be a necklace with the Jewish symbol of a Star of David, the Alaska resident visited the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.
    She also toured Jerusalem’s Old City and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
    “Israel is absolutely beautiful and it is overwhelming to see and touch the cornerstone of our faith and I am so grateful to be here,” the devout Christian told reporters. “I’m very thankful to know that the Israeli and American link will grow in strength as we seek peace along with you.”
    Despite meeting with the country’s leader, she is technically traveling as a private citizen and has been coy about whether she hopes to be traveling as something other than that come 2012.
    “I don’t think there needs to be a rush to get out there as a declared candidate,” she said earlier this week. “It’s a life-changing decision.”… – NY Daily News, 3-20-11
  • Obama takes in Rio with Libya on his mind: President Barack Obama played grand tourist to Rio de Janeiro’s vivid extremes on Sunday, traveling from brilliant beaches to a notorious slum even as he monitored U.S. military strikes in faraway Libya.
    With his whole family in tow on the second day of a Latin American tour meant to knit economic and cultural ties, the president visited the City of God shantytown that gained fame after a movie by the same name won Oscar nominations. At a community center in the heart of the jostling slum of 40,000 the president plunged into the lives of children there, playing soccer with kids and watching enthralled at a dazzling martial arts display. The president shed his coat and tie, rolled up his sleeves and dribbled one-on-one soccer with one surprised boy. Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia got involved, too, kicking a ball around with the kids…. – AP, 3-20-11
  • Obama’s juggle: Libya war and Latin America: As American missiles struck Libya, President Barack Obama doggedly promoted his Latin American agenda Saturday, praising Brazil as a soaring economic force and brimming market for trade. Back home, his message was all but lost in the roar over the Libyan conflict.
    “The United States doesn’t simply recognize Brazil’s rise; we support it enthusiastically,” Obama said from this capital city as he launched a five-day outreach mission that will also take him to Chile and El Salvador. He began in Brazil as a sign of solidary between the two largest democracies and economies in the Americas, and he sought to break through here with his themes of bold cooperation on energy, education and trade…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Obama arrives in Brazil, begins Latin America tour: President Barack Obama has landed in Brasilia, the highland capital of Brazil, for the start of a three-country, five-day tour of Latin America to promote greater economic ties and improved regional security…. – AP, 3-19-11

QUOTES

  • Watch Live: President Obama Speaks on Human Rights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The President’s trip to Latin America this weekend focuses on the importance of strengthening our economic partnership with the region to create good jobs at home, as he discussed in his weekly address. This afternoon, President Obama will deliver a speech at Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janiero, Brazil to discuss the deeply held values and interests that bind our countries together — a relationship that is particularly important because of Brazil’s role as a rapidly emerging power on the global stage. – Watch the President’s remarks live at 1:30 PM EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live.
  • John McCain: Obama should have acted faster: Earlier action, the senator said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” would have been more effective in weakening the grip of the controversial leader, who’s deployed his forces against rebelling civilians. “He waited too long, there is no doubt in my mind about it,” McCain said of the president. “But now, it is what it is. And we need, now, to support him and the efforts that our military are going to make. And I regret that it didn’t – we didn’t act much more quickly, and we could have.” “If we had taken these — this step a couple of weeks ago, a no-fly zone would probably have been enough,” he said. “Now, a no-fly zone is not enough. There needs to be other efforts made.” “There’s a lot of things we can do besides just the air power component of it,” McCain said. Politico, 3-20-11
  • Remarks by the President on Libya: “Today We are Part of a Broad Coalition. We are Answering the Calls of a Threatened People. And We are Acting in the Interests of the United States and the World”: Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.
    In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people. That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.
    This is not an outcome that the United States or any of our partners sought. Even yesterday, the international community offered Muammar Qaddafi the opportunity to pursue an immediate cease-fire, one that stopped the violence against civilians and the advances of Qaddafi’s forces. But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity. His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. And the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.
    I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it’s not a choice that I make lightly. But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misurata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.
    So we must be clear: Actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced. That is the cause of this coalition.
    As a part of this effort, the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners. And as I said yesterday, we will not — I repeat — we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground.
    As Commander-in-Chief, I have great confidence in the men and women of our military who will carry out this mission. They carry with them the respect of a grateful nation.
    I’m also proud that we are acting as part of a coalition that includes close allies and partners who are prepared to meet their responsibility to protect the people of Libya and uphold the mandate of the international community.
    I’ve acted after consulting with my national security team, and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. And in the coming hours and days, my administration will keep the American people fully informed. But make no mistake: Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world. WH. 3-19-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Robert Hunter: Success of Libya air strikes depends on Middle East perception, ISU history professor says: Last weekend’s coalition effort to stop Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi’s clampdown on his opposition will only succeed if the Middle East perceives it as beneficial to government protestors, said Robert Hunter, professor of history. “This means that Obama and the other leaders must not authorize ‘boots on the ground,’ that is, no U.S. or other Western troops in Tripoli or anywhere else,” said Hunter, who has lived in and written extensively about the Middle East.
    Hunter said the operation would not have happened at all without initial support of the Arab League, a group of Middle Eastern countries sharing common diplomatic interests. Originally formed in 1945, the league now consists of 22 countries, including Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.
    “Otherwise, this operation might have been perceived as yet another Western imperialist intervention in the Middle East,” he said. “The Arab League, some of whose states are as autocratic as Ghaddafi’s government, supported it because they are all under pressure from their peoples and did [not] want to be seen as out of line with the ‘street’.”
    Hunter said big questions loomed for U.S. involvement in the coalition. “If we degrade Ghaddafi’s military but he is able to hold onto power in the western part of Libya, what then?” he said. “The temptation may be to remove him by use of special forces or strikes… Something like this might change perceptions in the region.” — Indiana Statesman, 3-20-11
  • Kenneth Levin: Self-Reflection and Self-Blame; Israel and Obama: Much has been written about President Obama’s reported statement to a Jewish group earlier this month that Israelis should search their souls concerning the quest for peace. In this offensive comment and related remarks, Obama once more put the onus on Israel for the absence of movement towards a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while he characterized Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas as eager for a fair deal.
    In fact, Abbas has used the mosques, media and schools under his control to militate against any genuine peace. The message conveyed by all three is that Jews have no historical connection to any part of Palestine, that they are mere usurpers whose presence must be expunged, and that it is the duty of every Palestinian to pursue that goal. In addition, Abbas has personally praised terrorists who have killed Israelis as the ideal all Palestinians should strive to emulate and has explicitly endorsed efforts to delegitimize Israel and its right to exist within any borders.
    But Obama’s hostility to Israel appears impervious to all such realities. Perhaps this should not be surprising, as his jaundiced view of America’s traditional role in world affairs is hardly more responsive to counter-evidence. Thus, he pursues the reining in of American leadership, and the reaching out to those who wish America ill, even as his doing so entails, among other travesties, allowing Muammar Gaddafi to slaughter most of his way back to full control of Libya; promising carrots to Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir despite the continuing genocide in Darfur; and doing nothing meaningful to help the bloodied people of Iran throw off the totalitarian yoke of their nation’s theocracy…. – American Thinker, 3-20-11
  • BENYAMIN KORN: Palin Doctrine Emerges as Arab League Echoes Her Demarche on Libya: The call by the Arab League for Western military intervention in an Arab state — in this case asking that a UN “no-fly zone” be imposed over Libya – is not only without precedent but it puts in formal terms what Governor Palin stated three weeks ago should have been America’s response to the political and humanitarian crisis now unfolding there.
    The former GOP vice presidential candidate was being interviewed on February 23rd on national television by Sean Hannity on a range of issues. On the Libya crisis, she proposed a no-fly zone to protect the armed and un-armed opposition to the Qaddafi regime. Mrs. Palin’s formulation had been blogged about for nearly a week when it was echoed by the man who, before the Iraq war, had led the Iraq democratic movement in exile, Ahmed Chalabi…. – NY Sun, 3-16-11

Special: Japan’s Earthquake & Tsunami, Obama & the World React

HISTORY BUZZ SPECIAL

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ SPECIAL: JAPAN’S EARTHQUAKE & TSUNAMI: THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

IN FOCUS:

Kyodo News, via Associated Press

  • 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami: A massive 8.9/9.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Pacific Ocean nearby Northeastern Japan at around 2:46pm on March 11 (JST) causing damage with blackouts, fire and tsunami. On this page we are providing the information regarding the disaster and damage with realtime updates. The large earthquake triggered a tsunami warning for countries all around the Pacific ocean…. – Google Crisis Response
  • EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI HITS JAPAN
    On March 11, 2011, a huge earthquake struck Japan, churning up a devastating tsunami that swept over cities and farmland along the northern part of the country and threatened coastal areas throughout the Pacific.
    Walls of water whisked away houses and cars in northern Japan, where terrified residents fled the coast. Trains were shut down across central and northern Japan, including Tokyo, and air travel was severely disrupted. A ship carrying more than 100 people was swept away by the tsunami, Kyodo News reported. A fire broke out at the nuclear plant in Onagawa, but Japanese officials said it was extinguished.
    Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the disaster caused major damage across wide areas. Several hours after the quake, Kyodo News reported 59 deaths, but with rescue efforts just getting under way, the extent of injuries and damage is not yet known. The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake had a magnitude of 8.9, and occurred at about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo and at a revised depth of about 17 miles. The Japanese Meteorological Agency said the quake had a magnitude of 8.8, which would make it among the biggest in a century.
    The quake occurred at 2:46 p.m. Tokyo time and hit off Honshu, Japan’s most populous island. The quake was so powerful that buildings in central Tokyo, designed to withstand major earthquakes, swayed…. – NYT: Tidal Waves and Tsunamis
  • How people can help Japanese earthquake recovery: The U.S. government and other nations were sending personnel to assist Japan in its response to the earthquakes and tsunami that have devastated the country. U.S. aid groups were accepting private donations for relief efforts…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • Strength of deadly Japan quake increased to 9.0: …U.S. government scientists originally put the Japan quake at 8.9. The change to 9.0 means that the quake was about 1.5 times stronger than initially thought. The Japan quake is now the fourth largest in the world since 1900 behind the 2004 magnitude-9.1 Sumatra quake. – AP, 3-14-11
  • Earthquakes 101: How they happen Columbia University seismologist explains in simple terms; Says we’re in period of frequent mega-quakes:
    It all has to do with plates that make up the Earth’s crust moving around, seismologist James Gaherty, a Lamont associate research professor at Columbia University explained to “Early Show on Saturday Morning” co-anchor Rebecca Jarvis.
    “Most earthquakes occur on the boundaries of the very large tectonic plates that make up the outer rigid crust of the earth,” Gaherty said. “These plates are all shifting around relative to each other, in many places moving fairly rapidly, inches per year relative to each other, and they push against each other, some places going underneath, other places rubbing past each other. So, the western part of the Pacific Ocean, for example, the ‘Ring of Fire’ (earthquake hotbed along the Pacific Rim) — that all takes place on these tectonic boundaries. That’s where we get these earthquakes.
    “In this part of Japan, basically, the Pacific Plate is trying to move underneath the Earth’s crust where Japan sits. … It’s moving down underneath, constantly building up pressure as it tries to move underneath and, in this case, it releases that pressure, and these very large earthquakes occur in a very large area along the entire length of the coastline of Japan … on the order of 200 miles along the length… – CBS News, 3-12-11

HEADLINES:

  • Obama: US will stand by longtime ally Japan: President Barack Obama said Monday the U.S. will stand by long-time ally Japan as it recovers from last week’s earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear crisis that those twin disasters spawned. The White House said that despite the emergency, nuclear power remains “vital” to U.S. energy policy…. – AP, 3-14-11
  • Japan earthquake accelerated Earth’s rotation, study finds: By changing the distribution of mass on the earth, Japan’s earthquake sped up the planet’s rotation, shortening the day by 1.8 microseconds, a new analysis has found…. – CS Monitor, 3-14-11
  • For Elderly, Echoes of War’s Horrors: Hirosato Wako stared at the ruins of his small fishing hamlet: skeletons of shattered buildings, twisted lengths of corrugated steel, corpses with their hands twisted into claws. Only once before had he seen anything like it: World War II.
    “I lived through the Sendai air raids,” said Mr. Wako, 75, referring to the Allied bombings of the northeast’s largest city. “But this is much worse.”… – NYT, 3-15-11
  • Big quake is latest in cluster that began in ’04: The massive earthquake that shook Japan yesterday, creating a destructive tsunami, is the latest in a series of especially fierce temblors since 2004 — after four decades without such large quakes.
    No one knows, however, if the recent run of extreme earthquakes — including the 9.1 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004 and last year’s 8.8 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile — portends more large earthquakes around the Pacific Rim in the near future, because there is no way to predict exactly where, when, and how big an earthquake will be.
    There was a cluster of extremely large earthquakes from 1946 to 1964, a period that ended with the 9.2 magnitude Alaskan earthquake, the second largest since 1900.
    Now, after 40 years of less powerful seismic activity, there have been a dozen earthquakes of 8.0 magnitude or greater. Yesterday’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake was the fifth strongest since 1900…. – Boston Globe, 3-12-11
  • Powerful Quake and Tsunami Devastate Northern Japan: Rescuers struggled to reach survivors on Saturday morning as Japan reeled after an earthquake and a tsunami struck in deadly tandem. The 8.9-magnitude earthquake set off a devastating tsunami that sent walls of water washing over coastal cities in the north. Concerns mounted over possible radiation leaks from two nuclear plants near the earthquake zone.
    The death toll from the tsunami and earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in Japan, was in the hundreds, but Japanese news media quoted government officials as saying that it would almost certainly rise to more than 1,000. About 200 to 300 bodies were found along the waterline in Sendai, a port city in northeastern Japan and the closest major city to the epicenter.
    Thousands of homes were destroyed, many roads were impassable, trains and buses were not running, and power and cellphones remained down. On Saturday morning, the JR rail company said that there were three trains missing in parts of two northern prefectures…. – NYT, 3-12-11First Person: Reporter Describes Massive Quake

QUOTES:

  • The Earthquake in Japan and Tsunami Preparedness: Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis. The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy. We will continue to closely monitor tsunamis around Japan and the Pacific going forward and we are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the US states and territories that could be affected. WH, 3-11-11
  • The Ongoing Response to the Earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has released an overview of the United States’ reponse in support of our friends in Japan.
  • * For information on how you can help directly, USAID has pulled together options for donating to support the response effort. * Any U.S Citizens in need of emergency assistance should send an e-mail to
  • JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov with detailed information about their location and contact information, and monitor the U.S. Department of State website at travel.state.gov. Statement from the Press Secretary on the Ongoing U.S. Response to the Earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan
    Our thoughts and our prayers remain with the people of Japan. The President has been kept fully briefed on developments and the response throughout the weekend. As directed by the President, we have offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed as America will stand with Japan as they recover and rebuild. – WH, 3-13-11
  • Joseph Lieberman: “My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan and all those affected by this devastating natural disaster, including the thousands of American citizens in Japan. America has no better friend and ally in Asia than Japan, and we in the United States must stand ready to mobilize any assistance we can to help as quickly as possible. The people of the United States stand in solidarity with the people of Japan through the difficult days ahead.
    “As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I am also monitoring closely the tsunami warnings that have been issued for parts of the United States, including Hawaii, Alaska, and parts of the West Coast. I urge all Americans in areas potentially affected to heed these advisories, follow the warnings that have been issued, and listen carefully for updates from authorities.” — Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT) – LIEBERMAN STATEMENT ON JAPANESE DISASTER
  • The President’s Press Conference: The Causes, Government Response, and Long-Term Solutions to Rising Gas Prices: But the bottom line is this. We’ve been having this conversation for nearly four decades now. Every few years, gas prices go up; politicians pull out the same old political playbook, and then nothing changes. And when prices go back down, we slip back into a trance. And then when prices go up, suddenly we’re shocked. I think the American people are tired of that. I think they’re tired of talk. We’ve got to work together – Democrats, Republicans, and everybody in between –- to finally secure America’s energy future. I don’t want to leave this for the next President, and none of us should want to leave it for our kids…. – WH, 3-11-11
  • News Conference by the President, South Court Auditorium: THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan earlier today.
    First and foremost, our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of Japan. This is a potentially catastrophic disaster and the images of destruction and flooding coming out of Japan are simply heartbreaking. Japan is, of course, one of our strongest and closest allies, and this morning I spoke with Prime Minister Kan. On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed.
    We currently have an aircraft carrier in Japan, and another is on its way. We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed. The Defense Department is working to account for all our military personnel in Japan. U.S. Embassy personnel in Tokyo have moved to an offsite location. And the State Department is working to account for and assist any and all American citizens who are in the country.
    Tsunami warnings have been issued across the Pacific, and we’ve already seen initial waves from the tsunami come ashore on Guam and other U.S. territories, in Alaska and Hawaii, as well as on — along the West Coast. Here in the United States, there hasn’t been any major damage so far. But we’re taking this very seriously, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. FEMA is fully activated and is coordinating with state and local officials to support these regions as necessary. And let me just stress that if people are told to evacuate, do as you are told.
    Today’s events remind us of just how fragile life can be. Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy…. – WH, 3-11-11
  • The Earthquake in Japan and Tsunami Preparedness: Good morning, everybody. Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan earlier today.
    First and foremost, our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of Japan. This is a potentially catastrophic disaster and the images of destruction and flooding coming out of Japan are simply heartbreaking. Japan is, of course, one of our strongest and closest allies, and this morning I spoke with Prime Minister Kan. On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed.
    We currently have an aircraft carrier in Japan, and another is on its way. We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed. The Defense Department is working to account for all our military personnel in Japan. U.S. Embassy personnel in Tokyo have moved to an offsite location. And the State Department is working to account for and assist any and all American citizens who are in the country.
    Tsunami warnings have been issued across the Pacific, and we’ve already seen initial waves from the tsunami come ashore on Guam and other U.S. territories, in Alaska and Hawaii, as well as on — along the West Coast. Here in the United States, there hasn’t been any major damage so far. But we’re taking this very seriously, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. FEMA is fully activated and is coordinating with state and local officials to support these regions as necessary. And let me just stress that if people are told to evacuate, do as you are told.
    Today’s events remind us of just how fragile life can be. Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy…. – WH, 3-11-11

HISTORIAN VIEWPOINTS:

  • Kerry Smith: History of Earthquakes in Japan: Earthquakes and tsunamis are woven into the psyche of Japan. Kerry Smith, professor of history at Brown and author of “A Time of Crisis: Japan, the Great Depression, and Rural Revitalization,” talks about the immediacy of watching disaster unfold and the effect that may have on contemporary Japanese society. He also remembers how the natural history of the country has become embedded in the social and political history of the country…. – The Takeaway, 3-11-11Download Mp3
  • Ken Osgood: FAU Professor stranded on train during Japanese earthquake Dr. Osgood felt the train rock “like a boat.”: Some South Florida residents found themselves caught right in the middle of the calamity in Japan. An FAU history professor and his wife experienced one of the worst natural disasters in history when the massive quake struck. Dr. Ken Osgood teaches in Palm Beach County; however, he’s in Massachusetts right now, working as a visiting professor. On Friday, he and his wife, Rachel, were on a bullet train outside of Tokyo when everything came to a stop.
    “The train starts rocking and it feels like a boat on the tracks,” said Dr. Osgood. “When you look out the window, it just looked like our train was rocking,” he said, “like a really strong wind was blowing a car on the freeway.”
    “It’s one of those weird things where you’re seeing it on the screen and the announcer is talking in a language you don’t understand,” he said. “We still had a difficult time comprehending the magnitude of this thing.”
    “We were in the 7th floor of a hotel so we definitely experienced them,” he explained. “At one point, while I was taking a shower, my wife saw the whole room shake and was deeply panicked by the whole thing.”
    “That sent my heart rate soaring,” Osgood admitted. “Both my wife and I nearly went into a panic. We said, “We’ve got to get the hell out of here.”
    “We didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until we felt the wheels come off the ground and everyone on the plane cheered and clapped,” he said. “The only thing we could think about was our kids,” Osgood said. “There were moments when each of us thought we might not see them again.”
    “They must have thought we were nuts because we came in through security bawling our eyes out and held them tight like they were going to blow away,” he said… – WPTV, 3-14-11
  • FAU professor tells of horror in Japan: “We had a harrowing 36 hours — easily the most stressful and frightening of our lives. We were on a bullet train to Tokyo when the earthquake struck. The train stopped. All power off. It rocked like a boat on the tracks. Then we were stuck on the train for five hours, much of it without power.
    “Because of the language barrier, and the general confusion, only gradually did we learn that Japan had been struck by the largest earthquake in its history, the fifth largest ever recorded anywhere. Slowly, very slowly, we began moving again. When we finally pulled into Tokyo, we were among thousands of stranded people.
    “After walking the city for several hours in search of a place to go, we spent the night sleeping in a hotel lobby. The staff graciously fed us soup and provided us showers. That night, Tokyo experienced one aftershock after another, some 50 of them, many above 6.0. All trains and buses were stopped. Phone lines were jammed. We didn’t know if we could make it to the airport, or if, upon arriving there, we would be stranded with throngs of other passengers seeking a way out.
    “I called my Dad in the U.S. time and again, while he made call after call to the airlines seeking a way for us to get home. Holding on to what I was sure was a very vain hope, we headed to the subway the next day in the hopes of finding some way home. With a throng of people, we boarded one of the very first trains to go north towards Narita airport.
    “It was a slow ride. En route we received word that the nuclear reactor to the north of us was releasing radioactivity to prevent it from going critical. The previous day we had visited Hiroshima, and the news sent our heart rates soaring. We imagined the worst.
    “Then miracles happened. We made it to the airport without incident. With Rachel crying away at the ticket counter, and me barely keeping it together, we got tickets on the next outbound flight to the US. We breezed through security, customs, and passport control, arriving at our gate minutes before boarding began. We loaded the plane quickly, and we ended up on a virtually empty aircraft all to ourselves.
    “Earplugs, eye masks, and sleeping pills did the trick — woke up about an hour before landing. I was never so happy to be on a plane, and never has anyone been so happy to be in Detroit.
    “Many people helped along the way. So many kind Japanese stopped to see if we, the foreigners, were OK. Many offered help or gave us food or water. Many helped translate. Many gave directions. Many expressed concern for our well being. I still can’t believe the incredible kindness of strangers, the remarkable calmness and friendliness of the Japanese.
    “We feel so fortunate to be home, and we hugged our kids to the point of tears when we arrived in Albany. We are still shaken by the stress of it all. We send many prayers to our Japanese friends, and we send even more thanks to the many of our friends here who prayed for us too.
    “Today we went to church, and the closing hymn had the chorus: “Bring us home.” Amen to that.” – Sun Sentinel, 3-14-11
  • Joseph Laker: Local Professor Reflects On Living In Japan, Earthquake Devastation: Joseph Laker, a history professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, said Japanese are excellent at responding to natural disasters, but this is on a whole different level. Laker taught English and lived in Japan for about four nonconsecutive years and has been back many times. Recently, he received an e-mail from a friend and former student in Tokyo, miles away from the disaster but still affected.
    “Their traffic was considerably disrupted. Planes, trains, car traffic. He found it was impossible to get a way to get home except by walking. It took him seven hours to go from his office to walk home,” Laker said. “The magnitude of the disaster can only become apparent over a long period of time,” he said…. – WTOV9, 3-14-11
  • Kerry Smith; James McClain: Students, Brown University professor safe in Japan: Kerry Smith, chair of the East Asian Studies Department and associate professor of history, said he believes a comparison will be drawn between national relief efforts today and the response to the 1995 Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, Japan. “The response appears to be much better organized,” Smith said, adding that aid appears to be moving at a “relatively quick pace.”
    James McClain, a professor of history who is on leave this academic year to teach at the Kyoto Consortium, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that CNN coverage of the earthquake and tsunami appears “needlessly alarming” thus far. But Japanese media coverage of the tsunami appears “dispassionately objective,” he wrote…. “The Japanese prime minister, a person not given to exaggeration, said that this is the worst disaster to strike Japan since World War II,” he wrote. “Indeed, to me, some of the scenes of the damaged cities bear an eerie resemblance to the Japanese cities destroyed by American fire-bombing in WWII.”
    Because of the damage inflicted by the earthquake and tsunami, several nuclear reactors located near Tokyo are in danger of leaking radiation. McClain wrote that the Japanese rely on these power sources for one-third of their electrical energy, and these reactors are mostly concentrated in areas at risk for earthquakes.
    “The Japanese themselves have long debated the wisdom of following such an energy policy,” he wrote, adding that “many — remembering that the Japanese are the only persons who have experienced an atomic bombing — have been deeply apprehensive about the accidental release of radioactivity.” – Brown Daily Herald,
  • History proves Japan can rebound: “They have lived through such big disasters in the past,” University of Regina International Studies professor Nilgun Onder said. It was the same kind of scene in 1945, after two atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
    History professor Philip Charrier makes his living studying Japan, and believes the country will once again be able to find its tracking. “Certainly by 1950, the country was advancing quickly,” Charrier explained. “Economic performance was already quite impressive.”
    Japan is no stranger to devastation. The country has seen its fair share of earthquakes over the decades. Yet, according to Charrier, the people will still approach this disaster with a positive attitude.
    “The people are trained and conditioned to deal with (disasters)” Charrier said…. – Global TV BC, 3-14-11
  • History Lesson: Massive Earthquake in Pacific Northwest Triggered Japan Tsunami in 1700: About 300 years before the current earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan, another wave of water swept the Island nation, wreaking havoc and laying waste to entire coastal villages. That tsunami was caused by a massive quake–estimated to have been a magnitude 9.0–that rocked the entire Pacific coast from British Columbia to northern California. According to a U.S. Geological Survey expert and a former University of Washington scientist, the great tremor of 1700 and ensuing “orphan tsunami” could happen again, and Americans should learn from both it and the present situation in Japan.
    David Yamaguchi and Brian Atwater are the authors of “The Orphan Tsunami of 1700–Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America,” published in 2005 by University of Washington Press. The tome details a giant–yet, prior to their research, unconfirmed –earthquake that struck the Washington coast and Puget Sound area in the year 1700.
    RYamaguchi says the current chaos in Japan is keeping him glued to the TV. About a decade ago, when he was researching the book, he traveled to some of the same coastal cities that have been hit by the tsunami. Back then he saw evidence of previous tsunamis–things like “sand sheets,” mud and silt deposits left by the waves sweeping over normally dry land–but had a difficult time envisioning the same thing happening in the present.
    “It’s just as fascinating and scary to us as it is to you,” says Yamaguchi, formerly a professor of dendrology at UW. “All of this stuff we’ve been studying for years. Now, to see it unroll on video footage on TV it’s just amazing.”
    Back in the mid-1990s, Yamaguchi and Atwater, a USGS researcher, suspected that a massive quake had struck the Puget Sound at some point in the past three centuries. Although no scientific evidence existed at the time, they had several oral accounts from Native Americans, such as this one, from the diary of explorer James Swan:
    “The water receded and left Neah Bay dry for four days and became very warm. It then rose again without any swell or waves and submerged the whole ofthe cape and in fact the whole country except the mountains . . . many canoes came down in trees and were destroyed and many lives were lost.”
    They teamed up with a Japanese geologist, Satake Kenji, who combed meticulously kept Japanese records for description of tsunamis in that era. That yielded stories like this one, from the town of Miyako in 1700 — the same place where more than 1,000 bodies reportedly washed ashore today:
    “The waters drove villagers to high ground, damaged salt kilns and fishing shacks, drowned paddies and crops, ascended a cattle moat, entered a government storehouse, washed away more than a dozen buildings, and spread flames that consumed twenty more. Return flows contributed to a nautical accident that sank tons of rice and killed two sailors. Samurai magistrates issued rice to afflicted villagers and requested lumber for those left homeless.”
    The American scientists then analyzed tree rings from stumps submerged in shallow coastal waters in Washington, and used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint where and how the 1700 quake occurred. What the record shows is tremendous activity on the fault line between the Cascadia and Juan de Fuca tectonic plates…. – Seatlle Weekly, 3-14-11
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