Thursday, February 26, 2009


Houston Joins Other Cities Nationwide in Tea Party Protest

Houston is one of the many cities that will be holding a Tea Party on February 27th. The protest is scheduled to take place tomorrow afternoon from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in front of the amphitheatre at Discovery Green... The official website for the coordinated protests lists additional information about sponsors, the schedule of events and how to use Twitter during the protests. The protests will be live-Tweeted using the hashtag #teaparty. More information about the Houston protest can be found at their Facebook page.

I may well go, but the second I see Larouchies getting camera time, I'm gone. And for those of you who remember the original Tea Party, note that the use of beer as a motivational tool is nowadays considered déclassé and quite possibly grounds for unwanted attention from the constabulary.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Purest Democracy

Sermon on the Dedication of 5th Marine Division Cemetery On Iwo Jima By Chaplain Roland B. Gittelsohn

TO ONE THING MORE do we consecrate ourselves in memory of those who sleep beneath these crosses and stars. We shall not foolishly suppose, as did the last generation of America's fighting men, that victory on the battlefield will automatically guarantee the triumph of democracy at home. This war, with all its frightful heartache and suffering, is but the beginning of our generation's struggle for democracy. When the last battle has been won, there will be those at home, as there were last time, who will want us to turn our backs in selfish isolation on the rest of organized humanity, and thus to sabotage the very peace for which we fight. We promise you who lie here: we will not do that. We will join hands with Britain, China, Russia in peace, even as we have in war, to build the kind of world for which you died...

WHEN THE FINAL CROSS has been placed in the last cemetery, once again there will be those to whom profit is more important than peace, who will insist with the voice of sweet reasonableness and appeasement that it is better to trade with the enemies of mankind, than, by crushing them, to lose their profit. To you who sleep here silently, we give our promise: we will not listen. We will not forget that some of you were burnt with oil that came from American wells, that many of you were killed by shells fashioned from American steel. We promise that when once again men seek profit at your expense, we shall remember how you looked when we placed you reverently, lovingly, in the ground.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Roots of Liberal Condescension -

The Roots of Liberal Condescension - read all of it, it will be on the next exam. It's a good glimpse into Professor Mojo's World, where to be a "conservative" is to be thought of as being a part of the unwashed lumpenproletariat who listen to Rush and read Ann Coulter. (I do not and have not, but only because a) I'm in class during El Rushbo's show and b)I think Coulter is a grandstanding hack).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Thoughts on the recent historians rankings of the Presidents

Lincoln wins: Honest Abe tops new presidential survey - Go peek and then read.

I'm pretty good with Lincoln at #1. It's very hard to argue with the man (warts and all) who freed the slaves, held the nation together as a political entity and resisted (more or less) the urge to become a dictator. I do think it's funny how many similarities there are between this man and The Man Historians Despise, G.W. Bush. But that would be the subject of a much longer post.

I'm still puzzled why other historians love Harry Truman. My reading is that of a party hack who inherited the White House and did everything in his power to rebuild the political machine that his predecessor was building before WWII broke out. He was not terribly bipartisan, he did not inspire public confidence, and he allowed war in Korea to break out on his watch. Some historians even argue that Truman's belligerence towards Stalin exacerbated the Cold War. I am willing to give good marks for rebuilding Europe under the Marshall Plan, and to ensuring that Japan emerged from the war as a pro-West enclave.

Washington remains the Indispensable Man. The gravitas he exhibited as First President should be an example to us all.

I am quite pleased that Reagan has finally cracked the Top Ten. It's no secret that academic historians are a left-of-center bunch (come on, Brinkley, I've used your textbook before!) and they absolutely despised Reagan. Time is sobering them up on Reagan's role in ending the Cold War --that, and the emergence of Vladimir Putin in the absence of decisive American world leadership as a reminder that the Toquevillean rivalry was not a figment of the military-industrial complex.

And yes: Buchanan is the worst President we've ever had. I'm not wild about Carter, either, and would rank him somewhere in the 31-40 range.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

REPOST: "Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term..."

[It's First Exam Weekend in these parts. Even as I post this, I count 21 students in my course shell, anxiously trying to get the exam done before the 11:59 local time deadline. They're so fun to watch, especially the ones who didn't listen to instructions and who are panicking over Very Minor Things Which Will Incur The Wrath of Professor Mojo If They Ask For Help This Late In The Game. Even so, I know in advance what's coming, so as is tradition, here is this post:]

"Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term: his students look like they've been gut-shot."

I try to keep class upbeat, lively, and not boring --oxymoronic aims for a history lecture, one might say (and yes, there are days when even I get bored by the things I have to cover). But I never intentionally mislead my students. From Day One, I warn them that if they don't study for the exams --and especially if they blow off the essay questions -- they will fail. But there are a significant number who simply do not listen.

And so every term, I get Exam One grades (out of 100) like 55. 38. 18. Welcome to the world of Community College Education.

For what it's worth, I also tell the students that this happens to everyone, and that I will take significant improvement into account when final grades are calculated. My mission is to improve these students, I don't get paid extra for failing them --that's how I justify it. Even so, I also know from past experience that only half of those students who bomb Exam One (bomb: = = anything less than a D/60) will even bother to finish the course, they'll head for the door at break and keep on going to the registrar to withdraw. It makes me sad.

But I can only do so much. I'm not legally allowed to use a war elephant (with howdah) to chase down those counselors who push students into classes for which they are absolutely unprepared; nor can I use Invoked Devastation on the schools which produce these students. I can only encourage and work with those who stick it out, and at least get them on the Path of Right Learning ("Study! Read! Think!").

[Slightly modified from the original. The really sad part is that many of them will "shop around" for an "easier" prof next semester, and then end up failing again when they don't bother to study. This is college: I'm not doing any favors by reinforcing the bad habits they picked up in high school. And yes, I can throw stones at high schools, I used to teach high school, and I do know what it's like.]

How Bad Is It?

Every time I hear a media report about "record" this and "never-before-seen" that, I remember that I am historian and that, in fact, I have seen these sorts of things before, and in proportionally more significant amounts.

Look at unemployment. Yes, record numbers of Americans are losing their jobs. Could it also be that it is because there are record numbers of Americans period? Go figure: 100,000 Americans a week losing their jobs would be worse if there were only 150,000,000 Americans total, as opposed to the close-to-300,000,000 Americans we have around today.

Here is a handy chart that explains it well:


(source: Carpe Diem)

Proportionally, this ain't that bad yet. You still have to remember that while 7.6% of Americans who want to work cannot find work, 92.3% of Americans who want to work do so. And right now that's a lot of Americans. Scared Americans, to be sure, and likely to get more scared as the media continues to throw scary headlines at them...but nonetheless Americans.

Here be another handy chart:

Time-Curious-Capitalist-2-09-Six Recessions

(source: Time's Curious Capitalist blog)

And as someone who remembers the Seventies, let me also throw in a bit of anecdote. As the NYT and others were happy to trumpet the last few years (when it suited them), the economy can be in trouble without there being a recession "officially" in place. The Seventies were a case in point. We had higher-than-normal levels of unemployment while the economy was not officially receding. It was stagflation. It did not mean that the Phillips Curve had ceased to exist, but rather that it had shifted away from the axes. Keynes did not explicitly rule this relationship out: that's why he argued that in good times government must raise taxes and cut spending --which no one will ever do, not the Democrats, not the Republicans.

Even so, when I hear people yelling "crisis!" I tend to instinctively brace myself. Fear is a great motivational tool. It sure beats trying to tell Americans that the only thing they have to fear is... fear, itself.

The Illustrated Road to Serfdom A MUST-READ

The Illustrated Road to Serfdom: a must-read. Just substitute "crisis" for "war" and bingo!

(NB I had actually put this on my classroom Blackboard server quite a while back, lest everyone think I just post whatever Glenn Reynolds does)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My thoughts on this whole stimulus deal and the future

I don't know with whom I'm most angry: the Democrats for doing something that is dead-certain to destabilize the economy in the long run (no one ever follows through on Keynes's corollary: when times are good, cut spending and raise taxes); or the Republicans, for doing such a terrible job with PR and commitment (whatever happened to small government, GW?) that they've convinced Americans they'd be better off with the Democrats.

This is starting to look like the Seventies again. In time, government borrowing will crowd out other borrowers from the market, leading to higher interest rates and even further reductions in available liquidity (which will hurt small businesses and homebuyers the most). The Philips Curve will shift away from the axes again, just as it did during the Seventies. And that's not even taking into account the big What-If: a major Middle Eastern war that, despite the worldwide downturn in consumption, would cause fuel prices to eclipse even the gory peaks of 2008.

Worse, the Thirties: other countries turn to authoritarian command economics, which involve rearmament and eventual aggression. The United States lags behind and is caught unprepared for the grand conflict. Millions die needlessly.

It's the largest gamble in American history, and I'm not sure the implied-odds calculations justify the risk.