Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Little (Self) Log- Rolling - A Posting By Me on The Book Haven


Cynthia Haven was nice enough to ask me to expand on some remarks I made Saturday in the com-box of her great blog, The Book Haven, re the inflated reputation of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the related subject of the 1950s more generally.  This was posted yesterday, but will be found under the date of November 21.  My remarks may be read here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Note on Something of More than Antiquarian Interest

 
     More than occasionally, in conversation or in the blogosphere, someone with an agenda will display "surprise" or "dismay" or "confusion" at something that is an enduring fact of our political life: the overwhelming Democratic registration of black voters.  Why, weren't "the Democrats" the party of slavery, and then Jim Crow, and aren't "the Republicans" the Party of Lincoln?  Etc., etc.  This demonstrates either mendacity or a history of never having given the matter a moment's serious thought, or a weird combination thereof.  So, let's remember some things:

     1. Both JFK and LBJ were Democrats.

     2. The majority of Democrats in Congress, and the vast majority of Democrats in Congress from outside of the former rebellious states, voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The support (then) for these pieces of legislation by most Republicans in Congress wouldn’t have mattered if the party controlling both houses hadn’t had most of its members in favor.

     3. The Republican nominee for the Presidency in 1964 was a United States Senator, Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Act.  The bulk of such electoral votes as he received (47 out of 52) came from among the former rebellious states.  This was at a time - the last time - when that particular electorate would still be overwhelmingly white and Democratic. 

     4. For a generation or more prior to all this, blacks in “the North” had changed their basic political allegiance from Republican to Democratic.

     5. At least some of the above illustrates something American have a hard time wrapping their minds around, which is that we really don’t have national political parties in the way so many European nations do, because we are so big, because we are a federal republic rather than a unitary state, and most importantly because we have presidential/congressional government rather than a parliamentary system.

     6. So, given all this, it is absolutely no mystery at all that millions of newly enfranchised (or finally enfranchised) Black Americans would register almost unanimously Democratic, while at the very same time the resurgent Republicans in “the South” would be lily-white, and fomer Democrats like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms would be just that, former Democrats.

     There are a lot more things that could be said, but in the interests of peaceable-ness, they won’t be.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Reflections after Bush



   “Properly” one might reflect about the Presidency of George Bush the Younger as he left office, but all these years later the nation and the world still suffer, and will continue to for a long time, from the most disastrous and destructive President the United States has ever had.  He wasn’t without help, of course, in delivering us unto this mess; that, plus the ephemeral nature of the man’s character, and the fact that his presidency can be seen as a culmination of events over the last several decades, means that reflecting about Bush really means reflecting about far more than a Op-Ed checklist of accomplishments and failures, and is really about reflecting on us.

     One of the smaller bad legacies of Bush the Younger is the line of thought that he makes his dad look good in comparison.  Bush the Elder was a horrible President, who set the stage for so many of the disasters we have had to undergo.  As Vice-President and then President, he was part of the decade long cosseting of Saddam Hussein.  Then, having all but invited Iraq into Kuwait, we constructed a coalition of the bribed and coerced, barely removed the Iraqis, proceeded to encourage the Kurds and Shias to rise up, then abandoned them, then lied about it (shades of Eisenhower and Dulles re Hungary in 1956).  After 1989, Bush and his Texas oil-scum buddy James Baker and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and the young careerist Condoleezza Rice demonstrated utter incomprehension and irresponsibility about Europe after the implosion of the Soviet Union.  The one place there was any realistic likelihood of turmoil in Europe was in what was devolving into the former Yugoslavia.  But the United States (and our partners in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) turned a blind eye to that reality (“we don’t have a dog in this fight”).  Instead, they were slow about the Baltic states’ independence, and ditto for Ukraine.  All of this, when it was perfectly obvious that so many of the non-Russian states of the old USSR would choice independence, with whatever degree of reality (contrast, say, Lithuania with Belarus.)  A cliché of the 70s and 80s was about “Cold Warriors” itching for nuclear war.  The bad joke of that is that the real Cold Warriors were people who could not imagine a world without the Soviet Union as they knew it, without an adversary defined as more or less as powerful as you, with whom you played a constant game of up-and-down (a bi-polar world, indeed), as if this was some enduring reality of history, and hadn’t come into place during, and because of, the Second World War, another of Hitler’s wonderful legacies.  So the real crisis in Europe was ignored, the real and effective use of power by the West left in abeyance, with Bush’s successor left to belatedly to deal with the mess, and also take most of the opprobrium that should have landed in Bush the Elder’s lap.  It is also worth considering how much of this thinking continued into the younger Bush’s administration, with the “need” to try to enlist Russia as an ally in the “War on Terror” and George Bush the Younger looking into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and supposedly getting a sense of his soul. 

 

   But the largest drag on the world is the financial one.  Bush inherited a long string of budget surpluses, with editorialists having the luxury of leisurely debating the pros and cons of having the entire national debt eliminated circa 2015.  When he left office, deficits had been run and the debt stood at over 10 trillion dollars, nearly double with what he started.  (Oh, and quite by the way, why wasn’t the first decade of the 21st century, the era of the Bush tax cuts, a time of massive, booming investment?)  But supposedly Obama is the irresponsible one about money: as with most things matters had to get worse before they got better, but the deficit has been going down year by year.  But Obama, supposedly also a Great Communicator, doesn’t know how to make his own case. 

 

   One of the stupidest clichés about Bush, uttered by friend and foe alike, is that, think of him as you might, he is a man of “deep convictions.”  A man of deep convictions does not run for President at the age of 54 talking about how our foreign policy must be more “modest” and then a year later, in the wake of the terror attacks, proclaim a crusade for freedom and democracy to be exported to lands which haven’t much experience with either, and get us mired in two unwinnable wars which are advertised as part of that crusade.  A man of deep convictions does not, at the same time he is making speeches about no longer siding with the old, bad forces of un-freedom in the “Arab World” then render prisoners to Syria and Egypt, among others, for torture.  Stubbornness does not mean conviction any more than having to have one’s own way equals a sense of purpose. 

 

   Then there is No Child Left Behind.  What is interesting is how “liberals” (Teddy Kennedy, etc.) allowed themselves to be co-opted on this, and how the very defining of the subject was left to Bush, and how the subject continues to be defined in terms which he, or his ideological masters, laid down.  Millions of people have received the firm impression (and impression is the word) that basically the only thing wrong with public education is a bunch of incompetent teachers who are protected by their union.  Never mind generation after generation of an educational administrative class which actually runs the schools, going after every trend in education, from New Math to Smart Boards to on-line learning, as soon as they pick up their meaningless master’s degrees in this or that.  Our experience has some analogies with that of the United Kingdom.  The Thatcherite ‘reforms’ were blithely continued by Blair and Brown, and now Cameron.  Not only is university becoming more expensive, but greater stress is laid on the GSCE (age 13-14) rather than the A-levels (age 16 and after).  Students are then tracked on the basis on GSCE scores – in other words, the British are Germanizing themselves.  

 

       A lot of this has to do with the suburbanization of “liberalism” (I’m from Oregon originally, so I know a lot about this).  Precisely because of the success of the New Deal-Fair Deal-New Frontier-Great Society, the focus of ‘liberals’ became increasingly “personal” to point that in the 1990s the atrocity known as Welfare Reform  was passed, but, damn, those blessed partial-birth abortions were protected.  Year after year, really decade after decade, articles and editorials have bemoaned “America’s Decaying Infrastructure” but there is truly no passion on the part of the political classes to do anything about it.  You can’t expect ‘conservatives’ to care, but there was a time when ‘liberals’ would have been excited about this, but those days are gone.  The stimulus package of early 2009 could have been a perfect time, but of course it wasn’t.  It didn’t occur to Obama, or Biden, or Pelosi, etc. to take a deep breath, use their political momentum to explain to the American citizenry how bad the mess left by Bush was and how that was combined with a golden opportunity to take care of some problems America had been storing up for decades.          

 

     Those of us with longer memories than last week will remember when liberalism underwent a searching critique by what was dubbed “neo-conservatism” (but then some of us also remember when neo-conservative meant, say, Nathan Glazer).  Those days, too, are gone.  Liberals were only ‘chastened’ to the extent they would abandon the weakest among us, and protect only what mattered to an increasingly affluent “natural” constituency.  See above, but consider also the truly thoughtless re-enforcing of de-regulation by Clinton, attended with great posturing of intellectual bravery, too scared to say no to the Pelagian / Libertarian fantasy promulgated by his predecessors in the White House.  So, when he was succeeded by Bush the Younger, how could liberals effectively criticize, if they even noticed, the whole sub-prime idiocy?  They couldn’t.  (Martin Mayer predicted this sort of thing in the 70s in The Bankers, but that’s another story.) 

 

   Meanwhile, what about the “conservatives”?  Having somehow managed to serve up the first two-term Presidency since Eisenhower, nothing was easier for them than the auto-mythology of Reagan as a Great President.  Paul Volcker, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, a Carter appointee, induced a massive recession, in order to wring out the inflation which has beset us since our little mis-adventure in Indo-China (one of the ‘achievements’ of conservatives was to lay that inflation, in the minds of millions, at the feet of Food Stamps and Job Corps).  That helped Carter lose the Presidency, and when the inflation was wrung out and the economy began to recover, Reagan couldn’t help but be re-elected (this after historic mid-term losses in 1982).  It is almost embarrassing to remember, as well, that the deficits run up by Reagan.  In 1986, Reagan replaced Volcker with Alan Greenspan , the fruit of whose misdeeds we still must endure.  The other part of the mythology has to do with Ending the Cold War, which in real life Reagan didn’t, and couldn’t, do.  He merely had the good fortune to be President while the implosion of the Soviet Union became explicit, and that awful system finally coughed up a leader, Gorbachev, who was willing to begin the dismantling of empire (the Soviet Union, having begun the Cold War with its dominance of half of Europe, had to be the one to end it).  Reagan, destiny’s tot, merely soaked up the credit due to others.

 

    “Conservatives” have never been able to quite get over it; hence, their befuddlement during the two Bush presidencies, with an interlude of impeaching a Democratic president for, well, adultery.   I think I first noticed conservatives resurrecting “class warfare” (apparently a rhetorical one-way street) in 2006 when Bush the Younger was still in office.  It is hardly a wonder that two decades of talking to themselves (i.e., political incest) would finally spawn not merely a succession of risible presidential candidates but the Tea Party.   It is worth paying attention to one aspect of that phenomenon: its almost total lack of interest in governance.  Of course, people will say that, for instance, the Tea Partiers would like to wreck Obamacare, but the Tea Party is largely an instance of what happens when politics becomes its own subject.  There can be no actual Tea Party “program.”  The activities of the Tea Partiers are about ideological purity, and purges, and self-satisfaction , and very little else.  That is its effect on our political life, to increase the stock of public political masturbation.  This is pernicious, but not as a threat to seize power.  (In this, they are like the various Trotskyite sects, only well-bankrolled.  A couple of stories are pertinent here.  The first is for the cognoscenti: I once read about one of the Trotskyite grouping which was distinguished from the others because it held – still holds? – that Trotsky wasn’t killed on orders of Stalin.  No, he was done in by the Sparticists.  The second story happened here in Nevada, where I now reside.  In 2010, the Republicans nominated a true whack-job, Sharon Engle, to run against Harry Reid for the Senate.  But she wasn’t pure enough for the Tea Party, who ran their own candidate.)    

 

     Meanwhile, Obama has Ukraine and Syria and Iraq with which to deal.  These all are legacies from our wretched past and enough was said about Putin, Russia, etc. above.  But first consider Syria: we have been over a barrel about Syria for four decades now, ever since Henry Kissinger, back when he was running the world in the wake of the Yom Kippur war, decided that Syria (meaning its regime) was a serious partner for peace which had to be “engaged.”  The fruits of that?  Syria occupied half of Lebanon for a quarter century (1976-2001).  We ended up intervening in Lebanon in 1983-1984, saved the PLO’s bacon after they made a living hell of south Lebanon, and had nearly three hundred of our Marines blown up by Syria’s Hezbollah  allies.  That involvement in Lebanon is worth considering, apart from its having achieved nothing good, in terms of the politics of reputation.  We intervene, we have a disastrous attack on our forces about which nothing is done, then we leave – and the public image and re-elections prospects of Ronald Reagan in 1984 are not affected in the least.  (Republicans bitching about Obama and Syria might remember, too, that in 1982 Hafez Assad massacred 10,000 people in Homs in an earlier civil war – and Reagan did exactly what about that?)  This leads, secondly, over a now non-existent border, to Iraq.  We dismantled what state apparatus there was in that fake nation, opened up a front to Sunni extremism, and installed a government friendly to…Iran, about whom we have been stressing for years.  This is called “realism.”  Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell-Rice, etc. set that table, and Cheney, at least, now has the brass to come out of his lair to appear on the Fox channel and kvetch.            

 

     So, here we are, over five years after George Bush the Younger left office.  Perhaps the most (immediately) depressing thing we might consider is that his having wrought such havoc, and that havoc having such a long pedigree, there are people with bumper stickers with Bush’s picture asking, “Miss Me Yet?”    We are so far gone in our fog of amnesia that a sizable chunk of our citizenry would quite willingly return to its vomit, and that is why I said that to reflect about Bush and his presidency means to reflect about us. 

    

 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Their American Cousins


Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War.  Random House.  958 pages.  2011




   English interest in our War of the Rebellion (1861-1865, otherwise known as the Civil War) is never ending.  Just consider a very few academics in our century: Sir Geoffrey Elton, the Tudor historian; the first book of Dom David Knowles, the  medievalist, was a general narrative of the Civil War; Professor William Frend, the late patristic scholar, under whose aegis my wife wrote her most of her doctoral dissertation.  In at least the last two cases this was combined with a fair measure of ‘pro-Southern’ sympathy.  In that they had a precursor in Lord Acton, who, with extreme simple-mindedness, equated the cause of the rebellious states with ‘liberty’ because states are a lower level of government than a nation, and who also believed that slavery would eventually die a ‘natural death,’ a belief, or wish, indulged in by many at the time (one strength of this volume is showing how many, including William Gladstone, fell for that delusion).    

   Amanda Foreman is something of an Anglo-American union herself, with an American father, English mother, English husband, American undergraduate degree, doctorate from Oxford, and an excellent biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire to her credit.   Now, this volume, a dozen years in the making, charts “a biography of a relationship or, more accurately, of the many relationships that together forms the British-American experience during the Civil War.” 

   “Many relationships” is key. Among the strengths of the volume is that a narrative of nearly a thousand pages is sustained without strain because the author moves easily between the actors of high politics and the obscure players, British and American, who ran blockades, shuffled money around the New and Old Worlds, conducted diplomacy, spied, and – on the British side – volunteered to fight on both sides. [Small World Department: I met a man last summer at a cricket match in England who had forbears who came over to fight for both the rebels and the Union. I looked them up, but they weren’t in the book.] This volunteering went on despite being forbidden by The Foreign Enlistment Act of 1819. There is an excellent selection of photographs. Even more, the illustrations, largely by Frank Vitzetelly of the Illustrated London News, whose story is a thread throughout, give the volume the feel of a rich historical chronicle. There is also an excellent selection of photographs. The diaries of Benjamin Moran, a clerk in the American legation in London are well-exploited, showing Moran’s social and diplomatic frustrations, and his tetchy relations with Charles Francis Adams (and young Henry Adams). A counter-part figure is Lord Lyons, the British minister in Washington, who moved from a position of insecurity, having followed a very popular minister, and a rough time with the new US Secretary of State, William Seward, to become a highly effective diplomat, an admirer of Lincoln and the Union cause. The sheer grinding nature of work in those days, without e-mails and faxes and telephones, writing everything out by hand, the incessant personal interviews, all of which made the working day so long, is very well portrayed. Because the author has such a large, and long, story to tell, she has taken the time to also provide good descriptions of most battles, even when her British subjects are out of sight, and thus a good military history of the War, which is wise in giving context to their involvement. I might also stress two matters toward the end of the book, the activities of Rebels passing back and forth from Canada culminating in a plot (worthy of modern terrorism) to burn down as much of New York City as they could, and the sense Foreman gives of how bleak much of 1864 still looked to the Union, from Lincoln on down, despite military successes, and Rebel weakness, and an improving diplomatic situation.

   Of course, any book has some weaknesses.  Vermont was never a “colony” (p. 21) nor was Washington a state until well after the War (1889 – p. 51).  Cotton played a key role, obviously, in the plans of the rebellious states and is often dealt with in the book; however, a chapter, or part of one, could have been dedicated to summarizing how much they were able to export, how much was bottled up by blockade, what revenues came in, etc.   The author is needlessly hostile to William Seward, especially early in the volume, characterizing him during his earlier Governorship of New York as having “behaved with shameless opportunism, courting the state’s large Irish vote with his vitriolic diatribes against England.”  Seward’s governorship included reforms of prisons and care for the insane, increased state aid for both public and private schools, and encouragement to immigrants.  Occasionally, endnote entries are long enough, and pertinent enough, to have gone into the text. 

   That leads to two matters which were not in the author’s powers.  It is cheaper these days to have endnotes, rather than footnotes, which is especially irksome in a book this long.  (Dr. Foreman’s extensive bibliography can be found on her website, not in the book, by the way.)  Also, my hardback copy began to split apart before I had finished it.  Never mind binding, they don’t even glue books together like they used to.  I should add that, in my case, this was exacerbated by the book being dropped during turbulence in mid-flight, spilt wine and all.

   However, this is an excellent history, and a good book always breeds thoughts.


   The first is how dangerous our history has been. We forget, as it were on purpose, that some form of war could have broken out internally, in 1798-1800, 1808, 1812-15, 1831, 1846, 1850, as if what happened finally in 1861 had no provenance. (The corollary is the uncomfortable thought that war was inevitable). The line of fissure on all of these occasions was where the line of slavery was drawn. People will say the war wasn’t “about” slavery, but about secession, which begs the question of why, then, “secession”? The two “sections,” slave and non-slave, were not significantly different, apart of course from that one massive difference of human slavery. The economies of each were thoroughly commercial, not subsistence, in nature (in other words, there was one big American economy). Both “North” and “South” were still overwhelmingly rural and agricultural, but the latter, too, had big, important, cities, like Charleston, New Orleans, Richmond, etc. just as the former had Boston, New York, Philadelphia. The position of free blacks had often grown worse, and the movement against the extension of slavery often was aimed at any blacks moving into new territories. Violence and oppression weren’t ended by the War; as much of the United States proceeded to act as if the War hadn’t happened, and the rebellious state were “redeemed,” blacks were increasingly shoved right back down to the bottom, until in the living memory of at least some of us, the Federal government finally acted – again, in the face of violence - on the presumption that these, too, were American citizens.

   At the top of this review, I called this war by its proper and primary name.  The position of the United States Government was that they were facing a rebellion.  The position of those rebellious states was that each state had somehow voluntarily joined a league of states and could just as voluntarily leave.  Never mind that the weaker document, the Articles of Confederation, which preceded the Constitution, spoke of “perpetual union”……..The pertinent sections of the Constitution run as follows:
Article 1, Section 9, clause 2:


The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

Article 1, Section Section 10 (entire):

Clause 1: No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

Clause 2: No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Congress.

Clause 3: No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

   I don’t need to bold the key words in the above citations; they speak for themselves.  They also emphasize why the United States could be so angry with Britain, or any state, conferring “belligerent status” on the Rebellion and why the issue of “blockade” became so tricky after the British did so.

   Finally, there is something of an implicit lesson telling us how relatively late the “special relationship” between the United State and the United Kingdom came into being.  The experience of the two World Wars (especially the second) of the 20th century can too easily be projected back further into our American sensibility than is warranted.  Not only was a (needless, stupid) war fought with the British from 1812-1815, but endless border disputes over Canada, the issues arising from the War of the Rebellion, etc., kept the two nations in friction until the 19th was turning into the 20th century.   The obvious cultural heritage of British laws, customs, and so forth took a long time to come into sync with our politics.  (An aspect of this is – was - the cultural ‘type’ whose intellectual formation, historical frame of reference, preferences in literature, etc. was overwhelmingly British – English, really – who at the same time had an abiding suspicion of Albion and acted on that suspicion in political life.  John Adams is the prototype of that, his son John Quincy wasn’t very different, and Charles Francis being posted to London continued the tradition.  Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. was probably the last of these, promoting American Empire in no small part to twist the Lion’s tail.  A further irony is that as a historian, he preferred Alexander Hamilton (not the type, at all) to any Adams, which disturbed relations with his chum, Henry Adams, not one whit.)

   I hope the durée will not be longue until Amanda Forman’s third book, but when it arrives we will be assured of its quality.  
  





  


   




Saturday, January 22, 2011

I'm Back!

   Well, it’s been over a year, I know. But sloth, family obligations, work, etc. – in other words, all the usual excuses have made it so. I would say thank you for your patience, but that would assume you were paying attention.
   I have renamed the blog A Citizen Paying Attention, which was my original idea for a title, until I decided it sounded pompous. I’ve changed my mind about that, but still hope to post monthly, in the spirit of the blog’s original title, Every Full Moon. You will notice actual advertising to the side of my beautiful prose. I must say that my host, Google, makes setting up advertising extremely difficult, even allowing for what a techno-rube I am. There is also a link to certain blogs and websites (again, all it says is blogs, more misleading information from Big G) at which I like to gander. You might, too, and I’m sure there will be future additions and subtractions. Soon, I will try to set up the mysterious RSS feed so that (if I understand this correctly) you can subscribe to my humble blog and induce others down the same garden path.
   Last year, I had hoped to review John Lukacs’ Last Rites and Leslie Mitchell’s biography of Maurice Bowra. Briefly, let recommend both books. Last Rites is, among other things, a fine summing up of that great historian’s historical philosophy. It is not, despite the title, his last (or latest) book. Mitchell’s life of Bowra, despite some weaknesses in interpretation (alas, my missing in-depth review!), captures nicely a great 20th century Oxford don, a flaming creature of a personality, and his many strengths and weaknesses. But that was then. Posted next month will be my review of Steven V. Riley’s Capitalism, Democracy, & Emerging Christianity.  The month after that will be my review of Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary.     This is not a book review blog totally. Soon, I hope to have a long commentary on the legacy of Bush the Younger (not a review of his book) – which has to take in more context than just his presidency, including how and why it is that we seem to be just sitting here numb in the ruins. There will be other commentaries on other issues, in time, as well; still, there are the books and two coming out soon which, since I want to read them, I also wish to review them. Amanda Foreman’s A World on Fire, about British volunteers, and British involvement in every other sense of the word, on both sides of our War of the Rebellion (oh, excuse me, our Civil War), is her first book in a dozen years. Before that (I think this will be the sequence), the great J.G.A. Pocock, eighty-six (86) years old, will have published the fifth volume of his great series, Barbarism and Religion, on Edward Gibbon, the making of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the world of Early Modernity that formed them. Of course, as regard this epic series, I have to declare in the spirit of Wayne and Garth, “I’m not worth!!!” and may content myself with linking to the appreciations of others.
   Finally, those you with a tenacious memory will recall my declaration of love for Beefeater Gin and the San Francisco Giants at the end of my original blog post last year. Well, on that second subject…I never thought I would live to see the day. The only touch of Hegelianism in my constitution was the expectation that if the Giants ever did win the World Series the immanent fulfillment of History would have been reached, and the world would end. Hasn’t happened yet, but we do have the rest of the Hot Stove League. In the meantime, repeat after me:

                               The San Francisco Giants are the Champions of the WORLD

   To repeat myself, I never thought I would live to see the day. Naturally, a lot was made of how Bay Area fans have lived and suffered all these decades. Let me add another dimension to that: the Pacific Northwest, where I grew up. When Major League baseball came to the West Coast there was a more obvious attraction in the Northwest to the Bay Area (and northern California generally) than to southern California, and over time this made for a solid part of Giants Nation being in those two states – which also explains why there never was any great development of “regional loyalty” later to the Seattle Mariners. To someone like myself, with family ties to San Francisco – my parents and my siblings born there, relatives on both sides all over the Bay Area – this only reinforced matters. I have the dimmest of memories (showing my age here) of begin taken to old Seals Stadium by my Uncle Earl in what must have been the Giants second season in San Francisco, and of course there are a lot of Candlestick Park memories, not only of so many great Giants but opposing players like Stan Musial in his final season, Henry Aaron hitting a home run, and Frank Robinson (about whom more later). Finishing up college in Eugene, Oregon and living on there for a number of years after before moving to Portland, I must have watched hundreds of games from KTVU.
   Any Giants fan, then, must have the kind of memories I have. 1978: when the Giants led most of the season. 1982: with skipper Frank Robinson, when the Giants roared back winning almost two-thirds of their games in the second half of the season, finishing just a game behind the hated Dogs of L.A. 1986: the first full year of the Roger Craig-Al Lopez era, a repeat of 1978. 1987: an epic playoff series with the Cardinals. 1989: the earthquake and (unfortunately, but deservedly) being swept by the A’s. 2002: I remember Game 6, we are up 5-0 in the seventh inning, and on the verge of taking it all. Being a Giants fan, and therefore a pessimist, I am not, in the ordinary sense of the word, confident of victory. But, sitting up near midnight in Greenbelt, Maryland, watching this Pacific Time Zone Game, I allowed myself to think in the conditional mode (“What would it be like?” “How would it feel?”), with my mouth dry, my palms sweating, before the bottom fell out…..
   Giants’ fans carried all this with them this year, whatever the elements were that made for the extra confidence factor this time around. (The most touching moment for me after we won was when Joe Buck started running off the names of the San Francisco players who had never got to live what our guys did that night.) I had not thought, of course, to get anything to drink to celebrate that evening. So I headed to the store for, appropriately, a big Anchor Steam. In the car, on the CD I had left in to play, I listened to Sinatra singing “At Long Last Love.”

                              Is it an earthquake or simply a shock?
                              Is it the good turtle soup or merely the mock?
                              Is it a cocktail, this feeling of joy?
                              Or is what I feel the real McCoy?

                              Is it for all time or simply a lark?
                              Is it Granada I see or only Asbury Park?
                              Is it a fancy not worth thinking of?
                              Or is it at long last love?

   Well, you think that didn’t sum up all those years and all those players and all those memories? Now, for me, that song will always be about this World Series, and relate to the Giants as much as “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “Don’t Stop Believin.’”)
   As future Cooperstown resident Buster Posey said, our task is to do it again next year.
   This will be the sweetest Hot Stove League ever.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Welcome to This Blog

I will try to keep the personal introduction to this first posting of my blog short, but I think it is unavoidable to say something, and to say too little might be a form of inverted self-absorption.



My name is Bruce Cole (and I am not the former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities). I am married, the father of three daughters, a Catholic, a nominal Democrat, and currently living in Nevada. I have written for several publications, though the bulk of my working life has certainly been spent in non-literary venues. I received my hard-won and undistinguished Bachelor's degree in History from the University of Oregon a long time ago, where I had the immense good fortune to be taught by the late, and undeservedly ignored, Thomas Payne Govan, who turned my interests toward the history of the Early American Republic.

I have entitled this blog Every Full Moon as a way of indicating that, at least at first, I will be posting once a month (whether or not that coincides with the arrival of full moons). The next posting will be my review of Last Rites by John Lukacs, to be followed (a month after?) by a review of Leslie Mitchell's biography of Maurice Bowra. (I have no apologies to make for these reviews being "late," as that is, I should hope, the prerogative of a rookie blogger.) I will also be making some occasional forays into commentary. I have set matters up so that folks are free to comment, thought I do not plan on publishing the comments as I do not have the time nor interest nor patience to referee debates among readers (assuming there are any). On the other hand, comments are very welcome, as they may stimulate further topics and their treatment. At some point soon, I will "monetize" the site with ads, and add a PayPal feature for those in a generous mood.

Finally, some attempt to state here something of my "position," with the sinking realization that a laundry list of interests, influences, etc. will A) only tell readers so much, B) risk sounding pompous, and C) be suffocating to write, at least for me. Nevertheless: I am in the Hamilton-Washington-Marshall-Lincoln (as opposed to the Jeffersonian-Madisonian-Jacksonian) tradition. My deepest interests are historical (and one of the reasons for the first review is to indicate the debt I owe to the historical philosophy of John Lukacs.) I have long been fascinated by the often hidden commonalities which are shared by "opposing viewpoints." Perhaps that is why (one reason why) as early in high school I got over "liberal" and "conservative" - not that those terms were or are meaningless, nor the opposition between those forces, nor that the claim to have transcended those terms isn't pretty common. A key to this has been the growing (yes, historical) realization and appreciation of, and commitment to, the communitarian, societal, civic republican - call it what you will - traditions as opposed to the lower-case libertarianism that forms the assumptions of so many people (the guns in this blog will aimed both port and starboard). This is also why theories of positive liberty mean something. The influence of Professor Govan has been lasting in this regard. Alasdair MacIntyre's philosophy as been a help here, modified by the insights of J.G.A. Pocock regarding the protean nature of the several , and conflicting, Enlightenment(s) that have formed our age for better and worse...

Now is when the incompleteness of list-making is overwhelming your humble scribe. I hope that I never even begin to lay out a "program" (however truncated) again. Let me conclude my introductory remarks by saying all the above postulates are hardly going to be rammed home with each posting and that I also love, among other things, Beefeater Gin and the San Francisco Giants.




Last Rites by John Lukacs. Yale University Press, 2009, 187 pages.














[ Watch this space]