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History Buzz: December 2010, Christmas, Civil War at 150 & Best of 2010


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.



  • Will Tuesday Be the Darkest Day in 456 Years?: A painting of a total lunar eclipse viewed from the surface of the moon, as imagined by Lucien Rudax in the 1920s. Break out the flashlights. When a full lunar eclipse takes place on the shortest day of the year, the planet may just get awfully dark. The upcoming Dec. 21 full moon — besides distinguishing itself from the others in 2010 by undergoing a total eclipse — will also take place on the same date as the solstice (the winter solstice if you live north of the equator, and the summer solstice if you live to the south).
    Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and marks the official beginning of winter. The sun is at its lowest in our sky because the North Pole of our tilted planet is pointing away from it…. – Fox News, 12-18-10
  • First Winter Solstice Meeting With Lunar Eclipse In 456 Years: This year’s winter solstice will coincide with a full lunar eclipse for the first time in 456 years. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, and it has not fallen on the same day as a lunar eclipse since 1554, according to NASA.
    This eclipse will be the second on two eclipses in 2010. The first was a partial lunar eclipse that took place on June 26, 2010.
    Some believe that this event holds special significance, such as one ancient culture who saw the winter solstice as a time of renewal.
    The winter solstice played an important role in the Greco-Roman rituals.
    “It’s seen as a time of rebirth or renewal because, astrologically, it’s a time where the light comes back,” Shane Hawkins, a professor of Greek and Roman studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, told the Montreal Gazette. “If (the eclipse) happened on the 21st, they might well have been drunk,” he said. However, skeptics say that it is just an event with not significance…. – Red Orbit, 12-18-10
  • Retraction and Apology Issued to Professor Guenter Lewy: In the summer 2008 issue of its Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, was part of a network of persons, financed by the Government of Turkey, who dispute that the tragic events of World War I constituted an Armenian genocide. We now realize that we misunderstood Professor Lewy’s scholarship, were wrong to assert that he was part of a network financed by the Turkish Government, and were wrong to assume that any scholar who challenges the Armenian genocide narrative necessarily has been financially compromised by the Government of Turkey. We hereby retract the assertion that Professor Lewy was or is on the Government of Turkey’s payroll….

    Professor Lewy adds the following comment: “The SPLC has made important contributions to the rule of law and the struggle against bigotry. Thus I took no pleasure in commencing legal action against it. But the stakes, both for my reputation as a scholar and for the free and unhindered discussion of controversial topics, were compelling. It must be possible to defend views that contradict conventional wisdom without being called the agent of a foreign government.” – PR Newswire, 12-1-10


  • Beneath the Dead Sea, Scientists Are Drilling for Natural History: Five miles out, nearly to the center of the Dead Sea, an international team of scientists has been drilling beneath the seabed to extract a record of climate change and earthquake history stretching back half a million years.
    “We knew the lake went through high levels and lower levels,” said Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham, a leading Dead Sea expert and the driving force behind the project, “but we did not know it got so low.” Professor Ben-Avraham, a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and chief of the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University, had been pushing for such a drilling operation for 10 years…. – NYT, 12-18-10
  • A protest against tuition hikes becomes a generational phenomenon in Britain: IN LONDON The first sign that something is awry inside the venerable halls of University College London is a fresh red scrawl on the side of the regal entrance that simply reads, “Join the fight.” “A lot of students feel this overwhelming sense of disillusionment,” said Sylvia Ellis, associate professor of history at Northumbria University. “This is the first time that many of them have come face to face with the fact that politicians will let them down.” Now, the student opposition – including building occupations at Cambridge, Manchester University, Birmingham University and scores of others – has generated the seven-month-old coalition’s most serious political challenge. The Liberal Democrats are bitterly split, with one block set to vote against the measure. In an olive branch to students, the government agreed Wednesday to offer more flexible student loan terms…. – WaPo, 12-8-10


  • Eric Weinberger: All the [Harvard] President’s Books, Drew Gilpin Faust: I took charge of the president’s books because it was my assigned job to write thank-you letters for them. I would send her the books and the unsigned draft replies on presidential letterhead; for each one, she sent me back the signed letter and, most of the time, the book, meaning she had no further use for it. Some books she would keep, but seldom for very long, which meant those came back to me too, in one of the smaller offices on the third floor of Mass Hall where there was no room to put them. Furthermore they weren’t so easily disposed of. Often they bore inscriptions, to President Drew Faust or to her and her husband from people they knew; and even if the volume was something rather less exalted — a professor from India sending his management tome or a book of Hindi poems addressed, mysteriously, to “Sir” or to the “vice-chancellor of Harvard University” — these books obviously couldn’t end up in a secondhand bookshop or charity bin or anywhere they could cause embarrassment. All were soon moved to an overflow space at the very end of the hall, coincidentally looking out at a donation bin for books at a church across the street…. – Inside Higher Ed, 12-13-10
  • Stephanie Coontz: Is marriage becoming obsolete?: According to a TIME/Pew research poll released last week, 40 percent of Americans believe that marriage is becoming obsolete, up from just 28 percent in 1978. In that same poll, only one in four unmarried Americans say they do not want to get married. And among currently married men and women, 80 percent say their marriage is as close as or closer than their parents’ marriage. These seemingly contradictory responses reflect the public’s recognition of a new and complex reality. On the one hand, marriage as a voluntary relationship based on love and commitment is held in higher regard than ever, with more people saying that love is essential to marriage (Consider that in 1967, two-thirds of college women said they’d consider marrying a man they didn’t love if he met other criteria, such as offering respectability and financial security.)… – CNN, 11-24-10


  • NYT 100 Notable Books of 2010 NYT, 12-5-10
  • NYT: The 10 Best Books of 2010: Stacy Schiff: CLEOPATRA: A Life: With her signature blend of wit, intelligence and superb prose, Schiff strips away 2,000 years of prejudices and propaganda in her elegant reimagining of the Egyptian queen who, even in her own day, was mythologized and misrepresented.
    Isabel Wilkerson: THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration: Wilkerson, a former national correspondent for The Times, has written a masterly and engrossing account of the Great Migration, in which six million African-Americans abandoned the South between 1915 and 1970. The book centers on the journeys of three black migrants, each representing a different decade and a different destination. – NYT, 12-12-10
  • Noah Feldman’s book on FDR’s Supreme Court: SCORPIONS The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices Now Noah Feldman, himself a Harvard law professor, has written a book similar to Simon’s, although “The Antagonists” have bulked up into “Scorpions” and two more Roosevelt appointees have entered the lists: Justices William O. Douglas and Robert Jackson. Having reviewed “The Antagonists” for The Post, I doubted that Simon’s topic deserved another look. In truth, however, it did. “The Antagonists” remains a very good book, but “Scorpions” is even better. In it, Feldman tells how four ambitious and strong-willed jurists jockeyed for position on a Supreme Court asked to rule on the constitutionality of New Deal programs and to find a balance between governmental objectives and individual rights…. – WaPo, 12-5-10
  • New book chronicles largest slave revolt in U.S. history: On January 8, 1811 a group of determined enslaved Africans set into motion a plan to rise up against slavery and take their destiny into their own hands. Vowing to cast the shackles that bound them to the sugar cane plantations just west of the Crescent City, these ambitious warriors carved out a place in history for themselves that some have sought to bury for two centuries. American Uprising, a new book written by Daniel Rasmussen and slated for an early January 2011 release tells the story of the planning and execution of this uprising and its aftermath.
    Rasmussen, a recent Harvard University grad, says he began researching and writing the book about three years ago after stumbling upon the story of the revolt while working on his senior thesis. “In a lot of history about slavery there were only three sentences about this revolt, the largest slave revolt in America,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “Very little was known about it. The more I came upon this in different books, I said to myself ‘I’ve got to figure this out.’ I’ve done a fair amount of investigative journalism so the idea of looking into something that other people didn’t know about and I think some people have consciously tried to keep secret was really intriguing to me.
    “The more I learned about it, the more fascinated I became,” he continued. “Number one, my thesis was exactly right, this revolt had been covered up for almost 200 years by very powerful people with very strong interests in keeping this secret. As soon as I found that out, I got even more excited.”… – Louisiana Weekly, 12-27-10
  • Nonfiction Chronicle: Robert Dallek: THE LOST PEACE Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953 Dallek has written at least one book about each of six different United States presidents: no wonder his latest offering assumes that Great Men really do influence history. Specifically, it indicts World War II’s victorious leaders for resorting to the traditional politics of great-power rivalry rather than imagining unprecedented global cooperation, a metadecision that saddled us with the dangers of the nuclear age. The errors of these men and their successors, Dallek argues, were “not the result of inevitable forces beyond human control; rather, they were the consequence of bad judgments.” But if Dallek proves anything (and he proves a great deal in this excellent book) it is how little room the “most talented and memorable government chiefs in modern history” had to act differently…. – NYT, 1-2-11
  • Glenn W. LaFantasie: The top 12 Civil War books ever written: One great book for each month of 2011, the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. In any event, here are a dozen books that, for me, tell the story of the Civil War with literary elegance, intellectual gusto and enormous flair….
    12. “The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War” by Bruce Catton
    11. “Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America”: by William E. Gienapp
    10. “Lincoln’s Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation”: By William C. Davis
    9. “Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War”: By Charles Bracelen Flood
    8. “Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave”: By Ernest B. (“Pat”) Furgurson
    7. “Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam”: By Stephen W. Sears
    6. “Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches From the Unfinished Civil War”: By Tony Horwitz
    5. “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory”: By David W. Blight
    4. “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War”: By Drew Gilpin Faust
    3. “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era”: By James M. McPherson
    2. “The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans”: By Charles Royster
    1. “A Stillness at Appomattox”: By Bruce Catton — Salon, 12-26-10
  • Michael Korda: Arabian Knight: HERO The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia Most treatments of Lawrence’s life can be divided into debunkings and hagiographies. “Hero” by Michael Korda, as the title implies, is closer to the latter category. Yet into this baggy but beguiling biography, Korda, the author of several works of history, has also crammed the darker incarnations of Lawrence, the shy depressive, the tortured ascetic, the “odd gnome, half cad — with a touch of genius,” in the words of one of his companions behind Turkish lines. This book, for all its worship of Lawrence, leaves the impression that his heroism lay in a unique brand of personal eccentricity, a refusal to fit into the expectations of others, an unshakable determination to do things his own way, however peculiar and wrong-headed this seemed…. – NYT, 12-24-10 Excerpt
  • David Wootton: GALILEO Watcher of the Skies; J. L. Heilbron: GALILEO: Starry Messenger Inevitably, the serious biographer also mirrors something of himself in depicting his subject. Readers who make it through the occasional eye-glazing geometrical digression in J. L. Heilbron’s “Galileo” will not be surprised to find that the author’s extensive output includes a fresh explication of Euclid. Likewise, the reader of David Wootton’s “Galileo: Watcher of the Skies,” which includes a revisionist chapter on Galileo’s “(un)belief,” as he puts it, will not be surprised to learn that Wootton has written repeatedly about atheism…. – NYT, 12-24-10
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr.: Scholars Say Chronicler of Black Life Passed for White: Renown came to Jean Toomer with his 1923 book “Cane,” which mingled fiction, drama and poetry in a formally audacious effort to portray the complexity of black lives. But the racially mixed Toomer’s confounding efforts to defy being stuck in conventional racial categories and his disaffiliation with black culture made him perhaps the most enigmatic writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance.
    Now Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard scholar, and Rudolph P. Byrd, a professor at Emory University, say their research for a new edition of “Cane” documents that Toomer was “a Negro who decided to pass for white.” They lob this intellectual grenade in their introduction to the book, which W. W. Norton & Company is to publish next month. Their judgment is based on “an analysis of archival evidence previously overlooked by other scholars,” Mr. Byrd and Mr. Gates write, including Toomer’s draft registrations and his and his family’s census records, which they consider alongside his writings and public statements…. – NYT, 12-26-10
  • Joseph J. Ellis: A Marriage That Defied Separation and War: FIRST FAMILY Abigail and John Adams John and Abigail Adams exchanged some 1,200 letters, providing a window into the marriage of this Revolutionary-era power couple. In his new book, “First Family: Abigail and John Adams,” Joseph J. Ellis draws on those letters to create a portrait of a couple forced to spend long months apart….
    But Mr. Ellis — the author of an astute 1993 portrait of John Adams (“Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams”), as well as of books on Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other members of the Revolutionary generation — uses his easy familiarity with the era to invest his portrait of the couple with authoritative historical perspective. We may not learn anything appreciably new about the Adams family, per se, but in “First Family” Mr. Ellis employs his narrative gifts to draw a remarkably intimate portrait of John and Abigail’s marriage as it played out against the momentous events that marked the birth of a nation…. – NYT, 12-20-10
  • Book Review – The Women Jefferson Loved – By Virginia Scharff: A historian seeks to understand Thomas Jefferson through his relationships with the women in his life.
    Now Virginia Scharff, a professor of history at the University of New Mexico, has sought to understand Jefferson through his relationships with the women he loved: his mother, Jane Randolph; his wife, Martha; his daughters and granddaughters; and his slave mistress, Sally Hemings…. – NYT, 12-19-10
  • Book Review – Decision Points – By George W. Bush: The 43rd president reviews his choices and finds them for the most part good. – There is something very modern, almost New Agey, and endearingly insecure, about the tone and posture the son adopts in “Decision Points.” Even as he’s bombing Baghdad back to the Stone Age, he’s very much in touch with his feelings. In college, he says, he was appalled to learn how the French Revolution betrayed its ideals…. – NYT, 12-19-10 Excerpt
  • David Horowitz: Reforming Our Universities, Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights: Why doesn’t David Horowitz give up? That question will occur to most readers well before they reach the end of his new book. Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights (Regnery, 2010) is a narrative of frustration, disappointment, resurgent optimism, further defeat, and finally the rescuing of small consolation from the wreckage of high hope. For his trouble, Horowitz endures vilification piled on calumny; gets to see his olive branches to the academic Left treated as though they were curare-tipped arrows; and secures the support of allies that range from faint-hearted Chihuahuas to politically clueless puppies.
    So why doesn’t Horowitz give up? For the publication of this volume is ample proof that he hasn’t. And though Horowitz has much to complain about, Reforming Our Universities seems untouched by self-pity. He has indignation to spare, but the spirit of this narrative of his six-year campaign to persuade American universities to embrace fair-minded intellectual inquiry is the spirit of undaunted determination…. – Front Page Mag, 12-20-10
  • ‘Capital Offense’ and ‘Revival’ – Book Reviews: Deeper Looks at the Crisis of ’08 and the Oval Office: Michael Hirsh: CAPITAL OFFENSE How Washington’s Wise Men Turned America’s Future Over to Wall Street; Richard Wolffe: REVIVAL The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House
    Michael Hirsh, in “Capital Offense,” looks at the financial crisis of 2008, and Richard Wolffe delves into the Obama administration anew with “Revival.”
    In fact, the main reason the financial crisis of 2008 occurred, the journalist Michael Hirsh argues in his provocative new book, “Capital Offense,” is that “the people in charge of our economy, otherwise intelligent and capable men like Greenspan, Rubin and Summers — and later Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner — permitted themselves to believe, in the face of a rising tide of contrary evidence, that markets are for the most part efficient and work well on their own.”
    Richard Wolffe’s new book, “Revival” — which argues in passing that “Obama’s economic team was the most dysfunctional group of the president’s advisers” — uses the administration’s efforts to grapple with the country’s fiscal woes and its handling of health care legislation as prisms by which to look at how this White House operates. – NYT, 12-14-10
  • Book Review – Atlantic – By Simon Winchester: ATLANTIC Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories Simon Winchester tells the story of the Atlantic Ocean.
    In “Atlantic,” Winchester attempts to wrap his arms around a subject so vast that it nearly defeats him at the outset. “I wanted so much to write the story of the ocean,” writes the author, an Englishman whose life has been marked by memorable encounters with the gray Atlantic. “But what and where was the structure? I was, as they say, all at sea.”… – NYT, 12-12-10
  • Book Review – Pirates of Barbary – By Adrian Tinniswood: The Shores of Tripoli PIRATES OF BARBARY Corsairs, Conquests, and Captivity in the Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean In the early 19th century, the United States Navy and Marines played a small but significant part in the demise of the Barbary corsairs, the pirates who terrorized the Mediterranean from their bases in Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli and Morocco. As a result, we Americans have tended to view this history through the lens of our own past. Adrian Tinniswood’s dramatic narrative, “Pirates of Barbary,” reminds us that the corsairs had preyed on Europeans long before the United States arrived on the scene. Indeed, they reached the height of their power in the 17th century, not long after the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock…. – A history of the Barbary pirates who menaced the Mediterranean for three centuries. NYT, 12-12-10
  • Book Review – Why The West Rules — For Now – By Ian Morris: WHY THE WEST RULES — FOR NOW The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future A Stanford historian views the clash between East and West from a long perspective, and argues that we face an immediate choice — East-West cooperation or catastrophe.
    In his new book, he sets out to discover broad patterns, “the overall ‘shape’ of history,” by sifting through the world’s long development process. Following the oscillating forces from prehistory to the present, he shows how both the East and West managed to catalyze themselves at different times and in different ways to progressively new heights of development. But his ultimate challenge is to make sense of all these cycles of rise and fall, the better to judge whether either side was in possession of any innate superiority. His answer to that question is an emphatic no. East and West, he tells us, are just “geographical labels, not value judgments.”… – NYT, 12-12-10
  • DAVID WALDSTREICHER: Book Review – Tories – By Thomas B. Allen: TORIES Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War A Revolutionary War history emphasizes the strangely neglected topic of the Americans who opposed the Revolutionary War. Thomas B. Allen, the author of several books about American warfare, has a strangely neglected topic in the Americans who opposed the Revolutionary War. There hasn’t been a big book about the loyalists since before the Bicentennial.- NYT, 12-12-10 Excerpt
  • Book Review – George Washington’s America – Barnet Schecter: George Washington’s story told using his collection of maps and atlases, probably one of the largest in 18th-century America.
    In GEORGE WASHINGTON’S AMERICA: A Biography Through His Maps, Barnet Schecter aims “to tell Washington’s entire life story” from these fascinating materials. He concentrates on a collection of 43 maps assembled into an atlas, now owned by Yale University, that depict eastern North America from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Supplemented by other maps from the Mount Vernon library, including some drawn by Washington himself, these images provide an unusually rich visual foundation for Schecter’s narrative…. – NYT, 12-5-10
  • Book Review ‘Fragments’ by Marilyn Monroe and ‘Dear Mrs. Kennedy’: By LIESL SCHILLINGER FRAGMENTS Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters By Marilyn Monroe, Edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment; Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis: DEAR MRS. KENNEDY A World Shares Its Grief: Letters, November 1963
    Collections of Marilyn Monroe’s private documents and of letters Jackie Kennedy received after her husband’s assassination.
    Two new books refresh the images of two larger-than-life American contemporaries who continue to compel the global imagination half a century after their deaths: Marilyn Monroe, who died of an overdose of sleeping drugs on Aug. 5, 1962, at the age of 36; and President John F. Kennedy, assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, at the age of 46. Unearthing long-buried letters and private documents, these books — “Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters,” edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment, and “Dear Mrs. Kennedy: A World Shares Its Grief,” by Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis — attest to the spell these figures cast, in the past and in the present… – NYT, 12-3-10
  • Book Review – Bloodlands – Europe Between Hitler and Stalin – By Timothy Snyder: By JOSHUA RUBENSTEIN
    How Poland, Ukraine, the Baltics and Belarus were victimized by two mass murderers with competing utopian visions. In “Bloodlands,” Snyder concentrates on the area between Germany and Russia (Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic region and Belarus) that became the site of horrific experiments to create competing utopias based on class or race war. For Stalin, this meant controlling “the largest social group in the Soviet Union, the peasantry.” They needed to be driven off small plots of land into more efficient collective farms; many were forced to move to factory zones to sustain rapid industrialization…. – NYT, 11-26-10
  • GEOFFREY C. WARD on Edmund Morris: A Headlong Life: COLONEL ROOSEVELT On the evidence offered in “Colonel Roosevelt,” the third and concluding volume of Edmund Morris’s monumental life of the 26th president, both of my forebears had a point. Morris is a stylish storyteller with an irresistible subject. The seismic personality that one White House visitor said had to be wrung from one’s clothes when leaving Roosevelt’s presence infuses every one of his trilogy’s nearly 2,500 pages…. – NYT, 11-26-10
  • Book Review – And the Show Went On – Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris – By Alan Riding: AND THE SHOW WENT ON Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris In gripping and painful detail, Alan Riding shows how French writers and artists adapted to the Nazis.
    Thirty years ago, while reporting on Latin America for The New York Times, Alan Riding began wondering how artists and writers responded to brutal dictatorships. He then went to live in Paris and realized that not so long before, the French intellectual and cultural elite had provided an answer, in often unlovely ways. “And the Show Went On” describes this history in gripping and painful detail…. – NYT, 11-26-10
  • Michael Korda’s ‘Hero,’ About T. E. Lawrence – Review: The strength of Michael Korda’s new biography of T. E. Lawrence, “Hero,” lies in its ability to analyze its subject’s accomplishments and to add something to the body of Lawrence lore. – NYT, 11-21-10


  • Gary C. Anderson: Minnesota Execution 150 Years Ago Spurs Calls for Pardon: On Dec. 26, 1862, thirty-eight doomed Dakota Indians wailed and danced atop the gallows, waiting for the trapdoors to drop beneath them. The square scaffold, built here to accommodate the largest mass execution in United States history, swayed under their weight….
    But one man, historians say, did not belong there. A captured Dakota named We-Chank-Wash-ta-don-pee, often called Chaska, had had his sentence commuted by President Abraham Lincoln days earlier. Yet on the day after Christmas 1862, Chaska died with the others. It was a case of wrongful execution, Gary C. Anderson, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma and Little Crow biographer, said last week in an interview. “These soldiers just grabbed the wrong guy,” he said…. – NYT, 12-13-10
  • Historian David Kiehn traces old Bay Area films: David Kiehn has spent most of his life working in film-related jobs. But it wasn’t until he made a remarkable discovery – and was featured on “60 Minutes” – that anyone outside the film community took notice. For years, Kiehn knew about “A Trip Down Market Street,” a 12-minute silent film, shot in San Francisco from a cable car. The Library of Congress dated the film to 1905, but Kiehn suspected otherwise. Studying weather reports, vehicle registration records and show-biz trade publications, he discovered that “Market Street” was in fact shot four days before the great earthquake of April 18, 1906. Suddenly, the film took on a haunting poignancy: We now look at the San Francisco newsboys, the carriage jockeys and the women in elaborate hats, and know that many will soon be dead…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 12-6-10
  • Dan Cohen and Fred Gibbs-helmed digitization project making headway on Victorian literature: Victorians were enamored of the new science of statistics, so it seems fitting that these pioneering data hounds are now the subject of an unusual experiment in statistical analysis. The titles of every British book published in English in and around the 19th century — 1,681,161, to be exact — are being electronically scoured for key words and phrases that might offer fresh insight into the minds of the Victorians.
    This research, which has only recently become possible, thanks to a new generation of powerful digital tools and databases, represents one of the many ways that technology is transforming the study of literature, philosophy and other humanistic fields that haven’t necessarily embraced large-scale quantitative analysis.
    Dan Cohen and Fred Gibbs, the two historians of science at George Mason University who have created the project, have so far charted how frequently more than two dozen words — among them “God,” “love,” “work,” “science” and “industrial” — appear in British book titles from the French Revolution in 1789 to the beginning of World War I in 1914. To Mr. Cohen, the sharply jagged lines that dance across his graphs can be used to test some of the most deeply entrenched beliefs about the Victorians, like their faith in progress and science: “We can finally and truly test these and other fundamental claims that have been at the heart of Victorian studies for generations.”… – NYT, 12-4-10
  • William Quinn: Wreck is doomed schooner: The dean of Cape shipwreck historians thinks the wooden timbers found on Nauset Beach recently belong to the schooner Montclair, a three-masted cargo vessel that broke apart on the outer bars in March 1927. William Quinn of Orleans, said the method of construction of the timbers he has observed at the Nauset Beach wreck site jibes with what he knows about the Montclair, which was bound for New York from Halifax, Nova Scotia, when fate intervened and five men died in icy, storm-churned waters.
    The timbers that emerged on the beach last week have now been covered again by tide and sand. But Quinn cited the presence of tapered dowels and bronze spikes at the wreck site as evidence that it was the Montclair that surfaced from the sand again. The historian was also on scene when the broken remains of the Montclair made an appearance on Nauset Beach in 1957. “I think it’s one and the same,” Quinn said…. – Boston Herald, 11-26-10
  • Christopher Colombowicz: America’s discoverer Polish not Portuguese, claim historians: He is celebrated as the humble Italian weaver who ended up discovering the Americas. But the conventional wisdom relating to Christopher Columbus is under threat after academics concluded the explorer was actually a Polish immigrant. An international team of distinguished professors have completed 20 years of painstaking research into his beginnings…. ‘Another nutty conspiracy theory! That’s what I first supposed as I started to read… I now believe that Columbus is guilty of huge fraud carried out over two decades against his patrons,’ said US historian Prof. James T. McDonough…. Daily Mail (UK) (11-29-10)
  • Cold War Air Defense Relied on Widespread Dispersal of Nuclear Weapons, Documents Show: Washington, D.C., November 16, 2010 – To counter a Soviet bomber attack, U.S. war plans contemplated widespread use of thousands of air defense weapons during the middle years of the Cold War according to declassified documents posted today at the National Security Archive’s Nuclear Vault and cited by a recently published book, Continental Defense in the Eisenhower Era: Nuclear Antiaircraft Arms and the Cold War (Palgrave Macmillan) by historian Christopher J. Bright. The U.S. government publicly acknowledged the facts of the deployments in the 1950s, yet they garnered surprisingly little public opposition, Bright concludes, in disclosing for the first time that air defense weapons comprised as much as one-fifth of the US nuclear arsenal in 1961. Still, nearly 25 years after the United States retired the last of them in 1986, their exact number remains secret…. – National Security Archive at GWU, 11-16-10


  • Raul Ramos: Texas history professor immerses himself in dorm life: In retrospect, Raul Ramos says his first eight years at the University of Houston were spent in “blissful ignorance.” “I didn’t know how parking works, how the dining halls work, how financial aid works,” said the associate professor of history. “Now I do.” Ramos, 43, is fully immersed in campus life, living in a dorm for the first time in more than two decades, along with his wife, Elizabeth Chiao, and their sons, Noe and Joaquin Ramos Chiao…. – Houston Chronicle (11-28-10)


  • Alan Brinkley: 111th Congress most productive “since at least the 60s”: The 111th Congress capped its remarkable term – which historian Alan Brinkley called “probably the most productive session of Congress since at least the ’60s” – with a flurry of legislative activity that President Obama described as “the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades.”… – WaPo, 12-23-10
  • Joseph Crespino: Barbour wrong on Citizens Council claims: Joseph Crespino, an associate professor of history at Emory University, also noted a particular incident in Yazoo City undermining Barbour’s claims. “One of the things the Citizens Council would do is carry out economic harassment — sometimes physical intimidation — against local blacks,” he said. “There was this well-known incident in Yazoo City in the 1950s where a handful of black parents tried to file a lawsuit against a local public school. They lost their jobs because they filed a lawsuit and they participated in the local civil rights movement. So it’s well- documented that the kind of harassment that blacks faced when they tried to desegregate the schools there in Yazoo City.”… – Huff Post, 12-20-10
  • Of Course the Civil War Was About Slavery: Concrete concerns about saving and expanding slavery, and not the nebulous theology of states’ rights, ignited the U.S. Civil War. Why does that message keep getting lost?
    “Of course, when South Carolina did secede, there was enormous celebration, dancing in the streets and so on,” said James McPherson, a Princeton Civil War historian and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning history Battle Cry of Freedom…. “Probably 90 percent, maybe 95 percent of serious historians of the Civil War would agree on the broad questions of what the war was about and what brought it about and what caused it,” McPherson said, “which was the increasing polarization of the country between the free states and the slave states over issues of slavery, especially the expansion of slavery.”…
    In the post-Reconstruction era of national “reunion,” Yale historian David Blight says the country came back together around the idea of the common valor of soldiers on both sides of the war, around a common economy and around the imperial adventures of America as it began to grow into a world power. “But primarily — and this is complex — but primarily the country reunified ultimately by the 1890s and the turn of the 20th century around white supremacy,” Blight said, “around the Jim Crow system, which took deep hold in the South but also in the North.”
    Some historians call this era the most racist in American history — even more so than the age of slavery. This racism, and the new narrative of an unfortunate war between brothers, took hold in popular fiction, in presidential speeches, in monument building. The story of the emancipation of 4 million slaves — and of the 200,000 blacks who fought for the Union army — “all but vanished from the national story by 1900, 1910,” Blight says…. – Miller-McCune, 12-20-10
  • Bob Sutton: Confederacy: 150th Anniversary, Civil War about slavery: Most historians would disagree, and strongly! “Slavery was the principal cause of the U.S. Civil War, period,” said Bob Sutton, chief historian for the National Park Service. “Yes, politics was important. Yes, economics were important. Yes, social issues and states’ rights were important. But when you get to the core of why all these things were important, it was slavery!”… – Atlanta Examiner, 12-11-10
  • Eric Foner: Lincoln’s party is not today’s GOP: Foner is a history professor at Columbia University and has written many acclaimed books on the Civil War period, including “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men.”… How different is today’s GOP party from the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln?
    It could not be more different. Lincoln in 1860 did not receive a single vote in most of the southern states. His Republican party was the party of opposition to the expansion of slavery and later of emancipation, and a strong federal government protecting the civil and political rights of black Americans. Today the party’s center of gravity is in the South, it opposes most federal initiatives (except defense) and is the inheritor of Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” aimed almost exclusively at white voters…. –, 12-7-10
  • Small-City Congregations Try to Preserve Rituals of Jewish Life: According to Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, most Jews in the United States have migrated from small communities to large cities: he estimates that 85 percent of the country’s 5.2 million Jews live in 20 metropolitan areas, primarily on the East and West Coasts and in Sun Belt states….
    The process of dismantling a community, experts say, is fraught with potential tensions involving both purse and heartstrings. Mark A. Raider, a professor of modern Jewish history at the University of Cincinnati, cited disagreements over disposition of material assets…. – NYT, 12-1-10


  • Todd Moye: Segregationist Citizens Councils Were A ‘Terrorist Organization’: So what was Gov. Haley Barbour doing, exactly, when he defended the reputation of the Citizens Councils, a segregationist movement that was formed to oppose the civil rights movement after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision? Barbour released a statement this afternoon, declaring: “My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the ‘Citizens Council,’ is totally indefensible, as is segregation.” So let’s take a look at exactly who they were.
    Earlier, I asked Todd Moye, an associate professor of history at the University of North Texas, and also the author of Let the People Decide: Black Freedom and White Resistance Movements in Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1945-1986, for his expertise on the matter. He called the councils a “terrorist organization.”… Talking Points Memo, 12-21-10
  • Times Q& A: El Paso historian: Billy the Kid undeserving of a pardon: Bernie Sargent, director of the El Paso County Historical Commission, has researched the legend of Billy the Kid. He has strong opinions about the case…. – El Paso Times, 12-20-10
  • Robert E. May: Professor’s talk looks at Antebellum Christmases in the South: In the pre-Civil War South, Christmas traditions were a lot different than what they are today. The holiday brought out surprising kindness in slave owners, giving their slaves numerous gifts and lavish banquets, according to Purdue University history professor Robert E. May. Still, often these acts of kindness had a dark side to them. May discussed this segment of American history during the holidays at Tippecanoe County Public Library, during his talk, “Christmas in the Confederacy.”
    Question: What was Christmas like in the South before the Civil War? Answer: Churchgoing, shopping and gift-giving were extremely important to Southern whites before the Civil War, and the holiday became crucial in mitigating the possibility of slave revolts in the region. Many masters were remarkably generous to slaves at Christmas, throwing them sumptuous banquets (including astounding amounts of liquor) and giving them many days off from work and many presents — some under a ritual with psychological nuances called “Christmas Gif.” Slave weddings commonly took place over the holidays, for reasons that I will get into at my talk…. –, 12-13-10
  • The Last Utopia with Samuel Moyn: The German critic Walter Benjamin once gave a set of satirical pointers about how to write fat books — for example, by making the same point repeatedly, giving numerous examples of the same thing, and writing a long introduction to outline the project, then reminding the reader of the plan as often as possible. Whether or not they are aware of doing so, many academic authors seem to follow his advice closely. Samuel Moyn’s The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History, published by Harvard University Press, is a remarkable exception. Its survey of the legacy of ideas later claimed as cornerstones of the politics of human rights is both dense and lucid; its challenging reassessment of recent history is made in a little over two hundred pages. It’s almost as if the book were written with the thought that people might want to read it. After writing a review of The Last Utopia, I interviewed the author by e-mail; a transcript follows. Moyn is a professor of history at Columbia University and the editor of Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press…. – Inside Higher Ed (12-8-10)
  • Daniel Pipes: “You can’t fight Islamism with ideas coming out of Europe”: Citizen Times: Mr. Pipes, you head various organizations concerning the Middle East and Islam, and are one of the best known American writers on these subjects. How did this all begin for you?
    Daniel Pipes: I am a historian of Islam with a special interest in the role of Islam in public life. I received my Ph.D. in 1978, just as Ayatollah Khomeini appeared. For the first time in modern history, Islam had a large and obvious role in Western public life. What had been in the 1970s an abstract interest turned very practical. Islamic matters subsequently became very topical. That prompted me to transit from medieval history to current events. While I cover many other topics besides Islam, Islam remains central to my interests. I have a perspective I hope is useful to understand the role of Islam in politics.
    Citizen Times: And what is that perspective?
    Daniel Pipes: That Islam is deeply important to the public lives of Muslims. That Islam is a religion of laws, and those laws are quite permanent and universal. That they are not the same everywhere at all times, but the basics are consistent. That there are times of greater emphasis and times of lesser emphasis but Muslims always come back to these laws. Now, of course, is a time of greater emphasis. Islamic laws have far greater power than they had when I entered this field over forty years ago. How does one understand this change; how do Muslims view it, and how does the West respond to it? – these are some of the questions that I focus on…. – Citizen Times (12-1-10)


  • 2 historians are chosen for UR’s Eiseman Award: Two historians, connected by the University of Rochester and their love of climbing, are the winners of the Eiseman Writers Award for their book, “Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes.”
    Stewart Weaver, professor of history and department chair at the University, and Maurice Isserman, who received his doctorate in history from the University in 1979 and is a professor of history at Hamilton College in Clinton, are co-authors of this first comprehensive history of Himalayan mountaineering written by professional historians.
    The Eiseman Writers Award celebrates writers from western New York who have been published during the previous two calendar years and comes with a $1,000 prize.
    Hailed as an “awe-inspiring work of history and storytelling,” “Fallen Giants” (Yale University Press, 2008) chronicles 250 years of the international quest to climb the world’s tallest peaks. “Isserman and Weaver,” wrote Bruce Barcott in the New York Times, “brilliantly present the complete picture — the political context, the changing social dynamics, the emergence of modern climbing technique — without losing sight of the need to entertain. ‘Fallen Giants’ absolutely brims with vivid characters, from the Duke of the Abruzzi to George Mallory … hard men and egotists, saints and scoundrels.”… – The Daily News Online, 12-11-10
  • A Leadership Change at the Adirondack Museum: The Board of Directors of the Adirondack Historical Association announced today that Caroline M. Welsh, the Director of the Adirondack Museum since 2007, has been replaced by Michael Lombardi, the current Director of Finance and Operations. Lombardi is being named Interim Director, and Welsh, who has been with the museum since 1987, will become Senior Art Historian and Director Emerita…. – Adirondack Almanack (12-1-10)
  • Walter Muir Whitehill Prize announced by the Colonial Society: In 1990, members of the Colonial Society established a prize of two thousand five hundred dollars, in memory of Walter Muir Whitehill, for many years Editor of Publications for the Colonial Society and the moving force behind the organization. It is be awarded for an outstanding essay on colonial history, not previously published, with preference being given to New England subjects. A distinguished committee of members of the Colonial Society act as judges: Bernard Bailyn, Adams University Professor and James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, Emeritus, Harvard University; Robert Middlekauff, Hotchkiss Professor of U.S. History, University of California, Berkeley; and Edmund Sears Morgan, Sterling Professor Emeritus, History, Yale University.By arrangement with the editors of The New England Quarterly, the winning essay is published in an appropriate issue of that journal.
    The deadline for receiving submissions for the 2010 prize is 31 December 2010. The Society expects to announce the winning candidate in the spring of 2011. For further information on this prize, please contact the Whitehill Prize Committee, c/o Linda Smith Rhoads, Meserve Hall, Second Floor, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115. – Press Release (12-1-10)
  • Jon Butler to head Univ. libraries: History professor Jon Butler will become Acting University Librarian Dec. 1, just months after stepping down as dean of the Graduate School. Butler, whose six-year term as dean ended this June, was on leave to write a book, but has agreed to assume leadership of Yale’s libraries after the sudden death of University Librarian Frank Turner GRD ’71 from a pulmonary embolism Nov 11. Until a new librarian is found, Butler said he will work full time in the post and will resume his leave of absence at the end of the spring term.
    “I’m very honored that the President would ask me, and I hope I can help…make sure that the library has a sense of leadership and continuity while the University searches for a permanent librarian,” Butler said in an interview last Monday…. – Yale Daily News (11-29-10)


  • Bruce Catton papers now indexed online at the University of Wyoming: An inventory of papers and correspondence of Bruce Catton, widely regarded (along with Shelby Foote) as the most popular of America’s Civil War historians, is now accessible online through the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center. There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes, and the collection is open to the public…. A description and inventory for this collection [is now] accessible at University of Wyoming, 12-20-10
  • Black history catalogued at new U. of C. website: ….On Friday at the University of Chicago’s Joseph Regenstein Library, researchers unveiled a new website intended to make it easy for the public and scholars alike to locate these African-American artifacts as well as a host of others in the city from the same period in history…. The website is the “cutting edge portal into discovering primary source materials to study and know black Chicago’s history from the 1930s to the 1970s,” said Jacqueline Goldsby, a former U. of C. professor who headed up the three-year project…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 12-11-10
  • Camelot’s archives, available with the click of a mouse: During a 1962 news conference, a reporter asked President John F. Kennedy if he’d consider locating his presidential library in Washington, D.C., after leaving the White House so scholars and historians would have the broadest possible access to it. No, he replied playfully, “I’m going to put it in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”…
    A four-year, $10 million effort to digitize the JFK Library and Museum’s archives, making hundreds of thousands of documents, photographs, and recordings available online, is nearing completion of its first phase. A formal announcement will come Jan. 13, one week before the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, at a press conference in the nation’s capitol.
    “Access to a Legacy,” as the project is called, marks the first time a presidential library established in the paper age has fully committed itself to the digital era. The amount of material to be posted online in January is huge — 200,000 pages of text, 1,500 photos, 1,250 files of audio recordings and moving images, and 340 phone conversations totaling 17 1/2 hours — but represents just a small portion of the collection….
    Presidential historian Robert Dallek, who has made liberal use of the Kennedy archives, said the primary payoff is reaching the largest possible international audience. “What this means is, people in Japan or Germany can have access to [JFK’s] office files, and that’s a splendid step forward.” Other presidential libraries will probably follow suit, he added, “because they don’t want to expire, so to speak. Plus, there’s still tremendous interest in subjects like World War II, Vietnam, and the New Deal.”… – Boston Globe (11-28-10)
  • THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAKES ITS MOST IMPORTANT COLLECTIONS RELATING TO SLAVERY AVAILABLE ONLINE: Rich trove of material becomes easily accessible at The New-York Historical Society is proud to announce the launch of a new online portal to nearly 12,000 pages of source materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement. Made readily accessible to the general public for the first time at, these documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent fourteen of the most important collections in the library’s Manuscript Department….
  • Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” is the only comprehensive website on the famous Reagan-era government scandal, which stemmed from the U.S. government’s policies toward two seemingly unrelated countries, Nicaragua and Iran. Despite stated and repeated denials to Congress and to the public, Reagan Administration officials supported the militant contra rebels in Nicaragua and sold arms to a hostile Iranian government. These events have led to questions about the appropriateness of covert operations, congressional oversight, and even the presidential power to pardon…. –
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.


  • Doris Kearns Goodwin makes puzzling remark on CBS Social Security special: If there were prizes given for the most one-sided, misleading story about Social Security this year, a segment aired on the CBS Evening News before Thanksgiving would make a great candidate. In a breathless recitation of the horrors befalling the system, CBS painted a grim picture of Social Security, using scare words and phrases like “the system is headed for a crisis,” “the government is confronting a painful reality,” and “there’s no debating that we’re running out of time.” How’s that for opinion journalism on a news show?… CBS presented a puzzling remark from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who must have been consulted for a sound bite because she knew something about FDR, the father of Social Security; or maybe she was tapped in an effort to give “balance” to the piece without bringing on experts who might have known the ins and outs of the subject.
    Kearns Goodwin said that one reason Social Security was established was to get older workers to retire so younger ones could get jobs; she told viewers that “it’s ironic today that we’re in the opposite direction in wanting older people to work longer, so that we can afford to keep paying them.” Gosh! That makes it sound like the main reason they should work longer is just to get a government handout. Kearns Goodwin doesn’t come to my mind as a Social Security expert, and apparently she doesn’t understand that older workers hang onto their jobs because they must, given the demise of good employer-provided pensions, the inadequacy of 401(k) plans, and the difficulty of moving around the workplace when you’re older…. – Columbia Journalism Review (11-29-10)
  • Presidential historian Edmund Morris curses, calls Americans ‘lazy and obese’: Presidential biographer Edmund Morris delivered one of the more, well, colorful lines on this week’s Sunday morning shows. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” host Bob Schieffer, anchoring an authors roundtable discussion with the likes of Bob Woodward and Arianna Huffington, kept engaging the panelists in discussion about how America’s Founding Fathers would have felt about today’s political climate. “What would Teddy Roosevelt think of today’s politics, Edmund?” “You keep asking these presentist questions,” said the Kenyan-born, British-accented historian. “As the immortal Marisa Tomei said in ‘My Cousin Vinny,’ ‘That’s a b——t question!'” Morris said, relishing the word as network censors bleeped him out…. – Politico (11-28-10)




  • Alison Weir: The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, (Paperback), December 28, 2010
  • T. Harry Williams: Lincoln and His Generals, (Paperback), January 11, 2011
  • Robert Wright: Our Man in Tehran: The Truth Behind the Secret Mission to Save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home, (Hardcover), January 11, 2011
  • Jay M. Shafritz: Classics of Public Administration, (Paperback), January 14, 2011
  • Petra Pertici: Battle of San Romano: A Day in History, (Paperback), January 16, 2011
  • Alan Bennett: Captain Roy Brown: The Definitive Biography, Including His Encounter with the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, (Hardcover), January 16, 2011
  • Douglas Brinkley: The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Lawrence Goldstone: Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Michael G. Long: Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Edward G. Lengel: Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder, in Myth and Memory, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Ron Reagan: My Father at 100, January 18, 2011
  • Deborah Blum: The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, (Paperback), January 25, 2011
  • Peter N. Stearns: World Civilizations: The Global Experience (New Edition), (Hardcover), January 28, 2011
  • Barbara F. Stokes: Myrtle Beach: A History, 1900-1980, (Paperback), January 28, 2011
  • Donald A. Clark: The Notorious “Bull” Nelson: Murdered Civil War General (1st Edition), (Hardcover), January 31, 2011
  • Michael D. Coe: The Maya (Eighth Edition), (Paperback), January 31, 2011
  • Molly Caldwell Crosby: Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
  • Jonathan Gill: Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America, (Hardcover), February 1, 2011
  • Amy Louise Wood: Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
  • David Eisenhower: Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969, (Hardcover), February 2, 2011
  • Frederick Brown: For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Donald Rumsfeld: Known and Unknown: A Memoir, (Hardcover), February 8, 2011
  • Holger H. Herwig: The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Christopher Corbett: The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West (Reprint), (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Justin Fox: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street, (Paperback), February 8, 2011


  • Jacqueline de Romilly, Studied Greek Culture, Dies at 97: Jacqueline de Romilly, one of France’s leading scholars of Greek civilization and language and only the second woman to be elected to the Académie Française, died on Saturday in the Paris suburb Boulogne-Billancourt. She was 97…. – NYT, 12-20-10
  • J. M. Hagopian, Who Told of Armenian Genocide, Dies at 97: J. Michael Hagopian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide who came to the United States from Turkey after World War I, studied filmmaking and made a series of documentaries based on interviews with hundreds of other survivors, died on Dec. 10 at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 97…. – NYT, 12-20-10
  • Dan Kurzman, Military Historian, Is Dead at 88: Dan Kurzman, who wrote military histories that illuminated little-known incidents in World War II and an exhaustively reported account of the first Arab-Israeli war, died Dec. 12 in Manhattan. He was 88 and lived in North Bergen, N.J…. – NYT, 12-24-10
  • Historian Donald Curl, an original FAU faculty member, dies at 75: Donald Walter Curl, an original faculty member at Florida Atlantic University and a Florida historian considered the expert on Addison Mizner architecture, died Saturday after battling lymphoma for three years. He was 75. Born in East Liberty, Ohio, Curl received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University, where he studied American history. He moved to Boca Raton in 1964 to teach history at FAU, where he was one of 60 original faculty members, and remained there until his retirement in 2004…. – Palm Beach Post, 12-6-10
  • Bob DeArmond: Noted Southeast Alaska historian dies: Bob DeArmond, a prolific writer about the history of Alaska and one of the founding fathers of the city of Pelican, died Friday at home in Sitka. He was 99. DeArmond also wrote for several Southeast Alaska publications, including the Empire and the Ketchikan Daily News…. Juneau Empire, 11-29-10
  • Margaret T. Burroughs, Archivist of Black History, Dies at 95: Margaret T. Burroughs, a founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, one of the first museums devoted to black history and culture in the United States, died on Sunday in Chicago. She was 95. Her death was confirmed by her grandson Eric Toller…. – NYT, 11-27-10
  • Raymond Ward: Founder of Chicago’s DuSable Museum dies: A founder of one of the oldest African-American history museums in the country has died. A spokesman for the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Raymond Ward, says Margaret Burroughs died in her sleep at her Chicago home Sunday morning at age 93. President Barack Obama said in a statement that Burroughs was “widely admired for her contributions to American culture as an esteemed artist, historian, educator, and mentor.”… – WaPo, 11-22-10

Political Highlights December 20, 2010: Lame Duck Congress Passes Bipartisan Tax Cuts Package & Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, President Obama Updates Afghanistan Progress — Christmas at the White House

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN, and 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.


The President records the Weekly Address


  • White House Holidays: Simple Gifts
  • Fox News Poll: Majority Approves Tax Cut Agreement: A majority of American voters approve of the proposed deal to preserve Bush-era tax cuts agreed on between President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress, and voters are more likely to think the compromises made by both sides represent how things “should” work in Washington.
    A Fox News poll released Thursday found that by 68 to 26 percent, most voters approve of the compromise deal.
    Moreover, approval is across the board: 69 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents endorsed the deal.
    When asked what they would do if forced to choose between either continuing the tax cuts for all Americans or letting taxes increase for all Americans, 73 percent of voters said they would continue the tax cuts for all. That includes 83 percent of Republicans, 73 percent independents and 64 percent of Democrats…. – Fox News, 12-16-10
  • Gallup Poll: Obama loses the backing of some liberals: President Obama’s support among liberals falls to 79% in a Gallup tracking poll.
    Liberals, part of President Obama’s core backers, continue to be unhappy with the president, according to the Gallup tracking poll released Thursday.
    The poll shows that support among liberals has dipped to 79%, the first time it has fallen below 80%, according to Gallup. A week before the midterm elections, Obama stood at 88% with those who called themselves liberals…. – LAT, 12-16-10
  • Congress gets 83% disapproval rating in Gallup Poll, worst in over 30 years: People who identified themselves as Democrats registered the biggest decline in approval, from 38% to 16%. But the institution should bounce back in approval ratings in the next few months, if a pattern of past changes in partisan power hold true, Gallup noted.
    Just 13% of Americans say they approve of the way Congress is doing its job while 83% disapprove, the worst disapproval rating for lawmakers in more than 30 years, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.
    The previous record low approval rating was 14% in July 2008, a time of high prices for gasoline and a poor economy. For the year, Congress averaged about a 19% approval rating, tied with the averages in 2008 and 1979, another tough year for the economy.
    Politically, independents and Republicans were down slightly in their view of Congress, while those saying they were Democrats had the biggest drop. From October to December, Democratic support fell from 38% to 16%. Republicans fell from 9% to 7% and independents from 16% to 13% during the same period…. – LAT, 12-15-10
  • Post-ABC poll: public not yet sold on GOP: Republicans made major gains in the November elections but they have yet to win the hearts and minds of the American people, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The midterm elections – where Republicans gained 63 seats to take control of the House of Representatives and added six seats to their Senate minority – were widely seen as a rebuke to President Obama. Still, the public now trusts Obama marginally more than congressional Republicans to deal with the country’s main problems in the coming years, 43 to 38 percent. And when it comes to who has taken the stronger leadership role in Washington, it’s an even divide: 43 percent say Obama, 42 percent the GOP.
  • Facebook’s Zuckerberg is Time’s Person of the Year: The social networking magnate beats out WikiLeaks’ Assange and the Tea Party
    The man behind the world’s largest social network has been named Time’s Person of the Year. Time magazine announced today that its editors picked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the annual honor, beating out runners-up Julian Assange, the man behind the internationally controversial WikiLeaks, and the Tea Party.
    Time credited Zuckerberg with connecting more than half a billion people with through Facebook and mapping the social relations among them. And because Facebook’s 26-year-old CEO also is credited with creating a new system of exchanging information that is changing how people live their lives, he was named Person of the Year.
    “The way we connect with one another and with the institutions in our lives is evolving,” wrote Time managing editor Richard Stengel in an essay posted online today. “Our sense of identity is more variable, while our sense of privacy is expanding. What was once considered intimate is now shared among millions with a keystroke.” Zuckerberg, according to Stengel, is at the epicenter of these cultural and social changes.
    “The social-networking platform he invented is closing in on 600 million users,” he added. “In a single day, about a billion new pieces of content are posted on Facebook. It is the connective tissue for nearly a tenth of the planet. Facebook is now the third-largest country on Earth and surely has more information about its citizens than any government does. Zuckerberg, a Harvard dropout, is its T-shirt-wearing head of state.”
    Hadley Reynolds, an analyst with IDC, noted that 2010 was the year when the media hype about Zuckerberg went through the roof.
    “Hopefully, Time is giving him the recognition because he is the youngest tech baron to pledge to give away billions — in his case, before they’ve even been monetized. Bill Gates had practically retire before he got the Time kudo in 2005. More likely, they know Zuckerberg’s face will sell magazines, and they can only dream of being in touch with an audience like the one Facebook touches every minute.”…. – Computerworld, 12-15-10
  • The Man Who Took On Obama Health Care — and Won One Round: Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican who filed the Richmond lawsuit against the U.S. government, challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care act.Jay Paul for The New York Times Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican who filed the Richmond lawsuit against the U.S. government, challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care act.
    Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Virginia’s attorney general, is quick to cite the legal basis for challenging President Obama’s signature legislative achievement: Congress has no power to punish people who choose not to buy private health insurance, he says.
    A federal judge on Monday agreed with him, ruling that parts of the health care reforms Mr. Obama championed violate the Constitution. Mr. Cuccinelli sued the federal government on behalf of Virginia.
    “On the issues the Tea Party cares about, I land right in their bulls eye.” — Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia attorney general
    “I wouldn’t have brought a case like this if it didn’t have legal merit,” he said in an interview with The Caucus. He added that he had turned away plenty of activists urging him to sue the federal government in other areas. “My answer is usually, ‘no.’ I don’t get to sue just because I don’t like something.”
    But it doesn’t take long for Mr. Cuccinelli to acknowledge that his motivations are not purely legal. The onetime state senator is a conservative Republican who has long sought to shrink government, limit federal powers and trumpet state rights…. – 12-14-10


President Barack Obama makes Congressional calls on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010

President Barack Obama makes Congressional calls from the Oval Office before Senate’s final vote on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. December 18, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Biden defends White House compromise on tax cuts: Vice President Joe Biden defended the Obama administration for its willingness to extend tax cuts for top earners, despite earlier promises that he and the president would fight against the Bush-era policy.
    “We got to the end, we couldn’t get it done, and we had to make a decision,” Biden said about President Barack Obama’s compromise with Republicans to allow tax cuts across the income scale to continue. The vice president told NBC’s “Meet The Press” in an interview broadcast Sunday that he and Obama still believe tax cuts for the wealthiest are “morally troubling” and that they would fight to avoid renewing the cuts when they expire in 2012.
    “The one target for us in two years is no longer extending the upper income tax credit for millionaires and billionaires,” Biden said…. – AP, 12-19-10
  • Republicans fail in second bid to amend START: A second Republican bid to amend President Barack Obama’s strategic nuclear arms treaty with Russia failed during debate in Senate on Sunday and top Democrats expressed confidence they would have the votes to approve the accord. Republican Senators concerned about the large disparity in tactical, short-range nuclear weapons between Russia and the United States rallied behind a treaty-killing amendment that would have inserted a reference to the issue in the preamble of the accord. The amendment was defeated 60-32. Democratic Senator Bob Casey said members of both parties were concerned about Russian tactical nuclear weapons but there was a simple reason the New START nuclear treaty did not address them — because it is an agreement dealing with strategic, or long-range, atomic arms…. – Reuters, 12-19-10
  • Senate Rejects Republican Effort to Amend Treaty: The Senate rejected another Republican attempt to rewrite the new arms control treaty with Russia on Sunday as the signature foreign policy agreement of President Obama’s tenure moved closer to a decisive vote expected later this week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he would vote against the arms control treaty with Russia. Senators voted 60 to 32 to defeat an amendment proposed by Senator Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, to add language to the treaty preamble recognizing the importance of tactical nuclear weapons. The treaty, known as New Start, focuses only on reducing strategic nuclear weapons, meaning those that can be delivered at great distances. The vote on the amendment came after three prominent Republican senators announced they would vote against the treaty. Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Jon Kyl of Arizona, the top two Republican leaders, said on Sunday talk shows that they would oppose it because of concerns about its possible impact on missile defense and other issues…. – NYT, 12-19-10
  • Backers of 9/11 health bill optimistic: Backers of a bill in Congress to help people who became sick after working in the World Trade Center dust created by the Sept. 11 attacks said Sunday they’re optimistic the Senate will approve the measure before the lame-duck session ends.
    “We are on the verge of a Christmas miracle,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. Gillibrand and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are offering a less-costly alternative to the original bill to aid 9/11 responders and survivors, saying that they believe it will gain needed support from the GOP. They said the Senate was expected to consider the new bill once they finish dealing with the U.S.-Russia treaty on nuclear weapons. “Barring a setback, we believe we are on the path to victory by the end of the week,” Schumer said.
    Supporters were three votes short of the 60 votes they needed for the original bill on a recent Senate test vote. The House has passed the original bill but would have to consider any new version as the final days of the lame-duck session wear down. New York lawmakers are pressing House Democratic leaders to stay in session long enough to vote after the Senate acts on the new bill…. – AP, 12-19-10
  • In historic vote, Senate moves to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’: Eight Republicans joined Democrats to vote for an end to the 1993 ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law banning gay troops from serving openly. Proponents compare it to ending racial segregation in the military.
    The Senate Saturday voted to end a longstanding ban on gay troops serving openly in the US armed services – a move Democrats compare to President Truman’s ending the ban on racial segregation in the military in 1948.
    “It is time to close this chapter in our history,” said President Obama in a statement. “It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly.” Six Republicans – Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and George Voinovich of Ohio – broke with their party to give Democrats the votes needed to break a GOP filibuster. The measure subsequently passed, 65 to 31. Sens. John Ensign (R) of Nevada and Richard Burr (R) of North Carolina also joined Democrats on the final vote.
    The House passed an identical repeal on Wednesday, 250-175, sending the bill to the White House. At least 60 days before the law takes effect, both the President and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have to certify that ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy won’t adversely affect military readiness or morale.
    That issue was a major theme in today’s Senate debate. The Senate Armed Services Committee held two days of hearings on the final report of a Pentagon working group that reviewed the issue. Its conclusion was that a repeal of the ban “would present a low risk to the military’s effectiveness even during a time of war,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, who chairs the panel. “Seventy percent of the surveyed members believe that the impact on their units would be positive, mixed or of no consequence,” he added, during Saturday’s floor debate. “While combat units expressed more concerns about the consequences of repeal, those concerns disappeared for troops who have worked with a gay or lesbian coworker.”… – CS Monitor, 12-18-10
  • John McCain’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Last Stand: In the end, eight Republican senators cast their votes to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces, repealing the 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.\ But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did not join them and used his time on the Senate floor Saturday to stand athwart history yelling stop.
    “Today is a very sad day,” McCain announced, detailing his continuing opposition to allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to be open about their sexuality. “There will be high-fives over all the liberal bastions of America,” he predicted, from “the elite schools that bar military recruiters from campus” to “the salons of Georgetown” and the “talk shows” where people — “most of whom have never have served in the military” — will crow over the law’s repeal.
    Allowing gays to serve openly in the Marines would prove a potentially deadly distraction McCain said, quoting from a Marine Corps Commandant warning, “and I don’t want to permit that opportunity to happen.”…. – The Atlantic, 12-18-10
  • White House unveils science integrity policy: The White House released a long-awaited federal scientific integrity policy on Friday, which says, “political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings.” President Barack Obama talks with Erika DeBenedictis, 18, a student at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, during an unscheduled tour of auxiliary exhibits in the East Garden Room of the White House following the White House Science Fair, Oct. 18, 2010. DeBenedictis won the top award in the Intel Science Talent Search for developing a software navigation system to improve spacecraft travel through the solar system.
    Released by Office of Science and Technology Policy chief John Holdren, the four-page guidance to federal agencies and departments gives them 120 days to report on their implementation of policies. President Obama called for the science integrity rules in March of 2009, following years of disputes over political interference with scientists at NASA, FDA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and elsewhere in the executive branch during the Bush Administration.
    “The new memorandum describes the minimum standards expected as departments and agencies craft scientific integrity rules appropriate for their particular missions and cultures, including a clear prohibition on political interference in scientific processes and expanded assurances of transparency,” Holdren writes on a White House blog. The guidance lists principles for scientific integrity standards, public communication, federal advisory committee membership, scholarly development and implementation of the guidance. “Scientific progress depends upon honest investigation, open discussion, refined understanding, and a firm commitment to evidence,” Holdren says…. – USA Today, 12-18-10
  • Senate Blocks Bill for Young Illegal Immigrants: The Senate on Saturday blocked a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements, including passing a criminal background check. The vote by 55-41 in favor of the bill, which is known as the Dream Act, effectively kills it for this year, and its fate is uncertain. The measure needed the support of 60 senators to cut off a filibuster and bring it to the floor. Supporters said they were heartened that the measure won the backing of a majority of the Senate. They said they would continue to press for it, either on its own or as part of a wide immigration overhaul that some Democrats hope to undertake next year and believe could be an area of cooperation with Republicans, who will control a majority in the House…. – NYT, 12-18-10
  • Republicans Prepare for Looming Budget Battle: The collapse of a government-wide spending package in the final days of this Congressional session sets up a politically charged fiscal showdown early next year, testing the determination of Republicans about to take over the House with promises to slash an array of domestic programs. Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio vowed Friday that Republicans would continue to focus on cutting spending. President Obama signing the $858 billion tax and unemployment insurance bill into law. As Congress struggled to assemble a stopgap measure to finance the government at least into the first months of 2011, House and Senate Republicans on Friday hailed their ability to derail a $1.2 trillion spending measure put forward by Senate Democrats, and promised to use their new Congressional muscle to respond to public demands to shrink government.
    “Beginning in January, the House is going to become the outpost in Washington for the American people and their desire for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the incoming House speaker. “I will tell you,” he added, “we are going to cut spending.” With the lame-duck session entering its final days, there was an air of partisan chaos on Capitol Hill as both parties scored important legislative victories and events changed on an almost hour-to-hour basis as the end of Democratic control of the House approached….. – NYT, 12-18-10
  • Napolitano confirms gang killed border agent in battle: An elite Border Patrol squad was pursuing a gang that preyed on drug smugglers when agent Brian Terry was shot and killed Tuesday night, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday. “They were seeking to apprehend what’s called a ‘rip crew,’ which is a name given to a crew that it is organized to seek to rip off people who are drug mules or traversing the border illegally,” she said during a meeting with The Arizona Republic’s editorial board. “That’s why they were in that area.” Her comments were the first official confirmation that Terry and other members of the Border Patrol’s specially trained tactical unit known as BORTAC were pursuing bandits the night the 40-year-old agent was killed in a gunbattle, which occurred in a remote canyon near Rio Rico…. – USA Today, 12-18-10
  • Could Lame Duck Be a Big Win for Obama Agenda?: Is President Obama on the verge of one of his most productive months in office? Far from being the legislative wasteland that some had predicted, this year’s Congressional lame-duck session has developed into an intense, make-or-break series of cliffhanger events for the president and his soon-to-expire Democratic majority in the House. “There’s a clean slate coming starting Jan. 1, when Republicans are back in control. They are going to start judging then.” — Kevin Madden, Republican strategist
    Mr. Obama is now on the knife’s edge; the hours and days ahead could go either way for him. But the president is concluding 2010 by directly confronting issues that have come to define the sweep of his presidency – the economy, foreign engagement and questions of social justice.
    In the early hours of Friday morning, the president won passage of the $858 billion tax deal he reached with Republicans and he appeared close to achieving approval of the landmark nuclear treaty he negotiated with the Russians. Both political parties have grudgingly agreed to do whatever is necessary to keep the federal government operating by approving an extension of the current budget authority into early next year.
    And in something of a surprise, it appears there may be enough Republican support to provide Mr. Obama with a victory on a major promise: to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars gay people from serving openly in the armed forces.
    “This might turn out to be a very good month for the president,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, which backs repeal. “Getting rid of D.A.D.T. is important not just to the gay community but to progressives as a whole. If he’s able to get this done, I think it will send an important message that he’s still got his progressive creds.'”…. – NYT, 12-17-10
  • Obama signs tax-cut legislation: ‘This is real money that is going to make a real difference in peoples’ lives,’ Obama says as he signs the measure, which extends the Bush-era tax cuts.
    President Obama on Friday signed the bill that extends the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, while Congress moved to wind up its lame-duck deliberations in a session marked by the changing nature of politics and power.
    Speaking at the signing ceremony, Obama again defended his compromise, worked out with Republicans. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was prominent at the ceremony, as was Vice President Joe Biden, who bargained with the Republican leader
    “This is real money that is going to make a real difference in peoples’ lives,” Obama said. Without the bill, the tax cuts would have expired at the end of the year.
    The measure won final approval in the House late Thursday night. In addition to extending the tax cuts for two years, the bill adds 13 months of jobless benefits and cuts the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year….. – LAT, 12-17-10
  • Obama Signs Tax Deal, Hails Bipartisan Effort to Grow Jobs President: ‘It’s A Good Deal for the American People’: President Obama today signed into law an agreement to extend Bush-era tax cuts into 2011, ending with the stroke of his pen a bitter schism in his own party and heading off what could have been a major standoff with Republicans. The president hailed the bipartisan effort, acknowledging that both parties compromised on the deal by extending both tax cuts for the wealthy and benefits for the unemployed.
    “It’s a good deal for the American people. This is progress and that’s what they sent us here to achieve,” Obama said before an assembled group of lawmakers from both parties. The bill, he said, “would protect our middle class, grow our economy and create jobs.” Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle “did what was right for the country,” despite what he called “occasional political discomfort” from partisans who thought the deal made too many concessions to one party or the other….
    “By a wide bipartisan margin, both houses of Congress have now passed a package of tax relief that will protect the middle class, that will grow our economy, and will create jobs for the American people,” the president said…. – ABC News, 12-16-10
  • When out walking Bo, Obama says he scoops the poop: He may be leader of the free world, but when he takes his dog for a walk, President Obama says he bends down to do the nasty work of cleaning up like anyone else. Answering questions Friday from youngsters at an elementary school, Obama described going for nighttime walks with first dog Bo on the White House South Lawn. He says that’s fun. But, Obama says, “Sometimes I have to scoop up his poop, because I don’t want to just leave it in the lawn!”
    The response from the kids: “Eeew!” Obama admonished them: “If you guys have a dog, you’ve got to walk your dog, too — and clean up after him.”…. –
  • House puts Obama tax deal on ice — for now: The bill to temporarily extend tax cuts and jobless benefits is on ice — for now — in the House. House Democratic leaders have pulled the rules for debate, which first have to get approved before lawmakers can take up the tax legislation. A party caucus meeting is set for this afternoon. Many liberals in the Democratic caucus are upset at the bill’s provision on estate taxes and want to amend the measure and send it back to the Senate. The problem is that Democrats would have to vote on the Senate-passed bill if they want to change the estate tax provision. The deal worked out by President Obama and congressional Republicans would extend for two years tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 for all income levels. Liberals such as Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., are upset that the extension includes families earing more than $250,000…. – USA Today, 12-16-10
  • What the Tax Deal Means to Your Wallet: The pressure is off — at least for now. With the Bush-era tax cuts extended for all Americans for at least the next two years under the law signed today by President Obama, government leaders have managed to postpone some tough decisions to be made surrounding the U.S. tax code until 2012.
    The law has been labeled “compromise” legislation, and for good reason. In exchange for the tax-cuts extension, Republicans agreed to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. They also agreed to give a one-year tax break to workers, giving those who make approximately $40,000 annually an additional $800 in their pockets throughout the course of 2011.
    So what can the average taxpayer expect in the year to come? According to experts, more of the same. Here are some of the key things you should know regarding the new law, and what it means for your tax preparation in the year ahead and beyond…
    The law affects more than just 2011….
    The most immediate benefit will be a 2% payroll tax cut…. Payroll taxes will drop, and it is on your employer to act ASAP….
    Tax preparation sites are up to speed….
    Wealth transfer provisions are on target….. – Fox Business, 12-17-10
  • House urges Obama to block unilateral Palestinian statehood: The U.S. House of Representatives called on President Obama to veto any United Nations Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state.
    The non-binding resolution passed unanimously Wednesday evening calls on the Obama administration to “affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated by the two parties.” The resolution also affirms “strong support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states, a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state, living side-by- side in peace, security, and mutual recognition.”
    White House officials have said that they are working to push back a Palestinian Authority effort to garner international recognition of statehood, but have stopped short of pledging to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution…. – JTA, 12-16-10
  • Obama: US will back UN on rights of native peoples: President Barack Obama said Thursday that the United States will reverse course and support a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous people.
    Obama told Native American leaders that the declaration affirms the importance and rich cultures of Native peoples throughout the world. The U.S. voted against the declaration when the General Assembly adopted it in 2007, arguing that it was incompatible with existing laws. Three other countries, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, also opposed the declaration, but have since announced their support.
    The declaration protects the rights of more than 370 million native peoples worldwide, affirming their equality and ability to maintain their own institutions, cultures and spiritual traditions. It also establishes standards to combat discrimination and marginalization and eliminate human rights violations against them.
    “We’re making progress. We’re moving forward. And what I hope is that we are seeing a turning point in the relationship between our nations,” Obama told a conference of tribal nations attended by more than 500 people representing more than 320 tribes…. – AP, 12-16-10
  • Senate Passes Compromise Tax Plan by Wide Margin: The Senate on Wednesday approved the $858 billion tax plan negotiated by the White House and Republican leaders — the first concrete product of a new era of divided government and acid compromise. The vote was 81 to 19, as Democrats yielded in their long push to end the Bush-era lowered tax rates for high-income taxpayers, and Republicans agreed to back a huge economic stimulus package, including an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and a one-year payroll-tax cut for most workers, with the entire cost added to the federal deficit.
    The bill goes next to the House, where Democratic leaders said they expected to bring the bill to the floor on Thursday. They predicted that it would be approved this week, despite lingering opposition among rank-and-file Democrats who are still intent on making changes to a provision that grants a generous tax exemption to wealthy estates. Republicans have said they will not accept any change.
    “A tremendous accomplishment,” the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, declared shortly before the vote on Wednesday. “Whether you agree with all the contents of the bill or not, everyone should understand this is one of the major accomplishments of any Congress where two parties, ideologically divided, have agreed on a major issue for the American people.”
    The two-year tax measure will touch virtually every American — poor and rich, old and young, married or single, with children or living alone, and even those who die. And, with a reprise of this year’s contentious debate now slated for the height of the 2012 presidential campaign, the bill is likely to be a precursor to a broader effort by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s labyrinthine tax code and begin tackling the long-term deficit…. – NYT, 12-15-10
  • Dems fight over 3 percent of the tax deal: Congressional Democrats are making noise over the estate tax cuts, though they’re only 3 percent of the total cuts. These cuts are deep and deficit-funded, but so is the rest of the agreement. The Senate is about to pass the full tax cut “compromise,” but House Democrats are trying to hold out for a more fiscally responsible option. The strong Senate vote also appeared to have weakened resolve among House Democrats to block the measure when it comes to the floor this week. After meeting for two hours with rank-and-file lawmakers late Tuesday, senior Democrats said the House is likely to stage votes to change the terms of a revived estate tax that many Democrats view as overly generous to the wealthy. Outraged by the agreement to exempt individual estates worth as much as $5 million from taxation, senior Democrats said they would press to lower the threshold to $3.5 million. They also want to impose a stiffer tax on larger estates, by setting the rate at 45 percent rather than the 35 percent demanded by Republicans and agreed to by Obama….. – CS Monitor, 12-15-10
  • Executives Look for Place on the Obama Team: Terry McGraw, the chairman and chief executive officer of the McGraw-Hill Companies, said he had been “very pleasantly surprised” by President Obama’s recent efforts to promote the interests of American business. But Mr. Obama could do better, he added, if he had a high-powered adviser with more of a business bent in the White House.
    “You’ve got to strengthen the team,” Mr. McGraw said in an interview on Tuesday. “You’ve got to get some gravitas.” Nearly halfway through Mr. Obama’s term, the dearth of business and Wall Street types in his administration rankles many executives, if only as a proxy for their unhappiness with his policies and occasional antibusiness political speech. And the White House has struggled to find such a person to fill the one spot about to open in Mr. Obama’s inner circle, the director of the National Economic Council, the job being vacated this month by Lawrence H. Summers.
    The president’s uneasy and somewhat distant relationship with the worlds of business and finance will hang over his meeting on Wednesday with the chiefs of about 20 corporations, among them Google, American Express, UPS and Intel. While Mr. Obama has held such roundtables in the past, this one is part of a new effort by the administration to build closer ties over the next two years, officials say. Relations have improved since the big Republican gains in the midterm elections: Mr. Obama has concluded a free-trade agreement with South Korea, negotiated a tax-cut package with Congressional Republicans and delayed antipollution emissions regulations, all steps applauded by business constituencies…. – NYT, 12-15-10
  • Govt sues BP, 8 other companies in Gulf oil spill: The Justice Department on Wednesday sued BP and eight other companies in the Gulf oil spill disaster in an effort to recover billions of dollars from the largest offshore spill in U.S. history. The Obama administration’s lawsuit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.
    “We intend to prove these violations caused or contributed to the massive oil spill,” Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference. The amount of damages and the extent of injuries sustained by the United States as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Spill are not yet fully known, the lawsuit states…. – AP, 12-15-10
  • Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal goes to Senate again. Has anything changed?: Last week, Senate Republicans blocked a repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Now the House has passed the repeal in a different form. But the result in the Senate could be the same.
    The House today passed a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays from serving openly in the military, but it’s not clear that the Senate can muster the time or political will to move it to the floor before the end of the 111th Congress.
    Only last week, Senate Republicans blocked a bid to repeal of the Clinton-era ban as part of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill. Democrats fell three votes short of the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster. The House has now decoupled the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal from the defense authorization bill in the hopes that the repeal might pass on its own in the Senate. House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland called the 250-to-175 vote for repeal “a very strong statement that it is time to move forward.”…. – CS Monitor, 12-15-10
  • US House votes to lift military gay ban: The US House of Representatives voted to end the US military ban on gays serving openly, leaving it to the Senate to seize what backers of repeal say may be their last chance for years. US President Barack Obama, in a statement shortly after the vote, called ending the prohibition “the right thing to do” and said all those who risk their lives for their country must be “treated fairly and equally.”
    By a 250-175 margin, the House approved a stand-alone bill to scrap the 1993 policy, popularly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that requires gays to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face dismissal.
    “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ doesn’t contribute to our national security and it contravenes our American values,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, charging the policy had led to the ouster of 13,000 US troops. “Fighter pilots, infantry officers, Arabic translators and other specialists have been discharged at a time when our nation is fighting two wars,” in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said on the floor of the House…. – AFP, 12-15-10
  • Obama review cements troop withdrawal, challenges: President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan war review will conclude the United States has made enough security gains to begin withdrawing troops in July, but the findings will also emphasize lasting troubles, from Afghanistan’s ability to serve its people to Pakistani havens for extremists.
    In a detailed preview of statements Obama will make Thursday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the yearlong review of Obama’s war plan will, essentially, offer no surprise. The president plans to stick with his pledge to start drawing home troops next summer after ordering one year ago that 30,000 more troops be sent to Afghanistan to blunt the Taliban’s momentum. The goal of coalition forces is to shift control to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.
    A summary of the classified war report is expected to be released Thursday, when Obama will speak about the effort from the White House…. – AP, 12-14-10
  • Lifting gay ban could endanger US Marines: general: The chief of the US Marine Corps said Tuesday that ending a ban on openly gay troops in the military could jeopardize the lives of Marines in combat by undermining closely knit units. General James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps and an opponent of lifting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prohibition, cited a Pentagon study saying Marines fighting in Afghanistan were worried that permitting gays to serve openly could disrupt “unit cohesion.”
    “When your life hangs on a line, on the intuitive behavior of the young man … who sits to your right and your left, you don’t want anything distracting you,” Amos told reporters at the Pentagon. “I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda (hospital) with no legs,” he said.
    He added that “mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives. That’s the currency of this fight.” His comments were the toughest yet on the issue, after he testified at a congressional hearing that he opposed lifting the ban in a time of war. Amos said Marines in combat in Afghanistan sent a “very strong message” in the Pentagon’s study released earlier this month, expressing opposition to repealing the ban in a survey. “I have to listen to that,” he said…. – AP, 12-14-10
  • Veteran U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke dies in Washington hospital, according to the Associated Press: Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, died in Washington Monday after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his aorta, according to the Associated Press. He was 69.
  • Diplomat Richard Holbrooke dies at 69: President Obama’s emissary to Afghanistan and Pakistan began his career as a junior Foreign Service officer during the Vietnam War.
    Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s emissary to Afghanistan and Pakistan and one of the most celebrated American diplomats of the last half-century, died Monday. He was 69.
    Holbrooke died at George Washington University Hospital, where he had undergone surgery after doctors discovered a tear in his aorta on Friday.
    Holbrooke, who began his career as a junior Foreign Service officer in the Vietnam War and ended it helping lead the battle to overcome militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, shaped the narrative of U.S. diplomacy as an advisor to presidents, secretaries of State and Democratic presidential candidates.
    A 6-foot-2, barrel-chested man, he was renowned for his ruthless negotiating style, which earned him such nicknames as “The Bulldozer” and “Raging Bull.” His most important achievement came in 1995 when he intimidated Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic and brokered the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian War.
    Holbrooke served every Democratic president since John F. Kennedy, and was a contender to be secretary of State for two decades, though he never accomplished the goal. But he was the only person to be assistant secretary of State for two regions — East Asia and Europe — and was also U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as well as ambassador to Germany.
    In adding him to his administration two days after his inauguration, President Obama praised Holbrooke as “one of the most talented diplomats of his generation.”…. – LAT, 12-13-10
  • In region he oversaw, a mixed review for Holbrooke: In Kabul, he was seen as out of touch and too combative to forge a partnership with Afghan leaders. But in Islamabad, he is called a seasoned envoy who tried to strengthen U.S. ties with Pakistan.
    Richard C. Holbrooke is being praised in the United States after his death as a giant of diplomacy, but in South Asia, the turbulent region that constituted his last assignment, his legacy received mixed reviews. In Kabul, he was regarded as out of touch with the society and too combative to forge a meaningful partnership with Afghanistan’s leadership. But in Islamabad, Pakistan, he was lauded as a seasoned envoy who earnestly tried to strengthen Washington’s fragile alliance with the country…. – LAT, 12-14-10
  • Tax-Cut Package Passes Crucial Test in Senate: With robust bipartisan support, the Senate on Monday advanced the tax-cut package negotiated by President Obama and Congressional Republicans, increasing pressure on House Democrats to set aside their opposition.
    The vote, to cut off debate and end any filibuster, assured that the Senate would approve the $858 billion package on Tuesday and send it to the House, where Democrats are still demanding changes to a provision granting a generous tax exemption to wealthy estates.
    The Senate vote was 83 to 15, with 45 Democrats and 37 Republicans in favor. Opposed were nine Democrats, five Republicans and Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont…. – NYT, 12-13-10
  • Has Obama won the tax cut staredown of 2010?: Both the left and right are mad about the tax-cut bill. Does that mean President Obama will benefit from appearing to stand at the center of American politics?
    The tax-cut bill agreed to by President Obama and congressional Republicans should start to move through Congress this week. Many D.C. vote-counters think it’s likely the legislation will eventually pass, but liberals still don’t like it. Many Democrats remain unhappy over its continuation of tax breaks for the wealthy.
    There has been “much consternation” among Democratic House members about parts of the bill, said House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland on Monday at the National Press Club.
    That said, there is grumbling about the effort on the right as well. Some in the GOP think Republican leaders gave away too much to get an across-the-board Bush tax cut extension.
    Both the left and right are mad. Does that mean Mr. Obama will benefit from appearing to stand at the center of American politics?… – CS Monitor, 12-13-10
  • Obama signs anti-hunger, anti-obesity school lunch bill: US President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law a bill that will fight childhood hunger and bolster his wife’s project to roll back obesity in kids by making school meals healthier.
    “Right now, across the country, too many children don’t have access to school meals and often the food that’s being offered isn’t as healthy as it should be,” Obama said at a signing ceremony for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act at an elementary school in Washington.
    The new law would help reverse the worrying trend of doctors diagnosing what used to be considered adult conditions — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes — in increasingly fatter American children, and would do so “without adding a dime to the deficit,” Obama said.
    The new law, which pledges 4.5 billion dollars over 10 years to child nutrition programs, will give thousands more US children access to school meals and allow the Department of Agriculture to set nutrition guidelines for food sold in schools, including in vending machines. It comes at a time when 17 million US children live in households that have to sometimes skip meals to make ends meet, and one in three US kids is obese or overweight.
    Childhood hunger and obesity were “two sides of the same coin,” Michelle Obama said at the signing ceremony. AP, 12-13-10


The President signs the tax cut compromise

  • With era ending, Patrick Kennedy embraces new opportunities: Representative Patrick Kennedy stepped carefully around a clutter of half-packed cardboard boxes, overstuffed luggage, and several open bags of potato chips at his Capitol Hill apartment. It seemed more like a scene of a college student heading home than the end of a 64-year political legacy. But Kennedy’s upcoming retirement will break a bond between the nation’s capital and Camelot. When the new House is seated in January, it will mark the first time since 1947 — the year a 29-year-old John F. Kennedy was sworn in as a Massachusetts congressman — that no member of the Kennedy family will be serving in the House, Senate, or White House.
    The House is scheduled to end its session today, but late bills may delay the wrapup. Patrick Kennedy, 43, an eight-term Democrat from Rhode Island and the son of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, is bracing for entry into a world he has never known, away from the public spotlight.
    “I feel liberated to try to live a life as foreign to me as anything — a life outside of politics,” Kennedy said in an interview. “I’m actually for the first time in my life venturing out on my own. This is unfamiliar territory.”… – Boston Globe, 12-17-10
  • Key senator: ‘We’ve got the votes’ to repeal ‘don’t ask’: A leading Senate force behind repeal of the ban on gay people serving openly in the military says there are the votes to pass the measure. The Senate will vote Saturday on a procedural move to break a logjam on a bill to overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that has been in place since 1993. The Pentagon was taking steps Friday to implement repeal. “We’ve got the votes. It’s time to get it done,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. Lieberman’s comments came in an interview with CNN’s John King, which will air Friday night.
    The senator said there are more than 60 votes for the procedural move, which would signal the bill would easily pass when it comes up for a separate vote. Final passage could occur as early as Saturday, if senators agree to move ahead with debate.
    Lieberman told CNN that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” would be remembered as a historic civil rights achievement. “This will allow gay and lesbian Americans to be called … what they want to be called, which is Americans — not gays or lesbians — who want to serve our country,” Lieberman said…. – USA Today, 12-17-10
  • Senate plans showdown votes Saturday on 2 big issues: The Senate plans crucial votes Saturday on two of the year’s most incendiary political issues: repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays and lesbians and revamping immigration laws to help put children of illegal aliens on a path to citizenship.
    Opponents have blocked both measures for months. The Senate will try to cut off debate on each bill, a maneuver that requires the votes of 60 of the 100 senators. Should either bill fail to get 60, it’s dead, probably for years to come, since Republicans will control the House of Representatives for two years starting next month. Both measures were campaign promises of President Barack Obama, and neither is expected to get many GOP votes.
    Many Republicans were outraged that the votes were even being taken. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., protested that the action is “clearly in keeping with the other side’s political agenda.”
    The “don’t ask, don’t tell” bill is the better bet to move ahead. The House of Representatives passed the measure Wednesday by a largely partisan 250-175 vote. The bill’s Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said he was confident he had the votes to end debate and move to a final vote, since at least three Republicans are expected to join virtually all the Senate’s 56 Democrats and two independents who support it. A previous Senate effort to end debate on the question failed, but this is a new version of the legislation and three Republicans say they’re ready to back it now.
    The Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, aimed at changing immigration law, faces more opposition. The bill would allow illegal immigrants younger than 30 who entered the U.S. before age 16, lived here for five years without committing serious crimes, graduated from high school and attended college or joined the military to be eligible for legal residency after meeting other criteria. A study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the act would help 300,000 to 500,000 undocumented immigrants….. – McClatchy Newspapers, 12-17-10
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich drops Oversight Committee bid: Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich is dropping his bid to be top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and will support the candidacy of Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings. The committee’s current chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York, announced today that he won’t seek the committee’s top Democratic job when Republicans take over Congress next year. Cummings and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York are now vying for the spot. Kucinich says Cummings would provide a strong Democratic counterpoint to the next GOP chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa. Although Issa represents California in Congress, he happens to be a native Clevelander. Kucinich said Issa will likely make “unsubstantiated charges” against the Obama administration that will need to be challenged.
    “My bid has never been about my own personal advancement,” Kucinich said in a press statement. “It has been about protecting the oversight process from abuse. Mr. Cummings is well prepared for the challenge. Tomorrow, I will recommend to the Steering and Policy Committee and to the Democratic Caucus that they choose Mr. Cummings as Ranking Member.” – The Plain Dealer, 12-14-10
  • Dreaming of a Post-Christmas Congress: The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said on Tuesday that Democrats were not prepared to give up any of their priorities and would work as long as it takes – right up until the end of the 111th Congress on Jan. 4 – to deal with their punch list of major items: the tax package; the New START arms control treaty with Russia; a huge spending bill; a bill to authorize repeal of the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy; and an immigration measure that would create a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants brought to the United States as young children.
    “I hate to report all this to you,” Mr. Reid told reporters at a news conference at the Capitol, “but you know, there’s still Congress after Christmas. So if the Republicans think that they can stall and stall and stall that we take a break, we’re through, we’re not through. Congress ends on January 4th. So we’re going to continue working on this stuff until we get it done, or we have up-and-down votes and find that it can’t happen that way.”… – NYT, 12-14-10
  • House Democrats to Make Final Push on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’: House Democratic leaders have decided to make one last push to repeal the military’s ban on gays serving openly before the end of the lame-duck Congress.
    Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House majority leader, said he and Representative Patrick Murphy, Democrat of Pennsylvania, would bring a standalone repeal of the ban to the floor as early as Wednesday. The House move comes in response to the Senate’s failure last week to break a Republican filibuster against a broader Pentagon measure that would have lifted the ban.
    Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, urged Senate leaders to try to pass a separate measure ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule, untangling the issue from the broader military policy measure.
    “I look forward to bringing this bill to the House floor soon, and I hope the Senate will swiftly take action as well so that the bill can be signed into law as soon as possible,” Mr. Hoyer said Tuesday. “This discriminatory and harmful policy has weakened America’s security by depriving us of the work of tens of thousands of gay and lesbian troops who have served their country honorably. And it has severely compromised our armed forces’ core value of integrity…. – NYT, 12-14-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Getting a Head Start on the 2012 Presidential-Debate Drinking Games: With the notable exception of Barack Obama, not a single politician has publicly confirmed his or her intentions to run for president in 2012. As the home page of Politico will insist day after day after day, this does not mean that the 2012 presidential race is not already well underway. To wit: so far there are five scheduled debates: ABC News and WMUR-TV’s Republican-primary debate in New Hampshire, the CNN–WMUR-TV–New Hampshire Union Leader primary debate, NBC News and Politico’s Republican-primary debate at the Reagan Presidential Library, Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party’s debate, and, as of today, the widely necessary CNN/Tea Party Express debate. “The Tea Party movement is a fascinating, diverse, grassroots force,” deadpanned Sam Feist, CNN’s political director. He added, “Undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party.” Tampa, Florida, the global cradle of the hard-core death-metal persuasion, will host the debate, as well as the cycle’s Republican National Convention…. – Vanity Fair, 12-17-10
  • CNN and Tea Party team up for debate: CNN and the Tea Party Express (a political action committee) are teaming up to co-host a presidential primary debate for the 2012 Republican contenders. The showdown will take in Tampa, Fla. around Labor Day in 2011.
    “If you’re producing a debate that is for Republican candidates that is intended to try and raise issues important to Republican primary voters – you would be remiss in not thinking about the Tea Party,” CNN Political Director Sam Feist told MediaBiz today.
    Feist said news organizations “regularly partner” with groups that are part of a political party’s coalition and he pointed out that CNN partnered with the Congressional Black Caucus in 2008 for a debate.
    “We have all sponsored debates with Republican state party organizations. Primary debates are for primary voters. Primary voters are Republican voters, and the Tea Party is a big part of the Republican coalition,” Feist said. Feist added that it’s “not at all unusual” for debates to be sponsored with groups that have political agendas.
    “In this case, they have an agenda that is of particular interest to Republican voters and because this is a Republican primary, we thought it would be the right group to partner with,” Feist said…. – Boston Herald, 12-17-10
  • As Republicans’ Power Grows, So Do Rifts: What do Republicans stand for? As the first half of President Obama?s term comes to a close, three political realities are forcing Republicans to confront that question more directly, and producing interesting conflicts along the way. The first reality is the assumption of power by Republicans in the House next year. After two years of being a political minority in Congress, the party’s lawmakers are showing signs of the disagreement that comes with the responsibility to lead. The second reality is the presidential campaign that begins in earnest for Republicans as soon as Washington returns from the holidays next month. The search for a challenger to Mr. Obama is designed to highlight the differences among Republicans, and it’s already beginning to do so…. – NYT, 12-15-10
  • Fox News, CNN Announce Dates Of First Presidential Debates: On Monday, CNN announced that it will host a Republican debate in New Hampshire on June 7, in collaboration with the Manchester Union-Leader and television station WMUR. It will be the first debate of the 2012 cycle to take place in the pivotal state.
    On Wednesday, Fox News announced that it will host two Republican debates in South Carolina. The first will take place on May 5, 2011, and the second will take place sometime in 2012.
    ABC and NBC News also announced debates this week. ABC said this Wednesday that it will host a debate in early 2012, between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
    NBC News will host the first debate of the overall cycle. It will take place in the spring of 2011 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. – Huff Post, 12-15-10
  • Tax Deal Is Shaping 2012 GOP Campaign: The tax deal now before Congress has kicked off the first real debate of the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, with several prospective candidates heralding the package as a victory for taxpayers and others criticizing it as a costly stimulus bill in disguise.
    Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have both come out sharply against the measure, which President Barack Obama hammered out last week with Senate Republican leaders. Both cite the deal’s price tag, with Mr. Romney saying it will heap billions more onto the nation’s debt load. Supporting the package are former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all of whom praise the deal as good for the economy and the only way to spare Americans the jolt of a sudden tax increase that otherwise would take effect on Jan. 1.
    The debate suggests an early line of cleavage among the potential 2012 Republican aspirants on the key issues of taxes and government spending.
    The tax package was expected to win final passage in the Senate Tuesday night or Wednesday and advance to the House, which could take it up as early as Wednesday afternoon.
    In opposing the deal, Ms. Palin and Mr. Romney are aligning themselves with several large tea-party groups that see the tax deal as a betrayal of the Republican Party’s pledge during the last election to slash spending and attack the deficit. By opposing their party’s own leaders in Congress, who negotiated the package with Mr. Obama, the two also appear intent on shoring up their outsider, anti-Washington credentials…. – WSJ, 12-14-10
  • Bloomberg for president? could be just the vehicle: New York’s mayor is says he is not – ‘no way, no how’ – running for president. But his role in the nonpartisan political movement raises speculation…. – CS Monitor, 12-13-10
  • GOP National Chairman Michael Steele to run again: Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says he will run for a second term. The news was posted on the Twitter account of Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan GOP party chairman who is among several candidates seeking to oust Steele. The RNC will pick its chairman next month.
    Steele outlined his record during a conference call tonight with the 168-member committee. “I’m asking tonight for your support, I’m asking for another term,” Steele said, according to an ABC News blog post…. – USA Today, 12-13-10


President Obama speaks on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review

  • The President on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010: “An Historic Step”: Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.
    As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.
    I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law. – WH, 12-18-10
  • Weekly Address: START is About the Safety and Security of America; Not Scoring Political Points
    Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address The White House December 18, 2010:

    This week, Congress passed – and I signed into law – an essential economic package that will help grow our economy, spur businesses, and jumpstart job creation.
    Instead of a New Years Day tax hike on the vast majority of Americans, two million Americans who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own will now know with certainty that they won’t lose their emergency unemployment insurance at the end of the month. Eight million college students who’d otherwise face a tuition hike next semester will continue having access to the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Twelve million families with twenty-four million children will benefit from extensions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. And millions of entrepreneurs who’ve been waiting to invest in their businesses will receive new tax incentives to help them expand, buy new equipment, or make upgrades, freeing up money to hire new workers.
    This package, which is so important for our economy at this pivotal time, was the product of hard negotiations. Like any negotiations, there was give and take on both sides. But I’m heartened by our ability to come together to do what’s best for middle class families across this country, and our economy as a whole.
    Before going away for the holiday break, I’m hopeful we can also come together on another urgent national priority – and that is, the new START treaty that will reduce the world’s nuclear arsenals and make America more secure. Twenty- five years ago, the Soviet Union and United States each had about 25,000 nuclear weapons. In the decades since, that number has been reduced by over 70 percent, and we have had on-site inspections of Russian nuclear facilities. That progress would not have been possible without strategic arms control treaties….
    We have taken the time to get this right. The START treaty has now been under review by the Senate for over seven months. It’s gone through 18 hearings. Nearly 1,000 questions have been asked – and answered. Several Republican Senators have come out in support of ratification. Meanwhile, further delay comes at a cost. Every minute we drag our feet is a minute that we have no inspectors on the ground at those Russian nuclear sites.
    It’s time to get this done. It’s time to show the same spirit of common purpose on our security that we showed this week on our economy. It’s time to remember the old saying that politics stops at the water’s edge. That saying was coined by a Republican Senator, Arthur Vandenberg, who partnered with a Democratic President, Harry Truman, to pass landmark national security measures at the dawn of the Cold War. Today, over sixty years later, when we’re threatened not only by nuclear weapons, but an array of other dangers, that’s a principle we must continue to uphold. Thank you, and have a nice weekend…. – WH, 12-18-10Mp4Mp3
  • Biden Says Tax-Cut Deal Reflects Bipartisan Aims: Vice President Joseph Biden said the administration’s effort to work with Republicans on issues such as extending tax cuts shows a conscious effort by the White House to respond to the voter discontent displayed in November’s mid- term elections.
    “We understand that the message is the American public wants us to cooperate, wants us to work together,” Mr. Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Americans “want us to reasonably compromise to move the business of the nation forward,” he said.
    “We got to the end, we couldn’t get it done and we had to make a decision,” Mr. Biden said. He said the tax-cut extensions were important to middle-income Americans and businesses, and so the administration wanted to preserve them. But the administration was still committed to eventually ending the tax cuts for top earners, he said.
    “The one target for us in two years is no longer extending the upper-income tax credit for millionaires and billionaires,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re coming back and going at it again.”… – WSJ, 12-19-10
  • The President Signs the Tax Cut & Unemployment Insurance Compromise: “Some Good News for the American People this Holiday Season”: First and foremost, the legislation I’m about to sign is a substantial victory for middle-class families across the country. They’re the ones hit hardest by the recession we’ve endured. They’re the ones who need relief right now. And that’s what is at the heart of this bill.
    This bipartisan effort was prompted by the fact that tax rates for every American were poised to automatically increase on January 1st. If that had come to pass, the average middle-class family would have had to pay an extra $3,000 in taxes next year. That wouldn’t have just been a blow to them — it would have been a blow to our economy just as we’re climbing out of a devastating recession.
    I refused to let that happen. And because we acted, it’s not going to. In fact, not only will middle-class Americans avoid a tax increase, but tens of millions of Americans will start the New Year off right by opening their first paycheck to see that it’s actually larger than the one they get right now. Over the course of 2011, 155 million workers will receive tax relief from the new payroll tax cut included in this bill -– about $1,000 for the average family.
    This is real money that’s going to make a real difference in people’s lives. And I would not have signed this bill if it didn’t include other extensions of relief that were also set to expire -– relief that’s going to help families cover the bills, parents raise their children, students pay for college, and business owners to take the reins of the recovery and propel this economy forward.
    As soon as I sign this legislation, 2 million Americans looking for work who lost their jobs through no fault of their own can know with certainty that they won’t lose their emergency unemployment insurance at the end of this month. Over the past few weeks, 600,000 Americans have been cut off from that lifeline. But with my signature, states can move quickly to reinstate their benefits –- and we expect that in almost all states, they’ll get them in time for Christmas.
    Eight million college students who otherwise would have faced a tuition hike as soon as next semester will instead continue to have access to a $2,500 tax credit to afford their studies.
    Twelve million families with 24 million children will benefit from extensions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. And when combined with the payroll tax cut, 2 million American families who otherwise would have lived in poverty next year will instead be lifted out of it. (Applause.)
    And millions of entrepreneurs who have been waiting to invest in their businesses will receive new tax incentives to help them expand, buy new equipment, or make upgrades — freeing up other money to hire new workers.
    Putting more money in the pockets of families most likely to spend it, helping businesses invest and grow — that’s how we’re going to spark demand, spur hiring, and strengthen our economy in the New Year. WH, 12-17-10Mp4Mp3
  • President Obama on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review: “A Very Difficult Endeavor” but “Significant Progress”: I want to be clear. This continues to be a very difficult endeavor. But I can report that thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals.
    It’s important to remember why we remain in Afghanistan. It was Afghanistan where al Qaeda plotted the 9/11 attacks that murdered 3,000 innocent people. It is the tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border from which terrorists have launched more attacks against our homeland and our allies. And if an even wider insurgency were to engulf Afghanistan, that would give al Qaeda even more space to plan these attacks.
    And that’s why, from the start, I’ve been very clear about our core goal. It’s not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because, ultimately, it is Afghans who must secure their country. And it’s not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation. Rather, we are focused on disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and preventing its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.
    In pursuit of our core goal we are seeing significant progress. Today, al Qaeda’s senior leadership in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan is under more pressure than at any point since they fled Afghanistan nine years ago. Senior leaders have been killed. It’s harder for them to recruit; it’s harder for them to travel; it’s harder for them to train; it’s harder for them to plot and launch attacks. In short, al Qaeda is hunkered down. It will take time to ultimately defeat al Qaeda, and it remains a ruthless and resilient enemy bent on attacking our country. But make no mistake — we are going to remain relentless in disrupting and dismantling that terrorist organization.
    In Afghanistan, we remain focused on the three areas of our strategy: our military effort to break the Taliban’s momentum and train Afghan forces so they can take the lead; our civilian effort to promote effective governance and development; and regional cooperation, especially with Pakistan, because our strategy has to succeed on both sides of the border.
    Indeed, for the first time in years, we’ve put in place the strategy and the resources that our efforts in Afghanistan demand. And because we’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, and brought home nearly 100,000 of our troops from Iraq, we’re in a better position to give our forces in Afghanistan the support and equipment they need to achieve their missions. And our drawdown in Iraq also means that today there are tens of thousands fewer Americans deployed in harm’s way than when I took office. With those additional forces in Afghanistan, we are making considerable gains toward our military objectives. The additional military and civilian personnel that I ordered in Afghanistan are now in place, along with additional forces from our coalition, which has grown to 49 nations. Along with our Afghan partners, we’ve gone on the offensive, targeting the Taliban and its leaders and pushing them out of their strongholds….
    We’re going to have to continue to stand up. We’ll continue to give our brave troops and civilians the strategy and resources they need to succeed. We will never waver from our goal of disrupting, dismantling, and ultimately defeating al Qaeda. We will forge enduring partnerships with people who are committed to progress and to peace. And we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the security and the safety of the American people. – WH, 12-16-10Mp4Mp3
  • Obama: Significant Progress In Fighting al-Qaida, Taliban: President Barack Obama says the U.S.-led coalition is making progress in fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The president talked with reporters Thursday about his administration’s annual review of its policy in the region.
    “This continues to be a very difficult endeavor,” said President Obama. “But I can report that, thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals.”
    “Senior leaders have been killed,” said Obama. “It is harder for them to recruit. It is harder for them to travel. It is harder for them to train. It is harder for them to plot and launch attacks. In short, al-Qaida is hunkered down.”
    “In many places, the gains we have made are still fragile and reversible,” he said. “But there is no question we are clearing more areas from Taliban control, and more Afghans are reclaiming their communities.”
    “Now, our review confirms, however, that for these security gains to be sustained over time, there is an urgent need for political and economic progress in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Obama.
    “Nevertheless, progress has not come fast enough,” he said. “So we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with. At the same time, we need to support the economic and political development that is critical to Pakistan’s future.”… VOA, 12-16-10
  • Meet The Next House Speaker, Rep. John Boehner Lesley Stahl Profiles The Ohio Republican Who Will Be Third In Line For The Presidency: John Boehner is about to replace Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, and become the most powerful Republican in the country – and third in line to the presidency. He was swept in with the biggest Republican landslide in the house since 1938.
    As “60 Minutes” and correspondent Lesley Stahl set off to meet him, we had two questions: Which John Boehner will show up as speaker? The compromiser that he’s been in the past, or the more hard-line conservative of late, who’s aligned himself with the Tea Party that helped bring him and his party back into power…. – CBS News, 12-13-10
  • Huckabee: Obama self-destructed defending tax cuts: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) harshly criticized President Obama in an interview, saying the president “has shown no appetite for compromise with Republicans, zero.” Huckabee, who is a possible 2012 presidential candidate, said Obama to “some degree, he still has his head in the sand.” He added: “He is a very ideologically left-of-center person who wants to take the country in a very dramatic direction, and I don’t think that’s what people wanted.”
    In the interview with National Journal, Huckabee said the tax-cut extension Obama worked out with congressional Republicans was “the best anyone can hope for” but said he was shocked that it was only two years. “Politically, I was shocked it was going to be two not three, because it puts this whole thing in the very center, the bullseye of the 2012 presidential election,” the former governor said. “The most bizarre part of the whole process was watching President Obama self-destruct at the podium [Dec. 7th]. I was just stunned — I really couldn’t believe that a man that was elected president was as amateurish as he was and essentially launched from the podium at some of his own, taking aim and mowing down everybody in D.C. and walking away having not understood that he just lost a lot of people.”… – The Hill, 12-13-10


  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama tax deal: why estate tax is the new sticking point: House Democratic leaders set very tight rules for debate of the Obama tax deal Thursday, and rank-and-file Democrats revolted. Their main frustration now: the estate tax.
    “That’s how you prevent a deal from being undone in Congress,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “Speaker Pelosi is obviously deeply disappointed with this bill, which gives up on one of the Democrats’ major promises in 2008 to oppose tax breaks for the wealthy, but there’s almost no wiggle room in this deal between Republicans and the president,” he adds. “By limiting amendments, the Speaker is bowing to the president.”… – CS Monitor, 12-19-10
  • With era ending, Patrick Kennedy embraces new opportunities: Boston Globe, 12-17-10
  • CNN and Tea Party team up for debate: Boston University political professor Tom Whalen said it hasn’t taken long for the Tea Party to go “big time.” “Maybe they’re going to loose their moorings, at least what they profess to be their moorings, of being close with the people and not to be bought by anyone,” Whalen said. “They’re supposed to be common people – now they’re aligning themselves with this mega-media company,” Whalen added. “It just seems like old style, power politics.” Boston Herald, 12-17-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Why George W. Bush must be smiling: Somewhere in Texas, former President George W. Bush must be smiling. When President Obama and the Republican leadership reached a deal on extending all of the Bush tax cuts, including a generous exemption for estate taxes, the current president ratified a key policy from the former administration.
    While Obama ran as the candidate who would fight to overturn Bush’s record, a huge number of his policies remain in place. This says a lot about President Bush. One of the key measures that we have to evaluate the success of a president is not simply how many of his proposals pass through Congress but also how many of his policies outlast his time in office. Many of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s programs, including Social Security and the Wagner Act, survive into our time…. – CNN, 12-13-10
  • Opposition to Health Law Is Steeped in Tradition: “We are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program,” said one prominent critic of the new health care law. It is socialized medicine, he argued. If it stands, he said, “one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”
    The health care law in question was Medicare, and the critic was Ronald Reagan. He made the leap from actor to political activist, almost 50 years ago, in part by opposing government-run health insurance for the elderly. Today, the supposed threat to free enterprise is a law that’s broader, if less radical, than Medicare: the bill Congress passed this year to create a system of privately run health insurance for everyone. On Monday, a federal judge ruled part of the law to be unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court will probably need to settle the matter in the end.
    We’ve lived through a version of this story before, and not just with Medicare. Nearly every time this country has expanded its social safety net or tried to guarantee civil rights, passionate opposition has followed. The opposition stems from the tension between two competing traditions in the American economy. One is the laissez- faire tradition that celebrates individuality and risk-taking. The other is the progressive tradition that says people have a right to a minimum standard of living — time off from work, education and the like…. – NYT, 12-14-10
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