5 December 2013
- Why President Obama's address on inequality today was so important.
A few key takeaways from the speech: Obama described the decline in economic mobility as a direct consequence of inequality — as opposed to arguing that lack of mobility is itself the problem — and as the product of trends that are decades in the making. He cast the need to ensure that ”opportunity is real” for our children as “the defining issue of our time.”Obama also argued that current levels of inequality and lack of opportunity as out of sync with the country’s founding values, noting that “the premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in the American story,” and that the way to preserve that promise is to ensure that “success doesn’t depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit.”
- Would this work to fix the filibuster?
The most obvious option for the number needed to sustain a filibuster would be equal to the size of the minority party. So, with 45 Republicans right now, continuing a filibuster would require 45 "yea" votes. What does that do? It means that if the opposition party is unified in rejecting a judicial nominee, then Senators from the president's party may have a tough vote. If the nominee is relatively popular, no problem. If not, then, well, that's as good a sign as any that the nominee is in some way unfit or out of the mainstream.
- Why has the 113th Congress been so unproductive?
Polarization is important but I would argue that it should take a back seat to another explanation: inter-chamber disagreement. Research has shown that House and Senate ideological differences are probably the most important indicators of gridlock. Even in instances of unified congressional control policy differences between the chambers can significant increase gridlock. In Binder’s book, Stalemate, she illustrates that bipartisan context is the largest substantive indicator of gridlock and productivity – outperforming both polarization and traditional divided government. The further the chambers are from one another, the more difficult it is for Congress to pass bills.
- Utah's ban on gay marriage is headed to federal court.
There are 46 similar court challenges to same-sex marriage bans in 22 states, but Utah's case is among the ones being closely watched because of the state's history of being staunchly against the notion of allowing gays and lesbians to wed, said Jon Davidson, director of Lambda Legal which pursues litigation on a wide range of LGBT issues across the country.
- A new way of mapping the American city.
5 December 2013
In a recent piece on the increasingly diverse nature of the American family, the New York Times picked up on a trend:
For everybody else, maternity is often decoupled from matrimony: 40 percent of women with some college but no degree, and 57 percent of women with high school diplomas or less, are unmarried when they give birth to their first child.
More than one-quarter of these unwed mothers are living with a partner who may or may not be their child’s biological father. The rise of the cohabiting couple is another striking feature of the evolving American family: From 1996 to 2012, the number jumped almost 170 percent, to 7.8 million from 2.9 million.
Nor are unmarried mothers typically in their teens; contrary to all the talk of an epidemic of teenage motherhood, the birthrate among adolescent girls has dropped by nearly half since 1991 and last year hit an all-time low, a public health triumph that experts attribute to better sex education and birth-control methods. Most unmarried mothers today, demographers say, are in their 20s and early 30s.
Also démodé is the old debate over whether mothers of dependent children should work outside the home. The facts have voted, the issue is settled, and Paycheck Mommy is now a central organizing principle of the modern American family.
Interesting! But not particularly revelatory. If you really want to know where America's cultural consciousness currently sits, keep an eye on the country music charts. This is from a Times article published in 2006:
This is the tradition Ms. Wilson has followed. She uses politically charged words and images — "redneck," "rebel," the Confederate flag — while just about draining them of any specific political meaning. She brashly announces that she's "politically uncorrect," but the things she sings about seem guaranteed not to cause offense: not just the flag and the Bible and the troops, but also preachers and farmers and the working man. No doubt she also enjoys puppy dogs and long walks on the beach.
Ms. Wilson even includes on her list "the single mom raising her kids." That's a neat reversal: in the early 1990's, during the short-lived controversy over "Murphy Brown," it was the politically correct types who were defending single motherhood. But then, that's the seductive thing about Ms. Wilson's world: you don't have to be incorrect to be "uncorrect." Everyone's a rebel.
The depoliticisation of single motherhood in American life has been a fascinating occurence over the past few decades, to the extent that newcomers to US politics might not remember just how contentious single moms once were. But even if the trendspotters and statisticians are behind the curve, country singers know how to spot a cultural shift. Want a more recent example? One of Nashville's most sucessful songwriters is an out gay man, and "Follow Your Arrow," a song he wrote with another gay country songwriter, Brandy Clark, and performed by Kacey Musgraves, hit the country Top 40 this year. That song featured Musgrave singing, "kiss lots of boys/Or kiss lots of girls if that's something you're into." Even the red states are making their peace with gay rights.
Here's Musgraves performing "Follow Your Arrow" at the Country Music Awards. The broadcast censored the line "roll up a joint," but the laissez faire approach to sexuality survived.
4 December 2013
- More than a million Americans are about to lose unemployment benefits.
Here's the back story: The United States currently has about 4.1 million workers who have been out of a job for at least six months. About one-third of them are still scraping by with help from an unemployment-benefit program that Congress temporarily expanded in 2008 in response to the financial crisis and severe recession.But that's all set to change soon. On Dec. 31, the federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is slated to expire. Once that happens, jobless aid programs will largely shrink to their pre-recession states, and millions of people will lose their unemployment benefits.
- Does a recent John Boehner hire suggest immigration reform is back on the agenda?
If personnel is policy then House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is serious about immigration reform. In an otherwise ordinary list of new staffers, his office announced, “Rebecca Tallent will join the office as Assistant to the Speaker for Policy handling immigration issues. Rebecca comes to us from the Bipartisan Policy Center, where she is the director of immigration policy.”
- Will politics decide the fate of coming court challenges to Obamacare?
Here's the nickel summary: The text of the Affordable Care Act states that taxpayers are eligible for subsidies if they buy a health plan via "an Exchange established by the State under section 1311." But Section 1311 is the one that sets up state exchanges, and there's no similar language for the federal exchange, which is set up under Section 1321. So conservatives are now arguing that this means subsidies aren't available to anyone in the states which are served by the federal exchange. The IRS doesn't agree, and has issued a rule saying that subsidies (actually tax credits) will be available to anyone who buys a plan from any exchange.
- Is there reason to believe Obamacare is going to work?
As Obamacare emerges from the rubble of its first two months, local organizers, state officials and the White House see a clear path forward. With the website now quasi-functional, there are good reasons to believe that the Affordable Care Act will catch on. Quite simply, there are tens of millions of uninsured people who want health insurance, a law in place to help them obtain it, and advocates on the ground making sure they know how to do it.
- The Postal Service is being sued over its "sexier" State of Liberty stamp.
The design for the stamp was accidentally modeled on the half-size replica at Las Vegas's New York-New York Hotel and Casino. And now, to add some real injury to that insult, the artist of Vegas Lady Liberty is suing for copyright infringement.
3 December 2013
- Single payer was never a realistic alternative to Obamacare.
The backlash against the ACA is occurring because it disrupts coverage of several million people in the individual and small-group insurance market. Transition to single-payer would have been far messier, disrupting coverage for hundreds of millions of Americans, with a much larger and more explosive mix of winners and losers.There was and is no alternative to the messy incremental politics that produced Obamacare. Liberals such as then–House Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t make unpalatable compromises because they held pallid aspirations for health reform. They compromised because they knew that they could not impose their will on querulous colleagues, because they needed 60 Senate votes, because millions of Americans needed help, and because it is better to win messily than to lose gloriously.
- Against horse race coverage of Healthcare.gov.
Healthcare.gov will be fixed, eventually. The question isn't whether healthcare.gov will fix Obamacare; it's whether Obamacare will fix health care. Just as Boston’s nostalgia Marianne is more than a feeling, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is more than a website.
- Another government shutdown in January is looking less likely.
If the U.S. government shuts down again in mid-January, it won't be because House Republicans are demanding the repeal of the president's health care law, in a repeat of the standoff that occurred earlier this fall.
"There are no plans to tie a repeal vote to a government funding bill," a senior House GOP aide told The Huffington Post.
- How the Gettysburg Address created the idea of America.
“That the Gettysburg Address achieves so much in so little space has a lot to do with what Lincoln didn’t say on that November day in 1863. An odd vacancy runs through the speech. Pronouns without antecedents carried Lincoln’s words away from the things he was supposedly talking about. The speech was abstracted from the place where he stood and the suffering he memorialized. Lincoln mentioned “a great battle-field” but not the town and surrounding farms of Gettysburg. He invoked the “fathers” but left them unnamed. He extolled the “proposition that all men are created equal” but left the Declaration of Independence implied.
- Politics is a game. We should treat it that way.
For instance, Kinsey’s review rightfully indicts Double Down for describing as “verbal seppuku” Rick Perry’s statement in favor of “children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own.” Clearly Perry violated a rule: in the subgame of Republican primaries from 2004 to the present, taking a stance in favor of undocumented immigrants will result in you losing points. But Perry made the choice to do so, and to regard it as obviously wrong-headed is to take the rules far too seriously as an observer. Politics is a game in which the rules are always up for debate, and Perry’s move was, in some way, an argument for changing that rule. As a move in the game, it was an unsuccessful one. But that was not necessarily obvious at the time he made it.
2 December 2013
- The Obama administration says its health care website is working. What now?
If the system's front end works as smoothly as the Obama administration says it does, that means more applicants will get to the back-end functions of HealthCare.gov, where the insurance company needs to know who signed up for their product. We know a lot less about how prepared those systems are for a possible flood of enrollments and how they will perform in the coming weeks.
- Suburbs are the new swing states.
Democrats have a "decisive" advantage in dense, urban localities and poorer, majority-minority suburbs. In the affluent suburbs, Sellers explains, "Republicans enjoy an analogous, if less dramatic" advantage. He notes that "a pervasive divide separates the Republican low density areas of metropolitan peripheries from the Democratic urban centres and minority suburbs." At the broad metropolitan level, votes follow the same red/blue, rich/poor pattern identified by Larry Bartels and Andrew Gelman at the state level. Sellers found that municipalities with educated and affluent voters tended to vote with their state's winners – they voted more Republican in red states and more Democratic in blue states.
- The case for a minimum wage hike.
As a result of legislative inaction, inflation-adjusted minimum wages in the United States have declined in both absolute and relative terms for most of the past four decades. The high-water mark for the minimum wage was 1968, when it stood at $10.60 an hour in today’s dollars, or 55 percent of the median full-time wage. In contrast, the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, constituting 37 percent of the median full-time wage. In other words, if we want to get the minimum wage back to 55 percent of the median full-time wage, we would need to raise it to $10.78 an hour.
- The Republican women plotting to put the party back on track.
"Following the election last year, the three of us got to talking about the need to more effectively communicate what it is that the Republican Party really stands for, in a way that would be received by women—so more women would vote for us! For a variety of reasons, the Republican message was being co-opted. Candidates were articulating positions that were badly worded and, in some cases, too extreme. We felt that it wasn’t representative of our party. The Democrats had become very good at flooding the zone with, often, misinformation about the Republican position on a woman’s reproductive rights, but we knew there was a lot to be positive about within the Republican Party, and that most women weren’t hearing that message. Changing that required a laser focus. That’s why we named it Burning Glass—we want to focus the sun’s rays on this very specific area in order to ignite a flame."
- Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg should retire.
After all, the main lesson of this Senate showdown was not that Democrats would fight back; it’s that the current Republican Party stands strongly behind the idea of “nullification” — that even after losing presidential and Senate elections, Republicans will use whatever ability Senate procedure gives them to prevent President Obama and the Democratic Senate majority from fulfilling the normal governing practice of filling vacancies in the government, including the federal bench.
29 November 2013
- The man tearing apart the Heritage Foundation.
Needham is the 31-year-old CEO of Heritage Action, the relatively new activist branch of the Heritage Foundation, the storied Washington think tank that was one of the leaders of the conservative war of ideas ever since it provided the blueprint for Ronald Reagan’s first term. Although DeMint is Heritage’s president, it was Needham who had designed much of the defund Obamacare strategy. Beginning in 2010, when Heritage Action was founded, Needham pushed the GOP to use Congress’s power of the purse to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act. He formed a grassroots army, which he used to keep congressional Republicans in line. “They make six hundred phone calls and have a member of Congress in the fetal position,” says one GOP congressional staffer.
- Australia's stance on the China ADIZ reflects its stance on US power.
In the language used in the AUSMIN communique, the very public and deliberate signaling about Japan, and in the response to China’s latest effort to shift the status quo, Australia is injecting some much needed clarity about its strategic priorities. Australia strongly believes that American primacy in Asia is vital both to its own interests and to the regional order more generally, and that any effort by China to change that setting will be destabilising.
- Everything you know about Black Friday is wrong.
It turns out that a lot of what we’re told about Black Friday is invented by retailers and the marketing experts they hire. Retailers like Black Friday because the earlier customers start their holiday shopping, the more they are likely to spend over all. This year, the competition is heightened because of a relatively short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In search of holiday-season profits, retailers work to exploit people’s worries about missing a good deal—and the media, looking for a fun story, joins in.
- A White House Thanksgiving includes nine kinds of pie.
Per the White House press office, the First Family's Thanksgiving dinner tonight will feature a staggering nine kinds of pie—huckleberry, pecan, chocolate cream, sweet potato, peach, apple, pumpkin, banana cream, and coconut cream. They are also elegantly sidestepping the whole does turkey taste good controversy by serving turkey and honey-baked ham. Cornbreadstuffing or oyster stuffing? Why choose, the Obamas will be serving both.
- But what was on the menu at the "first" Thanksgiving?
Our discussion begins with the bird. Turkey was not the centerpiece of the meal, as it is today, explains Wall. Though it is possible the colonists and American Indians cooked wild turkey, she suspects that goose or duck was the wildfowl of choice. In her research, she has found that swan and passenger pigeons would have been available as well. “Passenger pigeons—extinct in the wild for over a century now—were so thick in the 1620s, they said you could hear them a quarter-hour before you saw them,” says Wall. “They say a man could shoot at the birds in flight and bring down 200.”
- We like American animated shorts: The Simpsons' "Musicville"
28 November 2013
- Republicans have a real shot at winning the Senate in next year's midterms.
Overall, 13 of the 15 most vulnerable seats are held by Democrats. Just two GOP-held seats are even somewhat in danger of flipping parties: Georgia, where Republicans could nominate a controversial candidate like Rep. Paul Broun, and Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell isn't popular and faces well-funded primary and general-election challengers.
- Can the US and Iran reshape the security landscape of the Middle East?
The real test, however, is whether both sides would also prefer to move towards more credible and predictable mutual dealing that encompasses — but goes well beyond — the specific matter of nuclear proliferation. Logic strongly suggests the US would take that approach, and seek reassurance in regard to the strategic behaviour and intent of Tehran, despite the political reservations that have been raised in Jerusalem and Riyadh.
- Senator Claire McCaskill shares advice for cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.
About 30 minutes before you begin cooking the turkey, put ice cubes in zip-lock bags. Then drape the zip-lock bags so the ice is sitting on each breast. Hold in place with a heavy item, like canned goods. This chills the breast meat so it starts the cooking process colder than the rest of the turkey. Works perfectly!
- American cities are making it harder to feed the homeless.
Every night around 6:15 p.m., the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition parks its truck on the same street corner in Los Angeles – because, of course, people need to know where to go – and begins serving meals to the homeless. Often 200 of them in a night.[...]As a result, two Democratic city councilmen have introduced an ordinance that would ban the public feeding of the homeless in Los Angeles, in a bid to push such efforts indoors.
- The 50 States of Lego.
27 November 2013
- Would removing the filibuster really make Washington more functional?
The short answer is probably not. If anything, the effect would be, at best, minimal.
- Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser's lessons for Obamacare.
What, then, are the lessons that Americans and supporters of Obamacare can learn from Australia’s experience? The most obvious is that no piece is legislation is permanent, but must be sustained politically. If it is passed over the opposition of a rival party, and if that party comes into power, it can always repeal it or simply make it impossible to implement. The only way to ensure that the legislation will survive a change in the party in power is if the legislation becomes thoroughly popular. If it can’t be fully implemented—which is what happened to the original Medibank legislation—it will be vulnerable to a challenge.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates on America's relationship with a racial slur.
This is the politics of respectability — an attempt to raise black people to a superhuman standard. In this case it means exempting black people from a basic rule of communication — that words take on meaning from context and relationship. But as in all cases of respectability politics, what we are really saying to black people is, “Be less human.” This is not a fight over civil rights; it’s an attempt to raise a double standard. It is no different from charging “ladies” with being ornamental and prim while allowing for the great wisdom of boys being boys. To prevent enabling oppression, we demand that black people be twice as good. To prevent verifying stereotypes, we pledge to never eat a slice a watermelon in front of white people.
- What to do when you're wrong.
After all, if you write about current affairs and you’re never wrong, you just aren’t sticking your neck out enough. Stuff happens, and sometimes it’s not the stuff you thought would happen.
- The Seattle No.
If you ever plan to visit Seattle or interact in any way with someone from the Pacific Northwest, it might be helpful to learn about the Seattle NO. In Seattle, for whatever reason, people shy away from directly expressing a No in any situation. Those of you not from the area may be confused: how can someone avoid saying No?
22 November 2013
- The Senate has gone nuclear.
This is a major, major, event. It changes how the nation is governed in a significant way. That said, it’s not as if the Senate has been static since the last time filibuster rules were changed (at least in a major way) almost 40 years ago; most reform is incremental, and one could argue that the rules change today returns nominations closer to how things were done in the 1970s than they have been for the last decade, and especially during the Obama era. However, what’s more likely is that we’ll see a Senate that isn’t really like either of those bodies.
- Here's why it needed to happen.
The filibuster is anti-democratic. It gives a minority of representatives from a minority of states a stranglehold over the country and in particular over the president’s power of appointment. The filibuster is not in the Constitution, barely existed before 1917, and didn’t take on anything like its current form until the middle of the 20th century. Only very recently has it become the monster it is now. It is past time for the filibuster to go, and damn the conventional wisdom about the consequences.
- Miami Gardens police are allegedly taking racial profiling to absurd levels.
Since he installed the cameras in June 2012 he has collected more than two dozen videos, some of which have been obtained by the Miami Herald. Those tapes, and Sampson’s 38-page criminal history — including charges never even pursued by prosecutors — raise some troubling questions about the conduct of the city’s police officers.
The videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests.
- How Fidel Castro reacted to the Kennedy assassination.
He came back, sat down, and repeated three times the words: "Es una mala noticia." ("This is bad news.") He remained silent for a moment, awaiting another call with further news. He remarked while we waited that there was an alarmingly sizable lunatic fringe in American society and that this deed could equally well have been the work of a madman or of a terrorist. Perhaps a Vietnamese? Or a member of the Ku Klux Klan? The second call came through: It was hoped they would be able to announce that the United States President was still alive, that there was hope of saving him. Fidel Castro's immediate reaction was: "If they can, he is already re-elected." He pronounced these words with satisfaction.
- Louis CK and Jerry Seinfeld discuss the Gettysburg Address.
22 November 2013
Marc Palen is a research associate at the US Studies Centre and the editor of the Imperial & Global Forum, the blog of the Centre for Imperial and Global History at the History Department, University of Exeter. This post was originally published at the Imperial & Global Forum.
A recent New Republic article by David A. Bell on the limitations of the "global turn" has been making the rounds this month, and deservedly so. Bell’s article reviews Emily Rosenberg’s 2012 edited volume A World Connecting: 1870–1945. Nestled within it, however, is a much larger critique of the global historiographical shift toward "networks" and "globalisation."
Bell’s criticisms are provocative. They are eloquent.
But are they fair? Let’s take a look.
Bell begins by describing the "global turn":
It has not been enough simply to study the way Western powers have affected the rest of the world — a venerable subject. The task has also been to show how the rest of the world affected the West; how ideas and practices flowed back and forth in a constant flux of appropriation, transformation, and resistance; how the oppression of the strong met the “weapons of the weak”; and how history’s repressed “subaltern” can be made to speak ... how, even in the relatively distant past, global patterns of movement, exchange, exploitation, and aggression shaped phenomena that historians once saw as purely local. And it has been a matter of applying, even to quite distant historical periods, the controlling metaphor of the digital age: the "network."
So far, so good.
Bell also cedes that this global turn retains the ability to open "up remarkable new perspectives on the past." As an example, he refers to how seemingly national histories have been enriched through the use of a broader historical vantage point, one that has since connected the French and American revolutions with that of the African slave trade and Caribbean slave revolts at the end of the eighteenth century, as exemplified in the fine work of Laurent Dubois. Bell then suggests that "the 'global turn' has very rightly insisted that histories of the French Revolution take these events fully into account," and that the same global turn "has done similar things for many other subjects."
Now it’s worth pausing for a second to consider whether Bell’s own example outlined above is in fact illustrative of global history. As Bruce Mazlish and Akira Iriye explain, global history "focuses on the theme of globalisation that runs through the history of the past." But that is not really what Bell’s example depicts. More accurately, it is that of "Atlantic history" — a dynamic field of study encompassing the Atlantic region that gained in popularity throughout the 1980s and 1990s — rather than the even broader (geographically at least) global historical turn of the twenty first century.
Such definitional differences are crucial — and their confusion within Bell’s article raises further questions. Why, for instance, does Bell claim that C. A. Bayly "found it difficult to bring whole continents and oceans together into a coherent story" in his powerful global history The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914? Well, apparently it was Bayly’s page count that most ably explains this difficulty, with Bayly spending "only two and a half pallid pages" on explaining "the motors of change." (This issue of page-counting as criticism will arise again in due course.)
Has "global history" become a buzzword, with publishers churning "out encyclopaedias, manuals, handbooks, and dictionaries of global history faster than anyone can keep track, let alone read," as Bell claims? Indeed, "global history" has been so over-used and so under-defined that, much like "globalisation" and "network," it is fast running the risk of becoming meaningless. One major reason for the term’s unseemly popularity, however, stems from its frequent conflation with other historical approaches such as, say, Atlantic history.
Bell does grant that The World Connecting is what it claims to be: a global history of the period 1870 to 1945. It is not the global history of the period, it should be noted, nor does it claim to be. After all, what history book could possibly provide a truly comprehensive history of, well, just about any subject?
And it is here that the vast majority of Bell’s criticisms of the volume — and of global history — are unfair, as he seems to expect the impossible from The World Connecting: that is, a comprehensive global historical study of the period 1870–1945. Admittedly, he grants that each chapter contains global connections, fine syntheses, and a wide range of source material on the subthemes of exchange, movement, coercion, resistance, and cooperation. He then gives a succinct summary of the individual chapters and praises the contributors for their wide-ranging "insights about global connections and networks." But he thereafter takes the massive tome of 1,161 pages to task for neglecting other connections. "A remarkable amount is absent as well," he writes. For example, he points to how
readers of the book will learn far more here about postal systems, telegraphs, and telephones than about the ideas transmitted through them. Perhaps nothing in the period between 1870 and 1945 created more intense international solidarities than socialist ideas — "workers of the world, unite!" was nothing if not a call for global connection.
And yet, Bell observes, "Rosenberg’s chapter has barely four pages" on socialism. Here again, page numbers appear to matter a great deal to Bell — apparently even more than the substance within them. And yet aren’t historians often able to transmit an impressive amount of information and analysis in but a handful of pages? In this very New Republic article under discussion, for instance, Bell himself uses "barely" six pages to analyse both a 1,100-plus-page edited book and the history profession’s "global turn." Furthermore, Rosenberg’s spending any amount of pages on socialism within the text strongly suggests that the subject was not in absentia.
Bell’s criticisms of other such allegations of substantive absentmindedness prove similarly problematic. That is, Bell discusses how he might have structured the themes differently, or how he might have included certain subjects more prominently (like Winston Churchill, warfare, and socialism). He even goes on to suggest that more essays should have been included in this weighty tome, even though it would have meant "stretching an already massive volume to the literal breaking point."
And yet, seemingly at odds with Bell’s criticism for all that was "absent," he then goes on to criticise the book for cramming "so much information into such a small space" and for illustrating "every argument with a long string of examples drawn from across the globe." It is mystifying indeed to see how a global historical text’s use of globe-spanning examples "contributes to the problem," especially after having just taken the same book to task for not including enough examples.
Bell’s broader problems with (and proposed solutions for) the "global turn" are also worth considering.
First, owing to their "vast scales," do global histories tend to give less attention to the individual? To some degree yes. However, a micro-historical approach (an alternative approach Bell suggests) to A World Connecting would have created insurmountable hurdles to accomplishing the book’s stated goals. Moreover, it would have left the book open to even greater criticism from those looking for what would invariably have been left out.
Second, is it difficult to write global histories that contain a "single, overarching argument"? Absolutely. The scale and scope of global historical work is daunting. Global histories therefore do often tend toward complexity and contradiction instead. But does one approach inherently outweigh the other? Some historians prefer a nuanced thesis, even if it means sacrificing the easy readability of a more cohesive narrative.
And of course the latter approach contains its own pitfalls. As a case and point, Bell’s very example of the global connectivity of socialist ideology notably leaves out how this same global ideological spread simultaneously fostered social, political, and geopolitical conflict throughout the world, culminating in the Cold War. As A.G. Hopkins put it in Global History (2006), globalisation contains both "homogenising tendencies" and "heterogeneous consequences." Accordingly, a global history of the spread of socialism should incorporate both sides of the ideological story — the connectivity and the conflict — even if it means sacrificing a stronger (and likely less accurate) overarching argument.
In conclusion, the New Republic review, while containing salient points on the difficulties of writing global history, ironically ends up falling into some of the same semantic pitfalls that it decries. Does A World Connecting have its weaknesses? Of course. But it is unfair to take such an impressive volume to task primarily for what it may have left out (while at the same time criticising it for including too much within!) — especially when the volume has admirably taken on the enormous task of tackling myriad aspects of global history over a large swath of time; and especially when it tackles so many of the goals it explicitly set out to accomplish.
Even more, it is misleading to suggest that what ends up "absent" in such a tome somehow illuminates the limitations of global history — when it does quite the opposite. As Anne Foster put it amid an excellent H-Diplo roundtable review of the book:
We look to this volume for answers to many of the questions which vex us regarding how to think about the relation of "global history" to the smaller bits of history which each of us claims some mastery over. Inevitably, no one volume can answer these questions and indeed perhaps the best such a volume can do is raise the best new questions for us to explore.
Or to quote Erez Manela, another H-Diplo reviewer:
The present volume can serve well as a vessel to sail for a while down the treacherous rapids of this historiographical current. But there is still quite a way to go down this particular river, and it is not yet entirely clear whether it is safe harbor or a crashing waterfall that awaits us just over the horizon.
In other words, the very gaps inherent within such a massive work of global history as The World Connecting only further illustrate how the "global turn" proffers boundless new avenues for historical enquiry.
- Developments in Global Oceans Governance and Conservation
- Advanced Biofuels Industry Day at PACIFIC 2013
- Delivering a Sustainable Future City – Part 2
- Minimal. Conceptual. Pop: A symposium on American Art from 1960-80
- The green visitor economy: Sustainability through innovation and strategic partnerships
- Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan
- Farewell reception for US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich
- What MOOCs mean for universities — revolution or evolution?
- The technology enabled higher education revolution
- Agriculture, Soil Health and Climate Change Forum
- Evidence based policy-making: Meeting the challenges
- Food and nutrition labelling: Can information promote healthier choices among consumers?
- Trans-Pacific Partnership and Beyond: Obama's Trade Policy
- US-China relations: Student roundtable with Bonnie Glaser
- US-China relations: Implications for US partners in Asia
- Todd Malan: The impact of US elections on business priorities
- Delivering a Sustainable Future City: Roundtable lunch
- The US Electoral College: An 18th Century Relic in the 21st Century
- Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Edgard Kagan meets US Studies Centre students
- William H. Janeway student roundtable
- Book Launch: Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy
- Investing to promote innovation and sustainability
- Delivering a Sustainable Future City
- Reinventing Fire: Changing the energy rules for a growing economy
- Andrew Hoffman meets with Centre students
- The climate challenge: New business opportunities
- Student roundtable with US Senior Official for APEC Atul Keshap
- Roundtable lunch with US Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Kerri-Ann Jones
- The US, Australia and China with Kurt M Campbell
- Alliance 21 Education & Innovation: Australia-US Policy Exchange
- G'Day USA 2013: Defence and Security Workshop
- Reception for G'Day USA 2013
- Low carbon jet fuel: The industry flight path
- AIRSHOW 2013 - Reception at Government House
- New South Wales Advanced Biofuels Industry Roundtable
- Evidence-Based Policymaking
- Australia/US Dialogue on Energy Security
- Dynamics of 21st Century Trade and Investment in the Asia-Pacific: An Australia-US Perspective
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- Election Day Spectacular
- US Election: America at a crossroad
- The Impact of the US Presidential Election on Australia & the Asia-Pacific
- Green Growth/Advanced Manufacturing
- The Problem with America's Job Market
- Intelligent Strategy
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- Debate the future of America 2012
- Dr Esther Brimmer: The future of multilateralism
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- International Innovation in Higher Education Workshop
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- Why aren't we talking about soil?
- The role of the media in US Presidential Elections
- Paul Keating: Reflections on the Shift of Economic Gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific United States Studies Centre
- UN Rio+20 Side Event - Responding to the Global Soil Crisis
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- Entrepreneurship and human rights: Knights Apparel’s ethical business model
- Roundtable Lunch with Kurt Campbell
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- Pacific 2012 International Maritime Conference
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- US in the World Lecture - with guest Shanto Iyengar
- Bob Carr: Postgraduate Information Evening
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- Roundtable Event - Two Perspectives of Sustainable City Development
- Bill Chafe and Ray Nagin: Global America Lecture
- Washington Soil Security meeting
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- Jeffrey Bleich: US in the World Lecture
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- Fault-lines in Immigration Policy: The Harvard-Sydney Immigration Summit 2011
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - The Decade Ahead
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Keynote Address by Robert McClelland
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Breakout Sessions Day 2
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - 9/11 at Home
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - The US and Asia-Pacific Century
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Roundtable on the 9/11 Decade
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - The Freedom Agenda and the Arab Spring
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Breakout Sessions Day 1
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Keynote Address by Allan Gyngell
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Rethinking American Power
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - The War(s) on Terrorism
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Australian and American Perspectives
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Welcome
- 2011 National Summit: The 9/11 Decade - Cocktail Reception
- Bob Hawke: Reflections on the Australia-United States Alliance
- Washington DC Internship Program
- American Grace: How religion divides and unites America
- John Howard: Reflections on the Australia-United States Alliance
- Soil Carbon Stakeholder Workshop
- Reception for US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
- City of the Future
- The Midterm Referendum on Obama
- Welcome reception for United States Consul General
- Jack Miles at the Centre for Independent Studies
- Waiting for the Preacher: Obama’s America in World Religious Context
- The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris
- Intelligence reform in the United States
- Book Launch: Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865
- Ethical supply chains: An executive roundtable
- Jeffrey Schott: Trade policy in the Obama administration and the outlook for Asia- Pacific economic integration
- Race in America, race in Australia: A public forum featuring Glenn Loury, Waleed Aly and Bob Carr
- Workshop on Inequality
- China-US relations: Partners or rivals
- Mark Tushnet: Current issues and controversies in the US
- Gail Fosler: What the financial crisis tells us about ourselves - A US perspective on economic and governance challenges
- Jonathan Greenblatt delivers lecture to undergraduate students
- Peter Katzenstein: Why the clash of civilizations is wrong
- Henry Cisneros on housing and sustainability
- James Hansen: What Australia should do about climate change
- War correspondent Mark Danner in conversation with Geoffrey Garrett
- Launch of the Dow Sustainability Program
- Sustainable supply chains
- David Brady: The Obama Presidency and the outlook for the coming year
- US Ambassador meets students at the US Studies Centre
- US Business Leadership Forum with Rupert Murdoch
- Celebrating the launch of American Review
- One year of Obama: A discussion with James Fallows, Paul Kelly, Robert Hill and Geoffrey Garrett
- James Fallows: One year of Obama
- Obama: One year in the making
- Meeting of the US Studies Centre Council of Advisors
- Costello discusses post-GFC financial reform
- Jim Johnson: How is Obama responding to the financial crisis?
- Jim Johnson seminar with US Studies students
- US Politics in the Pub: The rebirth of the Republican right?
- Dennis Richardson discusses the state of Australia-US relations
- "US in the World" High school lecture
- 2009 National Summit: Dinner
- 2009 National Summit: John Micklethwait Keynote Speech
- 2009 National Summit: Human health and sustainability - What are the challenges for globalisation?
- 2009 National Summit: Expert Sessions 2
- 2009 National Summit: Business solves poverty - The new approach to corporate social responsibility
- 2009 National Summit: Corporate social responsibility - How should business behave in the GFC?
- 2009 National Summit: Climate change and energy security - Looking towards the Copenhagen Conference
- 2009 National Summit: Breakfast
- 2009 National Summit: Public Forum
- 2009 National Summit: Expert Sessions 1
- 2009 National Summit: Labour and human rights - Can we afford them in a global financial crisis?
- 2009 National Summit: Malcolm Turnbull Keynote Speech
- 2009 National Summit: Governing the global economy - Economic nationalism vs. Bretton Woods 2.0
- 2009 National Summit: Obama's America - Globalisation headaches and protectionist impulses
- 2009 National Summit: Peter Garrett Opening Address
- 2009 National Summit: Welcome Address
- 2009 National Summit: Welcome Reception
- 2009 National Summit: Masterclass
- Thomas Mann: The Obama Administration and its Outlook on the Asia Pacific
- Thomas Mann: The First 100 Days of the Obama Administration
- Robert Burgelman: Leading Strategically in a Turbulent Environment
- Robert Thomson: The Obama Administration and the Actions Shaping the Global Financial Crisis
- Barry Jackson: Evaluating the Obama Stimulus Package
- The Great American Recession: What Does It Mean For You?
- Edward Leamer: The Financial Crisis and the Outlook for the US
- Inauguration Watch: Manning Bar
- Inauguration Watch: Breakfast
- Harry Harding: China in the 21st Century and Policy Implications for Australia, the US and the World
- Christmas Function
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- The President-Elect: What Can We Expect?
- David Brady: The US Under the New President
- Election Day Spectacular
- Michael Parks and Simon Jackman: America at the Crossroads
- 'US in the World' High School Lecture
- Foreign Policy of Obama and McCain: Which is Australia's Gain?
- Mike Chinoy: Global Crisis Points - The War on Terror, Loose Nukes and American Foreign Policy
- James Gibbons: Replicating Silicon Valley - Lessons for Australia
- Vice Presidential Debate Screening
- Visit by the Australian Political Exchange Council’s 25th US Delegation
- Derek Shearer: Obama v McCain - Who Will Win, Does it Matter?
- John Howard Dinner
- McCain's Acceptance Speech: Republican National Convention
- New Horizons: Breaking into the US market
- Sydney Uni Live!
- Obama's Acceptance Speech: Democratic National Convention
- Hedley Bull Book Launch: Address by Bob Hawke
- Great White Fleet Centenary Ball
- Dick McCormack: Global Financial Risk and the Role of Central Banks and Regulators
- Jonathan Pollack: US-North Asia Relations
- Jeffrey Sachs Dinner
- ANZASA Conference
- Peter Scher: Will US Trade Policy Change After the 2008 Elections?
- Peter Scher: The Next President's Challenge - Global Trade and the 2008 Elections
- Matt Bai: US Political Journalism - The Next Generation
- Bob Pisano: Positioning Australian Screen Content in the US Marketplace
- Marvin Goodfriend: The Outlook for the US Economy and the State of the Financial Institutions
- American Foreign Policy After Bush: Frank Fukuyama in Conversation with Geoffrey Garrett
- Frank Fukuyama Meets US Studies Students
- Frank Fukuyama: Contemporary Issues Facing America
- Super Tuesday screening at the Manning Bar
- 2007 National Summit: Public Forum
- 2007 National Summit: Networking and Research Forum
- 2007 National Summit: America Then, America Now
- 2007 National Summit: Climate Change or Islamofascism
- 2007 National Summit: Dinner
- 2007 National Summit: How Countries Compete
- 2007 National Summit: Will the Next US Foreign Policy Look Surprisingly Like the Current One?
- 2007 National Opinion Survey: Australian Attitudes Towards the US (Part 2)
- 2007 National Summit: Opening
- 2007 National Summit: Welcome Reception
- Role of Arts and Humanities in Building International Understanding: Harriet Mayor Fulbright
- 2007 National Opinion Survey: Australian Attitudes Towards the US (Part 1)
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