New Criterion Looks at History

Mark Arkin, in the current (June) New Criterion, reviews David Hackett Fischer’s Liberty & Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas. (The review, “On the March”, is not available—at least yet—at the journal’s website.) This, the second in Fischer’s proposed series that began with Albion’s Seed (1989), is monumental–the review praises its power and breadth. He argues “one of the most successful parts” analyzes the various icons chosen by different areas of the country to represent “liberty”. Arkin has clearly found Fischer’s eye for the representative anecdote enjoyable and enlightening; these analyses shows us the patterns Fischer finds, ones in which the past & present intertwine. The work is intimidating; he argues “this is a work best dipped into at leisure, not read cover to cover” and concludes with a firm conclusion the work “is a monumental achievement and an extraordinary work of history.”

Read more

Long Live the King

King of Pop dethroned in bloodless coup. — Headline from The Onion

While laid up and channel surfing recently I flipped past a lot of celebrity-news shows. It seemed that every third time I did so the story was about some legal trouble caused by the celebrity’s extreme behavior. Watching all this weirdness it suddenly struck me that we could have it much worse than having to hear about the celebrity trial du jour. In a previous age, we would have had these nut-jobs ruling over us.

Read more

UPDATE: Sen. McCain’s Amendment to NAGPRA

John McCain has been trying to sneak in an amendment to NAGPRA, The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, that would effectively gut it for the benefit of a few Indian tribes. (Previous posts on this topic are here and here.) This is a big deal, because if the tribes get their way they will be able to veto the study of any prehistoric human remains found in the USA, even if those remains have no connection to existing tribes.

Moira Breen, who has been at the forefront of Internet efforts to block the hijacking of NAGPRA, reports that popular opposition to McCain has had some effect, but that McCain is not giving up and plans a stacked hearing to ram his amendment through. It is therefore important for concerned individuals to contact their Congressional representatives (again) ASAP and make their opinions known.

I repost Moira’s note in its entirety:

Status update on S.536 Section 108:

Thanks again to all of you who blogged on McCain’s stealth amendment to NAGPRA
(Section 108, S.536). A public hearing on this amendment is now scheduled
for 14 June. I heard through the grapevine that the decision to hold a
hearing on this deplorable “‘was’ vs. ‘is'” amendment was effected by the
number and variety of citizens who wrote in protest. I know many people
wrote to say they’d contacted their congressmen; I’d like to think the
blogosphere had a hand in getting this into the light.

Read more

Danish Wartime Photos

Erik Petersen, a Danish press photographer whose career began around 1939 and who died in 1997, left an archive of hundreds of films he had taken during the war but had never shown to anyone. Now some of these photos are available online and they are well worth a look. Not only do they provide new information and perspective on an important period, many of them are also quite beautiful as images. They are obviously products of someone who had an unusually good eye.

(This online discussion provides some background info. A book of Petersen’s work is also available.)

Still Doing Damage

It’s been a good so far as finding things that I want to post about. Case in point is this news story. It seems that doctors have long advised women suffering from otosclerosis, a degenerative disease that causes hearing loss, to avoid becoming pregnant. It seems that pregnancy would heighten the risk of increased hearing loss, and might even lead to complete deafness.

But it seems that this is simply not true. A doctor from Ohio not only conducted a study to disprove the notion, but he also researched the literature and found that the original source for this belief was a 1939 seminar conducted by German doctors. The Nazis used the idea to promote racial purity.

What caused our perceptive physician to question prevailing medical opinion? He started a teaching job in a foreign country, and he noticed that women there with the disease who had given birth to many children didn’t seem to suffer any greater hearing loss than those with few children. That foreign country was Israel.

Trust the Israelis to distrust advice given by a Nazi doctor.