Monday, June 30, 2003
Thanks! Josh Cherniss gives me a generously welcoming write-up over at Sitting on the Fence. Meanwhile, I see that he has given his site an entirely new look. (Perhaps I can take some credit for this after blaming myself for making it look so ugly before.) Josh raises some good points about Iraqi public opinion, points that I plan to address at some point in the future.
UPDATE: I feel truly welcomed into the blogosphere having been linked to by the other Josh (Chafetz).
Gaah! This is scary, yet funny. (Link thanks to OxBlog.) The strangest thing is how much Dick Cheney in the picture there looks like Jerry Berman, the founder and president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. (Ok. This might be the sort of thing you don't see unless you've seen Jerry in the flesh.)
New Boston Archbishop chosen. The National Catholic Reporter broke the story this morning that the Pope has chosen Sean O'Malley to be the new archbishop of Boston. O'Malley is known as one of the American church's fix-it men--he was just sent to Palm Beach to clean up after that diocese's sex abuse scandal (in which two bishops in a row admitted to abusing kids). The word on WBUR, where I heard the news as I was waking up this morning, seems mixed: O'Malley may be a fix-it man, but he's also known as a staunch conservative, unlikely to lead the charge on any meaningful reforms.
UPDATE: The AP has a detailed, if somewhat skeptical, article posted on the Boston Globe's site.
Howard Dean and the internet. This from a post on the Dean campaign's "Blog for America": "We started at $3.2 million on Sunday, June 22nd and went to $6.3 million a few minutes ago (Sunday, June 29th). Raising $3.1 million in a matter of days with at least $2.3 million of which were online contributions." This is rather remarkable. Not only does it put Dean into the top rank of Democratic candidates (as the Times, for instance, reported this morning), it suggests a remarkable new power of the internet for traditional electoral politics. We've seen for a while now that the internet provided a tremendous tool for non-electoral politics--people often trace this to the Seattle protests and the birth of Indymedia, but I prefer to trace it to the time when Belgrade's B92 radio station broadcast over the internet after its transmitter was shut down my the government--but I predict that this election cycle will show it to be an impressively democratizing force in the US political system. On OxBlog, Josh Chafetz derides the MoveOn primary, but the fact is that it may very well prove to be important in funneling money and volunteers to Dean. Josh dismisses the election as merely a far-left "faux Democratic primary," but there are two things to remember. One is that MoveOn has shown itself to be a powerful fundraising machine. Second is that it isn't really as far left as you think. Remember it got its start as a pro-Clinton site during impeachment (the title comes from the phrase "censor and move on"). It's moved left with the war on Iraq, but the fact that Kucinich was so highly regarded my the membership was rather surprising.
Regardless of whether MoveOn is legitimate, the fact seems to be that Dean has moved into the top tier of candidates, while Gephardt, for one, has not. In my mind, this is good news. (And keep in mind that I'm still profoundly ambivalent on Dean.) The common wisdom has been that Gephardt, a long-time tried and true friend of the AFL, would get big labor's endorsement. I, and many other progressives in the labor movement I've spoken too, thought that this was good bad; Gephardt isn't been successful in Congress, he was part of a leadership that led the party to an abysmal defeat in 2002, and he offers few new ideas. My hope is that if Gephardt did as poorly this quarter as is expected, he'll drop out of the race and throw his support behind Dean. That would open the way for Dean to get labor's endorsement, which would be good for Dean, certainly, but also good for the progressive movement. Dean won the AFL's Wellstone Award, and he has some endorsements from local labor leaders in Vermont and New Hampshire, but on the whole unions have been missing from Dean's coalition. Last time I checked, he didn't even have a labor rights page on his website. Progressives need to continue to build bridges between our different groups--labor, enviros, racial and gender justice, fair trade, peace, etc. Getting labor on board with Dean, and Dean on board with labor, would go a long way toward this.
Memory and the law. The Times today has an touching article on a group of Japanese-Americans who returned to their childhood internment camp this weekend. The movement in the 1980s to get recognition of the injustice (as the Times puts it) of internment, to get reparations, and to get a public memory of Executive Order 9066 is one of the most successful stories of public history through legalistic means. I'm told (I'm not old enough to remember one way or the other) that before the mid-80s, there was no public discussion of Japanese internment, it wasn't mentioned in history text books, and it had generally been forgotten by non-Japanese Americans. The Congressional hearings that led to the Civil Liberties Act changed all this--it created a national memory of 9066, to the extent that with the exception of the occasional Republican congressman, people know it as one of the worst excesses of US wartime government. What's remarkable about this is that it was done through legal means. It wasn't a lawsuit, the way Holocaust reparations suits have been, but it was legalistic. (An aside: the $20,000 figure that internees got was used as a benchmark during negotiations over Holocaust-era forced labor reparations, a benchmark that came nowhere near to being met.) In contrast, the attempts by people like Michael Hausfeld to create a public memory of non-Jewish forced labor during the Holocaust was completely unsuccessful. I don't know why this is; it's a topic I plan to explore in depth in the future. In the meantime, Martha Minow's new book is on my reading list for the summer, and I hope that it will give me some clues.
Sunday, June 29, 2003
The Sleeper Question. Last week, NPR played one of Jim Sleeper's occasional commentaries; as usual, this one was a harsh denunciations of liberal orthodoxy on race. In particular, Sleeper bragged of the way that he bullies his students who favor affirmative action by demanding what three things they would want people to know about them based only on their race or ethnicity. About four years ago, while a sophomore at Yale, I had the misfortune of being one of those students, in a class Sleeper called "New Conceptions of American National Identity." At least then, Sleeper demanded just a single thing we wanted people to know about us based on our ethnicities. In class, we called this "the Sleeper Question." I wasn't quite quick enough on my feet then, or perhaps I preferred to battle Sleeper on other ideological issues (and believe me, there were many). For whatever reason, I didn't answer him when I was a student. But now that I have a blog, I'm finally going to answer him.
I'm Jewish. What would I like a stranger to know about me based solely on that fact? 1. Even if I don't have a relative who died in the Holocaust, I probably take the Holocaust personally, as if I did. Therefore, I take anti-semitism very seriously. 2. I am used to people assuming that I take Israel personally, whether or not I do. Indeed, I likely do. 3. Unless I am a recent immigrant from the former Soviet Union, I am likely the decendant of immigrants who came to this country between 1880 and 1920 (or, if I am a German Jew, from 1840 to 1950), or who came as Holocaust survivors. Probably these immigrant ancestors were pedlers or industrial workers in an industry the needle trades or cigar making. Successive generations in my family probably worked their way up to the middle class. 4. I am not a Christian.
I can go on: Were I a black man, I'd want a stranger to know that I or someone I know have probably been stopped by the police solely because we're black. I'd want them to know that I'm used to whites assuming the worst of me when they see me on the street. I'd want him to know that when I walk down the street with my grandfather, or even father, he remembers places he wasn't allowed to go thirty or thirty-five years ago. I'd want him to know that there are neighborhoods where simply my skin color marks me as an outsider--even if I live there. Were I a woman, I'd want people to know that I, unlike my male peers, have worried about how to fit a family and a career in my life.
Are these things generalizations? Sure. Are they true for everyone? No. Do they mean that all Jews, blacks, or women think the same or have the same views? Of course not. Do they suggest that a sole Jew, black, or woman in a classroom or boardroom should be heard to speak for all Jews, blacks, or women? Certainly not. But they aren't useless generalizations, surely. And they suggest a certain commonality of experience or memory that ethnic groups in the US still experience.
Theft of intellectual property. One of the joys of the Sunday Times for me for the past few months has been Frank Rich's new column in Arts and Leisure. This week's was no exception, until the end. He writes: "How do all those lovely entertainment-seeking kids weaned on 'Harry Potter' grow up to become thieves? Surely, they know that stealing copyrighted songs and movies is akin to shoplifting sweaters at the Gap." No it's not. Intellectual property is totally unlike any other sort of property. Stealing a sweater from the Gap means that the Gap can't sell it to someone else; if the Gap catches you and takes it back, you can't wear it and have lost its value. In short, it is an object. (Real estate is similar: if you take over someone's building, or land, that person can't use it or sell it to another person, and when you are evicted, your use of the property ends.) Intellectual property is completely unlike this. My "stealing" a song from a record company doesn't deprive the victim from selling it to another person, because the information (in this case, a song) is infinitely copyable. Similarly, if they catch me and force me to delete the MP3 from my hard drive, my enjoyment of the song isn't erased, and they can't expunge from my brain the tune and lyrics. This doesn't mean that there should be rampant unauthorized downloads of music; I do understand that artists need to get paid if we're going to expect them to produce more work. But for Rich to pretend that downloading an MP3 is "akin to" stealing an object is to completely misunderstand the nature of intellectual property. (I have posted on this topic before, and will likely again, potentially in the near future to expand on this point.)
Howard Dean and foreign policy. (This is adapted from an old email exchange. As such the reference is a bit out of date, although the topic discussed isn't.) Last Wednesday, William Saletan published a snarky article in Slate essentially calling Howard Dean arrogant for refusing to reconsider his position on Iraq after the supposed "success" there. Perhaps I'm just as "arrogant" as Dean, but Saletan's argument just doesn't hold up. Dean absolutely has a foreign policy problem (as demonstrated on Meet the Press, or so I gather), but what do you expect for a governor. I remember in '92 people saying that they liked Clinton on domestic issues but trusted Bush Sr on foreign policy. And for the first several years, Clinton bounced from one foreign crisis to another, without any cohesive policy. Bush Jr didn't have any foreign poliy experice either, and made terrible gaffes in the campaign (remember how Greeks were Grecians and Slovaks were Slovians, or vice versa), and until September 11, everyone thought he was an utter fuckup with the rest of the world. Come September 11, he became a "statesman," but indeed the run-up to Iraq showed him to be just as bumbling. Governors don't have to deal with foreign policy (indeed, the Supreme Court last week seems to have ruled that their constitutionally forbidden), so of course they're at a disadvantage on the specifics.
Saletan criticizes Dean for being unable to admit he was wrong about Iraq--a dubious assertion at best, since Dean and most of his supporters don't think he was wrong. We unqualifiedly won the war? Really? Then why do our soldiers keep dying, why did an angry mob kill British soldiers? Why haven't we found the Iraqi government to give us our surrender? The fact is, whether or not the war with Iraq was a good idea (and I don't think it was), it isn't over yet, and it certainly hasn't yet been a success. My prediction is that the continuing guerilla war is only going to get worse. This is bad for American soldiers, of course, but it also suggests a bigger problem: maybe the Iraqis aren't so happy with our liberation as we'd suppose. I don't want to find myself defending the Hussein regime, and I certainly don't mean to suggest anything good about him. The testimony of former dissidents who are now very grateful to the US for the liberation is indeed very powerful. But guerilla war, like social banditry, usually doesn't succeed without the support of the surrounding population. Guerillas need to hide, they need to be able to get away quickly, and they need food. For all these things, they need locas--to shelter them, to provide guides, and to provide nurishment. The level of attacks we're seeing now in Iraq doesn't necessarily require a lot of support. But if it continues to expand and increase, I fear that this may suggest a similarly growing support for the insurgency. The attack by angry villagers on British troops may already auger this.
Saletan also argues that it's a "liberal myth" that our preoccupation with Iraq for the past nine months or so distracted us from the real terrorists in al Qaeda. How does he explain the bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco? They seem to me pretty incontrovertable evidence that we have not, in fact, distrupted terrorist networks, and that al Qaeda's strength is in fact growing again. It's hard to know what would have happened if the US had been focusing on our actual enemy rather than a created one, but it seems likely that we could have continued the actual war on terrorism.
Troops on campus. Unions in Korea have started a "summer of discontent," with massive, disruptive strikes. As often seems to happen, transport workers are leading the way. Late last week, 1400 workers were arrested by riot police, much to the upset of the country's union. In the spirit of international union solidarity, I'm not too happy about this, although I admit that I don't know much about about the situation in Korea. From afar, I have rather liked Roh, and I understand the difficulty of a government on the left dealing with labor militancy. But what bothers me about this weekend's arrests is that they happened on university campuses. In my mind, the campus should be a sacred space, without the invasion of the state. This is a reason to support university police forces, and to support tax exemptions for universities. (This is, of course, not what my friends in New Haven want to hear.) Part of my interest in keeping cops and troops off campus is a matter of tradition--medieval universities, as I understand it, were sufficiently seperate from their host communities that they maintained rights to discipline their members without the intervention of the civil authorities. This tradition has historically protected dissent in countries which otherwise don't permit it--Iran comes to mind (before the past few weeks), as does Suharto's Indonesia (where troops firing on fleeing student protesters actually stopped at the university gates). When the sacred space of a university is violated in a place like Korea, it further erodes the traditional safe space that it provides in places like Iran and Indonesia. (Read more about the Korean labor situation at LabourStart.)
Who am I? My final post in a row for this evening. (I still haven't made or had dinner!) A short answer, to which I may add later. I am Jacob Remes. I think of myself as a historian in training, or perhaps an apprentice historian. My primary academic interest is in the British dominions--Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa--with a particular emphasis on Canada. My current academic research (employed as a research assistant for a labor historian here in Boston) is into the Haymarket Affair of 1886; the book will be a exploration of class and ethnic tension in Gilded Age Chicago as it led up to Haymarket. The other project I'm involved in is with the Harvard University Library's Open Collections Program, which is digitizing many thousands of documents about the entrance of women into the formal workforce in the United States, from 1870 to 1930. These two projects have intersected in various unexpected places. My political interests are in anti-imperialism, progressive electoral politics (in the US and Canada), and labor unions. Other topics that I expect to cover are Holocaust reparations; museums, monuments, and other forms of public history; lawsuits that seek redress for historical wrongs; books I'm reading at the moment; and public radio.
I studied history at Yale (class of 2002), where I wrote my senior essay on the reaction of the dominant Catholic Church to a radical labor movement in interwar Cape Breton. I plan to enter graduate school in the fall of 2004.
Why the title? The Waldheim Cemetery is outside of Chicago, in the town of Forest Park. (There are actually two cemeteries by that name in Forest Park, which itself is truly a city of cemeteries--there are more dead residents there in five seperate cemeteries, than there are living residents. I'm talking about German Waldheim, which is distinct from Jewish Waldheim.) In the Gilded Age, it was one of two major German cemeteries in Chicago, the one not associated religious institutions. Instead, fraternal orders, Turnverein, and unions bought sections, and then provided burials for their members. It was known as a cemetery for religious dissenters and free thinkers, for Gypsies (as they were known then), and for other outcasts.
Today, it is known as the final resting place for the Haymarket Martyrs, the Chicago anarchists who were killed by the state for their beliefs. After the creation of the martyrs' monument, others chose to be buried nearby as tribute--notably the two political widows, Lucy Parsons and Nina Spies, and Emma Goldman, a leader of the next generation of American anarchists. I won't go into a detailed history of the Haymarket affair, or the political ideas of Albert Parsons, August Spies, or the other martyrs--although I'm happy to if asked. It's a bit presumptous (and not really politically accurate) to suggest I'm writing this blog in the spirit of Parsons' paper The Alarm, or Spies' paper the Arbeiter Zeitung; but their ideology and ideals do inform my own politics, and since their lives, deaths, and miliaux has been a major part of my life for the past six or seven months, I thought it the most appropriate title. Unfortunately, someone else took the waldheim.blogspot domain, so I was stuck with the boring remes.blogspot. Apologies for the confusion.
Hello. Some time ago, I was one of three people who started a blog. Soon thereafter, I was one of two people contributing to that blog. Then I got fed up, and I stopped, and now there is only one person to that blog.
Now I am starting a new blog.
Which begs two questions: first, why did I stop contributing to the first one, and second, why am I trying again? I stopped primarily for personal reasons. I felt like it was taking over my life, in a remarkably brief period of time. I felt obligated to post a lot. I felt obligated to read more newspapers than I had time to read, so that I would have new links to post. I began to feel obligated to keep up on the "blogosphere," which took up too much time. Finally, I got into constant and unpleasant arguments with Josh. I didn't like this because it meant that with Josh in England, the primary contact I had with one of my closest friends was a constant political argument. And unlike an argument in person, this one was never turned off, because I'd have to check to see what his response was, and then post one myself. This was particularly bad, because both of us (I hope Josh doesn't mind me saying this), display, shall I say, not the best parts of our personalities when we argue with each other. Part of this was my tendency to want to think out loud--as I would in a personal discussion with friends. But in fact, I was publishing for the world to see. (There was also the relatively minor point of having screwed around with html I didn't understand and making the entire site, in my view, unspeakably ugly. Given that Josh has now made the blog his own, with remarkable success, I take this opportunity to apologize to him for bequeathing him such an aesthetic horror.)
That leaves me with why I'm coming back. The first reason has to do with the aforementioned remarkable success enjoyed by Josh. Simply put, I'm jealous. I may have a good record of getting my letters in the Times, but Josh has been adopted, full fledged, into the blogosphere. I'd like to think that I can do the same. Second, I've recently found myself reading various blogs (primarily Josh's, OxBlog, and a few others) during my free time at work. Third, I now live alone, and I don't see people regularly enough who read the Times or other publications to talk to them about it. As a result, I end up writing blog-entry-like emails to various people. When I realized I was burdening Erin with these emails, and then she complained, I realized I had to so something about it. (I may edit and repost these as my first few entries here.) I realize that I need people to talk to about what I read, or at least a place where I can post my responses, conversation or no. My realization that I should return to the blogosphere was also born of reading the Chronicle's article on academic bloggers, and it's comment that there are few humanities academics blogging.
So, we'll see how this goes. (That's why I've subtitled the blog an experiment.) If I feel myself too drawn into the blogosphere, I'm going to quit. If I find myself in a long running argument with people I know and like personally (both Josh and the folks at OxBlog fit this category), I'm going to quit. If I feel like I'm starting to make a fool of myself with half-baked ideas posted publicly, I'm going to quit. If I spend too much time on this project, at the expense of anything I do and like doing, I'm going to quit. Just a warning.