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No Way Out: The Structured Language of ‘Tax’ and ‘Taxes’

The American language treats our economic and material communal obligations, commonly conveyed by the term ‘taxes’, as though we are at war with one another. This linguistic problem distorts our view of shared interests. A foundational libertarian structure to our language of material obligation, via taxes, has distorted our politics. Continued recourse to that language in our political culture has trapped us in a prison-house of pain. Read more…

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A Theory of Culture Wars, Briefly

A theory of cultural strife and culture wars: they are about broken social contracts related to acceptable forms of *ignorance*. In Michael Smithson’s terms, we allowed violations in our heretofore agreed upon “social Ignorance arrangement[s].” Something changes that forces everyone to try and know something different, and the pain of learning reverberates and aggregates.

What do you think? – TL

On What Makes A University Great: Against Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens recently authored a NYT piece praising University of Chicago president Robert Zimmer. As a long-time observer of university and its doings, I’m agnostic regarding any judgment of Zimmer and his presidency. He could be great, or he could end up being terrible. It’s too soon, in my opinion, to make any judgment like that.

My beef is with Stephens’ analysis of the moment. The substance of his argument—on freedom of discourse, rigor, censorship, and what makes a university great—misses the point. Read more…

[USIH X-post] The Truth About Documentaries: Burns, Novick, Bacevich, and Vietnam

Documentaries are, always and everywhere, histories. The connotation of social science, or at least of “objective fact,” around the term “document” can, however, fool one into thinking otherwise. The method of delivery, or the form, adds an additional layer of confusion. The visuals—vivid colors and sounds, and their penchant for capturing our emotions—cause one to place documentaries in a different conceptual category. They seem different and novel rather than familiar.

Andrew Bacevich has fallen victim to these kinds of confusion in his recent review of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War. Bacevich denies the series placement in the genre of history, stating that it “is not history, but rather story-telling and remembrance.” He adds that “it glides along the surface of things, even when that surface is crowded with arrogance, miscalculation, deceit, and bloodletting on an epic scale.”

See my #USIH post for the rest. – TL

#VietnamWarPBS: Select Notes on Episode 8, “The History of the World”

Below are select notes on Episode 8, “The History of the World” (4/1969-5/1970)

– Big theme of episode: Antiwar movement and protests.

– James Gillam (African American) – “The other casualty [of the war] was the civilized version of me.”
– Hamburger Hill, April 1969, 1 week later abandoned hill
– Marlantes – Problem – Success measured in kill ratios. Attrition strategy can’t last.

– Racism – Behind the lines. Haircuts.
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#VietnamWarPBS: Rough Notes on Episode 7, The Veneer of Civilization

Episode #7 was a two-hour installment focused on late 1968 and early 1969. The rought notes below were typed on my phone, with thumbs, while viewing. I know that seems crazy, and my thumbs are crying. But it actually helped me pay attention.
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#VietnamWarPBS: Random Reflections on Episode 6

I was pleased with Episode 6, “Things Fall Apart.” Here are some random reflections and observations:

– A note: My mother-in-law, who is in her seventies and who lived through the 1960s as a college student and young mother, confessed that she is enjoying the series immensely. She said most of her attention was on the CRM in the late 1960s, so the series has been enlightening.
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