Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Last Night's Debate: a comment (and a change in hiatus policy)

I want to go back to the roots of weblogging a bit. While I'm on hiatus here, I'm still reading and commenting at a number of other blogs. Some of those comments are -- if I may say so myself -- substantial, and I want to keep them in my own space. So I'll be, periodically, possibly even rarely, reproducing a comment I make elsewhere, with a link to the original post as a way of broadening the discussions and keeping track of my own writing.

In an open thread at Ozarque on the lastest Obama-Clinton debate, I wrote this:
I read the transcript (it's faster, for me, and body language doesn't do that much for me, most of the time), and -- aside from sharing the apparently common desire that we find people who are actually serious about politics and policy to serve as moderators -- I was unimpressed. I don't think either of them said anything suprising. I think the Clinton campaign is struggling for results, and the candidate reflects that with complaints about process, fairness, tactics. I think the Obama campaign is trying hard to find a comfortable zone in the uncomfortable gray area between taking a high road and effectively attacking, and some of that struggle was clearly on display.

My concern, at this point, is a strategic one: I want a Democrat to win in November. I'm actually uncommitted to either Clinton or Obama: neither one really has a resume or proposals that are decisively better (and proposals are rarely enacted as-is anyway; if there's one thing I haven't seen in politics in a long time it's realistic discussions of how platforms might become reality), and both are likely to lead moderate and effective administrations. Both camps need to realize that there's a possibility that they might lose, and both camps need to realize that there will be a merging of the campaigns into the general election, and both camps need to know, and act like they know, that one of them will have to stand up and support the other one (and I'm not even talking about the possibility of a VP deal!). Both of them make some noises like they understand this, but they also are maneuvering in ways which make this less likely to work out. Clinton, in particular, has been disturbing me with her much more of a scorched-earth style.

You can comment here, or join the discussion over there. (Ozarque has a large and very smart commentariat: I recommend going over there, frankly. My commenters are brilliant, of course, but few....)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #1: V. H. Gailbraith

One book I've been using in my senior Historiography course is John Tosh, ed., Historians on History, a reader on major trends and debates. I'm going to continue my quotations series with some material from that. Some of the posts will be from a single chapter; others will collect quotations from multiple chapters. As before, I'll highlight lines I really like.


"History is, or ought to be, the least authoritarian of the sciences (if that is the right word). Its essential value lies in the shock and excitement aroused by the impact of the very ways and thought of the past upon the mind, and it is for this reason that actual original documents - themselves a physical survival of that past - exercise such fascination upon those who have caught something of its secret." -- V.H. Galbraith, An Introduction to the Study of History (1964), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 20.

"The lectures and the textbooks are a necessary preliminary, a grammar of the subject; but the purpose of all this grammar is to lead the student himself to the sources, from the study of which whatever power our writing and talking has is derived. Where this object is not achieved, we have failed." -- V.H. Galbraith, An Introduction to the Study of History (1964), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 20.

"To live in any period of the past is to be so overwhelmed with the sense of difference as to confess oneself unable to conceive how the present has become what it is: it is, above all, to regard the study of the original sources not as a preliminary drudgery to the making of 'history' but as its most significant function. Such an attitude, it must be allowed, is not likely to produce a Gibbon even a Macaulay. But if it makes the writing of history far more difficult, it informs the teaching of history with a new life and reality." -- V.H. Galbraith, An Introduction to the Study of History (1964), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 24.

"At present our governors, though well meaning, are still museum-bound and millionaire-minded. At best they are collectors who can be induced to buy, but only to buy exhibition pieces, whose value is a scarcity value. The purchase of old pictures, medieval psalters, original signatures, first editions, and the maintenance of derelict castles and abbeys are a sign of goodwill. But this sub-literate interest in the past, excellent in itself, should be the beginning rather than the end of governmental generosity. ... Not less important than the immediate physical preservation of the original sources of history is the task of putting them into print." -- V.H. Galbraith, An Introduction to the Study of History (1964), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 25.