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Archive for February, 2010

Re-Examining The Cold War Arms Race

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Journalist David E. Hoffman’s new book The Dead Hand revisits the high stakes maneuvering that took place during the Cold War arms race and details the inner-workings of the Soviet nuclear program.

Hoffman had access to secret Kremlin documents while researching his book, which chronicles the Soviets’ internal deliberations, offers new insight into the roles of Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan, and describes the urgent search for nuclear and biological hazards left behind after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Hoffman, a Washington Post contributing editor, spent six years as the paper’s Moscow bureau chief. He is also the author of The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia.

Listen to his interview with Terry Gross (40 minutes)

Johnny Hodgman on the Depression

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Johnny Hodgman is, well, hard to describe. He is overzealously hilarious in an understated way. He is a self-proclaimed genius who knows everything about anything. All tongue-in-cheek. Anyhoo, here is his satire on the depression life and the films about it.

John Hodgman – Hobo Matters

American Experience: The Depression

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Here is a 60 minute documentary from our friends at PBS. It is part of the highly regarded American Experience Series. There are 6, 10 minute sections.

1 of 6 "After the Crash" Depression & Bonus March PBS American Experience 1990

Poisoning the Alcohol Supply

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Although mostly forgotten today, the “chemist’s war of Prohibition” remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was “our national experiment in extermination.” Poisonous alcohol still kills—16 people died just this month after drinking lethal booze in Indonesia, where bootleggers make their own brews to avoid steep taxes—but that’s due to unscrupulous businessmen rather than government order.

Read how the U.S. government poisoned untold thousands of its citizens in its “Noble Experiment”

How America Can Rise Again

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Is America going to hell? After a year of economic calamity that many fear has sent us into irreversible decline, the author finds reassurance in the peculiarly American cycle of crisis and renewal, and in the continuing strength of the forces that have made the country great: our university system, our receptiveness to immigration, our culture of innovation. In most significant ways, the U.S. remains the envy of the world. But here’s the alarming problem: our governing system is old and broken and dysfunctional. Fixing it—without resorting to a constitutional convention or a coup—is the key to securing the nation’s future.

Read James Fallows’ piece

19 Questions

U.S. News Report on top universities

Atoms of Self-Interest

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Type a one-page essay in support of (yes, I am only seeking pro-arguments so get into character if need be) the following prompt and post it in the comments section below. Feel free to perform some research–draw on Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, William F. Buckley, Herbert Spencer, Thoreau, Kierkegaard, et. al. Of course, you may quote such philosophers so long as you do so sparingly.

“Man owes nothing to society and man should ask nothing from society.”

31st anniversary of the Iranian revolution

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Jason Rezaian offering a dispatch from Tehran for Slate

Dispatches from Russia

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Slate correspondent Masha Green offers her reflections from traveling through the parts of Russia that we conveniently overlook.

The Breakup of China and Our Interest in It

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Conclusion from The Atlantic in 1899:

“Is it for the benefit of the United States to deal with China as a vast unit under her native flag, or as fragments under many flags? That is what we have to decide…It is to be hoped that our government is silently exercising the utmost vigilance in behalf of our commercial privileges on the continent of Asia. Failure to do so might not be politically disastrous to the present administration, but posterity will not forgive nor history condone faults of omission or indifference after such warning as have already been given. Surely, no American administration would seriously contemplate the establishment of a dependency or protectorate on the mainland of China, while our interests there may be safeguarded by international control and reciprocity; but it is difficult to see how these securities can be obtained without more definite engagements on the part of our State Department than our uninformed public opinion now demands. Nevertheless, the signs of a healthy and growing interest are numerous.”

The more things change…

Here is the entire piece

A Nation of Racist Dwarfs: Kim Jong-il’s regime is even weirder and more despicable than you thought

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Unlike previous racist dictatorships, the North Korean one has actually succeeded in producing a sort of new species. Starving and stunted dwarves, living in the dark, kept in perpetual ignorance and fear, brainwashed into the hatred of others, regimented and coerced and inculcated with a death cult: This horror show is in our future, and is so ghastly that our own darling leaders dare not face it and can only peep through their fingers at what is coming.

Hitchens reflects on a trip to North Korea in Slate