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Archive for November, 2013

Conspiracy theories about JFK’s assassination don’t stand up to scrutin

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

50 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 59 percent of Americans still believe it was the work of a conspiracy. I was once among them…

Then, one day, I looked up the footnotes in those books, most of them leading me to the multivolume hearings of the Warren Commission. I was shocked. The authors had taken witnesses’ statements out of context, distorted them beyond recognition, and in some cases cherry-picked passages that seemed to back their theories while ignoring testimony that didn’t. It was my first brush with intellectual dishonesty.

But it’s worth recounting the conspiracy buffs’ arguments that I found most persuasive—and why they collapse under scrutiny.


Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

In the spring of 1962, President John F. Kennedy launched a bold effort to provide health care for the aged—later to be known as Medicare. It culminated in a nationally televised presidential address from Madison Square Garden, carried on the three television networks. It was a flop. The legislation foundered amid charges that it was an attempt to socialize medicine and a threat to individual liberty—the same charges President Obama encountered over the Affordable Care Act five decades later.


America’s angriest white men: Up close with racism, rage and Southern supremacy

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Up close with small-town white rage, with bitter, scary men who feel left behind by economic and cultural change.

“These are the sons of small-town America, the Jeffersonian yeoman of the nineteenth century, disfigured by global restructuring and economic downturns. They come from the “large and growing number of US citizens disaffected from and alienated by a government that seems indifferent, if not hostile, to their interests. This predominantly white, male, and middle-and working-class sector has been buffeted by global economic restructuring with its attendant job losses, declining real wages, and social dislocations. While under economic stress, this sector has also seen its traditional privileges and status challenged by 1960s-style social movements, such as feminism, minority rights, and environmentalism.”

The sons of these farmers and shopkeepers expected to—and felt entitled to—inherit their fathers’ legacy. And when it became evident it was not going to happen, they became murderously angry—at a system that emasculated their fathers and threatens their manhood. They live in what they call a “Walmart economy” and are governed by a “nanny state” that doles out their birthright to ungrateful and undeserving immigrants. What they want, says one guy, is to “take back what is rightfully ours.”

Gabfest Discussion of JFK Legacy

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz discuss why the Kennedys still loom so large in the American imagination, what would have happened if JFK had lived, and whether JFK’s Washington was more or less desirable than today’s.

A contentious and clever discussion on the 50th of the JFK assassination.

Student-Generated Klausuren, Fall 2013

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

I cleaned these up a bit (some more than others). All are legitimate klausuren and worthy of your consideration. You can and should use these to practice:

  • writing introductions and conclusions
  • thesis statements
  • outlines
  • topic and transition sentences
  • document analysis using APPARTS
  • pacing and timing (90 minutes flies)

To what extent is the Constitution a Democratic document?

To what extent does the Constitution provide a federal balance?

To what extent is power equally distributed among the three branches of government?

Thomas Jefferson: A complex Renaissance Man or a self-justifying hypocrite?

Was the American System good for America?

Was Civil War inevitable after the Crisis in Kansas?

Too much compromise? (compromise as a source of instability and sectionalism)

To what extent was slavery the primary cause of the Civil War?

Chinese Communism and the 70-Year Itch

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Chinese Communism and the 70-Year Itch from the Atlantic