Friday, March 07, 2008

Clinton's Shut Record Access Down

USA Today reports that "Archivists block release of Clinton papers":
Federal archivists at the Clinton Presidential Library are blocking the release of hundreds of pages of White House papers on pardons that the former president approved, including clemency for fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich.

That archivists' decision, based on guidance provided by Bill Clinton that restricts the disclosure of advice he received from aides, prevents public scrutiny of documents that would shed light on how he decided which pardons to approve from among hundreds of requests.

Clinton's legal agent declined the option of reviewing and releasing the documents that were withheld, said the archivists, who work for the federal government, not the Clintons.

The Clinton team is spinning it as being the decision of the archivists, and USA Today is pretty much following that line. But there is this:

In 2002, Clinton sent a guidance letter to his library that urged quick release of most White House records, but retained the confidentiality prerogative covering advice from his staff. Still, he said the restriction should be interpreted "narrowly" and allowed that certain records detailing internal communications could be made public if reviewed and approved for release by his designated legal agent.

Emily Robison, the library's deputy director, said Clinton's agent, former deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey, chose not to review the withheld documents.

Lindsey "was given the opportunity to look at what we withheld under the (president's) guidelines, and he chose not to.... Only Mr. Lindsey and the president have the authority to open those," she said.

The William J. Clinton Foundation, which Lindsey helps oversee, said in a written statement that the National Archives is responsible for deciding which records are withheld under the Presidential Records Act. Archivists were exclusively responsible for "determinations with respect to these materials," the statement said.

Basically, the archivists are being characteristically conservative about their interpretation of what should be made accessible and deferring to the process of allowing the Clinton team to review and OK the release. But the Clinton's are taking advantage by essentially "pocket vetoing" the release by refusing to review them while trying to put the onus (blame?) back on the National Archives (and George Bush). I'll be interested to see how the AHA and NCH address this latest development.

UPDATE: The NCH has an even-handed story, though a bit broader in scope, and it also mentions the USA Today story referenced above. Kudos.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

History Carnival 62

Welcome to the 62nd History Carnival. It only seems like yesterday that I hosted History Carnival #10 (the Aluminum and Tin anniversary) back in 2005. It was easier when there weren't so many of us! Anyway, since I've just missed the Diamond anniversary (#60), no "ice" will be handed out by way of celebration. Instead, I'll offer my gratitude that we're all just happy we're still together after all these iterations.

OK, I've blabbed enough: I'm an engineer by trade, so allow me to dispense with the ruffles and flourishes and exhibit the utilitarianism commensurate with my avocation. (Who am I kidding? I've already over-engineered this intro all to hell).

To the task at hand....

History and Theory and other Building Blocks

We begin with a cautionary note: Nathanael Robinson (with an assist from Jonathan Dresner) reminds us that blogs are sources too. So when you get something from them, please be kind and acknowledge. That goes for all of you blog-newbies / jurassic history profs out there. We're watching.

In Presentism in the Service of Diversity? Chris Green discusses the notion of "medieval Islamic psychology." Ah yes, Al-Sigmunda Freud and Carl bin Jung....

Are we still working in Gibbon's shadow? Manan Ahmed takes on the historiography of the Imperial Decline Scenario.

Thomas Carlyle introduces his Western Intellectual History Lecture Series podcasts, Mercurius Politicus wants us to read about the history and historiography of the book and Jeremy Burman examines the difference between good scholarship in the history of science and the best historical science writing.

fran├žais) Sarkozy's proposal that each 10 year old in France should memorize the biography of one French child deported during the Holocaust is clouding pedagogy with emotion. Ce n'est pas bon.

Phil Paine thinks historians haven't cast their theoretical nets far enough and have missed the role that fishing has played in history. The hook is baited and floating in the water, you gonna bite?

War

David Gross takes a look at war tax resistance during World War I, where resisters risked vigilante mob violence in trying to resist what was, nominally, a volunteer fund-raising drive.

Martin Waligorski explains that the Bentley Priory mansion which housed Fighter Command HQ during the Battle of Britain--including Dowding's own cabinet--may soon be lost to future generations.

Andy Young looks at Khalkhin-Gol: The forgotten battle that shaped WW2.

History and Memory

Norman Geras explains that "there must be different modes, different episodes and details, of remembrance" when remembering Hitler and the Holocaust and other historical tragedies.

Terry Teachout (h/t D.B. Light) hopes Hiroaki Kuromiya's "straightforward" telling of Stalin's Great Terror--The Voices of the Dead: Stalin’s Great Terror in the 1930s--proves to be the rule rather than the exception. Moving along the timeline, Dmitri Minaev discusses the people whose lives were affected by the 1947 USSR decree "On prohibition of marriages between citizens of the USSR and foreigners".

Charles Crawford asks, "Nazism or Communism? Which was 'worse'? And why?"

Agnieszka Szmidel at Historia i Media uses Youtube to present documentaries, comics and short films about how the troubled history of Argentina and Chile affected regular people.

Dave Tabler mines the sources and discovers the worst industrial tragedy in West Virginia history.

Black History Month

Over at Sandusky History, George J. Reynolds, Carriage Maker and Underground Railroad Conductor is discussed. Meanwhile, J. L. Bell looks at how Oscar Marion has been remembered.

Tim Abbott looks at slave-owners in his own family tree in The Tally Sheet of Shame, part of a series of posts about race and memory in America.

Prompted by an email from Melissa Spore, Ralph Luker looks into whether Harriet Tubman really said, "I could have saved thousands-if only I'd been able to convince them they were slaves." If she didn't, well, who did?

Ancient and Medieval

Archaeozoo looks at Red Deer in Early Medieval Ireland. Mmmmm, venison.

Steve Muhlberger is Laughing Along with Cornelius Tacitus. Is a Comedy Central special imminent?

HairySwede discovers that recent archaeological evidence indicates that there were some big-breasted and Sexy Historical Swedes.

Carla Nayland prompts a discussion over whether or not the Picts may have been a matrilineal society.

Mark A. Rayner presents The Lost PowerPoint Slides (Caligula Edition), minus the slides.

Globalization is nothing new as JK's review of The Spicy History of Malabar shows.

Channeling James Burke, Martin Rundkvist explains the connections between amber beads in Jutland, CT scans and The Beatles.

Jonathan Jarrett presents a medieval Irish skeleton in a (possibly) compromising position. Hey, I like mutton as much as the next guy, but....

When good listervs (remember them?) go bad: Michael Drout is frustrated that his favorite Anglo-Saxon listserv has been taken over by people who hold "crackpot theories about the secret messages hidden in Beowulf and other poems through various means involving either scribal practice or numerology." Hey, maybe Grendel was really the original founder of the Illuminati? Is he a Merovingian (ed ~ Um, then they'd have been the Grendelingians....)

Pretty Pictures and the Like

Laurie Bluedorn gives us prose and pictures discussing the artistry of Edwin Landseer. That dog will hunt.

It is in the eye of the beholder, but you've got to at least open your eyes. Neatorama examines The Evolution of Tech Companies' Logos, so you can see for yourself how Nokia lost the fish and the Mozilla Phoenix got Foxy. Meanwhile, GrrlScientist presents a brief history of NY City subway platform tile mosaic artworks.

Nat Taylor looks at a sketch reminiscent of WWII era aircraft nose art and wonders if "The Scrubbed Goose" ever flew. (Avert thy eyes if you're wary of breastesses.)

The Cranky Professor thinks he's found the world's ugliest pulpit. Yech. He just may be right.

Victorian-ish

Over at The Victorian Peeper, Kristan Tetens takes a look at Britain's earliest surviving purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, Surrey, which was built in 1889 by a Hungarian-born linguist. Oh, he was Jewish, too.

Does the Society of Creative Anachronism take time out for tea? Tea Party Girl explains that Jane Austen Lived Before the Inventor of the Tea Party.

Dangerous liaisons? Elizabeth Kerri Mahon remembers Evelyn Nesbit and the Murder of the Century while Romeo Vitelli investigates Constance Kent, who could have been a victim, a murderer or even Jack the Ripper.

Melissa Bellanta explains that the contemporary notion that ol' time magicians (like those in the recent movie The Prestige) put the dark back into the ritz and patter runs counter to the evidence that they were really trying to demystify and modernize the "dark arts."

Culture and Society

Tim Lacy says you can learn all you need to know about 19th century sailing by either reading Patrick O'Brian's twenty-book Aubrey/Maturin series or Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s Two Years Before the Mast, but the former is more fun.

Silveral delves into The History of Celebrity and finds that being "larger than life" is a common thread. And who's bigger than St. Valentine? Well, Mary Beard wonders if St. Valentine actually existed, while Jeff Sypeck says he did, which is why we celebrate both his holiday and "Valentimes...a parallel holiday observed by supermodels and the illiterate."

History and Politics

While historians often find studying the past to be intrinsically worthwhile, we also like to use it to try to explain just what the hell is going on now. Thus do history and politics meet (OK, maybe I'm being a bit too obvious with the self-referential plug...how's this...) Here's what's been going on over the last month at the intersection of history and politics (that better?).

Over at Progressive Historian, contributor "midtowng" believes that the S&L Crisis is repeating today and compares it to the S&L crisis of the 1980's .

Jon Swift exclaims Castro Resigns! Sanctions Work!

"It has now been forty years since May '68, and yet we still haven't gotten over it." Greg Afinogenov looks at why.

Jonah Goldberg has certainly generated a conversation with his latest book, Liberal Fascism. Now he explains (and revises) why Obama appears to some as the messiah of a new political religion, for good or ill.

Wretchard uses a Goldberg interview as a jumping off point to explain that liberal fascism and Islamic fundamentalism share common ground with Rousseau's philosophy in that they seek to create heaven on earth. Locke also gets a mention. As Linda Richman would say, "Discuss." And try not to get verklempt.

But back to Obamamania. (Schadenfreude alert!) Sean Wilentz has made a career out of using his curriculum vitae to lend credence to his preferred politics and is no stranger to stirring the pot. Now, Wilentz is being applauded by some (like Taylor Marsh) for his "Race Man" piece, which took on some of the campaign tactics of Barack Obama. But Wilentz may not have been prepared for the reaction he got from some of his heretofore ideological fellow travelers (and others) for taking on the Golden Child of the historo-blogosphere. KC Johnson, Kevin Murphy, Oliver Willis and DnA at Too Sense are just some of those who dragged Wilentz to the woodshed. The beatings continue.

Michael Meckler compares the upbringing of Barack Obama to that of Alexander Hamilton.

Congrats to history blogger / muckraker Josh Marshall, whose Talking Points Memo won the Polk Award for investigative journalism for looking into the Bush Administration's attorney firings last year.

Finally, American conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr. passed away and Michelle Malkin, Daniel Larison, Tim Noah and Rick Perlstein are just a few of those--both pundits and the public--who offered thoughts on his impact on American politics and history.

OK, that's a wrap. Hope I kept it interesting. Thanks to all for your contributions and to Sharon for keeping this thing alive. I excluded no submissions that made it to my "Inbox" (except for the spam--I didn't know that a History Carnival was fertile ground for so many investment strategies!). If you didn't get mentioned, well, submit something next time. Or, if you've got a hankering, host one yourself. It's fun!