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TR to Wilson

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The Atlantic Sesquicentennial.

“In The Atlantic’s very first issue, in 1857, the magazine’s founders — an illustrious group that included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell — declared that they would dedicate their new publication to monitoring the development, and advancing the cause, of what they called ‘the American idea.’ And for the last century and a half, the magazine has been preoccupied with the fundamental subjects of the American experience: war and peace, science and religion, the conundrum of race, the role of women, the plight of the cities, the struggle to preserve the environment, the strengths and failings of our politics, and especially, America’s proper place in the world.” To commemorate the magazine’s 150th anniversary, The Atlantic Monthly publishes The American Idea, an anthology of articles which includes republished writings by TR, W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, John Muir, Helen Keller, and Vannevar Bush. (Alas, only ten of the included articles are online.)

Better Dead than Red.

“As political scientist Jacob Hacker has argued, the basic obstacle was nothing less than the government’s failure to have adopted a comprehensive health insurance plan decades earlier. As a result, the system that emerged by 1994 entailed such a crazy quilt of private interests — corporations, small firms, insurers, doctors, unions, HMOs, and so on — that moving all Americans into a new framework without worsening anyone’s situation had become virtually impossible.Slate and Rutger University’s David Greenberg summarizes the history of health care reform, and of the epithet “socialized medicine.” “[T]he idea of government-run health care dates to the Progressive Era. Originally called ‘compulsory health insurance,’ it enjoyed favor in the 1910s among many quarters, including the American Medical Association…But as the debate heated up, doctors began to worry that it would hurt their incomes, and they banded with business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers to oppose reform. American entry into World War I tabled consideration of the issue, and the postwar Red Scare, Starr notes, ‘buried it in an avalanche of anticommunist rhetoric.’

Echoes of Aguinaldo?

“It was a war that the United States had not planned, and did not expect, to fight. It was a war in which the superiority of American civilization was supposed to bring grace to a foreign people. It was a war that the United States seemed to win quickly and with ease, but that somehow did not end.” Over at Slate, historian David Silbey ponders what the Phillippine War of 1899-1902 tells us about Iraq. Silbey’s emphasis on political counterinsurgency seems sound, but, given that the Philippines wasn’t on the verge of a sectarian civil war at the time, I’m not sure his strategy for victory plays out in Baghdad, particularly at this late date.

The Postman Always Reads Twice.

“‘The administration is playing games about warrants,’ Martin said. ‘If they are not claiming new powers, then why did they need to issue a signing statement?‘” New year, more of the same. Channeling Albert Sidney Burleson, Dubya creates consternation among civil liberties advocates with another recent signing statement reinvoking the right to read anyone’s mail. Let me know if y’all figure out what the best student loan consolidation plan is.

American Idyll.

By way of Ed Rants, and along with several quality links about early American popular music, Folded Space posts twenty mp3s (in the public domain) of Progressive Era musical hits, including “Come Josephine in my Flying Machine,” “That Haunting Melody,” “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” and “Over There.”

Creators, Kingfish, and consiglieres.

Some quality historicizing in today’s Washington Post Book World: Michael Kazin reviews Richard White’s new Huey Long biography, H.W. Brand’s looks at Godfrey Hodgson’s new bio of Edward House (right-hand-man to Woodrow Wilson), and novelist David Liss briefly surveys recent works on the Founders.

Swearingen to Progressivism in Two.

Seth Bullock

Deadwood, S.D.
August 25, 1920 [Almost a year after Bullock’s death]

Dear Sir:

After careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that it is my duty as a believer in the progressive principles it was my privilege to fight for under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, as well as my duty as a citizen, to support the democratic national ticket in this campaign. I have prepared a statement giving some of my reasons for reaching this decision, a copy of which statement I enclose. If you are sufficiently interested to read this and write me, how you, personally, react in the present situation I will be obliged to you.

Sincerely yours,
Harold Ickes

Ah, the archives are great fun.

Quake II.

“‘In 1906, San Francisco was the largest city west of the Rockies. We had 400,000 people in the city,’ Eisner said. ‘Today we have 7 million in the Bay Area. And the consequences of a disaster of this magnitude in an urban area are significant.’” On the eve of tomorrow’s centennial of the great San Francisco earthquake, a new study suggests another Big One would mean a Katrina-level disaster for the Bay Area. “Seismologists generally agree that a repeat of a 1906-size earthquake is inevitable, though when and where along the fault are unknown. In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey reported a 62 percent chance of a magnitude-6.7 earthquake or greater hitting the Bay Area within 30 years.” And, in a related story, historians look for lessons for post-Katrina New Orleans amid the rubble of 1906.

Foer the Republic.

Congrats to DC friend Franklin Foer, who was recently named to replace Peter Beinart at TNR. My advice to him would be much the same as Jack Shafer’s: “The New Republic needs revival, but Foer can’t hope to revive it by pleasing [owner Marty] Peretz.” With a long and illustrious history ranging back to Herbert Croly and Walters Lippmann and Weyl, TNR should be a flagship of progressivism, and so much more than just the “Joe Lieberman Weekly.” Godspeed, Frank.

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