American Panorama

An outstanding series of historical data visualizations and maps over here:

American Panorama is an historical atlas of the United States for the twenty-first century. It combines cutting-edge research with innovative interactive mapping techniques, designed to appeal to anyone with an interest in American history or a love of maps.

map

An interpretation of the Surge

Juan Cole takes a nuanced, balanced approach to analyzing the effects of the troop surge in Iraq:

For the first six months of the troop escalation, high rates of violence continued unabated. That is suspicious. What exactly were US troops doing differently last September than they were doing in May, such that there was such a big change? The answer to that question is simply not clear. Note that the troop escalation only brought US force strength up to what it had been in late 2005. In a country of 27 million, 30,000 extra US troops are highly unlikely to have had a really major impact, when they had not before.

Too bad the majority of the electorate won’t. Also some good comments over there.

Vacationing in Kish

200px-dariushhotel1.jpgSo this guy started a small hotel empire in Iran, and now he wants to bring Disneyland there, too. Most of his biggest ventures are on the island of Kish (just off the southern coast of Iran). I had no idea this island was so much more liberal (a relative term, to be sure) than the rest of Iran – apparently no visas are needed to visit, and some of Iran’s strict social rules are more relaxed. There’s even a dolphin show with dance music:

Mr. Sabet’s 18 Ukrainian dolphins have become the island’s darlings. They perform with Persian dance music, even though dance music was declared un-Islamic, and illegal, after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It is produced only by Iranian expatriates in Los Angeles, and Kish is the only place in Iran where it is heard.200px-falling_waters_club.jpg

Islamic law, it seems, was powerless before the charms of the dolphins. “Even local authorities love them,” said an employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job. “The island’s cleric comes and visits them every week to make sure they are O.K. He keeps complaining that the music is not jolly enough and they might get depressed.”

I’m all for his attitude of bringing more of old Persia into Iran. I think there’s a big popular sentiment towards this movement, and hopefully there can be a gradual, peaceful, cultural revolution in Iran, rather than another violent, bloody one.

What Every American Should Know About the Middle East

Hey America, read this:

middle-east.jpgMost in the United States don’t know much about the Middle East or the people that live there. This lack of knowledge hurts our ability to understand world events and, consequently, our ability to hold intelligent opinions about those events.

For example, frighteningly few know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and most think the words “Arab” and “Muslim” are pretty much interchangeable. They aren’t. So here’s a very brief primer aimed at raising the level of knowledge about the region to an absolute minimum.

It’s a pretty decent run-down of the major high points, the basic stuff most of us should know – especially considering how involved our country is in the region, and how involved all of us should be in the political process. I don’t know about the “Roman Catholics are to Shia as Protestants are to Sunni” analogy, but otherwise, a quick primer that couldn’t hurt to be learned.

Obama’s Speech on the Economy

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It’s like a brief history of US economics, a nice refresher course for those of us who have forgotten a lot since college. I do like that he opened with a quote from Alexander Hamilton and speaks in-depth with apparent subject knowledge, rather than superficially with sound bites (though he does throw in a few one-liners for good measure – he’s a politician, not a professor, after all). I feel I may be warming up to this Obama fellow; still, rhetoric is one thing, and policy decisions are another.

The great task before our founders was putting into practice the ideal that government could simultaneously serve liberty and advance the common good. For Alexander Hamilton, the young secretary of the treasury, that task was bound to the vigor of the American economy. Hamilton had a strong belief in the power of the market, but he balanced that belief with a conviction that human enterprise, and I quote, “may be beneficially stimulated by prudent aids and encouragements on the part of the government.” Government, he believed, had an important role to play in advancing our common prosperity. So he nationalized the state Revolutionary War debts, weaving together the economies of the states and creating an American system of credit and capital markets.

You can watch the video of the speech here, or read the transcript here.

African American Lives 2

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I just watched part of this PBS program, and it’s fascinating. A description from the website:

journeys deep into ancestry of an all-new group of remarkable individuals, offering an in-depth look at the African-American experience and race relations throughout U.S. history. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. returns as series host, guiding genealogical investigations down through the 20th century, Reconstruction, slavery and early U.S. history, and presenting cutting-edge genetic analysis that locates participants’ ancestors in Africa, Europe and America. Joining Professor Gates in the new broadcast are poet Maya Angelou, author Bliss Broyard, actor Don Cheadle, actor Morgan Freeman, theologian Peter Gomes, publisher Linda Johnson Rice, athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, radio personality Tom Joyner, comedian Chris Rock, music legend Tina Turner, and college administrator Kathleen Henderson, who was selected from more than 2,000 applicants to have her family history researched and DNA tested alongside the series’ well-known guests.

Check out the site, there are a lot of really interesting videos and stories. Try to imagine what it would be like if you were part of an entire race of people who know almost nothing about their ancestors.

Drunk American History

On August 6th 2007, Mark Gagliardi drank a bottle of Scotch…

    And then discussed a famous historical event.

    It’s kinda how I remember it from high school, but with more Michael Cera: