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Posts Tagged ‘state’

Office for the Cultivation of "Beautiful Flowers from the Same Garden: A Reflection on the State Department’s Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives

Cara Burnidge

Today’s post is a revised crosspost that was originally posted to Cara’s blog earlier this month.

This month two important professional events occurred: first, I graduated (thanks to everyone who flew/drove to Tallahassee to help celebrate) and second, the State Department announced a new office devoted to “faith-based organizations and religious institutions.” According to the Department, the creation of this office was motivated in part by religious persecution around the world, the presence of violence (curiously disassociated with “religion”–a telling rhetorical move noted below), and the desire to spread religious freedom and expand interfaith dialogue.

As Secretary of State John Kerry explained in his remarks earlier this month, the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives stems from a working group on religion and foreign policy. Dr. Shaun Casey, Professor of Christian Ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary and leader of the working group will head the new office. Secretary Kerry has remarked that Casey is “perfect” for the job and Michael Kessler, Associate Director of the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs told the Washington Post that Casey “brings a lot of gravitas to the position” because he “has an extensive religious network that he will be able to leverage.” [I hope "leverage" rings in your ears for a moment.] While this may seem as a surprise to some, the creation of this office is a predictable step by the State Department, which has been openly rethinking religion and its place in international affairs for some time now. [Yes, I'm being vague about the timeline on purpose.]

As one can imagine, religion scholars are weighing in, especially after Secretary Kerry admitted that if he could go to college again he would major in comparative religions. Before we put a “W” in the Humanities column, someone should inform Kerry that the academic study of religions is not akin to Gandhi’s assessment of the world’s religions being “beautiful flowers from the same garden” or Reza Aslan’s view that all religions are “saying the exact same things, often in exactly the same way” because they draw from the same source. Michael Altman gave it a try, disabusing his readers of this notion by noting that three major assertions of his religion class reveal the shortcomings of this office and the troubling aspects of its creation. What Altman’s students will soon learn, The Immanent Frame has provided to the general public in an engaging roundtable discussion with 17 scholars offering their own insights to the creation of this office. Elizabeth Shakman Hurd challenges the assumption that the US government can “take religion seriously” at all due to its own history and the theoretical assumptions made in the formation of the office alone. Helge Arsheim, Pasquale Annicchino, and Maia Hallward, among others, point to the problematic nature of the State Department establishing an office dedicated to advancing religious freedom; Winnifred Sullivan, however, persuasively argues that the creation of this office is not in violation of any legal precedence. And, Melani McAlister rightly notes that the policy advanced mirrors a particular–and not universal–understanding of religion in the public sphere. …which leads some, including Austin Dacy at Religion Dispatches, to ask “Why is the State Department Opening an Office of ‘Religious Engagement’”?

While others are discussing the new and different aspects of this office–as well as its uncritical approach to “religion” [all worthy topics in need of discussion]–I find myself reflecting on the century-long continuities within the federal government’s approach to religion and foreign policy. I’ve started a brief list below, but feel free to add to or challenge the list in the comments. [Quotes can be found in the transcript of Kerry's Remarks linked above] 

1. “Religion” as primarily an institutional affiliation: While the emphasis on “communities” implies more “on the ground” engagement, it seems likely that the State Department will work with “traditional” brick-and-mortar institutions and, primarily, Abrahamic traditions. More importantly, the State Department will likely see only what it is looking for. Rather than stay attuned to the ways in which the naming and claiming of “religion” creates and sustains power dynamics among [imagined] communities and nations, the State Department, it seems, will marshal resources to specific faith-communities/affiliations.

“I want you to go out and engage religious leaders and faith-based communities in our day-to-day work. Build strong relationships with them and listen to their insights and understand the important contributions that they can make individually and that we can make together. You will have the support of this Department in doing so, and you will have great leadership in my friend, Dr. Shaun Casey, who is going to lead the change to integrate our engagement with faith communities with our diplomacy and with our development work.”

 2. Religion as [exclusively] synonymous with “morality” or “virtue”: The operating assumption of this office and the State Department generally is that all religions are “good” and exist to promote the “common good” [what that is we somehow intuitively know as a result of human nature].

“All of these faiths are virtuous and they are in fact, most of them, tied together by the golden rule, as well as fundamental concerns about the human condition, about poverty, about relationships between people, our responsibilities each to each other. And they all come from the same human heart.”

3. This assumption about the virtuousness of all faiths contributes to the trend of the State Department identifying “true” religion or “real” religion (i.e. “good” religions”) from “bad” religions or “false” religions, and therefore participating in the active classification of theological truth. Note, for example, the way in which Kerry dismisses the possibility of violence performed in the name of religion (its own kind of rhetorical and authoritative maneuver), in this case with Islam:

“our religious leaders who work to heal, we learn a great deal, which stands in stark contrast to violent extremists who seek to destroy and never talk about building a school or a community, or providing health care or succor to anybody” ["violent extremists" are not and cannot be themselves "religious" leaders, because some form of legitimacy would be gained]

 ”And I have talked at length with people like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, or even King Abdullah, Prince Ghazi of Jordan, and others who are engaged in interfaith efforts, all of whom recognize that their religion, Islam, has to a large measure been hijacked by people who have no real depth with respect to what the faith in fact preaches, but who interpret it in ways that lead people to conflict and even to violence.” [Note how faith can be "hijacked" and when that hijacking occurs it is based on an "interpretation" and not "facts."]

4. Identification of America as religiously plural yet primarily evangelical and, somehow has a result, distinct from “the Muslim World.”

“I had the privilege of giving an address at Yale University an number of years ago to a gathering of evangelicals from around America and imams, muftis, ayatollahs, clerics from the Muslim world–an improbably gathering you might think at first blush. And for three days people worked and struggled with the effort to find the common ground.” [Note also the notion that there is such a thing as "common ground" and it exists in the singular "the common ground."] 

5. Religion as based on a particular Protestant normativity (white, elite, and liberal in its theology) that bases its Christianity on an ethic of service for the greater good, presumes this ethic to be universal, and considers all other beliefs/identifications as not truly religious if it/they disagrees with this ethic or its theological basis.

“what we are doing is guided by the conviction that we have to find ways to translate our faith into efforts that unify for the greater good. That can be done without crossing any lines whatsoever. One of my favorite passages from the Scripture sums up what Shaun and I think this effort is really all about. It’s a familiar Gospel of Mark in which Jesus says to his disciples, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many.”

“I’m convinced that all of you will agree that one of the toughest challenges that we face in terms of global diplomacy and relationships around the world between peoples nowadays, from sectarian strife to the challenges of many intractable, frozen conflicts, to the challenges of simply understanding people–one people to another–or even monumental challenges like the sectarian strife that we see tearing countries and regions apart, as well as the enormous challenges of things like global climate change, which really is a challenge to our responsibilities as the guardians–safe guarders of God’s creation.

It is that final fragment (emphasis added) that reflects the role of religion in US foreign policy in the long twentieth century. As astute consumers of information, we all see the connections to 9-11 and the US government’s heightened awareness of Al-Queda and sectarian violence [particularly in the ways in which this office seems to separate religion from those iterations of it]; but the operating assumption of the US as a guardian of “God’s creation” has a longer history, one that I see as clearly connected to President Wilson, the internationalism he espoused, and internationalism that bears his legacy. For example, when he sought to pledge the nation’s resources to illustrate how America was the “champion of mankind,” he did so on the basis of America’s ability to influence other nations, to mold global perceptions in the image of America.

“America may make peaceful conquest of the world. And I say that will all the greater confidence, gentlemen, because, I believe, and hope that the belief does not spring merely from the hope, that, when the present great conflict in Europe is over, the world is going to wear a different aspect. …I believe that the spirit which as hitherto reigned in the hearts of Americans, and in like people everywhere in the world, will assert itself once for all in international affairs, and that, if America preserves her poise, preserves her self-possession, preserves her attitude of friendliness towards all the world, she may have the privilege, whether in one form or another, of being the mediating influence by which these things may be induced.

I am not now speaking of governmental mediation. I have not that in mind at all. I mean spiritual mediation. I mean the recognition of the world that here is a country that has always wanted things done that way, and whose merchants, when they carry their goods, will carry their ideas along with them, and that this spirit of give and take, this spirit of success only by having better goods and better brains and better training will, through their influence, spread the more rapidly to the ends of the world.” [1]

 The ways in which Wilson attempted to shape international opinion based on his own particular (and, at times peculiar) religious views were evident in the challenges he received from all sides, despite his claims to pursing “universal brotherhood.” It was also an endeavor in shaping the way in which Americans conceived of their own role in the world. Likewise, and as Melani McAlister astutely pointed out in her most recent Religion Dispatches post, the State Department will reveal more and more its own particular and peculiar understanding of religion and the United States as it begins to articulate its purpose with this office and, then, act on it “throwing US power and money behind some groups and not others” nearly 100 years after Wilson.

[1] Luncheon Address to the Chamber of Commerce of Columbus Ohio, 10 Dec 1915, Papers of Woodrow Wilson (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980), 35:327.

West Virginia Becomes a State

In 1863, West Virginia became 35th state admitted to the Union when it broke away from Confederate Virginia during the Civil War. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, the western portion was against the action. On October 24, 1861, what would later become West Virginia was formed. The US government accepted West Virginia as a state two years later.  Interestingly, West Virginia was initially going to be called Kanawha after the Kanawha River.

Rosenberg’s diary found in New York state 67 years after Nuremberg Trials

The diary of high-ranking Nazi Party ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, missing since it was used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials, has been found in western New York. The 400 loose-leaf pages were written from 1936 through 1944. During the pre-war years he was, among other things, the head of the Nazi party’s foreign affairs department and during the war years he was in charge of looting cultural property all over Europe and, after the invasion of the Soviet Union, he served as Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories.

Rosenberg was one of the first members of the Nazi Party, beating even Adolph Hitler who joined nine months after him in October 1919. After the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Hitler, in prison for treason, appointed Rosenberg temporary leader of the party during his absence. He was editor of the Nazi paper Völkischer Beobachter and a profound anti-Semite and Aryan supremacist who expounded his racist and pagan philosophy in his best-selling but rarely read 1930 book, The Myth of the Twentieth Century. He was influential in the development of key Nazi ideas like Lebensraum (“living room,” or Germany’s need to stretch its legs all over Europe using the local population as a footstool) and the persecution and mass-murder of European Jews. As Reich Minister, he was directly involved in deportation of civilians in his territories to forced labor camps and in the deportation of Jews to death camps.

The papers were seized by Allied troops in August of 1945 and relayed to the U.S. Army’s Records Subsection of the Documents Unit of the War Crimes Branch. Rosenberg was also captured after the war and was tried for conspiracy to commit aggressive warfare, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was convicted of all four charges and was hanged on October 16th, 1946. When asked if he had any last words, Rosenberg was reportedly the only executed Nazi war criminal to decline, replying simply “No.”

Some time after the trial, the diary disappeared. Authorities believe it was taken by Dr. Robert Kempner, the deputy chief counsel at the Nuremberg Trials and chief prosecutor of the Ministries Trial, the 11th of the 12 Nuremberg trials. As chief prosecutor, he had access to all Nazi documents even though he wasn’t personally involved in the prosecution of Rosenberg. Kempner was a German lawyer who fled to the United States during the war. When the trials were over, he returned to the US and lived in Pennsylvania. He was given permission by the Office of the Chief of Counsel of War Crimes to keep some of the unclassified documents for his personal study and without oversight he helped himself to a great many papers, including apparently the Rosenberg diary.

Kempner died in 1993 and in 1997, his heirs told the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum they wanted to donate his papers. Museum staff documented the collection at that time and the diary was not there. After a two-year dispute with the estate, museum experts returned to document the collection again and found things missing. Papers continued to disappear and reappear for the next few years, but the diary was not among them.

The museum kept looking, though, and in November of 2012, an art security specialist working with the museum contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents with new information about the Rosenberg Diary. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s and HSI worked together on the case, ultimately serving a search warrant in April of this year and seizing the long-lost documents.

The authorities are not releasing any names or exact locations, but the scuttlebutt is that the diary wound up with Kempner’s former secretary after his death. She lived in western New York.

“Thanks to the tireless investigative work of HSI special agents, and years of perseverance by both the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the long-lost Rosenberg Diary has been recovered, not in Germany but in the United States,” said Director Morton. “This important record of the crimes of the Third Reich and the Holocaust is now preserved for all to see, study and learn from. The work of combating the international theft of cultural heritage is a key part of our work, and no matter how long these items may appear to be lost to history, that hard but important work will continue.”

“This seizure is the result of the joint efforts of this office and Homeland Security Investigations,” said U.S. Attorney Oberly. “The discovery and return of this long-lost, important historical document to the government of the United States is a significant achievement. Although it is a reminder of a dark time, the Rosenberg Diary is important to our understanding of history. Our hope is that it will provide valuable insight to historians.”

“The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is thrilled to have recovered the diary of Alfred Rosenberg, a leading Nazi ideologue,” said U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “As we build the collection of record on the Holocaust, having material that documents the actions of both perpetrators and victims is crucial to helping scholars understand how and why the Holocaust happened. The story of this diary demonstrates how much material remains to be collected and why rescuing this evidence is such an important museum priority.”


Kansas the Troubled State

On January 29, 1861, Kansas became the 34th state to enter the union. Kansas began its path to being part of the United States of America with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Thomas Jefferson violated his own beliefs around federal power because the deal with France was too good of an opportunity to pass up. In one sweeping act, Jefferson doubled the size of the United States. ‘Bleeding Kansas‘ was a troubled territory during the Civil War period and gained entry to the union as a free state amidst a great deal of turmoil.

The State of Swiss Archaeology: Decline Coming?

Swiss Info has published an interesting article on the present and future of archaeology in Switzerland. It’s not a ‘sky is falling’ piece, as it outlines why – as they say as the start – Swiss archaeology had been “a shining example to other countries”, thanks in no small part to a good amount of funding. However, it also explains the problems with regional variations in how digs are conducted, and sounds a warning note at the end: Swiss archaeologists are worried that new building legislation, coupled with funding cuts, will push a system that is already stretched to breaking point. To get through this, there is a solution, as Marc-Antoine Kaeser, a museum director, explains: “to defend their profession, archaeologists also need to become lobbyists.”

Montana Chippewa Cree agree to use state security interests filing system

News From Indian Country, April 2012, at 2, reports that the Chippewa Cree Tribe located in Montana has signed a banking agreement with the state that should help spur economic development on the reservation. The Tribe will use the state Uniform Commerical Code filing system which will help lenders to record and give better notice of security interests they hold over assets located on the reservation.  This should improve tribal and individual Indian access to loans.

Shinnecock Indian Nation, New York state, and town of Southampton lawsuit headed back to state court

A divided federal court of appeals yesterday vacated a trial court ruling that barred a Long Island-based American Indian tribe from building a casino in Southampton, New York.

In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the dispute between the Shinnecock Indian Nation and New York and the Town of Southampton belonged in state court and not in federal court.
The appeals court vacated an earlier Brooklyn federal district court judge's permanent injunction in 2008 that froze the casino project.
The Shinnecock Indian Nation was federally recognized in 2010. But in 2003, the tribe had begun constructing a 61,000-square-foot casino on a plot of land in Southampton known as Westwoods.
New York State sued in Suffolk County Supreme Court to stop the project, arguing the casino violated state and local laws and claiming that the land was not recognized "Indian lands."
The Shinnecock removed the case to federal court. In 2008, a federal trial judge found that the Nation was not entitled to immunity from the suit and that its title to the Westwoods land had been forfeited hundreds of years ago.
In Monday's ruling, the Second Circuit said the case should have remained in state court.

Read more: http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2012/06_-_June/NYS,_Southampton_must_fight_Native_American_casino_in_state_court/

Big Ideas in a Small State: Roger Williams and the 375th Anniversary of the Founding of Providence, Rhode Island

Linford D. Fisher
Well, you missed it. But you’re not alone. I’m talking about the 375th anniversary of the founding of Providence that took place last year, in 2011. The city put forth a valiant effort to celebrate this historical moment, but frankly, even as someone who works in Providence, the year slipped by for me with relatively little fanfare. There was some elation back in June, however, when the city archivist re-discovered the 1648 charter for Providence, which had apparently been lost (mis-filed, really) for decades. Throughout 2011, the city also hosted a series of events, including the inauguration of the “Independence Trail,” a Boston Freedom Trail –esque line of paint circling the downtown of Providence (our paint is green, not red) with dozens of stops and information points at historical sites. The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown did its part by showcasing an exhibit on the material culture of early Rhode Island and—outside Manning Hall—commissioning a newly-constructed stone wall and dugout canoe courtesy of a few Narragansett tribal members. The city also solicited a series of essays written by local historians. It all culminated with a birthday party celebration hosted by the mayor of Providence on November 22, complete with a massive birthday cake, live music, and a “food truck faceoff.” Classy. 
In many ways, however, the celebration is just getting underway. Next year marks the 350th anniversary of the 1663 post-Restoration Rhode Island charter from Charles II. And, really, there is a lot to celebrate if you ask residents of “Little Rhody”; Rhode Island is a fun and quirky state, to be sure. We have our own official state drink (coffee milk, which is on tap in the Brown dining halls), the longest official state name in the Union (The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations), one of the smallest national parks in the nation (Roger Williams National Memorial), purportedly the highest number of beaches per capita, and more restaurants per capita in Providence than any other city in the nation (thanks to Johnson and Wales). And as anyone who lives here will tell you, there’s nothing quite like some Del’s lemonade on a hot day or even an Awful Awful to cool you off.
Historically, Rhode Island has always walked to the beat of a different drummer. It was the first to declare independence from Great Britain (May 4, 1776), it performed the first act of military defiance (burning of the Gaspee in the Narragansett Bay, June 10, 1772), it was the last of the original thirteen colonies to become a state, and it never ratified the 18th Amendment (prohibition). In matters of religion, during the colonial period Rhode Island never had a witch trial, never conducted a blasphemy trial, and never hanged (or even whipped, supposedly) anyone for their religious beliefs. Rhode Island also boasts the country’s oldest library building (Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport), the nation’s oldest Baptist church (Providence, 1638), the oldest Jewish Synagogue (Touro, in Newport; 1763), and New England’s oldest Masonic Temple (Warren). Even its notoriously political corruption is a secret point of pride (Providence voters re-elected the infamous Buddy Cianci as mayor in 1991 after he had previously been convicted of a felony and forced to resign the mayorship). 
But another thing that Rhode Islanders love to celebrate is the state’s heritage of religious liberty. And towering over this particular legacy, of course, is Roger Williams, who is largely credited with the religious and cultural tenor of this state. So the 375th anniversary of the founding of Providence affords a unique opportunity to ask: Does anyone still care about Roger Williams? Or, to put it more politely, what is the current shape of Williams scholarship? 
The answer is somewhat surprising. 
As it turns out, we are currently in the middle of a mini-Williams revival. A year or two ago I would have said (and indeed, did say in several classes) that the scholarship on Williams and the question of religious liberty has been leaning away from Roger-Williams-centric interpretations of the origins of religious liberty in America. One thinks of the way in which the eventual religious diversity and toleration of New York, Pennsylvania, and even South Carolina have increasingly been recognized (as just one small example, see Burke and Edgar, The Dawn of Religious Freedom in South Carolina [2006]). But several recent items and events make me think that, by certain measurements, Williams and Rhode Island may well be receiving renewed attention. 
The first is a recently published book by John Barry: Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul (2012). Since I’ll be posting a more comprehensive review here in a short while, I won’t say more except to say that Barry is working hard to bring Williams back, and with a vengeance. (This blog has also featured Barry’s book previously.)
Additionally, one of the most interesting things coming down the pipeline is a multi-year series of programs tentatively called “The Spectacle of Toleration,” funded and organized by the Newport Historical Society in partnership with Brown University and Salve Regina University. Timed to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the 1663 Rhode Island charter, the steering committee hopes to open large questions about the origins, legacies, and meanings of religious toleration that took root here in Rhode Island. In addition to some public programming, the culminating event will be a national academic conference in the fall of 2013 on the issue of religious toleration (look for a call for papers later this fall). 
This conference, however, is intentionally not centered solely on Roger Williams. If Providence celebrates Williams, Newport celebrates John Clarke, one of Rhode Island’s other founders. Ousted from New England during the Antinomian controversy, Clarke headed south to Rhode Island to co-found first Portsmouth and shortly thereafter Newport. As a learned Baptist minister, Clarke’s treatises on religious freedom—including Ill Newes From New England (1652) are often seen on par with Williams’ in terms of important articulations of Rhode Island’s policy of freedom of conscience. There was even a failed attempt in the nineteenth century to claim that Clarke’s Baptist church in Newport was older than Williams’ in Providence. Nonetheless, Newport folks like to remind us all that Rhode Island actually had four important nodes of early settlement: Providence (1636); Portsmouth (1638); Newport (1639); and Warwick (1642), all founded by religious dissidents of various sorts, such as Anne Hutchinson, William Coddington, Samuel Gorton, Philip Sherman, and of course Roger Williams. So perhaps one important aspect of reclaiming whatever legacy of religious toleration does rightfully belong to Rhode Island’s history will be a more expansive view of the multiple voices and multiple foundings of the colony. 
Some of the recent Williams-related developments, however, are a bit more obscure, but equally as interesting. In the vast holdings of the John Carter Brown Library on Brown’s campus is an enigmatic book. Actually, it is not so much the book itself that is of interest; it is the pages upon pages of chicken-scratch shorthand that fill every square inch of white space in the margins and front and back of the book. The book—and the shorthand in it—has long been assumed to be Roger Williams’, but for decades, if not centuries, no one was able to crack the shorthand. Enter a group of incredibly optimistic and hardworking Brown undergrads, led by Simon Liebling and Chris Norris-LeBlanc. Compiling a small cadre of undergrad historians, linguists, and mathematicians, the team read widely on the history of shorthand and toyed with high-tech ways of discerning patterns. In the end, however, the solution was deceptively simple: they found a seventeenth-century shorthand textbook that provided an almost instant key to Williams’ scrawlings. 
The code was cracked. 
Decoding the shorthand led them to another discovery: most of the the shorthand was simply a hurried summary of the contents of another book, Peter Heylin’s “Cosmographie in Four Books,” published in 1654. Nonetheless, there is a central section of the shorthand that seems to be Williams’ own thoughts in which he references people like John Eliot, a Puritan minister and missionary in Massachusetts. Liebling and Norris-Leblanc have attracted the interest of the Brown Daily Herald and the Providence Journal so far. But Williams’ shorthand is in yet another book that the team also hopes to decode: Williams’ personal copy of the so-called Eliot Bible, which was a translation of the entire Bible by John Eliot and some Indian servants into the Massachusett Indian language in 1663. A few of us secretly hope that Williams’ shorthand in the volume of his copy of the Eliot Bible will contain some additional ethnographic musings from Williams, sort of like A Key into the Language of America, part 2. 
There’s more one could say about how Roger Williams continues to inspire and haunt this great city. I’ll leave you with this. If you are ever at the John Brown House Museum on College Hill, ask the receptionist to see the Roger Williams root and hear its story. This experience alone will give you a sense of the staying power that Williams has had and will likely to continue to have in this endearing city and state. In the meantime, brace yourself for more national discussions regarding Williams, Rhode Island, and religious liberty (if nowhere else, on this blog in the coming weeks when I post my review of Barry’s book). 

Thatcher State Dinner

So after the recent state dinner with the UK, I thought I’d revisit an older UK State Dinner (this includes all the Carter State Dinners if you are interested). On December 17, 1979, President Carter entertained Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The menu and entertainment was:
Atlantic Halibut with Seafood Sauce
Beaulieu Pinot Chardonnay

Supreme of Pheasant Veronique
Wild Rice with Mushrooms
Brussels Sprouts
Mirassou Gamay Beaujolais

Tossed Green Salad
Brie Cheese

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs
Yule Log with Sabayon Sauce

Sarah Caldwell is conducting the United States Marine Corps Orchestra accompanied by nine soloists from the Opera Company of Boston.
Excerpts from “L’enfance du Christ” by Berlioz

Soloists from the Opera Company of Boston:
David Arnold
Vinson Cole
Rosalind Elias
Elena Gambulos
Donald Graham
Nancy Hermiston
Michael Hume
Leigh Munro
Evelyn Petros

Christmas Carols ———- Donald Graham

State Dinner with United Kingdom

So what’s on the White House dinner plate for the state dinner?
The theme of President Barack Obama’s Wednesday night state dinner for U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is “America’s Backyard.” In this case, the backyard is the South Lawn of the White House, which will be viewed by dinner guests through a 150-foot-long glass wall in the dinner tent.

The meal itself builds on the theme of “A Winter Harvest,” a reference to vegetables, including lettuce and baby kale, that come from the White House kitchen garden. The year-round fruit and vegetable garden is one of first lady Michelle Obama’s most visible contributions to the White House grounds.

The menu, printed below, blends British and American culinary traditions in such dishes as Bison Wellington — buffalo tenderloin baked in a traditional British pastry. The dinner is being prepared by White House Executive Chef Chris Comerford, with dessert from Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses.

The First Course, Crisped Halibut with Potato Crust, will be served on a bed of braised baby kale fresh from the White House garden, shaved Brussels sprouts and micro cabbage sprouts. A hint of applewood smoked bacon from a local smokehouse ties the dish together.
The Salad Course, Spring Garden Lettuces with Shallot Dressing and Shaved Radish, Cucumbers and Avocados, is light and crisp and includes different types of greens, which are also from the Kitchen Garden.

The Main Course, Bison Wellington, is a perfect pairing of US and UK cultures. The Wellington is a classic English dish given an American twist with the use of buffalo tenderloin.

The dessert is Steamed Lemon Pudding, a nod to the traditional British treat. The pudding is prepared with Idaho Huckleberry Sauce to unite the British and American flavors.

I actually had halibut dinner for dinner…probably not the same caliber!

Washington state supreme court rules for Yakama Indian in fishing prosecution

The Supreme Court of Washington, in State v. Jim, decided Feb. 9, 2012, that Lester Ray Jim, an enrolled citizen of the Yakama Nation could not be prosecuted by the State for netting an undersized sturgeon because the act occurred at the Maryhill Treaty Fishing Access Site, land set aside by Congress exclusively for the use of four Columbia River tribes to exercise their treaty fishing rights.

The State mandtained that it had criminal jurisdiction over conduct occurring at Maryhill. The majority of the supreme court disagreed. Instead, that court held that Maryhill is reserved and held by the United States for the exclusive use of tribal citizens and that the state lacks criminal jurisdiction.

Read the full opinion at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=847169MAJ

State of the Union con’t

One more State of the Union…so here’s James K. Polk’s from 1846. I found this part, on the Treasury worth posting:
The annual report of the Secretary of the Treasury will exhibit a detailed statement of the condition of the finances. The imports for the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June last were of the value of $121,691,797, of which the amount exported was $11,346,623, leaving the amount retained in the country for domestic consumption $110,345,174. The value of the exports for the same period was $113,488,516, of which $102,141,893 consisted of domestic productions and $11,346,623 of foreign articles.

The receipts into the Treasury for the same year were $29,499,247.06, of which there was derived from customs $26,712,667.87, from the sales of public lands $2,694,452.48, and from incidental and miscellaneous sources $92,126.71. The expenditures for the same period were $28,031,114.20, and the balance in the Treasury on the 1st day of July last was $9,126,439. 08.

The amount of the public debt, including Treasury notes, on the 1st of the present month was $24,256,494.60, of which the sum of $17,788,799.62 was outstanding on the 4th of March, 1845, leaving the amount incurred since that time $6,467,694.98.


State of the Union

The State of the Union is tonight and you can view an enhanced version here. I was listening to the radio and it was talking about shows being preempted due to this….my kids will have no idea what preemptions are! We DVR everything and we have satellite. I grew up with about 6 channels, no DVR, no cable/satellite…..they have it so soft!

Anyway, I decided to pick a random State of the Union to feature here, so here’s part of Harding’s 1921 State of the Union:
Every contemplation, it little matters in which direction one turns, magnifies the difficulty of tariff legislation, but the necessity of the revision is magnified with it. Doubtless we are justified in seeking .1 More flexible policy than we have provided heretofore. I hope a way will be found to make for flexibility and elasticity, so that rates may be adjusted to meet unusual and changing conditions which can not be accurately anticipated. There are problems incident to unfair practices, and to exchanges which madness in money have made almost unsolvable. I know of no manner in which to effect this flexibility other than the extension of the powers of the Tariff Commission so that it can adapt itself to it scientific and wholly just administration of the law. I am not unmindful of the constitutional difficulties. These can be met by giving authority to the Chief Executive, who could proclaim-additional duties to meet conditions which the Congress may designate.

At this point I must disavow any desire to enlarge the Executive’s powers or add to the responsibilities of the office. They are already too large. If there were any other plan I would prefer it.

The grant of authority to proclaim would necessarily bring the Tariff Commission into new and enlarged activities, because no Executive could discharge. such a duty except upon the information acquired and recommendations made by this commission. But the plan is feasible, and the proper functioning of the board would give its it better administration of a defined policy than ever can be made possible by tariff duties prescribed without flexibility.

There is a manifest difference of opinion about the merits of American valuation. Many nations have adopted delivery valuation as the basis for collecting duties; that is, they take the cost of the imports delivered at the port of entry as the basis for levying duty. It is no radical departure, in view of varying conditions and the disordered state of money values, to provide for American valuation, but there can not be ignored the danger of such a valuation, brought to the level of our own production costs, making our tariffs prohibitive. It might do so in many instances where imports ought to be encouraged. I believe Congress ought well consider the desirability of the only promising alternative, namely, a provision authorizing proclaimed American valuation, under prescribed conditions, on any given list of articles imported.

In this proposed flexibility, authorizing increases to meet conditions so likely to change, there should also be provision for decreases. A rate may be just to-day, and entirely out of proportion six months from to-day. If our tariffs are to be made equitable, and not necessarily burden our imports and hinder our trade abroad, frequent adjustment will be necessary for years to come. Knowing the impossibility of modification by act of Congress for any one or a score of lines without involving a long array of schedules, I think we shall go a long ways toward stabilization, if there is recognition of the Tariff Commission’s fitness to recommend urgent changes by proclamation.

I am sure about public opinion favoring the early determination of our tariff policy. There have been reassuring signs of a business revival from the deep slump which all the world has been experiencing. Our unemployment, which gave its deep concern only a few weeks ago, has grown encouragingly less, and new assurances and renewed confidence will attend the congressional declaration that American industry will be held secure.

Much has been said about the protective policy for ourselves making it impossible for our debtors to discharge their obligations to us. This is a contention not now pressing for decision. If we must choose between a people in idleness pressing for the payment of indebtedness, or a people resuming the normal ways of employment and carrying the credit, let us choose the latter. Sometimes we appraise largest the human ill most vivid in our minds. We have been giving, and are giving now, of our influence and appeals to minimize the likelihood of war and throw off the crushing burdens of armament. It is all very earnest, with a national soul impelling. But a people unemployed, and gaunt with hunger, face a situation quite as disheartening as war, and our greater obligation to-day is to do the Government’s part toward resuming productivity and promoting fortunate and remunerative employment.

Something more than tariff protection is required by American agriculture. To the farmer has come the earlier and the heavier burdens of readjustment. There is actual depression in our agricultural industry, while agricultural prosperity is absolutely essential to the general prosperity of the country.

Congress has sought very earnestly to provide relief. It has promptly given such temporary relief as has been possible, but the call is insistent for the permanent solution. It is inevitable that large crops lower the prices and short crops advance them. No legislation can cure that fundamental law. But there must be some economic solution for the excessive variation in returns for agricultural production.

It is rather shocking to be told, and to have the statement strongly supported, that 9,000,000 bales of cotton, raised on American plantations in a given year, will actually be worth more to the producers than 13,000,000 bales would have been. Equally shocking is the statement that 700,000,000 bushels of wheat, raised by American farmers, would bring them more money than a billion bushels. Yet these are not exaggerated statements. In a world where there are tens of millions who need food and clothing which they can not get, such a condition is sure to indict the social system which makes it possible.

In the main the remedy lies in distribution and marketing. Every proper encouragement should be given to the cooperative marketing programs. These have proven very helpful to the cooperating communities in Europe. In Russia the cooperative community has become the recognized bulwark of law and order, and saved individualism from engulfment in social paralysis. Ultimately they will be accredited with the salvation of the Russian State. There is the appeal for this experiment. Why not try it? No one challenges the right of the farmer to a larger share of the consumer’s pay for his product, no one disputes that we can not live without the farmer. Ile is justified in rebelling against the transportation cost. (liven a fair return for his labor, he will have less occasion to appeal for financial aid; and given assurance that his labors shall not be in vain, we reassure all the people of a production sufficient to meet our National requirement and guard against disaster.

The base of the pyramid of civilization which rests upon the soil is shrinking through the drift of population from farm to city. For a generation we have been expressing more or less concern about this tendency. Economists have warned and statesmen have deplored. We thought for at time that modern conveniences and the more intimate contact would halt the movement, but it has gone steadily on. Perhaps only grim necessity will correct it, but we ought to find a less drastic remedy.

The existing scheme of adjusting freight rates hits been favoring the basing points, until industries are attracted to some centers and repelled from others. A great volume of uneconomic and wasteful transportation has attended, and the cost increased accordingly. The grain-milling and meat-packing industries afford ample illustration, and the attending concentration is readily apparent. The menaces in concentration are not limited to the retardingly influences on agriculture. Manifestly the. conditions and terms of railway transportation ought not be permitted to increase this undesirable tendency. We have a just pride in our great cities, but we shall find a greater pride in the Nation, which has it larger distribution of its population into the country, where comparatively self-sufficient smaller communities may blend agricultural and manufacturing interests in harmonious helpfulness and enhanced good fortune. Such a movement contemplates no destruction of things wrought, of investments made, or wealth involved. It only looks to a general policy of transportation of distributed industry, and of highway construction, to encourage the spread of our population and restore the proper balance between city and country. The problem may well have your earnest attention.

It has been perhaps the proudest claim of our American civilization that in dealing with human relationships it has constantly moved toward such justice in distributing the product of human energy that it has improved continuously the economic status of the mass of people. Ours has been a highly productive social organization. On the way up from the elemental stages of society we have eliminated slavery and serfdom and are now far on the way to the elimination of poverty.

Through the eradication of illiteracy and the diffussion of education mankind has reached a stage where we may fairly say that in the United States equality of opportunity has been attained, though all are not prepared to embrace it. There is, indeed, a too great divergence between the economic conditions of the most and the least favored classes in the community. But even that divergence has now come to the point where we bracket the very poor and the very rich together as the least fortunate classes. Our efforts may well be directed to improving the status of both.

While this set of problems is commonly comprehended under the general phrase “Capital and labor,” it is really vastly broader. It is a question of social and economic organization. Labor has become a large contributor, through its savings, to the stock of capital; while the people who own the largest individual aggregates of capital are themselves often hard and earnest laborers. Very often it is extremely difficult to draw the line of demarcation between the two groups; to determine whether a particular individual is entitled to be set down as laborer or as capitalist. In a very large proportion of cases lie is both, and when lie is both lie is the most useful citizen.

Want a different State of the Union? You can find them all here.

Nevada – The Silver State

On October 31, 1864, Nevada became the 36th state. This was just a few days before the reelection of Abraham Lincoln. While today, we look at Lincoln as one of our best presidents

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Leonardo and the Wild State of Thought.

I’m currently teaching a course on Leonardo da Vinci called “Leonardo, The Artist’s Studio and the Renaissance World.” It therefore seems a good idea to recycle some of the teaching material as the occasional blog post- my aim is always to reach a wider audience.  My first in this series considers Leonardo’s education and scientific investigations in relation to the renaissance context, part of my first lecture on him: “Introducing Leonardo.”

table_abacus-gregor_reisch_margarita_philosophica_1508 Leonardo’s name has become a byword for bright, shining genius, but those expecting to find an erudite scholar fully conversant in the classics, or even the humanities, might be in for a shock. Leonardo struggled with Latin and Greek, and his minimalist library significantly contained Latin grammars. Like many renaissance artists, Leonardo received a rudimentary renaissance education. He would definitely have attended an abacus school, which as the name suggests was meant to inculcate numerical skills, essential for surviving in the ruthless Florentine commercial world. [Sorry, the nearest image of an abacus I could find is in this German print, which shows Lady Philosophy presiding over mathematical endeavour.] After leaving the abaco- which he attended between 12 and 15-,Leonardo should have gone into a scuole di lettere, attended by pre-university students, but instead the young Leonardo went straight into Andrea del Verrocchio’s studio, a workshop that attracted the cream of quattrocento painters: Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Botticini, Perugino, Lorenzo di Credi, not forgetting Leonardo himself.

By entering Verrocchio’s studio , Leonardo missed the classical education given to many intellectuals and scholars of the period. Leonardo earned the tag, “uomo senza lettere”, an unbookish or unlearned man. In order to combat this, Leonardo had a library of about 200 books, which reflected his education. It certainly was a small library, and wasn’t the kind of resource you would associate with renaissance scholars. Half the books dealt  with the sciences and technical subjects; the other half was probably divided into three groups of unequal importance: 25 works on profane literature; 14 on religious and moral literature; 16 on Latin, grammar and vocabulary. This library was also consistent with Leonardo’s attitude to intellectuals; he stressed the importance of experience, not memory of facts and theories learned from books. To quote Leonardo: “If painters have not described painting and have not turned it into a science, the fault lies not with painting […] Few painters are familiar with the humanities because their life does not enable them to understand them.”

This library isn’t that of someone interested in the humanities (little philosophy, hisPaciolitory, literature and poetry), but obviously scientific and technical subjects are well represented. The only books that Leonardo owned by a contemporary humanist was Leon Battista Alberti’s volumes on architecture and mathematics. Those 16 books on Latin are significant too; Leonardo could not read classical languages like Greek or Latin- a sine qua non for self-respecting renaissance intellectuals- and instead used the Italian vernacular to structure his investigations. This meant that Leonardo could only discover philosophical and scientific ideas through intermediaries, such as Ristoro d’Arezzo who developed the analogy between the human body and the world, something that Leonardo was to exploit to the full.   Another example is Luca Pacioli, a mathematician and Franciscan prior, as well as an expert on accounting. You’re not likely to find an abacus in this portrait of the scientist-cleric, attributed to Jacopo di Barbari; the instruments reveal Pacioli’s abstract thought, far beyond the practical commercial sphere of Florentine accountancy and the renaissance bottom line.

arasse One of the finest discussions of Leonardo’s intelligence and education is by the late Daniel Arasse, the French renaissance scholar, pictured here.[1] For him, Leonardo should not be considered a systematic scientist, but more of an artist-engineer characterized by what the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss called “wild thought.” This is a term that Levi-Strauss applied to indigenous cultures, where he detected a kind of intellectual bricolage, a difficult concept, but one which could be defined as an improvisatory attitude towards fact-finding and data gathering.   There’s a nice summary of the idea here. Yet Arasse is careful to point out that unlike Levi-Strauss’s primitive Islanders and Indians, Leonardo didn’t (a) believe in magic, “even though the crisis of Aristotelisanism in general brought the renaissance to an ontology of magic” (Arasse, 94); (b) Leonardo was an engineer, the “first technologist” (Arasse, 94). Arasse quotes Levi-Strauss’s words that the engineer “interrogates the universe, while the handyman addresses a residue of human works, that is to say a subset of culture”, (Arasse, 94-5). Despite being wayward and strange, Leonardo searches for conceptual breakthrough while the handyman maps out a limited area of exploration, chiefly for survival. We can see here the modern paradigm of the specialist verses the universalist emerging, a conflict which surely was inaugurated by Leonardo as he’s considered the epitome of the uomo universale, the man interested in everything but not able to finish and follow through; the man who was more interested in the beginning than the end to quote Leo’ X’s memorable assessment of Da Vinci.

  Despite his keen interest in science, Leonardo was not really part of the scientific community but existed on the fringes, a kind of Leonardo fringe science if you like. Some of those Faustian scientists who appear in the wonderful show Fringe have something of the Leonardo blueprint about them.However unlike Dr Walter Bishop, Leonardo is not an institutionally trained scientist. Instead it might be helpful to view Leonardo as a homemade intellectual, a peculiarity of the self-taught. Leonardo was not a trained scientist, but an artist-intellectual driven by curiosity to know more, to make sight and its associations with painting part of a new way of experiencing the visible world of the renaissance. In the words of Daniel Arasse, “the science of Leonardo is founded on the strength and sharpness of his capacity for observation, but at the same time these contribute to the fact that he remains attached to observation as a stage in the development of knowledge”, (Arasse, 93).

12selfpo (2)The phrase “hero of the mind” is sometimes used to describe Leonardo as in the iconic and much reproduced Turin Self-Portrait, of which more in another post.  It is the face of a man cogent in thought and skilful in reasoning, as noted by Vasari. “This mind endowed by God with such innate grace possessed such strong reasoning power, further supported by intelligence and memory […] that he dominated and confounded the greatest minds with his line of argument […]. The splendour which shone from his wonderful features influenced the most obdurate minds. His power tamed the most violent furies.” In this context I’m tempted to see the renaissance furies as a metaphor for the wild thought of our artist-scientist. As Daniel Arasse put it, Leonardo developed thought “in the wild state” (Arasse, 95).

[1] Daniel Arasse, Leonardo da Vinci, 1998.

Washington state develops tribal sovereignty curriculum

The Washington state education system is developing class room materials on tribal sovereignty and a curriculum for teachers to use. Check out “Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State.” http://indian-ed.org.

For example, one of the units is entitled “The Point No Point Treaty,” and students read information such as “Indian Treaties As Sovereign Contracts” which is currently located at http://www.flashpointmag.com/indtreat.htm

Oregon legislature grants expanded state powers to tribal police

The Oregon legislature narrowly approved a measure yesterday that grants tribal police officers the right to enforce state law off tribal lands, regardless of whether the crime originated on a reservation. Oregon is apparently only the second state to enact such legislation.

According to the Portland Oregonian: “Currently, tribal officers can only enforce state law under very narrow circumstances — such as resisting arrest or in pursuit of a suspect leaving the reservation — or unless a tribal government formed an agreement with individual counties.”

Senate Bill 412 requires that tribal officers complete standard state police training and for tribal governments to adopt rules “substantially similar” to Oregon law on public records, evidence retention, and insurance for tribal police to exercise these additional powers.

“We’re thrilled about the outcome,” said Justin Martin, lobbyist for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. “And all Oregonians should be thrilled about the outcome because we’re talking about more certified police officers on the ground protecting all people.”

Read more.

West Virginia Becomes a State

In 1863, West Virginia became 35th state admitted to the Union when it broke away from Confederate Virginia during the Civil War. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, the western portion was against the action. On October 24, 1861, what would later become West Viginia was formed. The US government accepted West Virginia as a state two years later.  Interestingly, West Virginia was initially going to be called Kanawha after the Kanawha River.

A Theological Crisis at the Heart of State Budget Crises

by Janine Giordano Drake

In the old days, states would balance their budgets by carefully managing their wealth held in property. Their means of acquiring more wealth was the state militia, and wealth, of course was, control over Indian territory. Indian land seizure could either result in fast money from speculators (usually represented by banks), or a slow, long term income stream garnered by renting to municipalities and land developers. When that was no longer easy, states sold exclusive government contracts to companies that traded with and in the state. What I want to argue here is that raising funds for state projects has never relied very much on taxed assets of the people. Today, however, we all have to decide whether it ought to be.

Only a tiny portion of state spending in this country comes from income taxes. Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming do not levy any state income taxes. New Hampshire and Tennessee tax only tax dividend and interest income. To me, the problem in budget-starving agricultural-heavy states like Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York and California is that states have never established the principle that effective ownership of land and other income-deriving assets requires services of a state to keep the assets in operation. These services include public servants from police forces and firefighters to teachers and municipal workers.

Cash-poor farmers have essentially been contending against urban service workers since the last Gilded Age over who ought to carry the heavier burden for public services. Henry George, who argued that poor people should not be fighting with one another but recognize the common adversary of those who own large amounts of natural resources, would turn over in his grave at the prospect of undermining organized workers’ wages without taxing property owners. Together with Eugene Debs and many other land reformers, George worked hard to get poor farmers and farm workers to agree to hold their property in common in order to simulate the First Century Church (or some other equivalent utopia of peace through cooperation) and together reap the fruits of their labor. However, as Randall’s recent post reminds us, pretty much all of these experimental communities failed.

Even though many Christian Socialists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century believed very strongly in George’s concept of a single tax on the ownership of natural resources, Christian landowners put up just as big a fight, often by repositioning their theology of God’s grace. Land provided to them through Indian conquest was often understood as a gift from God for the sake of Christian stewardship for one’s family, not something borrowed from the state for the sake of the public, or, of course, stolen from Indians for the sake of power and hegemony. Landless and socialist Christians often fought back, criticizing landowners time and again for owning something that was ultimately not theirs but everyone’s, and really God’s. So, in the 1890s, landowning Populists began to talk about the main assets of their occupation as not land at all. Rather than engage in a business that exploited land and labor, these populists argued that they earned their living through the work of rain and sunshine–their bounty, therefore, was a gift from God.

Many farmers today still point to rain and sunshine (rather than land and labor) as the essential raw materials to their financial prosperity. International trade conditions still keep many farmers cash poor and therefore starved by higher state and municipal taxes on land. Farmers’ comparatively low incomes (compared to their net worth if they own land) means that they bring in little income tax revenue to the state, compared to the federal and state subsidies that they use.

In many ways carrying out the Populist agenda, farmers and agribusiness have united to call themselves “growers,” a maneuverer that accomplishes at least two political goals. First, it constructs the money-making asset of agricultural capitalists as the weather-cooperating-with-fertilizers, rather than ownership of the land in the first place. Secondly, it renders the agricultural labor required to harvest the crop as something apart from the act of farming. Therefore, “growers” have since the Depression received subsidies and tax breaks for providing food for the masses, but the migrant workers and other agricultural farm hands who do the grunt labor of harvest and farm maintenance are not even required to be paid a minimum wage, let alone a living wage with benefits or the dignity of calling oneself a farmer.

Starving states today rely primarily on revenue streams in sales taxes and a la carte fees for use of services (registrations and licenses, court filing fees, college tuition, tobacco taxes, gas taxes, etc)–in addition, of course, to large loans from banks–loans that bankers rarely complain about because states’ inability to go bankrupt means banks’ loans are virtually no risk.

Tying state revenue streams to general consumption and fees-for-use rather than pooled fruits of production is not only paralyzing state budgets in this new Gilded Age of poverty, wealth, and high unemployment (especially with tax laws to conserve the wealthy). Even more debilitating, it has established a myth that the state can operate independently of taxes on the production of its residents. Wisconsin never, of course, actually had a budget problem until Walker gave away so many tax breaks and contracts to his corporate sponsors. Wisconsin was in that respect an exception to the rule of starving state budgets over the last decade. However, we must admit that in handing out tax breaks and special contracts to growers and businesses, Walker was only doing what most state governors do.

I think Paul Grant is absolutely right when he talks about cooperation and consensus-building as essential cultural heritages of many working class Wisconsinites. This is not only confirmed in my research on Wisconsin socialists but helps me understand something I had been trying to figure out–why the Milwaukee atheist socialists and Christian Socialists I study feuded so terribly but still got along so well. Why, for example, Eugene Debs was not kicked out of leadership in the Social Democratic Party in 1897 when he was clearly in the minority in his belief in the possibility of establishing those Christian cooperative communes. Wisconsin socialists fought with Debs but, remarkably, kept him in charge. As Grant suggests, Scandinavian and German immigrants brought to Wisconsin not only a working class consciousness but a dense network of cultural institutions (gymnasiums, cultural clubs, churches, unions, freethinker clubs, political parties, etc) that served as schools for consensus building that would make such political and economic cooperation comfortable. I think Grant is also absolutely right that the national, conservative trend toward “brinksmanship” that Walker has recently employed in Wisconsin is to a large degree in tension with the cultural fabric of his state.

We all hate to admit it, though, but there are still many Wisconsinites who may believe in consensus building in rhetoric and demeanor but do not believe that public services should be paid for through their own pooled economic resources. Rural landowners around the country still resist tax hikes. This, I would argue, is the legacy of Populist rhetoric from the era of Indian landgrabbing: a belief that one’s land is all one’s own and not really a wealth-producing asset. It is a gift from God for oneself and one’s family. State services, too, should be plentiful, but to Populists these should come from public revenue streams contributed to through fees-per-use and state provision, not state tithes on assets like land and income.

I find especially among evangelical Christians in the midwest a surprising combination of “Christian cooperativeness” in demeanor and rhetoric but real resistance to understanding one’s income as anything but entirely one’s own (and perhaps the Church’s). Bethany Moreton’s To Serve God and Walmart articulates and historicizes this tension so well.

To me, the referendum in all these state budget crises today is about where state revenue should come from when seizure and sale of state-contraband-territory is no longer as viable an option. Will we continue to find assets in the state’s possession to exploit anew–like mines, quarries, aquifers and, err, government buildings, public parks, and guilds of municipal employees–or will we agree to issue higher state income taxes and property taxes, especially on those who can afford to pay more?

Furthermore, Madison is one of the hippest places for left-wing evangelical Christians to find each other. Will our present moment’s resurgence of the virtues of communalism, the dangers of environmental destruction, and the violent legacy of settler colonialism stir a rebirth of nineteenth century Christian Socialist theologies? I think this Wisconsin battle may serve as a laboratory for American Christians reconsidering the difference between gifts provided to them and gifts provided in common.

2011 State of the Union

If you missed last night’s State of the Union address, you can check it out online. That’s the video, here’s the transcript. I thought I’d pick out an excerpt on energy from the speech to share:

That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. (Applause.)

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don’t know if — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. (Laughter.) So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. (Applause.)

Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen. (Applause.)

History of the State of the Union

With the State of the Union in the news (it’s tonight), I thought a post on its history would be useful. This is actually mandated by the Constitution:
Article II, Section 3 mandates that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

This speech though has changed over the years:
A seemingly well-established misconception found even in some academic literature, is that the State of the Union is an orally delivered message presented to a joint session of Congress. With only a few exceptions, this has been true in the modern era (ca. 1933-present, see Neustadt or Greenstein), but beginning with Jefferson’s 1st State of the Union (1801) and lasting until Taft’s final message (1912), the State of the Union was a written (and often lengthy) report sent to Congress. Although Federalists Washington and Adams had personally addressed the Congress, Jefferson was concerned that the practice of appearing before the representatives of the people was too similar to the British monarch’s ritual of addressing the opening of each new Parliament with a list of policy mandates, rather than “recommendations.” This changed in 1913. Wilson believed the presidency was more than a impersonal institution; that instead the presidency is dynamic, alive, and personal (see Tulis). In articulating this philosophy, Wilson delivered an oral message to Congress. Heath reasons prevented Wilson from addressing Congress in 1919 and 1920, but Harding’s two messages (1921 and 1922) and Coolidge’s first (1923) were also oral messages. In the strict constructionist style of 19th Century presidents, Coolidge’s remaining State of the Unions (1924-28) and all four of Hoover’s (1929-32) were written. Franklin D. Roosevelt established the modern tradition of delivering an oral State of the Union beginning with his first in 1934. Exceptions include Truman’s 1st (1946) and last (1953), Eisenhower’s last (1961), Carter’s last (1981), and Nixon’s 4th (1973). In addition, Roosevelt’s last (1945) and Eisenhower’s 4th (1956) were technically written messages although they addressed the American people via radio summarizing their reports. Any research design should recognize these facts.

Also, the five most recent presidents (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama) addressed a joint session of Congress shortly after their inaugurations but these messages are actually not considered to be “State of the Union” addresses. Reagan’s 1981 address is called, “Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the Program for Economic Recovery.” Bush’s 1989 and Clinton’s 1993 messages are called “Administration Goals” speeches. G.W. Bush’s 2001 speech is actually his “Budget Message,” and President Obama delivered a similar non-State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on February 24, 2009. For research purposes, it is probably harmless to categorize these as State of the Union messages since the impact of such a speech on public, media, and congressional perceptions of presidential leadership and power should be the same as if the address was an official State of the Union. These speeches are included in the table below with an asterisk.

An additional fact is that the State of the Union is delivered near the beginning of each session of Congress. Before 1934 this meant the State of the Union was delivered usually in December, near the end of the 1-4 years following the president’s inauguration. Since 1934, the State of the Union is delivered near the beginning each year, with some presidents delivering a final message at the end of their last term (Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford, and Carter). The table below reflects each message’s placement in this form of “political time.”

Finally, President George W. Bush delivered his last State of the Union Address on January 28, 2008. Bush had the right to deliver either a written or oral State of the Union in the days immediately before leaving office in 2009, but like Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton, he chose not to. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford, and Carter chose to do so.

For more information, check out this CRS report.

And to end with a fun fact:
Richard Nixon understood how boring a State of the Union could be. “Why do we have to have all that dull stuff about agriculture and cesspools?’ he asked his staff preparing for the 1970 State of the Union. Nixon speechwriter Ray Price, powered by “greenies” (amphetamines) from the White House doctor, pulled two consecutive all-nighters before suffering “complete spatial disorientation” on the third day. He saw his desk in front of him and also against a far wall. For days he would see right angles in corridors where there were none. A young aide named Richard Blumenthal, now running for senator from Connecticut, helped him home for some much-needed sleep.

China State Dinner

In honor of the recent state dinner for the President of China by the Obamas, I thought I’d go back to the Clinton’s state dinner for the then-current Chinese president. By the way, my interesting factoid for the recent state dinner – Michelle Kwan was there (okay, interesting to me…I didn’t say it would be to you!). President Clinton was, too, which then segues into my post.

Here’s the menu for the Clinton’s 1997 dinner:

OCTOBER 29, 1997

Chilled Lobster with Corn Leek Relish
Marinated Butternut Squash
LobsterTarragon Sauce

Pepper Crusted Oregon Beef
Yukon Gold Whipped Potatoes
Roasted Root Vegetables
Shallot Marmalade
Pinot Noir and Chanterelle Sauce

Salad of Mache, Endive and Arugula
Tomato Asiago Custard
Balsamic and Chive Dressing

Orange Blossom Surprise
Pomegrante Sauce
Mandarin Tea Tartlet
Chocolate Tea Candy
Crystallized Ginger

Cuvaison “Carneros” Chardonnay 1995 (California)
Ponzi “25th Anniversary” Pinot Noir 1995
(Oregon) Iron Horse Blanc de Blanc L.D. 1991 (California)

Senator Schumer supports state versus tribe

As part of the continuing struggle between New York and various tribal nations located there, several tribes have requested the U.S. to approve taking new lands into trust, which turns them into Indian Country under federal law. See 25 U.S.C. sections 465 & 1151.

Even though the Supreme Court encouraged tribes to take this administrative approach, in lieu of self-help provisions, the state of New York and various counties and cities are vigorouly opposing these attempts.

New York Senator Charles Schumer has joined this debate and is urging federal officials in the U.S. Department of Interior to reject the Cayuga Indian Nation’s request to place 125 acres of land into a federal trust.

According to Schumer’s office, he told Department of Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes that the final environmental impact study of the nation’s application does not adequately address the Central New York community’s concerns.

If the Cayugas’ application is granted, the tribe’s businesses in Seneca Falls and Union Springs would be placed into a federally tax exempt trust status. The Cayugas have two convenience stores and two closed gaming facilities located on those properties. The tribe intends to reopen the gaming facilities if the application is accepted.

When lands are taken into federal trust status for Indian governments and communities, they drop off the county and state tax rolls. The issue of money is always important and is the key factor Sen. Schumer is focused on. In fact, his biggest concern is his claim that the BIA glossed over the fiscal impact placing the land into tax-exempt trust would have on the local population, which would have to make up the difference.

“The (study) itself notes that the removal of the proposed trust lands would result in hits of between 0.4 percent and 2.61 percent to the tax base of the affected towns, but dismisses this change as ‘no significant adverse impact,’” Schumer said in a letter addressed to the BIA. “I believe that any county or town executive across the country would take exception to the treatment of any diminution in his tax base as insignificant; our local officials are struggling to make up for budget shortfalls and have been forced to cut services. Even a 0.01 percent change can make a real difference to them.”

Florida State University Graduate Symposium

Coming off the 2010 Annual American Academy of Religion meeting, I thought it was especially relevant to blog about the Florida State University Graduate Symposium hosted each year by FSU’s religion graduate students. The call for papers has been up on h-net for about a month now, but I particularly wanted to draw the attention of my fellow Americanists.

The Florida State University Department of Religion is pleased to announce its 10th Annual Graduate Student Symposium to be held February 18-20, 2011 in Tallahassee, Florida. This year’s symposium will be centered on the theme “Discourses of Ritual and Power.”

Dr. Matthew Kapstein, of the University of Chicago and Directeur d’études of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, will deliver this year’s keynote address. His lecture is tentatively titled “Spiritual Exercises in Indian Buddhist Philosophy: The Thought of Pierre Hadot in a Comparative Perspective.” Also, we are pleased to once again host Dr. Kathryn Lofton of Yale University as a guest respondent.

Presentations should be approximately 15 to 20 minutes in length and will receive faculty responses. Those proposing papers in the sub-field of American Religious History can look forward to Dr. Lofton, Dr. John Corrigan, Dr. Amanda Porterfield, and Dr. Amy Koehlinger offering thoughtful responses. In addition, every year respondents select the best graduate paper to receive the Leo F. Sandon Award, an endowed award named for the Religion Department’s former chair.

Every year, this conference is a big success. There is no registration fee, and food and drink is provided throughout the weekend.

Proposals including an abstract of approximately 300 words, a list of key terms, and a one-page CV should be submitted by December 1, 2010 for review. Final papers must be submitted by January 15, 2011. Please send proposals to fsureligionsymposium@gmail.com