Thursday, November 3, 2011

My New School

I know I need to improve my blogging, it’s been way to long since I made my last post. When I first began this blog, I posted on a regular basis and I need to get back to writing. I have been told by very wise men that the greatest way to improve your writing skills is to write something every day. Until I began blogging I never knew what to write, but with a blog I have a place. Many exciting things have happened in the past few months. We have moved to Oklahoma and have began teaching at my new position. I could not be happier at my new school. I have been asked about my school, so I thought I could fill everyone in. there are only two history professors so I have all the flexibility I could want. The other professor's field is Greece and Rome, so I get to teach all the American classes while he teaches everything else. I do teach the Modern Middle East, while he teaches ancient. I love the freedom I have here. Any American class I can think of I can teach it. I do have to teach one of the sequence classes each semester, which here are broken into four parts. There is a Colonial America class that goes to 1789; then a class from 1789 to 1877; one from 1877 to 1945, then finally a modern American class.

The other class that I teach every semester is part of our IDS curriculum, which is what sets our university apart from most. All of our core classes are IDS or interdisciplinary studies. What is meant by IDS is that all our core or IDS classes are team taught by professors in different disciplines. The classes I teach are American Civ I and II. This semester I am teaching Civ I with an economics professor but next semester it might be an English professor, then maybe a philosophy, music, art, or poly sci professor. It is an awesome approach to teaching and learning from a truly liberal arts approach to allow students to learn subjects from different interpretations. I love teaching with the professor I am teaching with now, economic history is one of my weaknesses and I have actually learned a lot teaching with her. I think our students really enjoy they way we teach together, it is very informal like we are having a conversation between them and ourselves.

So every semester I teach either Civ I or II and one of the history sequences and then I can choose any other class I want to teach after that. I love that I will have a variety and not just the same classes. I love the Civil War but even that can get old after a while. Next semester I am teaching Civ II, American History 1877 to 1945, The history of Presidents and Political Parties, and a reading seminar on early America history. I am excited about this class. We are going to read some of the most important historians each week and come together and talk about them. I have wanted to teach this class for some time. One reason is that there are some books I wanted to read for some time, that I have not found the time, now I will have to read them.

Lastly, I really am enjoying my school, because of the people. I am at a small school, with about 1,100 students, so we have around 30 faculty. Because of the size, we are close. In Texas I only knew a few people outside the history department, here I work with everyone. I do not know everyone well yet, but there are several I have become friends with.

This is enough for now, but I will be better at posting. I have more to say including the publication of two books due out this spring, so I will give information about these soon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Few Comments About bin Laden Death and Obama's Speech

I want to join with the rest of the nation as we celebrate the defeat of one of the most evil men of the past century. He stands there with Hitler, Stalin and Mao. The only difference between Bin Laden and these others was he did not have the ability to carry out death on the level as a Hitler, but his intent was just as horrific. It has been a long fight, and has hurt this nation as it tore it apart along ideological seems. This morning the nation seems united once more, in a similar if smaller version, of what we saw in the years after 9/11. I wish I was hopeful that this could start to be an end in our war against terror, but I am not. There is still a radical element within Islam that will not rest. I am encouraged by what I am seeing in the middle east, but I will write on that in a different post, but our war on terror will not end with the death of Bin Laden, others will set up to replace him.

As excited as I was last night as I watched the news, I was equally disappointed when I watched President Obama give his address. I was not surprised, I have ceased being surprised, I fact I expected it. Obama, as expected, used Bin Laden’s death for political gain. I was hoping for a short statement, but instead he took credit. He also used the occasion to rewrite a bit of his own history:

“We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.”

Obama knew how exited we would be and he wanted to celebrate with us, be one of us. He is correct that we united as a nation and were committed. Almost every Congressman and Senator voted to support President Bush and voted for a declaration of War. Almost every Senator, one of the very few who did not was Obama. He was not part of us then, in fact he was against it. He made his campaign that we were wrong and promised to end the war if elected.

The President continued, “Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort.” Here he seems to be giving a nod to President Bush but in the next paragraph said,

“Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world. And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.”

In other words, I did what Bush could not. I made Bin Laden a priority and so now we got him. I guess I feel for Bush, he fought an unpopular war to get bin Laden, yet Obama takes all the credit and gets American support, all the while retaining liberal support by saying this is a war we should have never fought. Throughout the speech Obama used rhetoric straight out of Bush’s speeches, the same rhetoric he condemned Bush for as grandstanding, he is now using.

Lastly I was put off by his arrogance. He needed to tone down the use of “I”. The whole speech was I did this and I did that. Here a few examples

“I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority”

“I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden”

“I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation”

“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation”

“Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was.”

“These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.”

I was getting prepared for him to say that he personally after making all the plans actually flew over there and led the mission and that he personally pulled the trigger for the kill shot.

Just to be open, I am not a fan of the president. If you read old posts you will see I tried, I hoped he would be the man he wanted us to believe. So maybe I am just jaded, but in a moment of triumph I was disappointed that the President took the time to make a campaign speech

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review-Team of Rivals

During my blogging hiatus I was fortunate to read a few really great books that I thought I would catch up writing a review on. I decided to read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Goodwin is a popular writer, but I have never read any of her books before, but because this one was on Abraham Lincoln I thought I would give it a try. I was pleased that I did. I found her analysis of Lincoln fascinating. I have read many books on Lincoln, but where this one made its mark was looking at how he dealt with other people. I came away from this book with a new appreciation of the man, and in fact I found that this book made me want to be a better person. Goodwin brilliantly documents how Lincoln had a knack of making enemies into friends. Instead of just getting angry at every slight towards him, and there were many; he found a way to get those making the slights to eventually support them. Bridges that most people would have burned down were not by Lincoln; so later in life he was able to cross them again for his own benefit.

I will give one example. Lincoln early on had difficulty getting along with his Secretary of War Cameron. Several times Cameron threatened to quite if he did not get his way, knowing Lincoln would never accept. Or so he thought. During one disagreement Lincoln accepted his offer by writing him a letter saying he had accepted and planned on nominating Cameron as ambassador to Russia. Cameron was crushed by the news and considered himself fired and worried what the public humiliation would do. Cameron had treated the President very badly while in office including publicly insulting him. Now that Lincoln had a chance for revenge, he did not take it. In letters to the press Lincoln set himself up for disgrace, taking all the blame on himself. He even brought Cameron in and asked his advice on his replacement. Cameron suggested Edwin Stanton, who Lincoln had already decided on, but let Cameron leave thinking Stanton was his idea. Cameron was a man who detested Lincoln, who was fired by Lincoln, yet as Goodwin writes, “Cameron would never forget this generous act. Filled with gratitude and admiration, he would become . . . one of the most intimate and devoted of Lincoln’s personal friends. He appreciated the courage it took for Lincoln to share the blame at a time when everyone else had deserted him. Most other men in Lincoln’s situation, Cameron wrote, “would have permitted an innocent man to suffer rather than incur responsibility.” Lincoln was not like most other men, as each cabinet member, including the new war secretary, would soon come to understand.” (Goodwin, 413)

This is just one example of the kind of man Lincoln was. He allowed himself to look foolish when it came to dealing with his leading General, George B. McClellan. As long as little Mac was the best man for the job, he would keep his job. It was not the constant insults that got Mac fired, it was his ineptitude on the battlefield. Lincoln was not a perfect man. In my own book and recent article I wrote about the Kentucky governor’s election in 1863, Lincoln restricted civil liberties to the point of being unconstitutional. It is hard to judge him, he was trying to save the nation. Goodwin bring to life this extraordinary president with her ability to tell a great story. The book is 755 pages, but reads easy and her writing style makes it easy to finish. In the end it was one of the more enjoyable book I have read. As I said it made me look at my own life and my dealings with people. If I could try to be more like Lincoln, life would be just that much easier.

One exciting note is that I believe they are making the book into a movie, possibly staring Daniel Day Lewis.  We are due for a good Lincoln book, but no matter how good it is you still need to read the book.  There is no way any movie can cover all the information.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm Back

Not that anyone but me cares, but I am back writing my blog. It has been much longer then I planned before starting again and I miss it. I have found blogging to be therapeutic, I feel like my brain is always on, never allowing any rest. What I have found is that if I write down what I am thinking I can move on. For anyone interested, let me explain why the long break. I graduated in 2008 and since then I have been on the job market. I have been a lecturer at my current University for the past five years. It has been an excellent opportunity to experience an entirely new culture in South Texas, but being a lecturer is only about one step up from slave labor at my University. While I have been on the hunt for a tenure tract position, I decided to stop blogging. It is unfortunate, but true that many in academia would not hire a new professor with conservative views. The bleeding heart liberal community of scholars who claim to be so open to everyone else’s views did not mean conservative views. I felt it was best to not advertise my political views.

Now, however, everything has changed. This week I was hired as an assistant Professor at a liberal arts University in Oklahoma. My family and I are very excited about the move. It is a small town but I like small towns and we are only half an hour from the city which is perfect. What I am most excited about is how much they seem to love me. I had to give a sample lecture to a group of faculty and students while I visited the University on my interview. When I met with the VP of academic affairs afterwards he told me I gave one the best lectures he had ever seen. About an hour after I got home the next day I received a call offering me the position. I was surprised how fast it came, but I was told they were so impressed and it was a unanimous decision of the committee that they did not want to wait. I am not sure exactly when we are going to move, but I am excited about the next phase in my family’s life. Our journey has taken us from Virginia to Arkansas to Texas and now we will begin our next chapter in Oklahoma.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I have had some requests to share my thanksgiving cooking experience. My family did something that I have wanted to do for many years, cook a full thanksgiving meal outside over the fire. Being in South Texas it is finally cool enough to be able to camp and with the kids having a few days break we decided to go camping. We drove five hours up to a state park

called Enchanted Rock, named after the large rock formations. It was a great place to camp and the kids had a lot of fun, but the important part was the meal. We did not want to skimp on anything, so we planned the full thanksgiving spread. The turkey was excellent; because of limitations we did not do a full bird. Our friends who came with us marinated the turkey breasts in basically 7up and soy sauce and slow cooked it over coals. The flavor and moisture were excellent with a smokey flavor. They also made the sweet potatoes by boiling them and making them into a puree. Melissa made her grandmothers mouthwatering stuffing and we cooked it using a Dutch oven. We made mashed potatoes on the camp stove, cranberry sauce, and roasted corn on the cob over the fire. For dessert we made a peach cobbler in the Dutch oven. The dinner was perfect, I do not think we could have done a better job at home in our kitchen. It was one of the best thanksgivings I have ever had. The work was not too difficult and in fact it seemed less stressful than normal and the clean up much easier. We even had leftovers for thanksgiving sandwiches the next day. Add our dinner to the whole camping experience and it was a trip that I believe we will try again soon.