Archives for category: History

One last assessment of a grim year. Let’s hope 2018 isn’t worse or catastrophic:

17 striking findings from 2017

Among the many disconcerting and ominous realizations from the Trump election is the final reckoning that not only is the American Century (1900-1999) long past, but what we once perceived as America’s special place in the constellation of eminent and enlightened civilizations was a flawed narrative and illusory from the start. When did exceptionalism metastasize into triumphalism?

The past 120 years have been a historical accident as well as an exercise of national self-deception on a massive scale. It turns out that although America may still be a magnificent idea it is flawed in execution. Not surprisingly our self-image is not really the one that appears in the mirror.

The American experiment may be a “shining city on the hill” at times and a beacon of freedom and democracy when we’re at our best, but more often than not we are just as selfish, corrupt and rapacious as every other government, tribe and guild that has ever existed before us, with some unique portion of hypocrisy and self-congratulation added to the mix.

Churchill is right: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Let’s hope that we learn from our mistakes, don’t make the same ones twice, and that we’ll find a measure of redemption in the future.


“In wildness is the preservation of the world” wrote Henry David Thoreau.

A new biography and David Brinkley mark Thoreau’s 200th birthday anniversary.

Take a walk, observe closely and “Live the life you have imagined.”

It seems we’re at an inflection point, a duality that has significant consequences to our future.

This essay sums up the situation astutely. Competition or cooperation, we must decide.

Facebook’s answer for the future is all Facebook all the time.

Redef’s Set:

Ben Thomson is alarmed:

Manifestos and Monopolies

“One of these days they know they better get goin’
Out of the door and down on the streets all alone”

Some days are different from most. This day is one of them. Despite the mendacity, trampled hopes, disgraceful manners and flawed choices, today we must take a stand.

Ultimately, that is as good a definition of democracy as any: the right to be heard, to be counted, and to stand and insist that my voice matters and this is what I believe.

The hierarchy of who sat where at the Four Seasons Restaurant was a barometer of power and social position in New York for nearly 45 years.

The modernist dining room and bar enveloped in an array of shifting curtains, fine and decorative arts and furnishings, and windows reflecting changing light, provided a handsome backdrop for the intersection of Manhattan society and business, revealing public and private dynamics and drama, representing a seminal landmark of the second half of the American Century.

Its New American Cuisine of 1959 was initially innovative and increasingly uneven over time. But always it was an elegant place in which to be seen and to see others. Being there was as important as the quality of the food, and it served as a place and stage to practice the art of public power, social status and upscale living.

The 100th anniversary of the Somme Campaign recalls the unprecedented horror in which a million British, French and German soldiers were killed or wounded between July and November 1916. The British alone suffered 60,000 casualties on July 1st.

The Battle of the Somme is in many ways the inflection point dividing imperial 19th Century Europe from what would become the bloodbath and charnel house of the 20th Century. A new and unimaginably lethal modern warfare on a massive scale became reality. Wholesale death, total destruction and incomprehensible human suffering, would become almost routine in Europe and across the globe. The old world was smashed and the new one emerged shellshocked and delusional from the mud.

Today we see stuttering newsreels and photographs that reveal the ghosts of men, living and dying, amid shattered landscapes in a ruined world in which everything has been reduced to rubble and mud. We can see the monuments on the battlefields, in Europe’s great Capital cities, and in every village in England and the continent. We can pause to read their long lists of young men’s names on achingly sad memorials.

Let’s hope that this perception of American decline is a brief pause and not a trend, but rather a reconfiguration leading to new growth and vitality.