Rock Chalk Jayhawk

9780700621187Just in time for The University of Kansas’ sesquicentennial anniversary, John L. Rury and Kim Cary Warren offer, “Transforming the University of Kansas:  A History, 1965-2015.”  The book reflects upon the people, politics, and developments that have transformed KU–making it the distinctive institution of higher learning that it is today.  Luminaries like Dick Bond, Bernadette Gray-Little, Mandy Patinkin, Rob Riggle, The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Bill Self, Delbert M. Shankel, David Shulenberger, and more offer reflections on the book, for example:

“When I think of KU, I’m young again.

It was the last place my father saw me do what I love to do: perform.

It gave me great teachers and lifelong friends.

It was a place that taught, supported and encouraged me to pursue what I loved

And it was the first place I fell in love.

I don’t know what more a person of any age could ask for.

Rock. . . chalk. . . Jay. . . hawk. . . K. . . you. . . ooo. . . K. . . you. . . ooo.”

–Mandy Patinkin, Tony® Award-winning and Emmy®-Award-winning actor

Balkinization Buzzes “Broken Trust”

9780700621224Stephen M. Griffin recently penned an entry for Balkinization about his new book,  “Broken Trust:  Dysfunctional Government and Constitutional Reform,” which argues for constitutional reform as opposed to dysfunctional government and flawed constitutional order. As Josh Chafetz, author of “Democracy’s Privileged Few” states, “…this lively and important new book…argues that many of the problems stem from our constitutional structure and that the answer lies in adapting certain state-level constitutional innovations to the federal government.”  Mark A. Graber continues, “Stephen Griffin has written the contemporary counterpart to Madison’s ‘Vices of the Political System of the United States.’  His acute diagnosis of the political ills afflicting American constitutional politics, their causes, and their cures is as vital to continued American constitutional development as Madison’s observations were in 1787.”

Human and Bear Relations

Biel 1In the wake of the recent bear attack at Yellowstone Lake (covered in this article by National Geographic), two books from UPK resonate on the subject of human / bear relations:

Alice Wondrak Biel’s “Do (Not) Feed the Bears: The Fitful History of Wildlife and Tourists in Yellowstone.” Drawing on the history of recorded interactions with bears and providing telling photographs depicting the evolving bear-human relationship, Biel traces the reaction of park visitors to the NPS’s efforts-from warnings by Yogi Bear (which few tourists took seriously) to the increasing promotion of key ecological issues and concerns. Ultimately, as the rules were enforced and tourist behavior dramatically shifted, the bears returned to a more natural state of existence.  Biel’s entertaining and informative account tracks this gradual “renaturalization” while also providing a cautionary tale about the need for careful negotiation at the complex nexus of tourists, bears, and all things wild.

9780700619351Sherry Simpson’s “Dominion of Bears: Living with Wildlife in Alaska”  Simpson crisscrosses the Alaskan landscape in pursuit of bears as she muses, marvels, and often stands in sheer awe before these charismatic creatures. Firmly grounded in the expertise of wildlife biologists, hunters, and viewing guides, she shows bears as they actually are, not as we imagine them to be. She considers not only the occasionally aggressive behavior bears need to survive, but also the violence exacted upon them by trophy hunters, advocates of predator control, or suburbanites who view bears as land sharks that threaten the safety of their families. Shifting effortlessly between fascinating facts and poetic imagery, Simpson crafts an extended meditation on why we are so drawn to bears and why they continue to engage our imaginations, populate indigenous mythologies, and help define our essential visions of wilderness. As Simpson observes, “The slightest evidence that bears share your world—or that you share theirs—can alter not only your sense of the landscape, but your sense of yourself within that landscape.”

The Cherokee Kid: Will Rogers, Tribal Identity, and the Making of an American Icon

9780700621002PBS Newshour celebrates Will Rogers with an 80-year retrospective.  To learn more about Rogers, consult Amy Ware’s “The Cherokee Kid: Will Rogers, Tribal Identity, and the Making of an American Icon.”

Philip J. Deloria, author of “Indians in Unexpected Places” writes, “Amy Ware’s exciting new treatment of Will Rogers puts the ‘Cherokee’ back into the ‘Cherokee Kid,’ demonstrating the ways that Roger’s deep influence on American culture emerged from a tribal context that carried across his entire career. A stunning contribution to the rich body of new work examining American Indian engagements with modernity, internationalism, and celebrity.”

Bull Moose or Bull Mouse: TR, Donald Trump, and a Third Party

9780700616060Donald Trump has recently mused about the possibility of a third party candidacy should the Republicans select someone other than him as their presidential nominee. Trump, who leaves few thoughts unexpressed, will thus stir memories of another Republican who, failing to get the GOP nomination, launched his own political party to win the White House. In 1912, defeated at the Republican National Convention by the forces of President William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt took his delegates out of the convention and nominated himself on the ticket of the new Progressive Party. In terms that would suit the most fervent of today’s evangelical Republicans, Roosevelt proclaimed that “we stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord.”

Roosevelt made a strong race against the Democratic nominee, carrying six states with 88 electoral votes. He got about 27% of the popular vote and was an overall second behind Woodrow Wilson’s 41 %.  But he did lose. Popularity and charisma took Roosevelt only so far. Like other third party hopefuls from Robert M. La Follette in 1924, George Wallace in 1968, and Ross Perot in 1992, the partisan allegiances of the general electorate in the end frustrated third-party runs.

The similarities and differences between Trump and TR are interesting. Roosevelt in 1912 did not hint at a third party run until a month before the GOP convention. Here is Trump a year out dropping public warnings to the party that he might use his wealth to underwrite a third party run. Yet cursing the party establishment did not work for Roosevelt in 1912. Although his ill-treatment at the convention, and allegations of stolen delegates, initially justified his defection, he soon abandoned that strategy in favor of a reform program based on his “New Nationalism” of expanded government power.

It seems unlikely that Trump, who rarely goes near substance, would emulate Roosevelt’s, effort to lay out a blueprint for an America with greater corporate regulation, enhanced social justice for poorer elements in society, and a larger role for the federal government. Whatever one concludes about Roosevelt in 1912, there was a serious mind at work engaging the contemporary concerns of his time.  It is hard to imagine Roosevelt giving out the personal information of his opponents or attacking the war records of prominent senators. When friends brought him alleged evidence of Woodrow Wilson’s marital indiscretions, TR rejected it out of hand and would not use it, even though he disliked Wilson intensely.

When Roosevelt came to the Republican convention in Chicago, reporters asked him about how he felt. He said he felt as fit as  a “Bull Moose,” and that mighty animal became the symbol of Roosevelt’s third party.  There was an element of a sore loser in Roosevelt’s decision to leave his political home, but he redeemed himself, at least in the eyes of history, by the intellectual content of his campaign. Much of the liberal agenda of the 20th century emerged out of Roosevelt’s third party campaign and came to fruition in the New Deal and Great Society,

Donald Trump seems very adept at articulating popular grievances on immigration and foreign policy in language that, though often coarse and indelicate, resonates with the Republican base.  His preemptive assertion that he might take his marbles, his helicopters, and his audience appeal and run alone should the GOP delegates reject him is characteristic of someone with an ample ego and a large fortune. As Theodore Roosevelt learned, however, there is more to politics and running for president than one-liners and insults.  It is one thing to rattle the Republican National Committee with a third-party threat.  It is quite another to do the hard work of building up a genuine third party in all fifty states and make it a real political option.  Trump may be a master of the art of the deal, but at least on his record so far, there is little evidence of the capacity to do retail politics with any realistic prospect of success against Republicans and Democrats in a national election. One of TR’s successors, Warren G. Harding, spoke of the joys of vague rhetoric in political matters. Harding called it “bloviating.”  Trump is a serial bloviator. When it comes to a potential third party, Donald Trump is more likely to be remembered for his temporary celebrity than as an heir of one of the great politicians in American history, Theodore Roosevelt, and his memorable third-party run in 1912.

-Written by Lewis L. Gould, Visiting Distinguished Professor of History at Monmouth College and author of “Bull Moose on the Stump: The 1912 Campaign Speeches of Theodore Roosevelt” and “Four Hats in the Ring: The 1912 Election and the Birth of Modern American Politics“.

Mussolini’s Death March

9780700619085On August 11, 1882, Rodolfo Graziani, Italian field marshal, adherent of Mussolini was born.  Learn more inside Nuto Revelli’s “Mussolini’s Death March:  Eyewitness Accounts of Italian Soldiers on the Eastern Front” translated with an Introduction by John Penuel.

As the Journal of Military History writes, “Mussolini’s Death March is a worthwhile read for those wanting to understand the Second World War from the perspective of the Italian army. The book is not only a window onto the wretched lives of the Italian soldiers on the Russian front, but also onto the Italian war experience in other theaters.

National Review Lauds “Hoover’s War on Gays”

9780700621194The National Review lauds Douglas Charles’s “Hoover’s War on Gays” as, “an excellent example of how to write about a dark chapter in the Bureau’s past…The author is remarkably objective about a time when a prude, and possible hypocrite, lumped gays in with authentic traitors.”  With its painstaking recovery of a dark chapter in American history and its new insights into seemingly familiar episodes of that story—involving noted journalists, politicians, and celebrities—this thorough and deeply engaging book reveals the perils of authority run amok and stands as a reminder of damage done in the name of decency.

Publisher’s Pick: Lizzie Borden on Trial

9780700620715August 4 is the 123rd anniversary of the brutal murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in Fall River, an event which captured widespread public attention in the United States especially when Andrew’s daughter, Lizzie, was charged with the crime. Although acquitted, the question of her responsibility for the murders has continued to fascinate the public. Joseph A. Conforti’s book “Lizzie Borden on Trial: Murder, Ethnicity, and Gender,” recently published by Kansas, is the latest and most thorough exploration of the murders, their investigation, and Lizzie’s trial. Setting the case in the social context of its time, Conforti shows how assumptions about gender—could a woman do such a violent act—and class—would a woman of Lizzie’s wealth and status murder her father and step mother—powerfully influenced the investigation and the trial.

Why do we still care about this case? Conforti, who grew up in Fall River with the legend of Lizzie Borden, says that he decided to write about it because “I came to realize that what happened in the Borden house in the summer of 1892 amounted to more than a murder mystery, that events surrounding the tragedy and encompassing the trial revealed much about late Victorian life in Fall River and well beyond.” We become fascinated by a trial because it offers a window into part of our society we don’t really know, in this case an affluent class that assumed the respectability of old New England Protestant stock in a time of rapid change and immigration. Lawrence Friedman, in a recent Kansas book “The Big Trial: Law as Public Spectacle,” says “the Borden trial is a prime example of a group of trials to which I apply the phrase ‘the worm in the bud.’ These trials catch the public fancy because they expose, or threaten to expose, the sleazy underside of prominent or respectable society.” We will never know whether Lizzie Borden was an axe murderer. But we can use the story to explore and expose the life and pretenses of a part of our society.

–Written by Chuck Myers, Director of University Press of Kansas