Monday, March 06, 2006

New York Review Review 

I believe that The New York Review of Books is the best periodical in this country--at the least, it provides me with the most consistent supply of thought-provoking and educational historical and political essays each week. And, this week's issue is no different. I haven't read all of it (and there are some promising essay's I've yet to read), but I want to comment quickly on two that I have read, both of which are available online.

First is Paul Krugman and Robin Wells essay on health care in America. Nothing in the essay is particularly new, and many of you may find it like preaching to the choir, but I think it's a very good one-stop-shop type deal for learning about the problems and possible solutions to our health care nightmare. And, it's always good to actually be armed with facts when debating healthcare, right? So, read it and get your learn on.

Second is Tony Judt's review of John Lewis Gaddis new Cold War book. Now, I haven't read this book, but I have read his "We Know Now" book and I also had Gaddis as an undergrad in a class on the Cold War that he team-taught with Kenneth Branagh.* For full disclosure, I should also tell you that I despise John Gaddis both as a teacher and as person, for as far as I know** he was more responsible for railroading my mentor out of the Yale history deparment as anyone back in 2000.

So, I have some biases here against him. But, I would like to note that this Judt review makes me think that I am 100% correct in my biases. If I could have guessed what the problems with a new Gaddis-penned Cold War history would be, they'd be a laundry list of everything Judt states: overreliance on "Great Powers" giving the short-shrift to the Third World, Eastern Europe, and internal conflicts in Communist societies; an overall view of the Cold War as a not much more than a game of Risk; an overly American-centric view; etc. So, it's good to see that sometimes you CAN judge a book by its cover! In any event, the essay is extremely interesting, whatever you think of John Lewis Gaddis and the Cold War, so check it out.

*As my mentor said in his "Revolution in Europe, 1789-1917" class, we actually had to read for that class, as CNN had yet to produce a miniseries of the same name

**I should note in fairness that, obviously, I was not privy to any intradepartmental meetings in which the history department rejected the subcommittee's recommendation to retain my mentor--so my blaming Gaddis is based only on second-hand knowledge and circumstantial evidence. But, I'm pretty sure it's an accurate impression.
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