Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

History of the African slave trade in North America

Before we moved to Rhode Island last year, I was familiar with Newport as the home of the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals. Indeed, we attended one afternoon of performances at the Newport Jazz Festival this summer. Newport is only an hour from our home in Rumford RI. Recently, I read in The New York […]

We’re Happy, Free, Confused, and Lonely at the Same Time

Then I really was going to skip today, even as–indeed, because–it is the 50th anniversary of 11 September. The original 11 de Septiembre, that is. Once is history, twice is parody. Feuerbach, as with Marx, was an optimist. Chile took only 17 years to get rid of Pinochet, and they did it at the ballot […]


An important reason to read history is to gain a perspective on current events. If you watch exclusively mainstream media television, particularly Fox News, you might be forgiven for the belief that things in this country are the worst they have ever been in history. “1877: America’s Year of Living Violently” by Michael Bellisiles is […]

Black Earth

Just finished reading “Black Earth: The Holocaust as history and warning” by Timothy Snyder. It is a detailed account of the Holocaust, as well as an effort to abstract lessons from this history for our time. Like his book “Bloodlands,” Snyder’s “Black Earth” makes for painful reading. As the grandson of a Ukrainian Jew and […]


Just finished reading “Bloodlands,” a book by Yale historian Timothy Snyder. It was published in 2010, but now has a lengthy afterword that discusses the book’s reception and ties the theme to current events. I was inspired to read this book because of events in Ukraine and I believe that I have a much better […]

The making of modern Ukraine

For most of my adult life, I’ve learned history almost exclusively by reading books. I took American and World history in high school and two quarters of American history in college, but after that, I became a history autodidact. I’ve written several book reviews (and published three of them), but this is the first course […]

The rest of us

“The Rest of us,” by Stephen Birmingham, is subtitled “The Rise of America’s Eastern European Jews.” Birmingham wrote previously about the Sephardic Jewish immigration around the time of the American Revolution, and about the German Jews who arrived in the mid-1800s. This covers the third wave of Jewish immigration to the United States, the immigration […]

How To Know

History is replete with those times when we got it all catastrophically wrong. Including for sure those times when some deranged soul led a people into the insanity of war; but also those like The Spanish-American War, World War One, The Vietnam War, and The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars where the cues of change were […]

The Wordy Shipmates

For awhile, my favorite radio show was This American Life. And one of my favorite voices on the show was Sarah Vowell. Her nasal, girlish tone belied a sophisticated intelligence and wicked sense of humor. I recently read “The wordy shipmates” by Sarah Vowell. It’s basically her idiosyncratic take on the Puritans who colonized Massachusetts […]