Monday, December 21, 2015

Talking American Nations on C-SPAN, Dec. 22, 8 pm ET

C-SPAN filmed my American Nations talk at Iowa State University earlier this fall, and now they've scheduled it for broadcast.

So, drop everything, cancel Christmas, and tune in to CSPAN-1 tomorrow, December 22, at 8 pm Eastern for an hour and thirteen minutes of riveting television. [Update, 12/27/15: C-SPAN rebroadcasts the talk Sunday, Jan. 3 at 4:45 pm Eastern.] [Update, 1/6/16: it also broadcast on at least two more occasions on Jan. 4 and 5.]

[Update, 12/23/15: the talk is now on CSPAN's homepage for asynchronous viewing.]

This was my most recent American Nations talk, but there are a whole host of events coming up this winter surrounding the publication of the book's sequel, American Character. I'll be announcing them here and, eventually, at my website's speaking tour page.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

How Martin Luther reinvented the book

Martin Luther didn't just spark the Reformation, he invented the modern book and the publishing industry. That's the intriguing story told on this, the eve of the 500th anniversary of his 95 theses, in Andrew Pettegree's new book Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe, and Started the Protestant Reformation

I reviewed the book for tomorrow's Washington Post. Here's a taste:

When Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in the Saxon backwater town of Wittenberg, moveable type was something like the computer in the 1960s, a useful and expensive tool used by academics and elite institutions....Luther realized the untapped potential of print as a mass medium and used it to broadcast his message to lay readers across the German states, bypassing the traditional gatekeepers via this new social media. 

My most recent review for the Post was of Tom Gjelten's Nation of Nations in October.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

In Downeast Maine, an innovative attempt to save U.S. Atlantic salmon

Buffeted by dams, loss of habitat, commercial fishing off Greenland, and climate change, U.S. runs of Atlantic salmon are threatened with extinction and their numbers have been trending in the wrong direction.

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I write about an innovative, Icelandic-funded project in eastern Maine that hopes to turn the tide. Here's a taste:

The approach, which turned a blighted river on the Scotland-England border into one of the greatest salmon angling locations in the British Isles, focuses on growing fitter fish. Pioneered over four decades by the late Peter Gray, the Scottish manager of a hatchery on the River Tyne, it hatches and raises baby fish in on-river hatcheries using local, unfiltered water and a variety of techniques that more closely mimic the natural environment of early life-stage salmon.

For more background on the problems facing Atlantic salmon in the U.S. and the Canadian Maritimes, please read this article from "Mayday", my recent six-part Press Herald series on climate change in the Gulf of Maine.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Iowa matters, for reasons that predate its existence.

Over at Politico magazine today, I have an extended take on why Iowa still matters in American politics, where it of course holds the first voting in the presidential nomination process.

The argument, powered by the American Nations model, is historical, ethnographic, and cultural. Iowa is the only state entirely dominated by the Midlands, the key "swing" region of American politics, and exhibits its proclivities and priorities in their most unadulterated form:

[The big reason] Iowa deserves to keep its spot as a American political capital: Despite being home to just 3 million people, about 2.9 million of whom are white, Iowa is the state most reflective of the nation’s most vital swing region—a culturally diverse, politically moderate swath of the country that transcends state boundaries and has proved decisive in American politics for the better part of two centuries.
Ever since the first Euro-American settlers poured into Iowa in the decades leading up to the Civil War, the state has been an ethnological mosaic, a place where cultural diversity was not only expected and tolerated, but where no one group was expected to dominate. In this way—neither an Anglo-Protestant-led “melting pot” (as in the New England-influenced northernmost tier of the country) nor hierarchical, post-plantation society like the lowland south—Iowa exemplifies a vital, often ignored, and politically consequential American regional culture that I call “the Midlands,” which is central to American presidential politics.
I enjoyed reporting this piece, which took me across 800 miles of Iowa roads, occasioned delightful conversations with longtime Rep. Jim Leach, journalistic titans David Yepsen, and others, and even got me back to my grandfather's hometown -- Primghar in Obrien County -- for the first time in 36 years.

[Update, 12/4/15: Thanks to the Aspen Institute for placing the piece at the top of their Best Ideas of the Day list at Time.]

For those of you who may have just discovered the American Nations Map and want to know more, read this for a cogent summary or, if you’re really in a hurry, go here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Canada approves oil exploration next to Georges Bank, entrance to Gulf of Maine

Canadian officials have granted Statoil an oil and gas exploration lease for a parcel immediately bordering on the Georges Bank exclusion zone and located at the mouth of the Northeast Channel, the primary oceanographic intake point for the Gulf of Maine.

As I reported in yesterday's Portland Press Herald, in a related development Shell Canada has begun actual drilling in its leases just to the east. BP Canada, which holds a lease for the next set of parcels, has applied to begin its own drilling.

For more background on the Gulf of Maine, its currents, and environmental challenges, consider reading the first part of "Mayday", our October 2015 series on these issues.