Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Talking UNION with Majority Report's Sam Seder

Yesterday I had an enjoyable conversation with Sam Seder of the "Majority Report" podcast about the struggle to create a story of United States nationhood in the 19th century and how the ethnnonationalist option won the day, for a time, in the 1910s. (It's the topic of my new book, Union.) You can hear the interview here.

Thanks especially to Seder and crew for having me on what was the first show since the death of their colleague and co-host, Michael Brooks, just days earlier.

I also recently spoke about the book with WUTC's "Scenic Roots," the long-format interview show at Chatanooga's NPR station, and with Peter B. Collins' podcast about the link between the cultural geography in American Nations and the pandemic response.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Maine pandemic updates: testing delays, low hospitalizations, few non-residents testing positive

A few recent updates on the pandemic situation in Maine:

Major national testing labs have been overwhelmed by the pandemic's surge in the Deep South and El Norte, and that's caused one to two week delays in getting COVID-19 results via many Maine providers who rely on these labs, including CVS, Maine Urgent Care, and Intermed. Fortunately, the state's strategy of increasing in-state capacity has limited the damage. The story is in tomorrow's Press Herald.

As of last Thursday, COVID-19 hospitalizations had hit a record low in Maine. That's great news in a state that has the third lowest per capita prevalence of the disease in the country. This usually lags exposures by two or three weeks and is not effected by how much and how well you do testing, so is a very solid indication that Maine was doing well at the end of June. I'll have a fresh update on this metric tomorrow.

And as of July 18 -- the latest date the Maine CDC could provide data for -- the number of non-residents testing positive remained low, and increasing at a rate of only 0.7 per day since the start of July. This is also welcome news as the most likely way in which the pandemic could turn worse here is via the introduction of infections from high prevalence regions to our south during the summer tourist season,.

Monday, July 20, 2020

An Online Event for UNION for Press Herald Subscribers, July 22

The Portland Press Herald is hosting a special event for subscribers: an online conversation between myself and Pulizter Prize-winning journalist and Press Herald digital editor Katherine Lee about Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood.

Katherine and I will kick off at 7pm. Subscribers can register via the links at this article announcing the event. (Make sure to use the email address your subscription is under.)

Thanks for supporting local journalism. To support local business, consider purchasing Union from one of Maine's many great, likely struggling-with-the-pandemic, independent bookstores. At this writing, you can find signed copies at Sherman's (Portland and Freeport); Gulf of Maine Books (Brunswick); Longfellow Books (Portland); and River Run Books just over the border in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Maine Sunday Telegram reviews UNION

Thanks to Thomas Urquhart for his review of my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, which recognizes the book's position in an informal trilogy with American Nations and American Character. The review ran in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram and is available for online reading here.

The Press Herald is hosting a virtual/live interview event July 22. More on that soon here, but details also via this link.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Talking UNION with KERA's Think

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being the guest on "Think," the long-format interview show produced by KERA, the NPR affiliate for Dallas, and carried on public radio stations across Texas and in fourteen other states. Thanks to Krys Boyd for an enjoyable conversation about Union and the struggle to define United States nationhood, which you can hear online here.

I was last on "Think" four years ago, speaking about American Character, a book about the American conflict between individual liberty and the common good, which is unfortunately extremely relevant in these pandemic times.

Also, tonight at 8 pm Eastern consider joining this virtual book party for Union, where you can also order signed or personalized copies that will then be shipped to your door.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Racist names banned by Maine law decades ago still on official registry

Based on a reader's tip, last week I discovered that Maine's official registry of coastal islands still contained several with names banned by law decades ago, including three with the "N-word."

How this could be remains unclear, as I reported in the Portland Press Herald, but the state has taken the registry offline for a full review. (The owners of two of the islands in question had already asked for a name change for them June 30 when they discovered the official names on their own.) Details in the story.

Thanks to New England Cable News for speaking with me for their follow up.

[Update, 7/22/20: I did a follow-up on the state's response.]

Monday, July 13, 2020

Virtual book event for UNION, July 16

Back before the pandemic hit, my friends Nate Fick and Margaret Angell had very kindly planned to host a book launch party for Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood,  here in Maine. Large in-person events being impossible, we've gone virtual with this one, which means everyone's invited!

So please join us at 8 to 9 pm Eastern on July 16 -- Pacific-friendly for our colleagues on the West Coast -- for virtual cocktails, a bit from me about the book and how I came to write it, and plenty of time for questions from all of you.

With the partnership of our local independent bookstore, Longfellow Books, you can not only order the book, you can have it signed or personalized by yours truly before it's shipped to you. (Or any of my other titles.) Just let us know the details in the "notes" section when you order here:


Here are the Zoom logistics for the evening:

Join at 8pm ET from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://elastic.zoom.us/j/95429485303

Or iPhone one-tap (US Toll): +16465588656,95429485303# or +13017158592,95429485303#

Or Telephone:  +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll) 

Thanks again to Nate (whose own, genuinely riveting, 2006 book about serving in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts has some surprise appearances from (now General) Mattis) and Margaret for hosting this, and to all of you for considering attending.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Reviewing Keane's "New Despotism" in Washington Monthly

Liberal democracies are under siege worldwide and a range of thinkers have been probing the reasons why.

John Keane, a professor of politics at the University of Sydney, has a new book explaining the threat, an allegedly new type of regime, The New Despotism. What are its characteristics? How does it differ from despotisms of the past? How does it threaten to unfold at home?

I explore these themes and offer a bit of my take in this review in the new print edition of the Washington Monthly.

My last review for the Monthly was of Jason DeParle's A Good Provider is One Who Leaves, an intimate portrait of global migration.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

American Nations and the geography of the pandemic

The geography of the U.S. response to the Covid-19 pandemic follows, like so many other things in American life, the fissures of identified in American Nations to a startling degree. I wrote about this briefly back in early April for Washington Monthly, when there was a notable divergence in the public policy response. With the Trump administration abdicating leadership, we're now seeing the case trends following these regional contours.

With the help of my Press Herald colleague Chad Gilley and the New York Times's county-level case data, we crunched and graphed the numbers and presented the results in this article in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram. There are detailed data tables for each of the eleven "nations" in the sidebar if you click through. It follows the individual liberty vs common good divide I discussed in American Character.

If you're not familiar with American Nations, here's the publisher's book description, a New York Times OpEd on how it trumps the rural/urban divide in US politics; a Washington Monthly piece on how it doomed the Tea Party, another piece on his it drives differences in violence and gun policy, and an analysis of the 2016 presidential election.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Talking UNION with Texas Public Radio, Northeast Public Radio

Happy Fourth of July everyone, a day when we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence because, yes, it's our founding document. (The 1789 Constitution was the second take at the operational details of the new federation.)

In sync with the themes of the holiday, I spoke this week with Texas Public Radio's hour-long interview program, "The Source" about how we should tell the story of America and my new book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood. You can catch that interview with the San Antonio-based public radio network online here.

For a shorter take, I also spoke recently with WAMC / Northeast Public Radio's Joe Donoghue on "The Roundtable." I was happy to rejoin the network -- which serves eastern New York State (north of New Netherland) and the entire western third of New England -- which has had me on for American Nations and American Character as well.

This week I'll be coming to public radio listeners in southeastern Virginia, and central Tennessee.

Hope you enjoy.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Coronavirus in Maine at the onset of high tourist season

As the coronavirus spreads across the southern and western United States -- a topic I'll have more to say about tomorrow -- Mainers are simultaneously kicking off their summer tourist season, lifting Covid-19 restrictions, and hoping the state can keep the prevalence of the disease low, where it has been for much of the pandemic owing to low population density and an effective lockdown.

Two updates on how things are playing out here:

First, in today's Portland Press Herald: there's been a recent quadrupling in the pace of new non-resident cases here, though starting from a low level. With concerns about contact tracing of such individuals -- theoretically performed by public health departments in their native state or county -- one Maine community has created their own testing regimen for servers, cashiers, clerks and other front-line tourism workers.

Also in today's paper, your exclusive weekly update on covid hosptializations in the state, by hospital.  Good news: another fairly quiet week, though with upticks at some of the state's largest hospitals.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

How Turner's Frontier Thesis led Americans astray

Frederick Jackson Turner of "Frontier Thesis" fame is one of the key subjects of Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, being the primary figure in creating the idea that American-ness was born on the expanding western frontier.

As I argued in this essay that appeared in Sunday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Turner's thesis was enormously influential, but entirely wrong. In fact, on digging further into the data, even Turner quickly realized this and pivoted to researching what he thought were the primary determinants of American political and sociological history: the difference between the competing "sections," or regional cultures. He spent the rest of his life trying to write a master work on this, a book that from his shorter form essays on the subject, could have resembled my American Nations in many ways.

Hope you enjoy the article. And if you want the full story, it's all in Union.

For a bit on another major figure in the book, Woodrow Wilson, see this in Talking Points Memo.