Bill Booth kindly invited me on to his podcast to discuss health and medicine. Bill is one of the founders of Radical Americas, an academic network for scholars and activists with interests in radicalism in the Western Hemisphere.
The State of the State: What is American Political History Now?
9.30-11.15: Session 1
New Ways of Re-envisioning African American Political History through the Archives
‘Sex, Lies and Photography: An Alternative Civil Rights Archive’, Althea Legal-Miller, Canterbury Christ Church University
‘Reframing Black Participation in Southern Courts’, Melissa Milewski, University of Sussex
‘Writing in Opposition: Congressional Correspondence of White Backlash, 1964-1968’, Neal Allen, Wichita State University
‘“The Mau Maus are Coming!” World Affairs and White Segregationist Media in the 1950s and 1960s’, Scott Weightman, University of Leicester
Conservatives and the State in Postwar America
‘Restlessness Under Reaganism: Conservative Visions of the State and the Origins of the Culture Wars’, Karen Heath, University of Oxford
‘Competing Visions: Conservatives and Reagan and Nixon’s Vision of the State’, Tom Packer, University of Durham
‘A New Policy History of the Nixon Presidency’, Mitchell Robertson, University of Oxford
‘Intervention Out of Sight: The Reagan Administration and the US Automobile Industry’, Daniel Rowe, University of Oxford
Reinterpreting International and Diplomatic History
‘Where Transnational and Diplomatic History Meet: Cultural and Scholarly Exchanges and US-China Relations Below the Nixon Summit’, Pete Millwood, University of Oxford
‘The Israeli-American Special Relationship: Beyond Political and Diplomatic History’, David Tal, University of Sussex
‘A Field That Never Was: Intelligence and the History of US Foreign Relations’, Calder Walton, Harvard University
‘Patrolling the Beat: Police Actions at Home and Abroad, 1919-1934’, Benjamin Welton, Boston University
‘“As God Rules the Universe: Reflections on the People and the State in Early America”’, Professor Ira Katznelson, Columbia University and University of Cambridge
1.30-3.00: Session 2
Race, Representation, and the Politics of Respectability: The Problematic Memorialisation of African American Female Activists
‘The Politics of Respectability and Gender: “Passing” in Early African American Photography’, Emily Brady, University of Nottingham
‘The Radical Repercussions of Respectability: The Activism of Dr Dorothy Height’, Lauren Eglen, University of Nottingham
‘“Heroic Souls”: The Memory of Tubman, Truth and Black Female Abolitionists’, Charlotte James, University of Nottingham
Social Movements Embracing the State, or Vice Versa?
‘The Road to Self-Determination: Aboriginal Policy in the United States and Australia, 1960-1993’, Dean Kotlowski, Salisbury University
‘The Right Treatment: Alternative Medicines, Anti-Science and the Ascension of Conservatism’, Lucas Richert, University of Strathclyde
‘How to Build a Man Bomb: Matriachalism and the Men’s Rights Movement’, Keira Williams, Queen’s University Belfast
Beyond the Beltway? Executive and Legislative Politics
‘“The Last Election Means the Buck Stops Here”: Gerald Ford, the House Democrats and the Limits of Congressional Government, 1974-1977’, Patrick Andelic, Northumbria University
‘A White Backlash? Rumford, Riots and the Rise of Reagan’, Dominic Barker, University of Oxford
‘Reading Ronald Reagan in the Age of Donald Trump’, Daniel Geary, Trinity College Dublin
3.00-4.30: Session 3
States and Anti-Statism in an Era of State Building
‘Anti-Intellectualism, Anti-Statism and the Study of American Politics: Rethinking the “Demise” of American Political History’, Louisa Hotson, University of Oxford
‘“Democracy is Sweeping Over the World”: A Transnational American Twenties’ Andreas Meyris, George Washington University
‘All Policing is Political: The Municipal and National Dimensions of the Politicization of Security in New York City, 1918-1945’, Yann Philippe, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne
‘Rethinking the New Deal in an Age of Trump and Brexit’, Jason Scott Smith, University of New Mexico
Connecting Ideas, Culture, and Ideologies
‘Middle Class as a Historical Category of Legitimation in the American State’, Matteo Battistini, University of Bologna
‘Inverted Totalitarianism and Political Protest in the 1960s and 1970s’, Sophie Joscelyne, University of Sussex
‘Diplomats in Chief: Culture, Politics and the Presidency’, Thomas Tunstall Allcock, University of Manchester
5.00-6.00: Roundtable: What is American Political History Now?
Professor Jonathan Bell, UCL Institute of the Americas
Dr Kate Dossett, University of Leeds
Professor Ken Osgood, Colorado School of Mines
As my advisor recently put it, ‘there are many more important things in the world than Trump’s rants!’
This past week the UK Government released a Drugs Strategy. Here is some of the reaction to the document, which is available here.
From The Independent:
The Government’s latest policy relaunch aimed at tackling illegal drugs amid soaring death rates has been heavily criticised by campaigners who say it fails to get to grips with the problem.
The UK Drug Strategy 2017 was announced by the Home Office as its flagship initiative to reduce use of illicit substances and improve addiction recovery rates.
Drug misuse has been falling in recent years, figures show. Some 2.7 million 16- to 59-year-olds in England and Wales took illegal drugs in 2015-16, down from 10.5 per cent a decade ago.
However, the latest available figures also reveal deaths are soaring. Some 3,674 drug poisoning deaths involving legal and illegal substances were recorded in 2015, up from 3,346 in 2014 and the most since comparable records began in 1993. Cocaine deaths reached an all-time high in 2015, and deaths involving heroin and/or morphine doubled over three years to reach record levels.
The new Home Office strategy identifies new emergent threats, including drugs previously known as legal highs such as Spice – the drug blamed for causing a “zombie plague” in city centres, which is now causing havoc in the prison system.
Chemsex drugs like crystal meth, GHB/GBL and mephedrone, which are taken before or during sex to boost the experience, are also identified as a growing problem among users who expose themselves to blood-borne infections and viruses, according to the strategy.
It promises “targeted interventions” and close collaboration between sexual health services and other relevant groups, as well as more help for addicts to find houses and jobs and better controls at borders.
However, it immediately came under fire from people and organisations campaigning to reduce the harm caused by drugs.
Some argued that by refusing to countenance any sort of decriminalisation it could never make any serious dent in a trade controlled by organised criminals at an estimated cost to society of £10.7bn a year.
Models in countries such as Portugal were cited, where decriminalising drugs and treating their use as a health issue has reduced consumption, addiction and funding for criminals.
From the Daily Mail:
The Government has ‘no intention’ of making cannabis legal in the UK, officials have announced in a new blitz on drugs.
Despite a growing body of evidence showing the world’s favourite recreational drug to be safe, possession will remain punishable with jail.
Experts have slammed the Home Office’s controversial decision, describing it as a ‘missed opportunity’ to legalise the herb.
But ministers pointed to various studies that have shown cannabis to be detrimental to human health, with significant links to schizophrenia.
Such worrying associations have existed for decades, and were responsible the decision to reclassify the drug to a Class B nine years ago.
In recent years, Spain, South Africa, Uruguay and several states in the US have made cannabis legal for recreational use.
Pressure has been increasing on the UK to follow suit and update its drug policy, with many citing weed’s medicinal properties.
But Ian Hamilton, a drug researcher based at York University, told MailOnline the UK’s updated stance shows it’s falling behind.
He said: ‘The government has missed an opportunity to provide less harmful ways of people accessing and using cannabis.
‘The UK is falling behind many other countries who are adopting progressive policies towards drug use.
‘These countries have embraced the evidence and recognise that punishing people who use drugs does not improve their health and adds to social inequality.’
Cannabis is currently a Class B drug in the UK, and anyone found in possession can face up to five years in prison.
From The Guardian:
The wait is finally over for those of us working in the drug policy and drug treatment sectors. The Home Office published its new drug strategy on Friday, two years after its planned deadline in 2015. Sadly, however, this is not a case of good things coming to those who wait. For a 50-page document, there’s very little in the new strategy that can earn it its name.
Against a backdrop of increasing policy innovation in the wider world, the main aims of this strategy are largely unchanged from the previous 2010 version. There’s still a focus on recovery, rather than harm reduction. A continued commitment to tackling the problems caused by drugs through the criminal justice system, rather than through the health system. A point blank refusal to consider decriminalisation, or any reforms to the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Worse, what good initiatives there are in the strategy – and there are some – seem to have been dreamed up by minds unfettered by the reality of public health, criminal justice and policing systems squeezed to breaking point.
Andy Burnham, giving the keynote address at a conference in Manchester last week aimed at developing a more connected response to the city’s rising spice epidemic, echoed the thoughts of many in these fields: “Where is the money? Our frontline services are being overwhelmed. I didn’t hear any mention of any extra funding in the radio this morning. It seems quite hollow, what was being said.”
First then, for the good news. Greater efforts are going to be made to provide effective, evidence-based drug prevention and education to young people. Gone are the school visits from the trite ex-user or the finger-wagging police officer: effective resilience training is in.
Prisoners, too, are to be given more help into recovery, their progress monitored closely. Far clearer and more explicit guidelines have been given on the value of opioid maintenance treatments, which allow so many people with opioid dependence to live their lives, and crucially, prevent overdoses.
The people who slip through the cracks of dual diagnosis from mental health and problem substance use are to be better catered for, rather than shunted between services reluctant to take on complex and demanding cases.
Of the rather pedestrian reforms, these are the brightest spots. However, with cuts to local authority public health budgets totalling £85m this year, and ringfenced drug treatment budgets expected to be cut by £22m, it’s anyone’s guess as to where the money will come from for such initiatives. More likely that these reductions will further eat into essential services such as needle exchanges, and hamper local authorities’ ability to properly assess the performance of the services they commission.
(Read the whole article using the link above)
From The Huffington Post:
The Government’s new drugs strategy has been condemned as “business for usual” for failing to embrace radical solutions to soaring drug deaths.
The Home Office announced its long-awaited strategy that pledges to crack down on drug dealers and cut demand by expanding education on drugs and alcohol and expanding the Prevention Information Service.
Writing on HuffPost UK, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the plan would target “unscrupulous drug dealers” while trying to do more to “protect the vulnerable – to prevent them falling into the cycle of drug abuse and to help them turn their lives around”.
While the new strategy does call a rise in drug deaths “dramatic and tragic”, it was condemned as “business as usual” by one advocate for change.
Niamh Eastwood, executive director of drug law experts Release, told HuffPost UK the strategy should have mooted ending criminal punishment for possession, following the lead of other countries.
If you have other stories and media accounts that you think should be added, get in touch.
It’s my pleasure to promote the publication of an important Policy Brief on Cannabis by Kathleen Thompson. Over the past few years she has helped drive conversations about the consumption and control of marijuana. Her recent Policy Brief ought to be read by anyone and everyone! Here’s an extract.
LEGALIZATION OF CANNABIS: THE POLICY CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
By Kathleen Thompson, PhD, MSW, RSW, BA (Hons)
“The commitment by the Government of Canada to legalize cannabis
and cannabis products presents a complex range of socio-economic
challenges and opportunities. Creating the right legal and regulatory
framework to address the implications, both good and bad, will be
key in determining whether legalization is deemed successful public
The federal government plans to introduce cannabis legislation in the
coming spring session of Parliament. The legislation will be based on
the recommendations contained in a report issued on November 30 by
a Task Force of experts who studied the issue for the past year. The Task
Force received input from more than 30,000 Canadians, organizations
and professionals. Entitled “A Framework for the Legalization and
Regulation of Cannabis in Canada”, the report recommends allowing
more flexibility in the current federally controlled cannabis cultivation
model. Specifically, the federal government would regulate a safe and
responsible supply chain of cannabis.”
ABOUT KATHLEEN THOMPSON
Dr. Thompson has worked in health policy analysis and research as a bureaucrat and as a consultant for the last 25 years, specializing in the mental health, disability and corrections sectors.
In 2015, Dr. Thompson created the Cannabis Regulatory Research Group. The focus of the policy research group is on promoting collaborative public policy processes and evidenced-based research with the cannabis industry, governments, academia, civil society and at the United Nations. Additionally, Dr. Thompson consults with individuals and organizations on how to enter the legal cannabis industry.
In the era of Trump and Hillary, we may occasionally forget about strange and seemingly ‘radical’ political moments. But there have always been times of flux, of discrete moments of radicalism. I’ve tried my best to engage with some of these moments and some of the literature that surrounds these moments.
“The term political radicalism (or simply, in political science, radicalism) denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways.”
Below are a few examples of specific radical’ moments.
EARLY 19th CENTURY RADICALISM
For example, Peter Adams’s The Bowery Boys: Street Corner Radicals and the Politics of Rebellion (Praeger, 2005). A fly-under-the-radar expose of 19th century radicalism, the book has a lot of resonance now.
At the heart of The Bowery Boys – and of street corner radicalism – is Mike Walsh. His was a New York of ethnic and class division. In his 2005 book, Adams contends that the Industrial Revolution had fostered division by modifying the nature of the urban workplace. People felt disenchanted. Empty. The body was a vessel to be exploited.
He also holds that, by 1820, economic and political power had come to be controlled by a group of commercial and merchant elites (26). Walsh was an anti-intellectual rabble-rouser, who recognized and inveighed against this growing inequality. He voiced the frustrations of New York’s poverty-stricken immigrants and nativeborn alike with his incendiary newspaper Subterranean.
In short, Mike Walsh was radical in a radical time and place, a point
hammered home with vigor in this book. Adams cites Walt Whitman, one
of Walsh’s on-again, off -again supporters as writing, “At this moment New York is the most radical city in America” (63). Adams himself characterizes New York as “a center of radical thinking,” a safe haven rife with bohemians, trade-unionists, and utopian socialists (63). Walsh, a product of this environment, touted the Subterranean as “the most radical paper on earth” (xxi). And Walsh’s Bowery Boys, according to Adams, represented “a radical insurgency that threatened the public order and existing class relations” (xxii)
This sounds very familiar…
The Bowery Boys is also an instructive book for those readers interested in the history of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party’s internecine squabbling, and as popularized by Martin Scorsese in 2002, the radical ruffians and scrappers that participated in certain Gangs of New York.
POST-WAR 60s RADICALISM
I’ve also been very interested in the women and activists of the 1960s & 1970s. Hence, my close reading of Anne Valk’s Radical Sisters: Second-Wave Feminism and Black Liberation in Washington, D.C. (Illinois Press, 2010)
Valk investigates numerous grass-roots movements and organizations, such as the D.C. Women’s Liberation Movement, D.C. Area Feminist Alliance, and Gay Liberation Front. She offers absorbing portraits of movement figures like Mary Treadwell and Etta Horn, but the core strength of Radical Sisters is the delineation of the synergy, cross-fertilization, and antagonism between strains of feminism in Washington, D.C. This monograph, Valk’s first, is thus instructive for those readers with a broad interest in social movement interactions and feminism in the United States.
The book capably captures the points of both convergence and departure that characterized ‘radical’ women’s groups in Washington, D.C. On the one hand, Valk skillfully articulates how dogmatism stunted collaboration and consequently the longevity of certain organizations (the Metropolitan Abortion Alliance). Liberal feminists, she suggests, wanted legal and statutory reform and displayed a “fundamental faith in the soundness of America’s economic and political institutions,” whereas radical feminists, often far more bellicose, wanted to free women “within both personal and public realms” (4).
Radical feminists, in some instances, advocated the toppling of America’s capitalistic economy to terminate patriarchy, racism, and imperialism, thereby creating conditions in which an inclusive democracy would blossom.
In some cases, pugnacious radical women established shelters for battered women, children’s programs, rape crisis centers, and feminist publications such as Aegis andQuest. They were taking control of their bodies.
On the other hand, Valk correctly contends that the scholarly distinctions between radical and liberal are misleading and somewhat overplayed. She illustrates how “the line separating liberals and radicals often blurred” (8) and takes care to clarify how flexibility and adaptation also characterized interactions between movements like the Washington Area Women’s Center and National Black Feminist Organization. In explicating these tensions and negotiations, Radical Sisters paints a picture of a dynamic and protean feminism in the 1960s and 1970s.
Valk’s narrative begins with an overview of antipoverty and civil rights activism in the early 1960s, describing how branches of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) supported women participants in these initial efforts. Together, these groups campaigned to influence welfare policies, reproductive rights, and the socioeconomic status of women. Meanwhile, Valk traces the concurrent rise of radical feminists, who not only took cues from liberal feminism but also served to spark a fiery exchange of ideas about ethnic and class division in Washington, D.C., social movements. She then addresses this evolving dialogue as she unpacks and highlights the Black Power era. “Most Black Power advocates reacted negatively to organized feminism,” she explains, “and black women sought to advance gender equality through racial oppression” (11).
Finally, the narrative turns to lesbian feminism, another vital element of the fractionalized feminist landscape. According to Valk, the Furies, as the gay feminist collective was called, distinguished themselves by attacking homophobia in extant feminist organizations, igniting discussion around feminist philosophy, and ultimately alienating others in the broader Washington, D.C., feminist movement.
RECENT ‘BUSH’ RADICALISM
But then I got even more ambitious and modern with Radical in the White House?, which explored a number of books on George W. Bush and radicalism. These books included:
Fred Barnes. Rebel-in-Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush. New York: Crown Forum, 2006. ISBN 030-7336492
Bruce Bartlett. Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. New York: Doubleday Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0385518277
Sidney Blumenthal. How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0691128887
Sean Wilentz. The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. ISBN 978-0060744809
I felt that clashes over George W. Bush’s legacy – his radical legacy – had begun in earnest.
Authors of all political colorations had begun crafting books and articles about the appalling mishandling of the U.S. economy, the tepid response to broken levees in New Orleans, and the early failed strategy in Iraq, among a host of other topics. Conservatives, for their part, were especially introspective about and critical of their agent in the White House. Michael Tanner, a writer at the Cato Institute in Washington, pilloried the Bush administration’s disloyalty to principles held by those on the Right, whereas others in the conservative establishment – for instance, Daniel Casse – strived to rebrand Bush as a pro-government conservative.
A significant element of this debate centered on Bush’s putative domestic and foreign policy radicalism. In fact, the topic was broached as early as January 2003. According to Bill Kellar, Bush, the ideological torch-bearer of Reaganism, had a high-quality “chance of advancing a radical agenda that Reagan himself could only carry so far.” Not only were political and economic conditions apposite for the continued promotion of a radicalized version of Reaganite doctrines, but the Bush administration in early 2003 proved adept in pivoting off scandal. In foreign affairs, moreover, Bush’s Middle East policy was considered a “radically new approach” to the region. According to Daniel Pipes, it was time for Americans to buckle up. Succeeding years were going to be a “wild ride.” By 2008, a number of authors – including Barnes, Bartlett, Blumenthal, and Wilentz – began to address the thrills and perils of that ride.
It appears Bush was a radical of various shades. He audaciously and radically bucked the approval of the conservative establishment because he believed in the veracity of his own ideas: on prescription drug entitlements, education policy, and Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, just to name three examples. Yet Bush also oversaw the enactment of hefty tax cuts, first in 2001 and then again in 2003, and these measures – historic in size and scope – symbolized to moderates and liberals a radicalized adaptation of President Reagan’s economic conservatism. Moreover, after his “bullhorn moment” at Ground Zero in 2001, Bush embarked on a radical foreign policy that not only expanded the wartime powers of the presidential office but also included the sanctification of torture and domestic spying.
This stimulating and provocative selection of George W. Bush books asks us to acknowledge wildly disparate views of Bush and his administration. The first, a macabre vision, holds Bush as an obdurate radical ideologue who oversaw the precipitous economic and moral decline of the nation.
The second, by contrast, casts Bush as a transgressive conservative, a man driven not by dogma, but rather by a desire for results, for positive conservative outcomes in American society – and by whatever means necessary, including government intervention. His radicalism thus lay in his willingness to defy the shrill cries of his own base. The third view, Bartlett’s forceful argument, holds that Bush was a disloyal scoundrel – in effect, a liberal – and it condemns the president for his very lack of radicalism.
Bush was pretty serene about the whole thing. As he told Bob Woodward: “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.”
The debate continues.
Now, however. Now.
The era of Trump. And Clinton. And Sanders. In 2016, we have a different version of radicalism. According to National Review, “Sanders and Trump Have Risen from the Wreckage of a Broken Culture” and suggests pop culture can “normalize” radicalism with “astonishing speed.” Trump, for his part, has called for a Radical Islam Commission. He’s also been recast as a Marvel super-villain.
Let the good times roll.
A blast from the past…
Why do we question vaccines? And who are the thought leaders involved? Are they respectable, or are they hacks? And, more importantly, what can we glean from past debates about vaccines? In Elena Conis’s new book, we get a sense of this – and so much more.
In the newest edition of Social History of Medicine, I review Elena Conis’s new book, Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization.
In tracing over 50 years of vaccine controversy, we get to know the key institutions, opinion leaders, and major ideas that have driven debates. We are exposed to federal law, feminism, and, oh yeah, Jenny McCarthy and the mass media.
She began her career in 1993 as a nude model for Playboy magazine and was later named their Playmate of the Year. McCarthy then parlayed this fame into a television and film acting career. She is a former co-host of the ABC talk show The View.
McCarthy has also written books about parenting and has become an activist promoting research into environmental causes and alternative medical treatments for autism. In particular, she has promoted the idea that vaccines cause autism and that chelation therapy helped cure her son of autism.
Both claims are unsupported by medical consensus, and her son’s autism diagnosis has been questioned. McCarthy has been described as “the nation’s most prominent purveyor of anti-vaxxer ideology”, but she has denied the charge, stating: “I am not anti-vaccine…”
In Conis’s book, we get a better understanding of how someone like McCarthy can drive the policy process and shape our View on vaccines.
Here is a brief excerpt from the review:
“Vaccines are significant medical interventions that naturally induce powerful economic, social, and political reactions. Vaccines have helped shaped narratives about American scientific and technological ingenuity, as well as therapeutic progress, yet they have also been ‘cast in the image of their own time’ (p. 10), The pathway to effective, accepted vaccines has been neither simple nor straightforward.
In Elena Conis’s penetrating new book, Vaccine Nation, this fluid negotiation over vaccines for polio, pertussis and Human papillomavirus (HPV), among others, is on full display. We are exposed to a ‘wildly diverse set of influences, including Cold War anxiety, the growing value of children, the emergence of HIV/AIDS, changing fashion trends, and immigration’, that have shaped vaccine acceptance—as well as resistance (pp. 2–3). Conis, a former journalist, offers punchy and accessible prose as she skilfully traces the ebb-and-flow of vaccine history from the 1960s to the present.”
If you’re interested, PBS has done a great job covering anti-vaccination in the U.S.
The city of Prince Albert, in northern Saskatchewan, has just released a report that tackles the staggeringly high rate of alcohol use/abuse among P.A’s residents. One of the recommendations to combat the alcohol is the legalization of marijuana. In a StarPhoenix report, Charles Hamilton discusses pot and alcohol policy in both big and small communities. It is called “Pot may curb alcohol abuse in P.A., report indicates.”
Hamilton’s full article can be found here, but here’s the beginning – and I weigh in, too.
Some Prince Albert city councillors are balking at a suggestion that legalized pot could help reduce binge drinking in the city.
The city released it’s “alcohol strategy” this week, a culmination of years of work to document and offer ways to combat problems with underage and binge drinking.
However, some are taken aback by the report’s suggestion that legalized pot could help curb chronic alcohol abuse.
“I personally have concerns,” Coun. Rick Orr said. “I think it’s another one of the items that we have to deal with from a community addictions point of view.”
Other suggestions in the report include eliminating the city’s drive-thru liquor stores, cutting back the business hours of establishments where liquor is sold, and having more cultural training and education among young people about the dangers of drinking.