America

In 2016, Hillary Clinton received nearly three million more votes for president of the United States than Donald Trump. Despite this sizeable margin, Clinton was not elected. The reason was the electoral college, a method for picking presidents that emerged as an ‘eleventh-hour compromise’ at the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787 and that has never been abolished.

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If journalism is the first draft of history, this book is a rough-hewn draft of some important historical chunks. Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of The Australian, may not match some of his colleagues there in gravitas, intellectual depth, or analytical precision, but he compensates with an abundance of enthusiasm and enviable access to those in high office. In the early and mid-1990s, when The Australian was prominent among those boosting Asia and Australian–Asian relations, Sheridan was cheerleader for the boosters. His columns and books were often based on long interviews with presidents and foreign ministers, recounted in a tone more often found in celebrity journalism than in diplomatic reports. Sheridan’s obvious delight at being granted personal interviews with the powerful aroused some envious comments, but his technique served a purpose.

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On 15 March 2019, the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history took place at the Al-Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch. Fifty-one people were killed and forty-nine injured as they gathered for Friday prayers. Sickeningly, the gunman, Brenton Tarrant, live-streamed the event on Facebook. A manifesto written by Tarrant quickly surfaced, full of coded language and references best understood by the alt-right community on online platforms such as Reddit, 4Chan, and 8Chan. In court, as he waited for charges to be read out, Tarrant flashed the ‘okay’ signal, once an innocuous hand gesture, now transformed by the culture of the alt-right into a symbol of white supremacy.

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Ivan Vasilevich Ovchinnikov defected to the Soviet Union in 1958. After three years in West Germany, he had had enough of the West with its hollow promises. He was a farmer’s son, and his family’s property had been confiscated and the family deported as ‘kulaks’ during Stalin’s assault on the Russian village in the early 1930s. Ovchinnikov managed to escape the often deadly exile, obscured his family background, and made a respectable career. Brought up in a children’s home, then trained in a youth army school, the talented youngster eventually entered the élite Military Institute for Foreign Languages in Moscow. In 1955, now an officer and a translator, he was sent to East Berlin as part of the army’s intelligence unit.

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On 7 December 1941, Japan bombed the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that it was a date that would ‘live in infamy’. Those who heard his radio broadcast knew that the United States would be drawn into the war that had engulfed Europe and the Middle East ...

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Glyn Davis reviews 'American Journeys' by Don Watson

Glyn Davis
Friday, 16 August 2019

Travel in America is a journey crowded with literary acquaintances. For centuries visitors have striven to make sense of the United States, drawn by its energy, admiring or disturbed by its civic culture. Charles Dickens visited twice, in 1841 and 1867, capturing his observations in American Notes (1842) ...

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Tired of Winning: A chronicle of American decline by journalist and essayist Richard Cooke begins with the shock of Donald Trump’s election on 8 November 2016. In New York’s Lincoln Square, thousands of Clinton supporters were ‘stunned into silence’ while ‘a posse of drunk frat boys in MAGA caps announced themselves ...

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In 1987, Allan Bloom published his best-selling book, The Closing of the American Mind. The American mind must have remained sufficiently open to allow it, three decades hence, to be coddled. The mind that is being closed or coddled is, in the first instance, the young adult ...

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In an address to the National Prayer Breakfast (8 February 2018), President Donald Trump called the United States a ‘nation of believers’. As evidence, he reminded his audience that the American currency includes the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ and that the Pledge of Allegiance is ‘under God’ ...

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Ian Tyrrell reviews Progressive New World by Marilyn Lake

Ian Tyrrell
Friday, 22 February 2019

In 1902, Australian feminist and social reformer Vida Goldstein met Theodore Roosevelt in the White House during her North American lecture tour. Marilyn Lake retells the story of their encounter in her important new book. Seizing Goldstein’s hand in a vice-like grip, the president exclaimed: ‘delighted to meet you’. Australasian social and economic reforms attracted Roosevelt and other Americans ...

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