Welcome to 90 Cubed Rule

This website is Matthew Lasar’s repository of history, memory, and obsessive compulsive issue tracking. It is also where he keeps the syllabi for the courses he teaches at UC Santa Cruz.

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Big Donald and his Little Trumps

Trump dolls

Like everybody else, I am grazing my way through various articles that try to explain the Donald Trump movement, beginning with everybody’s favorite thinkin’ feller, Thomas Frank. He’s got a piece in The Guardian titled “Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump: Here’s why.” The “ordinary Americans” are the white working class. The “here’s why” is trade.

“Many of Trump’s followers are bigots, no doubt,” Frank notes, “but many more are probably excited by the prospect of a president who seems to mean it when he denounces our trade agreements and promises to bring the hammer down on the CEO that fired you and wrecked your town.”

Frank questions viewing Trump’s supporters through what might be described as the “liberal gaze,” in which bicoastal types notice their racism, sexism, and nativism first and  alarm at the hemorrhaging of jobs last, if at all. “Our left party [aka the Democratic Party] in America . . . chose long ago to turn its back on these people’s concerns, making itself instead into the tribune of the enlightened professional class,” he complains to The Guardian’s UK readers, “a ‘creative class’ that makes innovative things like derivative securities and smartphone apps.”

Oddly, Frank identifies himself as an advocate for these forgotten people, then quotes none of them in his essay. To be fair, he’s got the comments of a couple of union leaders in the piece, along with a union sponsored study that vaguely supports his argument. But you would think he would actually talk to a bona fide Trump supporter or two before lecturing the “Clinton Democrats” he caricatures to do the same. Continue reading

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Is Brexit the beginning of the decline of international English?

When it comes to the great Brexit controversy, everyone is quoting the late Tony Judt, so why can’t I? Here’s an excerpt from his masterpiecePostwar: A history of Europe since 1945.

“The present author can vouch for both the necessity and sufficiency of French as a medium of communication among students from Barcelona to Istanbul as recently as the year 1970.” But:

“Within thirty years all that had changed. By the year 2000, French had ceased to be a reliable medium of international communication even among elites. Only in the UK, Ireland and Romania was it the recommended choice for schoolchildren embarking on a first foreign language – everyone else learned English.”

I wonder how long this dominance will last if London loses its perch as the financial gateway to Europe, a possibility if the United Kingdom really quits the European Union. It’s not like I’m expecting everyone to start learning French or German again. On the other hand, if the French-to-English transition can happen in just three decades, so can something else starting now (or close to now), I guess.

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The hottest historical figures of the global Cold War? and the winners are . . .

JFK with daughter Caroline.

JFK with daughter Caroline.

In the final exam for my Global Cold War class, I give my students a two point bonus question: who was the hottest historical figure of the Cold War? I allow them to define “hot” any way that they wish: in terms of brilliance, looks, leadership, intellect, charisma, or style.

Here are winners:

John F. Kennedy: 17 votes
Mikhail Gorbachev: 7
Gamal Abdel Nasser: 4
Leonid Brezhnev: 3
Ronald Reagan: 3
Brigitte Bardot: 2
Robert McNamara: 2
Richard Nixon: 2
Anwar Sadat: 2
Josef Stalin: 2
Margaret Thatcher: 2 Continue reading

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How far back do “end-of-work” automation predictions go?

I am reading Victor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Page 107 of my edition (2006) says the following:

” . . . progressive automation will probably lead to an enormous increase in the leisure hours available to the average worker. The pity of it is that many of these will not know what to do with all their newly acquired free time.”

The question for me is did Frankl include this in the original edition of his book, released in 1959. I have found a pdf of a 1986 edition that contains the observation. Did the book’s progenitor, From Death Camps to Existentialism include the notion? If so, this train of thought goes much further back than I imagined.

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The 90 cubed rule

Don’t forget: ninety percent of the American people forget ninety percent of everything in ninety days.

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Looking Backward: the coach scene illustrated

As a history lecturer, I have for many years used the coach scene in Edward Bellamy’s utopian novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887 as a way to describe the deep sense of insecurity that Americans lived with during the Gilded Age. I often read the passage to students in my courses on the late nineteenth century United States. But I have always wanted an illustration to accompany the scene as I discussed it; something that I could put up on a PowerPoint slide.

At last my student Lois Rosson, a gifted artist, has granted my wish, producing this representation of the text for my course on the United States from 1877 through 1914:

Art by Lois Rosson [http://loisrossonart.com/home.html]

Art by Lois Rosson [http://loisrossonart.com/home.html]

Looking Backward is about a well-to-do Bostonian who falls into a deep sleep in the year 1887 and wakes up in the year 2000. All the world’s economic problems have been solved, he learns. Humanity has transformed itself into a vast cooperative “industrial army.” So successful are these utopian reforms that the protagonist of the novel, Julian West, feels that he must explain to his readers what life was like back in 1887:

“By way of attempting to give the reader some general impression of the way people lived together in those days, and especially of the relations of the rich and poor to one another, perhaps I cannot do better than to compare society as it then was to a prodigious coach which the masses of humanity were harnessed to and dragged toilsomely along a very hilly and sandy road. The driver was hunger, and permitted no lagging, though the pace was necessarily very slow. Despite the difficulty of drawing the coach at all along so hard a road, the top was covered with passengers who never got down, even at the steepest ascents. These seats on top were very breezy and comfortable. Well up out of the dust, their occupants could enjoy the scenery at their leisure, or critically discuss the merits of the straining team. Naturally such places were in great demand and the competition for them was keen, every one seeking as the first end in life to secure a seat on the coach for himself and to leave it to his child after him. By the rule of the coach a man could leave his seat to whom he wished, but on the other hand there were many accidents by which it might at any time be wholly lost. For all that they were so easy, the seats were very insecure, and at every sudden jolt of the coach persons were slipping out of them and falling to the ground, where they were instantly compelled to take hold of the rope and help to drag the coach on which they had before ridden so pleasantly. It was naturally regarded as a terrible misfortune to lose one’s seat, and the apprehension that this might happen to them or their friends was a constant cloud upon the happiness of those who rode.”

Continue reading

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A Spotify Vietnam era hit song playlist

Any suggestions for the list are welcome.

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Don’t forget about the Income-Based student loan repayment plan

If you are graduating soon, and are worried about repaying your loans, don’t forget to look into the Income-Based repayment plan. This program allows you to make lower monthly payments:

Under IBR, your monthly payment amount will be 15 percent of your discretionary income, will never be more than the amount you would be required to pay under the Standard Repayment Plan, and may be less than under other repayment plans.

Basically you pay that amount for up to 25 years and the rest of the loan is forgiven. But, notes The New York Times, “participation has lagged because borrowers are either not aware of the program or are turned off by its complexity.”

Find out whether you are eligible here. And here is a YouTube video about the program that was posted in 2011.


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Grad scam alert: there is less to some internships than meets the eye

Here is an infuriating story from The New York Times about prestige internships that are really just minimum wage grunt jobs without the wages.  Take fashion merchandising graduate Melissa Reyes, who landed an internship with the Diane von Furstenberg fashion empire in New York City:

She often worked 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., five days a week. “They had me running out to buy them lunch,” she said. “They had me cleaning out the closets, emptying out the past season’s items.” Asked about her complaints, the fashion firm said, “We are very proud of our internship program, and we take all concerns of this kind very seriously.”

The takeaway from this? Go ahead and apply for unpaid internships, but ask for specifics about what you will be doing, and keep in mind the Department of Labor’s six rules for this kind of work:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If the description of the internship you are offered doesn’t bear much resemblance to educational training, you probably want to think twice about joining that particular team.

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