Privatizing the All Volunteer Army: Gender and Families in the 1990s and Early Aughts

via Wikipedia Commons

[Editor's note: This is the final installment in ToM's three part series on social welfare policies in the All Volunteer Army using Jennifer Mittelstadt's new book The Rise of the Military Welfare State as our guide. Parts I and II can be read here and here.] In his assessment of post-1945 army housing, the late military historian William C. Baldwin pointed out that programs aimed at increasing housing stock for military households often followed trends in private sector. So when privatization and deregulation emerged as central themes in government run housing programs and elsewhere in the 1990s, the military soon followed. For our purposes and because we will return to it later, … [Read more...]

Feminism, Evangelicalism, and Social Welfare in Ronald Reagan’s Military: Part II of Jennifer Mittelstadt and The Rise of the Military Welfare State

Ronald Reagan, Official White House photo, 1981, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

[Editor's note: This is part II of ToM's three part series on the AVF via Jennifer Mittelstadt's recent work The Rise of the Military Welfare State. Part I can be read here.] Even as governor of California, Ronald Reagan had celebrated military service. He held up the Vietnam War as “a noble cause,” wrote Edmund Morris in his biography of the president, “every returning serviceman, dead, alive, or drug addicted, a hero. He held prayer breakfasts for them, and celebratory receptions for as many as he could crowd around his hearth.”[1] Moreover, like Milton Friedman and others, he questioned the validity of the draft. “Why can’t we evolve a program of voluntary service? I don’t want the … [Read more...]

Transforming the Military Amidst Austerity: The 1970s and the All Volunteer Army in Jennifer Mittelstadt’s The Rise of the Military Welfare State (Part I)

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In 1974, in the wake of the nation’s retreat from Vietnam and the institution of the all volunteer military, President Gerald Ford and Congress agreed to end the long-standing G.I. Bill. It cost too much, critics suggested, particularly in an era of austerity. Moreover, veterans no longer needed it. In the context of a volunteer force, many argued, soldiers would make careers of the military and the adjustment to civilian life in peace time would not be so severe as to warrant the costly provisions of the bill. Needless to say, army leaders sharply disagreed, warning that the number and quality of recruits would decline. “I told you I could make the volunteer army work, but I never told you … [Read more...]

The Sound of Motor City: Ruin Porn, Popular Memory, and Protomartyr’s Vision of 21st Century Detroit

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For the past couple years, one of the most vital sounds in music today has come out of that ruined city of the middle west, Detroit.   “Before recorded time, in some suburban room, see the devil in his youth,” Protomartyr’s Joe Casey croons over a rapid postpunk beat. “He grew up pale and healthy with the blessings of his father.” Indeed, Detroit’s residents might recognize the suburban devil depicted in the opening song of band’s third album The Agent Intellect. “His privilege came before him, the promise of adoring, the devil in his youth.” Anyone familiar with the Motor City’s postwar history knows the critical place race has played in Detroit’s rise, fall, and current but perhaps not … [Read more...]

ToM’s Cultural Christmas Hits

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Well, it’s that time of year again. If you’re Protestant or Catholic, you struggle with the stresses of finding presents and slogging time with that uncle/aunt that stalks your nightmares. “Please God, don’t let me have to discuss geopolitical politics with Uncle Lew.” For those of you outside the Christian faith, you get to endure endless commercialized ritual-as-holiday, hoping your kids don’t demand the latest version of Guitar Hero or the Star Wars BladeBuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber in emulation of their gentile peers. Conversely, you also get to listen to some folks blather on about the "War on Christmas," the most unlikely of figurative or literal conflicts known to Westerndom. No … [Read more...]

Turkey Day ToM style: Food, Drink and Cultural Politics on Thanksgiving

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So the last couple months haven’t been easy. International terrorism in Paris and Beirut along with the domestic variant in the U.S. (yes, shooting five people at a Black Lives Matter protest counts as does the slaughter of innocent church goers in Charleston, SC this summer to namely only two incidents), the first stages of a brutal (in nearly every way) 2016 election that promises to only get more debased, and well, Donald Trump. Be sure to throw in a depressing debate about Syrian refugees that seems like history is stuck in an endless hamster wheel of miserable repetition (see WWII and Jewish refugees and the Vietnamese in the late 1970s for two examples or you know the whole birth of … [Read more...]

From South Gate to L.A. Live: Demographic Change, Homeowner Ethos and Redevelopment in Southeastern Los Angeles

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When Becky Nicolaides chairs or comments on a panel, people show up. The author of the now seminal My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 always draws a crowd. As her book has assumed a sort of Crabgrass Nation status, the suburb at the heart of it, South Gate, has become an ur-text for Southeast Los Angeles more broadly. Nicolaides ended her study in 1965 but in her epilogue noted that twenty-first-century South Gate now served as a predominantly working-class Latino American suburb, representative of larger structural shifts in economics, demographics, and perhaps even immigration (though commentator Philip Ethington might differ on this … [Read more...]

Beyond the Valley: Demography, Failed Secession and Urban Politics in San Fernando Valley

Map of proposed San Fernando Valley Secession | Image: LA Almanac/Valley VOTE

When one thinks of San Fernando Valley, visions of ranch home subdivisions, shopping malls, and valley girls bound about the mind. In the second episode of season three of Entourage, "A Day in the Valley", Vince and his idiot chorus get trapped in SFV during a debilitating heat wave that threatens to undermine the success of his big action feature "Aquaman." The tone of despair present in the crew's intonation of "the Valley" says it all. More recently, the Comedy Central series "Workaholics" depicted the travails of three white stoners devoid of ambition, but not bong hits. Does anyone even remember the dizzy, faux documentary stylings of the 1990s Showtime series "Sherman Oaks"? In … [Read more...]

Opening the Waves for Everyone: Surfing, Race, and Political Awareness

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  In recent months the sight of NFL, NBA, and NCAA athletes donning t-shirts protesting the deaths of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, Staten Island’s Eric Garner and other black Americans by law enforcement officers has become commonplace, as have critical reactions to such symbolic acts. The St. Louis Police Department and the Rams’ now famous passive aggressive Twitter battle serves as only one example of the friction that arises when athletes voice a political position. Still, recent protests like those described here seem a far cry from the 1980s. Michael Jordan never did tell kids to stop shooting each other over his sneakers, and when pressed about his politics or rather the lack thereof, … [Read more...]

Surfing for Freedom: Black Surfers and Reclaiming Cultural History in Los Angeles

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In 1991's surfing bromance "Point Break," former Big Ten quarterback and F.B.I. agent Johnny Utah infiltrates a notorious ring of "surfing bank robbers" led by the late great Patrick Swayze's Bodhi (short for Buddhavista of course). They play beach football, go night surfing, and eventually end their relationship in a confrontation on an Australian beach as 100 foot waves from a fifty year storm crash on the beach. "Point Break's" ridiculousness has long been acknowledged, from Keanu Reaves performance -- "I am an F.B.I. agent!" -- to Swayze's mix of extreme sports and white Eastern mysticism; yet the film, and others like it, also perpetuate a problematic vision of surfing and a form of … [Read more...]

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