UPK Announces New Series: Rethinking Careers, Rethinking Academia

The University Press of Kansas is excited to announce a new academic series: Rethinking Careers, Rethinking Academia.

As more and more academics at various career stages are exploring different options for work outside the professoriate, changes to academia are causing a rethinking of both the curricula and the ethics of PhD programs. People considering alternate career paths after academia continue to need resources to guide them. The aim of this new series is to redefine what success means for current and former PhD students.

Rethinking Careers, Rethinking Academia seeks projects that lead to meaningful professional development and create lasting value. Topics should speak to graduate students, recent and experienced PhDs, university faculty and administrators, and the growing alt-ac and post-
ac community. The series will offer affordable books marketed to a wide readership. Projects could be analyses of the academic and alt-ac or post-ac landscapes; how-to guides about dealing with a PhD program or transitioning into various professions; memoirs about different stages of an academic journey; (re)examinations of the purpose, structure, and ethics of graduate education in the twenty-first century; or something else. There’s plenty of room for creative approaches!

“This series is being launched at the perfect time, as there are so many people who are questioning their PhD track or who have PhDs but are thinking about careers outside academia,” explains Joyce Harrison, press editor in chief. “Joe Fruscione and Erin Bartram have their fingers on the pulse of the ‘alt-ac’ world, and I’m looking forward to working with them to produce helpful guides not only for PhDs and PhDs to be, but also for university faculty and administrators.”

About the series editors…

Erin Bartram, PhD, is a freelance writer and historian of women and religion in the United States. After three years on the tenure-track job market, she left full-time academic teaching in 2018. She currently serves as the associate editor of Connecticut History Review, and her writing on history, teaching, higher education, and post-academic life has appeared in the Washington Post, Common-place, the Chronicle of Higher Education, U.S. Catholic Historian, and on the pedagogy blog Teaching US History.

Joseph Fruscione, PhD, is a freelance editor, stay-at-home dad, and communications director for the nonprofit PrecariCorps. After fifteen years in aca¬demia as an adjunct teaching American literature, film, and first-year writing, he left teaching in May 2014 to pursue a freelance career. He’s worked as a post-academic consultant for The Professor Is In, and he occasionally does freelance consulting for new alternative academics or post-academics. He’s written Faulkner and Hemingway: Biography of a Literary Rivalry (Ohio State University Press, 2012) and edited Teaching Hemingway and Modernism (Kent State University Press, 2015), among other scholarly writing projects. He’s also published pieces about adjunct life and higher ed for Chronicle Vitae, Inside Higher Ed, Digital Pedagogy, PBS NewsHour’s Making Sense series, and elsewhere.

Please send inquiries and questions to rethinkingcareersseries@gmail.com.

UPK Names Bill Allison New Modern War Studies Series Editor

The University Press of Kansas (UPK) is pleased to that announce Bill Allison has been named the new editor of the acclaimed Modern War Studies Series. Allison is an accomplished scholar of American military history, specifically the Vietnam War, and a professor of History at Georgia Southern University.

Initiated in 1986, UPK’s Modern War Studies series publishes several books each year in military history, from the mid eighteenth century to the present. More than 250 titles have been published in the series, and series books have been awarded prizes by the Society for Military History, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, Naval Historical Foundation, Army Historical Foundation, Air Force Historical Foundation, Organization of American Historians, and American Historical Association, among others.

“Modern War Studies has been the gold standard for the field, still so among a growing number of really solid military history-oriented series from several outstanding presses,” Allison said. “From operational history to the non-combatant war experience to remembrance and commemoration, and a whole slew of areas of study in between, Modern War Studies has both reflected as well as shaped the amazing scale and scope of “military history” for over thirty years. I want to continue the work that Ted Wilson and Mike Briggs did so well for so many years. I have the greatest respect for both Ted and Mike – both have mentored me over the years, taught me a lot about not only the field and ‘doing’ history, but also about how university presses work and how book publishing has changed over the years.”

Allison earned his BA and MA in History at East Texas State University in 1989 and 1991 and completed his PhD in history at Bowling Green State University. His academic work is complemented by his accomplished writing career. He is author of The Gulf War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), My Lai: An American Atrocity in the Vietnam War (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), Military Justice in Vietnam: The Rule of Law in an American War (University Press of Kansas, 2007), and American Diplomats in Russia: Case Studies in Orphan Diplomacy, 1917-1919 (Praeger, 1997), and is co-author with Janet Valentine and the late Jeffery Grey of American Military History: A Survey from Colonial Times to the Present (Pearson, 2013), among other works.

Allison has presented and lectured at numerous conferences and universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, the University of Zurich, the Australian Defence Force Academy, the US Army Heritage and Education Center, and the USAF Air Command & Staff College. He is a former Trustee and Vice-President of the Society for Military History and has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Military History as well as editor for Routledge’s Critical Moments in American History series. Allison has served as a visiting professor at the United States Air Force Air War College, the University of Utah, the United States Army War College, and other institutions.

“Bill Allison is one of the most highly regarded military historians working today,” said Joyce Harrison, UPK editor in chief. “He has an exciting vision for the series, and all of us at the University Press of Kansas are thrilled that we’ll be working with him in the years ahead.”

Allison plans to hit the ground running.

“I believe continuing an emphasis on operational history is important – operational studies contribute to the field and often stimulate other scholars in turn to pursue projects that place those experiences on other contexts, be it from the perspective of place, time, race, gender, imperialism, institutional, theory, whatever,” he said. “Collectively, this is what is so exciting about military history and this series – obtaining balance among the range and variety of perspectives from scholars both seasoned and new to the discipline, from around the world, to bring this work together in this series to move us forward and get us thinking of more questions to explore.”

Born and raised in Texas, he lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with his wife Jennifer (Registrar – Wofford College) and three-year-old black lab Tucker.

The Legacies of Justice Kennedy

By Frank J. Colucci, author of Justice Kennedy’s Jurisprudence: The Full and Necessary Meaning of Liberty

By announcing his retirement last week after 30 years on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy assures two aspects of his legacy:

(1)   His conservative precedents will be more secure than his liberal ones.

(2)   A Senate confirmation process as politically and constitutionally consequential as the one that resulted in his nomination.

As I demonstrate in my book on his jurisprudence, Kennedy exercises a broad conception of judicial power to protect ideals of liberty. By embracing expansive conceptions of human dignity and free speech as well the judicial role to enforce it, he has been the justice most likely to strike state and local laws for violating the Constitution. On a Court divided for most of the past two decades between blocs of four more liberal and four more conservative justices, Kennedy’s assertiveness has held the balance. “The enforcement power of the judiciary,” he said in his 1987 confirmation hearings, “is to ensure that the word liberty is given its full and necessary meaning.”

Nominated to the Court by Republican Ronald W. Reagan, Kennedy has drawn charges of betrayal from conservatives for critical votes on high-profile constitutional issues. He wrote opinions for five-justice majorities reaffirming a woman’s right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt (2016). In other 5-4 decisions he voted to strike official prayer in public schools, limit presidential power to hold suspected terrorists, affirm rights to political dissent, and narrow the classes of defendants eligible for the death penalty. Kennedy also wrote several opinions, culminating in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) which found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Even with these prominent liberal departures, Kennedy’s essential conception of liberty and his overall record remains predominately conservative. He consistently joined majorities on the Court to limit federal power to regulate commerce and enforce voting rights, to uphold law enforcement, and to expand free speech protections to commercial and corporate speakers such as in Citizens United v. FEC (2010). Kennedy joined opinions advancing claims of religious liberty, upholding displays of the Ten Commandments on government property and prayer at public meetings as well as concurring in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell (2014). And of course Kennedy joined the 5-4 majority in Bush v. Gore that first stayed then ended the Florida recount and effectively concluded the 2000 presidential election.

Kennedy’s votes during the recently concluded term confirm his fundamental conservatism. His majority opinion in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case criticized officials of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for statements that violated first amendment rights to religious neutrality from government. He explicitly called for greater First Amendment consideration for compelled speech. While “the free speech aspect of this case is difficult,” he writes, it “is an instructive example, however, of the proposition that the application of constitutional freedoms in new contexts can deepen our understanding of their meaning.” Kennedy also dissented in Carpenter v. U.S, where in a 5-4 opinion for the Court Chief Justice John Roberts extended Fourth Amendment protections to records of cell phone locations. Kennedy argued that these location records belong to the cell phone company and not the individual. Had Kennedy’s view prevailed, law enforcement would not be required to obtain a warrant to obtain from a provider 127 days of a person’s cell phone location data.

Kennedy’s last actions on the Court reiterated his fear of government compelling speech and expression contrary to conscience. His last separate opinion in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra—striking California regulations requiring facilities that offer pregnancy –related services to provide women information about obtaining an abortion—focuses on fears of compelled speech. “Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions,” he writes. California’s law to the contrary “imperils those liberties.” In his final morning on the bench, Kennedy joined the majority in Janus v. AFSCME finding requirements that public employees either join a union or pay agency fees violate individual rights to free speech on matters of political concern.

One jarring late departure, however, can be found in Kennedy’s concurring opinion in Trump v. Hawaii. Kennedy states “it is an urgent necessity that officials adhere to these constitutional guarantees and mandates in all their actions, even in the sphere of foreign affairs” and concludes “an anxious world must know that our Government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect, so that freedom extends outward, and lasts.”

Yet Kennedy joined the majority in allowing the president’s ban on entry to travelers from several nations to remain in force. He concedes “the very fact that an official may have broad discretion, discretion free from judicial scrutiny, makes it all the more imperative for him or her to adhere to the Constitution and to its meaning and its promise.” Kennedy’s statement of judicial weakness in the travel ban case contrasts starkly with the confidence about the meaning of liberty and the obligation of courts to enforce it he expressed at his confirmation.

Kennedy’s recent opinions and decision to retire at this time have the effect of securing the conservative aspects of his legacy while leaving unsettled the 5-4 liberal precedents he wrote and joined.  His former clerk, Neil Gorsuch, sits on the Court as Trump’s first appointment. Replacement by a Trump nominee would secure conservative victories of the current Term and provide a likely fifth vote to overturn liberal 5-4 landmarks that Kennedy wrote, joined, or affirmed.

The current judicial nomination process invites comparisons with the confirmation battle over Robert Bork that led to Kennedy’s elevation to the Court. When Lewis Powell announced his retirement in 1987, Senate Democrats led by Edward Kennedy attacked Bork’s nomination for fear his vote on the Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, limit civil rights and labor protections, and roll back the liberal precedents of the Warren Court. These hearings took place following a summer of Iran-Contra hearings and with a presidential job approval rating under 50 percent.

Bork’s nomination was defeated 58-42 with six moderate Republicans (Arlen Spector, John Chaffee, Lowell Weicker, Bob Packwood, Robert Warner and Robert Stafford) joining 52 Democrats voting no.  Only after Bork’s rejection and the withdrawal of Douglas Ginsburg’s nomination was Kennedy tapped as a third choice and eventually confirmed by the Senate in February 1988 by a 97-0 vote.

Democrats argue for delaying confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominee until after the upcoming midterm elections, but one stark political difference exists between the confirmation process that produced Kennedy and the one that will vote on his successor. Democrats won the Senate in the 1986 midterm elections and had enough votes to control the chamber even without Republican defections.  Today Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate, and in confirming Gorsuch’s last year the majority has eliminated the filibuster for all federal judicial nominations. Democrats need Republican votes to defeat a Trump nominee—just as they needed Republican votes last year to prevent legislation that would have gutted the Affordable Care Act (which they got) and to stop the tax bill (which they did not).

While Justices have life tenure, the timing of Kennedy’s retirement reaffirms that the Supreme Court follows the election returns. In 1987, Democrats alone could stop Bork. Going forward, defeating any Trump nominee and salvaging any of Kennedy’s liberal legacy requires action from Republicans in the Senate or on the current Court.

Frank J. Colucci is associate professor of political science at Purdue University Northwest and author of Justice Kennedy’s Jurisprudence: The Full and Necessary Meaning of Liberty

The Shape of the 2018 Elections: New Volunteers, New Movements?

by Betty O’Shaughnessy and Dick Simpson, authors of Winning Elections in the 21st Century

Results of the primary elections held during April through June begin to paint a picture of an evolving politics in the country. The results of the May and June primaries show that grassroots campaigns with women activists can be successful, although heavy financial support of the national parties’ leadership often gives victory to their endorsed candidates regardless of gender. For instance, in May, the Georgia Democratic primary for governor showed charismatic, heavily endorsed Stacey Abrams crushing Stacey Evans, whose campaign strategy seemed geared toward winning back poor rural voters.  Incumbent and heavily backed Dianne Feinstein easily won the Democratic nomination for California’s Senate seat; a Democratic takeover of the Senate would make her chair of the powerful judiciary committee. Pundits are now predicting that women in Congress will reach at least 25% representation from their current level of 20%.

While grassroots efforts are not always successful, they are effectively harnessing the renewed political awareness spreading – in both parties.  In Kentucky, schoolteachers came out to support one of their own, Travis Benda, to defeat the GOP state House leader, Jonathan Shell.  In the Democratic primary for Kentucky’s 6th Congressional district, former fighter pilot Amy McGrath won over DCCC endorsed Jim Gray. Vox.com found that in Texas, more than half of the 50 women running for Congress in both parties won their primaries. In California, Katie Hill, a grassroots progressive, won the Democratic primary for the 25th District Congressional seat.

While the “Blue Wave” of winning Democrats likely to turn districts from Red to Blue is continuing through the summer, nonetheless, pundits are commenting that the Republican party is now really the party of Donald Trump, whose tweets are effective in supporting his followers, and that many Republicans in Congress are reluctant to counter him for fear of losing in the November election. While some extreme candidates – such as former coal executive and ex-con Don Blankenship of West Virginia – have been defeated in Republican primaries by more moderate candidates, others are still winning important elections. In June, for instance, longtime incumbent Mark Sanford lost South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District’s Republican primary, to Katy Arrington, a vocal Trump supporter, and white-supremacist-backed Corey Stewart gained the Republican nomination for the Virginia Senate contest.

So although Democrats will clearly make gains in 2018, it is still problematic whether they can take back either house of Congress and probably will remain unpredictable until November. The final primaries will be held in August, after which we will know most party slates for the midterm election in November. It is important to remember that a lot can happen in the five months between now and then.

As we write in our book, Winning Elections in the 21st Century (Kansas University Press, 2016), the theme of the campaign is critical.  In 2016, Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and Bernie Sanders theme of fixing income inequality both resonated with the country.  In 2018, both the women’s movement and disgust with Washington are working for candidates, and is reflected in both the campaign themes and the number of volunteers in especially many grassroots campaigns. This year, 422 women are at this date running for US House seats, and 49 women are running for the Senate.  And they are often winning, especially in close races. In the May 15th Democratic primaries, women won one US Congressional district in Nebraska, two in Pennsylvania as well as two contested state house races, and won one of two highly contested state senate races in Oregon. Many of the women ran in Democratic primaries but more Republican women are running and winning as well. Most women candidates have the help of grassroots local groups, using the strategies described in Winning Elections. These (mostly) women are active mainly in local groups that are similar but not closely connected across the country.

This is not just a case of a reverse Tea Party on the left taking over. As Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol relate in a recent article, Progressive candidates have clearly won some elections but much of the change – especially the movement from Red to Blue is taking place in the suburban areas and being led by people who are pragmatic about winning. The new activists are not primarily leftist ideologues but retired teachers, librarians, and community leaders who don’t like the way the 2016 elections turned out or the Trump policies since then. Moreover, issues that have sat dormant, such as gerrymandering, ERA, and doing away with the Electoral College, are mobilizing activists. Some activists are addressing the fairness of wealthy candidates — such as the gubernatorial nominees for both parties in Illinois — self-financing their primary campaigns. But these volunteers — whether supporting candidates, issues, or both — as part of the “Me too” movement, the resistance, or just unhappy with the state of the country, are using their skills to do the old fashion precinct work, phone calling, and neighbor-to-neighbor contact that we recommend as essential for winning elections in the 21st century.

Dick Simpson is professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the co-editor with Dennis Judd of The City, Revisited: Urban Theory from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York.

Betty O’Shaughnessy is a visiting lecturer in political science, University of Illinois at Chicago and coauthor of The Struggle for Power and Influence in Cities and States.

Charles Delgadillo (Crusader for Democracy; The Political Life of William Allen White) Q & A

The editor of the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette and the ‘Sage of Emporia,’ William Allen White is known for his quips, quotations, and a sharply crafted view from Main Street expressed in his 1896 essay, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” But for all his carefully cultivated small-town sagacity, White (1868–1944) was a public figure and political operator on a grand scale. Writing the first biography in a half-century to look at this side of White’s character and career, Charles Delgadillo brings to life a leading light of a once-widespread liberal Republican movement that has largely become extinct.

  1. 1. When did you first have the idea to work on Crusader for Democracy?

I discovered William Allen White while working on my dissertation. White was one of a group of four liberal reformers I was studying who were coming to terms with America’s rise as a great power between the World Wars. I admired White’s vision of America as the leading champion of democracy at home and abroad, and his willingness to act on his views by writing editorials, by privately lobbying policymakers, and by helping to lead the fight for public opinion. It wasn’t just White’s views that hooked me, though. I was impressed by White’s essential humanity. He was a man who never forgot what it’s like to be a human being: the hopes and disappointments, the victories and the defeats, the times when our path is clear and those when we lose our way. White’s name came up time and time again as I did my research, and the archivists at the Library of Congress told me that his collection is one of their most heavily used. I thought it was a tragedy that no one had written a biography of such a remarkable and important man in almost half a century, and it was a pleasure to take the job myself!

2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?

Writing the book was fun! I was able to use about a third of my dissertation to jump-start the writing process, and it helped a lot that I already knew how to make the best use of the William Allen White papers at the Library of Congress. I started writing this book a few months after finishing my PhD in December 2010 and I worked on it fairly regularly through the summer of 2017. My work process was to accumulate as much raw material as possible during my three or four research trips each year. I spent most of the time reading and taking notes on the documents I had gathered, which I would then use to write up the narrative.

3. What was the most challenging aspect of writing about William Allen White?

One of the most challenging aspects about writing about White is that he knew so many people and was involved in so many things. There were many great little stories that had to be left out of the book simply because I couldn’t talk about everything, and there were many times where I had to devote considerable attention to sorting out White’s intricate web of relationships.

4. In Crusader for Democracy, you write “Throughout his life, White felt the greatest threat to American democracy came from uneducated, backward, shortsighted masses who were easily duped by smooth-talking demagogues.” How do you think he would respond to the election of President Trump?

I have no doubt that White would be appalled by the election of President Trump. White was a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, so he certainly would have opposed Trump on ideological grounds. However, White always displayed the unusual ability to remain personally friends with people who he ideologically opposed. For example, White established close friendships with conservative presidents such as Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Ideology alone would not have caused White to reject Trump.

The fact is that White believed in institutions of various kinds. He believed in what he called “neighborliness,” by which he meant that all Americans ought to treat each other with the same care and consideration they would give their small-town next-door neighbor. White believed in civility even in politics. Once, he asked his newspaper editor friends to be gracious towards a duplicitous opponent he had defeated in a bare-knuckles political campaign. Most important of all is the fact that White religiously adhered to a lifelong code of political and personal honor that prized honesty, sincerity, sacrifice, civic-mindedness, integrity, intellectual curiosity, and visionary leadership. Even if White had loved Trump’s policies (and he would have hated them), White would have rejected Trump simply because he would not have been able to stomach Trump’s many moral, intellectual, and personal shortcomings.

I cannot imagine that White would or even could have remained a Republican in the age of Trump. The GOP is now Trump’s party, and at the moment there is no room in it for liberal Republicans like White. White would probably not have joined the Democrats, however. Most likely he would be an independent today, like millions of like-minded moderates who have been forced out of the GOP. I have no doubt that he would have used his gift for mass communication to help lead Americans away from Trumpism and towards the liberal Republicanism he advocated.

5.  You illustrate how William Allen White was an outspoken progressive Republican. Can you speak to the similarities or differences between today’s GOP and the Republican party to which White belonged?

The Republican Party White knew was demographically comprised of middle-class Midwesterners, the Eastern business elite, and aspirational middle-class businessmen. The party was more ideologically diverse as well, consisting of strong liberal and conservative factions that each enjoyed periods of dominance. It’s also important to note that the Republican Party of White’s day was more centralized and institutional, which meant that a man like White who had worked in the party for a half-century could use his personal connections to exercise considerable sway.

Today’s Republican Party is very different. Demographically, the GOP rank and file is dominated by Southerners, the Rust Belt, and lower to middle class individuals who have suffered under globalization and fear America’s demographic trajectory. The wealthy business elite still controls much of party’s policy agenda, but there is always the danger that the populist fervor that drove the Trump campaign could be trained on them someday. The party’s ideology ranges from very conservative to hard-right, and liberal Republicans exist only in the history books. Today’s Republican Party is driven by charismatic personalities such as Trump, who are able to move the grassroots, and by the ultra-wealthy individuals who fund the GOP.

6. White is most well-known for his “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Considering his ideological shift from the time he wrote that, do you think William Allen White would find something wrong with Kansas in 2018?

Absolutely. White was very proud of the fact that Kansas was a leader in the Progressive movement. During White’s lifetime, the state enacted “direct democracy” reforms, it expanded its support for public higher education, it experimented with reforms designed to ensure that powerful corporations paid their fair share of taxes, it created a state Industrial Court that was arguably pro-worker at a time when other states were crushing workers, it enacted criminal justice reform designed to treat prisoners more humanely, it forced corporations to treat consumers more fairly, and it later embraced the New Deal.

If White were to write “What’s the Matter With Kansas” today, he would have plenty of examples to sustain a fiery critique. To mention only one, White would be appalled at the way that the state government has defunded public education while gutting its own tax base. The state government is presently in the midst of a pitched battle between its judicial branch, which has ruled that the state’s education spending plan has unconstitutionally gutted education, and politicians who reject both the court’s findings and their constitutional duty to provide a quality education. Meanwhile, Kansas was ranked #5 on United Van Lines’ ranking of states that people are fleeing in January 2018. If White were to write his famous editorial today, he would not hesitate to connect the dots between the fight over education and migration patterns, just as he made the connection between populism and Kansas’ stagnation during the 1890s.

7. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

I can think of a lot of people who need to read this book and who should, for the sake of the nation, learn to embrace William Allen White’s worldview, starting with Donald Trump. However, I can’t imagine that he or any other powerful political figure would actually change their ways for any reason, because they are all locked into the current political reality. I would want this book to be read by millions of ordinary folks, who I hope would be inspired by White’s concept of democracy and the way he went about making good on his dreams. I would hope they would see that we can have a democracy where everyone has the right to play the game of life, where everyone who works hard and follows the rules is entitled to a decent living, where every person is treated with the same dignity and respect we expect for ourselves, and where government works for all Americans rather than just the rich and powerful.

Is this a pipe dream? I don’t think so. White grew up in a reality where political machines, the wealthy, and corporations controlled American government at every level, from the lofty heights of Washington, DC to the city governments of America’s smallest towns. White and his progressive colleagues were a band of insurgents against that reality, and they eventually succeeded in making America more democratic after decades of fighting and striving and organizing and winning and sometimes losing. William Allen White had faith in change, but he also advised anyone who wanted reform “to persist; to keep vital; and to have faith that in the color of public sentiment no strong stain is lost.”

Charles Delgadillo is a lecturer in history at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and Norco College, in California.

The Perils of a Partisan Farm Bill

by Christopher Bosso, author of Framing the Farm Bill

The House Republican leadership took a gamble. Prompted by outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan, it bet that that it could push through a farm bill without any Democratic votes by emphasizing work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aimed at cutting overall program spending. Stricter work rules are popular with most (but not all) Republicans but opposed by most (but not all) Democrats. Ryan bet that getting tougher on SNAP would overcome skepticism among more libertarian “Freedom Caucus” Republicans regarding the costs of commodity programs. And Ryan had at least the Twitter support of President Trump.

That bet failed. The House on May 18 voted down HR 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, 198-213, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in opposition. Freedom Caucus Republicans, many upset about inaction on a separate immigration bill, rebuffed Ryan’s overtures – as did a few of their more moderate GOP colleagues, for whom charges that their party was stigmatizing hungry people could prove unpopular going into the 2018 midterms. Prospects for House action by November are modest. Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee will move on its own, more bipartisan bill, to give senators at least symbolic benefits going into the elections.

The take-away? As we saw with the long saga over passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, as detailed in Framing the Farm Bill, today’s House is a non-rural body. Only three dozen House members now represent “farming” districts. As such, the 1.7% of Americans who farm — and who depend on USDA farm programs – need the votes of colleagues for whom agricultural policy is a distant priority. To do so, they extended farm bills to include priorities of those colleagues — nutrition programs.

Their political calculation was clear. Since the 1970s a shrinking congressional farm bloc included nutrition programs, SNAP in particular, into farm bills precisely to get the votes of their non-rural colleagues for commodity programs they might otherwise oppose as “welfare” for ever-larger farming operations. In return, rural conservatives would support nutrition program spending despite their antipathy toward “welfare” for poor people. That “farm programs + food stamps” deal, an awkward marriage of convenience at the best of times, became the linchpin holding together the farm bill coalition.

However, the House GOP’s most conservative members, bolstered by their homogenous suburban base, rejects this deal. They despise SNAP and commodity programs. In 2013, after dealing the Agriculture Committee a similar floor defeat, they split the two into separate bills, passing each by party line votes. The Senate, whose members represent broader constituencies, reknit the two. No SNAP, no Farm Bill.

Ryan could put SNAP into a “welfare reform” bill. It won’t pass the Senate, because few senators want to untie the knot that has held together farm bills for decades. More to the point, it won’t pass because the few who farm depend on the good will of the non-farming majority for whom SNAP is important. The House GOP’s partisan farm bill had no hope.

Christopher Bosso is professor of public policy and urban affairs at Northeastern University. His books include Environment, Inc.: From Grassroots to Beltway, also from Kansas, and Pesticides and Politics: The Life Cycle of a Public Issue.

Dwight T. Pitcaithley (The U.S. Constitution and Secession) Q & A

Five months after the election of Abraham Lincoln, which had revealed the fracturing state of the nation, Confederates fired on Fort Sumter and the fight for the Union began in earnest. This documentary reader offers a firsthand look at the constitutional debates that consumed the country in those fraught five months. Day by day, week by week, these documents chart the political path, and the insurmountable differences, that led directly—but not inevitably—to the American Civil War. In The U.S. Constitution and Secession; A Documentary Ahthology of Slavery and White Supremacy, Dwight Pitcaithley has assembled the quintessential public statements that lead to the South’s secession in an effort to maintain slavery and advance white supremacy.

 

1. When did you first have the idea to work on The U.S. Constitution and Secession?

I began my research on secession upon my retirement from the National Park Service in 2005 simply to satisfy my own curiosity. I knew that slavery was at the core of the secession movement, but I did not understand exactly how. As I started uncovering the dozens of proposed solutions to the “problem” posed by Lincoln’s election in 1860 the idea for a book began taking shape. Once I realized that no one had ever codified or analyzed the sixty-seven suggested constitutional amendments or written about them as a specific category of evidence, I started conceptualizing the book.

2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?

From start to finish the book took about a decade. Locating and analyzing the published proceedings from the various official gatherings over Secession Winter took a fair amount of time. Then I had to determine what the proposed constitutional amendments meant. Were they honest efforts to solve the sectional crisis or were they just designed to stall or prolong the deliberative process. Once I understood their import, I began crafting a monograph, organized by geographic regions, that described and analyzed the amendments. I became dissatisfied with that manuscript because of the repetitive nature of the proposed solutions. I then shifted to a documentary reader format with an extended introduction. Crafting the introduction spanned around three years. During the process of understanding the puzzle of secession, I became intrigued with the symbiotic relationship between slavery and white supremacy and the degree to which southerners assumed and defended that connection. Factoring that relationship into the research and writing process provided new meaning to the proceedings of the elected officials over Secession Winter.

3. What was the most challenging aspect of editing the publication?

The most challenging (and yet, in an interesting way, rewarding) aspect of the editing process was chasing down sources for the un-attributed quotes, allusions to historical and fictional characters, and references to classical literature that were imbedded throughout the official documents. The Witch of Endor and Mazeppa, for example, were not part of my educational background.

4. The U.S. Constitution and Secession is, essentially, the nail in the coffin for those arguing that the Civil War was not about slavery. How do you respond to people who maintain their argument that Southern states seceded for any reason other than the protection of slavery and white supremacy?

People can and do believe what they want to believe. If, after reading The U.S. Constitution and Secession, they still maintain that secession was not about slavery, they need to develop the case that Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, Robert Toombs, John Crittenden (and virtually all elected officials at the time) were prevaricating when they explained to their peers that slavery was the root cause of secession.

5. Do you expect, or have you received any negative feedback from your book and the case you are presenting?

I have received no negative comments as yet although I certainly expect some. And I will welcome challenges to the book and its findings. The resulting conversation will help get us where we need to go.

6. What is your reaction to recent events that have triggered a new debate over the roots of the civil war?

My first reaction is sadness that the notion of white supremacy continues to motivate individuals to violence. The events of Charleston and Charlottesville and other places remind us of how far we have yet to go regarding race relations, how debilitating racism continues to be. This nation can abolish slavery and legislate against segregation, but the solution to white supremacist thinking seems to confound us.

At the same time, the public debate over the proper role Confederate memory plays in our society should be welcomed. Airing the dark aspects of this country’s past will help us understand the relationship between then and now, and how decisions we make about the future should not be based on false histories.

7. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

President Trump. It might help him understand the historical (and contemporary) corrosiveness of white supremacy.

8. What are you reading now?

Mitch Landrieu’s In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History (2018)

Dwight T. Pitcaithley is a college professor of history at New Mexico State University. He is a former Chief Historian of the National Park Service.

Matthew Roth (Magic Bean; The Rise of Soy in America) Q & A

At the turn of the twentieth century, soybeans grew on so little of America’s land that nobody bothered to track the total. By the year 2000, they covered upward of 70 million acres, second only to corn, and had become the nation’s largest cash crop. How this little-known Chinese transplant, initially grown chiefly for forage, turned into a ubiquitous component of American farming, culture, and cuisine is the story Matthew Roth tells in Magic Bean: The Rise of Soy in America.
1. When did you first have the idea to work on Magic Bean; The Rise of Soy in America?
 
It emerged from a discussion on the New York subway between myself and a colleague.  At that point, I had been a vegetarian for 20 years, so I was familiar enough with using tofu as an ingredient, as well as more newfangled soy foods such as textured vegetable protein (TVP).  I had even helped produce commercial tofu at a commune where my brother lived for a time.  But I had no real firm sense of when tofu had become a “thing” in America. More to the point, I didn’t know how that related to its other role as a key component in the American system for producing meat.  Were these two separate strands of history, or were they causally related?  In any case, this double-identity interested me, and I let my curiosity lead the way.  I must have been pretty excited about the topic from the outset, because a lady on the subway told my friend and me that we were talking too loudly.
2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?
 
Years and years, both in graduate school and beyond.  I once heard a museum curator of found objects describe the first step of creating a good collection as assembling a “critical mess,” and research can be something like that.  I scouted everywhere for sources: old newspapers, magazines and scientific journals; secondary and primary books; patents; fiction and movies; and eventually a wide array of archives. There was a mother lode at the SoyInfo Center near Berkeley, California, which also provides many primary sources online.  Then there was the task of organizing all of this material into a coherent whole: the most complicated jigsaw puzzle you’d ever want to do, especially as there is no picture on the box to guide you.  My first approach was sprawling and biographical, but as I worked on the material, I was able to find narrative through-lines that made sense of the soybean’s rise, and this allowed me to considerably streamline the final book.
 
3. What was the most challenging aspect of researching the story of the soybean?
 
I would say getting beyond the hype.  The soybean has had its boosters for over a century, predicting it would be the next big thing long before it actually became the next big thing.  And given its steep rise, you could find articles from just about any year proclaiming its recent ascent from obscurity – in 1960, as in 1930, it was said to have been a negligible factor in American agriculture five years earlier, but had now arrived.  This made it unclear when the true breakthrough came: the boll weevil infestation of the South in the early 1900s? World War I? World War II?  A large part of my work was identifying the false starts, because though the soybean’s rise was eventually precipitous, it was not exactly a straight line.
 
4. This year soybeans have become the nation’s most-produced crop, overtaking corn. Can you summarize what led soybeans from being almost a forgotten crop at the turn of the twentieth century to America’s leading cash crop?
 
My argument in the book is that the adoption of the soybean by American agriculture, and its incorporation into American food, followed the path of many major innovations.  The first phase, from around 1900 to 1930, was one of chance and contingency: it benefitted from broader efforts to bring exotic plants into American farming, and then to find alternatives for both the South and North to what were considered soil-depleting crops.  Though the soybean had its boosters, however, it was pretty touch-and-go.  It found a firm home in the Midwest in the 1920s with the emergence of a soybean-crushing industry, but this as well experienced some false starts early in the decade.  By 1930, however, there was a virtuous cycle of investment not only in processing equipment, but in things like combines to harvest soybeans and in federal efforts to import superior varieties.  The Depression era involved efforts to make good on these investments, exploring all avenues of possible – and more lucrative – uses for soybean oil and meal.  Government support during World War II to insure increased meat production helped the industry leap forward.  As the scale of production increased, and soy became more plentiful, it became a competitive raw material for a wide array of uses, which in turn further promoted its growth.  There were limits, though.  Sterols in soybean oil were used early on as precursors for synthetic hormones, but until the end of the century, soy hormones were sidelined by those derived by wild Mexican barbasco yams.
 
5. What are the possible negative impacts of China’s proposed soybean tariffs?
 
Enormous.  On the one hand, one would think this was a case where China needed us more than we need them.  In the push to industrialize, China has relinquished its lead as a soy producer and depends heavily on imports.  On the other hand, however, it has options in the world market.  The rise of competition to US soy growers was spurred by a Nixon-era embargo that briefly barred the export of American soybeans.  This made the American supply look unreliable to overseas buyers, especially in Japan, which then invested in a nascent Brazilian soybean industry.  By the 1980s, competition on the world market was one factor in the farm crisis.  But what globalism took away with one hand, it eventually gave back with another: the rise of China at the end of the 1990s, while putting pressure on American manufacturing, was a major boost to soybeans. Up to this point, it has been one of the bright spots for us in the US-China balance of trade.  Maybe not for long.
 
6. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?
 
I have many different people I’d like to read the book for a variety of reasons. There are my idols in my fields of environmental history and the history of technology, folks like William Cronin and Henry Petroski.  There are soybean farmers and researchers, for whom I’d like to provide an enjoyable way to put their work into perspective.  For my fellow vegetarians, I’d like to perhaps shed some light on the ways that dietary habits do and do not change.  If I had an imagined reader while writing the book, I suppose it would be someone somewhat like myself: curious about the stories behind the current shape of our world, in part as a way of discovering how it might be changed for the better.
 
8. What are you reading now?
 
As it happens, I’m preparing to teach a new undergraduate course on global food history.  Right now, I’m reading a pair in books in tandem – Andrew Lawler’s Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? and Mark Essig’s Lesser Beasts (on pigs) – that have some relevance to the soybean, which was a key input in the postwar mass production of poultry products and pork.  More than that, though, they are both fascinating, and often funny, explorations into the deep history of the human domestication of the natural world.

The Truth about Oil and the Iraq War, 15 Years Later

By Gary Vogler, author or Iraq and the Politics of Oil

April 24 marks the 15th anniversary of my initial entry into Baghdad as the senior oil advisor to retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner, our US government civilian leader in Iraq. It was the beginning of my six plus years in Iraq working on the oil sector and denying the allegation that the Iraq war had an oil agenda. I can no longer refute such an allegation.

Was there an oil agenda for the Iraq war? If you had asked me that question four years ago, I would have said no, absolutely not. And, I said no on national television in 2014.

Ambassador L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer and I went on the Rachel Maddow Show to refute Maddow’s position that the Iraq war was largely about oil. Specifically, I said that I had not witnessed any serious oil agenda during my time at the Pentagon and in Iraq. I cannot honestly say that today. So what has changed my mind?

Phil Carroll (the retired Shell US CEO who became my boss in Baghdad in May 2003) and I agreed that if either of us saw anything close to an oil agenda in the summer of 2003, we would both resign and leave Iraq. Phil and I had spent time in the US army during our younger years before our careers in the oil industry and both of us detested the thought of US soldiers dying so that some oil company could profit from it. We were looking for an agenda involving US oil companies. The President’s critics were looking for the same thing and even inferring in the US press that it was taking place. We did not see it.

Up until 2013 my focus was on execution of plans and helping the Iraq oil sector as best I could. I had little desire to research about an oil agenda. I was in denial. I believed that my country sent me to Iraq for a noble reason and that people in my government just got the WMD issue wrong. I refused to entertain the idea that oil played any part in their decision.

I saw things that I did not understand during 2003, but wrote them off as distractions to our mission. Such as, why did Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense, verbally reverse the decisions made by the President’s cabinet about an export pipeline through Syria just before the war started? We had discussed the Syria export pipeline during our prewar policy discussions. No oil infrastructure was supposed to be targeted during the invasion. The final written policy agreed by the President’s cabinet in late December 2002 stated that exports through that Syria pipeline should be used as leverage with the Syrian government to get their cooperation. The pipeline was not supposed to be destroyed.

However, Wolfowitz verbally reversed that guidance during a video teleconference with General Franks about a week before the invasion. The one large pump station that pumped oil through the Syrian export pipeline was destroyed early in the war. It was the only intentional oil infrastructure target. Secretary Rumsfeld announced to the NY Times the day after the pump station destruction that it was destroyed to punish Syria for helping Saddam smuggle oil outside of the United Nation’s oil for food program. Such explanation made no sense.

The attack on the pump station punished the future government of Iraq much more than Syria. Iraq lost an export channel and a $50 million pump station. Syria only lost the toll fees from any export barrels that Iraq would export through the pipeline in the future. Iraq incurred more than 95% of the punishment. This had all been discussed during our prewar planning and that is why the written policy approved by the cabinet stated as it did. So why did Wolfowitz reverse it? It made no sense to me until I started doing some serious research in the last few years while writing my book.

Using the Google search tool, I was able to find things in 2014 and 2015 in the foreign press that were real eye-openers. There were several articles in the Israeli and British press from 2003. I learned several new facts. I learned about an oil agenda and the players involved, but the most important was that I learned motives. I had many sleepless nights. I learned that a person cannot sleep when they are angry and the more I learned, the angrier I became. I had been a volunteer for all of my time in Iraq. I risked my life for seventy-five months in Iraq working for what I thought were noble reasons. The more I learned the more I realized that there was an oil agenda and I was just an unknowing participant.

The oil agenda I discovered and experienced was to supply Iraq oil to Israel. The players were the neoconservatives in the Bush Administration, their favorite Iraqi – Dr Ahmed Chalabi and the Israeli government. One of the motives was because Israel was paying a huge premium for its oil imports and this premium had just started in the late1990s. The agenda called for the reopening of the old Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline and its significant expansion. When this pipeline plan became unattainable in the 2nd half of 2003 then Chalabi took other actions to get inexpensive Iraqi oil to Israel.

A much more credible explanation for intentionally destroying the Syrian export pipeline than what Secretary Rumsfeld told the NY Times was found in the British press. The Guardian, a London newspaper, quoted a retired CIA agent just after the Syria pipeline attack. “It has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving the Bush administration and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel’s energy supply. Rebuilding the old Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline would transform economic power in the region, cutting out Syria and solving Israel’s energy crisis at a stroke.”

This was just one of several facts that I discovered during my research. Our nation’s second President, John Adams, was quoted as saying, ”Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Ten facts are discussed at the end of my recently published book and include the following five that I consider tipping point facts. These five facts made me realize that I had been in denial for many years. After learning these facts coupled with my other experiences, I recognized that there really was an oil agenda.

First, Israeli Infrastructure minister Joseph Pritskzy was interviewed in the Israeli press on March 31, 2003 – before the US Forces had even taken Baghdad. He was identifying how the Iraq war would benefit Israel economically. He was in contact with civilians at the Pentagon and they were planning to reopen the pipeline between Kirkuk in Iraq and Haifa Israel – a pipeline that was the only export pipeline in Iraq from 1934 until 1948 when Israel came into existence and the pipeline was closed by the government of Iraq. The pipeline through Syria was built to replace the Haifa pipeline after 1948. Pritskzy identified that Israel was paying a 25% premium for the oil imports they were receiving and the reopened pipeline to Haifa would eliminate the premium and be a huge economic benefit to Israel.

Second, the Israeli finance minister in 2003 was Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current Prime Minister. The Israeli press reported that Netanyahu went to London in 2003 to find investors willing to invest in the expansion of the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline. A quote from his sales pitch about the oil pipeline to Haifa went this way – “and this is no pipe dream.”

Third, the number three person at the Pentagon in 2003 was Doug Feith. Feith’s law partner for fifteen years before Feith joined the Bush administration was Marc Zell. Zell was interviewed in 2004 in an article entitled “How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons.” Zell is quoted as saying that Chalabi promised to reopen the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline and enable a huge amount of business between Iraq and Israel. Zell went on to further criticize Ahmed Chalabi saying “Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat.” The nerve of this guy Zell – criticizing his partner in crime who helped push us into a war that would eventually cost us 4,489 KIAs and over $2 trillion just so that he could make $millions in profits.

Fourth, Scooter Libby was Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff in Washington. Libby had a secure communications link to Ahmed Chalabi in Baghdad during the summer of 2003. Libby was also linked to the nefarious oil trader Marc Rich. That name might be familiar to you. Marc Rich was the person who President Clinton pardoned on his last day in office from crimes of income tax evasion of $100 million and trading with the enemy. Libby was Marc Rich’s lawyer for many years while Rich made $billions moving Iranian crude oil through a secret pipeline through Israel.

The pipeline carried oil from the Red Sea Israeli port of Eilat to the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon. This secret pipeline was constructed in 1970 and Marc Rich transported Iranian oil through this pipeline for over 20 years, until the mid 1990s. He moved the oil through Israel to his customers in the Mediterranean and Israel received what oil it needed – at a discounted price. This arrangement stopped sometime after 1994 when Rich was forced out of the company he founded. The original company was called Marc Rich & Co, AG and located in Switzerland. The name was changed to Glencore in 1995 after Rich was bought out.

Both Marc Rich and Scooter Libby developed a very close relationship to the Israeli government and especially the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence group. The former British foreign secretary from 2001 to 2006 was Jack Straw. Straw said of Scooter Libby, “It is a toss up whether he is working for the Israelis or the Americans on any given day.”

Last, there was a young analyst assigned to our Energy Infrastructure Planning Group (EIPG) at the Pentagon back in October 2002 by the name of Mike Makovsky. Makovsky had no recognizable experience in the oil industry and no applicable experience in government – so his role on our team was somewhat contentious. The security people at the Pentagon refused to grant him a top secret clearance and he refused to deploy to Iraq with the rest of us, remaining at the Pentagon as the Pentagon’s so-called expert on the Iraq oil sector.

Years later, I learned that Doug Feith over-ruled the Pentagon security group to get Makovsky his top secret clearance. Something that I did not know was even legal. I also learned that AIPAC (the Israeli Lobby group) placed Makovsky in Doug Feith’s group at the Pentagon. I also learned that Makovsky left the US in 1989 to join the Israeli foreign service. My CIA contacts told me that Israel’s foreign service is 98% Mossad, the Israeli intelligence. So, it prompts a question – why was a Mossad contact with no oil experience placed in a key Iraq oil position at the Pentagon in 2002 through 2008? The only reasonable conclusion was to support the identified oil agenda for supplying Iraqi oil to Israel. Makovsky is currently the CEO of JINSA – an Israeli lobby think tank in DC.

The Alternative Plan

It became evident that the Haifa pipeline plan was unattainable late in the summer of 2003. The neoconservatives learned that the pipeline no longer existed inside Iraq and Ahmed Chalabi recognized that the Iraqis were violently resisting the idea of an oil pipeline to Israel.

In July 2003, the Iraqis started attacking oil pipelines. This led to severe shortages of gasoline and diesel for the population. Gas lines quickly became several kilometers long in 100-degree heat in Baghdad. The National Security Council (specifically Frank Miller) had a tirade on our video teleconference because pictures of the long gas lines were all over the US press and making the administration look bad.

It was recognized in Baghdad that the attacks had to be an inside job, but we would not be able to confirm it until years later. We eventually learned that the reason for the attacks was because the Iraqis were reading in the Baghdad Arabic press that the Americans were shipping their oil to Israel through a pipeline to Haifa. Israeli government leaders were announcing in their press that the Americans would soon reopen the Haifa pipeline and the Iraqi press just picked up the stories.

Oil ministry insiders began attacking their own pipelines after reading the Iraqi press. Chalabi convinced the neocons to give up on their primary plan of opening a pipeline to Haifa in 2003. He executed an alternative plan to get oil to Israel. He ordered the reversal of our CPA policy of not selling oil to brokers. The timing of the Chalabi order was very opportune because both Phil Carroll and I were out of the country. Phil and I endorsed the policy of not selling to brokers in order to minimize the risk of corruption.

Chalabi ordered the oil ministry to sell their oil to Glencore, the commodity brokerage company created by Marc Rich that had supplied as much as 90% of Israel’s crude oil over the last three decades. Iraq crude oil was sold to Glencore throughout the remainder of CPA and through the summer of 2004.

The facts cannot be denied. History should accurately reflect an oil agenda for the Iraq war of providing Iraqi oil to Israel.

Gary Vogler is president of Howitzer Consulting, LLC. From December 2006 to September 2011 he was a senior oil consultant for US Forces in Iraq, and before that he served as deputy senior oil advisor, CPA, for Baghdad, and as senior oil advisor, ORHA, for the Pentagon, Kuwait, and Baghdad. Vogler, a former US Army officer, has also worked in management positions at ExxonMobil and Mobil Oil Corporations for over two decades.

Local, Independent and Proud

According to an NPR report, between 2009 and 2015, the number of independent bookstores grew by 35 percent. The growth was a direct contradiction to other consumer trends and will be celebrated this Saturday (April 28) on Independent Bookstore Day.

“Independent bookstores are more than just stores that sell books,” acquisition editor Kim Hogeland explains. “Each plays a significant role in the cultural life of its community. They support local and regional authors and bring in national and even international authors; this is particularly important outside of major cities, where residents may not get the same chance to listen to and talk with major literary and cultural figures. Independent bookstores host events, both individually and in partnership with other community organizations. Here at UPK, we really value our relationships with our regional indies and see them as an important partner in our mission to publish and distribute the high-quality work on Kansas and the Midwest.”

Lawrence has long been a regional center for independent, free-thinking. Before Kansas was a state, Lawrence was ground zero for the abolitionist movement in the territory. After statehood, when a pack of guerilla bandits crossed the border from Missouri and burned most of the town to ashes, Lawrence dusted itself off, and got back to living its independent life.

We are proud to be supported by two outstanding independent bookstores. The Raven Bookstore and the KU Bookstore are vastly different operations, but share a common vision of supporting authors, readers and a fierce passion for getting the job done their way.

The Raven sits on a side street just off Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. If you close your eyes and picture a quaint bookstore, chances are you’ll imagine The Raven. Old wood floors creak with each step and the store is full, floor-to-ceiling, with books. The shop has a reputation for stocking the best mystery novels available, but also carries a full line of non-fiction, best-seller, children and regional books.

Heidi Raak operated The Raven Bookstore for 9 years (the store has been a staple for Lawrence readers since 1987) before selling the store to Danny Caine last year. An independent store since its inception, Raak weathered (and Caine continues to weather) the changes in the marketplace.

“Obviously our biggest competition wasn’t another store in town, but the internet,” Raak says with a matter-of-fact tone. “We had to overcome the ease of buying a book online with great customer service and knowledge. I think the atmosphere of the store and the experience of shopping for a book is a big draw. There’s something about picking up a book and holding it that is special. You can’t get that online.”

Raak worked hard to create an environment around the store that keeps people interested. The Raven hosts countless book launches, readings and parties with authors. Those events bring people to the store and help establish the staff as go-to resources.

“We understand we’re part of a community,” Raak explains. “We support local artists and well-represented authors. We’re proud to carry books by the (University) Press. We appreciate the support Lawrence gives us, and we work hard to be the best, most-welcoming bookstore in town.”

Up the hill from The Raven, on the north edge of the University of Kansas campus, the KU Bookstore fills most of the 2nd floor of the Kansas Union. The store is one of only a handful of bookstores serving a major university that operate independent of the university.

“We are completely independent of the University of Kansas,” explains Jen O’Connor, store director. “We have no affiliation or obligation to the university. In addition, we are an operating non-profit, which helps us serve the students of KU more effectively.”

The great majority of university bookstores are operated by a larger, national bookstore. When asked to name other independent stores serving universities, O’Connor struggles to name more than two or three.

“I know there are more, but honestly, not many,” she says with a laugh. “We are independent of the University but Student Affairs has oversight of the KU Memorial Union, of which we are a part.”

Much like The Raven, the KU Bookstore puts a lot of effort into bringing students, and the Lawrence community, into the store with events. O’Connor estimates they host one or two unique events a week either at the store or somewhere on campus.

“We have to stay relevant to the students,” she explains. “We know these students have a lot of options and we work hard to be their first choice. Luckily, not a lot of outlets carry every textbook they need.”

Because the store is a non-profit, they can often offer very competitive prices on trade, text and consumer books. In fact, almost half of the store’s sales are books or products not for a class.

“We don’t have to answer to sales numbers or investors,” O’Connor says. “We have to pay the bills and keep the lights on. That gives us a great opportunity to stay competitive on price – which is a big, big help.”

In addition to working with The Raven and KU Bookstore, we’re thrilled to announce a partnership with Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 28, 2018. The shop will feature four University Press of Kansas authors at an event starting at 4:00 pm.

Sarah Bagby, Watermark owner, will give a short presentation about the philosophy of the press and it’s importance to Kansas. Then, each author will briefly speak about their works before a question and answer session.

For more information, please contact Watermark Books: (316) 682-1181

Featured authors:

CJ Janovy, No Place Like Home: Far from the coastal centers of culture and politics, Kansas stands at the very center of American stereotypes about red states. In the American imagination, it is a place LGBT people leave. No Place Like Home is about why they stay. The book tells the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states.

CJ Janovy an editor at KCUR, Kansas City’s NPR affiliate.

 

Max McCoy, Elevations: The upper Arkansas River courses through the heart of America from its headwaters near the Continental Divide above Leadville, Colorado, to Arkansas City, just above the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Max McCoy embarked on a trip of 742 miles in search of the rivers unique story. Part adventure and part reflection, steeped in the natural and cultural history of the Arkansas Valley, Elevations is McCoy’s account of that journey.

Max McCoy is professor of journalism and director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University.

 

George Frazier, The Last Wild Places of Kansas: Since the last wild bison found refuge, the public image of natural Kansas has progressed from Great American Desert to dust bowl to flyover country. But look a little harder and you can find the last places where tenacious stretches of prairie, forest, and wetland cheat death. Documenting three years spent roaming the state in search of these hidden treasures, Frazier offers an eye-opening travelogue of nature’s secret holdouts in the Sunflower State.

George Frazier is a software developer and writer.

 

Mark Eberle, Kansas Baseball, 1858-1941: This history spans the years between the Civil Warera and the start of World War II, encapsulating a time when baseball was adopted by early settlers, then taken up by soldiers sent west, and finally by teams formed to express the identity of growing towns and the diverse communities of African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans. As elsewhere in the country, these teams represented businesses, churches, schools, military units, and prisons.

Eberle teaches in the Department of Biological Sciences at Fort Hays State University.