On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss Apple vs. the US, Michael Pollan’s “Cooked,” and Guantanamo Bay.
Apple vs U.S.
The federal government has sued Apple to develop technology that will allow it to access the locked iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorists. Neil noted the government has used the All Writs Act of 1789 to issue its order because the 1992 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act has not been updated to cover technological innovations like the iPhone.
Michael Pollan’s Netflix documentary, “Cooked,” explores how the history of cooking has shaped human existence. Natalia noted Pollan’s writings about food have often stoked controversy, including his 2009 New York Times article that blamed feminism for the end of cooking. Conservatives praised Pollan for that essay at the time, Natalia observed, but now the American Conservative has critiqued Pollan for not enshrining the family meal enough in “Cooked.” Niki observed the long history of food politics, pointing to Upton Sinclair’s 1906 classic, The Jungle, which was meant to be a critique of unsafe labor conditions but was received by American readers as an exposure of unhealthy food production processes. Natalia cited Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation as a modern update of The Jungle. She also recommended the historian Katherine Leonard Turner’s How the Other Half Ate for understanding how the history of industrialization and food technology improved the eating habits of working-class Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Obama and Guantanamo
President Obama has issued an executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Niki situated Guantanamo Bay in one hundred years of US involvement in Cuba. Natalia observed Cuba represented one of the first examples of the US’s “informal empire.” Neil recalled use of Guantanamo as an extralegal detention camp began when the United States brought 300 Haitian refugees to the island in 1991. Cuban Americans, Natalia remarked, have shaped American policy towards Cuba, something visible in Marco Rubio’s recent statements about Guantanamo on the campaign trail.
What’s Making History
- Natalia shared the news that North Carolina A&T University has disbanded its women’s swim team, the last women’s swim team at a historically Black college or university. Natalia also recommended Jeff Wiltse’s book, Contested Waters, for understanding the history of African Americans and public pools.
- Neil recommended the movie Spotlight which tells the story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church in 2001. Neil noted that severalrecent investigations have also exposed sexual abuse scandals in evangelical churches and ministries.
- Niki discussed the Twitter hashtag #ObamaAndKids that captures photos of the president with children.