Monthly Archives: April 2008

April 16, 2008, 10:41 am

Cruel and Unusual, II

The Supreme Court today rejected a challenge to the lethal injection protocol used by the majority of the states. The Court’s decision allows the states to resume executions that play out in three acts: first the condemned is sedated, then he or she is paralyzed, and finally he or she is killed. It bears mentioning that the use of the paralytic has been banned in animal euthenasia in forty-two states, including the five leaders in human lethal injection: Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Missouri, and North Carolina. I don’t have the training to do much more than paraphrase Brad DeLong and Atrios: in addition to a better press corps, we really need a better Supreme Court.

If you want to read more on the subject, including what seems to be a rather obvious and very decent policy prescription, I recommend this article (pdf), by Ty Alper, who has written for EotAW before. Ty is the…

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April 16, 2008, 6:32 am

Corporations are hard to fight. So don’t.

On this day in 1889, a New York judge offered a fairly gratuitous attack on both corporations and their laboring opponents in his summing-up. Here’s the item from the NYT in its entirety:


Thomas Reardon was put on trial before Judge Cowing yesterday for assault in the second degree upon Policeman Patrick H. Lynch of the Thirteenth Precinct during the surface road strike. A number of witnesses, including ex-Senator George W. Plunkitt, testified that they saw the trouble, and that Reardon was not the policeman’s assailant. A verdict of not guilty was returned. In discharging the jury for the day Judge Cowing said in part:

“Corporations, in my judgment, are without consciences. I don’t think that they treat their employes as they should. They have no soul or body. If men peg away at them they don’t hurt the corporation, but rather hurt themselves. …

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April 15, 2008, 4:45 pm

What if?

At 7:22 am on this day in 1865, Abraham Lincoln died. The previous evening, during the third act of a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater, John Wilkes Booth, enraged by the speech discussed here, had shot Lincoln in the head. A single bullet had entered through the rear of Lincoln’s skull and lodged behind his right eye. The wound had bled very little. As word of the assassination attempt spread throughout Washington, Cabinet members, Congressmen, and other officials had descended upon Ford’s Theater, where surgeons struggled to keep Lincoln alive. They failed, and the nation mourned. It mourns still.

I’m agnostic about counterfactuals. Sometimes, they seem to offer a way to test theories. At others, they strike me as little more than a conceit or a sideshow, a diversion my students find endlessly fascinating, and therefore an annoyance in the context of my…

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April 14, 2008, 3:19 pm

Lacking in charismatic authority.

No, not us. Well, yes us, but that’s not what I’m writing about. Thomas Haskell’s “must-read” essay on “Justifying Academic Freedom” is only partly online, but that part includes this excerpt from the Seligman and Lovejoy statement on academic freedom, from 1915.

The lay public is under no compulsion to accept or act upon the opinions of the scientific experts whom, through the universities, it employs. But it is highly needful, in the interest of society at large, that what purport to be the conclusions of men trained for, and dedicated to, the quest for truth, shall in fact be the conclusions of such men, and not echoes of the opinions of the lay public, or of the individuals who endow or manage universities. To the degree that professional scholars, in the formation and promulgation of their opinions, are, or by the character of their tenure, appear to be, subject to any motive…

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April 14, 2008, 11:54 am


Time to bring it all together: YouTube Monday, This Day in History, celebrating the New Deal, and probably some other things I can’t think of right now. How, you ask, will Ari pull off this masterful feat of EotAW synergy? By embedding a short for The Plow That Broke the Plains (see above) coupled with a quick discussion of the Dust Bowl’s nadir, Black Sunday, which happened on this day in 1935. I’m just that good, people; you’d better get used to it. Okay, I know, it wasn’t exactly a masterstroke. So how about an “A” for effort?

Don Worster, whose Dust Bowl remains, more than a quarter century later, a great book, writes that on April 14, 1935, “dawn came clear and rosy all across the plains.” By midday, though, the temperature had dropped close to 50 degrees. Birds seemed nervous, “as though fleeing from some unseen enemy.”…

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April 13, 2008, 10:31 pm

Context Matters

Because of this story at Politico (and others at places to which, as matter of personal preference, not to be confused with editorial policy, I will not link) Barack Obama is getting hammered today. If you clicked the previous link, you’ve learned the cruel truth: Senator Obama has attacked gun owners and people of faith. Worse still, he held a fundraiser in San Francisco. Grab your kids, people, teh gayz are coming.

Hillary Clinton seized on these comments, eager to distance herself from what must have seemed to her like the news cycle from hell. First, the story of Mark Penn’s double dipping: drawing a salary from Clinton (who, while in Pennsylvania and Ohio at least, has found blue-collar religion: hostility to free trade) while also on the payroll of trade-deal-seeking Colombia. And second, Bill Clinton’s latest episode of unforced fabulism, in which he doubled back to his…

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April 11, 2008, 3:43 pm

What if John Wilkes Booth had been a better listener?

On this day in 1865 Abraham Lincoln gave his last public speech, taking up the question of reconstruction, managing to sound a radical note or two:

By these recent successes, the reinauguration of the national authority—reconstruction—… is pressed much more closely upon our attention…. Unlike a case of war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with—no one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with and mould from disorganized and discordant elements….

Later, in laying out the case of Louisiana, he remarked

It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the coloured man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.

Which is supposed to have inspired the listening John Wilkes Booth…

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April 11, 2008, 2:00 pm

Still soaking.

I feel obliged to note this. With respect to its opinions on the procedure that must still be followed, it doesn’t sound wholly unlike this. I would have avoided saying, “President Bush and his national security appointees were the deciders,” but that’s only because I find it funny, which is inappropriate given the circumstances.

April 11, 2008, 12:27 pm

“Travis…looked forward to reflecting upon the impending past memory of the future re-enactment with great relish.”

SEK provides us with this Friday afternoon gem. Now that’s what I’m talking about people. This is a team effort. So try to pull your weight.

April 11, 2008, 10:39 am

Friday Fun Time

A lurker sent me this link to Independent Film Channel’s “50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time.” I’ve only started looking through the offerings, but I seem to have acquired a taste for The State’s work in my old age. Anyway, thanks lurker.*

* Subtle subtext: You should all be doing more for the blog.

April 11, 2008, 6:36 am

Feed your head.

The ones that mother gives you
Improve focus and recall:

One in five respondents said they had used drugs for non-medical reasons to stimulate their focus, concentration or memory…. The most popular reason for taking the drugs was to improve concentration. Improving focus for a specific task (admittedly difficult to distinguish from concentration) ranked a close second and counteracting jet lag ranked fourth, behind ‘other’ which received a few interesting reasons, such as “party”, “house cleaning” and “to actually see if there was any validity to the afore-mentioned article”…. Our poll found that one-third of the drugs being used for non-medical purposes were purchased over the Internet….

Not so surprising, when you remember Brad DeLong coming out as a user.

April 10, 2008, 11:01 pm

The Great Meddler

On this day in 1866, Henry Bergh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), in New York City. Before that time, Bergh seems to have been something of a dilettante, a child of privilege who spent much of his adult life gallivanting around Europe (lucky devil). While abroad, he found his calling and began crusading for “the mute servants of mankind.” Once back in the United States, he appealed to wealthy New Yorkers, a natural constituency for him, with a manifesto/petition titled, “Declaration of the Rights of Animals.” Certain that history would remember his declaration as fondly as it had Mr. Jefferson’s, Bergh secured signatures from luminaries including Horace Greeley, Peter Cooper, George Bancroft, and Hamilton Fish. (Yes, I just wanted to write, “Hamilton Fish.” Okay?)

Although detractors labeled Bergh an overzealous animal lover, his…

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April 9, 2008, 4:33 pm

What did Lincoln say to Sherman at City Point?

On this day in 1865, Abraham Lincoln returned to Washington from a trip to Virginia, where he had visited Grant’s headquarters, surveyed Richmond in captivity and sat in Jefferson Davis’s chair, contemplating the imminent end of war.

Arriving back in the capital, Lincoln stopped first by the house of William Seward, his Secretary of State, who was laid up owing to a carriage accident that left him with a broken arm and jaw. The president proposed a national day of thanksgiving, and held his face close to Seward’s to hear his colleague’s answer. Seward counseled, not yet. Sherman had still to secure the surrender of Joseph Johnston. Until then the Confederacy remained unconquered.

Lincoln would not live to see the end Seward advised him to await. But when that conclusion came, Lincoln’s trip to Virginia would hang heavy over it. Officers of the government and various…

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April 9, 2008, 11:20 am

Technology, you are on notice.

Yesterday we had an excellent guest lecture, despite the fact that the LCD projector failed and so did the video camera. I’d even tested the camera beforehand, though we couldn’t get into the room to test the projector. But to no avail.

To compose my introduction, I tried to find my review of the speaker’s book, and it had vanished off the website where once it was. Only the Internet Archive saved me.

That’s two-and-a-half failures out of three, technology. When we welcome our new robot overlords, we’re going to find out they’re just as incompetent as the human ones.


April 9, 2008, 8:12 am

Alistair Cookie lives.

Henry cites me as being down on current Sesame Street. (What, you thought it was getting to be a serious blog?) And granted, I have my reservations; whenever I catch a groovy old one with, say, Bob singing “Good Morning Starshine” (oh, yes) I get a bit misty about my childhood. And much as anyone, I regret Cookie Monster being pressed into the service of nutrition with cookies being “a sometime food,” unlike fruits and vegetables.

Still, watching with my kids, I now believe Cookie one of the great redeeming features of Sesame Street. Why? Two examples, which I paraphrase from memory:

[on the word "cowabunga"]

Prairie: That’s not even a word!
Cookie: Sure, it word. Oh, it esoteric, but it word.

[on how he feels on an unfortunate occasion I can't remember]

Cookie: Me not too sad. Maybe a bit lachrymose.

Below, watch him saying he doesn’t like the word “pusillanimous,” and…

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