Monthly Archives: May 2008

May 31, 2008, 12:42 am

I watched the season finale of Lost tonight…

Beware: spoilers below the fold.


May 30, 2008, 11:59 pm

Decoration Day

On this day in 1868, John Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, asked Americans to set aside May 30 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” The holiday, initially known as Decoration Day, later evolved into Memorial Day.


May 30, 2008, 6:48 am

The most implausible part of the new Indiana Jones movie …

[spoiler, of course]

May 30, 2008, 12:01 am

Extremely helpful, I think.

Via wryandstanley comes this useful tidbit:

A few weeks ago, I botched some minor thing at work. No big deal, and I was chided mildly via e-mail. I said the basic “thanks for the heads up” sort of thing, adding “must’ve been a brain fart”, only to wince at the expression “brain fart”.

Seemed a bit crude for this situation, yet I wanted something light-hearted and silly to note that I was indeed taking the suggestion in-stride. (Yes, sadly, sometimes in life, this sort of gesture is necessary.)

Hence was born: “brain burp”!

I’ve been using it ever since, and I invite you to use it as you see fit.

Thanks, I will. Especially because this very thing (well, not exactly, but close enough) happened to me last week. And I found myself totally at a loss for how to describe the origin of my screw-up. See, that’s just what I mean: when “screw-up” is too crass by half, “brain burp” may be…

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May 29, 2008, 12:45 pm


WASHINGTON, May 29.—With American flags flying before them, sixteen truckloads of war veterans came to the end of a transcontinental hitch-hike today with the avowed purpose of remaining in Washington until Congress pays their bonus in full. (NYT)

Thus, in 1932, began the encampment of the Bonus Army, which numbered some thousands of marchers, in Washington, DC.

Their story was simple: in the old days, Congress had to make special provision for the slew of veterans created each time the US had a war. In 1924 it voted those who served in the Great War a payment, or bonus, sized to the time they’d spent in uniform; a dollar a day for service in the US and $1.26 a day for service overseas, plus interest, minus discharge pay. The payments were payable at time of death, or in 1945.

With the depression deepening, a fair number of veterans thought it might be nice for Congress to…

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May 29, 2008, 6:11 am

Fatter. Poorer. Shorter.

Via Mark Thoma, this latest installment in Americans’ decreasing height. Whenever I mention this to a certain kind of person, they wave a hand and say, oh, it’s because of Latin American and Asian immigration.

But it’s not, if you remember the feature on Komlos in The New Yorker:

The obvious answer would seem to be immigration. The more Mexicans and Chinese there are in the United States, the shorter the American population becomes. But the height statistics that Komlos cites include only native-born Americans who speak English at home, and he is careful to screen out people of Asian and Hispanic descent. In any case, according to Richard Steckel, who has also analyzed American heights, the United States takes in too few immigrants to account for the disparity with Northern Europe.

We have bad habits and bad institutions. These bad habits and bad institutions have consequences…

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May 28, 2008, 11:43 pm


On this day in 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, a vaguely written piece of legislation later used as a pretext by state and federal authorities to dispossess the few remaining tribes in the southeastern United States — “removing” them to lands west of the Mississippi.

Beginning in the summer of 1829, following the discovery of gold on Cherokee lands, the State of Georgia’s longstanding desire to rid itself of the tribe became more urgent than ever. In December of that year, the state legislature ruled that the Cherokee constitution and laws would be meaningless come the following June. Georgia’s lawmakers implied that it would be open season on the Cherokees and their landholdings at that time. The federal government, then, had just a few months to avert what surely would have been another horrifying chapter in the already-grim story of Native-white …

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May 27, 2008, 9:58 pm

“It’s clear, this election they’re having is not going to count for anything.”

Charlie asked a while back, “Can anyone explain–or point to an article where this is discussed–why Clinton was on the MI ballot, but not Obama?” Mr. Super has an answer, in “Florida & Michigan Timeline – How we got here.” From the Politico last fall,

“We will honor the pledge and not campaign or spend money in any state that is not in compliance with the DNC calendar, but it is not necessary to take the steps necessary to remove Senator Clinton’s name from the ballot,” said her communications director, Howard Wolfson.

Basically, Obama and Edwards appear to have interpreted their pledges not to campaign in states holding unsanctioned early primaries as meaning they should get off the Michigan ballot; they couldn’t get off the Florida ballot because it seems a candidate has to be on the primary ballot to be on the general ballot in Florida. Clinton (and Dodd) appear to have…

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May 27, 2008, 12:47 pm

The era of big gonif was over.

Today’s “This Day in History” comes from Andrew W. Cohen, also known here as AWC, among whose many fine qualities we cannot discern the desire to agree with me. He is the author of the excellent Racketeer’s Progress and here he explains the Schechter case doesn’t mean what the New Deal’s modern Republican critics think it means. Many thanks for the contribution, Andrew.

On this day in 1935, the US Supreme Court handed down A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, the so-called “Sick Chicken case,” invalidating the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA). The unanimous court held that the US Congress had unlawfully delegated its powers to the executive and exceeded its authority by regulating commerce that did not cross state lines. This setback for the Roosevelt administration marked the end of the “First New Deal.”

Few scholars lament this verdict, partly …

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May 27, 2008, 12:01 am

A game! Find the antichrist!

With all this talk that Obama’s the antichrist, shouldn’t we be just a bit more vigilant and at least read up on the subject. Go here for further information.

Via Alterdestiny.

May 26, 2008, 12:01 am

Obama at Wesleyan

In the above speech, which is long but worth the time, Obama appeals to graduating seniors to embrace public service. He asks them directly, personally, to forego the fruits of our “money culture.” And he draws on a classic Second Great Awakening formulation: individual salvation hinges on good works; community salvation rests on individuals sacrificing for the greater good. Even after seven years of kleptocracy, this speech makes me think that civic virtue might not be dead after all. That’s the audacity of hope talking, I know. I’ll get over it soon enough.

May 25, 2008, 8:29 pm

Dumbing down political assassination.

A reader just sent me this clip of Liz Trotta — who’s apparently a contributor to Fox News — casually, and with a chuckle, suggesting that it would be a “good idea” for somebody to kill both Osama and Obama, people she apparently can’t tell apart. Is it possible that she’s trying to make Senator Clinton look good by comparison?

May 25, 2008, 10:29 am

About two months.



May 23, 2008, 3:16 pm

The era of big government was over.

On this day in 1865 the U.S. Army paraded through Washington, DC, to mark the end of the Civil War. The nation had a million men in uniform, enrolled in an army that the world’s military men envied and feared. To many students of the war, this army was the emblem of what the war had wrought—a modern state. The United States government had grown in size and capacity, had levied its first income tax, and had become a nation-state at last. And here was the great instrument of that state, a citizen-army.

Here’s a less picturesque picture: the number of men in U.S. uniform 1865-1900.

That fearsome army vanished almost instantly and didn’t return. The U.S. fought a quarter century of wars against the aboriginal inhabitants of the continent, and a few more wars against labor unions, with a tiny professional force. And just as the great modern army went away, so did the great…

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May 23, 2008, 2:11 pm

Making Edwin Edwards (and me) look discreet.

A short while ago I appalled some of my more genteel colleagues by quoting former Louisiana governor, convicted felon, and political genius Edwin Edwards. Clinton’s justification for staying in the race, I said, has come down to the possibility of a “live boy/dead girl” scenario. Tuts were tutted, and I blushed, feeling duly chastened.

But Senator Clinton has gone well beyond me and Edwards:

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know I just, I don’t understand it,” she said, dismissing the idea of dropping out.

Tut some tuts, will you, decent people? I’m about all out.