Monthly Archives: July 2009

July 31, 2009, 12:49 pm

Too good to be true?

Given that I haven’t had a chance to read the book in question, I don’t know what to make of the ongoing, and increasingly nasty, fight over John Stauffer’s and Sally Jenkins’s new history of the Free State of Jones. But it seems like the struggle over the book is pretty interesting, as it raises all kinds of questions about the intersection of historical narratives and big-time entertainment. I also think there’s probably something to be said here about the nature of scholarship. But again, without having read the book, I’m not the one to say it. At least not yet.

Anyway, the fight started here and here and here, I guess, when Victoria Bynum, who’s written her own history of Jones County during the Civil War, posted a scathing review of The State of Jones. Take a look. See what you think.

Update: Stepping back a bit, it seems to me that there are other interesting questions…

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July 31, 2009, 8:10 am

“patently absurd, to be sure”

Of course that’s just what some MSM type like Matt Dallek would say about the birthers, isn’t it? He has help from Kathy in explaining why Americans believe conspiracy theories about government. And also in my hometown paper.

July 31, 2009, 12:01 am

She’s at it again

Maira Kalman tackles Benjamin Franklin this time. And although the piece isn’t my favorite of hers, it’s still quite a bit better than the Times‘s endless coverage of which beer President Obama decided to drink yesterday afternoon.

July 30, 2009, 4:44 pm

Schooling II.

A number of people asked in comments to “Schooling” if the pattern shown for migrants out of the South wouldn’t be about the same for the rest of the country. I said “no”, but I couldn’t leave it alone. And since AWC didn’t take the bait when I offered to send him data, I did some figuring myself.

Does the pattern of education for all migrants look like the pattern for migrants out of the South? For this we use the same definition of migrants—recent (within the last five years) migrants across state lines, age 26 or older; nonmigrants defined as people over the age of 26 who live in the same house as they did five years ago.

So the pattern is different. Completion of 8th grade is more common among nonmigrants than among migrants.

What about migrants to the South? Here we look at people born in the non-South, resident in the South, over the age of 26, who moved across state…

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July 29, 2009, 5:09 pm

Department of Over-Broad Generalizations

Dwight Garner reviews Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West. (The Times seems to go in for this sort of alarmism lately.) Garner concludes:

It is hard to argue with his ultimate observation about Europe today: “When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture” (Europe’s) “meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by common doctrines” (Islam’s), “it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.”

Hard to argue with, because no specific examples are provided. But is there any “culture” more “insecure, malleable, relativistic” than that of the United States? Surely our success in reducing any immigrant strain to three-day weekends and Taco Bell should be grounds for optimism in this regard.

July 29, 2009, 3:07 pm

We get letters.

An open letter, this time, to the UC Davis faculty, from our friends Gary Rhoades and Cary Nelson at the AAUP regarding the “shut up if you know what’s good for you” interpretation of faculty speech as regulated by Hong v. Grant and Ceballos. It’s not online, so I’ve asked for the text to reproduce below.


July 29, 2009, 10:55 am

This post isn’t about Gates, either, really.

There is no possible way, Silas thought to himself, that this could get more ridiculous.   Which admittedly took his mind off his terror. Not only was he being robbed at gunpoint outside of the laundromat, he was being robbed of $13 in quarters, as he had left his wallet in the apartment.   (“What the hell?” the mugger had said, encountering his prey’s jingling sweatpants.)

Silas was left unharmed, and as he was near the university, a police car was parked on a nearby corner.  He ran to the police and gave a description of the mugger.  Since the theft of the change had just occurred, he was asked to accompany the police as they cruised the neighborhood, where they accosted every single young man whose appearance remotely approached the description (taller, shorter, younger, older.)

They didn’t find the mugger.  And Silas felt, upon reflection, that the great injustice of the…

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July 28, 2009, 3:04 pm


Did education lead to a brain drain in the Jim Crow South? There’s considerable anecdotal evidence that it did, often focusing on college education.1 Can’t keep ’em down on the farm once they’ve been to an ag. school.

I wondered if it would be possible to have a slightly more systematic go at this question, looking at all levels of education, using IPUMS.

The 1940 census asked people if they’d moved across state lines within the last five years. Suppose you look at people born in the South, resident outside the South, who’d moved across state lines in the past five years, over the age of 26—you’d mainly be looking at people who had moved out of the South after completing their education, wouldn’t you? I think so. Anyway, that’s what the graphs show, with migrants defined as “moved across state lines to a state in the non-South within the last five years”, divided into…

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July 28, 2009, 9:42 am

A War of Frontier and Empire

Matt Yglesias notes a Ross Douthat column that invokes one of William McKinley’s splendid little wars, this one in the Philippines. He points out that the military and naval counterinsurgency effort in the Philippines worked, but then wonders if anything beneficial actually came out of it:

It seems to me that unless you look at victory and conquest as being their own reward, it’s hard to see any. Anti-American rebels lost, but we didn’t really win anything of note. We spent a lot of money, suffered some casualties, killed a lot of people and in exchange got some military bases that were overrun by the Japanese as soon as it looked like they might be strategically useful.

Knowing something of the conflict, I would go further than Yglesias: taking the Philippines was possibly the worst single foreign policy decision in American history, rivaling the one which took us to war with…

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July 27, 2009, 1:50 pm

And on the mirror in blood was written “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?” and other collegiate tales

A great illustration of an urban legend I’ve heard in various forms since, oh, sometime in high school.   This is one of those things meant to show the power of the noble Christian David over the godless academy Goliath.  I’ve heard it set in a philosophy classroom, in an evolutionist’s class room, in a  chemistry classroom, at Harvard, Yale, Berkeley.   I had it told to me in church youth group.  I had it told to me by friends, and by professors who had heard the story set at their PhD granting institution.

(Sobering thought:  perhaps this Wandering Atheist Professor is an adjunct…)

I think the course is clear.

Next semester, I’m getting some chalk….

July 27, 2009, 9:27 am


Commenter Charlieford wants to put this to the EotAW community.

Last week I read a blog entry by a friend slamming Obama for, among other things, being our TOTUS, “Teleprompter of the United States.” He was offended by Obama’s use of a script (apparently) during his televised tribute to Walter Cronkite. Like a lot of conservatives, he was quick to pile on the criticisms—the delivery was cold and emotionless, not “from the heart,” the speech may not even have been written by Obama, and it included “large words embedded into the speech to ensure that only half of the Americans who heard the speech would understand it.”

That last one didn’t sound at all right and I went back and re-listened to the speech. I didn’t notice anything egregiously arcane or overly sophisticated in his vocabulary. I asked the author what had offended him in that regard, and he didn’t…

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July 25, 2009, 7:31 am

It’s Always Cheney, Isn’t It?

U.S. Troops being used on American soil? The former Vice President has you covered, never mind the Posse Comitatus act and all that messy precedent and stuff:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration in 2002 considered sending U.S. troops into a Buffalo, N.Y., suburb to arrest a group of terror suspects in what would have been a nearly unprecedented use of military power within the United States, The New York Times reported.

Vice President Dick Cheney and several other Bush advisers at the time strongly urged that the military be used to apprehend men who were suspected of plotting with al-Qaida, who later became known as the Lackawanna Six, The Times reported on its Web site Friday night. It cited former administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Literally: he may well have you covered, right at the moment.

July 24, 2009, 2:06 pm

A Band of Boys [Boxers, July 16, 1900]

The effects of the crisis in China in 1900 were not confined to China, obviously. They could reach as far down as the streets of New York, and as deep as the children of that city:

Nicholas Ageno, an Italian boy of twelve years, living with his parents at 77 Oliver Street, and who the police say is leader of a band of boys, last night summoned his followers and set out to look for Boxers. As darkness fell over the city they reached Chatham Square. On Sunday evening Chinamen from all parts of the city and round about congregate at Chinatown. Young Gee, an inoffensive Chinaman who conducts a laundry at 221 East Broadway, came walking across the square toward Pell Street. The boys espied him and advanced to the attack with a well-directed volley of stones, dirt, and other missiles. Gee started for Chinatown on a run, but the boys cut off his retreat, crowded about him, tore his blouse, an…

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July 24, 2009, 9:31 am

Still astonishing.

Holy Smokes Update (aka, still astonishing but now for different reasons)

Harvard Scholar Disorderly

If you just watched the Cambridge police union* press conference, I’m pretty sure you heard the spokesman claim there was no influence of the bad history between cops and black people in Cambridge. At least, that’s what I think I heard; we’ll have to wait for a transcript. Stand by.

… So far, very little, but already sounds pretty bad. I stick by my original prediction.

Police unions call for apology from Obama, Patrick

By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff

Cambridge police unions today called on President Obama and Governor Deval Patrick to apologize to “all law enforcement personnel” for their comments about the arrest of an African-American scholar last week at his home near Harvard Square.

Speaking in at a press conference packed with local and national media, the union officials also said that the…

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July 23, 2009, 2:05 pm

More alternative history with Congressional majorities.

Matthew Yglesias has been working the counterfactual beat lately (as he points out, counterfactuals are essential to a sound theory of causation). (Previously on this blog.)

Which inspired me to htmlize and post one of my favorite counterfactual tables, table 9 from Stewart and Weingast’s article on “Stacking the Senate”.1 What if, Stewart and Weingast ask, instead of making state admissions the subject of party politics, the western states had been admitted by some politically neutral rule—say, when they exceeded the population of the average congressional district? They make assumptions about partisan tilt based on real-life territorial politics, and get the below table.