Monthly Archives: April 2010

April 9, 2010, 11:51 am

Not Peace

On this day in history, April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Ulysses Grant wrote the following:

General R. E. LEE:

GENERAL: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the…

Read More

April 9, 2010, 4:55 am

"Suffer the little children" was not a command to abuse.

Linked for truth.  Moreover, suppose Douthat was right about the alleged permissive sexual mores of 1970s Ireland.  What, by all the angels and saints and the holy living mother of the fuck does that explain?  What is that supposed to say about the U.S.? Are we to believe that this sexual liberation permeated the Church hierarchy so thoroughly that they kept the vow of celibacy instead of permitting married priests, but decided that raping children was okay and then constructed a time machine to send the abusers back in time so the authorities could establish a track record of complete wickedness and uselessness?

Look, whether raping children is wrong is not one of the hard ethical questions.  (Maybe Douthat skipped that night at RCIA.) And deciding whether to protect the institution or the rape victims wasn’t supposed to be one of the hard questions, either.

“Contrition” does not …

Read More

April 7, 2010, 12:21 pm

Reader response, he hopefully wrote.

Ari’s previous two posts inspire me to ask of our learned readership a question for each.1

1) Does the “which side are you on” rhetoric in response to industrial tragedy get the American public’s attention? Almost a hundred years ago Charles Beard, perhaps somewhat bitterly, said no:

Realizing the fact that a mere high mortality due to congestion will not seriously disturb a nation that complacently slaughters more people on its railways and in its factories and mines than any other country in the world, mathematically minded reformers are trying to reach the heart of the public through its purse by pointing out that there is a great economic loss in the death of persons of working age.

Which really works better to grab Americans’ attention? Rhetorical appeals to justice, or social scientific appeals to your wallet?

2) Let’s stipulate there is no greater historiographical swindle…

Read More

April 7, 2010, 11:14 am


I think kb’s right: it’s worth putting Coates’s demolition of the Virginia GOP (and the Republican Party more broadly) on the front page. Responding to Governor Bob McDonnell’s decision to revive Confederate History Month, Coates writes:

This is who they are–the proud and ignorant. If you believe that if we still had segregation we wouldn’t “have had all these problems,” this is the movement for you. If you believe that your president is a Muslim sleeper agent, this is the movement for you. If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you. If you flirt with secession, even now, then this movement is for you. If you are a “Real American” with no demonstrable interest in “Real America” then, by God, this movement of alchemists and creationists, of anti-science and hair tonic, is for you.

Or, if you prefer a more scholarly approach to the…

Read More

April 7, 2010, 9:59 am

Which side are you on?

Over at B’s place, taddyporter has a post up today about the West Virginia mine disaster that I’m going to steal in its entirety (except for a photograph):

The handsome gent at the center of the photo on the left, the one with the impressive soup strainer, is Bennie Willingham, a coal miner at the Upper Big Branch coal mine and an employee of Mr. Blankenship.

Mr Willingham has been swept away by the gigantic methane explosion at the Upper Big Branch. He is lost to family, gathered around him in the photo, and friends.

Mr. Willingham regularly worked 12 hour shifts 1000 feet below the ground at the Upper Big Branch. He moved tons of coal for the Massey Energy Company.

We don’t know what Massey Energy paid its miners since it is not a party to collective bargaining with the United Mine Workers of America. If it were a party, Mr Willingham would have been paid $22.42 per hour in the…

Read More

April 6, 2010, 1:10 pm

a case of misplaced nostalgia?

Warsaw, 1938

The Times article on Roman Vishniac’s photographs of Jews in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust (a few days old now) is fascinating. I didn’t know him primarily through A Vanished World, the book that’s now (somewhat) in question. Rather, I knew first his scientific photography, probably through the many back issues of Scientific American lying around the house as I grew up. Then, when I began to look more seriously at general photography, I spent a long time with John Szarkowski’s Looking at Photographs, in which he’s represented by this dramatically suggestive scene.

From Maya Benton’s research, it seems that in composing the book, Vishniac winnowed down the wide variety of pictures he took, to present a vision of Jewish Eastern Europe as old, rural, narrow, timeless; and that he arranged them to illustrate narratives that didn’t really take place. Neither takes away, though, from …

Read More

April 6, 2010, 10:44 am

I had a farm…

A great many of the pearls of wisdom in this primer on how to write about Africa and Africans apply to writing about Native Americans and Indian Country.

Take note, young scholars, of how to make the subaltern bleak:

Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important…

Read More

April 6, 2010, 8:33 am

Mocked by the magic.

I was excited to learn that there’s an iPad version of Keynote, Apple’s presentation program. Since 2006 I’ve written my lectures in Keynote, finding it superior to PowerPoint, and I had looked eagerly forward to making an iPad my classroom presentation device over the heavier MacBook.

But read, and weep, about what happens when you move a Mac version of a presentation to the iPad version of Keynote:

Presenter Notes and Comments are not imported.

This is very disappointing. Notes provide a valuable aid to memory for a good presentation. They’re a block of text. It’s hard to see why they couldn’t, or shouldn’t, come along to the iPad version of Keynote.

April 5, 2010, 4:34 pm

Those Who Forget History Are Doomed To Get Quite Damp

On some occasions, the river of time, anthropomorphically angered at being forgotten, floods the basement, or, alternatively, downtown Chicago:

The abandoned freight tunnels filled quickly, soon taking in about a quarter of a billion gallons. Water passed easily through old concrete barriers and soon began to fill the city’s subway system tunnels as well. Businesses that had forgotten about their illegal freight-tunnel hook-ups a half a century earlier were shocked to find their foundations filling with up to forty feet of water.The power grid began to short out, the Board ofTrade and Mercantile Exchange suspended trading when waters began to percolate up through their basements, and the entire downtown and financial district were eventually shut down and evacuated.

Lost urban undergrounds are an entire historical genre to themselves, whether they be unused bits of the London Tube,…

Read More

April 4, 2010, 1:42 pm


I, for one, think Brad DeLong should be telling us about his new iPad.

April 3, 2010, 8:32 am

Muppet Miltie.

I sometimes imagine Statler and Waldorf sitting in the back row while I’m teaching.

April 2, 2010, 2:03 pm


Oh my.

A senior Vatican priest speaking at a Good Friday service compared the uproar over sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church — which have included reports about Pope Benedict XVI’s oversight role in two cases — to the persecution of the Jews, sharply raising the volume in the Vatican’s counterattack.

The remarks, on the day Christians mark the crucifixion, underscored how much the Catholic Church has felt under attack from recent news reports and criticism over how it has handled charges of child molestation against priests in the past, and sought to focus attention on the church as the central victim.

What do you make of this, Rabbi?

Rabbi Riccardo di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, who hosted Benedict at the Rome synagogue in January on a visit that helped calm waters after a year of tensions, laughed in seeming disbelief when asked about Father Cantalamessa’s…

Read More

April 2, 2010, 8:38 am

Embarrassment by variable.

From Nate Silver, a social scientific lapse.

A study purporting to find a connection between stimulus spending and the partisanship of a district suffers from an obvious flaw. But in so doing, it provides an example of why it’s important to retain some common sense — and some sense of context — when conducting a statistical analysis.

The study, by Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University and the National Review, claims that congressional districts which elected a Democrat to the Congress received a larger amount of stimulus finds by a margin which is statistically significant even after controlling for certain other effects like the unemployment rate. However, the study does not control for at least one other variable that is overwhelmingly important in determining the dispensation of stimulus funds.

The variable in question is in fact pretty obvious if you simply look at the…

Read More

April 1, 2010, 3:40 pm

The Right Honorable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament Assembled

are having trouble with mice:

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I thank the noble Lord for his reply. How many calls have there been to the mouse helpline? Has the accuracy of that information been checked, given that the staff report seeing mice on a daily basis at the moment in the eating areas? Has consideration been given to having hypoallergenic cats on the estate, given the history? Miss Wilson, when she was a resident superintendent in this Palace, had a cat that apparently caught up to 60 mice a night. The corpses were then swept up in the morning. Finally, does the noble Lord recognise the fire hazard that mice pose, because they eat through insulating cables? It would be a tragedy for this beautiful Palace to burn down for lack of a cat.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, there are a number of questions there. I cannot give an answer to the number of calls made to the mouse…

Read More