Author Archives: David Noon

May 20, 2009, 10:06 am

No law at all in Deadwood


Imagine, if you will, a football field of standard dimensions. The faculty in Computer Science and Engineering, Mathematics and Statistics, along with a smattering of faculty from other sciences and a few in the Humanities, are sitting in the stands, spectating. The rest of the faculty are crowded together down on the field, wearing football helmets and running into each other at random, over and over and over again. There are no referees.

Such is the electronic behavior of the LSU faculty this afternoon, after geniuses in the registrar’s office decided that all 5000 faculty at LSU needed to be added to an unmoderated listserv. Yes, you read that correctly: an unmoderated listserv. We may never understand how the office arrived at this decision, especially in consideration of the fact (announced proudly on the listserv when it sent its first broadcast this morning) that the…

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May 13, 2009, 9:02 pm

If it were 1866, the Inquirer would be hiring Zombie John Calhoun

This is 31 flavors of stupid:

“There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of The Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication,” Mr. [Harold] Jackson [the Inquirer's editorial page editor] said. “We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix.”

Asked if the release of the memos affected his view of hiring Mr. Yoo, Mr. Jackson said: “From a personal perspective, yes. We certainly know more now than we did [in 2008], but we didn’t go into that contract blindly. I’m not going to say the same decision wouldn’t have been made.”

But Mr. Tierney said the memos did not alter his opinion.

“What I liked about John Yoo is he’s a Philadelphian,” [the paper's publisher, Brian] Tierney said. “He went to Episcopal Academy, where I went to school. He’s a very, very bright guy. He’s on the faculty at Berkeley, one …

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April 30, 2009, 12:54 pm

A decades-long ruse exposed!

My wife just received a certified letter alerting me to the odd news that I’ve somehow received tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor. (more…)

April 29, 2009, 4:11 pm

It’s not that wingnuts are ignorant; it’s that they know so much that isn’t so

As a companion to Eric’s post below, Kevin Murphy offered a helpful survey of the recent efforts among conservatives to say exceedingly dumb things about the past. (He wrote it a week ago, but [insert several tedious excuses here on the subject of infants and toddlers and the howling nexus thereof, plus some stuff about grading and general existential lethargy] and so I’m just beginning to catch up on my rss feeds.)

I don’t know if there’s something qualitatively unique about the historical butchery that’s dominated right wing discourse during the first few months of the Obama administration.  As Eric and many others have been chronicling across the internets, the history of Great Depression and New Deal have been grotesquely misrepresented in a variety of venues — like cable news, the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal – that the young and/or the gullible continue to revere…

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April 2, 2009, 11:37 pm

“Do you know what necrophilia is?”

Though as a parent I have the predictably mixed feelings toward Elmo, I can nevertheless appreciate the brilliance of Kevin Clash (see, for example, this interview).

And this is even better:

March 22, 2009, 4:02 pm

Jefferson said what now?

So a while back, Rob linked to this piece at Duck of Minerva, where Charli Carpenter called attention to this essay arguing that a quotation oft-attributed to Edmund Burke was not, in fact, written by Edmund Burke. As Rob noted, the aphorism — some permutation of “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” — doesn’t even sound like something Burke would say or believe.  It was all quite interesting, and I was able to use Rob’s and Charli’s posts in my historical methods course as a first-day conversation piece.

Anyhow, I was reminded of all this last night as I was laughing at the ridiculous signage to be discovered at the Orlando “Tea Party,” where literally hundreds of people showed up to . . . um . . . go John Galt or something.  Amid the verbal and visual detritus, there was this contrived moment of photo-citizen-journalism:


The resemblance to…

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March 3, 2009, 4:12 pm

The Heir to My Vast Misfortune

Named for the grandfathers he’ll never have the good fortune to meet, John Galt Orrin Corliss Hayes Noon was born this morning at 4:06 a.m. He weighed in at 8 lb., 1 oz., and seems to be in fantastic health. Baby and father were both quite exhausted by the ordeal. The mother also appears to be strangely fatigued and uncomfortable.

So far, the child’s achievements have been mixed. He seems to have discovered an efficient means of acquiring food, yet he appears unable to comprehend simple questions from his two-year-old sister, including “Hey, what are you doing?” or “Would you pull my nose?” All of which means he’d be uniquely suited to cover the tax beat for ABC News if the opportunity presented itself for some reason.

My son’s birth, interestingly enough, coincides with the 131st anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano, by which Bulgaria was pried loose from the…

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February 27, 2009, 3:41 pm

“know that he has not told you all”

On this date in 1864 Union prisoners of war began arriving at Camp Sumter, a shadeless, sixteen-acre marsh stockade where, as one former inhabitant later described it, the “spewings of toads and reptiles and swamp ooze, decaying wood, weeds and rank grass are distilled into poison.”  Known more conventionally as Andersonville Prison, the site became an enduring symbol of Confederate perfidy, the subject of dozens of ghoulish memoirs that sustained Unionist indignation for decades.

In a sense, the prison was a material consequence of the very cause for which the South was fighting.  When the Union armies began enlisting African Americans — including escaped slaves — in 1863, the Confederacy declared its intention not to return captive black soldiers, whom they insisted were still the rightful property of their masters.  In the wake of the Confederacy’s refusal, the prisoner cartel…

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February 16, 2009, 3:22 pm

With room to drop

This set of presidential rankings, as Steve Benen points out, is not all that useful except as a conversation-starter.

Bearing that in mind, I’ll simply note the absurdity of keeping William Henry Harrison on the list. Ol’ Tip’s misplacement is thrown into high relief by virtue of his being ranked lower (39) than George W. Bush (a gentleman’s 36), which I’d expect even Bush partisans to recognize as a silly comparison. I have no quarrel with ranking Bush ahead, for the time being, of the three presidents — Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan — who set the stage for the Civil War; and I’m even willing to keep Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding on a lower rung for now, though I’d expect him to overtake Harding fairly soon.

But in all seriousness, we need to give Harrison the equivalent of a “No Basis” grade for his 32 days in office. It’s like he bought the books; showed up the first day,…

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February 4, 2009, 11:31 pm

Should have gotten one of those bumper stickers…

As Eric urged last fall, I’m officially disappointed by someone new.

I don’t have television, which I’m gathering is quite a good thing these days; I’m having a difficult time imagining how precisely the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats managed to squander what should have been an obvious objective advantage on the stimulus bill. I haven’t read anyone who’s utterly thrilled with the package — and I’m one of those people who would prefer it to be twice as large — but neither have I read anything even remotely supportive an example of “galactic,” wasteful boondoggling (as NPR’s Marketplace allowed the never-interesting David Frum to claim in one of his unseriously “serious” commentaries this evening.*) Instead, it seems to me that people with demonstrably bad economic beliefs — people who, as Angry Bear pithily described it, “hates spending any tax money on public…

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January 31, 2009, 3:59 pm

History, like, repeats itself and stuff?

I don’t know if Rod Blagojevich would appreciate the near-coincidence, but it turns out he was thrown out of office a mere one day short of the 360th anniversary of the execution of Charles I.  Damn.  So close.

Nevertheless, I’m reminded of David Hume’s bathetic love letter to the headless king.  Perhaps his words can provide Blago and his many adherents with the solace they need in these difficult days.

Text not available
A History of England from the Earliest Times to the Revolution in 1688 Abridged, Incorporating the Corrections and Researches of Recent Historians, and Continued Down to the Year 1858 By David Hume

(via Ralph Luker)

January 28, 2009, 11:25 am

“a mighty symposium of exquisite pain.”

In Underworld, Don DeLillo describes Peter Breughel’s 16th century painting Triumph of Death as a “census-taking of awful ways to die.” Indeed, Breughel possessed an expansive view of physical suffering. In his work, scythe-wielding skeletal horsemen cut down peasants like fields of wheat; the already-fallen are gobbled by dogs; throats are opened; maidens ravaged; bodies are hanged, speared, and stuffed into the crotches of trees. One supplicant victim offers a prayer for relief to a god who — if he exists at all — will likely arrive too late to save the poor fellow’s head from being pruned by a broadsword.

If the victims of the 1922 Knickerbocker Theater disaster had thought about it a bit, they might have scoffed at Breughel’s failure to depict anyone being crushed or pressed to death, much less buried — as they had been — along with nearly a hundred others beneath a…

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January 15, 2009, 1:18 pm

“Molasses, waist deep”

Ninety years ago today, a 50-foot tall vat of molasses collapsed suddenly in the North End of Boston, sending a 15-foot tidal wave of syrup into the streets. The accident, which took place along the Charles River waterfront just north of Commercial Street, sent more than two million gallons rushing forth at 35 miles per hour, carrying a force of 2 tons per square foot as it washed across the North End Paving Yard. The Boston Post, mixing several culinary metaphors, described the horrific scene the next day.

Like eggshells it crushed the buildings of the North End yard of the city’s paving division… To the north it swirled and wiped out practically all of Boston’s only electric freight terminal. Big steel trolley freight cars were crushed as if eggshells, and their piled-up cargo of boxes and merchandise minced like so much sandwich meat . . . .

The sight that greeted the first of…

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January 13, 2009, 10:26 pm

Much cooler than the church sign generator


Seriously. Who says the internet is useless?

January 6, 2009, 12:01 am

Train Wreck

In addition to being a thoroughly wretched president, Franklin Pierce delivered the most inarguably depressing opening sentence in the history of American inaugural addresses. On 4 March 1853, the fourteenth President began his unremarkable 3,334-word speech by harshing even the mellowest of mellows. With snow plummeting from the sky, Pierce observed to his audience that

[i]t is a relief to feel that no heart but my own can know the personal regret and bitter sorrow over which I have been borne to a position so suitable for others rather than desirable for myself.

Pierce’s audience would have understood immediately that the New Hampshire Democrat was referring to the unimaginable personal horror that befell his family eight weeks earlier, on January 6. Pierce and his wife, Jane, had already known a lifetime’s worth of hardship during their two decades of marriage. Their first son,…

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