Category Archives: memorials

September 4, 2009, 11:10 am

“Execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a constitutionally intolerable event.”

I apologize for being a bit late to the party, but if you haven’t already read David Grann’s reported essay in this week’s New Yorker, you really should. Grann looks at the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man executed by the State of Texas in 2004, though he very well may have been innocent. It’s a beautifully reported and written piece, and one of the most terrifying explorations of the state’s power that I’ve read in many years. Seriously, set aside an hour or so — it’s a long article, and you almost certainly won’t be able to stop once you start — and begin reading.

(The title of the post, by the way, is a quote from Sandra Day O’Connor.)

August 25, 2009, 10:54 pm

Rest in peace

Edward “Teddy” Kennedy, February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009.

(The whole speech above: 1, 2, 3, 4. And Teddy’s eulogy for his brother, Bobby.)

August 7, 2009, 2:11 pm

“Colored People’s Walter White”

In the comments on this post, people got to wondering: who was the first African American to grace the cover of Time? The answer, TF Smith suggests, was Walter White, then head of the NAACP, on the cover of the January 24, 1938 issue. It’s an interesting image for a host of reasons, I think, not least color: White’s, I mean. But I’m especially fascinated by the painting of an in-progress lynching that appears in the background. Kevin points out, in the comments of the aforementioned post, that, “The NAACP in 1938 was pressing hard for the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, so it was no accident that White (or the editors) pressed for the image.” No doubt that’s right. Still, I’m surprised that Time ran that cover. So if anyone knows more of the back story here, please post a comment. Thanks.

August 6, 2009, 10:39 am

War and memory


When I teach my seminar on monuments, museums, and memorials, I typically cover the Enola Gay controversy. But one of the challenges I face is getting my students to look “beneath the mushroom cloud” (borrowing a phrase from John Dower). So, given that it’s the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima (see here for contemporary coverage), I thought I’d mention that I once juxtaposed Barefoot Gen with the bombing scene from Above and Beyond as a way of accomplishing this goal. This approach has its share of problems, unfortunately, and since I’ll be teaching the course again in the fall, I’d be eager to hear other ideas.

By the way, Barefoot Gen is fascinating for a variety of …

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July 10, 2009, 6:59 pm

Spencer Ackerman is (a) what the world needs now, (b) a new Frank Sinatra, (c) the bane of my existence, or (d) all of the above.

It goes without saying—or should—that Spencer Ackerman is a national treasure.  I never comment over there because of one of the folks who does, but Spencer damn near tops my increasingly shorter list of essential morning reads.  That said, on those days I don’t have time to read in the mornings, I don’t—because I can’t—read him at all.  My brain translates this:


Into this:


And I just can’t sleep once I’ve see that.

(This is less of a post and more of a frank admission of admiration.  If all his peers had half his tenacity, DeLong could excise one loathsome category from his site.)


July 6, 2009, 10:11 am

“He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals.”

Tomasky has the money quotation from the late, and undeniably complicated, Robert McNamara. (Much more complicated than Henry Kissinger, who supposedly said Bill Clinton “does not possess the strength of character to be a war criminal.”) McNamara was talking about his role in this and that sort of thing, but of course he’s better known for his role in inspiring this sort of thing.

The Miller Center has an online McNamara exhibit which includes his case for a withdrawal from Vietnam in October, 1963.

UPDATED to add, on McNamara’s memoir:

… there is something wrong with a culture in which a McNamara is feted for his “guts” while George McGovern and Gene McCarthy, who opposed McNamara’s mistakes, are regarded as nobodies. In one of the uglier passages of In Retrospect, McNamara sneers at the antiwar protesters who marched on the Pentagon in 1967. If they had been more “disciplined”…

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July 1, 2009, 10:02 am

More powerful than memory alone.


Ars Technica has a post summarizing Kodak’s decision to end sales of Kodachrome after 74 years because, basically, “not enough people are shooting KODACHROME for us to continue offering it.” In 1935 the film offered casual photographers the ability to take snapshots in color—to indulge that “twinge in your heart more powerful than memory alone,” as Don Draper says; it “takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”

June 26, 2009, 7:48 am

“The monumental man had monumental flaws.”

Maira Kalman tackles Jefferson and Monticello. The piece doesn’t change my opinion of Jefferson: terrible president, massive hypocrite, astonishing mind. Nor of Kalman*: national treasure. But it’s well worth the time.

* Are we related? Perhaps distantly? I’d like to think so.

June 25, 2009, 5:51 pm

Iranian protesters are still in the process of . . .

. . . BURNING SHIT DOWN, which must be why neither the Los Angeles Times nor Twitter will load.  I admit that watching the social media site come into its own in response to an international crisis makes me wonder whether I ought to be a little less cynical of the political power of new media and the political engagement of the online generati—what?

You have got to be kidding me.

Somewhere in Tehran, an Iranian protester’s desperately punching his jerry-rigged mobile device trying to figure out what the fuck happened to Twitter.

May 5, 2009, 10:17 am

Child abuse.

Ron Paul’s son is named Rand? Apparently. I can’t believe nobody told me this.

April 4, 2009, 12:36 pm

Eyewitness to misery.

Forty-one years ago today, James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King, Jr. dead on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. To memorialize this grim anniversary, LIFE has released a gallery of photographs taken at the Lorraine on April 4, 1968 and the following day. For some reason, the second and ninth pictures (of the Lorraine’s sign and of the contents of Dr. King’s briefcase) hit me the hardest. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of that Americana and American history (the images of the blood-soaked balcony and of Dr. King’s friends and colleagues from the SCLC mourning his loss) that’s so affecting. I honestly don’t know.

February 27, 2009, 2:48 pm

“The South designed beautiful flags, but it was on the wrong side of history.”

Of all the things I’ve read about Lincoln recently, this very moving something-or-other is among my favorites. The idea that a person unfamiliar with Lincoln might meet and then find herself falling in love with him warms my heart.

(Thanks to a reader for the link.)

February 11, 2009, 8:07 pm

Um, are you sure that’s a good idea?

If I’m President Obama, I’m steering clear of Ford’s Theater, thank you very much. I mean, supporting arts and culture is one thing, but tempting fate is quite another.

January 29, 2009, 11:28 am

Passed along without comment.