Category Archives: Uncategorized

March 14, 2014, 1:55 pm

Founder of Blog Makes Good

Ari Kelman, who co-founded this here blog, manages to make good:

Columbia University announced today that two acclaimed works will be awarded the 2014 Bancroft Prize:

Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time by Ira Katznelson (Liveright Publishing Corporation / W.W. Norton & Company, 2013) and A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek by Ari Kelman (Harvard University Press, 2013).

The Bancroft, for those non-historians in the crowd, is the leading award for historians [of the US, I should update to note], our rough equivalent of a Pulitzer. Nice work!

Ari can be found these days over here.

March 13, 2014, 1:05 pm


The cost of living is going up:

We are writing to provide you advance notice that the price of your [Amazon] Prime membership will be increasing. The annual rate will be $99 when your membership renews on July 14, 2014.

Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same for nine years. Since 2005, the number of items eligible for unlimited free Two-Day Shipping has grown from one million to over 20 million. We also added unlimited access to over 40,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video and a selection of over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Urk. Amazon Prime (free second day delivery) is, of course, a luxury, not a necessity, but it’s saved me more times than I can count around the holidays, birthdays, and when I’ve forgotten to order the class book ahead of time.

Historical connection:…

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March 8, 2014, 1:27 am

Update on the Ukraine

1. Yes, Russia wants to annex the Crimea. Were we genuinely thinking something else?

2. No, there isn’t going to be another Cold War, whether Russia can afford it or not. Russia isn’t the Soviet Union, isn’t going to dominate eastern Europe, split Germany in half, and threaten the west. The United States, for its part (and despite John McCain), isn’t interested in another 50 year existential struggle with a near economic and military equal in Europe.

3. How about we learn another language to describe the situation, one that doesn’t rely on cold war terminology.

March 6, 2014, 2:44 pm

In Russia, Map Annex YOU!

Note the map behind the presenter on Russia Today:


The Crimea, now part of Russia.

(h/t: @davekeating)

February 18, 2014, 10:22 am

The Leading Edge: Noah Shusterman on Religion, Gender, and the French Revolution, 1789-1799

Noah Shusterman joins us this week on the Leading Edge to talk about the French Revolution, the subject of a book he just published. Noah writes from Hong Kong, where he works at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. This makes him the most distant Leading Edge author yet, an early but still crucial record.

NCSBookCoverCertain events from the French Revolution stand out, and rightly so. The storming of the Bastille in July 1789, commemorated now every 14 July, showed the role that the people of Paris would play in the Revolution. The execution of Louis XVI in 1793 was another dramatic turning point, a burning of the bridges with France’s monarchical past. The execution of Maximilian Robespierre and his allies in July 1794 signaled an end to the Reign of Terror that had been going on for the past 10 months.

The assassination of Jean-Paul Marat in July 1793 might not have been the turning point…

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January 28, 2014, 1:00 pm

The Leading Edge: Robert Thompson and Vietnam

Our second Leading Edge takes us to the provinces of Vietnam to figure out what exactly the US meant when it talked about “pacification.” Robert Thompson, a graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi, is working on a dissertation on exactly that, and here he explains it for us.

“Pacification” is a broad term that encapsulates all the ambitions of both military and civilian entities. It is a single word, describing a much more complex reality. My project (at the dissertation stage right now) is a study of language and wartime priorities in Phu Yen Province during the Vietnam War, figuring how how that word reflected reality. An examination of “pacification” shows that the prevailing definition points towards the existence of only one war in southeast Asia. Continuity, not change, best characterized the Vietnam War. “Conventional” large unit warfare under General…

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January 25, 2014, 8:36 pm

Saturday Things Worth Reading

1. Information destruction through history infographic final revisedLovely graphic of information destruction through the ages at Global Data Vault:

Throughout the ages, it has happened again and again. Whole libraries of clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, bark codexes and paper books have been destroyed by natural disasters, fire and war. The Royal Library of Alexandria, where the accumulated knowledge of ancient scientists, physicians and philosophers was stored, was destroyed by fire. The destruction likely started during Caesar’s Civil War when Julius Caesar purposefully set his own ships ablaze, and many scholars believe the library suffered numerous other tragic fires throughout history. More than 120,000 volumes written by classical Greek and Roman authors were lost when fire destroyed the library at Constantinople in 473A.D.. Virtually all of the codexes recording the history, beliefs and sciences of the Maya were intentionally destroyed by…

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January 22, 2014, 2:18 am

Answer to Kevin Drum’s Question “Can 3 Lawmakers Revive the Voting Rights Act After the Supreme Court Trashed It?”


December 30, 2013, 1:44 am

Unruly Academics, Part II

Felix Salmon has the same opinion of the Times article that I did:

Which is why David Kocieniewski’s article about Craig Pirrong and Scott Irwin this weekend is such a disappointment. It’s currently doing very well on the NYT’s most-emailed list, but it’s easy to guess who’s doing the emailing: people who love to hate Wall Street, and who will use just about any possible excuse for doing so. Because in this case Kocieniewski has missed the mark. Neither Pirrong or Irwin is mendacious or venal, and indeed it’s the NYT which seems to be stretching the facts well past their natural breaking point.

Paging Margaret Sullivan

November 16, 2013, 7:50 pm

Parental Interference

Jill Silos-Rooney talks about the “The Problem We’re Afraid To Name:” parental interference in schools.

In recent years, I’ve had to deal with parents much more frequently than I ever imagined I would have to as a college professor. One father even tried to blackmail me into giving his son easier work and higher grades so that he wouldn’t lose his football scholarship. I’m not alone: Many of my colleagues report hearing from parents more and more frequently in the past 10 years or so.

From the New York Times:

1985, “About Education: PARENTAL PRESSURE AT ISSUE:”

Commenting on a recent survey that found parents asking for a greater voice in running the schools, Judi L. Wallace wrote that a distinction should be made ”between parents who want only the best education for their own children and those parents who want to mold the schools to conform to their own religious…

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November 14, 2013, 12:24 pm

War To End All Wars

As a followup to yesterday’s post, I went and searched on “war to end all wars” in Google Ngrams. The result was somewhat surprising:

The usage of “war to end all wars,” which I had usually taken to refer to the Great War, and (at least at first) to be un-ironic, doesn’t really start in any serious way until the 1930s, a period when it was pretty clear that the Great War wasn’t going to be the last one. It hit an early peak in 1943, when it was likely being used as a lament – “we thought we had fought the war to end all wars, but…” – and rose steadily in the post-World War II years. It strikes me that, from this evidence (to which all the usual caveats apply), that “war to end all wars” was only really used in a substantial way when it already clearly didn’t apply to 1914-1918. World War II (or its threat) had already come along and made tragic the phrase by the time “war to…

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November 7, 2013, 1:36 am

There Are More Ligaments In Heaven And Earth, Horatio, Than Are Dreamt Of In Your Philosophy

Especially in the knee:

Two knee surgeons at University Hospitals Leuven have provided the first full anatomical description of a previously enigmatic ligament in the human knee. The ligament appears to play an important role in patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.

It’s fascinating over my lifetime to watch scientific truth shift gradually (or not so gradually): an extra ligament here, 40 billion earth-like planets there.

October 28, 2013, 3:43 pm

Smallpox for Syphilis And A Disease To Be Named Later

Treatment of a Syphilitic Couple with Mercury Balm, 15th Century
F1 medium

The Europeans brought smallpox with them, and the Americans gave them syphilis. Or so it appears:

A study published in 2011 has systematically compared these European skeletons, using rigorous criteria for bone diagnosis and dating. None of the candidate skeletons passed both tests. In all cases, ambiguity in the bone record or the dating made it impossible to say for certain that the skeleton was both syphilitic and pre-Columbian. In other words, there is very little evidence to support the pre-Columbian hypothesis. It seems increasingly likely that Columbus and his crew were responsible for transporting syphilis from the New World to the Old.

Katherine Wright, the author of the article, also makes a useful note about DNA in the comments:

Researchers amassed all of the laboratory and field strains available of these…

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October 21, 2013, 12:33 am

Meta Weirdness

Dick Cheney is weirder than you imagine, even allowing for the fact that you imagine Dick Cheney to be weird:

Fearing that terrorists might use the electrical device implanted near his heart to kill him, former Vice President Dick Cheney said he had his doctor turn off its wireless function in 2007.


October 12, 2013, 5:02 pm

Today in GOP Dumbness

Rep. John Fleming, (R-LA):

Perhaps he sees this as the best opportunity for him to win the House in 2014. It’s very clear to us he does not now, and never had, any intentions of negotiating.

Perhaps he was fooled by the part where President Obama said he wouldn’t negotiate until the government was reopened. Easy mistake, really.