Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

October 11, 2013, 5:33 pm

I Shall Now Shoot Myself In The Foot. And Your Foot. And The Foot Of The Guy Next To You.

Ezra Klein makes a nice point about the GOP’s profound strategic stupidity:

It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the GOP’s strategic failure here: Obamacare’s launch has been awful. More than a week after the federal insurance marketplaces opened, most people can’t purchase insurance on the first try. But Republicans have chosen such a wildly unpopular strategy to oppose it that they’ve helped both Obamacare and its author in the polls.

It takes a great deal to be more political inept than the Democrats, but the Republicans have somehow managed it.

October 4, 2013, 5:37 pm

The World Series of Poker, Syria Edition

PUB SSGN Ohio Class Poster lgGalrahn, over at Information Dissemination, suggests that the Obama administration never had any intent of striking at Syria:

These two pictures combined tell us something important: The President of the United States never intended to conduct military strikes against Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21st. He was bluffing. The President was never playing chess, but he was never playing checkers either; President Obama was playing poker.

His analysis is based on looking at US military capabilities in the Eastern Mediterranean. To mount a strike on Syria would have required ships with substantial amount of firepower, either in the form of cruise missiles or aircraft. The latter was unlikely, as the Syrian air defenses could be expected to inflict casualties on manned aircraft, a political problem for President Obama. That limits the use of air…

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June 25, 2013, 12:54 am

Waiting For The Constitution

Outside the Supreme Court, June 24, 2013:


June 4, 2013, 6:06 pm

“A Mere Thing Of Wax:” A Random Note On Marbury v. Madison

Chief Justice Marshall
220px John Marshall by Henry Inman 1832

One of the delights of reading Marbury v. Madison is the logical bind that John Marshall puts Thomas Jefferson. Marshall will give Jefferson what he wants in the case, but only if Jefferson concedes that the Supreme Court can decide the constitutionality of laws, something Jefferson resolutely did not want to do. Writing to Abigail Adams after the decision, Jefferson said:

The Constitution . . . meant that its coordinate branches should be checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch

President Jefferson
220px Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale 1800

He did not change his mind, writing in 1820:

To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions …

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May 6, 2013, 4:49 pm

It’s Still Easier To Be An Effective President If Your Party Owns Both Houses (aka, A Quick Note On One Reason Why LBJ Was Effective In Ways Obama Is Not) Now! With More Wrestling.


As a followup to the FDR post:

88th Congress (January 1963 – January 1965):

63 Democrats,
35 Republicans

258 Democrats,
177 Republicans

89th Congress (January 1965 – January 1967):

Senate: 68 Democrats, 32 Republicans
House: 295 Democrats, 140 Republicans

90th Congress (January 1967 – January 1969):

Senate:64 Democrats, 35 Republicans
House: 247 Democrats, 187 Republicans

The caveat here is that many of the Democrats were southern, and LBJ’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) alienated quite a few of them (Much honor to “Smilin’ Ralph” Yarborough, Democratic Senator of Texas, and the only Southern Democrat in the Senate to vote for the CRA). The flip side, of course, is there was still that rare and mythical beast, a liberal Republican, in those times. [Update: 27] of those Republicans voted for the CRA, helping break the…

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April 17, 2013, 3:04 pm

This Blog Loves Vin Scully

2012 11 02 WoodcutimageoftheSwordofDamocles

During last night’s play-by-play, Vin Sculley (the legendary Dodgers’ announcer) invoked the Sword of Damocles to talk about Chad Billingsley, the pitcher:

He pitches ‘with the Sword of Damocles over his head.’ That’s an old Greek legend. The ruler was Dionysus, and he had a guy in the courtier – in the court – who would always talk about how great the ruler had it. So finally, the ruler said, ‘Ok. I’ll tell you how great it is.’ – the pitch is high, ball two – and he had a big dinner for Damocles and there at the head of the table was the chair and the beautiful table set up. Damocles sat down and directly above his head was a huge sword and it was tied by one horse hair.

The perfection there, of course, is the momentary interjection: “high, ball two.”

It is only appropriate that the batter then hit a home run.

April 15, 2013, 4:26 pm

Comment Policy

This is one of those “So I can point to it later” posts. The comment policy here at Edge is fairly loose in some ways and fairly tight in others. I think of Edge as as personal space and commenters as guests. They’re very welcome, welcome to come chat, come agree or disagree, come criticize or support, as long they’re polite and don’t overstay their welcome. I’ll usually warn folks if they’re not abiding by the policy. I may tell people to leave a thread if they’re not cooperating. I may ask folks to drop a particular discussion thread if it doesn’t fit with the post (or I don’t think it’s productive).

John Scalzi’s comment policy is well worth a read, especially this part:

You are welcome to comment. I like comment threads with a wide spread of thoughts and opinions, and I take what I feel is well-justified pride in the general high quality of the comment threads on the site. I …

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April 11, 2013, 2:18 am

Miscarriage of Justice, Air Force Edition

So–to be clear–it’s not okay for the accuser to have inconsistencies in her testimony:

Franklin, commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, said a host of details led to his decision, including that the victim turned down offers to be driven home from the party, didn’t accurately describe the house layout and gave a version of events that he did not find credible.

but it is for the defendant:

He acknowledged that Wilkerson didn’t pass a polygraph test and that there were some differences between the colonel’s version of events and his wife’s

Actually, it even means good things:

Wilkerson’s wife’s account of the events differed in some details from her husband’s, but Franklin said the conflicts suggested that the two didn’t collude on a manufactured story.

Good to know whose word counts, and whose doesn’t. This is, obviously, for values of…

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