Luker Blog Archives 7-01-03 to 7-26-03

Luker Blog Archives


For both of them, a Before and an After seemed inevitable. For both of them, it might have been Before and After they were married, in 1986. He was the alienated son of a Texas oil tycoon who had made his own fortune in banking. She was a beautiful Greek intellectual who came to the United States via London for a career as a writer. His fortune gave her security and she brought him a brilliant, glamorous alliance and gave him two daughters.

After liquidating his family's oil investments, he spent over $5,000,000 to win a California congressional seat in 1992 and, only two years later, he spent over $24,000,000 to lose a race for the United States Senate. It was, then, the most expensive non-presidential race in American history and 1994 wasn't a year when Republicans were losing congressional races. It only got worse. In 1995, Paula Poundstone compared her to a guinea pig and her long-time support of this is a little scary.

It's the Huffingtons, of course, and their Before and After came, not in 1986, but in 1997, when they were quietly divorced. He came out of his heterosexual closet to become one of America's most prominent gay politicians; and she came out of her conservative closet by transmogrifying herself into one of the country's most prominent Left populists, a scourge of corporate greed and heedless consumerism. Her artful biographies of Maria Callas (1981) and Picasso (1988) gave way to titles like How to Overthrow the Government (2000) and Pigs at the Trough (2003).

I envy the opportunities historians of the future will have to look back on the delicious mess that California politics has become. In their After, both Huffingtons may charge to the rescue of California's hapless electorate by offering themselves as candidates to succeed Governor Gray Davis, if he is recalled. Both Michael and Arianna are seriously considering races for Governor. Her website is already up. Either way, Californians will get an opportunity to share in their Forever Afters.

Posted by Ralph 11:00 p.m. EDT


Josh Chafetz at Oxblog takes a memo to himself about"What To Do If I Ever Get Tenure." (He links this gem to National Review Online, but for the life of me I can't find it there.) It's too good to pass up:

On the rare occasion when he attended a faculty meeting, he'd take with him a wooden mechanical device that was shaped like a human hand--Lord knows where he got the thing-- set it on a desk, and then demonstrate his boredom by turning a crank that drummed the fingers.
An older, experienced faculty member replied:
You should be more like the rest of us, doodle, or read the student newspaper (unfortunately that only requires about 15 seconds), then there is rip open (loudly) and read your mail, and of course, the old stand by, do the crossword puzzle in the student paper. But you must always be attentive enough to quickly second any motion to adjourn.

Posted by Ralph 2:30 a.m.


In an article for Slate, Jack Shafer outlines the long range of problems with Judith Miller's reporting on Iraq's weapons program for the New York Times.

Posted by Ralph 2:30 p.m. EDT


I come from a generation in which the notion that"the personal is political" has been a touchstone of"insight." A) I'm not sure what it means. B) I don't know that believing it to be true has the liberating effect it was supposed to have. Take the case of Rhodes College's former assistant professor of religion, Carey Walsh. The Memphis Flyer tells the sordid story leading to her being denied tenure and the subsequent lawsuit. Erin O'Connor has additional information. Sorry, Rhodes, but this steamy tale has the smell of truth to it and you've just sent up a mighty stench.

Posted by Ralph 2:00 p.m. EDT


There's a mix of obvious choices and fascinating surprises in Simon Schama's list of ten favorite history books.

Posted by Ralph 1:30 p.m. EDT


The good news is that the New York Times has just named David Brooks as a regular op-ed columnist. The other news is that a former reporter for the Times, one Jason Blair, has just picked up one time only assignments for Esquire and Jane.

Posted by Ralph 2:45 p.m. EDT

WELCOME HOME, DAVID ... 07-25-03

Oxblog's David Adesnik has returned to Harvard from Oxford with some interesting observations about identity after 9/11.

Posted by Ralph 8:00 a.m.

NO. NO. THIS WILL NOT DO! ... 07-25-03

The Benedictine Order of St. John the Beloved has opened bidding on e-bay for naming rights for its proposed new church building, monastery, and bell tower in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. On the one hand, is nothing sacred? Must everything be for sale? On the other hand, the possibilities are limitless: Ted Turner Temple, Bill Gates United Presbyterian Church, Mount Enron Baptist Church, Our Lady of Generals Electric and Motor. It reminds me of the time someone asked James B. Duke, then the scion of a world monopoly on the tobacco market, if he attended Durham, North Carolina's Duke Memorial Methodist Church."Go there?" he replied."Hell, I own the damn thing!"

Posted by Ralph 1:45 a.m. EDT


Speaking of Sam Tanenhaus, his review for Slate of Ann Coulter's dreadful act of Treason attempts to explain why the book has provoked such outrage from conservatives, including Andrew Sullivan, David Horowitz, Ronald Radosh, and Dorothy Rabinowitz."Coulter's conservative critics fear that her legions of fans—and lots of others, too—see no appreciable difference between her ill-informed comic diatribes and their high-brow ultraserious ones, particularly since Coulter's previous performances were praised by some now on the attack," says Tanenhaus.

But this is yet another case where the dumb public is right. Coulter's shocking book is not shocking at all. Nor is it novel. It is merely the latest in a long line of name-calling, right-wing conspiracist tracts, a successor to Elizabeth Dilling's Red Network, Fred C. Schwarz's You Can Trust the Communists (To Be Communists), and—a personal favorite—John A. Stormer's None Dare Call It Treason. This last, which sold 2 million copies in 1964,"explained" how the U.S. military had consciously served"the long-range political advantage of the communist conspiracy" in World War II. You can laugh, but by the time the 25th-anniversary updated edition was published, it had sold 7 million copies and Stormer was holding weekly Bible meetings for Missouri state legislators.
What offends other conservatives, says Tanenhaus, is that"Coulter has crossed the line, stating openly the message others push subliminally."
Consider her notorious comment, following 9/11, that the solution to radical Islamists was for the United States to"invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." This met with an outcry that was, again, loudest from the right. Within days, National Review Online dropped her column. (And Horowitz, to his credit, picked it up for FrontPage.) But no one, to my knowledge, has bothered to point out that her formulation was prescient—right up to the eerie moment in April when Ari Fleischer was dodging questions about the evangelicals camped on the Iraqi border, poised to Christianize the Muslim infidels.
Ann Coulter may have committed"treason" against conservative good taste. But she's done the rest of us a favor. She has exposed the often empty semantic difference between the"responsible" right and its supposed"fringe."

Amidst the trading of blows over Randy Barnett's attack on the Left's"social construction of reality" (see: below), Tanenhaus's review managed to unite Barnett's conservative co-Conspirator, Eugene Volokh and the Left's Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber."Eugene is properly outraged that someone would be so stupid or spiteful as to lump responsible conservatives like him in with Ann Coulter," says Healy.

He persuasively argues that when someone does this ‘it's hard to give much credit to the rest of his moral — or logical — judgment.' Too true, Eugene. You should send Randy an email with a link to your blog or something — he'd really benefit from reading it.

Posted by Ralph 1:00 a.m. EDT

Update (07-27-03): Sullivan bristles here.


When Andrew Sullivan, Sam Tanenhaus, and George Will all agree that, whatever else it may be, the Bush administration is not a conservative one, it is time to take notice.

Posted by Ralph 6:00 p.m. EDT


Perhaps it was provoked by Daniel Davies's thoughtful post on 9 July at Crooked Timber. Perhaps, as he insists, it responded to rtingonthewall's post. In any case, Left and Right are now trading blows over Randy Barnett's guest blog for Glenn Reynolds on 23 July (scroll down) in which he argues that the American Left exists in some socially constructed alternate universe, largely impenetrable by reality. Fellow Conspirator Juan Non-Volokh chimes in by suggesting a parallel with the Left's shifting attitude toward Fascism in the 1930s. For the Left, Australia's Tim Lambert notes an example of the immunity of the Right to reality. Skeptical Notion replies to Barnett here. Henry Brighouse at Crooked Timber dismisses Barnett's"Big Dumb Generalizations." Fellow bent wood blogger, Brian Witherson, notes that"Fisking is so 2002," but cannot resist replying with an appeal for the sanitizing of electoral administration in the United States. Barnett publishes a response to his critics here.

Posted by Ralph 3:30 p.m. EDT


This is just so weird. Answer the survey questions to find out which of the Founding Fathers you are. Sorry, but"George Washington" is already taken. That's me. Seriously, I answered the questions honestly and that's the answer I got. It says:

You are the most reliable creature on the face of the planet. You're not the most creative, but inspire great loyalty because you are physically incapable of not keeping your word. People set their watch by you. You are often the one friend in common between two blood enemies.
Actually, I think I'm"John Adams." Do not. I repeat: Do not ask me to command your armies if you want to start a revolution and, for heaven's sake, do not make me the first President of your country.

Posted by Ralph 2:00 a.m. EDT

IRAQ AND AL QUAEDA ... 07-24-03

Christopher Hitchens to the contrary notwithstanding, both UPI and Josh Marshall are reporting that the official congressional inquiry into 9/11 will show that there was no link between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Ossama bin Laden's Al Quaeda. As the administration's rationale in the run-up to war continues to unravel, it turns increasingly to a humanitarian justification for the war. The hard reality is that American troops occupying Iran will probably be subject to sniper attacks so long as they are there. With a weak domestic economy, the administration has committed us to sustain an occupying force there for years. It is a moment of opportunity for the people of Iraq to create a democratic government, but it must be one that can sustain itself after American troops are withdrawn. In the meantime, if Iraq had nothing to do with Al Quaeda, why have all of the resources for fighting a war on terrorism been poured into a humanitarian gesture? And, if it was a humanitarian gesture, why is it made in Iraq, but not in Burma or the Congo or Liberia?

Posted by Ralph 2:00 a.m. EDT

Update (07-25-03): UPI has retracted the story and will post an updated story.


Think piracy and slavery ended sometime in the 19th century? Think again. In the first half of 2003, incidents of piracy reached record numbers since record-keeping began a decade ago. The south Asian waters off Indonesia and Bangladesh were the most dangerous, followed by those off the Nigerian coast in west Africa. From the sex trade that thrives in eastern Europe and reaches across the north Atlantic to south Asia's child bondage and Brazil's agricultural servitude, slavery survives in much of the world in the 21st century. It is illegal in most nations where it is practiced and, everywhere, a violation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, but Antislavery International estimates that 20,000,000 to 50,000,000 people across the world are slaves.

Posted by Ralph 2:00 a.m. EDT


"The great British landscape painter, JMW Turner," writes Ed Voves,

was once lampooned in a caricature portraying him as a hobbit-like little man wearing an enormous top hat. The cartoon Turner brandishes a mop in his hand like a lance. Yellow paint, dripping from the mop, is about to be smeared on to a waiting canvas. Such was a contemporary view of Turner in 1846, a century before Jackson Pollock.
Voves reviews James Hamilton's new biography of the odd, but great 19th century British landscape painter, J. M. W. Turner. Speaking of Turner's landscapes, see this fine on-line collection of them and the larger collection of masterworks, here.

Posted by Ralph 1:30 a.m. EDT


An editor makes decisions. Many editors have made decisions about my work. Sometimes, I thought they were wrong. The last time that happened, in exasperation, I quoted my favorite Afro-Baptist preacher, Vernon Johns, and told the editor that he would"have to get a ladder to climb up to hell." Just a benign forewarning, you understand, but -- what the hey – it's his problem right? Anyway, Justin Raimondo takes this opportunity to warn HNN's noble editor, Rick Shenkman, that he'll have to get a ladder to climb up to hell. I sometimes tire of the regular doses of David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, and Ronald Radosh that we get on HNN. That doesn't square well with the posters' constantly complaint that"the left is taking over," but those of us who are tired of reading Horowitz, Pipes, and Radosh should just send Rick better essays to choose from. Thanks to David Beito for the tip

Posted by Ralph 2:30 p.m. EDT

ARE YOU READY FOR THIS? ... 07-23-03

It makes no difference whether you are or not. The Kobe Bryant trial promises to be a media frenzy. Yes, American civilization at its bloviating beastliest."The more I learn about this case," writes Hunter S. Thompson,

the more I understand that this is not about Rape at all. It is about money, pure money and nothing else. Nobody is going to jail in this case, but some people are going to Pay. The downward spiral of Dumbness in America is about to hit a new low. You thought O.J. was bad? Wait until we get a taste of the K.B. scandal. It will be like a feeding frenzy and a long parade of cannibals.
Hang onto your hat.

Posted by Ralph 11:00 a.m. EDT


A month after its notice by Instapundit, the controversy over Christine Heyrman's Bancroft Prize winning book, Southern Cross receives additional notice from (22 July, scroll down). Heyrman might have avoided the public controversy (16, 18, 22 June, scroll down) had she not essentially taken the position that it was her book and that she didn't have to present comparable data properly compiled if she didn't want to.

Posted by Ralph 1:45 a.m. EDT

WESLEY CLARK ... 07-22-03

I'm not very impressed with the current crop of candidates for the presidency in 2004, including what's his name, the incumbent. Retired General Wesley Clark strikes me as the most interesting and electable choice. But I'm a Republican, you say. Right, but they've got me covered for that, too.

Posted by Ralph 8:30 p.m. EDT

TWO OFF THE PLANK ... 07-22-03

Stephen Hadley, deputy national security advisor to President Bush, becomes the second official in the administration to accept responsibility for the"sixteen little words."

Posted by Ralph 6:15 p.m. EDT

REGIME CHANGE ... 07-22-03

Ivo Daalder reviews Stephen Kinzer's All The Shah's Men. Those who are enthusiastic about"regime change" in far flung parts of the world have something to learn from the American engagement in Iran fifty years ago. On 19 August 1953, Theodore Roosevelt's grandson, Kermit, a CIA operative, orchestrated the ouster of the Iranian prime minister, Mohammad Mosedegh. The short term gains, Kinzer suggests, were less important than the long-term, unintended consequences.

Posted by Ralph 6:00 p.m. EDT

PATRIOTISM AND REVISIONISM ... 07-22-03 Paul Krugman writes intelligently about the use of buzzwords like patriotism and revisionism in today's New York Times.


Cornell's Mary Beth Norton brings Donald Rumsfeld up to speed on American history during the period of the Articles of Confederation.

Posted by Ralph 9:45 p.m. EDT

A SAMPLE OF TORTURE ... 07-21-03

An Assyrian Christian woman gives testimony to the torture she endured under Saddam Hussein's regime.

Posted by Ralph 9:15 p.m. EDT

DAMAGE CONTROL ... 07-21-03

Mark Fiore presents "Damage Control".

Posted by Ralph 8:45 p.m. EDT

UNSPEAKABLY SAD ... 07-20-03

News of the death of the poet Yusef Komunyakaa. Friends and neighbors of Vazirani reported that she had been Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the Kingsley Tufts Award, and the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes. Although they were apparently estranged at the time of Vazirani's death, both she and her husband had accepted new positions at Emory University and were scheduled to begin teaching there in the fall.

Reetika Vazirani
So they thought it was us two idly fucking
but I know better what we did
you kneaded hills for the dales
I furnished scintillant rivers for mountains
continents came up between us
masses of knees & elbows
they said ha! that god & that goddess still fucking
Let them talk
We built worlds
we built the little earth
we put Mars in orbit
& that vastness they only dream of
on the other end of their straw periscopes
that vastness
what I saw in your eyes when you licked a raindrop of sweat from my brow
that endless acreage
I put into galactic orbit
eons partner lover friend of mine
eons beyond the simple world of copulation
love & death & marriage
birth of our fine son & the daughters
I could not drown
You I stopped
my some time enemy my love

Copyright Monsoon Magazine 2000 All Rights Reserved

Posted by Ralph 7:30 a.m. ED

AT RANDOM ... 07-19-03

Lynn Hirschberg takes a very sober look at Peter Olson, ceo at Random House. He is the most powerful man in the American book trade. It may be re-assuring to know that he is also a reader of books, but the bottom line is the bottom line.

Posted by Ralph 11:45 p.m. EDT

SAY IT AIN'T SO, KOBE ... 07-18-03

The formal charge of sexual assault against basketball star Kobe Bryant dominates the news. It led on ABC and CBS evening news. It was the focus of"Nightline." It is on the front page of the Washington Post. If the outrageous salaries of our professional athletes aren't enough to give us pause, this case should blow the cover on thinking of professional athletes as"role models." For that, we should look to our ministers and priests. Oh, never mind ...


David Hampton, who conned New York's social elite and saw his life played out on stage and screen in John Guere's"Six Degrees of Separation," has died alone at 39 of AIDS related complications.


In a move that increases the tension in the Anglican communion over gay issues, 24 conservative bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States have severed ties with the diocese of British Columbia whose bishop recently approved a same-sex union in the Canadian province. Siding with conservative Anglican bishops in the third world who have been outspokenly hostile to accepting gays within the church, the American bishops seemed to forewarn fellow Episcopalians who face decisive issues in two weeks at a national convention in Minneapolis. The convention must decide whether to approve the election of the Reverend Gene Robinson, who is gay, as the bishop of New Hampshire.

Posted by Ralph 1:00 a.m. EDT


Andrew Sullivan is right in saying that Tony Blair's address to a joint session of the Congress yesterday was a masterpiece of public speech. As Josh Marshall reports, however, when a major critic of Blair's policies turns up dead, it heightens the drama, at least, immeasureably.


The Washington Post's Lloyd Grovereports that the White House was so angered by Jeffrey Kofman's reports of demoralization and anger among American troops in Iraq that White House operatives leaked a story to Matt Drudge that Kofman was a Canadian and gay. Asked by a commanding officer in Iraq about reports that he was a Canadian, Kofman smiled and replied:"My life is an open book." What used to work for Roy Cohn and Joe McCarthy may make Drudge sludge, but it doesn't do much more than that anymore.

Posted by Ralph 11:00 a.m. EDT


You're a bookstore clerk in Atlanta with some time to kill before going to work, so you stop by Caribou Coffee for a relaxing cup of bracer. As you stir in the cream, you're reading an article printed off from the Net. Sound innocent enough? Ask Marc Schultz. It was enough to bring the FBI agents calling ...

Posted by Ralph 1:45 a.m. EDT

UNION BY DIVISION ... 07-18-03

The Uniting Church of Australia, the country's third largest denomination, is a result of the 1977 merger of Congregationalists, Methodists, and Presbyterians there. Its vote to ordain gay clergy, however, will almost certainly lead to a split. It isn't yet known whether either party has claimed the name of"The Dividing Church."

Posted by Ralph 1:30 a.m. EDT

THE PLOT THICKENS ... 07-18-03

Follow Josh Marshall's reading of the Senate hearings into those"sixteen little words." George Tenent may not have walked so far on the gangplank after all. In the meantime, the administration promises a massive public relations campaign to obscure the embarrassing deception that led us into war. Steven Den Beste gives us a simple foretaste of it here:"You know, it's odd that no one is accusing Bush of lying about how brutal and vicious Saddam was." But, of course. So what is the point of saying it? Crooked Timber's Henry Farrell understands:"When your opponents have arguments that you can't answer, you don't try to answer them - instead you construct a straw horse and start clobbering the bejesus out of that, in the hope of confusing innocent bystanders." Posted by Ralph 1:00 a.m. EDT

READ IT AND WEEP ... 07-18-03

Erin O'Connor and Harold Bloom speak candidly about what has happened to literary studies. They speak, as it were, from among the ruins.

Posted by Ralph 12:30 a.m. EDT


Zimbabwe's Council of Churches, its Conference of Catholic Bishops, and its Evangelical Fellowship have issued public statements of regret for their inaction in the face of the country's isolation and economic collapse.

Posted by Ralph 4:45 p.m. EDT

SADLY NOTED ... 07-17-03

The troubled but worthy Oxford American has just both published its Summer 2003 issue and announced suspension of publication. Launched in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1992, it was dubbed the"Southern New Yorker," by the Washington Post. Although the New Yorker has never claimed to be the"Northern Oxford American," but, the South's journal of good writing is a fine venture. After losing its financial subvention by John Grisham, the Oxford American was acquired by the At Home Media Group and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2002.

Posted by Ralph 11:45 a.m. EDT

"POMO-BABBLE" ... 07-17-03

The term is John Leo's, but don't hold that against it. Try a sentence like this from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's highly regarded anti-globilization book, Empire, published in 2000:"In the logic of colonialist representations, the construction of a separate colonized other and the segregation of identity and alterity turns out paradoxically to be at once absolute and extremely intimate." What could the sentence possibly mean? Do its authors know? How would they expect a reader to know? Robert Fulford's essay in Canada's National Post attacks the problem of academic babble.

The problem of professional jargon driving out brilliant lean prose may not be so severe in history as it is in other disciplines. The Center for History and New Media already has a list of nominees for the most overrated recent books in history here. But I'd like to have some examples of really dreadful prose from recent works in history. Send me your favorite examples from works published in the last ten years. I'll post the best/worst of them and preserve the anonymity of your nomination.

Posted by Ralph 1:30 a.m. EDT


United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan calls on Burma's military regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi. He refuses to rule out United Nations sanctions against the regime.

Posted by Ralph 1:00 a.m. EDT


Who said that Michael Bellesiles had too much time on his hands? No doubt these rocket scientists had a big federal grant to do this. Thanks to the Volokh Conspiracy for the link.

Posted by Ralph 8:45 p.m. EDT


Almost 50 years after the Montgomery bus boycott, conservative leaders are summoning nonviolent demonstrators to the cradle of the Confederacy to obstruct efforts to enforce court orders to remove a massive memorial to the Ten Commandments from the Alabama courthouse.

Posted by Ralph 6:00 p.m. EDT


As legislation to impose sanctions on Burma moves slowly toward a presidential signature, its military regime argues that sanctions will punish ordinary citizens in the southeast Asian country and criticizes the United States' use of"weapons of mass destruction."

Posted by Ralph 5:30 p.m. EDT


According to Clayton Cramer, the Lawrence decision doesn't simply put the United States on the slippery slope to complete depravity. After the long slide, it's already there.

Unfortunately, America is a fundamentally hypocritical and depraved nation. There are some who see the Lawrence decision as the beginning of the end of America. They are wrong. It is really just the final blow. There will be some more shocking decisions of the courts, and I'm sure that there will be considerable popular outrage when the Court rules that states must offer gay marriage. There will be even more outrage when the Court rules that age of consent laws violate the Constitutional rights of children to express their sexuality, and bestiality and incest statutes have no rational basis. I'm not sure that the Court will ever rule that child molesters have a right to rape, but in practice, it will become so common and so lightly punished that it won't much matter that it is still illegal.
He continues:
The die is now cast. The only way that America can reverse course on these matters is for Americans as a whole to give up on depravity and selfishness. That will take a horrific wake-up call. It seemed for a while as though 9/11 would be that wake-up call. For a few weeks, I saw clear evidence of a nation waking up to the very real danger that every day could be your last, and the need to live based on that.
The form and substance of this crie de coeur is a jeremiad. The dictionary calls it"a bitter lament or a righteous prophecy of doom." The word derives from the name of the ancient prophet, Jeremiah, who lamented over the sins of Israel. In America, the form comes from the formulaic sermons by Puritan ministers or magistrates that the community had fallen into a pattern of declining piety or was"in declension." God's wrath would be visited on New England for its unfaithfulness, said the preachers, in very concrete forms, heavy casualties in warfare, epidemic pestilence, or bankuptcy. The form of the jeremiad reverberates throughout American rhetoric. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King all used it on occasion. Clayton Cramer is in a fine old American tradition.

Posted by Ralph 6:00 a.m. EDT

ROBERTSON WATCH ... 07-15–03

The Christian Broadcasting Network's Pat Robertson bears watching. First, unlike most evangelical Christian leaders in the United States, he came to the defense of Liberia's Charles Taylor. Now, he is praying for divine intervention to remove three justices of the United States Supreme Court. Voluntary retirement would be acceptable, but age and poor health seem to be the Lord's appointed means of targeting errant members of the Court. Clearly, Pat's not praying for divine healing.

Posted by Ralph 9:15 p.m. EDT

THE URBAN NEW WORLD ... 07-15-03

The e-journal Common-place presents a remarkable new issue on the urban new world from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Use its map of cities in North and South America to find John Demos' article on Potosi, Bolivia, in the 16th century, Denys Delage and Mathieu D'Aignon's work on 17th century Quebec, Laura Thatcher Ulrich's study of 17th century Boston, or Christine Hunefeldt on Lima in the mid-18th century.

Posted by Ralph 4:20 p.m. EDT


There is a great deal of interest in how the work of historians influenced the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas. Of course, the amicus brief filed by historians George Chauncey, Nancy F. Cott, John D'Emilio, Estelle B. Freedman, Thomas C. Holt, John Howard, Lynn Hunt, Mark D. Jordan, Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, and Linda P. Kerber is at issue. Although Stephen Allen sees the Court's decision as more comparable to its Plessy v. Ferguson than to its Brown v. Board of Education decisions, D'Emilio exults in its impact here. Erin O'Connor's Critical Mass points to Rick Perlstein's article in the Washington Post which gives much of the credit for the Supreme Court's dramatic shift in perspective over the last 15 years to the work of scholars in Gay Studies. Their very success, however, also invites closer scrutiny of the accuracy of their work. This could get interesting.

Posted by Ralph 3:15 p.m. EDT

AT THE NEW YORK TIMES ... 07-15-03

At the New York Times, both Nicholas Kristoff and Paul Krugman weigh in with severe criticism of the administration for corrupting intelligence reports in the run-up to war at the expense of real national security. The Washington Post's David Broder weighs the political fallout of that and mounting domestic problems.

YUNG SAN SUU KYI ... 07-14-03

While Burma's Nobel Prize winner and rightful leader continues to be detained, the Washington Post reminds us that neither the United Nations or the United States, acting through the State Department, the Congress, or the White House, have done little to pressure Burma's rulers to release her. Nor have Burma's neighbors in southeast Asia done much to influence Burma's dictatorial regime. Thanks to Oxblog's David Adesnik for staying on top of the story.

Posted by Ralph 9:45 p.m. EDT


Georgetown University's David Steinberg and Oxblog's David Adesnik debate the future of American policy toward Burma's rulers.

SILENCE ... 07-14-03

Pardon the silence, but I bloggered myself at about 5:00 a.m. and it's taken most of the day to put the humpty-blog back together again. Alas, all of the posts below were far more eloquent and informative prior to the late misfortune.

Posted by Ralph 9:25 p.m. EDT


On the eve of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to the United States, the Bush administration's new explanation for who bears responsibility for the President's misleading statement about the Niger/Iraq connection and Saddam Hussein's quest for"yellow cake" uranium in place, it leaves British Prime Minister Tony Blair dangerously exposed. The efforts of British Foreign Minister Jack Straw to cover Blair on that score indicates a remarkable breakdown in communications between security agencies in the United States and Great Britain. If there was a failure of communications at the highest levels about matters of the utmost importance, this story won't go away.

Posted by Ralph 7:20 a.m. EDT


Malcolm Muggeridge was the essence of the twentieth century's public intellectual. He knew the distinct relationship between that vocation and the society in which it might flourish."The essence of a free and civilized society," Muggeridge wrote,

is that everything should be subject to criticism, that all forms of authority should be treated with a certain reservation, and … that once you have produced … a totally conformist society in which there were no critics, that would in fact be an exact equivalent of the totalitarian societies against which which we are supposed to be fighting a cold war.
Roger Kimball's essay,"Malcolm Muggeridge's Journey," in The New Criterion is a fine reintroduction to Muggeridge.

Posted by Ralph 5:30 p.m. EDT


"Where does your daddy do his barnacles?" one of Charles Darwin's children is said to have asked a friend. The children of serious academics everywhere may recognize the assumptions underlying the question."After all, what else was a father to do?" For many years, Darwin lay aside his groundbreaking work on natural selection to complete a major study of the obscure relative of the shrimp. The work gave him the respect of North Atlantic scientists that forced them to take his The Origin of the Species seriously. Richard Fortey reviews Rebecca Stott's Darwin and the Barnacle for the Times Literary Supplement.

Posted by Ralph 4:30 p.m. EDT


Try Benjamin Healy's "Sixteen Little Words" in Slate.

Posted by Ralph 12:00 noon EDT


What would possess David Adesnik at Oxblog to call Pat Robertson a"GODDAMNED LIAR"? He cites this article in the Washington Post in which Robertson expresses his strong support for Liberia's Charles Taylor and opposition to the administration's position that Taylor must leave the country. Taylor is the"freely elected" leader of his country and a fellow Baptist, Robertson said.

"So we're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country. And how dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down,'" Robertson said to his viewers on Monday.
The Post noted that Robertson is one of the few evangelical leaders in the United States to side with Taylor and that his position might be influenced by Robertson's $8,000,000 investment in Liberian gold mines.

Among other things weighing against Taylor is that he stands accused of accepting a $1,000,000 bribes to shelter Al Quaida operatives who invested another $20,000,000 in west African diamonds – the stones over which West African war lords have fought so viciously in recent years. Those wars have featured atrocious violations of human rights, including the maiming of untold thousands of non-combatant men, women, and children.

With that in mind, Robertson's fellow conservative, William F. Buckley, Jr., agrees with him that the United States should not send peace keeping troops into Liberia. It is a responsibility for the United Nations and leading African states to assume, says Buckley. But his caution holds no sympathy for Charles Taylor."The United Nations needs not only a mandate to intervene in Liberia, but needs also to do effective recruiting to bring in the necessary peacekeepers," says Buckley."Their first duty would be to send paratroopers to chop off Charles Taylor's hands, sparing him the humiliation of having to salute his captors."

Posted by Ralph 2:00 a.m. EDT


Anticipate the possibility that Clayton Cramer may tackle the amicus brief filed by historians George Chauncey, Nancy F. Cott, John D'Emilio, Estelle B. Freedman, Thomas C. Holt, John Howard, Lynn Hunt, Mark D. Jordan, Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, and Linda P. Kerber in Lawrence v. Texas. The case involves the same volatile combination of history, law, and public policy that energized Cramer's attack on Michael Bellesiles's Arming America. Within three hours of reading the brief on HNN, Cramer had posted 6 commentaries on it. He's also blogged about it, here.

Posted by Ralph 1:45 a.m. EDT


As is often the case, Josh Marshall's reading of the evidence about"what did the President know and when did he know it" is very perceptive. It seems to move well beyond Glenn Reynolds' attacks on the"Bush lied meme."

Posted by Ralph 1:30 a.m. EDT

SUEZ ... 07-11-03

Niall Ferguson reviews Zachary Karabell's Parting the Desert: The Creation of the Suez Canal. The achievement of a"monomaniacal" French diplomat, Ferdinand de Lesseps, the Suez was one of the great engineering feats of the 19th century. His"masterwork is far from being a symbol of the hoped-for confluence of Occident and Orient," says Ferguson."Battle-scarred after three wars between Israel and Egypt, and falling into disuse, it is but one of many ugly fissures that divides the Middle East."

Posted by Ralph 1:15 a.m. EDT


Pennsylvania's Senator Rick Sanctorum leads the charge for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

Posted by Ralph 4:40 p.m. EDT


President Bush could be taking the <"">advice of Pat Robertson on the role of the United States in Liberia.

Posted by Ralph 3:00 p.m. EDT

SIGNS AND WONDERS ... 07-10-03

The ambitions of Turkey to enter the European Union may force Turkish authorities to allow the Eastern Orthodox seminary at Halki to re-open. Once the most prestigious of Orthodox seminaries, Halki has been closed to students for over thirty years. It is vital to the future of the patriarchy at Istanbul, one of the seven historic patriarchies of the ancient church in the east. In an unrelated story, Spain's first mosque in over 500 years has just opened in Grenada.

Posted by Ralph 2:45 p.m. EDT


Adam Kirsch reviews Remi Braque's new book, The Wisdom of the World: The Human Experience of the Universe in Western Thought. Intellectually, Braque argues, what distinguishes the moderns from the ancients is that they lived in a"world"; we live in a"universe."

The transition from world to universe marked the end of an epoch in human experience: ‘It was no longer possible to call what ancient and medieval cosmology presented and what modern physics reveals by the same name.'
A world is something that suits human beings, that is ordered to meet our perspective; that is why the Greek word for world, kosmos, means ‘order.' What we have today is something else, ‘the universe' — a cautious and hypothetical word, which simply designates everything that is or may be, whether we can know it or not. ... It is too big, too strange, and too inhuman to inspire any reaction but wary indifference.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Ralph 2:00 a.m. EDT


Invisible Adjunct fisks the announcement of the centrality of disability history to the historical enterprise in a current article in the American Historical Review."I read something like this," writes the Invisible One,

and I think, Good grief, has it really come to this? Can we not encourage the exploration of new topics and themes without requiring grand gestures and hyperbolic claims of world-historical significance? How likely is it, after all, that someone or some group has recently discovered a previously overlooked category of such breadth and scope that it will overturn our basic understanding of all that we had, up until the day before yesterday, taken as given? I'd say it is not at all likely. Indeed, I'd go further and say that the very suggestion strikes me as a-, or perhaps even as anti-historical.

Posted by Ralph 12:00 p.m. EDT


Dennis Perrin writes an "obit for a former contrarian". Here's a bit of it:

I can barely read him anymore. His pieces in the Brit tabloid The Mirror and in Slate are a mishmash of imperial justifications and plain bombast; the old elegant style is dead. His TV appearances show a smug, nasty scold with little tolerance for those who disagree with him. He looks more and more like a Ralph Steadman sketch. And in addition to all this, he's now revising what he said during the buildup to the Iraq war.
Read the whole thing.

Posted by Ralph 10:45 a.m. EDT


Look for major demonstrations today in support of protests in Iran against the current regime there. Here is a report from Tehran about the student hunger strike there. Andrew Sullivan comments here on what we should be doing. Buzz Machine, Oxblog and Winds of Change are on the case with reports from Iran, Europe, and the United States. Pejman Yousefzadeh introduces us to leaders of reform in Iran. Paleojudaica has a good review of internet sources on Iranian history.

Posted by Ralph 1:30 a.m. EDT

Update ... 07-09-03

In the face of threats from Iranian authorities, students in Baghdad have cancelled plans for demonstrations there.

Posted by Ralph 9:30 a.m. EDT


Jeremy Lott reviews Bryan Le Beau's new biography of Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

Posted by Ralph 8:30 a.m. EDT


As usual, Victor Davis Hanson writes provocatively, this time about what California is becoming.

Posted by Ralph 5:30 p.m. EDT


Burma's government attempts to discredit reports of violence against Yung San Suu Kyi.

Posted by Ralph 5:00 p.m. EDT


Amir Taheri's reflections on the political crises in the Arab world are an important read. See also this analysis of Arab public opinion by Amr Hamzawi of the Free University of Berlin and the University of Cairo.

Posted by Ralph 3:50 p.m. EDT


Winds of Change offers an excerpt from Adam Bellow's In Praise of Nepotism from the current Atlantic. Bellow, the son of Saul Bellow, appears to be serious about his praise of inherited advantage. His forthcoming book book of the same title seems likely to provoke serious outrage.

Posted by Ralph 2:30 p.m. EDT


Students in Iran have gone on hunger strikes to demand the release of those who remain imprisoned from among the 4,000 arrested in demonstrations against the Iranian regime. For reports on plans to demonstrate support for striking Iranian protesters on or about 9 July, see: here and here.

Posted by Ralph 10:45 p.m. EDT


Patrick Healy covers the good, the bad, and the ugly in higher education's star system in the Boston Globe.

ANGLISCHISM ? ... 07-05-03

The Anglican bishop of Vancouver courts schism in the Anglican communion over gay marriage.

Posted by Ralph 1:15 p.m. EDT


Garry Wills reviews George Marsden's new biography of Jonathan Edwards.

Posted by Ralph 2:15 a.m. EDT

LEWIS AND CLARK ... 07-05-03

Timothy Egan looks at what we have done with the wildlife, water, and land that Lewis and Clark explored.

AT OXBLOG ... 07-04-03

At Oxblog, Josh Chafetz has the update on Oxford University's action on anti-semitism and David Adesnik has a thoughtful post on American intervention in Liberia.

Posted by Ralph 12:30 p.m. EDT


Being a Robert or a John or a Michael can't be all that difficult because there are lots of others to share the burden. But being a Ralph is a burden. In childhood, the burden was escaping the inevitable"Ralphie."

As an adult, I rarely meet a Ralph. We dropped out of the top 40 male names sometime after 1940. (See also: here.) The variants, Rafael, Rafe, Raff, Raphael, Raul, Rolf, or Rolph didn't help much. Randolph is related to us. We are both from Old English or Anglo-Saxon and seem to mean"wolf" or"wise counsel." Randolph may be less burdensome, but opening a conversation with"Hi, I'm Randy ..." seems problematic. But Ralph? Here, I learn that I am a verb:"to Ralph" is to toss one's cookies. Here, I'm told that its use as a verb made my name unappealing, but that it's still o. k. in the United States to be known as"Randy." Maybe she'll even say:"Oh, how interesting ...."

When I do meet a Ralph, he may be in denial. I once met Ralph D. Abernathy and, of course, noted our common name. Unimpressed, he pointed out that to his real intimates, such as Dr. King, he was always known as David. And Dr. King, well he wasn't really Martin, he was M. L. or, as a lad,"Tweed," or to his real intimates, Michael. Once, I was in the convivial company of two other Ralphs. None of us were in denial and, though we lifted our cups of cheer to our common name, none of us ralphed.

Finally, however, we Ralphs are vindicated. Of all things, vindication was in the title of a book and an unrelated stage production: The Grapes of Ralph. The book is Ralph Steadman's The Grapes of Ralph: Wine According to Ralph Steadman (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996). Better known as the illustrator for Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas, for the poet Ted Hughes, and for the 50th anniversary edition of George Orwell's Animal Farm, Steadman is also knows fine wines. Salon's review of his book found its caricatures the best feature:

wine critics with long Dickensian noses and crazed pin-dot eyes; anthropomorphic Syrah grapes ("a mean little brute of a grape ... a tough-skinned urchin, small and tight and throbbing with hard-won juices") ripped from the vine by"uncouth hands"; maniacal Australian vintners smelling the first fermentation of their wine.
But he praised the prose, as well:"a joyous read,""irreverent and deeply funny."

Four years after the publication of Steadman's book, Ralph (what else?), a five member comedy company, opened The Grapes of Ralph off Broadway in the St. Mark's Theater. There, said a reviewer,

Ralph takes the stage, posing the question: Why can't comedians do" covers" like bands do? Then you witness each member's transformation into a never-ending adrenaline bag. Ralph makes you laugh without a stitch of guilt at subjects you'd normally be ashamed of giggling at.
If that weren't enough, after a short run with Maybe I Can Get Laid in Jail, the theater troupe returned to the stage with, what else?, Posted by Ralph 4:00 a.m. EDT


For those of you who are into the sport of Judith Miller now appears to be compromised and imperiled.

Posted by Ralph 3:00 a.m.


Josh Marshall has been asking the right questions and scoring points both about Judith Miller's reporting on Iraq for the New York Times and the Republicans' determination in the Texas state legislature to redraw the state's congressional districts.

Posted by Ralph 11:00 a.m.

STROM ... 07-01-03

Diane McWhorter offers her eulogy to Strom Thurmond here.

Posted by Ralph 10:00 p.m. EDT

OKRA ... 07-01-03

Thanks to Joyce Joines Newman and H-South, this comes to you in a continuing effort to promote the best in contemporary literature and cuisine:

"Song to Okra" by Roy Blount, Jr.

String beans are good, and ripe tomatoes,
And collard greens and sweet potatoes,
Sweet corn, field peas, and squash and beets –
But when a man rears back and eats
He wants okra.

Good old okra.

Oh wow okra, yessiree,
Okra is Okay with me.

Oh okra's favored far and wide,
Oh you can eat it boiled or fried,
Oh either slick or crisp inside,
Oh I once knew a man who died
Without okra

Little pepper-sauce on it,
Oh! I wan' it:


Old Homer Ogletree's so high
On okra he keeps lots laid by.
He keeps it in a safe he locks up.
He eats so much, can't keep his socks up.
(Which goes to show it's no misnomer
When people call him Okra Homer.)

Oh you can make some gumbo wit' it,
But most of all I like to git it
All by itself in its own juice,
And lying there all nice and loose –
That's okra!
It may be poor for eating chips with,
It may be hard to come to grips with,
But okra's such a wholesome food
It straightens out your attitude.
"Mm!" is how discerning folk re-
Spond when they are served some okra.

Okra's green,
Goes down with ease.
Forget cuisine
Say"Okra, please."

You can have strip pokra,
Give me a nice girl and a dish of okra.

Thanks to"Clemson Spineless," you need no longer experience the particular hell of harvesting the prickly pods from prickly plants in a hot August sun. Is it fair that one of Clemson's enduring contributions to Western Civilization acclaims the virtues of spinelessness?

Posted by Ralph 4:00 p.m.

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