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Scott McLemee may bite his thumb at Valentin Temkine, the French schoolteacher who claims to have cracked the Godot code, but I think he’s onto something:

Godot, whom Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for, is a Resistance smuggler, who is supposed to smuggle them out of occupied France into the Italian zone. The two of them are Jews on the run who come from Paris’ 11 arrondissement. They are probably waiting to be rescued in the spring of 1943 on the dry, limestone heights of the Southern Alps, somewhere like the Plateau de Valensole.

My French is terrible, but here, roughly, is what Temkine says:

Waiting for Godot is very nearly a fable of the occupation. People sleep in ditches and aren’t surprised to be beaten. A man and his servant, laden with possessions, are in flight from somewhere to somewhere. Everything was different “a million years ago, in the nineties.” And two people are to meet a third whom they know only by a single name, a code-name as it were; they don’t know why they’re to meet him, but it matters. If the assignation fails they’re to try again in 24 hours, meanwhile hanging about as inconspicuously as possible. It takes little insight to recognize details from some tale about Resistance groups[.]

Like I said, my French is terrible … which is why I quoted Hugh Kenner recapitulating the argument he first made in 1973’s A Reader’s Guide to Samuel Beckett.  Few understand the compulsion to “make it new” better than Kenner — his best work embodies the ethos it describes — but enlivening moribund themes, forms or arguments entails more than mere repetition.

Because, as we all know, repetition breeds zombies.  (The unenlivened dead arise, chase away the interlopers and hold mandatory office hours, &c.)  Grouse away about Google eating brains, it should have a beneficial effect on the duplication of scholarly arguments.  See?

[I planned on writing about someone declaring they can prove Homer was a woman, complete with links to Samuel Butler’s The Authoress of the Odyssey (1897), but it turns out someone has already staked claim on my insufficiently absurd example.  I’m not sure whether I feel chastened or depressed, but I do know that I don’t know how to finish this post now.  I should just stop.  I can’t go on.  I’ll go on.  Or not.]

You’re making me take seriously a post I put up in jest. That said, here’s the thing: it seems that wars occupy tiers of significance in American memory. I should note that everything from this point forward is speculation of the idlest variety. I should also reiterate that I’m talking about, to borrow Kieran’s phrase from the previous post, a specific kind of “metric”: memory. Which is to say, I’m mostly not going to talk about which American wars actually were historically significant, though that’s probably an interesting and blogworthy discussion in its own right. Or maybe I’ll mix and match. Because this post is going to be like jazz: improvisational.

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[Editor’s Note: Kathy Olmsted is back, sharing some of the material she used in her last book As always, thanks, Kathy, for your help.]

On this day in 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg died in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison, in retribution for committing what FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover called “the crime of the century”: stealing the “secret” of the atomic bomb.

The archives of the former Soviet Union reveal that Julius was indeed the leader of a Communist spy ring, though he was not a source of critical atomic information for them. But scholars have found no evidence that Ethel was a full-fledged agent. Instead, she was simply an accessory to her husband. How, then, did she end up in the electric chair? Short answer: because she came to symbolize the worst fears of the men in the White House, the FBI, and the media.

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Brad DeLong says,

A tariff is a revenue bill. And revenue bills must originate in the House of Representatives. (Although what “originate” means when procedure allows amendments in the nature of substitutes I do not know.) So it is Hawley-Smoot.

My linguist friends tell me usage is king.

  • In JSTOR, I find 317 instances of “Hawley-Smoot” and 525 instances of “Smoot-Hawley.”
  • In Google Books, I find 907 instances of “Hawley-Smoot” and 1063 of “Smoot-Hawley.” (Owing to a felicitous typo, I also find 96 instances of the much more awesome “Smooth-Hawley.”)

On the other hand, that’s lily-livered descriptivism. Also, DeLong says my book is “excellent.”

So I think DeLong, and my eighth-grade US History teacher, must be right.

On this day in 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain, beginning this nation’s least interesting military conflict. And that’s all I have to say about that.

* No offense to any War of 1812 vets out there — especially you, Senator McCain. Apologies also to my colleague, Alan Taylor, who’s writing what I’m sure will be the definitive treatment of the War of 1812. I mean, how could it not be?

So I’m not cracked to be thinking this Yglesias post was a poem, considering how it rendered in Google Reader. The first two lines are easy enough to improve — drop the “that” and “and energy to,” or maybe “time and … to” — but the third and fourth are a mess, but one with potential. I’d love to find a way to squeeze the bureaucratize of “official gatherings of descendants of Thomas Jefferson” into a single line, but alas, I’m doomed to failure.

So not a well-crafted poem, but a poem nonetheless.

Only not.

(And yes, I need new glasses.)

Ah, Belle Waring reminds me of my childhood. No wait, that was someone else’s childhood, maybe with noodle salad. Still, it’s good:

Cucumber Sandwiches:
Use peeled hothouse cucumbers, those thin-skinned ones, or if they are normal cucumbers, peel, cut in half, and remove the seeds and gelatinous middle bit with a spoon. Slice cucumbers paper-thin. Use Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White Bread, spread with Hellman’s mayonnaise. Lay the slices of cucumber down, top with fresh mint leaves, and add salt and freshly cracked ground pepper. Top with another slice, cut the crusts off after completion, and cut each sandwich into four triangles (now it feeds four times as many people!). You may wash this down either with iced tea with a splash of orange juice and fresh mint, or with Nannie’s traditional libation, a triple bourbon on the rocks.

UPDATE: if you want to take the sandwiches on a picnic you may substitute softened unsalted butter for the mayo, being careful to coat the bread thoroughly–that way they won’t get soggy.

On this day in 1930 the Smoot-Hawley Tariff became law. I swear when I was in eighth grade it was the Hawley-Smoot Tariff. Apparently the forces of Smoot have ensured that he takes pride of place. Or maybe it’s the forces of Hawley who have ensured that Smoot takes the brunt of blame. Because the law is virtually synonymous with a Bad Thing. Remember this Golden Television Moment?
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Since some folks asked, James Gregory on “variable 666” and white migration from the South:

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A bit on the nose. But funny. And true enough.

Via Stephen at the awesome cogitamusblog.

Good for the edge of the West. One of the couples in the Bee‘s pictorial includes a partner who is a friend of 2/3 of our bloggers; we don’t want to violate their privacy, but good for them!

UPDATED: Elizabeth says it’s okay to let people know she associates with us. So: Elizabeth Bacon and Sarah Asplin, many congratulations to you. You’re awesome.

Beginning in the late 1960s, the Democratic Party lost its once-solid southern bloc to the Republicans. In truth historians often overstate the solidity of the South. Democrats of the South split from their national brethren whenever the party took a step toward its more cosmopolitan wing. It happened in 1928, when the Democrats nominated a Catholic of mixed ancestry to the presidency; in 1948, when President Truman moved a short step or two toward “securing these rights,” as championed by Hubert Humphrey; in 1960, when the Democrats nominated another Catholic who was somewhat less indifferent to Civil Rights than the white South would have liked; in 1964, by which time the Johnson administration had committed itself to “enforcing the right to vote”; and in 1968, when the Democrats could no longer pretend they weren’t serious about this Civil Rights business and nominated Humphrey his own self.

We thus know that a significant number of white voters in the South would desert the national Democratic Party—even for a Republican, as they did in 1964—if it wavered in its commitment to white supremacy.

What’s more, ever since Kevin Phillips predicted, “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are”—which is to say, ever since Nixon’s “southern strategy”—it’s been commonplace to assume that the Republicans picked up where the Democrats left off in courting bigoted whites, in the South and elsewhere. Hence Rick Perlstein’s observations; hence Reagan’s pilgrimage to Philadelphia, Mississippi; hence Lee Atwater explaining that “you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff”; and all, all, all that stuff down to “Harold, call me,” and “Obama’s Baby Mama.”

But wait, now. Along come some political scientists to tell us this Republican racism is a bit of a side show, that the real story of the GOP’s new southern eminence has to do with the emergence, at long last, of a New South, ushered (ironically) into being by Democratic programs of New Deal and wartime mobilization. As people in the South got richer, they got more Republican, for the same reasons that people get Republican anywhere else—they want to keep their taxes low and protect their own interests.1
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At 8 a.m. on the morning of 16 June 1904, two men woke up.  One shaved for class and breakfasted with his usurper and an anti-Semite.  The other, a Jew, purchased a pork kidney and serves it to his wife in the same bed in which she cuckolded him.  He left to pick up a letter from his secret sweetheart and chatted with the people he met on his way to the baths.  Once clean, he attended a funeral and saw a mysterious man. 

After the funeral, he tried to place an advertisement in a local newspaper but decided more research was required, so he scooted off to the library where, unbeknown to him, the first of our two men was disquisiting on Shakespeare. 

Many people walked around, including our Jew, who decided to follow his morning kidney with an afternoon liver.  He ogled the barmaids and thought about his wife who, if his suspicions were correct, would soon be cuckholding him again.  So he exited the bar with the pretty reminders of his pain and entered another full of anti-Semites.  Fists and cans were thrown. 

Troubled by thoughts of wife and ancient grievances, he wandered seaside way and publicly co-masturbated with a cripple.  He later attended the birth of a child and the English language before following our first man into the red-light district.  He caught up with him, himself, himself-in-drag, his dead grandfather, Nobodaddy, a giant green crab, a talking hat-stand and ducked out when the police arrived.  Chastened, the two men entered a dive and met a drunken sailor.  They absconded to the home of the Jew and bonded while urinating under the stars. 

As 16 June 1904 came to a close, the Jew returned to his troubled marital bed and asked his wife to serve him breakfast in it tomorrow. 

She considered his request but never decided one way or the other.

(Happy Bloomsday.  Sorry about the spoilers.)

Why? Because apparently “presidential historians” all think he’s going to win. And if there’s one thing historians are lousy at, it’s predicting the future. Anyway, here’s the article — if you want to waste your time. And here’s my favorite graf:

This should be an overwhelming Democratic victory,” said Allan Lichtman, an American University presidential historian who ran in a Maryland Democratic senatorial primary in 2006. Lichtman, whose forecasting model has correctly predicted the last six presidential popular vote winners, predicts that this year, “Republicans face what have always been insurmountable historical odds.” His system gives McCain a score on par with Jimmy Carter’s in 1980. [emphasis mine]

Six! Wow, that’s a breathtaking streak of predictiveliciousness. Oh wait, what’s that you say? The popular vote winner doesn’t necessarily win the presidency? Huh, that can’t be right. Because that would totally screw up Professor Lichtman’s foolproof system. Surely there’s a Comments Box somewhere on the Constitution. No? Man, this country has lousy service. I’m so not tipping my waiter founding father.

(Being the first in what I pray will not be a series, as I like my sanity and would prefer to keep it intact.)

The Real World holds the dubious honor of being first in the post-1990 tsunami of reality television.  The premise was simple: seven strangers were picked to live in a house &c. &c. &c. and start being real.  The show never tried to live up to its name.  Canny viewers could watch the manufactured controversies being produced in the booth weeks before hostilities spontaneously erupted. 


The pretense of the show was that it was unscripted and unrehearsed.  It was not some sitcom filmed in a West Hollywood back-lot in which a middle-class family dealt with generic adolescent, senescent, menopausal and mid-life crises to the pitch-corrected laughter of the ideal studio audience.  It was real

So you can imagine my surprise when I flipped on the latest installment of The Real World and discovered it was being filmed in a West Hollywood back-lot.  In a move forever granting Fredric Jameson the right to claim he told us so, The Real World: Hollywood is filmed in the same building in which CBS once shot I Love Lucy. 

Should we tell him this?  What are the odds he watches The Real World?  It’s not like he even values empirical verification.

The Bee is a McClatchy paper, and as such has a source of excellent material. Today it ran the first installment of a four-part series, “Guantanamo: Beyond the Law.” (Hey, if SCotUS says so, it must be true!) Schedule of installments:

Today: We got the wrong guys
Coming Monday: ‘I guess you can call it torture’
Tuesday: A school for Jihad
Wednesday: ‘Due process is legal mumbo-jumbo’
Thursday: ‘You are the king of this prison’

I imagine that in broad outline there’s not a lot there our readers don’t know, but it’s often helpful to learn details. Although it’s not good for your digestion.

UPDATE: urbino quite rightly points out that looks like five parts. Yet, here is what the Bee says.

[Editor’s Note: It is my great privilege to welcome Charles D. Weisselberg, Professor of Law at Boalt Hall and Faculty Co-Chair, Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice (full bio here). Professor Weisselberg, as the post title suggests, will be teaching us a bit about the Miranda case. Thanks to him, for taking the time to do this.]

Forty-two years ago today, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Miranda v. Arizona, perhaps the Court’s most recognized criminal procedure ruling of all time. The 5-4 decision was authored by Chief Justice Earl Warren. The five justices in the majority hoped that the procedures set forth in the decision would enable suspects in the stationhouse to make a reasoned choice whether or not to speak with police. The dissenting justices feared it would effectively end the practice of police interrogation. How did Miranda come about, and what does it accomplish today?

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[Kathy Olmsted is back, this time with an excerpt from her forthcoming book on conspiracy theories. As always, thanks to Kathy for doing this.]

On this day in 1971, the New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers. President Richard Nixon responded to this liberal “conspiracy” with conspiracies of his own, and started down the path that would lead to his resignation and disgrace.

Throughout his career, Nixon always worried that un-American forces were conspiring to subvert the Republic. As the tapes of his Oval Office conversations reveal, he viewed himself as a soldier in the battle against “the liberal media,” disloyal Democrats, the “intellectuals,” and Jews. Then, in June 1971, all of these groups seemed to unite in one terrifying plot. “We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy,” he told two of his top aides, Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. “They’re using any means. We are going to use any means. Is that clear?”

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d put a link to the above in the comments of the Medgar Evers post. Having never seen this video before (see here for a more complete accounting of my cultural illiteracy), I found my breath taken away by the awesomeness of the young Dylan. I mean, like any self-hatingrespecting leftie Jew, I lurve Dylan. But this is amazing.

Be warned: there will be no hating on Dylan in the comments. [/gauntlet throwing]

On this day in 1963, Byron De La Beckwith assassinated Medgar Evers.

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This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."