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So said the Times, reporting that on this day in 1953, President Eisenhower tapped Earl Warren as the new Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The “explosive issue” in question was school desegregation. And while most insiders predicted that Warren would be more liberal than his predecessor, Fred Vinson, they also believed that as a “progressive Republican”, Warren would continue to walk the “middle way.” The insiders were wrong. Warren presided over arguably the most liberal Court in the nation’s history, ruling on such landmark cases as Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Miranda v. Arizona.

Warren arrived on the bench with no experience as a judge or legal scholar. He was 62 years old, a graduate of UC Berkeley and Boalt Hall, a former district attorney, former attorney general of the State of California, and, at the time of his appointment, California’s governor, serving in his third term. The Times painted him as a sensible man of the people, a child of immigrants, someone who “had worked his way through school,” a centrist who had crusaded against corruption, a hail and hearty politician with a “crushing handshake” and “booming laugh.”

Noting that the Court had concluded its previous term with “the tumult of the Rosenberg case”, the Times suggested that the coming session well might be even more controversial. A raft of school desegregation cases peppered the docket. The justices of the Vinson Court had deadlocked over five of those cases, deciding, eventually, to carry them over into the next session. Vinson had then died of a heart attack in September, leading Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter, a committed advocate of judicial restraint who also wanted to overturn segregation in public schools, to remark to one of the Court’s clerks: “This is the first indication I have ever had that there is a God.” Eisenhower then replaced Vinson with Warren on this day in 1953. And one assumes that when the court reconvened, Frankfurter, confronted with the extent of Warren’s judicial activism, re-embraced agnosticism.

Warren used his considerable political talents to reunite the divided Court, which, with its unanimous ruling in the Brown case, struck down the doctrine of separate but equal that had been embedded in American law since 1896 and Plessy v. Ferguson. The particulars of the Brown decision are best left for another day. But part of the story suggests that Warren, still guilty over his complicity in interning Japanese Americans during World War II, when he had served as California’s attorney general, decided to atone for his sins by protecting the rights of African-American schoolchildren. Jim Patterson explains that, “Warren approached issues without worrying too much about the niceties of legal precedent or judicial restraint. What the Court must do, he made clear, was to promote social justice.” How sad that the idea of a Supreme Court devoted to pursuing social justice sounds like an artifact of a bygone era, as anachronistic as an Eisenhower Republican.


From The New York Times:

The stock market will see bigger gains in the immediate future than at any other period of its history, and except for minor fluctuations the present high level of prices will be constant for years to come, according to a statement by Dr. Charles Amos Dice, professor of business organization at Ohio State University and author of “New Levels in the Stock Market,” just issued by the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

The new level of prices, according to Dr. Dice, is not fictitious, and common and easy explanations which attribute the tremendous advances since 1923 merely to ch—

Did I forgot to mention that this article is from 13 October 1929?  Or that the aptly named Dr. Dice’s book was published the week of Black Thursday?  I considered a different approach—in which this post would’ve been a sequel to this one—but I didn’t want to play this one for laughs.

Like Timothy, I’m not equipped to understand what exactly the market’s up to.  No matter how patiently DeLong explains the situation, I’ll be lost by the second sentence.  But I still feel it.

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Hmm, this is the kind of thing that brightens up a pretty bleak day. As Charles notes, this is “Rich Trumka, Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO and former President of the United Mine Workers, addressing,” in the context of Obama’s candidacy, “the issue of racism among working class people”. Charles also calls this is a “cri de coeur”. Which, in fairness, I suppose it is. But still, Trumka’s a mine worker, so let’s leave the French phrases to fancy folks like Bérubé, shall we?

Anyway, it’s a moving speech, particularly if you know anything about American labor history. Long story both short and poorly told (because that’s all I have time for right now): historically, many organized white laborers weren’t thrilled about integrating their workplaces. There were lots of reasons for this: bosses’ use of African-American strikebreakers, among other divide-and-conquer tactics; shop floor affiliations rooted in ethnic and linguistic differences; and, for lack of a better shorthand, racism. Over time, white and black workers often, though not always, grew to distrust each other. And that distrust sometimes metastasized into overweening racial solidarity that trumped class loyalties.* Trumka, to his credit, isn’t ducking this history; he’s confronting it head on. Like I said, this seems like progress. Also, in a recent contest of physical strength, I totally pwned Trumka.

* Really, this is very crappy potted history. Still, as a rough sketch of the intersection of race and labor in American history, this is the best I can do in a pinch. It’s no “cri de coeur”, I know. But commenters, as you tell me I’m an idiot add nuance, remember what I did to Trumka the last time he and I tangled.

Once again, let us open our hymnals to the Book of McEnroe, and sing lustily and with good courage. The University of Illinois tells faculty

they could not wear political buttons on campus or feature bumper stickers on cars parked in campus lots unless the messages on those buttons and stickers were strictly nonpartisan

Me, I’m at least as squeamish as Weatherson about political advocacy on campus. And I can just about, if I squint real hard, see the case against buttons, on the ground that while you’re on campus you represent the state and in that capacity you can’t advocate for a particular political candidate. (Although it’s quite likely that anything a professor likes, the students will reflexively reject.) Even so I’m reasonably sure there’s a solid First Amendment challenge to that stricture.

But seriously, no political bumper stickers? That seems an extraordinary reach. How far is it from there to say, no lawn signs, because people in your neighborhood know you’re a professor, so you represent the state, and….

Presented by HumaniTech and the UCI Humanities Center on Friday, 24 October 2008 in 135 HIB.  The whole day looks fascinating, but this panel should be a thing of great and terrible profundity:

(10:45) Blogging and the Academy

Eszter Hargittai, Crooked Timber
Tedra Osell, Bitch Ph.D.
Scott Kaufman, Acephalous/The Valve

Moderator: Catherine Lui, UC Irvine

Before you ask: Tedra and I are indeed a package deal.  (I considered getting the band back together and asking Bérubé and Holbo to join us, but Singapore’s far away and Bérubé’s not a blogger anymore.)  My edgier side would’ve been listed, but Eric and Ari’s didn’t consider margins when they christened this place.

The other panels:

(9:15) Public Spheres, Reason and Rationality in the 18th Century

Sean Greenberg, UC Irvine
John Smith, UC Irvine

Moderator: Ann Van Sant, UC Irvine

(2:00) The Transnational Public: China and Iran

Kenneth Pomeranz, The China Beat
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, The China Beat
Elham Gheytanchi, Huffington Post

Moderator: Alison Brysk, UC Irvine

(3:45) Election 2008

Ezra Klein, The American Prospect
Kevin Roderick, LA Observed
John Wiener, UC Irvine

Moderator: Amy Wilentz, Huffington Post

(5:15) Wrap-up, Round Table, & Reception

Please welcome back David Silbey for the exciting conclusion of this epic saga. Many, many thanks, David.

The Germans knew an attack was coming. They could read a map as well as anyone, and the situation in theater was particularly obvious. The St. Mihiel salient had been a problem for the French and Americans, and an American attack had reduced it. What was next? The French Army held the center of the line, near the river Aisne. The terrain here was flat and, once the Aisne was crossed, without natural barriers until an attacking army hit the River Meuse. Just beyond the Meuse lay a tempting target: the German rail junction at Sedan. Capture that, and the network that supplied the German armies in France would be cut in half.

But along the western line of that open terrain lay one forbidding feature: the Argonne Forest. Heavily wooded and on rocky ground, the Argonne was seemingly purpose-built for defense. If the Argonne remained in German hands, any French advance to the west would be taken under flanking fire by German machine guns and artillery, potentially crippling it. The Germans figured that any major offensive in the area would have to kick off with an assault on the Argonne.

Who would do it? That too was obvious. The massive traffic jam of American troops and supplies behind the lines was clearly apparent to German reconnaissance planes, and trench raids brought back prisoners for interrogation who spoke not French, but English with a peculiar accent. The German commander in the area, General Max von Gallwitz, was determined to give the Americans a stout welcome. He organized four defensive lines, fourteen miles deep and anchored by the Kriemhild Line at the rear. The Kriemhild was part of the larger German defensive system, the Hindenburg Line, that stretched from Switzerland to the Channel. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, the last organized German defense before the Heimat.
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No, really, he is. My Monday just got a lot better.

Scott adds: What was Ari thinking, not linking to Michael’s new profile picture?  It’s a thing of great and topical beauty:

499px-Munchen1The worst historical analogy ever was born seventy years ago, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier achieved a momentous settlement in Munich with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The subject of their conversation was the fate of Czechoslovakia, whose Sudetenland — a heavily industrialized, ethnically German region — Hitler hoped to absorb into the Reich.

On 29 September 1938, the four leaders signed the “Munich Dictate” (as it was known to Czechs and Slovaks), thus ceding “the Sudeten German territory” to Germany and temporarily avoiding a war that only Adolf Hitler was willing to contemplate at the time. On October 10, the German acquisition of the Sudetenland was complete; in addition to being deprived of 3.5 million citizens, Czechoslovakia lost nearly three-quarters of its electrical power and an equal proportion of its iron and steel production. Germany also acquired the massive Skoda industrial complex, one of the largest arms production facilities in the world. Within six months, the rest of Czechoslovakia had quietly slipped beneath German tracks.

Although “the lessons of Munich” have been mindlessly recited by subsequent generations of American political leaders, it is worth recalling Chamberlain’s actual intent in settling the crisis over Czechoslovakia. Far from “appeasing” Hitler simply to avoid war at all costs, Chamberlain hoped instead to reach a broader Anglo-German “understanding” that might nudge the Third Reich toward an Eastern conflict with the Soviet Union. Viewing Germany and England as “two pillars of European peace and buttresses against Communism,” Chamberlain offered to restrain his nation’s allies in the event such a war transpired. These alternative “lessons of Munich” — including the folly of cajoling right-wing dictatorships to attack their enemies on the left — were less frequently cited over the next several decades, as the United States exchanged promise rings with some of the most appalling regimes on the planet.

The Soviets, dismayed by their exclusion from the Munich conference, understood the “lessons of Munich” quite clearly and soon looked to reach an understanding of their own with the expanding German state. On 23 August of the following year, the disastrous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed; Poland vanished little more than a week later, with tens of million lives eventually to follow in a war that many people continue to describe, however implausibly, as “Good.”

Among those killed during those horrid six years were 100,000 Jewish, Sinti and Roma civilians, shot and gassed by the German Einsatzgruppen C in Kiev, Ukraine, along with Soviet POW’s and patients from the Pavlov Psychiatric Hospital. The bodies were dumped in a majestic ravine in northwestern Kiev called Babi Yar. The Babi Yar massacre continued for months, but it commenced on 29 September 1941, sixty-seven years ago today.

About six weeks ago, a friend of mine offered to give me some mature roses he didn’t want. “But it’s the middle of August,” I said. Not exactly, in other words, the best time for a transplant. But it was this or straight to the compost heap. As it happens, six weeks on, five of the seven are doing fine—most recently, the oldest-looking one decided it might as well live.

This is, if I count correctly, the third time someone has made such an offer to me, to get rid of mature roses. There are always various reasons, but they generally include, “they take so much work.” This puzzles me. Any plant that can get uprooted and dumped into the dusty Davis mid-August clay and six weeks later have a full complement of branches and flowers is a pretty hardy thing.

Which has always, both in our old house and here, been the case. Despite appearances, roses are tough and take care of themselves pretty well.

This is a very shrewd move by the Obama campaign, I think.


We should be careful not to judge an entire racial group by the actions of a few.

And we’ll get that lazy guy out of public housing, don’t you worry. (The good stuff starts around two minutes in.)


can eat fifty eggs.

Conservatives agree: John McCain can’t lie to you when he looks you in the eye.  He’ll look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

Look you in the eye and . . .

John McCain can’t lie to you when he looks you in the eye.

ssc&D10Prior to the Second Vatican Council and other freewheeling reforms of the 1960s, observant Catholics used to set aside a few moments on September 27 to acknowledge the martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian, who were beheaded during the Diocletian Persecution, somewhere in the vicinity of A.D. 303. The traditional calendar of saints listed September 27 as a festum semiduplex, one of the lesser feasts that mark the undulations of the year. For the past four decades, however, the Feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian have been downgraded to the category of “optional feasts,” and the headless twins have seen their feast day moved up to September 26.

Despite their relative obscurity in the canon of saints, Cosmas and Damian died spectacularly. Born in Arabia and educated in Syria, the brothers lived as healers in Aegea (in modern Celicia in eastern Turkey), where which they accepted no payment and thus became known as the “silverless” (anargyroi). According to legend, they performed the first limb transplant in medical history, grafting the black leg of a dead Ethiop onto the white body of a diseased Moor — a miraculous scene commemorated in numerous paintings of the brothers. Denounced as Christians by two fellow doctors, Cosmas and Damian were rendered into the custody of Lysias, governor of Aegea, who ordered their torture on the expectation that they would either deny or recant their faith. After several unsuccessful rounds of brutalization — during which the brothers survived drowning, roasting, flaying, and crucifixion — Lysias at last ordered their heads to be severed from their bodies. Over the next few centuries, Cosmas and Damian emerged as the patron saints of physicians and surgeons as well as (in later years) hairdressers, barbers, midwives and apothecaries. Sometime before the tenth century, their skulls appeared in Rome and became the objects of the usual forms of reliquary veneration. In 1581, the skulls were moved to the Convent of the Clares in Madrid, where they currently reside.


On 26 September 2002, Canadian citizen Maher Arar, returning from a family vacation to Tunisia with his wife and two small children, was detained at JFK airport by US immigration officials acting on false information from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Two weeks later, the INS sent Arar to Jordan and then to his birthplace in Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured for nearly a year by interrogators determined to persuade Arar that he had ties to al-Qaeda. In November 2003, shortly after his release, Arar described his ordeal:

I thought first it was a dream. I was crying all the time. I was disoriented. I wished I had something in my hand to kill myself, because I knew I was going to be tortured, and this was my preoccupation….

And the second day, that’s when the beatings started, because, you know, on the first day they did not find anything strange about what I told them. And they started beating me with a cable, electrical threaded cable, and they would beat me for three, four times. They would stop again, and they would ask questions again, and they always kept telling me, “You are a liar,” and things like that. So, the beating continued for the first two weeks. The most — the most intensive — the intensive beating was really the first week, and then after that it was mostly slapping, punching on the face and kicking.

In mid-September 2006 — four years after his ordeal began — a Canadian judge released a three-volume, 1200-page finding that cleared Arar of any connection to terrorism and chastised the United States for refusing to tell Canadian officials that Arar had been rendered to Syria.

Several months after the report’s release, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at last apologized for his government’s role in Arar’s detention.  In October 2007, US Secretary of State observed that the case had not been handled “particularly well,” and she promised that the United States would “try to do better in the future.”

On September 25, 1962, Governor Ross Barnett blocked the door of the University of Mississippi, thumbing his nose at the federal government by preventing James Meredith from entering the campus (more here). In about an hour’s time, exactly forty-six years and a day after Gov. Barnett’s infamous display of white supremacist intransigence, Senator Barack Obama will be an honored guest at Ole Miss.

Times are hard right now. I have moments in which I fear for the Republic’s future. And this campaign season has been ludicrous, a kind of funhouse mirror distorting our political institutions. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the strides we’ve made as a nation in less than half a century. Perhaps tonight we can gaze upon Sen. Obama’s candidacy as another kind of mirror, reflecting the better angels of our nature.

Enjoy the debate. If you have the time and inclination, let us know what you think.

When discussing immigration, one will often hear that illegal immigrants should not jump the line. This helpfully illustrates that there is no line. A couple of other points:

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Continuing his thrilling tale of yesteryear, David Silbey carries forward his epic This Day in History….

The American plan was flawed from the beginning. First, the attacks were spaced too closely together in time. To be successful, offensives in 1918 had to be complex, highly-planned and rehearsed, and heavily supplied. There was plenty of time to plan, supply, and train for the St. Mihiel assault, but not for Meuse-Argonne. American units would have to be pulled out of the St. Mihiel attack, have their casualties replaced, and retrain for the Meuse-Argonne, in the space of about ten days. This was simply not enough time. Second, the attacks were spaced too closely in distance. St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne were next to each other on the front, supplied by the same road network. Even worse, that road network ran through Verdun, the site of near continuous fighting in 1916-17. Heavily damaged and only partially repaired, the roads were simply not up to the task of supplying two major assaults. At the attack on Amiens in August, 1918, the British had built up a stockpile of 6 million artillery shells in the weeks prior, and fired all of them and more during the attack. The Americans would not be able to do the same.

The attack on St. Mihiel pushed off on September 12th. It was a spectacular success. Within four days, the Americans had captured all their targets, 15,000 German POWs, and 400 artillery pieces. The victory raised the stock of the Americans, and Pershing, in the eyes of the French. French President Raymond Poincare visited the salient to congratulate the U.S. forces, though it should also be noted that he owned a small chateau in the liberated territory. Only some skeptical voices within French military intelligence pointed out that the Germans had actually been in the middle of evacuating the salient at the moment of the American attack, and thus had been unprepared to fight resolutely in defense. Given this, American casualties had been worryingly high, with 4,500 dead. “Open warfare” had succeeded, but at some cost.

Going agley.


The turnaround for the next attack turned into chaos. A traffic jam stretched back miles from the Meuse-Argonne line, carrying the critical supplies and men. Tens of thousands of trucks vied for space with 90,000 horses and mules pulling wagons. Some of the artillery got into place only hours before the shelling was due to start, at 11:30 PM on September 25th. That night 2700 guns started firing the artillery barrage, while roughly 600 tanks idled behind the lines and about 800 airplanes waited for light to take off. In the front trenches, infantry regiments sat, prepared for H-Hour, 5:30 am, when they would assault the German lines.

The enemy entrenched.

Let us pause for a moment and examine the challenge of their task. In front of them lay a sophisticated defensive system, consisting of trenches and strong points and barbed wire and artillery and machine guns. Allied to that system the German defensive doctrine, which specified exactly how German units should react to an attack. The doctrine, defense in depth, had come out of the hard lessons of 1916. There, at the Battle of the Somme, the Germans had defended their trenches by concentrating most of their troops in the front lines. That, they discovered, made them susceptible to the overwhelming barrage of British artillery fire, unlike anything the Germans had seen before. The “storm of steel,” (stahlgewittern) as the Germans called it, had inflicted heavy casualties. Thus the Somme, while a disaster for the British, had also been a disaster for the Germans. The result was a new doctrine. The front lines would be held lightly by forces that were only expected to slow down an attack. Behind the front lines would be the artillery, which would hammer attackers, and the Eingreif (counterattack) units. The latter, in the case of a successful assault, would launch an immediate counterattack (der Gegenstoss) before the victors could get settled in their gains. If that immediate counterattack did not work, the reserve German forces would build up to a deliberate counterattack (der Gegenangriff) a few days later. The idea was to spare the German defenders from the artillery barrage while enabling them to recover any lost terrain. The new defensive strategy worked well. The French Nivelle offensives of Spring 1917 (named after the French commander Robert Nivelle) failed catastrophically because Nivelle, not understanding the new German methods, put his faith in overwhelming French artillery bombardments slaughtering the defenders. It was the unfortunate French poilus who died by the hundreds of thousands for his error. A British assault at Passchendaele in fall 1917 met the same fate, made even worse by the soupy mud created by an unprecedented rainfall in September and October.

General Henry “Bite” Rawlinson.

But even as the German doctrine succeeded, a counterdoctrine began to develop. The two main proponents of this new doctrine were British Generals Henry Rawlinson and Herbert Plumer. “Bite and hold” assumed that the Germans would mount a counterattack as soon as a British assault showed signs of success. Their idea was explicitly to provoke that counterattack. The British would bite off the front of the German defensive system, and then immediately turn it into a defensive position of their own. The British would thus be ready for a German counterattack, and, Rawlinson and Plumer hoped, hold that assault off while inflicting heavy casualties on the Germans. After a few weeks, during which the Germans would reorganize their defensive system with a new front line, the British would repeat the process. No more breakthroughs to Berlin; instead, steady, if slow, progress.

General Herbert “Hold” Plumer.

The way to defend against this, of course, was to push heavy concentrations of German defenders up to the front lines. That, however, would bring them within the range of British artillery units, who would be only too happy to slaughter them as they had at the Somme. “Bite and hold” worked well at the Battle of Messines Ridge in August 1917 when a British attack, commanded by Plumer, captured a large chunk of the German defensive lines with relatively low casualties. It had worked again at Amiens in August 1918, when Rawlinson’s attack had cracked the entire German defensive line. In a sense, “bite and hold” was the antithesis of “open warfare.” British infantry went into battle heavily weighed down, carrying extra ammunition, equipment, and weapons so that they could set up a defensive perimeter quickly. Soldiers at Amiens had carried a larger load than those at the Somme. But at Amiens, they were escorted across the battlefield by a creeping barrage of artillery fire that kept German heads down, and hundreds of tanks working to suppress German machine guns. There was no possibility that they could break out into the open terrain behind the defensive system and advance quickly. It simply was not possible.

The Americans scoffed at this blinkered mentality and asserted that they would handle it differently at Meuse-Argonne. They would break into the German lines, and then expand outward, pushing the Germans before them into the open terrain behind the trench system. Pershing’s objective for the first day of the attack was the main German railhead at Sedan, forty or so miles behind the lines. Such a distance was otherworldly in a war where advances were measured in yards, not miles. The British and French winced when they heard the Americans’ confidence; it reminded them of their own confidence in 1914. Haig and Foch worried that Pershing had planned another Somme or Passchendaele, one that would end in sanguinary failure.

They were right, and wrong.

to be continued….

… to have some perspective.

The failure of Washington Mutual put at risk $1.9 $188bn in assets deposits, or $1,900,000,000 $188,000,000,000.

US GDP today is about $13,800bn, or $13,800,000,000,000.

The assets deposits put at risk represent therefore around .01% 1.4% of GDP. Which is a big deal, and we’re glad for the FDIC and JP Morgan Chase.

Consider, though, the failure in 1930 of Bank of United States. (Note: the absence of definite articles is critical, this was a private bank, not an official entity.) It’s supposed to have put at risk maybe $160m, or $160,000,000.

Which makes it sound smaller than the failure of WaMu, widely described today as the largest bank failure in US history.

But US GDP in 1930 was around $91.2bn, or $91,200,000,000.

So the 1930 failure put at risk perhaps .18% of GDP.

UPDATED TO SAY: And therefore I was wrong, the WaMu failure is bigger, in terms of deposits put at risk. I’m sorry.

UPDATED again to say, see here.

America’s first composer died on this day in 1800. William Billings was born in 1746 in Boston, and lived there all his life. He was described as “somewhat deformed in person, blind in one eye, one leg shorter than the other, one arm somewhat withered.” He was a tanner by trade, and self-taught in music. In 1770, he published The New England Psalm-Singer, a collection of his own compositions. (Above is the frontispiece, by Paul Revere.) He would go on to publish five more such books; his music was widely reprinted; and he taught singing frequently. Yet this was not a living, and he spent the last decade of his life in penury. He was buried in an unmarked grave.

Billings’ music is almost all four-part vocal harmony, the prevailing form of religious music in his day. It’s essentially diatonic, with little modulation or use of secondary dominants. The technique is crude in a distinctive way, at once rougher and more cautious than the European style of the same period. It’s rough mainly in its disregard for contrapuntal rules, such as the prohibition on parallel fifths and octaves. But it’s cautious in its treatment of dissonance — indeed there’s hardly any, except for passing tones off the beat. (Thus he did without one of the principal expressive tools of classical music — there’s never a suspension, or a 6/4 to prepare a cadence.) He was criticized for this by the cognoscenti of Boston, and he responded with bravado, writing a satirical address “To the Goddess of Discord”, and a short composition, “Jargon”, made up entirely of dissonances. (You can hear it sung here.)

Yet within its narrow limits, the music still has real strength. The secret is in its fresh and vigorous rhythm. He knows how to sustain the pulse for line after line — it must have been satisfying to belt out those closely rhyming texts in their hearty meters. His greatest hit, and the one with the greatest resonance for history — even military history — is the patriotic hymn Chester. He printed this in his first book, and again with more verses in The Singing Master’s Assistant (1778). It became one of the most popular songs of the Revolution, second only, they say, to “Yankee Doodle”. (You can hear it at the same site.) In its stirring words,

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And Slav’ry clank her galling chains,
We fear them not, we trust in God,
New England’s God forever reigns.
Howe and Burgoyne and Clinton too,
With Prescot and Cornwallis join’d,
Together plot our Overthrow,
In one Infernal league combin’d.
When God inspir’d us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forc’d,
Their ships were Shatter’d in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our Coast.
The Foe comes on with haughty Stride;
Our troops advance with martial noise,
Their Vet’rans flee before our Youth,
And Gen’rals yield to beardless Boys.
What grateful Off’ring shall we bring?
What shall we render to the Lord?
Loud Halleluiahs let us Sing,
And praise his name on ev’ry Chord.

If you’re curious, here’s Wikipedia’s score of Chester marked up, with the fifths and unisons in red. (I’ve also highlighted spots where he doubled one of the tones in a tritone.)  For more scores, see the William Billings page at ChoralWiki. And for more information, see McKay and Crawford, William Billings of Boston (Princeton, 1975).

My eight-year-old followed his elders’ advice and started a bank account. In Washington Mutual.

Bonds! Chattels! Dividends! Shares! Bankruptcies! Debtor sales!


Thank God for the New Deal.

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...."